12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a published statement by Sir James Mitchell, Premier ofWestern Australia, in which he expressed the wish that his State might obtain freedom from the restrictions of the Loan Council and the Financial Agreement? Has the Prime Minister any comment to make on that statement ?
– Questions are asked to elicit information, not to invite comment.
– I have seen several statements to that effect by Sir James Mitchell,but Mr. Speaker’s ruling prevents me from commenting on them.
– A Sydney newspaper publishes a telegram from Melbourne stating that customs officials are uncertain as to what is meant by the decision of the Government to base import duties on Australian currency. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs explain the Government’s intention?
– I have not read that report, and I have no comment to make upon it.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the labels on Prestige hosiery, which is manufactured in Australia, bear the imprint “Printed in England”? As Australian manufacturers of hosiery have been granted protective duties amounting almost to prohibition, will the Minister take steps to compel them to have their labels printed in the Commonwealth?
– I have seen those labels. It is true that the Australian manufacturers of hosiery enjoy very high protection, the duties ranging up to 30s. a dozen pairs, or 50 per cent. ad valorem against the United Kingdom, and 50s. a dozen pairs, or 65 per cent. ad valorem against other countries. Owing to constitutional limitations, the Commonwealth has no power to compel the manufacturers to use labels printed in Australia, but it is almost incredible that firms which are receiving such high protection should do an injustice to Australian printers by obtaining their labels from abroad.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs considered the request of the Hon. S. R. Whitford, Commissioner for Forests in South Australia, for remission of dutyamounting to £1,500 on a saw which his government is importing from Sweden for use in the State forests in the south-eastern portion of South Australia?
- Mr. Whitford and members representing South Australia in this Parliament have interviewed me in regard to this matter. Consideration is being given to their request, and a reply will be furnished at an early date.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is true that special preparations have been made by the military authorities to deal with popular demonstrations on May Day?
– I have no knowledge of any such preparations.
– Having regard to the huge profits which the petrol importing companies are making, as disclosed in the recent report on the prices of petrol, what action does the Government propose to take in the interests of petrol users, and when will it be taken?
– When the Government has. decided what action it will take, it will announce when that action will be taken.
– I have received a complaint from a garage proprietor that he is being victimized because he is selling petrol other than the brands controlled by the major oil companies, known as The Big Five, namely, Shell, Plume, Texaco, Commonwealth Oil Refineries, and Union. Because this person is independent, and sells all brands of petrol, he is charged1s.11d. a gallon for the five brands I have mentioned, whereas other garages are charged only1s.10d. Will the Prime Minister take action against the companies which are imposing this penalty contrary to proper and correct business principles?
– I shall have inquiries made into the complaint. I am not sure whether the Commonwealth has constitutional power to intervene in this matter.
– The report recently obtained by the Government on petrol prices related only to the Shell and Prime Companies. Is it proposed to let honorable members have, as speedily as possible, a full report dealing with all the oil companies,including the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
– I shall make inquiry into the matter, and, if the report asked for is obtainable, it will be made available to honorable members.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral read in this morning’s newspapers of the clash between volunteers and waterside unionists at Newcastle? What action has he taken in response to the requests of the Newcastle Waterside Workers Union against the agents of British and other overseas ships which are defying the regulations made under the Transport Workers Act?
– I shall obtain full particulars of this matter, and let the honorable member have a reply later.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the growth in New South Wales of an organization known as the “A.F.A.L.”? Can he inform the House whether those letters stand for All for Australia League or All for Aloysius Lyons ?
Question not answered.
– When speaking in the House last Thursday, I referred to an incident that occurred some 19 years ago, and said that Mr. Campbell Jones had been expelled from the press gallery. I now find that that statement was not correct, and I hasten to contradict it, and express my regret to Mr. Campbell Jones for having made it.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Loan Council has agreed to call a conference of State Premiers and Treasurers, and representatives of all parties, in order to bring about stability of the finances of Australia? Is is a fact that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth was the only member of the Loan Council who expressed opposition to the proposal, and, if so, was the Prime Minister consulted on the matter, or does he welcome the proposed conference ?
-Inaffect,I answered those questions when replying to a question put to me by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) two days ago.
– A paragraph relating to the Anglo-Australian air mail service appeared in one of the newspapers yesterday, stating that it was understood that discussions were being carried on with the Prime Minister, “ although he earlier indicated that the state of Australia’s finances prevented the contribution of approximately £100,000 a year.” Is the Government still considering the granting of a subsidy to this service, and, before such subsidy is granted, will the Prime Minister give the House an opportunity to discuss the matter?
– I understand thatthe honorable member refers to Imperial Airways Limited. I had discussions with representatives of the company when I was in London, and the Government has had correspondence with it since my return. I have also received deputations from the Dutch Air Mail Company. Both companies have submitted proposals to the Government; but I have given very little encouragement to either of them to believe that the Government will be in a position for some time to subsidize any such service.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In reference to his statement (Hansard, page 299) that no reports have been submitted to the Government by the directors appointed by the Government to the Board of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr.CHIFLEY.- Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As the primage duties imposed by the Government do not appear in the tariff schedule now before the House, what action does the Government propose to take to validate these duties ?
– The primage duties are now before the House in the form of the resolution on the subject which was moved on the 6th November, 1930. It is proposed that this resolution shall be dealt with immediately following the present tariff debate.
– Yesterday the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) addressed to me the following question, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the quantity and value of goods purchased overseas for the Postmaster-General’s Department during 1930, and specify the countries from which the goods came?
I am now able to supply the honorable member with the following particulars : -
The total value of goods purchased overseas during 1930 was £172,185, made up as follows: -
Telephone equipment and parts. - England, £99,500: United States of America, £1 , 257 ; Germany, £940 : Sweden, £99.
Exchange equipment and parts. - England, £20,386; United States of America, £ 1,364, Denmark. £98: Switzerland, £1,426; Belgium, £192 ; Germany, £850.
Telegraph equipment and parts. - England, £9,193; Germany. £268; United States of America, £461.
Radio broadcasting equipment. - England, £355.
Stamp cancelling machines and parts. - England and United States of America, £1,625; Norway, £972.
Canvas and duck for mail bags. - England, £10,799.
Paper for postal notes, stamps, and general printing. - England, £18,554.
Bicycle material. - England, £3,846.
Particulars of quantities would need detailed examination of. every contract and entail a lengthy list. In the circumstances, the honorable member will perhaps agree that for his purposes the value of goods will suffice. In addition to the above, purchases were made in the several States to the value of approximately £73,518. These purchases represent items such as motor accessories and parts, motor spirit, lubricating oils, electric light globes, lighting and power requisites, &c, and were obtained through local merchants from stocks already held for general trade purposes in Australia.
– On the 21st April, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) asked the following question, upon notice -
What were the quantities of Australiangrown leaf manufactured into tobacco in each of the years . 1928-29 and 1929-30?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - -
The quantity used during 1929-30 was 1,391,774 lb., representing an increase of 44.08 per cent. on the quantity used during 1928-29. viz.. 965,915 lb., and it is expected as the result of the increased protection recently given to the local leaf, there will be considerable further development each year until Australia grows her own requirements. As we import approximately 20,000,000 lb. weight of tobacco leaf a year at a cost of approximately £2,000,000, there is plenty of scope for expansion in the local industry.
– On the 21st April the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member as follows : -
It is not possible to strike an average of the charges under State bankruptcy or insolvency laws, but full particulars of the charges are as follows: -
New South Wales - Official assignee - Commission, 5 per cent.; one-half on gross amount coming to his hands, other half on amount distributed as dividend. Trustee - Commission as fixed by creditors - no limit.
Victoria - Official assignee - Commission on net amount realized as fixed by court or creditors. Trustee - Commission as fixed by creditors - no limit.
Queensland - Official trustee - 5 per cent. on assets realized. Creditor’s trustee - Commission as fixed by creditors - no limit.
South Australia - Official receiver - 2½ per cent on first £100, 1 per cent. on balance, as well as commission of 2½ per cent. up to £200;1¼ per cent. up to £400; and½ per cent. over £400 for preparation of schedule and accountant’s report. Trustee - Commission as fixed by creditors not exceeding 5 per cent. upon amount applicable to the purposes of dividends.
Western Australia - Official receiver - On net assets realized or brought to credit - On the first £1,000, 5 per cent.; on the next £1,500, 4 per cent.; on the next £2,500. 3 per cent.; on the next £5,000, 2 per cent. ; above £10,000, 1 per cent. On amount distributed in dividends - On the first £1,000, 2½ per cent.; on the next £1,500, 2 per cent.; on the next £5,000, 1 per cent; above £10,000, ½ per cent. Trustee - Commission as fixed by creditor’s - no limit.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1931 -
No. 3 - Quarantine.
No. 4 - Laws Repeal and Adopting.
No. 5 - Judiciary.
No.6 - Rapindik Lands.
No. 7 - Medical.
No. 8 - Interpretation and Amendments Incorporation.
No. 9 - Gold Buyers.
No. 10- Timber.
No. 11 - Germans Admission Ordinance Repeal.
No. 12 - Native Taxes.
No. 13 - Electric Light and Power.
No. 14 - Lands Registration.
No. 15- Stamp Duties (No. 2).
No. 16 - Police Force.
War Service Homes Act - Amendment, dated 25th July, 1930, of the arrangement of the 7 th March, 1924, between the War Service Homes Commissioner and the Government of the State of Tasmania.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into committee of supply - proposed.
– In yesterday’s issue of the Canberra Times appeared a report of the budget speech of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was reported to have made the following statement: -
Although he was in favour of every possible effort to reduce the debt, he held Gladstone’s view that in times of national depression and unemployment, it was better to use resources to stimulate trade than to make new sacrifices.
I think that Gladstone’s views are most applicable to the depression through which Australia is now passing. Of course, the economic difficulties which obtain to-day are world wide, and are, I suggest, due to a large extent to the drop in commodity prices, and particularly those of Australia’s staple products. The difficulty has been greatly accentuated by the cornering of gold that has occurred both in America and France. The United States of America now possesses 42 per cent. of the monetary gold of the world. She has twice as much asFrance, and seven times the reserve held by the Bank of England. Conditions to-day indicate that the accumulation of gold in a few countries has had a very serious effect on world trade and commerce. Of course, it is well known that the war was responsible, to a great extent, for the flow of gold to America. The United States of America standing out of the war as long as she did, had the time of her life supplying the needs of the Allies: importations into America almost ceased, while exports grew enormously. The trade balance between the United States of America and the allied countries was adjusted, partly by the return of United States securities, partly by huge shipments of gold, and, finally, by the good old method of writing I.O.U’s. All this has tended to develop a sort of clot in the veins of world commerce, and if we continue to cling slavishly to the gold standard, a major operation very shortly will be required to cure out economic disorder. Our own currency system is dependent upon the more or less mythical gold standard, and, unless the system is altered, it is obvious that we must have more gold in order to create more currency. Because of the practical sympathy extended to mining and mining prospectors by the State of Victoria, that State has, in the last twelve months, doubled its output of gold. The Commonwealth Government also appears to realize the need for more gold, both as a backing for our currency and for export purposes, but, so far, its interest has been centered in any and every part of the Commonwealth except that part which is directly under its own jurisdiction. There is no gainsaying the fact that the Commonwealth is urgently in need of more gold, and that the State governments are anxious to assist gold production in every way possible. The State governments are prepared to assist those who have invested capital in mining ventures, and also those who have the enterprise and courage to go in search of new gold. The Commonwealth Government recently introduced, and carried through Parliament, legislation authorizing it to pay a gold bounty, thus demonstrating its recognition of the fact that an increased gold supply is urgently necessary. The gold-mining industry in Australia assisted to a greater degree to populate and develop Australia than did any other industry, not excepting even the great pastoral industry. Nothing I know of would more quickly dispel the gloom which is at present hanging over our industrial and social life than would a revival of gold -mining in Australia. No other industry holds out such hope for the adventurous, or is more calculated to promote that pioneering spirit among our citizens which is so sorely needed to-day. No other industry has such an important reaction. Wo other industry can so quickly respond to stimulus. We all know what an important part gold played in the restoration of prosperity in the ‘nineties. Not only did the discovery of fresh goldfields at that time add greatly to our national wealth, but it also had the psychological effect of restoring the self-reliance and independence of spirit which we have come to regard as an Australian characteristic. No more self-reliant men were ever bred in any part of the world than those who found and exploited our Australian gold-fields. They were full of initiative and enterprise. Given sympathetic treatment this class of men, which is still strongly represented in the country, will do more than any other to restore national prosperity.
During the decade from 1880 to 1890 the production of gold in Australia amounted to £49,216,000. From 1891 to 1900, after the discovery and development of those” great fields in Western Australia, the total amount of gold won was £89,990,000, while during the next ten years, from 1900 to 1910, the gold won reached the amazing total of £142,090,109 ; or 48 per cent, more than the amount obtained during the golden ‘fifties, when Ballarat, Bendigo and other fields were yielding their maximum. To-day, the total production of gold in the Commonwealth has fallen to about £1,700,000 a year. 1 could go on. to demonstrate the importance of the gold-mining industry,- but I think that all honorable members are well aware of the wonderful part it has played in the development of Australia’s nationhood. What gold-mining has done in the past it can do in the future, if those engaged in it are given sympathetic encouragement. The other day I read that Mr. Gepp, and the Director of Geological Surveys of “Victoria, after an examination of the Bendigo gold-field, recommended that an expenditure of £50,000 be made on exploration work there. I presume that the Commonwealth will be expected to find the money. While not desiring to discourage the further development of old fields, I feel impelled to direct the attention, not only of the Government, but, of all honorable members of this
House, to the fact that we have in northern and central Australia great auriferous reefs which were discovered years ago, but which have since remained unworked. As gold plays such an important part in the economic life of the nation why, I ask, has not this or, indeed, any government done something to develop those great gold-bearing areas. The apathy of the Government in neglecting to exploit the potentialities of that great country, which is approximately six times larger than Victoria, is deserving of severe condemnation. Prospectors have operated in that region under conditions undreamed of in the southern States, but after they locate proved fields it is impossible to persuade the Commonwealth to send a metallurgist of standing to report upon the find. Yet it is claimed that the great need of Australia is additional gold. There are many fields in the Northern Territory which have been proved for the past fifteen years, yethave remained unexploited because of the indifference of the Government. The territory is at least entitled to have its discovered fields reported upon by experts. I know of lodes 28 feet wide, proved to a depth of 100 feet, from which samples assayed by the Government have disclosed 15 dwt. of free gold to the ton. I know, too, of huge auriferous belts in Central Australia where new discoveries of great value have been made. Yet we cannot get any assistance from the Government. It is the duty of the Government to stand behind the efforts of our pioneers who, because of their courage and tenacity, have made these discoveries. Only a few days ago the remains of
Apparently this and previous Commonwealth Governments fear that the statements that I have made in this chamber for the past ten years will be substantiated if an expert is sent to investigate them. It is unbelievable that a government in any other part of the world would neglect to test potential wealth such as that which exists in abundance in North Australia.
– In what part of the territory is the 28-ft. lode to which the honorable member referred?
– In the north end. When I speak of 28-ft. lodes, they do not extend over a few acres, but over miles and miles of country. That is beyond dispute. I received the following letter from a man at Barrow Creek: -
The Davenport Ranges north-east of Barrow Creek contains numerous gold-bearing reefs and veins of a payable nature. Numbers of these reefs and veins have been tested by prospectorsunder very adverse conditions. The erection of a battery at Whistle Duck Waterhole, situated between Kurrundi and Karranalli, would be in a most central position for treating stone from various reefs within a radius of 50 miles. This would give employment to a large number of men, who are at present idle, as most of these reefs are payable propositions with crushing facilities handy. The present holder of “Dempsey’s Choice” lease can guarantee 10,000 tons of stone for immediate treatment. At present there is no encouragement to prospectors to give much attention to this district as he must locate a very rich reef to do any good. I am sure that an inspection of this district by a government expert would result in approval of this suggestion. I have written to the Minister for Home and Territories on this subject, and be very pleased if you would do what you can in this matter,
Hoping this meets with your approval.
Representing prospectors and lease-holders.
– Is he a prospector?
– He certainly is, of a type unknown in the south. That letter does not savour of get-rich-quick methods. It is a plain, unvarnished, statement of facts, and embodies an appeal to the Government to assist in developing that field. The Government has a battery in the vicinity of Alice Springs which is at present idle. In view of the possibility of this discovery absorbing a great number of unemployed, and of the slight expense that would be involved, the Go vernment should transfer that battery to the new field. No other territory in Australia holds such possibilities as Central Australia, so far as the recovery of gold is concerned. I know of a dozen localities in the Territory quite as good as those to which I have referred. If they were in any other part of Australia they would be immediately exploited. Because of the isolated position of the Northern Territory it is very difficult to attract capital there. I noticed in the press that an exhibition was recently held in London which included a display of the various metals to be found in Australia. I was unaware that it was contemplated, and I was aghast when I read that the representative exhibits from Central Australia and the Northern Territory were a few pieces of copper ore and a little mica. The Territory contains tantalite, platinum and every other known mineral in abundance. If the Government is serious in its endeavour to populate the Territory and to encourage investors to spend their money there, a golden opportunity presents itself to stage a truly representative exhibition of the potentialities of the north.
– The honorable member knows that existing labour conditions make the exploitation of the Territory absolutely impossible.
– My honorable friend knows nothing about the subject. I have been in the Territory for twenty years, and never once in that period has there been any industrial trouble in its mining industry. The honorable member cannot get away with cheap stuff of that description. He should keep to the facts.
– I mention Mount Morgan as a case in point.
– I am talking about the Northern Territory, not Mount Morgan. But let me remind the honorable member of what happened at the Wiluna mine in Western Australia. When the manager of the Wiluna Gold Mining Company, Mr. de Bernales, urged the Government to grant a bounty on the production of gold he said that wages would not be reduced by the company. In spite of the efforts that have been made by honorable members opposite to bring about a general reduction of wages, this company has refused to reduce the wages of any of the employees. It has made up its mind that the company must pay a decentwage.
The letter to which I have referred is similar to a number of others that I have received. It reflects a genuine desire on the part of the miners to develop the mineral resources of the country. Mining has move than once been the means of extricating the country from a morass of financial difficulty, and it may well do so on this occasion.
At Marranboy we have one of the most valuable tin areas in Australia. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) need not interject about wages in this connexion, for all the miners working there are working for themselves. This is a “gougers”’ field. The men do not want the dole - they want work. They made a reasonable proposition to the Government that it should pay them a fair price for the tin they produce, and store it until the world price of tin recovers somewhat. We know that all the great tin-producing countries of the world have made an agreement to limit the production of tin. Australia does not produce much tin, and is not a party to that agreement. The Government could, therefore, accede to the request of the Marranboy tin-miners. One of the partners of the late Honorable H. E. Pratten, who is well informed in regard to the tin-mining industry, has said, “ There is no doubt that the price of tin will reach £150 per ton in the very near future “. The Government could store the tin until that time arrives. Tin does not deteriorate with storage. Unless something of this kind is done these men will have to accept the dole. I do not think one honorable member of the House will disagree with me when I say that the dole system is utterly degrading. It insidiously robs men of their manhood. If we persist with this system for very long we shall bring into being in Australia an army of men who have no incentive whatever to work. In view of the fact that these tin-miners are anxious to work I urge the Minister for Home Affairs to reconsider his decision in this regard.
– Who keeps the dole system going?
– There are, to-day, in Australia, between 300,000 and 400,000 persons unemployed, and they have 600,000 others dependent upon them. Are the Commonwealth and State Governments to allow these people to starve ? If they did so the country would be injured beyond repair.
I urge the Government to send Dr. Woolnough, Mr. Gepp, or the Chairman of the North Australia Commission, to the areas to which I have referred so that they may investigate my statements.
– Is there any prospect of the Vestey interests resuming operations in North Australia?
– In my opinion, Vestey’s do not intend to resume operations in the Northern Territory until they have been able satisfactorily to arrange their affairs in the Argentine and other meat-producing centres in which they are interested. These people are holding out of production some of the best cattle country in the world.
An obligation rests upon this Parliament to develop North and Central Australia, and it cannot excuse its inaction by saying that the States are responsible. I do not think any honorable member can accuse me of making party political speeches in this Parliament. Every address that I have delivered here has contained a plea for the development of the huge area that I represent. I am beginning to think that North and Central Australia are being neglected, because there is no political significance attached to them. That probably explains the apathy shown to the welfare of my constituents. It appears to me that many things are done in this Parliament for purely party political purposes. That is the only justification for the establishment of certain industries in Australia.
I am firmly convinced that if the Government would do something effective to develop the mineral resources of North and Central Australia, it would inaugurate a new era of prosperity for the whole nation. The adoption of this policy would relieve unemployment and stimulate many secondary industries. Real wealth could be produced from the mineral fields of the far north. In certain industries, it is necessary to export our surplus production, and sell it at a dead loss. There would be no loss incurred in the export of our minerals.
I have no desire to embarrass the Government. My sole object in speaking this afternoon is to promote the interests of the territory which I represent. I am also actuated by a desire to help Australia in its hour of need. It is true that I have not had a great deal to say in this House, but I refuse to sit quietly in this chamber while a tragedy is being committed. We want real wealth - international wealth - and we have it in the Northern Territory. We have wealth, without political significance. Had we political significance probably we should be able to develop our wealth. How long are we to continue to pamper problematical industries and neglect real industries? It appears to me that so long as the representative of the people of the Northern Territory is prepared to remain quiet in this House so long will this condition of apathy continue. The political parties in this chamber, if they were sincere in trying to assist Australia in its crisis, would immediately focus their attention on the North of Australia and there open up new avenues of employment so as to absorb some of the great army of unemployed that is to-day stalking the land. How much better it would be for Australia if we were to transfer men from the street corners of tie capital cities into the great outback where wealth having an international value could be won; where men would be able to be men and to make good, and in the process assist to make Australia greater
– Is there not a number of unemployed persons in the territory?
– Yes; and we are getting more. There are something like two hundred men from the other States now on the track to the territory. These men have to be assisted whether by dole or otherwise, and their upkeep must be & charge on the Commonwealth Government. Why not put them to productive work and open up profitable avenues of employment for them? We are becoming sick of the palliatives that are being given to the unemployed.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. BAYLEY (Oxley) [3.23 J. - I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ this House regards the exclusion of Mr. Alexander from the press gallery and precincts of this House as a case of unjustifiable victimization on the part of the Government in view of the fact that no offence against the House has been disclosed”.
If governments are to function, and if their business is to be carried out satisfactorily, it is essential that cabinet secrets should remain inviolate. That this principle is recognized, and has been ever recognized, is shown by the fact that rarely do cabinet secrets leak out. I have been a member of this House since 1917, and in the fourteen years of my membership I know of only three instances in which cabinet secrets have been made public. The first instance occurred in 1917, and for the sake of brevity I shall refer to it as the “ Ready “ case. The second instance occurred in 1929, and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) referred to it briefly the other night. That was the occasion on which a memorandum that had been written by the then AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) for the perusal of the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) became public. It appeared in one of the Sydney newspapers, and was quoted by the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) in the House. I shall have more to say on that case later. The third instance occurred recently. It relates to the publication of cables that passed between the Prime Minister and the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton), and the then Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons). As soon as it became known that these secret cables had been made public, the Government acted promptly and properly in an endeavour to find out where the leakage had occurred. Had it not done so each member of the Cabinet would have been recreant to his trust. It was the duty, particularly of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, to endeavour to ascertain who was responsible for that leakage. But the whole Cabinet vessel was leaking. The general public knew of the contents of those cables long before the 15th March, the date on which they were published in the daily press. Scarcely a day passed without particular references being made to them in the newspapers. I have not collected all those references, but I have with me a few that were published throughout Australia. The Sun News Pictorial gave, on the 5th November, details of the Gibbons inflation resolution, which was carried by the previous day’s caucus, and added these words -
Mr. Fenton will tell caucus he has received a cable from Mr. Scullin which indicates dissatisfaction with last week’s decisions, and that he considers caucushas to some extent failed to fulfil the terms agreed to at the Melbourne conference.
– That has nothing to do with the secret cables.
– That paraphrase of a cable was published on the 5th November, some four months prior to the appearance of the full text of the cables in the daily press. The Age on the same day stated -
The Prime Minister in a cable message received by the Acting Prime Minister to-day expressed disappointment at the results of last week’s Labour caucus meetings. Mr. Scullin’s message indicates that he is dissatisfied, and considers that caucus failed to shape an entirely satisfactory policy of reduced expenditure and other economics.
That reference was to a reduction of Public Service salaries. The next reference is to the compulsory loan conversion proposal of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), which was published on the 8th November in the Sun Pictorial -
Pending further advice from London, Mr. Fen ton is uncertain of the position. He is awaiting a coded cable which Mr. Scullin is expected to send late to-night with instructions to his deputies as to how to deal with developments.
On the 10th November, that newspaper stated -
Fortified by a cable from Mr. Scullin the Acting Prime Minister issued a statement today declaring that Cabinet was overwhelmingly in favour of proceeding with the £27,000,000 conversion loan.
Again on the 14th November the Sun Pictorial stated -
Caucus has decided definitely to shelve its radical financial proposals until the return of the Prime Minister early in the new year, as far as legislative action is concerned. In the meantime the Government has been instructed in a special cable message from Mr. Scullin to clean up immediate financial proposals before Parliament as quickly as possible and to close Parliament until his arrival. In the meantime Mr. Scullin is stated to have been caustic about the “ appalling decisions “ of caucus during the past few weeks, but no further details of his message are available at present.
On the 12th December the Sun-News Pictorial said -
The cablegram from the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) urging that action regarding new appointments to the High Court Bench should be delayed until the return of Mr. Scullin and other Ministers, had no effect on caucus this morning. A resolution was passed instructing Cabinet to fill the vacancies in the court before the end of the present session.
Those extracts show that the contents of the cablegrams were known throughout Australia, and had evidently been obtained from the caucus room. Apparently no steps were taken by the Government at that time to discover how the leakage occurred.
– How do you know ?
– If the honorable member has any proof to the contrary I invite him to produce it. Not until the cablegrams appeared in the daily newspapers of the 15th March was action taken. On Thursday last the Attorney-General laid upon the table of the House the report of the officer who had been investigating the leakage, and at the conclusion of his speech he stated that the Government had given an instruction that Mr. Alexander should be denied admission to the public offices in Canberra, and he suggested that you, Mr. Speaker, should take certain action. I listened carefully to the Attorney-General when he was reading the report of the investigator. No definite charge was made against Mr. Alexander. The Attorney-General stated that Mr. Alexander had admitted having had copies of the cablegrams.
– The text of them.
– Mr. Alexander stated definitely and unequivocally that the text of the cablegrams had come into his hands honestly, that he had neither stolen them nor bought them.
– Is the honorable member sure that he said that?
– Where does that appear ?
– In Mr. Alexander’s statement. If he has been guilty of any impropriety, are not the other newspapers that published the cablegrams at or about the same time guilty equally with him?
If the representative of the Melbourne Herald is to be expelled from the House and its precincts, every representative of the newspapers that published the cablegrams should, be treated in the same way.
– Publication is the offence alleged.
– That is the only offence alleged. No definite charge has been or can be laid against Mr. Alexander. It is a clear case of victimization. No offence has been committed against the House.
– If the honorable member is referring to the action taken by the Chair as victimization, I ask him to withdraw the statement.
– But, Mr. Speaker-
– I cannot allow the honorable member to argue with me.
– On a point of order, I submit that an honorable member is entitled to characterize an action as unjust or as victimization. . That is fair comment and criticism. There is no authority for ruling that the word “ victimization “ is unparliamentary. It is used again and again in the course of debate, particularly by honorable members supporting the Government, and if your action is open to criticism an honorable member may properly allege “ victimization “ if it expresses his opinion. I submit that your action is not beyond or above criticism in any respect.
– The Chair has no desire to suppress legitimate criticism in regard to this or any other matter, but I shall not permit the honorable member to reflect on a decision or action by the executive officer of the House. The word “ victimization “ is disorderly, and I ask the honorable member for Oxley to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. The word was applied, not to the action of Mr. Speaker, but to the action of the Government. My motion clearly states that this is a case of unjustifiable victimization by the Government.
– The honorable member is entitled to express himself freely in parliamentary language in regard to the action of the Government, but he will not be in order in reflecting upon the Chair.
– I was not so reflecting. My point is that the Government selected Mr. Alexander for victimization, although he is no more guilty than is any one of the other pressmen who supplied the cablegrams to the journals they represent.
– On a point of order, and in accordance with your excellent ruling, Mr. Speaker, I ask that the honorable member be required to withdraw the charge of victimization.
– If the honorable member has accused the Government of deliberate victimization and the statement is offensive to the Attorney-General, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– It was applied to the Government.
– The AttorneyGeneral regards it as offensive to him., and according to the Standing Orders a statement that is so regarded by any honorable member must be withdrawn.
– On a point of order, I submit that there is no provision in the Standing Orders, and no ruling, except one accidentally given in committee, that if an honorable member considers that a statement is objectionable to him, it must be withdrawn. Otherwise any criticism could be required to be withdrawn on the mere statement of a member that he regarded it as offensive to him. A Minister is in the same position in that regard as any private member.
– I raised this point on another occasion when you, Mr. Speaker, saw fit to require the same honorable member to- withdraw the statement to which I took exception. On that precedent alone, I feel confident that you are entitled to rule in the same way now, but I submit also that the words “ deliberate victimization “ as applied to the Government and inferentially to me as the Minister most directly concerned, amount to a charge that I have deliberately and vindictively done an injustice to an individual.
– Do not add to the statement.
– That is the meaning I attribute to the words used by the honorable member. He has suggested deliberate wrong on the part of the Government, and on the part of myself as a member of the Government. His statement means that I have selected one man for oppression and vindictive treatment.
– Surely we can say that. Is the House to be shut up ?
– The loud applause of the members of the Opposition seems to confirm the meaning I am attributing to the words complained of. I resent them, and very respectfully ask that they be withdrawn.
– For the information of honorable members I direct attention to Standing Order 272 which reads -
No member shall use offensive words against either the House of Parliament or any member thereof, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections upon members shall be considered highly disorderly.
The allegation made by the honorable member for Oxley, that the Government was guilty of deliberate victimization is regarded by the Attorney-General as offensive to him, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– On the point of order-
– There can be no argument. The point of order has been disposed of. If the honorable member wishes to dissent from my ruling he must do so formally.
– I withdraw the statement to which the Attorney-General has taken exception. The Government has singled out Mr. Alexander from a number of journalists, each of whom had acted in the same way. Why should he be punished and his fellow pressmen be allowed to go scot-free ? I said earlier that on three occasions cabinet secrets have been published. The first occasion was the Ready incident which occurred in 1917. Certain Labour members of this House were responsible for the publication of confidential cables and memoranda. They appeared first in the Labour Gall and later in the Worker. At a still later date they were reprinted from those journals in pamphlet form and sent from one end of Australia to the other for the purpose of discrediting the Hughes Government and the Nationalist party. Members of the Labour party, who are members of the present Mi nistry, did not scruple to use cabinet secrets for their own ends. To-day they denounce a journalist who did the same thing in the performance of his duty. Any journalist who received the cablegrams honestly as Mr. Alexander did was justified in using them. I accept his word that he did obtain them honestly.
– He obtained them from the lion’s den.
– The second incident was the disclosure of the memorandum, sent by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), then AttorneyGeneral, to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) regarding the projected prosecution of Mr. John Brown. The contents of that memorandum appeared in the Sydney Sun.
– With alterations.
– The present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) made use of the memorandum in the House, although to-day the Government of which he is a member would deny a pressman admission to the House or its precincts for having disclosed confidential information obtained in the course of his journalistic duties. A few moments later the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) referring to the memorandum said -
I was greatly interested in the disclosures made this afternoon by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) in connexion with the document reproduced in the Sydney Bun. I am not at all concerned how, if at all, the document got out of the custody of the Government.
He did not care then whether that document had been stolen, or whether a bribe had been received for it, so long as he could use it for his own ends; but to-day he condemns the journalist who has done a similar thing, and, as the legal head of the Government, denies him the privileges of this House. I have much pleasure in submitting the motion, as a condemnation of the Government for the action that it has taken.
– I have much pleasure in seconding the motion, which I regard as one of the most important, in many aspects, that has been discussed in this House. It affects the rights and privileges of not only the House, but also the press, an institution with which I have been associated all my life. I sincerely regret that anything should be done by this
House that might be construable in any way as an interference with the rights and privileges of the press of this country.
– Ha, ha !
– I hear an inane laugh from the other side, quite in consonance with the mind from which it emanates.
– An honorable member is not in order when personally offensive.
– I do not desire to be offensive, but I resent such an inanity as that which has just come from the other side of the chamber.
– Well, the honorable member ought to resent himself fairly frequently.
– The honorable member for Corio must be orderly.
– The present case discloses the central fact that the culprit is inside the Public Service.
– On the Government side.
– He is possibly on the Government side of the House. The Government, in its pursuit of the culprit, has either failed to locate him, or, having located him, is not desirous of taking the action that the occasion demands. To evade doing that, it has descended to a process of victimization which I think is altogether discreditable to the Government itself, and to every member who supports it. The pressman who has been denied the rights and privileges of his profession in this House was doing what his employers expected of him, and what was considered thoroughly legitimate from the point of view of modern journalism.
– Would the honorable member have done it?
– I have no hesitation in saying that, in similar circumstances, I would have done it, and would have considered it fair journalism.
Let me go into another aspect of this case. Mr. Alexander was expelled from the precincts of this House without a charge being preferred against him, and without a case being proved. I can conceive of nothing more repugnant to the best principles of British justice than the attitude taken by the House towards this journalist. If there is one principle of British justice that we should treasure, above any other, it is, perhaps that which gives to every accused man the benefit of a doubt. When this case was. previously before the House, an even vote was recorded. The House could not come to a decision on the issue. There was clearly a most important doubt, and the House took upon itself the responsibility of refusing to this man the benefit of the doubt. He was denied the rights and privileges of his calling as a journalist, on the casting vote of Mr. Speaker.
– His case was not before the House.
– It was, and the House voted on the case. No matter how the Attorney-General may seek to cloud the issue, he will not succeed in that direction, so far as I am concerned. The case was undoubtedly before the House. A doubt arose, and the House, on the casting vote of Mr. Speaker, refused to accord the accused man the right to the benefit of the doubt.
During recent years, a number of cases have been recorded of the disclosure of cabinet secrets, and the mover of the motion has referred to a few of them. I should like to explore that aspect of the matter a little further. During the postwar years, and outside Australia rather than within it, there have been some rather remarkable cases of the disclosure of Cabinet secrets; but I know of no instance in which any parliament of the British Empire, or of any other country, has proceeded to the extreme measure of excluding from the precincts of the House a practising journalist in the gallery who made use of them. Going back further into history, the only serious cases that I can find have been dealt with by committing the offenders to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms. If this case presented the serious aspect that honorable members opposite insist that it did, it was the duty of the House to have the offending journalist arraigned at the bar of the House, where we could have heard from him what we have been denied the right of hearing; but no such action was taken. No charge was made against this man, no case was proved, but this extreme course was taken. Punishment was inflicted without giving him the right to which he was entitled, including, first of all, the right to come to the bar of the House and state his case, giving honorable members an opportunity of judging from his own demeanour, and from his own defence, what penalty, if any, should be imposed.
I have one more case to which I propose briefly to refer in support of the attitude assumed by me and the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley). Some time ago there was a leakage of a very important Cabinet secret in the Queensland Parliament, and some high officers must have been involved. The secret was published in the press, and it stands to the credit of the Queensland Parliament that no action was t’aken comparable with that decided upon by this House against the journalist whose case is now under discussion. Because the precise culprit could not be found, the government of the day refused to allow itself to be associated with any action comparable with that taken by this Parliament. That Government was too conscious of its responsibility to penalize the pressman who had profited by the secret information. It is utterly unthinkable that this. House should be allowed to escape the condemnation due to it for its act of victimization of Mr. Alexander. The culprit, I suggest, is in the Public Service, or else he is in the ranks of honorable gentlemen opposite. If he has been located he ought to be punished. If he cannot be located, then the matter should have ended there. Vengeance should not have been displayed against a pressman who was following his avocation in a legitimate way. It has not escaped my notice that the victimization of this pressman involves the Government in no electoral odium, but the punishment of the public servant, or the supporter of the Government who may have been the real offender would have deliberately involved the Government in some electoral odium. Rather than risk that, the Government has selected this journalist, among others who were equally culpable, for its vengeance. The whole action of the Government in this matter is thoroughly reprehensible, and I hope the House will have an opportunity of reviewing the position and placing itself in proper perspective with the people.
It is a recognized parliamentary custom that, when the House is equally divided, Mr. Speaker should cast his vote in such a way as would leave the question’ as it was before the vote was taken. That has long been the practice in British parliaments; but that procedure was departed from in the case under discussion, and in that respect the House heaped contumely upon itself. Mr. Speaker used his casting vote to remove Mr. Alexander from the House, and that denied this journalist the privileges of his calling. In justice to Mr. Alexander and ourselves, we should not leave the matter where it now standsIn departing from the custom, the House has stultified itself - and I regret that I am associated with a body that has carried this matter to such a stage–
– “Well, the honorable member can get out.
– I will not get out; I will remain here and defend the rights of this House and of journalists against gangsters who would attack them.
– I submit that the amendment before the House is not in order; but is really an attack upon you, Mr. Speaker. The exclusion of the journalist who has been referred to was not the action of. the House at all. According to the Votes and Proceedings of the 23rd April the matter was dealt with in this way -
Mr. Speaker announced, with reference to the report on publication of secret cables, laid on the table of the House this day, that he proposed to exclude a certain newspaper representative from the precincts pf the House of Representatives.
Consequently there was no exclusion of Mr. Alexander by the Government, nor indeed has the Government the power to so exclude any one. In the Votes and Proceedings of the following day the matter was again referred to in these terms -
Mr. Bayley raised a question of privilege, and moved that the expulsion of a member of the press from the press gallery or precincts of the House is a question for the House to decide, and is not a matter for decision by the Speaker, acting either on his own authority or at the suggestion of the Ministry.
The House supported your decision. If the amendment is an attack on your ruling, it is not in order, because thu House has upheld that ruling. If it is an attack on the Government for the action complained of, it is not in order, because the Government did not take such action.
– The Government excluded Mr. Alexander from the public offices.
– I am considering the amendment. It complains of the exclusion of Mr. Alexander from the precincts of the House, not from the public offices.
– I submit that this is not a point of order, but a challenge of the amendment on the facts. What the honorable member has said may contain argument for voting against the amendment, but the contention that the amendment before the House does not accurately state facts, cannot be accepted as a reason why the amendment should be ruled out of order. If that were the case the Speaker would be placed in an impossible position. Honorable members would challenge motions on the ground that they were inaccurate in statement, and misrepresented the facts.
– I have studied the wording of the amendment very closely. Certainly its text does concern a matter which was determined by Mr. Speaker, and which, up to this moment, Mr. Speaker has the exclusive right to determine. There is in the amendment nothing but what trespasses upon the decision that Mr. Speaker has already come to and announced to the House. That being so, the amendment cannot be regarded as being properly *the business of this House. It concerns a matter which is the exclusive prerogative of Mr. Speaker, and I accordingly rule it out of order.
.- I desire to move an amendment to the motion before the House.
– I rise to a point of order. It is customary for the Speaker to call honorable members alternately from one side of the House and the other. Until the Leader of the Opposition moves his proposed amendment, you will not be in a position to know whether it has to do with the matter upon which you have already, given a ruling. It seems evident, however, that it is not his intention to dissent from your ruling. Already in this debate two honorable members from the Opposition side of the House have been called in succession. I suggest that a member from the Govern- ment side of the House should now be called before a third member of the Opposition is heard.
– At all times it is the right of Mr. Speaker to call any member desiring to speak, who, he believes, ought to be heard at any particular time during the progress of a debate. Mr. Speaker is under no obligation to call any particular member - the matter is entirely within his discretion. But, so far as possible, he calls members in such order as he thinks will meet with the wishes of the House, and it has been customary, in order to allow all opinions to be expressed as fully as possible, to call speakers, first from one side of the House,, and then from the other. Further, it has been the practice to give priority to Ministers of the Crown, and, after them, to the Leader of the Opposition. If the Leader of the Opposition rises at the same time as another member, Mr. Speaker, according to the ancient practice and usage of Parliament, feels that in courtesy he should see him first. That custom, I feel, justified me in calling upon the Leader of the Opposition just now.
– I trust that I have never abused the privileges which are generally recognized as belonging to Ministers of the Crown, and to the Leader of the Opposition. I rise now because I feel that what I have to say relates in a general way to the subject under discussion, but I do not desire to be associated in any way with a reflection on the ruling of Mr. Speaker. It is possible, I suggest, to frame another amendment, which would allow the House to express in general terms its opinion as to the relations which ought to exist between Parliament and press representatives attending sittings of Parliament. Recent events associated with Mr. Alexander’s case may be referred to by way of illustration, but my object in putting this matter forward is to afford the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion on a matter which has become one of some importance. Therefore, I move as an amendment to the motion -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in Hen thereof the following: - “this House is of opinion that as a general rule a journalist should not be excluded from the press galleries except in cases of proved misconduct affecting his relation to Parliament.”
That, I suggest, would be a safe general rule. There may be exceptions to its application. For example, an obvious exception would apply if the press galleries were so crowded that it was physically impossible for them to accommodate any one else. There might be other exceptions also. As a general rule, however, it would be proper for the House to lay it down that a journalist ought not to be excluded from the press galleries unless he were, in the first place, proved guilty of misconduct, and, in the second place, that misconduct affected his relation to Parliament. This House ought not, as a general rule, to inquire into, say, the private lives or characters of press representatives, any more than it ought to inquire into the private lives or characters of members of Parliament. That is why I suggest that exclusion should take place only in cases of proved misconduct affecting the relation of the individual to Parliament. This House is entitled to take cognizance of the misconduct of any journalist affecting his relation to the House. That must be regarded as one of the rights and privileges of the House, and should be maintained in order to govern properly the relations of the press to Parliament. Moreover, action should be taken only in cases of proved misconduct. There should be no doubt about the matter. There should be a clear case, and where the misconduct alleged is of a nature which, if proved, would constitute an offence against the laws of the country, the proper course would be to institute a prosecution. Where, however, no such offence has been committed, where it is not suggested that there has been an offence against the law, and where no such case has been proved, there should be no action in the way of denying a journalist the opportunity of reporting parliamentary debate - an occupation for which he requires special qualifications, knowledge, and experience.
– Would the amendment as worded be binding on Mr. Speaker?
– No; it is an expression of opinion by the House, and Mr. Speaker would, doubtless, take that opinion into consideration in deciding future cases. It would still be his province to determine the matter if it were one which came within his authority. If his decision proved unacceptable to the House, there is a provision under the Standing Orders to enable the House to disagree with it.
– Would the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition affect the case with which the House is now concerned ?
– No. Honorable members will observe that I have not even mentioned the name of Mr. Alexander.
– A general rule of that kind is very ambiguous.
– The honorable member may suggest some other rule. I contend that there is no ambiguity in it. There may be difficulty in applying it, because opinions may differ as to what is misconduct; as to whether particular misconduct is proved, and as to whether misconduct, if proved, affects the relations of journalists to Parliament. Those are all questions of fact, and do not show that there is any ambiguity in the line of argument that I have taken.
– Does the honorable gentleman contend that if the motion were carried Mr. Alexander would be permitted to return ito the gallery!
– Not at all. I do not desire to evade that point. Honorable members will observe that I have been drawn into a discussion of Mr. Alexander’s case by .honorable members opposite. You, Mr. Speaker, gave a ruling on a standing order, and there was a discussion as to whether a particular function should be exercised by the House or by Mr. Speaker. The consequent division resulted in an even vote, and on the casting vote of Mr. Speaker it -was determined that the function should be exercised by you, sir. Therefore, there was a decision by Mr. Speaker that this particular journalist should be excluded from the press gallery, the public offices, and the precincts of the House. That was not challenged. The Standing Orders provide a means whereby it may be challenged, but until that means is availed of, or the decision withdrawn by Mr. Speaker, it stands. The carrying of this amendment would not be a dissent from the decision made by you, sir, within the meaning of the Standing Orders.
– “Would it be in order for me to suggest to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that he should add a few words to his amendment, making it retrospective?
– Order ! No observations can be made at this juncture other than by the Leader of the Opposition or on a point of order.
– On a point of order, sir, I suggest that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is an attempt by him to evade not only your ruling of the 23rd April, Mr. Speaker, but also the decision of the House on the 24th. The honorable gentleman further seeks to evade your ruling of a few minutes ago, that the amendment of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) was out of order. When the proposed amendment is analysed it is seen that it differs from that of the honorable member for Oxley only because of the insertion of the words “ as a general rule “. As to the words “ except in cases of proved misconduct affecting his relation to Parliament “, I assume that the motion that you previously decided to be out of order related to a case that was “ proved “ to your satisfaction, Mr. Speaker. The use of the word “proved” does not carry us any further. The issue involved by the use of the words “ affecting his relation to Parliament “-
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker-
– There can be no point of order on a point of order.
– The issue involved by the words “ affecting his relation to Parliament” was covered by your decision, sir. Although the Leader of the Opposition is endeavouring to make his amendment different from the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Oxley, by inserting the words “ as a general rule “-
– It has the same effect.
– Absolutely the same effect. There is only one proper way to upset your ruling, sir, and that is by an amendment of the Standing Orders. That cannot be done by an amendment to the question “ That the Speaker do now leave the chair “. This is an attempt to establish what can be established only by a standing order, to upset your decision of the 23rd April and the decision of the House of the following day. If carried, the amendment will be ineffective, because the Standing Orders will have to be altered before those decisions can be upset. It, therefore, seems to me to be an abortive amendment, and an endeavour to re-introduce a question that was ruled by you, Mr. Speaker, to be out of order.
– It should not be necessary for me to add anything on the point which has been so ably taken by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch). If you, sir, are satisfied on that point, I shall not pursue the matter further. I submit that it is perfectly obvious that if this amendment is carried it will amount to a declaration that what you decided in your capacity as Speaker on the 23rd April was wrongly decided. Your declaration at that time, which I think was a perfectly sound one, was that you were guided and bound by the Standing Order, which is explicit in its terms, and lays it down that with you rests the prerogative of determining who, apart from honorable members, shall have accommodation in this House; and that pursuant to the terms of that standing order Mr. Speaker may at any time order any person to leave the precincts of the House. That being so, there is no effective way to deal with the question other than by an amendment of the standing order. A declaration of the House along the lines indicated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) would, therefore, be a nullity. It would not have any binding or decisive effect so far as the case of Mr. Alexander is concerned, and it would not bind you, sir, in regard to any other person. I submit with great confidence that the point taken by the honorable member for Corangamite is unanswerably strong.
– I do not know whether the honorable members who have spoken to the point of order are entirelyserious ; it is very difficult to believe that they are. It was extraordinary to hear the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) say that the amendment is out of order because, if carried, it would be a nullity. I ask honorable members to look at the business-sheet, and to select, say, the motion in the name of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) concerning the initiative, referendum, and recall. If thatmotion were carried, it would have no legal effect; there would be merely an expression of opinion of the House. The same observation could be made with regard to every other motion on the business-paper. Not one would of itself produce any legal effect; it would not alter the law or the Standing Orders.We have carried motions - when the Government has been kind enough to allow time for their discussion - recommending the most far-reaching changes regarding all sorts of matters. Nevertheless such motions are in order. The point that because the carrying of a motion does not produce a legal effect, in amending a standing order, or a law, it is out of order, can scarcely be taken seriously.
– In this case the amendment is an evasion of the Speaker’s ruling.
– That is a different matter, which I shall deal with shortly.
– Why not deal with the main consideration first?
– I am paying the Attorney-General the compliment of supposing that he was submitting a real argument.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that it is the Chair that requires to be convinced on this point.
– Exactly, sir; and my observations are directed entirely to the Chair. The Attorney-General must know that his argument is perfectly hopeless, as would anybody else. The same argument was put in another form by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch). It is, substantially, that it would be possible to pass a standing order which would, as a standing order, produce a declaration of the principle embodied in the amendment that has been moved by me. Supposing that to be so, what does that matter?
– The amendment is a definite endeavour to evade the ruling of Mr. Speaker.
– I am not trying to evade your ruling, sir. The whole question is whether the amendment is in order. The honorable member for
Corangamite said that an amendment of the standing order could be effected to achieve my purpose. It obviously does not matter whether that is so or not. So far as one can disentangle the different points raised, it is suggested that the amendment would overrule the decision given by you, Mr. Speaker, on the 23rd April. Many decisions have been given by different Speakers in the history of this Parliament, and it is amazing that it should be suggested that an amendment in general terms overrides a Speaker’s ruling of last week, last year, or any other year. As I made plain in my reply to the interjection of the honorable member forFremantle (Mr. Cur tin), the carrying of this amendment does not upset any decision of the Speaker; it leaves such a decision where it is. The Attorney-General contends that it suggests that a recent decision by you, sir, was wrongly given. By no means does it do so. This amendment does not refer to Mr. Alexander’s case. It is perfectly consistent with the fact that you, sir, were satisfied that in the case of that individual there was misconduct. I presume that you would not have acted as you did unless you believed that there was misconduct, and that it was proved, and that that action had some relation to Parliament. You, sir, must have concluded that there was substantial evidence to support your decision. There is, therefore, nothing inconsistent between this amendment and any ruling given by Mr. Speaker. On these grounds I submit that the point of order raised by the honorable member for Corangamite has not been sustained by either of the honorable members who have spoken in support of it.
– I rise to a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has assumed that you, Mr. Speaker, have found a certain person guilty. I am reminded of what happened years ago in a court at Croydon. An accused person pleaded not guilty, but later altered his plea to oneof guilty. The jury found him not guilty. The judge, in discharging him, said - “Prisoner at the Bar, you have pleaded guilty. The jury has found you not guilty. Therefore, you are a liar, but you are discharged.” I should like to know whether it is in order for the time to be occupied on private member’s grievance day in discussions such as we have just heard.
– That is not a point of order. On the point of order raised by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) and discussed by the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) and the Leader of the Opposition, there are three ways in which honorable members may take objection in regard to the conduct of business of which the Speaker has executive control. The first is by the Standing Orders ; the second is by disagreement with the ruling of the presiding officer, from which ruling the House can dissent if it is not satisfactory to honorable members; and the third is by a substantive motion. Those are the only methods by which the motion in question may be raised by an honorable member. Because I am of the opinion that the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition infringes the authority vested in me under the Standing Orders, and is not in accord with the usages of Parliament, I rule that it is out of order.
– I dissent from your ruling in the following terms: -
That the ruling of the honorable the Speaker, that the amendment to the motion, “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair “, is out of order: - That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ this House is of opinion that as a general rule, a journalist should not be excluded from the press galleries except in cases of proved misconduct affecting his relation to Parliament “ - be disagreed with.
Mr.White. - I second the motion.
– The discussion of this motion must, under the Standing Orders, he deferred to the next sitting day.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [4.37].- I regret that our time has been occupied for so long to-day in discussing a matter that bad previously been discussed for practically two days.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has directed attention to the advisableness of encouraging gold-mining, with the object of relieving the prevailing depression. On numerous occasions when Australia has been passing through a time of stress like the present the mining industry has come to her assistance. Our troubles have been alleviated not by mining experts or economists, but by prospectors. The mining industry first attracted the attention of the world to Australia. Subsequently, during the period of the bank crashes in the ‘nineties, the discovery of gold again resulted in the rehabilitation of the country. It cannot be argued that the mining resources of Australia have been fully exploited. In many parts of this continent valuable deposits of ore are known to exist. This is true not only of the Northern Territory, but also of Queensland.
An honorable member made an interjection some little while ago about the unemployed in the Northern Territory. He evidently represents a constituency within a few miles of the General Post Office in one of the capital cities. He does not realize that it is impossible for the unemployed in the Northern Territory, or in the northern parts of Queensland, to tramp put into the metalliferous districts without the provision of adequate supplies of food and water.
What has been done by Mr. Gepp, the gentleman who was unloaded on to the Bruce-Page Government by the Broken Hill mining interests, or by Mr. Gunn, or by any other experts, to develop the resources of this country? A migration commission set up at the cost of many thousands of pounds, has left us with 200,000 or 300,000 unemployed. It is a serious indictment of the governments of Australia that they allowed thousands of people to come to this country without making proper provision to receive them. Men, women and children are starving to-day, and this could have been prevented. Many of the migrants who came here two or three years ago were the victims of misrepresentation of the worst kind. Only in Queensland were proper arrangements made to settle the newcomers on the land. In that State the Government made land available under the leasehold system. But there was no reason why people should have been settled on land a long distance from our railway lines. Hundreds of thousands of acres of first-class land adjoining our railway lines is to-day held out of production merely for speculative purposes. It should not have been necessary for the
Government to force people to go to territories like New Guinea or North, and Central Australia. It could have provided them with suitable blocks of land in the coastal areas of Australia and close to the markets. There can be no doubt that the people are land hungry. In Queensland it is a common thing for 1,800 or 2,000 applications to be made for a few blocks of land.
The British-Australasian Tobacco Company is responsible for the statement that it cannot obtain a sufficient quantity of Australian-grown tobacco leaf to provide the tobacco requirements of Australia. Yet in spite of the fact that huge areas of land near Mareeba are suitable in every way for tobacco culture, we go on importing millions of pounds worth of tobacco every year. That also is true of cotton.
Let me remind honorable members that the depression through which the country is passing is not due to the mismanagement of this Government, nor to anything that has happened within the last eighteen months. It is due principally to the foolish policy of continual overseas borrowing by past governments and the bringing of people here without making adequate provision for their welfare. To-day many people in Australia are trying to obtain the wherewithal to return to the country from which they came.
The way out of our difficulties is not to be found by the sending of experts to the Northern Territory, or elsewhere, to make reports on mining or other possibilities of development. Such reports are merely pigeon-holed. I suggest that the Government, through the appropriate department, should make available three months’ supply of food and water to prospectors and allow them to go into approved country to prospect for minerals. Under the Gold Bounty Act it is necessary for a gold buyer to be registered if the prospector who is selling the gold wishes to obtain the benefit of the bounty of £1 an ounce. Previously a prospector could go to any station manager or storekeeper and purchase, without restriction, meat, flour, tobacco and other requirements; but to-day unless the station manager or storekeeper is a registered gold buyer the prospector cannot sell his gold, and at the same time obtain the bounty. It would be of some benefit if only £1,000 were spent in assisting prospecting in the territory. If gold were found there Australia would be placed in immediate possession of what members opposite term real money, and we might have as much gold in our vaults as has the United States of America. There is nothing like the mining industry to provide employment. The Commonwealth Government, some time ago, made a grant to assist in prospecting for gold and precious metals. I understand that Queensland, under that grant, was entitled to £6,000, but up to date only £3,000 has been expended, the remaining £3,000 being unclaimed. I am continually getting letters containing requests for assistance from men who have done nothing but prospecting all their lives. Their work is on the surface. Most mines, such as those at Mount Morgan, Croydon and Charters Towers, become, from the point of view of the working prospector, unprofitable at a certain depth. When a shaft is too deep to permit of the use of a windlass or whimhorse and machinery is necessary to further develop it, the mine becomes useless to the prospector. His business is prospecting and locating gold, and he is the person who should be encouraged to search for gold. In some cases a grant of £2 a foot for sinking in deep shafts is made; but only in rare instances has the money been refunded. As lime is used to catch a bird, so the speculator uses this grant to catch the mug investors. The few persons who hold gift shares in the mining companies floated by speculators have nothing to lose, while the investors have everything to lose. In that way the speculators have done a great deal of harm to the gold-mining industry. The amount of £3,000 which remains unclaimed by the Queensland Government should be made available for prospecting in the far north of that State. A geologist bases his report as to the prospect of finding gold in certain areas on the formation of the country. The average prospector has that knowledge. The expert inspects a field, makes his report, and departs. The prospector inspects a field and stays for, say, three months. If he finds an indication of gold he sinks a shaft, because he knows that the main lode must be somewhere in the vicinity. The geologist usually carries with him instruments which have to be transported by motor car, but, unfortunately, our unexplored mining fields cannot be approached by motor car. We must, therefore, rely upon the prospector for the discovery of gold. A few years ago, a prospector was backed by a business man in a western township of Queensland. The prospector went out and sent back certain specimens, but the assays were unfavorable. One day he visited the storekeeper and threw a bag under a table saying “I have no idea of the value of that stuff, but there is mountains of it”. He obtained meat, flour and other requirements and once more departed. Some time afterwards the business man, when cleaning out his office, came across the bag and sent it to Charters Towers. The specimens were assayed and showed 75 oz. to the ton. A search was made for the prospector, and he was eventually found dead just on the border of North Australia and Queensland. The field from which those specimens had been taken was never found. Had that prospector been given some little assistance by the Government, it is quite likely that that field would have been exploited to the benefit of Australia generally. Cases have been made out for the wool king and the wheat king, but no case is made out for this industry which is dying for the want of a little assistance.
– It has been largely destroyed by the weight of ‘ industrial conditions.
– The honorable member has referred to Mount Morgan. Let me tell him that the shareholders took £12,000,000 out of that mine, and when the price of copper was £120 a ton a starvation wage was being paid to the miners. The owners exploited Australian labour as if it were coolie and black labour. Eventually all mines will be worked on a profit-sharing system. If, under the existing industrial conditions, mines like Mount Morgan cannot be worked profitably by their owners, then they should be taken over by the miners, and a royalty paid to the owners. The profits from the Mount Morgan mine went to shareholders who had never seen the mine, and had en dured none of the hardships of those who first discovered it.
I wish now to refer to the buffalo fly and its operations in Queensland. If determined efforts are not made in the near future to combat this pest, it will not be long before it attacks the dairy herds on the coastal areas. I first heard of the ravages of the buffalo fly in 1919. It was then operating in the north of Australia on the coastal areas. It is now operating at the terminals of the Queensland railways as far south as the 18th parallel of latitude.
– Did it originate with the buffalo ?
– Yes; and the pest was imported here. It has been operating in the north of Queensland for some time. When the Government first attempted to restrict its spread, the big pastoral companies said that it was doing no more harm than were the blowfly and the sand fly; but later, in 1923, they discovered that the fly had worked its way to Burketown, on the coast, and that, in consequence, their herds were in danger of being destroyed. The Queensland Government put into force quarantine regulations which prevented ‘cattle from leaving the infected areas. The Commonwealth Government then made inquiries from various station-owners and managers, who asked that the quarantine be lifted to enable them to get their cattle away. The eradication of the buffalo fly appears to be everybody’s job, and we know that everybody’s job is nobody’s job. The buffalo fly to-day is operating throughout the Burketown district, which is carrying over 100,000 head of cattle. It attacks the eye and the brisket of the beast and generally plays havoc with it. The quarantine was first applied to areas embracing Camooweal, the head of the Gregory River, Fiery Downs, and the Leichhardt river. To-day the pest is further south. As most of the cattle from the Leichhardt district finds it way into Townsville meat works, it will not be long before the buffalo fly is operating in the coastal areas of Queensland. Another of our imported pests is the prickly pear, the eradication of which is costing this country millions of pounds. This imported pest, the buffalo fly, is to-day operating at the Leichhardt river.
We rail cattle from the Leichhardt and Burketown districts into the Townsville and Brisbane meat works, and, unless prompt action is taken the whole of the dairy herds of Queensland and New South Wales will become affected. Once the fly gets a hold in the coastal districts we shall have to expend millions of pounds to eradicate it. This pest has been allowed to develop in spite of repeated warnings. In the Philippine Islands it was well recognized as a danger, and Mr. Youngerberg, an American veterinary surgeon who visited the Northern Territory and north-western Australia in 1919, warned both officials and pastoralists that the buffalo fly would prove a great menace to the cattle industry throughout Australia unless it were promptly and determinedly tackled. The pastoralists did not see the danger, and it was not until 1923 that some official in the Northern Territory woke up and wrote to the Department of Home Affairs drawing attention to Mr. Youngerberg’s warning. When I entered this House in 1929 I immediately took up the matter with the Minister for Home Affairs. He communicated with the Queensland Agricultural Department, and a conference was arranged. Meanwhile, the fly had spread from the Northern Territory into the Queensland cattle areas, and to-day practically the whole of the Burketown area is affected. Last year I met a pastoralist in Queensland, and asked him about the buffalo fly. He replied, “ lt is not affecting me very much ; it is no worse than the march fly.” To-day I received a letter from him stating that the fly has become a pest on his property. One can see the cattle standing in the lagoons to avoid the fly, and the sun is visible only through the haze of flies above them. In portions of the Northern Territory where the buffalo fly is particularly bad, the horses can be seen racing through the camp fires at night in an endeavour to rid themselves of the pest. The pastoralist to whom I have referred wrote to me -
My place, Armraynald, has been put in quarantine. I am enclosing a few cuttings from the daily papers relating to the buffalo fly. I understand that the Commonwealth, and State Governments are moving in the matter, but apparently much slower than the fly.
It was because of the dilatoriness of government methods that the prickly pear got beyond control. Mr. E. M. Land, member for Ballone in the Queensland Parliament, urged many years ago that a line should be drawn about the prickly pear country, and that the area within it should be treated; otherwise, he said, millions of pounds would be required to eradicate it. He was called a fool; people said he was not a scientist, and did not understand what he was talking about. He was only a practical man. No notice was taken of his warnings, but eventually the prickly pear destroyed his home and his fences, and in various parts of the State the Queensland Government, has expended over £1,000,000 in trying to eradicate it. We do not know yet what result will be achieved by the cactoblastus, the parasite that was imported to attack the plant. We are told that the parasite will die as soon as it has eaten out its host. I hope that it will. The persons responsible for first introducing the prickly pear and the buffalo fly into Northern Australia have much to answer for. I appeal not only to the Commonwealth and State Governments, but also to Parliament, and the people to see that preventive measures are adopted before the buffalo fly reaches the dairy herds. I suggest that meat works for the killing and treatment of cattle should be established in the gulf country. A good port can be made there, transport will be obtainable, and the pastoralists will be able to get rid of their cattle. The Government proposes that certain areas should be quarantined. That is all right for those who have sufficient power and influence to have the restrictions removed so that they can get their cattle away, but what of the smaller man, who has been growing cattle year in and year out since 1919, and cannot get rid of them. If quarantine areas are to be established, provision must be made for the disposing of stock, which are an exportable commodity. If necessary a levy should be imposed on the industry to pay for the necessary preventive and curative measures. One obstacle to effective action so far has been the conflict between the recommendations of experts - stock inspectors, veterinary sur- geons, and pastoralists. The last named suggested a blockade at the affected area, but found that that was opposed to their own interests, because there was no outlet for their cattle. Some pastoralists say that it would pay the Government to sacrifice the whole of the cattle in the infected area in order to get rid of the pest. One man has written to me stating that if immediate steps are not taken to exterminate the pest a large proportion of my district, which is the largest cattle area in the State, will be affected. Places that were clean last year are to-day infested, and the pest is destroying the stock. The writer’s property is quarantined, and he expresses a wish that somebody would pay to him the amount that he has expended on improvements and he would gladly walk off, leaving the cattle behind. The delay of governments and their failure to adopt concerted measures is another proof that we have too many governments. There is a lot of technical and scientific interference, but unfortunately very little practical result.
– The scientists cannot get the money they require.
– Surely the honorable member will not say that that has been the difficulty for the last twelve years. The scientists have not even discovered yet whether the fly breeds in the marshes or on the beast.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The important matter raised by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has caused the Government a good deal of concern, and has been the subject of almost continuous conference between the Minister for Health (Mr. McNeill) and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holloway). In April of last year a conference was held at which representatives of the Department of Home Affairs, the Health Department, the pastoralists and various interested parties in Queensland attended. The conference lasted for two days and certain resolutions were arrived at which, however, were not accepted by the Queensland Government. The main proposal forcombating the buffalo fly was the crea tion of a buffer area from 20 to 30 miles wide by upwards of 100 miles long. To make this area clean the cattle were to be gradually shifted from it into the Northern Territory. The buffalo fly does not thrive where the rainfall is less than 20 inches, and the experts are of opinion that by the gradual removal of the cattle into the dry areas, they will be freed of the pest, and can be marketed. It is anticipated that two or three years will be required to clean the Queensland cattle areas. When that has been achieved a similar buffer area will be established in the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth would accept full responsibility for the cost of compensating the pastoralists in the Northern Territory, establishing a buffer area, and carrying out a campaign worthy of Australia. This Government is charged with being entirely responsible for the presence of the buffalo fly; but it is believed that the pest was present in Australia 70 years before the inauguration of the Commonwealth. It was introduced into North Australia from the Philippines or Java, when buffalo were first brought to Australia, and its presence in North Australia has been known ever since. Owing to the influence of climate upon its incidence and spread, it has been confined, so far, to the northern portions of the continent, including the northern part of Western Australia, and now it is extending rapidly south and east into Queensland.
– Does the fly confine its attention to cattle?
– No, it affects horses as well. Possibly, as it extends further south, it may attack other animals; but, at present it affects only the buffalo and horses and cattle. The fly is very vicious. It is smaller than the ordinary house fly, and its attacks, which cause pain and panic among the animals affected, lead to loss of condition and raw sores. While certain plans were developed at the conference held about twelve months ago, no method was arrived at for meeting the financial outlay required to give effect to them. The Queensland Government refused to accept responsibility in the matter, and would not even confer with the Commonwealth Government regarding the allocation of financial responsibility. From time to time, officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were investigating the matter with a view to discovering a parasite of the buffalo fly, and they obtained reports from Queensland regarding the incidence and spread of the pest. Five months ago, it was established that the fly was confined to an area west and north of the rabbit-proof fence; but recently word has come from Queensland that the fly is to be found on the lower Leichhardt river, and is working towards the Flinders river. But, prior to the latest development, and because of a real fear on the part of the Commonwealth Government that the fly, if not controlled, would ultimately spread through the whole of the cattle country of Queensland, affect the valuable dairy herds in that State, and possibly find its way as far south as the Hunter River in New South Wales, I communicated with the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Moore, and suggested that he should confer with the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Department of Health and the Department of Home Affairs and myself. He consented to do that. The subject of finance was discussed at this conference with Mr. Moore, and I made the following observations regarding the programme, which I have outlined, of creating a buffer area, clearing it, compensating the cattle owners, and so on : -
The programme is fairly definite. Then comes a survey of the liability, and the question of the liability as between the State and the Commonwealth. We are willing to co-operate with Queensland in definitely carrying it out. The allocation would have to depend upon the negotiations.
Thus I made it clear at the conference that negotiations would have to take place with a view to allocating the financial responsibility.
– Did not the Minister try to throw the greater part of it upon Queensland?
– But the Minister meant to do that.
– Not at all. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Government, at that stage, would have been prepared to act on a fifty-fifty basis to fence a bigger area, which was more than a fair offer. I think that the file will bear out my remark in that respect.
– How can a fifty-fifty basis be fair, since Queensland is only one of six States?
– Because Queensland is more adversely affected by the buffalo fly than any other State or Commonwealth Territory.
– Are not all States affected to some extent?
– No, only the New South Wales, Queensland and Commonwealth Governments are concerned in the matter.
The reluctance of the Premier of Queensland to make a definite offer, or to enter into negotiations with the Commonwealth Government regarding the allocation of financial responsibility, compels me to think that the Queensland Government is not prepared to accept any financial responsibility for the work to be undertaken.
– I think that that is not the case.
– I shall endeavour to prove my statement by quoting the words of the Queensland Premier, who, in a letter dated the 4th March last, stated -
Though the Queensland Government is prepared to co-operate and help in every way to try to stop the scourge, which cannot be regarded as a Queensland responsibility, but an Australian one, it has no funds to pay for the difference in value between the compulsory selling price and the fixed value.
The latter words refer to the compulsory acquisition of cattle. That letter was written after my conference with Mr. Moore, at which I definitely said that the Commonwealth Government would accept half the financial responsibility. Mr. Moore’s letter continues -
Neither has it the money to erect the fence. As it is undoubtedly a national matter and a national emergency, I presume the Federal Government will, as suggested by the Minister for Home and Territories, be prepared to arrange for the requisite finance to enable the above suggestions to be carried out.
I shall repeat what I said at the conference with Mr. Moore -
Then comes a survey of the liability, and the question of the liability as between the State and the Commonwealth. We are willing to cooperate with Queensland in definitely carrying it out. The allocation would have to depend upon the negotiations.
– The Premier of Queensland was evidently under the impression that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to do the work.
– He had a copy of the minutes of the conference. I caused to be sent to the Prime Minister, on the 3rd April, a recapitulation of what had transpired in regard to the buffalo fly investigation, and the Prime Minister, in the course of his reply to Mr. Moore, used these words: -
With regard, to the question of finance, I would point out that the Minister for Home Affairs did not suggest, as presumed by you, that, “ as thu matter was undoubtedly a national one, and a national emergency,” the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to arrange for the requisite finance to enable the suggested measures for combating the spread of the fly in your State to be carried out, as the remarks actually made by the Minister for Home Affairs, as reported on page 3 of the notes of the interview, beforementioned, of which a copy was recently forwarded to you, are as follow: -
Then followed the quotation that I have already read to the House.
The correspondence shows that the Commonwealth Government has been’ only too willing to meet the Queensland Government, and has gone so far as to say that, as a preliminary measure, it will bear half the expense of the fencing of the buffer area, and will continue to spend a large sum of money on scientific research. It is difficult to determine the cost of making a scientific investigation for the discovery of a parasite of the buffalo fly. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) chafes at the apparent delay in finding such a parasite. I remind him that many years elapsed before a parasite of the prickly pear was found, yet for the very heavy financial outlay in connexion with that investigation, Australia has been adequately compensated.
– The man who eventually discovered the parasite of the prickly pear, and set it to work in Queensland, was a farmer.
– I do not wholly agree with that statement. The work done by the scientists in that regard was exceedingly valuable. We have some most capable entomologists engaged in the investigation of the buffalo fly pest. One officer is now in Java, and he will later go to Timor to observe the buffalo fly under local conditions. He will see if it is possible to discover a suitable parasite in either of those countries.
– Although the prickly pear was claiming the land, the buffalo fly will eventually claim our cattle faster than we can breed them.
– In addition to causing an investigation to be made for the discovery of a parasite, the Government agreed, at the conference which I have mentioned, to send two Commonwealth officers into Northern Queensland immediately after the rainy season. I refer to Dr. Mackerras, who has had long experience of the buffalo fly, and Mr. Campbell, who is also familiar with the pest. They will begin their investigations at Dobbyn and Cloncurry, and then proceed to Burketown and Normanton. Word recently came from Queensland, as I have intimated, that the buffalo fly had reached the Lower Leichhardt, and was working across to the Flinders river. It was also reported verbally to me by a pastoralist, whose station is situated west of the rabbit-proof fence, which was tentatively fixed some time ago as the main southern and eastern boundary of the proposed buffer area, that the fly was definitely on his property, and had even gone further south and east. While we have had many reports in the past regarding the incidence and spread of the fly, when the scientists have investigated those reports, and the veterinary officers employed by the Queensland Government have made inquiries, they have found them to be without foundation. Not until this investigation has been completed by Dr. Mackerras and Mr. Campbell, and it is determined whether the buffalo fly has spread to the area from Burketown down to the Leichhardt river, will the Government be able to reach a decision. If it is found that the fly has reached those areas, and is still coming south and east, the Government will have to consider seriously whether it would be justified in spending money for the creation of a buffer area, and on the compensation of pastoralists who would be removed from that area. I have not been into this region myself, but from conversations I have had with pastoralists and scientists, I have come to the conclusion that if the fly is found on the
Leichhardt or Flinders rivers, and in the areas east and south of Burketown, it would be almost a physical impossibility to create a buffer area which would prevent its further spread. Nothing can be done until the investigation has been concluded. If it is found that the fly is south and east of the rabbit-proof fence, the Government, as I have said, must consider whether it would be justified in incurring the expense involved in the creation of a buffer area.
– Where is this rabbitproof fence?
– It runs west of Burketown. If it is decided by the Government that it would not be justified in spending money on the creation of a buffer area, our efforts to control the pest will probably take the form of promoting investigation to discover some parasite which would destroy the fly, or at any rate check its increase.
– I am not prepared at this stage to reply to the statement of the Minister regarding the attitude of the Queensland Government towards the control of the buffalo fly pest. I am convinced from my personal knowledge of the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Moore), and of the members of his Government, that in this, as in all other matters affecting the welfare of the State, they may be relied upon to do what is right.
I propose now to refer to another matter which is of very grave importance, not only to the State of Queensland, but to Australia as a whole. Yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in what purported to be a ministerial statement, made an anaemic declaration regarding the action proposed to be taken by the Commonwealth Government in view of the further default of the New South Wales Government over its interest payments. He gave the House no indication of how the Government proposed to deal with this recurring trouble. It is evident that the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Lang) is pursuing a policy calculated to break down the system of private ownership.
– The honorable member should not excite himself.
– This is a time when we are justified in becoming excited, particularly those of us who represent parts of the Commonwealth other than New South Wales. Australia as a whole has been called upon to foot an interest bill amounting to £1,500,000, which should have been paid by New South Wales. Already that State has secured credits to the extent of millions of pounds at the expense of the other States. She has obtained shortdated loans amounting to nearly £3,000,000 out of a total of £5,000,000 of such loans recently raised. While Mr. Lyons was Treasurer he made provision for supplying New South Wales with no less than £2,900,000 for the months of November and December alone. Moreover, accommodation to the extent of millions of pounds has been granted to New South Wales through the Commonwealth Bank, backed by the resources of all the States of the Commonwealth. It is time that the other States lodged a protest against the action of the Premier of New South Wales. Their resources are being taxed beyond endurance to make good the promises which New South Wales has refused to honour. Honorable members have spent the best part of an afternoon discussing points of order relating to matters which do not concern the country one iota. We should realize that the one matter of supreme importance to Australia to-day is the drift in government finance. That constitutes a grievance which certainly ought to be ventilated. Evidently the Commonwealth Government is prepared to allow that drift to go on without making any effort to stop it. Things are so bad to-day, that the Government should accept the offer of the parties in opposition to assist in a united effort to rehabilitate the country’s finances. It is time that some determined action was taken in regard to the refusal by the Premier of New South Wales to pay interest owed by that State. The Prime Minister should find out whether Mr. Lang intends to proceed with the policy upon which he has embarked. Evidently that is his intention. Is the Prime Minister prepared from time to time merely to announce to the House that the New South Wales Government has again intimated its refusal to meet its interest obligation, and will he, after making such an announcement, be content to declare once more that provision lias been made for the Commonwealth to meet another million pounds or so of interest which has fallen due? If that sort of thing is allowed to continue, before very long the resources of the whole Commonwealth will be exhausted through the action of this man in New South Wales who is determined to drag down, not only New South Wales, but the other States as well, in his efforts to wreck the social system under which we live. The Prime Minister promised, while he was in Loudon, that every one of Australia’s obligations would be honoured. In order to make good that promise he should now call together nil parties in the House, so that some united action may be decided upon to stop the present financial drift. Through the parties in this House, he would be able to secure the cooperation of all their followers throughout the country, and arrive at a common policy, untainted by party politics, and unassociated with the machine-made principles which animate honorable members opposite.
– So far, the Prime Minister has called to his assistance only Mungana-tainted Ted.
– At this time, when the finances of the country are in such a desperate position, the man who is directly responsible for them is touring the country on a political campaign. In his absence, the Commonwealth has become responsible for the payment of a further huge sum of interest on behalf of New South Wales. In the course of an insipid statement, the. Prime Minister announced this fact to the House, without being able to add one word of hope, or to indicate that the Government had devised any means of dealing with the situation. He has more regard for his political machine than for the interests of the country, and to that end would join hands with Mr. Lang and those associated with him in the hope of winning the next elections.
– The honorable member should read the British budget.
– It is to be hoped that the honorable member will pay some attention to the Commonwealth budget. At any rate, the deficit of £40,000,000, revealed by the British budget, is small compared with the expenditure of £700,000,000. Moreover, I remind honorable members that Great Britain, to-day, is also, unfortunately, under a Labour Government.
– The honorable member would assassinate J. T. Lang.
– This is not a time to assassinate anybody. It is a time for united action. The Prime Minister should accept the responsibility of his position, and give the country the lead for which it is looking. It is evident, however, that things will be allowed to drift in the future as they have been in the past. When the Prime Minister went to Britain, everybody hoped that he would be able to do something for us there, and his return was anxiously awaited. Soon after he got back, he addressed the Parkes electors, and revealed the fact that while in Great Britain he had done nothing to relieve the burden under which the country is groaning. After the Prime Minister’s return, a member of the British Ministry stated in the House of Commons that he had received no communication from the right honorable gentleman with regard to the funding of our war debt. It was only after pressure was exerted on the Prime Minister that he took the action which resulted in Great Britain giving relief to Australia by extending our war debt payments for two years.
The Prime Minister would have the people of the country believe that he and his Government are endeavouring to do something for them. Actually all that they are doing is to disseminate electioneering propaganda, and to advance what they claim to be the only solution of the problem, a system of inflation. As a member of a State which must bear part of the resultant burden, I protest against the Prime Minister’s spineless attitude in meekly allowing Mr. Lang to default in his obligations to the investors of Great Britain. We all believed when the right honorable gentleman first returned to Australia that he would set aside all party pettiness, and do something big for the nation in its time of crisis. He did nothing, and he still does nothing. By countenancing the default of Mr. Lang, he is really encouraging that gentleman to continue in his policy of repudiation, which involves my State with others in unforeseen expenditure. Against that I strongly protest.
.- First I shall endeavour to satisfy myself as to what was in the mind of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), when he spoke of this Government doing nothing to rectify the present difficulties of the nation. I had no idea previously that the honorable member was a direct actionist I remind him that immediately the Premier of New South Wales intimated the inability of his State to meet its obligations in London, this Government made the necessary arrangements to protect Australia from the stigma of repudiation, and instructed its Crown Law Department to issue a writ against the Government of New South Wales for the recovery of the amount involved. The honorable member will recollect that the Commonwealth and the States became parties to a financial agreement. He must be aware that under that agreement the Commonwealth is bound to meet the obligations of any State which may default. Does he suggest that this Government should repudiate that obligation, and that it did an improper thing when it honored its undertaking? I suggest that no action other than that taken by the Commonwealth Government was acceptable in the circumstances. It would be in keeping with the honorable member’s attitude if he suggested, as an alternative, that the Prime Minister or a deputy should have gone to New South Wales and knocked out the brains of Mr. Lang. Whatever may be the policy of the honorable member, I assure him that this party stands for constitutional methods. Evidently he sponsors action of a different complexion when it is likely to give him a political advantage.
Whatever the Minister may have said as to the buffalo fly menace, I assure him that I intend to pursue the matter further. I have given a considerable amount of time to a study of the problem, and only to-day I consulted Dr. Robertson, one of our scientists, upon it. That gentleman assured me that he believed that it would be impossible to cope with the buffalo fly now that it had been allowed to become so firmly established. I warn the Minister that if the pest penetrates south to the Clarence river irreparable damage will be done to one of the finest assets of the nation. Dr. Robertson and Dr. Gilruth have assured me that as soon as the pest reaches territory which is more densely stocked, it will increase at an alarming rate. Reports indicate that it has already reached what may be termed the danger zone, and I should like to be told that that is not so. Those scientists informed me that three years ago an expenditure of £35,000 would have checked the trouble. Dr. Robertson informed me to-day that it would be almost impossible to eradicate the pest. There has been a good deal of quibbling as to whether a State or the Commonwealth Government should provide the funds to check the spread of the buffalo fly. That is most regrettable, and later I shall ask that definite action be taken by the Commonwealth Government in the matter. The fly is a very small insect, the size of a sandfly, and about sixteen times smaller than an ordinary housefly. It first attacks stock about the eyes, then round the brisket and under the jaws, anywhere where the flesh is soft and unprotected; and there it hangs on.
– Does it live on the beast ?
– Yes, night and day. Sandflies and many other pests give a beast a rest at night, but this menace is with the unfortunate creature throughout the 24 hours. There is no doubt about its ability to travel. It deposits its eggs in the hot droppings of beasts, and could be carried 600 to 700 miles between Dobbyn and Townsville in a matter of about 30 hours. In that way it travels from the interior to the ‘ coast. On the Atherton Tableland, in North Queensland, remarkably fine herds of cattle have been built up at great expense. They are beautiful Jerseys, and other breeds, soft in flesh, and particularly susceptible to the frightful torment of such a pest as the buffalo fly. If the menace spreads to that area enormous losses will result. The fly may penetrate to the northern districts of New South Wales, where enormous sums of money have also been spent to build up herds of valuable cattle. The Minister must surely realize the disastrous consequences of the infestation of such country by the pest.
I submit that the Commonwealth Government has power, under paragraph h of section 13 of the Quarantine Act, to step in and endeavour to control the spread of the pest, even if a State should refuse to assist. Also, the Minister should immediately convene a conference of State authorities, in an endeavour to evolve a satisfactory scheme to combat the spread of the buffalo fly.
– Will not dipping hold it in check?
– No; the fly merely leaves the beast while it is in the dip, settling on it again as it dries. It might be possible to protect individual beasts; but that is quite impracticable with large herds. It could be attempted only by constantly keeping smoking fires alight, which is out of the question in the large areas of the north. If something is not done to arrest its spread the buffalo fly will do incalculable harm when it reaches the more closely settled areas. Already it is said to be 60 miles south of Burketown, and is steadily getting closer to the railhead. I urge the Minister to take prompt action in the matter. There are some who contend that the buffalo fly is not likely to extend to the colder and drier districts. It is a fact that it makes no progress in districts which have a rainfall of less than 20 inches a year. Its activities are particularly bad during the wet season; but, unfortunately, they are almost equally dangerous in dry seasons, because of the poor condition of the stock at that time, which reduces their powers of resistance.
This subject is of tremendous importance and I urge the Minister to do his best to bring into conference accredited representatives of the various State Governments concerned, to see whether something cannot be done to stop the progress of the fly.
.- The southward trend of the buffalofly is an extremely serious matter for Australia. I trust that steps will be taken to prevent it from damaging our stock industry as the cattle tick has damaged it.
Northern New South Wales is practically a buffer area for the Commonwealth at present in the war against cattle tick. About £100,000 per annum is being spent to prevent the tick from getting any further south. I believe that the Commonwealth contributes towards that amount about £55,000.
– Any money that we may spend in the prevention of the spread of the buffalo fly will be money well spent.
– That is so. Even if it is not possible to get the State Governments to do very much preventive work, I sincerely trust that the Commonwealth Government will take the responsibility of endeavouring to counter the pest. It will be remembered that when the rinderpest appeared in Western Australia the Commonwealth Government took the view that the States should help to defray the cost of any combative measures, but in the end it had to provide most of the money that was spent in that fight which, happily, ended satisfactorily for Australia. If the buffalo fly comes far south, it will do vast damage to our stock industry. I assure the Government that the Country party will give it every possible assistance to protect our stock from the ravages of this pest.
I desire now to direct the attention of the Government to a valuable, but hitherto almost unexplored, source of revenue. Most countries of the world derive a considerable income from the traffic of tourists to their various beauty spots. The tourist industry is worth about £60,000,000 per annum to Canada. Last year about £200,000,000 of outside money was spent by tourists in the United States of America. Switzerland derives about two-thirds of her total national revenue from tourists. Two years ago the Commonwealth Government made a grant of £5,000 for the purpose of developing tourist traffic in Australia. This resulted in the establishment of the Australian National Travel Association. An amount of £83,000 was also subscribed by interested parties, with the object of promoting travel in Australia by people from overseas. The shiping companies, the big motor transport companies, the railway commissioners of certain States, and other interested parties have taken a considerable interest in this matter. Agencies have been established in Great Britain, America, New Zealand, and elsewhere, with the object of attracting tourists to Australia. New Zealand draws a very large revenue from visiting tourists, and there is no reason why Australia should not do likewise.
One of the results of the efforts of this league has been the visit on two occasions of a holiday cruising vessel from America. On the first visit she called at six Australian ports, but on the second visit she called at Sydney only. An examination of the reasons why the second cruise in Australian waters was so limited shows that the various Australian Governments could do a great deal to assist in promoting tourist traffic. They could, for instance, reduce certain costs which such vessels incur while in port. If they did so, the tourists would be able to make a much more extensive and prolonged itinerary. This would mean that not only would a greater income be received in Australia from them, but they would be much better fitted to advertise Australia when they returned to their own country. In this connexion I have received a letter from Mr. Stuart Gardiner, the general secretary of the Travel Promotion and Development Association of Southern Queensland and Northern New South “Wales, in which he enclosed a letter sent to him from the Matson Steamship Line in connexion with port and other charges imposed on cruising vessels. That letter reads as follows: -
This will acknowledge receipt of your letter 12th March, with respect to your interview with Mr. Mark Gosling, Chief Secretary of New South Wales, regarding the possibility of a reduction in port charges for cruise vessels like the Malolo.
We are indeed very glad to learn that your proposal for some relief from these charges in connexion with cruise vessels will receive consideration.
We are not suggesting a reduction of these charges because of any saving that might be effected in connection with our own cruise ship.
Australia, in many respects, is isolated from the rest of the world, and is off the beaten track usually followed by most cruise ships. Still, she is doing nothing to attract vessels on world or other cruises.
The fact that you have organized your association, and that the Australian National Travel Association has been organized and is carrying on extensive advertising in England,
Canada, and- the United States, is in itself recognition of the value of the tourist trade, whether they come by the regular lines engaged in the Australian trade, or whether they arrive in special cruise ships.
It would seem, therefore, that not only governments but port authorities themselves would recognize the value of this trade and the desirability of assisting those trying to promote same by being prepared to make some concession to cruise vessels touching Australian ports.
I do know in Java that, if a cruise vessel ,does not embark or disembark any passengers while touching Javanese ports, port charges are waived.
On the first voyage of the Malolo, calling at Fremantle, the Harbour Trust were sufficiently interested and considerate to make- a refund of the tonnage dues incurred at that port, amounting to £66 Kia. No charges were waived at Melbourne or Sydney.
On the first voyage, in 1929, the Malolo paid charges as follows: - Fremantle, £454, Gs. 3d.: Melbourne, £384 ls. Id. ; Sydney, £352 10s. lOd. She disbursed for supplies at these same ports in the order named- £233 10s. lid., £459 10s. 5d., £1.891 18s. 4d.
On the second voyage, on which she called at Sydney only, her total port charges were £811 4s., and her purchase of stores, &c, amounted to £1,064 13s. fid.
The difference in the amount of port charges at Sydney for the first and second voyages is accounted for by reason of the fact that Commonwealth light dues, in the amount of £311 8s. Dd. on the first voyage, were paid at Fremantle. Also, included in Sydney charges for the second voyage is £70 lis. lid. for Queensland coast pilots. It would not be reasonable for any cruise vessel to expect consideration on this item.
In this connection, we would point out that the two largest items are the Commonwealth and State light dues. At the time that the Commonwealth took over the control and maintenance of the various lights on the Australian coast, the basis of charge made in New South Wales was 4d. per net registered ton, payable every six months. In other words, vessels trading to Sydney paid this charge twice a year, regardless of the number of calls made at this port.
The State contended when this charge was made that their organization cost them as much to maintain the lights of minor importance at the smaller ports as for maintaining all other lights, for their charge has not been meeting the total expense in connection with this service, and hence they made no reduction in this charge.
The Commonwealth, however, increased the rate for Commonwealth dues to Od. per net registered ton, payable every three months, and then at a later date increased the charge to 8d. per net registered ton, payable every three months.
Despite repeated promises on the part of both Commonwealth and State Governments that these charges would be reduced, this has never been accomplished.
As stated, the Commonwealth dues on the Malolo amounted to £3118s. 9d., and the State dues to £138 8s. 4d. You will undoubtedly agree that for vessels on long voyages engaged in the regular trade, or for a cruise ship, these arc exceptionally high charges, and, taken into consideration with charges at other Australian ports, which are the highest of any in the world, do not offer much encouragement to the ship-owner to send his ships to Australia.
Regret we cannot give you any information as to the amount of money spent by tourists in shopping and sight-seeing during ship’s stay. I believe this information can be secured, however, through Mr. Charles Holmes, Director, Australian National Travel Association, Melbourne. He may be also able to give you additional information concerning other countries or ports where no charges are assessed, or, if so, greatly reduced in connection with the visits of cruise vessels.
We might also add that for stores consumed on the Australian coast from the time of arrival at Fremantle in 1929 to departure from Sydney, the Malolo paid the Commonwealth customs £173 12s. 7d. In 1930, during her stay in Sydney only, the duty on stores consumed in port amounted to £52 7s. 7d.
Our company last year spent no less than $50,000 in advertising the Malolo cruise in the United States, and it is needless to point out that Australia, as much as any other country visited, received her share of this publicity. In addition, we are spending a very large sum every year advertising Australian attractions to the American tourist, in connection with our regular service, and she also gets a great amount of free advertising by word of month from the tourists on the Malolo, who have come from every section of the United States, and a reduction, therefore, of say 50 per cent.in Commonwealth and State light duos, also berthage dues, which were paid in Sydney in the amount of £16111s. in 1929. and £188 9s. 6d. in 1930, would be of considerable assistance, and at the same time encourage our company in continuing these cruises, knowing in advance that we would receive some substantial support and recognition from Commonwealth, State and Harbour Trust authorities. I feel quite sure if yourselves, in co-operation with the Australian National Travel Association and business interests of the State, made representations sufficiently strong, that reductions of charges in question on cruise ships should he made. Such reductions would react to the advantage of all concerned. If any country in the world needs the tourist to-day it is Australia.
If we can be of any further service in supplying additional information, please let us know.
– It is estimated that every oversea tourist spends £3 per day while in Australia.
– That is all the more reason why we should do our best to keep these vessels in Australian waters as long as possible. I believe that each vessel carries about 1,000 passengers.
I urge the Government to give sympathetic consideration to this matter, with the object of attracting tourists here so that they may’ be able to appreciate the advantages of Australia, and later become advertising agents for it. New Zealand receives about £12,000,000 per annum from tourists, while Australia received only about £2,000,000 last year. If we do all that we can to encourage tourist traffic it will be to the advantage of the country in every sense of the word.
Sitting suspended from6.14 to 8 p.m.
.- I urge upon the Government the necessity for expediting any assistance that it contemplates giving to the gold-mining industry. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) referred this afternoon to the need for developing North Australia, particularly in the direction of gold-mining. That industry, I suggest, affords the . best means for absorbing some of the unemployed, the ranks of whom are increasing daily, not only in this country, but also in every other country of the world. If wool and wheat prices were at their peak, and loan moneys were obtainable in Australia, we should still have an army of unemployed. Unskilled labour is fast disappearing from our industrial activities, as the result of the use of improved machinery, requiring little or no manual labour, and to some extent, as the result of the alteration of the whole of the transport arrangements of the Commonwealth. It will, therefore, be realized that in respect of unemployment we have a difficult problem to solve, despite the fact that we are likely, within a short time at all events, to have a partial revival of prosperity. To-day no loan moneys are available and probably none will be available for a long time. We have had to reduce expenditure on loan works from £43,000,000 to £14,000,000 in one year. Our railway systems are fast becoming obsolete, and there is little likelihood of more lines being built. That will throw out of employment some 12,000 men engaged in railway construction work. There is, in addition, less employment on road construction work. Whereas some three or four years ago we constructed roads that had to be renewed or repaired at least every two years, to-day we are building roads of bitumen and cement, which will not require any expenditure on maintenance for many years to come. I therefore, suggest that the Government should expedite any assistance that it proposes to give to the gold-mining industry so that we may absorb some of our unemployed. In the big depression of 1893, gold-mining in Western Australia undoubtedly saved Australia. From Victoria alone 36,000 people went to Western Australia. The gold discoveries of 1S54 were responsible for a vast migration to the eastern States. In that army of migrants were our fathers and mothers; those migrants were the cream of the citizens of Australia. They were attracted by the gold mines of Australia, and they introduced into this country a finer stock than that of any other land. To-day the spirit of our parents is alive in Australia. In May of last year I urged the Government to assist the goldmining industry because I considered that it would be well worth while to do so. According to the Melbourne Herald of the 2Sth of this month, the Minister for Mines in Victoria, speaking at the opening of the gold exhibition ‘in Melbourne, said that there were 3,600 men seeking gold in that State. About 80 per cent, of those men had previously been out of work and had no hope of getting work. They did not want the dole, so they obtained from the State Government the appliances necessary to enable them to prospect for gold. Some have had good finds, and it is possible that discoveries may be made which will lead to a rapid absorption of our unemployed.
– Is there any gold left in Bendigo?
– There has been produced in Bendigo S2,0Q0,000 oz. of gold, and I am informed on reliable authority that there is more gold still in that district than ever came out of it. As a result of the encouragement given to this industry I find that in Victoria during the months of January and February of this year the gold yield increased by 2,157 ounces, representing £11,000 of added wealth to this country. In addition, the production of that gold has provided a livelihood for a number of our people.
I suggest that it is far better for the unemployed to prospect for gold than to toil in the city, and live under bad housing conditions. I refer particularly to the casual worker, who has no opportunity of making provision for periods of unemployment. Gold-mining is worth while. I do not mean deep gold-mining, because that has its drawbacks. It has a bad influence on the health of the worker, and I, therefore, do not urge a revival of abnormally deep mining. The industry saved Australia in 1893, and I believe that it can save this country in 1931. The aggregate value of the primary products of Australia has decreased by some £140,000,000, and it is futile to expect that loss to be made up in the next three or four years. Gold is a commodity which is dug from the ground. About 60 per cent, of the capital that is invested in gold-mining is absorbed by labour. The product is worth in the world market to-day £5 6s. an ounce. There is no reason why we should not produce sufficient gold to rectify our trade balance. In 190S, 70,000 men were engaged in gold-mining. In 1929 that number had decreased by 64,000. To-day the increase in one State is 3,600 in under eleven months. The yield of gold is increasing in every State, and as it still further increases, so will the position improve in regard to unemployment. The Bruce-Page Government appointed Mr. Gepp as a commissioner to inquire into the gold-mining industry. Mr. Gepp submitted a long report containing some excellent data, and he recommended a grant of £250,000 to the industry. No action was taken by that Government to give effect to the recommendations of the commissioner. As a result of representations made by me in. this House, this present Government deputed Mr. Gepp to investigate the mining areas in my electorate. That investigation was carried out, and Mr. Gepp recommended a grant of £50,000 to enable side lines to main reefs, if any, to be opened up. If that grant were made now, hundreds of men would soon be employed, and probably thousands more at a later date. There is a proposition in Bendigo known as the New Red, White, and Blue mine. It is an old mine, and the departmental experts have pronounced it to be an excellent proposition.
The company is asking for a loan of £3,000, which, if granted, will enable 90 men to be placed in regular work for one year. What applies to that mine applies equally to all other gold-mining areas in Victoria. Leases are being taken out, and English capital is being invested. Men are searching for gold in every part of Victoria. An increase in the gold yield means an increase of employment wherever gold is discovered. From the point of decentralization the encouragement of the gold industry is well worth while. The figures shown in the current Tear-Boole in respect of the population of our cities are alarming. Of the population of New South Wales 46 per cent, is in the metropolitan area of Sydney. In Victoria the percentage of population in the metropolitan area is 56 per cent., and in Queensland, 33 per cent. In contrast, let me say that in New Zealand the percentage is 9 per cent.; in Japan, 3 per cent.; in Germany, 6 per cent.; and in France, 7 per cent. Anything that we do to assist the gold-mining industry, at the same time transferring workers from the cities to the country, must be in the interests not only of this nation, hut also of the individuals concerned. From 1S51 to 1927 the total gold yield in Australia was worth £626,000,000, whilst the total output of coal in the same period was worth only £200,000,000. In Victoria £390,000,000 worth of gold was Avon, and yet the total government assistance to the industry in that State does not exceed £316,000. That is in marked contrast to the treatment of the wine, flax, sugar, iron and steel industries which have enjoyed liberal aid, including bounties granted by this Parliament. Clearly the mining industry has not been fostered as other industries have been. I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory that there are auriferous areas which would provide profitable employment for many thousands of men. They could earn more than they earn in city avocations, each man would be his own boss, and the product of his labour would be assured at all times of a ready market. The present price of gold is £5 6s. an ounce. Every possible assistance should be given to the gold-mining industry immediately.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) spoke of the desirability of inducing tourists to come to Australia, and spend some of the money which they now spend in other parts of the world. I have not been outside this country, but my own knowledge of it and information given to me by others who have travelled abroad convinces me that it has attractions for the holiday-maker equal to those of any other country. The association of which the right honorable member spoke, is doing useful work, for which it does not require very much money. The Government makes a small allowance to it annually, and other interested bodies have provided about £60,000. We are told that every overseas tourist who comes to Australia spends here on an average £3 each day, and the association estimates that if we do something to foster this business and increase the facilities for the enjoyment of Australia’s natural beauties, a minimum of £20,000,000 of overseas money will be distributed annually through the railways, holiday resorts, hotels, and shops. We should take steps promptly to exploit this wealth. Let us boost our own land as a place well worth seeing, and look after visitors in such a way that they will not hurriedly depart.
.- I have twice mentioned recently, but without any perceptible result, the excessive valuation of land for taxation purposes. The very many land-holders throughout Australia who are affected have a real grievance. Although the actual value of land has decreased within the last couple of years by from 30 to 60 per cent., valuations for taxation purposes are being increased by up to 100 per cent. Because of droughts and the tremendous fall in the prices of primary products, the rural land-holder has experienced during the last couple of years the worst time that he has undergone during the SO years I have been on the land in New South Wales. In the past, droughts were usually followed by a succession of good seasons, which enabled the man on the land to make good some of the losses he had sustained, but he has been disappointed in that hope, because the prices of wool and wheat, the two main primary products of Australia, have decreased by 60 and 70 per cent. Wheat-growers are selling their products at considerably below the cost of production. That is true also of wool despite the fact that prices have advanced a little lately. Land-holders are appealing against the valuations, but that will involve them in considerable loss of time and expense, which they cannot afford and which they should not be obliged to incur. No reasonable defence to their claims can be advanced by the Taxation Department, which is more dishonest than the action of Shylock, for, whilst he could honestly say that he was entitled to his pound of flesh, the department can make no such claim. The increased land taxation is downright robbery.
– Does the department seek to justify its over-valuations?
– They cannot be justified. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will instruct that this injustice shall not be continued. Instead of valuations being increased, they should be reduced in accordance with the decreased value of the land.
– If land is slightly over-valued for taxation purposes, that will be a blessing to Australia, for it will lead to the breaking up of large estates, thus making available land for the sons of farmers. For a considerable period Australia has suffered from land monopoly, and a high land tax should have a beneficial effect.
I was interested in the debate on the buffalo fly, because of the statement that it. may affect the dairy herds of New South Wales. If there is any such risk, the Government should instruct the entomological division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - sometimes less euphemistically called “ the bug house “ - to take the problem in hand. The saving of millions of pounds to the cattle-breeders of Australia would redound greatly to the credit of a Canberra institution. As a layman, however, I do not think that the danger to this part of the Commonwealth is so great as some people believe. The buffalo fly would not confine itself to the northern portions of Australia if it could live elsewhere. Winds must have carried it great distances, and the fact that it has not yet made its appearance in New South
Wales suggests to my mind that it is not likely to establish itself here.
– The fly is not confining itself to one part.
– It has done so up to date. I have never seen one, nor has the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), nor any other bucolic member.
– No, but we may do so very soon.
– I support the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), regarding the need for the development of our holiday resorts and the encouragement of tourists. Since the recent earthquake New Zealand has been visited by many curious sightseers, and I believe that Australia would be similarly benefited if we could stage some sort of artificial earthquake. In the electorate of Macquarie recently a big landslide occurred which attracted many people to the spot. Kosciusko is in my electorate, and if an upheaval there increased the tourist traffic, my constituents would benefit.
– What about Eden.Monaro’s Cusack?
– But for my representation of it in this Parliament, Kosciusko would have cracked before now.
The honorable member’s interjection reminds me of another grievance. We have in the press galleries of this Parliament a very creditable representation of Australian journalism. Not many months ago the newspapers were prolific of news regarding proceedings in the Labour caucus. They were able to publish not only the speeches of honorable members and the resolutions of the party, but the actual voting lists.
During the last week or two, great work has been going on in the party rooms of honorable members opposite; but the press has told us nothing about it. It should have been able to draw on its imagination, as it did some time ago, regarding the proceedings in the Labour caucus. The garbled reports that were published in the press at that time concerning those proceedings were intended to damage the Labour party in the eyes of the people, by suggesting that it. was unable to carry out its programme. No doubt a most readable story could be written concerning the” Lyonizing” that has taken place in the Opposition party rooms.
– The so-called united party resembles Mahomet’s coffin !
– Quite so. No less than 30 gods were once worshipped in India, but Islam subdued the lot. We had seven parties in this House some time ago, but the word went forth from grandfather Gibson that there should be one fold and one shepherd. It is significant that the sceptre of the shepherd is a big crook. The seven shepherds, seven folds, and the seven big crooks have now entered one fold. Intellectual elephants have been seen marching two by two into the Noah’s Ark reconstructed by the Tasmanian devil. I have seen the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) marching two by two into the one fold, under the one crook. I should like to have some information on this subject from the gentlemen in the press gallery.
Honorable members opposite who are being “ Lionized “ now require a name for their new party. I thought of calling it an oligarchy or a phylarchy, but that would hardly do. Then it occurred to me that it might be styled a gynarchy. It is said that the new party is having some difficulty in inducing the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) to join it, but let me prophesy. I think that my words will soon be proved correct. One of these mornings, the leader of the gynarchy, when his valet opens the caucus room door, will find a flat object on the floor, with a label on it bearing these words - “ With compliments from Hardy “. The object on the floor will be the Leader of the Country party, run over by the Hardy steam roller, and pushed under the door. Then the leader of the gynarchy will say, “ Stone the crows, Hardy, now we have one shepherd, one fold, and one crook ; kiss me, Hardy “.
– This may all be very interesting, but I ask the honorable member to show that his remarks have a direct relation to the public affairs of this country.
– I understand that this is grievance night, and I have several grievances.
– The honorable member for Fawkner is responsible for what we have just heard.
– Yes; that honorable member led me off at a tangent, and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) is now responsible for my going off at another tangent. We know that the leader of the new party in process of formation, whilst in our party, was perched on one of the longest branches in our forest. Our enemies shot at him, but when the smoke of battle cleared he began to smell real money, and he found that he had been shot at with golden bullets. He told them not to shoot and that he would come down. Now he is perched on the highest tree in the Nationalist forest. If he ever succeeds in leading a government in this House he will find a mountain of debt for which the party opposite is responsible. The mountain will follow him about. It will groan and bring forth mice, and one will be Mickey the Mouse, who will dance and play tunes on his bed” at night. He will have such a nightmare that he will be sorry he ever accepted the leadership of the political conglomeration represented by members opposite. I have not had time to cudgel my brain to study the tactics of the Opposition, but if it does not use its best endeavours to make the present Government’s financial policy workable, by assisting to release credits, and helping the Government to discharge the financial obligations of the Commonwealth, this country has a bad time in store for it.
The press of this country has not given me a fair deal, and I do not expect that it will. Possibly at the next elections it will devote some of its space to the member for Eden-Monaro. There is no more dust in that portion of a room on which a sunbeam falls, than there is in any other part of the room. The press may throw their spotlight upon me, but I am not afraid of it. So far as the Labor Daily is concerned, it seems that that newspaper and the Canberra Times are now one. If the leader of the new party opposite ever becomes Prime
Minister, he will probably be a marquis, or some similar title will be bestowed upon him, and the editor of the Labor Daily, no doubt, will be Viscount Spedding. I have been accused of writing a vitriolic letter, but I can scarcely write a letter of any kind. I ask permission to have the letter referred to inserted in Hansard without being read. It was described by the Labor Daily as “ vitriolic.”
– Is leave granted?
Honorable Members.- No.
– Then I must read it. The letter is as follows: -
I notice reported in the Labor Daily the condemnationary criticism to which I have been subjected by your League. I would not like to strain your League’s tolerance too much by asking to be permitted to address your League. I, therefore, prefer to address a few thoughts to you, so your anger may be appeased by tearing to pieces, not the writer, but his writing for a start.
I recognize my incapacity to be brief and intelligible, but here goes:
I went through a crisis like this in 1916 when we had a mad executive in New South Wales, which started cutting “ heads off “ indiscriminately, betrayed the Labour party, and gave anti-Labour a fourteen years’ lease of Federal Governmental control. We have an executive in New South Wales now that has openly declared its desire to repeat the disastrous process.
The one action in my political career of which I am most proud is that in 1916 I sacrificed my political prospects in an effort to save the movement by refusing to violate my pledged principles at the dictates of an executive that was intoxicated with its prospects of climbing into Parliament over the dead bodies of the victims it politically beheaded. We soon saw then what is contemplated now, a party revolution, in which those who were cutting off heads to-day, are getting theirs cut off to-morrow.
The feeling was engendered then that it is no use electing a Labour Government as they have a penchant to destroy themselves by internecine fighting.
I remember the great stalwarts of 1916 who bolstered up the illegal machinations of the then executive. They would stand up in the caucus like giants animated with the ferocity of tigers, defying the decisions of caucus to which they were pledged, but when you saw them down in Goulburn-street where the power to expel existed, you would see them, so to say, being led around with darning cotton like domesticated poodles - the McGirrs, the Dooleys’, the Brookfields, Mutches and Loughlins. What did these gentlemen say when their turn came to have their “ heads off “ V “To hell with the party,” said Mr… McGirr: and Mr. Dooley stigmatized the executive as a lot of “ crooks and spoilers “, &c, &e.
The present executive want me to break my pledge by abandoning the policy adopted by our caucus and betraying the leader that we elected to lead us by the only body I know that has the right to elect a Federal Labour leader. Some years ago the New South Wales Executive assumed the right to elect the leader of the New South Wales Labour members, and elevated Mr. Greg McGirr thereto. That was resented and resisted by the then party. Now, however, we are told to accept leadership from one not yet even elected to the Federal Parliament.
If the New South Wales executive can do this, surely the other five State executives can similarly “ butt in “ and direct their members, and thus a Federal Labour Government becomes hopelessly unworkable.
It might bc my stupidity that is at fault, but the best way to help the Nationalists to win East Sydney is for the New South Wales members of Parliament to acquiesce in the dictates of a supercilious executive that takes its “belt off”, so to speak, and drives us on the East Sydney battlefield as a detachment of “ conscripted orators “.
The difference between the 1910 executive and the present one is that the name of the present “ panjandrum “ is more appropriate. When we look ahead we see our political graves, and when we look behind we see a despotic Graves trying to drive us to same. We risk expulsion if we refuse to break our pledge as decreed by the State authority, and we risk the same fate if we break our pledge.
I may not be pardoned if I presume to use my judgment in a crisis like this, and to assume that the electors of Eden-Monaro elected me - consistent with my pledge - to deliberate with my colleagues at Canberra, and to loyally support the policy adopted by the federal caucus.
I am not aware that anything to which I pledged myself compels that I should only support my party’s decisions, when such decisions harmonize with the decisions arrived at in Goulburn-street.
Apart from my personal predilection, I think Mr. Scullin stands in higher esteem in my electorate than Mr. Lang does. He has been confronted with unprecedented difficulties, and to combat these difficulties the least he and his Ministers may expect is that Labour members should give loyal support instead of which Leagues are applauding those who captiously criticize our Ministry. Garbled and untrue reports appear in the hostile press and the Labor Daily that must be supplied by some traitor in our party. Iri the latter paper we read the same disruptive falsehoods as to what happens in . caucus as appears in the hostile press in Australia. If Leagues would stimulate their representatives to be loyal to their Ministers, their leaders, and to stand foursquare with their colleagues in facing the stupendous power of our enemies, instead of making heroes of members who embarrass the Government at every turn, and hearten the
Opposition, let them demand 100 per cent. loyalty in the interest of the workers that needall that a sympathetic Federal and State Government can give.
– I rise to a point of order.
Is it permissible for the honorable member to read something which is unintelligible to the House?
– Unless objection is raised, or a request made that an honorable member speak more audibly, the Chair permits him to make his speech in his own way.
– We cannot tell what the honorable member is saying.
– It is for the honorable member to say that he wishes the honorable member who is addressing the Chair to speak more audibly. If such a request is made, I shall ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) to raise his voice so that honorable members may hear what he is saying.
– If I am permitted to have the letter inserted inHansard without my reading it, honorable members may then read it in that publication.
– I object to that.
– As objection has been made, the honorable member must read the letter.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro continuing to read in a low voice -
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is trifling with the House by continuing to read in such a way that honorable members are unable to hear what he is saying. He should be asked to resume his seat.
– I ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to read in a sufficiently audible voice to enable the Chair to hear what is being said. So far he has not been doing that.
– The rest of the letter is as follows: -
I appeal to you to get behind your leaders, your executive and your Labor Daily when it moves to build up; but be careful when they display a propensity to pull down.
Banking reform (which is the crux of the present difficulty) the standard of living and old-age pensions are worth fighting for. Do not delude yourselves that these can be got and maintained by men not yet in the Federal Parliament, or an executive susceptible to intrigues; or by handing Canberra over to the Nationalists.
Do not throw stones at Theodore and find him guilty on the ex parte evidence of his political enemies, who malevolently deny him a fair trial before a British court of justice. You generously excuse Lang’s failures owing to the Upper House veto. You seem to forget that Scullin has also an Upper House and “Lyons” in the path as well.
The New South Wales executive applauded Mr. Lang when he dismissed his Ministers for disloyalty. The present executive threatens reprisals when the Federal Labour party caucus (not Scullin) dismissed Ministers for the same fault.
I am proud to be one of fifteen members of New South Wales who stand for loyalty to their pledges and show some seeming of manhood, and who will, with your co-operation, build the citadel of Labour a stronger and more enduring edifice, instead of white-anting it as proposed in certain quarters.
made a statement this afternoon regarding the measures being taken to control the buffalo fly pest, and referred to the campaign being at present conducted by the Commonwealth Government in alliance with the Government of Queensland. I am not in a position to say what attitude the Queensland Government is taking on the matter, but in common with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), I am convinced that the Queensland Government is so fully seised of the importance of preventing the further spread of the pest that it will do everything in its power to further the preventive measures now being considered. The fly at present is confined to the beef herds of northern Queensland, and the Northern Territory. If that pest is not countered before it makes further south, it will become a terrible menace to the State of Queensland. If it reaches the Wide Bay and Moreton districts it will cause losses comparable to those suffered as a result of the spread of red water fever following the invasion by the cattle tick of the southern districts years ago. I remember that the same warnings were issued at that time, and they were ignored. The full extent of the danger was not realized until red water fever broke out in the dairy herds of southern Queensland. Great as was the damage done in the northern part of the State, it was only a circumstance compared with what occured in south Queensland and to a lesser extent in northern New South Wales. I am con- vinced that the Queensland Government will take what action is necessary to combat the buffalo fly pest.
Some honorable members opposite referred this afternoon to the need for encouraging the mining industry which, they said, was an avenue into which the energies of many of our unemployed might be turned. Nobody could have more sympathy with that proposal than I have. I realize the possibilities before the industry, and I hope that something will be done; but I think that honorable members opposite, when addressing themselves to this matter this afternoon, were speaking to some extent with their tongues in their cheeks. There was, I think, an element of insincerity in their attitude. The mining industry in Australia generally is at present in a deplorable condition, not so much because of reduced prices of metals, but because of the industrial conditions that have made it impossible under existing circumstances to make the mines pay. Honorable members opposite appear to resent that statement. Why, I wonder, should they jump like startled fauns whenever mention is made of this matter? Honorable members on the other side know as well as I do that the present condition of the mining industry is due largely to arbitration awards, and other restrictions which have been forced on the industry. This afternoon I mentioned Mount Morgan.
– The honorable member does not know anything about Mount Morgan.
– I have upon previous occasions had to listen to that meaningless interjection which betrays a vacant mind.
– Order ! The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) must not indulge in personal recriminations. I ask him to withdraw the statement he has just made.
– If I am bound to withdraw it, then I must and do. I object, however, to being charged by honorable members opposite with knowing nothing about my subject, and then being denied the right to reply.
– The honorable member should be capable of making what reply is necessary without being offensive.
– I protest that I was not offensive.
– The Chair has ruled that the honorable member was offensive, and the remark complained of has been withdrawn. He may now proceed with his speech.
– I was proceeding to say that the present state of the mining industry has been induced more than by anything else by the conditions that have been imposed on the industry by Arbitration Court awards, and by the requirements of various Labour Governments, Commonwealth and State.
– That is all bosh !
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) characterized the statement of the honorable member for Darling Downs as all bosh.
– It would be preferable if honorable members were to express themselves in parliamentary terms. If the expression used by the honorable member for Herbert is regarded as offensive he must withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– I insist upon making my point, notwithstanding the unparliamentary terms flung at me across the chamber. The present state of the mining industry has been induced largely, almost wholly, by industrial conditions imposed upon it by Arbitration Court awards and Labour Governments.
– Oh, tripe!
– On a point of order; the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) referred to the remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs as tripe.
– The honorable member must withdraw his interjection if it is regarded as offensive.
– I withdraw it.
– I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to protect me from , the disorderly interjections of honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member knows that I am asserting the authority of the Chair, and I ask him to proceed with his speech without being provocative.
– The mining industry is in its present unsatisfactory state because of the conditions imposed by arbitration awards, and because of actions of Labour Governments. Mount Morgan is a mining field with great historical associations. It has produced a great deal of wealth in the past, and there still remains £12,000,000 to £16,000,000 worth of surveyed ore awaiting exploitation. These resources cannot be worked, because of the industrial conditions imposed upon the industry.
– The field has been well and truly gouged.
– Honorable members opposite have been speaking with their tongues in their cheeks when they say that it is impossible to find work for men who are now on the dole. If the mining industry were relieved of the conditions imposed upon it by mining awards, arn T,le work would be available for all the miners who are unemployed to-day. That it is not, is due entirely to the restrictive industrial conditions that have been imposed. I have cited Mount Morgan. I could just as well cite the case of Broken Hill, of Tasmania, or half a dozen others in support of my argument. “What reliance can be placed on the statements and sincerity of honora’ble members opposite when they claim that the mining industry is languishing for the reasons that they have advanced? The reasons are as I have stated them. It is ridiculous to refer to deep sinking, depressed markets, speculation, and so forth. I submit that those are very minor difficulties.
I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), to some extent. I believe that something very substantial can-be done to assist the mining industry in Australia, but I doubt whether it would be successful unless existing industrial imposts were lightened. In this, at least, help might be forthcoming. Some time ago our governments went to the expense of importing geophysical experts with their paraphernalia ; the present would be a very opportune time for the nation to avail itself of their services.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the wages paid to miners are too high?
– Order ! Questions are not in order at this stage.
– I believe that it would be wise to employ those geophysical experts to locate and survey- auriferous areas, known and unknown. Those around Mungana might be exploited with some very considerable degree of usefulness to the community. The possibilities of Mungana are historic, and if these geophysical experts and their paraphernalia were employed in that area they should achieve something worth while for the country. I contend that the riches of Mungana ought not to be left for the exploitation of individuals; they should be developed by the Commonwealth. The mineral wealth of Australia, and particularly that in the Mungana area, appears to be regarded as the especial preserve of individuals, with the result that great riches have been acquired by them. If we diverted some of that wealth into the Commonwealth coffers we should be doing a useful community service. The exploitation of the Mungana mining areas by private individuals has proceeded far and wide, and it is time that we saw that those individuals were limited in their activities in that area, and that the Commonwealth has some opportunity of acquiring some share of those riches.
This very naturally brings me to the subject of the Treasurer of this Commonwealth. “We were told with some emphasis by the Prime Minister that the honorable the Treasurer is an overworked man at the present time. I do not wish to direct any carping criticism to the statement of the Prime Minister. The fact that the Treasurer is at present conducting electioneering tours throughout Australia when his presence on personal business is desired in Queensland is particularly clear evidence to all of us that he is an overworked man. It is patent that the Treasurer’s arduous electioneering is preventing him from attending in Queensland, where certain onerous duties devolve upon him at this moment. The urgent private affairs of the honorable gentleman in that State are being neglected so that he may conduct an electioneering tour throughout the States of Victoria and South Australia. I understand that it has been extended even across Bass Strait, into Tasmania.
– I do not know why honorable members opposite resent this perfectly logical recital of facts as we know them.
– Why worry about them?
– I do not. I suggest that this House should grant the Treasurer leave to proceed to Queensland. It seems wrong that the Government should insist that the honorable gentleman should go touring in distant States, discharging his onerous public duties, when urgent private business needs his attention in Queensland. If it is not convenient to grant the Treasurer leave, the Government might, as an alternative, appoint an assistant Minister in his stead, to enable the honorable gentleman to proceed to Queensland to answer certain interrogatories into his private affairs.
.- It seems that even in this time of crisis in our national life, honorable members opposite find it difficult to get away from those irritating subjects which cause Parliament to neglect matters of national importance. That was made particularly apparent by the remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan). Unfortunately, this nation has been fighting over the distribution of its wealth, with the result that a condition of affairs has developed to the detriment of the common weal.
To-night the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) brought under the notice of the House a matter of very grave importance, which should receive tie serious consideration of this Parliament. Unless it receives that attention there must develop in the general administrative functions of the States and the Commonwealth many inconsistencies, which will result in hardship to the wealth producers of the country. In the administration of our land boards and other departments that adjudicate as to the valuation of land, we have slavishly followed certain procedure which has been laid down by the High Court, adhered to by those who hear appeals, and also followed by taxation and local governing authorities, so that the average person now believes that we maintain our services by taxing the people rather than developing the wealth potentialities of the country. The position that now confronts’ the man on the land is serious, and the subject developed by the honorable member for Riverina demands immediate consideration. Unless some uniformity is brought about to govern the valuation of our lands, it is inevitable that our condition will become worse.
Recently we witnessed the unfortunate spectacle of a Premier of an important Australian State taking upon himself the responsibility -of trying to make a part greater than the whole, and of attempting to develop a financial theory that has proved disastrous to the nation. In indicating that he intended to turn the financial position of Australia topsyturvy that Premier brought about a state of instability which eventually caused a State savings bank to close its doors, and caused the dreadful disorganization that now obtains in that State.
The Government of the State of New South Wales is giving consideration to a system of land taxation intended to revolutionize the existing methods, and which will, if carried into practical effect, have results just as disastrous as those resulting from its Premier’s financial policy. It is time that we realized that the nation can meet its obligations only by the creation of wealth, and not by consistently imposing burdens of taxa-tion upon the people. The nation depends to a great extent upon the pastoral industry. I have heard a good deal said of other industries, and their possibilities, but it has been definitely proved that if our pastoral industry is properly administered, it will assist the nation to overcome even its present difficulties.
There are many inconsistencies in the existing situation. The section of the community which is being called upon to bear excessive taxation will also be expected to increase the output of wool next year in order to enable the country to meet its overseas commitments. But unfortunately the very fact that heavy taxation has been imposed upon the primary producers has made it impossible for them to find the wherewithal to maintain their flocks and herds in a proper condition. In the north-western district of New South Wales I recently saw many sheep badly infested with flies. When I spoke to the owners about it they said that they were unable to find the money to employ men to care for the sheep. For this reason I say it is essential that steps should be taken by this Parliament to remedy the position.
Another aspect of the problem which seriously affects the small graziers, has to do with the marketing of our wool. I thought a few weeks ago that certain honorable members opposite were waking up to the fact that the provision of a proper, nation-wide, scheme for the collection and distribution of our wool was urgently needed, but it seems as though certain press reports have caused the enthusiasm of those honorable members to wane. Under existing conditions the small graziers can have no sense of security. It appears definite now that the zone system has failed. I believe that a meeting of representative persons is to be held in Melbourne shortly to consider the advisableness of inaugurating a scheme for the collection and distribution of our wool; but the subject is of such far-reaching importance that it should, not be left to the determination of selfappointed representatives. The national parliament should take some step in the matter. It will be remembered that during the war, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, he took a large part in inaugurating a scheme for the marketing of our wool which was economically sound, and gave the producers a sense of security. While that scheme was in operation, gambling and speculation in wool was practically eliminated. There is no reason why such violent fluctuations should occur in the price of wool. Mr. Devereaux, the joint representative in Great Britain of the Australian Government and the graziers, recently made the pertinent remark that the fluctuations in the price of our wool were due to fright. He said that the lowness of the price realized some months ago could be attributed to fearfulness, just as could the remarkable upward tendency in price that occurred a little while ago.
– Fright on whose part?
– On the part of the buyers. In my opinion that is. hardly the true explanation of the price fluctuations which have occurred. In any case, the graziers are justified in looking to the national parliament to take some step to ensure the orderly marketing of their wool, seeing that the solvency of the nation depends to a large extent on the price obtained for this commodity. According to figures published some little time ago in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Australia would have been £7,500,000 better off this year had our wool-growers received a proper price for their wool. In the present economic condition of the country it is surely beyond argument that everything possible should be done to stabilize the wool market. Our climatic conditions are such that we can grow first class wool in Australia, and it is surely not too much to ask of the national Parliament that it shall provide a sound marketing scheme.
Many people in the community who are in close touch with the wool market were surprised by the recent operations of the Japanese wool-buyers. I suppose that the Bradford operators were as surprised as any one else. Not much information was available in Australia about the actual requirements of other countries, and it seems to me that we could do a great deal to stabilize the position by constituting a proper authority to collect information of this nature. For instance, if it were known that, certain countries required a large quantity of our lowest quality of spinning wool at a certain period, we could market the wool accordingly. Properly tabulated information of this description would be invaluable to the graziers.
– .What kind of a marketing system does the honorable member recommend ?
– I suggest, in the first place, that our Australian wool should be properly classified. When B.A.W.R.A. was inaugurated, Australian wool was scarcely classified at all, but B.A.W.R.A. eventually made nearly 1,000 different classes. This was all to the advantage of the wool-growers. I would also advise that a general pooling system should be provided in accordance with the proposals made to the Prime Minister by a recent deputation which waited upon him in Melbourne in connexion with this subject. Certain countries require certain qualities of wool at different periods of the year. A judicious and proper handling of our wool by competent authorities would enable us to supply these requirements.
– The B.A.W.R.A. organization should have been retained.
– I agree with the honorable member. ‘One of the greatest mistakes ever made by Australian woolgrowers was to allow that scheme to lapse. But it is of no use for us to cry about that. In my opinion the situation which faces us to-day is just as desperate as that which called B.A.W.R.A. into being. Consequently, I appeal to the Government to give some consideration to the advisableness of taking steps to establish some similar organization. If that is done the manipulators of Australian wool will not next year get the rake-off from our clip that they got this year.
It is regrettable that certain firms which had never previously operated on the Australian wool market purchased large quantities of wool this year with the object of overcoming the difficult exchange position that has been created. They made the purchasing of wool an indirect means of setting their money out of the country, lt is not fair that the primary producers should be made the cat’s-paw of financiers. This industry is of supreme importance to the nation. In the past there has been a striving on the part of certain people to get the biggest possible profit out of the products of our pastoralists and graziers. Such people have secured far more than their fair share of the wealth in circulation. That situation should not be allowed to exist. We should encourage our primary producers to take steps to obtain the full value of their products.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) has brought under notice a subject which merits the earnest consideration of all the Parliaments in the Commonwealth. Our taxation methods should be revised so that the burden will fall equitably on all classes of the community. It is extremely important that our lands should be valued according to a uniform system which has relation to productivity. I trust that the Government will take some steps to give effect to these proposals. If an equitable system of taxation were enforced, our primary producers would be encouraged to persevere in even these difficult days; but at present it appears as if everything possible is being done to discourage them.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) and, to some extent also, the remarks of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons). There is no doubt that in many cases our land tax assessments are inequitable. Increases have recently been made in certain assessments in spite of the generally admitted fact that land values have fallen tremendously in the last twelve months. Rightly or wrongly the graziers and farmers feel that the Government valuers must have been instructed to try to get the utmost taxation by means of revaluations. One case, which came under my notice recently, is that of a man who farms and grazes some 1,600 acres. For federal taxation purposes, the valuation of his land has been increased by some £850. That is an extraordinary and unjustifiable action at a time when the earning capacity of all kinds of land has fallen tremendously. The time is ripe for the Government to consider seriously the advisability of having only one body of valuers for assessing land values for taxation purposes - Federal, State, and, possibly, municipal. At present we have three bodies of valuers making different assessments, and it frequently happens that those assessments vary for Federal, State, and municipal purposes.
– And often the assessments are all wrong.
– That is so. Certainly when the assessments differ they cannot all be right.
I wish to refer briefly to what has been said to-night by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), whose remarks were supported by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), in regard to the tremendous importance of fostering the tourist traffic in Australia, particularly the traffic from overseas. I do not think that we in Australia sufficiently realize the great importance of that tourist traffic as a factor in bringing about a favorable trade balance. Some countries depend to an enormous extent upon their external tourist traffic for balancing the national ledger. It was mentioned this afternoon by the right honorable member for Cowper that Canada obtained each year from tourists visiting that country a revenue of £60,000,000. The United States of America obtains from external tourist traffic an amount in excess of the value of the iron and steel industry of that great industrial country. These figures are startling, and should make us realize the extent to which the national solvency of some countries depends upon their tourist traffic. It may be said that we are too far away from the world’s stream of tourist traffic to profit by it; but it must be remembered that New Zealand is just as far away from the great centres of tourist population as is Australia, and yet New Zealand obtains £6,000,000 each year from that source, while we obtain only £2,000,000. Great Britain, Italy, France, Switzerland, Japan, and many other countries obtain huge revenues from tourist traffic, and we can do a great deal more than we have done in the past in trying to divert part of that stream of traffic to Australia. It is true that we are doing something in that direction. It is being very well done, I believe, by an organization that was set up some two or three years ago - the Australian National Travel Association. The then Commonwealth Government gave that association the modest sum of £5,000 or £6,000, but that amount has since been added to by subscriptions - some of them fairly large - from the shipping companies, the railway departments of the various States, hotel interests, municipalities, and private individuals who are interested in tourist trade. I understand that the association has set itself to expend £100,000 :.n the first five years in advertising the attractions of Australia from the points of view of scenery and investment. The Australian National Travel Association has established trained journalists in Great Britain and America. These men know Australia well, and they are doing their best to interest the people of those two countries in Australia. One important fact which came under my notice in respect of the Canadian tourist traffic is that it is calculated that out of every ten visitors to Canada one of them either becomes an investor in the country, or decides to reside there permanently. It is quite possible that if we could divert a larger portion of the world tourist traffic to Australia a considerable number of tourists, who are at present mildly interested in us, would remain here, or become investors in our industries. There are four prominent Australians connected with the Australian National Travel Association, indeed they form its executive. The chairman is the Victorian chairman of the Railways Commissioners, Mr. Clapp. The ship ping interests are represented by Mr. Dowdell, the Australian manager of the Orient Line. The hotel and accomodation interests are represented by the proprietor crf a large Melbourne hotel, and the commercial interests are represented by Mr. Jones, of David Jones and Company, Sydney. The Australian National Travel Association has already done something to attract to Australia tourists who would otherwise have gone elsewhere. When we examine the possibilities in that direction, we come to the conclusion that the publicists who have been sent to Great Britain and America, are working in a field in which there is great scope for their activities. We are told that some 500,000 citizens of America leave that country each year to tour the world. If we could obtain only one in twenty of those 500,000 tourists, and if each of them could be induced to stay sufficiently long in Australia to spend, say, £300, which is not a large sum for some of the wealthy Americans to spend, it would leave in Australia £7,500,000, an amount practically equal to the average sum obtained annually by our export of butter. If we could attract to Australia an equal number of tourists from Great Britain and other countries, that would raise the revenue from the tourist traffic to £15,000,000. Again, if we could induce, say, 10,000 of our wealthy Australians, who to-day go overseas to tour Europe and other countries, to see Australia first, and to spend here the money which they would otherwise spend in steamer fares, hotel charges and transport overseas, our tourist revenue would increase by another £5,000,000. That would mean a total of £20.000,000 added to the value of our present tourist traffic. I do not say for one moment that we could expect to increase all at once our revenue from £2,000,000 to £20,000,000; but I believe that in a short time, with an efficient organization, we might obtain a tourist revenue of at least £10,000,000. The exchange position should assist us both in retaining our own tourists who are inclined to go abroad, and in attracting overseas tourists to Australia, in which country £100 in British money will buy £130 10s. worth of Australian travel and hotel accommodation. It is expected that the Sydney harbour bridge will be completed next year. That wonderful engineering work will, no doubt, attract overseas visitors. We should do everything within our power to induce tourists to come to this country and to prolong their stay. I strongly support what was said this afternoon by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). He suggested that the Government could do a great deal by prevailing on the State authorities to exempt vessels which are purely tourist ships, from the payment of the heavy port duties that are now levied, and by exempting them from light dues, which are levied by the Commonwealth Navigation Department. If it were less costly for overseas tourists vessels to berth in our ports, they might stay here for some weeks, or perhaps months. That would have a big effect in inducing tourists to expend more money in Australia. Every pound in the pocket of a tourist from overseas, which is spent in Australia is, so far as our trade balance is concerned, equivalent to an Australian export of that value. Scenery is one of the few things which we sell and yet retain, and sell again. On the other hand, every pound that is spent by our own people on sight-seeing and accommodation within Australia, and which would otherwise have gone overseas, is equivalent to a sale of our own goods instead of an importation of overseas goods, when we examine it from the trade balance view-point. I appeal to the Government to do its utmost to remove any obstacles in the way of an increase in our tourist traffic. We have beautiful scenery, and we are rapidly providing better roads all over Australia. The roads in Victoria are extraordinarily good as compared with what they were a few years ago, and easy access has now been given to many of our beauty spots which were previously unapproachable except by foot or in saddle. The improvement in our roads has brought the beauty spots of Australia within reach of any one travelling luxuriously in a motor car. I strongly support the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for Bendigo in regard to this matter and hope that the Government will give to it the attention it deserves.
.- i endorse what has been said by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), in regard to the land tax assessments and the effect which the high valuations and the taxation they entail must have on the land industries. A few days ago the Treasurer when speaking of the sacrifices which the present depression was entailing on various sections of the community mentioned particularly the primary producers, and said that land values had fallen 50 per cent. That statement was made when the honorable gentleman was booming a proposal for a fiduciary currency, and how he can reconcile it with the assessments now being issued by the Taxation Department is beyond my comprehension. It is one of those contortions which only a politician df his long experience could perform. The heavy land taxation is having a serious effect on the wool industry, which is the biggest industry in Australia. I have perused the accounts of many sheep stations during the last twelve months; in all instances the expenditure has had to be reduced from 50 to 60 per cent., and in respect of at least three of twelve stations that I particularly remember the taxation is a bigger item than wages and general working expenses combined. Assessments on the present scale when land values have, on the testimony of the Treasurer, fallen 50 per cent, is unjust and also very bad business for the nation. What I have said of the wool industry applies in a slightly less degree to wheat. I understand that tentative estimates regarding the area to be seeded for wheat this year have been received by the Statistician for transmission overseas. They indicate that the area under wheat will be reduced by approximately 5,000,000 acres.
Assuming that the reduction will he mainly in respect of lands of lower productive capacity, it means a lessening of the possible production of wealth during the next twelve months by from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000. One of the factors which is making it very difficult for farmers to raise money to seed their land and buy fertilizers is the heavy taxation which is being levied on assessments which the Treasurer has declared to be 50 per cent, above the actual value of the land. “While endorsing the protests against the excessive land taxation, I dissent from the views expressed by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) regarding the control of wool so that it may be held off the market in order to secure a better price.
– I did not suggest anything of the sort.
– I understood the honorable member to say that with a more orderly system of marketing it would have been possible to prevent the rake-off which dealers enjoyed this year through being able to buy cheaply the wool that was marketed early. To-day wool is the only Australian commodity the price of which is showing an upward tendency. In that respect it is in marked contrast to wheat. The Treasurer speaking in Adelaide on Tuesday said that he had received a cablegram from Sir Ernest Harvey, of the Bank of England, in which he predicted an improvement in the prices for all primary products, except wheal;. The Bank of England lias a very fine service of research for estimating the yields and price prospects of commodities in various parts of the world. Wheat is at a disadvantage as compared with wool in that for a long time it has been the victim of attempts to control marketing when prospects appeared to be favorable for a rise. That has not been done by merely a few organizations; similar action . in a desultory way has been taken in many countries. As a result there is a big carry-over of wheat all over the world.
– There has been a largely increased volume of production.
– Yes, and that is one of the consequences of holding wheat off the market. Prices were kept at a level higher than the economic position justi fied, and that induced still further production. Thus the industry became more and more entangled. Wool, on the other hand, has nearly always been sold when it was ready for the market, if there was a genuine demand for it for manufacturing purposes.
– Not during the control by Bawra.
– Not during the war, but even under Bawra control so long as there was a genuine demand the new season’s clip was not held back. The most valuable service performed by Bawra was in controlling and gradually feeding on to the market the large quantity of wool that had been commandeered during the war and not used because it was not suitable for war-time manufacture. If there was no demand for the accumulated wool it was not offered. But the only attempt in recent years to control the marketing has been by delaying the offerings when the demand was poor. Because of that there is to-day practically no carry-over of wool and prices are showing an upward tendency. The wool industry is in a more hopeful position than the wheat industry, and Australia is likely to have at the end of this year a record number of sheep. On the other hand, there is a possibility that the acreage sown to wheat will be reduced by nearly 5,000,000 acres. Prom that setback the industry will take some time to recover.
I regard with absolute fear any scheme for price fixation or starving of the wool market. I agree with the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) that there are other directions in which the marketing system may be improved, and the information available to growers increased. He indicated some admirable avenues for progress and nothing but good could come from their successful exploration. But I believe that attempts to maintain prices artificially by holding wool off the market will be as disastrous to the wool industry as they have been to other industries.
– Did not Bawra prevent speculation ?
– Certainly not, but it did prevent the big accumulation of wool from causing the market to collapse. It only offered contributions from the carryover when the market was able to absorb them. Most of the wool with -which I have been, concerned this year was sold when prices were low, and it is because wool has been quoted- in- that way that market prospects have improved. Unless the wool- is sold when it is ready for market, there is likely to be the same uncertainty as in connexion with rubber, metals, and other commodities, in respect of which- there has1 been a general and fairly successful control of marketing. The rubber industry furnishes the classic example of the evil effects of pride control. In the heyday of the rubber trade that control was probably more complete than that of any other commodity. I read the following cablegram in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd April-
London. April 21. - Rubber fell to-day to- n new record low price of 2-18/10ths per lb. on the London Exchange. This is 1/lGth lower than yesterday. A month ago the price was 3-7/Stiis. and a year ago 74. The came Of the latest fall is the further increase in excessive stocks in Great Britain.
Under control the price’ was raised to several shillings per lb. and the industry has been brought practically to bankruptcy by over-production stimulated on that account. Australia would probably have been a great deal better off than it is to-day if the price of wool had not risen so high during the brilliantly successful period of B.A.W.R.A.’s administration. Those increased prices, probably more than anything else, were responsible for the increased wool output of South Africa, Argentine and the United States of America. Elaborate schemes for pricefixing, or rigid control,’ can lead only to ultimate disaster to the wool-producing industry, as it has spelt ruin to the rubber industry, and has led to the serious difficulties experienced in the wheat industry.
.- I desire to refer to a matter which may appear to be of little importance ; but, if prompt action is not taken, the practice adopted may have, serious consequences. I have in mind the activities of the Munitions Supply Department in entering into trade in competition with the commercial world. Personally,; I would have preferred to see the tariff debate continued to-night, because a series of irritating and perplexing schedules have been brought down, which, together with the sales tax, have caused dislocation of business and hand-to-mouth- buying and manufacturing, with consequent increased unemployment. When a government department enters into competition with private business firms which are already harassed and over-taxed, it is, to say the least of it, distinctly unfair. I admit that this practice has been followed under various governments, but the evil has greatly increased under the regime of the present Ministry.
In response to deputations from motor body builders,- I asked’ the previous Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) itf iti was fact that the Munitions Supply Department was making motor bodies in- competition with private manufacturers, and I was informed that certain truck bodies only had been built by that department. Nevertheless, work to the value of £1,500 has been carried out for a company that has American headquarters. That company should have placed its business in the hands of private firms. We all know that a government department can quote almost any price in order to secure trade, and it can force other firms out of business, thus increasing unemployment.
– A certain number of trucks are required, and what matters it who makes them?
– The honorable member knows full well that whenever a government department undertakes work that properly belongs to a private firm, it makes a mess of it. One need only recall the failure of the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line. Although such activities may he permissible during a time of national crisis, such as war, the sooner government departments go out of business of this kind the better it is for the community. The reason advanced for the building of motor bodies by a government department is that the Government has a number of skilled men in its employ, and desires to find work for them. I admit that something may be said in favour of that argument, but those men should not be kept in employment at the expense of the business community. The department which rolls sheet brass has probably the only mills capable Of doing that class of work. A previous government always insisted on a certificatefrom outside firms that the work undertaken by the department could not be done by outside firms, but the present Government has altered that procedure. The Munitions Supply Department is now rolling sheet brass for outside firms, and the Government has appointed a private firm as agents for the products of the department. How much further does the Government intend to interfere with the business community?
– Did the department call for tenders in this case?
– No. I was informed by the Minister that the firm in question was the first to apply for the position of agent, and was considered suitable for the work. I understand that it was suggested that, by giving the agency to that firm, the department would be sure of having no bad debts.
– Was any advertisement inserted ?
– No. Why did not the Government appoint agents for the government clothing factory and the Lithgow small arms factory? I do not suggest that Noyes Brothers is not a reputable firm; they arc, undoubtedly, capable of doing the work; but I object to the principle involved. The department could make sure of selling all its products, and obtaining the best possible price, without appointing an outside agent. The Government might as well appoint an agent for the Commonwealth Railways, or any other Commonwealth activity. The department could simply announce that sheet brass would be sold at a certain price for spot cash, and was purchasable at the works. It is unnecessary to send the commodity to the cities, and pay a firm a commission on the sale of it. I urge the Minister to investigate this matter with a view to minimizing government trading. The hands of the Government should be fairly full, since it tries to fool the public with its policy for a fiduciary currency to make ends meet. Already for this year there is a deficit amounting to £20,000,000, and further business ventures will only aggravate the situation.
Question resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 April 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310430_reps_12_129/>.