15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m..,and read prayers.
– by leave - I desire to give honorable members information additional to that which was contained in my statement made last night with regard to the European situation. Honorable members will remember that towards the end of the statement, I referred briefly to a communication from Mr. Chamberlain to Herr Hitler making further proposals. This note was sent on Tuesday, the 27th inst. It contained positive proposals designed to ensure to Germany the substance of its requirements in the way of the cession of Sudeten areas containing a substantial proportion of Germanspeaking peoples, and at the same time to avoid the immediate entry of German troops into those areas. I can assure honorable members that Mr. Chamberlain’s communication wasa positive and most helpful contribution which may yet prove to contain themeans of peaceful solution of the crisis.
In addition to this communication, Mr. Chamberlain yesterday addressed another message to Herr Hitler, the substance of which was as follows : - “ I am ready to come to Berlin myself at once to discuss arrangements for the transfer with you and representatives of the Czech Government, together with representatives of France and Italy if you desire.
I feel convinced we could reach agreement in a week. However much you distrust the Prague Government’s intention, you cannot doubt the power of the British and French Governments to see that the promises are carried out fairly and fully and forthwith.
As you know, I have stated publicly that we are prepared to undertake that they shall be so carried out.
I cannot believe you will take the responsibility of starting a world war which may end civilization, for the sake of a few days delay in settling this longstanding problem.”
The Commonwealth Government decided yesterday afternoon to send a cablegram to Mr. Chamberlain suggesting that, even at this late hour, there might be some possibility of averting war by a personal appeal to Signor Mussolini. We intimated that we considered therewas no other individual who might be able to influence Herr Hitler towards a peaceful solution. We suggested that if Mr. Bruce, the Australian High Commissioner in London,could be of any service by flying to Rome to bear a personal message from Mr. Chamberlain to Signor Mussolini, Mr. Bruce would bo available.
Mr. Chamberlain replied thanking the Commonwealth Government for its suggestion, and saying that he was at the moment considering action of this nature.
I may add that we called Mr. Chamberlain out of his bed in the early hours of the morning in order to discuss this matter with him and to express our view.
His Majesty’s Ambassador in Rome was in consequence instructed to communicate the following message from Mr. Chamberlain to Signor Mussolini: - “ I have to-day addressed a last appeal to Herr Hitler to abstain from force to settle the Sudeten problem whichI feel sure can be settled by a short discussion and will give him the essential territory, population and protection for both the Sudetens and the Czechs during the transfer. I have offered myself to go at once to Berlin to discuss arrangements with the German and Czech representatives, and, if the Chancellor desires the representatives, also of Italy and France.
I trust that Tour Excellency will inform the German Chancellor that you are willing to be represented and urge him to agree to my proposal which will keep all our peoples out of war. I have already guaranteed that the Czech promises shall be carried out and feel confident that full agreement could be reached in a week.”
Advice has now been received to the effect that Signor Mussolini has informed the German Government that he hoped that Herr Hitler would see his way to postpone action, which was to have been taken at 2 p.m. on the 28th September, for at least 24 hours.
At the conclusion of his speech in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr. Chamberlain received and read to the House ;i message from Herr Hitler inviting him, together with M. Daladier and Signor Mussolini, to a conference in Munich to-day. Mr. Chamberlain indicated that lie would, of course, accept the invitation. I am sure that honorable members will agree that this invitation from Herr Hitler gives grounds .for hope that a way will be found out of the present difficult situation by negotiation and without recourse to force, and that all members of the House will be united in their appreciation of the notable services which Mr. Chamberlain has rendered in the cause of peace. la conclusion I should, like to assure honorable members that we have been in constant communication, both by cable and by telephone, over the whole course of the last fortnight, with Mr. Chamberlain and with Mr. Bruce. We have been kept in hourly touch with the situation and with the many communications that have passed between the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Herr Hitler, and the heads of other states concerned, in or affected by the crisis. We have made such suggestions as we believed would bo I iel pf nl, and which we believe have been helpful at various stages of the dispute.
We feel that we can say to honorable members and to the people of Australia that there is distinct hope in the developments which have taken place in the last twelve hours, and we pray that the superhuman efforts of Mr. Chamberlain may bear fruit.
I have just received a communication, through the Acting High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Australia, from the Secretary of State for the Dominions indicating, as we also probably appreciate from the news in the press to-day, “ that the position is greatly” cased “, and that the feeling in London is that the possibility of immediate emergency no longer holds.
- by leave - I would regard it as improper to say anything on behalf of the Opposition other than to wish the negotiations complete success. I feel that I ought not to confine myself merely to saying that, but that I should add that I concur wholeheartedly in that portion of the Prime Minister’s statement in which he said that members of the House will be united in their appreciation of the notable services which Mr. Chamberlain has rendered in the cause of peace.
Honorable Members - Hear, hear !
-Will the Treasurer lay on the table of the Library the papers in connexion with the appointments made to’ the National Health and Pensions Insurance department of persons outside the Public Service?
– I shall investigate the matter, and see if it is possible to acquiesce in the request.
– According to the budget statement, an amount of £100,000 is to be set aside for preliminary expenses connected with the administration of the national insurance scheme, and also for the purpose of making a contribution to voluntary organizations providing benefits for the wives and dependants of insured persons. Can the Treasurer say how much of the amount is to be specifically apportioned to voluntary organizations?
– The honorable member has asked me to make offhand a division of the amount of £100.000. Without refreshing my memory on the matter, I. should say that 25 per cent. is to be devoted to the expenses of the commission, and 75 per cent, to voluntary organizations.
– Can the Treasurer state whether it is true, as intimated by the National Insurance Commission, that medical benefit will not be available until the 1st April? Will the Treasurer state what arrangements are being made to provide for the payment of medical benefits which are due to every insured person after the first week’s payment?
– When the National Insurance Bill was before the House, it was made quite clear that medical benefit could not be started before the 1st April.
– But it is stated in the act that the date is the 1st January.
– I repeat that it was made clear that medical benefit would not be started until at least the 1st April.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART. Having regard to the impossibility of providing medical benefit under national insurance until the 1st April, will the Government take steps to see that that part of the contributions which refers to medical benefit is likewise deferred until 1st April?
– That matter is at present under the consideration of the National Insurance Commission, and will shortly be considered by the Government.
– Has the National Insurance Commission yet come to a decision regarding the position of relief workers in the various States, some of whom work one week in five, while others work two weeks in seven? Under the present arrangement, some of those workers would be required to contribute for approximately two years before becoming entitled even to sick benefit. Has the commission yet decided whether they will be asked to contribute under the act?
– The reply is in the negative.
– Can the Treasurer state when it is expected to bring down legislation dealing with voluntary insurance under the national insurance scheme for the benefit of wives and dependants of insured persons, and also for the benefit of self-em ployed persons, such as small shopkeepers, small farmers &c. ? Can he say whether 75 per cent. of the £100,000 which is being made available is merely a contribution to general expenses, or is it a subsidy towards the scheme?
– The honorable member has inquired regarding two separate subjects, first, the proposed subsidy towards a scheme for providing medical benefit for wives and children, and the other in regard to the institution of a voluntary insurance scheme. Subject to the business before the House, I should expect that a bill dealing with the first of those matters will be introduced during the present sittings of Parliament. However, owing to the very great pressure under which the commission has been working in order to get the scheme into operation, it is, I think, very doubtful whether the second matter will be made the subject of legislation during the present sittings of Parliament.
Mr.BEASLEY.- The Treasurer has stated, in answer to a question, that workers who are employed for three weeks in five will clearly come under the national insurance scheme, and in answer to another question he has stated that no decisionhas yet been arrived at in regard to relief workers. As most workers employed for three weeks in five are relief workers, how does the Government account for the conflicting reply that, whereas part-time workers will come under the scheme, no decision has been arrived at in regard to relief workers?
– The question of relief workers opens up a much broader and complex problem than is presented by part-time workers. The problem of relief workers, which is far from a simple one. is under the consideration of thecommission at present. The Government will endeavour to reach a decision in regard to it within the course of the next month.
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform the House whether definite arrangements have yet been made to erect homes for the members of the staff of the Canberra Fire Brigade in the vicinity of the new fire station?
– Such arrangements have been made, and I shall be glad to furnish the honorable member with further information later.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) on the ground of ill-health.
– I lay on the table the report and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Radiator assemblies for motor vehicle chassis. and move -
That the report be printed.
The majority recommendation of the Tariff Board was for the payment of a bounty for two years of 10s. on each radiator assembly produced wholly in Australia and used as original equipment in motor vehicle chassis. Protective duties were also recommended to come into operation when payment of the bounty ceases. As I announced yesterday, the Governmenthas accepted the bounty recommendation, and the necessary legislation to give effect to this proposal will be introduced at an early date. As to the recommendation for protective duties, the Government has decided to have the Tariff Board again review the industry before the expiration of the bounty period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is proposed to alter the sitting days for next week as first announced, so that the Parliament will re-assemble earlier than next Wednesday, in view of the European crisis, and whether any further sittings are to be held this week?
– In view of the last message which I read to the House it does not appear to be necessary for us to meet before Wednesday next. Later, I shall move “ That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next “. Next week, therefore, the House will sit on
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Today certain measures will be dealt with, including the second-reading speech on the States Grants Bill. In view of the fact that a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers is taking place’ in Canberra this afternoon, it is intended to adjourn the House at lunch time until Wednesday next.
– On the 24th August, 1937, I asked a question of the Prime Minister regarding the reconstitution of the Public Accounts Committee, which the right honorable gentleman assured me would be effected if his Government was returned to office. What decision has the Government reached in the matter?
– The Government has not yet had an opportunity to deal with it, but it hopes to do so in the near future.
– If the Government is giving further consideration to the proposal for the reconstitution of the Public Accounts Committee, will the committee be given the same powers as arc possessed , by the Public Accounts Committee of the British Parliament?
– I have already replied to another honorable member that the matter of the re-appointment of the Public Accounts Committee will receive the early attention of the Government.
– Will the Minister for Commerce confer with therepresentatives of the overseas shipping companies with a view to arranging a reduction of the exorbitant charges now imposed for the carriage of wheat from Australia to the United Kingdom and other countries? Will the right honorable gentleman treat this as an urgent matter, owing to the near approach of what promises to be a record harvest, in order toenable the growers to benefit by the reduction?
– Late last year, as the result of an understanding arrived at with the shipping companies, the Government was able to secure substantial freight reductions in regard to practically all primary products except wheat. Unfortunately, wheat has never been dealt with in that way by the shipping companies. The system of arranging contracts through the various wheatselling agencies has persisted up to the present time. The Commonwealth Government has had no opportunity to deal with the matter, because it is entirely beyond its control.
– Is it not the opinion of the Minister for Commerce that the present high freight charges on wheat are largely due to the Government’s protectionist policy leading to one-way traffic? Can something not be done by the Government to reduce the present costs ?
– The honorable member is misinformed regarding the policy of the Government. It is (the policy of the Government to try to secure two-way traffic.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) confer with members of the Tariff Board regarding its inquiry into the cotton industry, and will he ensure that members of the board shall visit the cotton districts in Queensland, if possible, before bringing in their report?
– The report of the board is not yet complete. I understand that some members of the board recently visited the cotton areas in the north.
– They intended to, but they were prevented by wet weather.
– If they have not yet made the visit, I shall ask them to do so. When the inquiry is complete, the Go- vernment will consider what action is to be taken.
– Has the Minister for Tradeand Customs seen a paragraph in the Argus in which a Victorian
Minister of the Crown, Mr. Cain, is reported to have stated in Parliament that the Minister for Trade and Customs was not fitted to act as censor of magazines and other literature? Can the Minister say whether, in fact, he does act as censor?
– I have not seen the statement, but I was informed of the matter. The whole trouble is that Mr. Cain thinks he is able - able to do the censoring better than can the Minister for Trade and Customs. It is a sad commentary on bis knowledge of the matter that he does not know that there is a Book Censorship Board which makes recommendations on matters of censorship. I believe that the manner in which the censorship is being carried out has the approval of all parties in this House, as was revealed during the recent debate, and, from the number of letters of commendation from all quarters, that it is approved also by the people of Australia.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Mair, Minister for Labour and Industry in the Government of New South Wales, has called a conference of parties in the coal dispute? His action is to be commended, but. any settlement which may be reached at that conference would affect the dispute only insofar as it applies to New South Wales.
– Settle the dispute in New South Wales and you would settle it everywhere.
– What does the Commonwealth Government propose to do in the way of getting the parties together so that a complete settlement might be made throughout the whole Commonwealth?
– I think that the interjection which was made while the honorable member was asking his question really supplied the answer to it. If the dispute can be settled in New South Wales it will be settled throughout the whole Commonwealth.
-Can the Treasurer state whether it is true, as reported, that the insurance companies have increased their interest rates on loans to 6 per cent. ? If so, whataction does the Government propose to take to prevent the increase?
– I have no recent information on the matter.
– In view of the unfavorable report of the Tariff Board on the proposal to manufacture motor car chassis in Australia, can the Treasurer state whether it is the intention of the Government to discontinue the collection of the special duty which was imposed to provide a bounty on cars manufactured here?
– Either the Prime Minister or myself will make a considered statement on this matter at an early date.
– When will the Minister for Trade and Customs be able to state definitely what steps are being taken by the Government to deal with the Tariff Board’s report on the cut glass industry?
– I had hoped to be able to deal with the matter this week, but that was not possible. I hope to make a statement next week.
Mr.FORDE.- Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet given consideration to the protest of the Australian tobacco growers against the increase of the excise duty on tobacco, it being the opinion of the growers that the increase will detrimentally affect the Australian industry? Will he give an assurance that the whole subject of excise duties will be reconsidered at an early date?
– I do not. agree that the increased excise duty will detrimentally affect the Australian tobacco-growing industry. The Government has announced that a greater proportion of Australian leaf will have to be used in the manufacture of tobacco in Australia; otherwise, penal duties will have to be paid on imported leaf. The increased excise duty is one of the measures taken to raise additional revenue for defence purposes.
– When is it proposed to lay on the table of the House the final report of the Nutrition Council?
– The report has been received by the Government, and will be laid on the table of the House as soon as possible.
– Has the Government yet come to a decision regarding the proposed reorganization of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Is it a fact that the chairman of the commission is to receive a salary of £2,500 a year, and that the general-manager will be paid £2,000 a year?
– No decision has yet . been reached. The matter is under the consideration of the Government, but it has not been possible yet to give it adequate attention-.
– I understand that a report has been received by the Government regarding the shipbuilding industry in Australia. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the report is available, and whether it has ‘been considered by the Government? Does ho propose to make any statement to the House concerning the matter?
– The report is supplementary to one prepared by the Tariff Board. It was hoped that the Government would be able to consider the report this week, but there have been more important matters associated with the international crisis. I hope that, within the next few weeks, I shall be able to make a statement on the subject.
– Has the Minister for the Interior, as a result of his visit to the Northern Territory, which was so much appreciated by residents there, been able to come to a conclusion regarding the reorganization of the Administration? If so, will he make a statement on the matter?
– I have already taken steps in regard to certain phases of the Administration of the Northern Territory, and certain other proposals await consideration by the Government. A pronouncement will be made regarding them in due course.,
– Will the Treasurer arrange to have all reports issued by the Commonwealth Statistician supplied to members of Parliament?
– The Commonwealth Statistician issues a very large number of reports covering a wide range of subjects. I find it difficult to believe that all of them will be of interest to all members of Parliament. I assure the honorable member, however, that any reports which be is anxious to have will be made available to him, andthis applies to other honorable members also.
– Has any further consideration been given to the governmental report in connexion with Oregon? If so, when can the House expect a statement to be made on the matter?
– I assure the honorable member that complete inquiries have been made by two investigators in the Customs Department. I shall have a conference with those investigators and others during the next few days, but I am unable yet to anticipate the result of the discussions. It might be necessary to refer to the Tariff Board certain aspects of the matter in which there may be a difference of opinion.
Payments to Naturalized Assyrians and Lebanese
– Has a decision been arrived at in regard to the request made by a deputation which waited on the Parliamentary Secretary to the Trea surer to extend the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to Assyrians and Lebanese naturalized in Australia?
– The matter is still under consideration.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, sums for the purposes of financial assistance to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
ThatMr. Casey and Mr. White do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The grants for which approval is sought in this bill are those recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to be paid to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania during the financial year 1938-39. The recommendations of the commission are contained in its Fifth Report, which was tabled on the 21st September. The proposed grants, compared with those paid during 1937-38, are as follows: -
Before explaining the basis of these recommendations, I submit for the infor- mation of honorable members a statement showing the trend of these grants during the past ten years, whichI believe will be of some interest. The grants paid for 1934-35 and the following years are those based on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The statement is as follows : -
When legislation for the grants which were paid to these States during earlier years was brought down, honorable members were informed at some length of the general principles upon which the recommendations of the commission were based. I do not propose, therefore, to enter into a full and lengthy discussion of the principles involved in connexion with this bill. These are set out very clearly and fully in the commission’s fifth report, which I commend to the attention of honorable members.
Whilst I do not propose toweary honorable members with a lengthy explanation of the commission’s methods, I think it desirable briefly to refer to a few important features which affect, the recommendations of the grants for this year. Honorable members will remember that in the past the Commonwealth’s attitude generally has been that there exists some degree of obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to render financial assistance to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania by way of compensation for disabilities due to the effects of federation or the operation of federal policy. It has, however, been found impracticable to. measure the financial effects of these factors on the States. Moreover, it would be necessary to assess also the value of the advantages accruing from federation and federal policy. The commission, however, has given very careful consideration to this aspect, and in earlier reports has expressed the opinion that the necessity for grants to these States is in no case due to any appreciable extent to the operation of federal policy.
– Can the Treasurer state how much each of the more prosperous States contributes to the smaller States?
– No. That phase dealt with in the reports of the commission.
As has been explained in earlier years, the commission has evolved a plan whereby the grants to the State are arrived at on the basis of financial needs. The commission recommends grants to bring the claimant States up to what it considers to be a fair Australian standard which the commission fixes in relation to the financial experience of the non-claimant States, namely, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. It considers that the grant should be sufficient to enable a State in difficulties to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States. The State is required to make some effort itself in this regard.
Honorable members will appreciate that the adoption of a basis such as this, which requires a careful comparison of the budgetary results of the claimant States with those of the non-claimant States, presents considerable difficulty; but a perusal of the commission’s fifth report will, I think, convincehonorable members that this comparison has been carried out carefully and equitably.
The accounts of all States are not compiled on a uniform ‘basis and it was necessary for the commission, as in previous years, to make certain adjustments of the figures in order to place the budgetary results on a comparable basis. Having arrived at the amount that is required to raise the claimant States to the budgetary standards -of the non-claimant States, the commission proceeds to make certain adjustments which it considers necessary, after a comparison of the relative severity of taxation in the various States, differences in the costs of social services, costs of administration, and other relevant factors.
This year the commission has introduced a now feature into its work. It considers that in times of prosperity a claimant State should take action to improve its financial position which it cannot take in less prosperous years, and ihat it should not incur expenditure which is unjustified or uneconomic. It therefore examined the finances of the claimant States for the year 1936-37 in the light of the general improvement of economic and financial conditions. In the exercise of its general judgment, it has made a nominal adjustment in each case to draw the attention of the claimant States to their duty in this respect. Items particularly examined were in the case of South Australia, the failure to recover debts due to the Crown; and in that of Western Australia, the expenditure of loan moneys on unreproductive projects. As the financial position of the Tas.manian railways is growing steadily worse, and there was some evidence qf unnecessary expenditure, the commission made a nominal adjustment to draw attention to the urgent necessity for a reduction of railway losses in that State.
I do not propose to comment upon these special adjustments. The commission was set up as an independent body to investigate the claims of the States for financial assistance, and there is ample evidence that it has discharged its duty with thoroughness and in a wholly impartial manner. The Government therefore’ feels that it must accept these special adjustments as a bona fide attempt on the part of the commission to ensure that grants of financial assistance to the States are based on sound principles.
I shall now refer very briefly to the variations of the grants proposed for the current year. I remind honorable members that the basis adopted by the commission renders it necessary for grants to be assessed by an examination of the budgetary results of the latest year for which complete data is available. In this case the basic figures are those for the financial year 1936-37.
The grant proposed for South Australia is £1,040,000 which is a reduction by £160,000 of the grant recommended and paid last year. This reduction is mainly accounted for by an improvement of that State’s finances in 1936-37, the year of comparison. In that year South Australia had a surplus of £139,000. Coupled with this fact, the relative burden of taxation in South Australia has decreased.
The grant recommended for Western Australia is £570,000, or £5,000 less than last year’s grant, hut actually the normal grant now recommended is a substantial increase on the normal grant of £439,000 paid last year. There was added to the normal grant that year a special advance of £136,000 on account of drought, to be adjusted in 1939-40. This brought the total sum to £575,000. The normal grant recommended for this year is £614,000, from which is deducted a special advance of £44,000 made in 1936-37 to be repaid in this financial year. The normal grant recommended this year is therefore, in fact, £175,000 greater than the normal grant of last year.
– What about assistance in respect of drought conditions over a longer period? Has the commission considered that point?
– I take it that it did so, and that because of the effects of a drought on the State finances in 1936-37, an increase of £175,000 is now being recommended over the normal grant for last year. The State finances showed a deficit of £371,000 in 1936-37, as compared with a surplus of £S8,000 in 1935-36.
The proposed grant to Ta.sma.nia is £410,000, which represents a reduction by £165,000 of the grant paid last year. The principal cause of this reduction is the reduced burden of taxation in Tasmania for 1936-37 in relation to the other States. The commission’s report indicates that in 1935-36 and 1936-37 there was a considerable increase of Tasmania’s community income, due to a great improvement in business activity generally. As a consequence the relative taxable capacity of the State increased very appreciably, and Tasmania’s index of severity of taxation has fallen from 107 to 93, due mainly to increased taxable capacity, low rates of income tax, low motor taxation, and low local government imposts.
Although the facts that I have just stated broadly explain the variations of the grants now proposed from those which were paid last year, the added fact that in the case of two States the grant is reduced to a degree which, perhaps, might not appear in accord with their present budgetary trend, calls for some further comment. As I have already said, the grants are arrived at by a comparison of the budgetary results of all States. Consequently, the grants should normally be reduced when the relative budgetary results of the claimant States improve and should be increased when the relative budgetary results of the claimant States show some retrogression. As the commission’s calculations are based upon the financial results of the year 1936-37, there is what is now generally described as a. “ time lag “ of two years ; and, as the commission points out in one of its earlier reports, if conditions are changing rapidly in the States concerned, the grant recommended may prove to be out of harmony with the needs of the State for that particular year. The error, if any, is not cumulative, and the differences will balance out over a term of years.
It might be argued in some quarters that the conditions which the States are facing this year do not justify any reduction of the grant. The grants recommended, however, are the automatic effect of the application of the commission’s principles based on the results of 1936-37, and it would not be possible to depart from the procedure which has now been followed for four years without, to a large extent, nullifying the principles laid down by the commission and accepted by the Government.
The Government has not hesitated to accept the recommendations of the commission during the last four years. In the first two years of that period the commission recommended an appreciable increase of the grants, notwithstanding that the finances of the States concerned were generally improving. Following the same policy, the Government now feels that it is quite reasonable to adopt the recommendations of the commission for reduced grants this year, even though in some quarters it may be felt that the present financial position of the States concerned does not appear to justify such a reduction.
– Has the commission given any indication that the time is likely to arrive when these grants will cease?
-As I have said on previous occasions when bills of this nature have been under consideration, I cannot conceive of circumstances arising, at least for a good many years ahead, when these grants will be entirely eliminated.
It is not reasonable to form a judgment in regard to these grants on the basis of one year only. A proper appreciation of the effect of the commission’s recommendations can be obtained only by taking a long-range view. If the grants recommended by the commission over the last five years, including the grants now proposed, are examined in comparison with the State finances for the same period, I think it will be agreed that the grants are in accord with the general trend of State finances.
The commission’s recommendations are based upon known facts in relation to the actual financial results of the States. The most serious objection to this method is, of course, that the. effects of important, changes in State finances are not reflected in the grants until two years after. This objection, however, is far less serious than the objections that would necessarily follow any attempt to assess grants in any year on the basis of the estimated results for that year. As honorable members will agree, estimates are not always reliable. On the whole, it is much more preferable to base grants on actual results.
– I take it that the view is that the uncertainty in respect of an estimate for a year ahead is less a problem to the States than would be the payment of the average of the three previous years for the current year.
– For several years, I combated the commission’s recommendations with the object of arriving at a better basis than that which the commission itself had adopted. . The commission asked me for some other suggestions, but, in spite of a great deal of work on the part of the Treasury officers, it has not been possible to suggest a better method than that which the commission lias adopted to deal with the situation.
– The variations average out over the life of the commission.
– Exactly. I cannot suggest any better basis than is now being adopted.
– Over a period of years the result is the same ?
– Is everything taken into account by the commission?
– Am I to understand that the assistance granted to primary producers is considered?
– It is considered, but it should be understood that the assistance now recommended is by way of a straight-out grant. It is paid to the respective governments, and not to individuals. Honorable members who are particularly interested in this subject will do well to read care.fully the fifth report of the commission.
– What was the exact result of the financial operations of the claimant States in the last financial year?
– The honorable gentleman will find the details on page 9 of the report.
The following table, which has been incorporated in the commission’s report, shows the effect of special grants and advances on the budgetary positions of the claimant States: -
As these figures indicate, the grants have had the effect of restoring the finances of the States concerned to what may fairly be called broad budgetary equilibrium - a result which reveals that the policy of the Commonwealth Government in accepting the recommendations of the Grants Commission has proved very satis factory to the States concerned.
I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests.
Sales Tas Bills (Nos. 1 to 9). 1938.
Income Tax Bill 1938.
Messages from the Administrator reported transmitting ‘the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., for the financial year ended the 30th June, 1937, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s messages) :
Motions (by Mr’. Casey) agreed to -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1936-37, forthe several services hereunder specified, viz: -
supplementaryestimates foradditions, New Works, Buildings, etc. 1936-37.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1930-37 for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.. a further sum not exceeding £535,619.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions ofWays and Means founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Thompson do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is the same measure as the bill that was introduced at the end of the last sittings, but was not completed. A few days ago that measure was discharged from the notice-paper. I now reintroduce it.
The Supplementary Estimates which have just been tabled cover items of expenditure for the year ended the 30th June, 1937, for which no specific approval has yet been given by Parliament and which has been met temporarily out of the provision for Treasurer’s Advance ponding submission to Parliament in the form of the Estimates now before the House. As honorable members are aware, parliamentary authority for this expenditure was included in a lump sum appropriated in the Estimates-in-Chief for the year 1936-37 under the heading “ Advance to the Treasurer “. It has been the custom to make this provision so that the Treasurer may make advances to the various departments of such sums as are necessary to meet urgent and essential unforeseen expenditure. Particulars of such expenditure in the form of Supplementary Estimates are now submitted to Parliament for covering appropriation. As copies of the Estimates are being circulated amongst honorable members, I do not propose to refer to the items in detail at this stage. The amount voted for advance to the Treasurer for 1936-37 was £2,000,000; of that amount £988,583 was used for ordinary departmental services and war services payable from revenue, whilst £535,619 was used for additions, new works andbuildings, for which I shall submit shortly Supplementary Estimates. Parliament is now being asked to appropriate £988,583, but the total of the original Estimates has been exceeded by only £72,261. This is because, in many cases, these new charges being made contingent upon savings of a like amount in other items. In other votes straightout savings were possible. The result is that the net increase over the amount previously approved by Parliament is only £72,261 and not the amount of just under £1,000,000, which is the subject of this measure. Full details of the expenditure now submitted have already been furnished to Parliament in the Estimates and budget papers for 1937-38. In the 1937-38 Estimates, the expenditure for 1936-37 is set out alongside the amounts voted for 1937-38. The budget statements record the full expenditure. The details are also shown in the Treasurer’s financial statement for the year 1936-37.
It is the practice to await the report of the Auditor-General on the accounts for the year under review before submitting the Supplementary Estimates to Parliament. The Treasurer’s financial statement was forwarded to the AuditorGeneral on the 23rd November, 1937, and his report was presented to the Treasurer on the 6th April, 1938, and was laid on the table of this House on the 27th April of this year.
I commend to the House the Supplementary Estimates for ordinary services.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I think that I need not tell the House that the explanation I made in respect of the last bill is relevant to this bill.
This bill provides for an appropriation of £535,619 for items of expenditure under Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.,which have been met from the vote “ Advance to the Treasurer “ during the year 1936-37.
When the Supplementary Estimates for ordinary services were presented, I informed honorable members of the reason for and the procedure adopted in connexion with bills of this nature.
Although the amount provided for by the bill is £535,619, that sum does not represent the net amount expended on works and buildings in excess of the original Estimates. Actually, the provision in the original Estimates was exceeded by only £146,222, increased expenditure under post office and railways being offset by savings under other services.
The chief items making up the total are as follows : -
Of the sum of £494,910 for telephone services, £300,000 was represented by a transfer of expenditure from the Loan Fund in the following circumstances : In consequence of the difficulty of raising loan moneys for the services of all Australian Governments - had . there been any honorable Premiers of the States present now I am sure that they would be glad to hear the remarks which I am about to make - and acting on the principle which has been followed for a number of years of leaving the loan field as free as possible for the States, the Commonwealth Government decided to charge more of the necessary expenditure to revenue. The transferred expenditure was covered by the vote for Treasurer’s Advance until parliamentary appropriation could be obtained. The amount of £300,000, out of the total supplementary appropriation of £535,619, has been counterbalanced by a saving of a similar amount under the loan appropriation. The loan market has been relieved to this extent, the States have been similarly advantaged, and a consequential saving of interest will result. An additional £194,910 was required to meet the demand by the public for increased telephone facilities.
The necessity for the extra provision of £22,023 for the Trans-Australian railway was due to the speeding up of the ballasting of the line; the additional expenditure in 1936-37 is being offset by reduced expenditure in subsequent years.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m., unless Mr. Speaker shall, prior to that day, by telegram addressed to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Honorable members are aware, in con sequence of telegrams received from Wau, that a protest has been raised with regard to the site of the new capital of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and also the road proposed to be constructed from Salamaua to Wau.Four parties are engaged in surveying the route, and, no doubt, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) will furnish the House with details of the work being undertaken. The first suggestion, whichwas most in favour up to the middle of the present month, was the Buangs-Snake River route, which is usuallytraversed by the aeroplane running between Salamaua and Wau, by way ofBulwa on the Bulolo River. For 25 miles the last part of the road is already constructed along the banks of the Bulolo River, from Bulolo to Wau, and the total length of this route is 75 miles. Recently, however, Mr. M. W. Bergin, one of the surveyors working in the Bitoi-Francisco district, discovered a route almost direct to Wau. It is called the Middle Bitoi route, and the distance from Salamaua to Wau by it is said to be about 50 miles, of which 44 miles wouldhave to be constructed. The surveyors say that a road from Wau by way of Bulwa - the Buangs-SnakeRiver route - would cost £164,000, although for 25 miles a road has already been constructed, as I have already shown, from Bulwa to Wau, but a road by the Middle Bitoi route would cost £150,000, which is £14,000 less, andwould reduce the distance by 25 miles. Therewould be 12 miles of river fiats, representingeasy formation, and about 14 miles of easily constructed grades, varying from 1 in 10 to 1 in18. For 10 miles there would be steep side-slopes, with grades of 1 in 15 or 1 in 25, and 8 miles of definitely difficult country. This road would come out at the mouth of Sandy Creek, not far from Wau, and would not rise higher than 5,000 feet. Although these grades may seem steep to some, I remind honorable members that for a considerable distance on the road to Edie Creek the grade is 1 in 9, and the motor trucks negotiate it comparatively easily from Wau to No. 1 Kunai, where, in 4 miles, the road rises 1,800 feet.
The third suggestion relates to the Markham Valley route, and there is a good deal of objection to it, particularly by the peoplewhom it is intended to serve. This runs from Salamaua towards Lae, and then along the Markham Valley, in the vicinity of Wampit Valley, viaBulwa, to Wau. The argument in its favour is that itwould be a developmental road, and, no doubt, itwould open up country suitable for the production of copra. The objection to it is that it immensely lengthens the road from Salamaua to Wau from a possible 50 miles, as in the Middle Bitoi route, to 113 miles from Salamaua,whichwill be the port of the territory, no matter where the capital is situated. My strong objection to this is that the cost of freight to Wauwould be loaded for all time by an unnecessary 125 per cent. Vehicles using the Bitoi routewould go directly to Wau, a distance of 50 miles - say 2½ hours’ travelling - thence to Bulolo,Bulwa and Sunshine - 3½ hours. Using the Buangs route they would get to Bulwa and Sunshine in 2½ hours and Wau in 3½ hours. There would be much more freight for Wau and Edie Creek than for Bulolo, Bulwa and Sunshine, and the Bitoi route would give it a shorter track. The people mostly concerned in Wau have the best interests of the mining industry at heart. They are also anxious aboutthe development of the timber industry, which promises to grow to considerable dimensions in the near future, the possibilities being almost unlimited. They are strongly and unitedly of the opinion that the road should go direct from Salamaua to Wau. If it is necessary to open up the’ territory by a road along the Markham Valley, that could be done later by a road from Bulwa.
These residents are anxious also that Wau should be the capital of New Guinea. Several sites have been suggested. The honorablemember for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) advanced the claims of Madang, but I understand that the people at Madang are not anxious to have the capital there. The residents of Lae wish it to be established there and a good deal can be said in its favour. Generally speaking, allowing for the claims of Salamaua and Lae, Wau would appear to be far the most suitable site. It is free from earth tremors. Some may be of the opinion that it is very difficult of access, but that is the reason why provision was made for the construction of a road, the cost of which was guaranteedby the Commonwealth Government in a bill which was passed by Parliament last year. Wau is some distance from the coast and that is one reason why the site on which Canberra is built was selected. Generally speaking, the climate in New Guinea is particularly trying on the coast and as the principal industry is the production of copra, which is carried on largely on the sea coast, those engaged in the industry have to submit to more trying conditions than those living on the high lands. The temperature on the sea coast is more severe, and in some places malaria and blackwater fever are fairly prevalent. Moreover, children do not always thrive there after they have reached a certain age. Wau is about 3,500 feet above the sea level and the climate there is similar to that in Simla in India. In that country the official work is not undertaken to any degree in Calcutta, Madras and similar cities, and the principal Government offices are situated on the high lands. Moreover, Wau has all the amenities of civilization, including good hotels, swimming baths and a telephone service, a large European hospital, a native hospital and schools. The climate there is such that at night the use of blankets is often necessary. Although extensive mining development is being carried on, it is only reasonable to assume that the industry will not flourish indefinitely, but doubtless the mining industry will be the means of establishing a permanent settlement as it has in some parts of Australia. The timber industry ought to be a permanent and important one if reafforestation is possible. I trust that the request submitted by the people of Wau will be seriously considered by the Minister, and that the direct route will be adopted and the road constructed at the earliest possible date. I suggest that members interested should glance at the map of New Guinea to follow the route of the road I have indicated.
.- I regret that I did not indicate to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mir. Green) that I had already brought the matter which he has raised under the notice of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes). It has already been arranged that the subject shall be raised in the House next week, probably on Wednesday. I am sure that we are all grateful to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie for his interesting and helpful explanation of the situation. I trust that the Treasurer will bring the remarks of the honorable member under the notice of the Minister for External Affairs. In the circumstances, 1 shall reserve any remarks I have to make on the subject until next week, when I propose to place on record the telegrams received from representative people in the district which support the claims made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I have supplied the Minister with a copy of the telegrams. Possibly by next week we may be able to receive a considered reply from him.
– I assure the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that I shall bring their remarks, particularly those of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, under the notice of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes). As stated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, there will be an opportunity to discuss this subject next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1938 -
No. 21 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 22 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Treasurer’s Statement of combined accounts of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 30th June, 1938, together with certificate of the Auditor-General.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments of D. Dain and F. R. E. Mauldon, Department of the Treasury.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Newcastle, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Papua Act - Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 3- Supply 1938-39.
No. 4 - Port Moresby Electric Light and Power.
No. 5 - Samarai Electric Light and Power.
No.6 - Diocese of New Guinea Property.
No. 7 - Customs Tariff.
No. 8 - Police Offences.
No. 9 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 2) 1937-1938.
No. 13. - Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining).
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory rules, 1938, No. 94.
Quarantine Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 95. .
House adjourned at 12.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the old and unhealthy state of the primitive wooden building in Melbourne known as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and its ever-present danger to judges, staff and the public from fire and also from exhaustion caused by being compelled to climb several flights of steep and dangerous stairs, will he endeavour to find some suitable place to which the court could be transferred pending the erection of a modern court house on the same or some other site?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
While it is. realized that the present Arbitration Court building leaves much to be desired, the Government is not in a position at the present juncture to consider the question of erecting a new building and feels that it is undesirable that any removal should take place pending the erection of a new building.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
Has he come to any decision with regard to the Utter of the 16th August, from Cossack Lightering and Traders Limited, for compensation for £10,000, being the estimated loss of freight for one year, by the ship King Bay, due to the Government’s embargo on the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound, Western Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No decision has yet been arrived at in regard to this case. This and other questions arising out of the embargo on the export of iron ore are being investigated and will be considered by the Government at the earliest possible date.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Mr. McEWEN.- The information is being obtained.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Australi an Shipping: Importation of Vessels.
l asked the Minister for -Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1. (a) How many commercial vessels of 500 tons and over have been imported into Australia from 1932-33 to 1937-38 inclusive; (b) what was their value inAustralian currency; (c) what were the countries of origin; (d) what was the rate of duty imposed; (e) what was the amount of duty collected ? 2. (a) How many commercial vessels of 500 tons and over have been built in Australian shipyards from 1932-33 to 1937-38, inclusive; (b) what was their value?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) 43 vessels; (b) £A5,900,000; (c) United Kingdom, 41 vessels valued at £A5,710,000; Denmark, 1 vessel valued at £A168,000; China. 1 vessel valued at £A22,000; (d) The importation from China wascharged duty at 15 per cent, ad valorem under the General Tariff. All other importations were admitted free of duty; (e) the amount of duty collected was £A2,565.
k asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. The last report received from the Tariff Board on Oregon logs was tabled in Parliament onthe 24th November, 1936.
Compound for Aboriginals at Darwin.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
South: Australian Broadcasting Advisory Committee.
Mir. Price asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Who are the members of the South Australian Broadcasting Advisory Committee?
When was the committee formed?
Has the committee held any meetings since it was formed?
If so, how many meetings has it held, and when were they held?
s. - The information is being obtained for the honorable member.
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice -
On the 29th August last, when a deputation of the Pearlers’ Committee waited upon the Minister at Broome, were the requests stated briefly below made of the Minister - (a) Assistance to be given equal to the difference between the price realized f.o.b. per ton for mother of pearl shell in America and/or London and £A120; (b) Assistance to be given by the Australian Trade Commissioner in New York to establish . a marketing organization in America; (c) The granting of a produce advance, secured on the mother of pearl, shell, payable when shell is packed and either warehoused in Broome or exported; (d) The bringing into operation of the departmental tariff by-laws covering “ articles for use in the pearling industry “. as recommended by the Tariff Board; (e) If Japanese sampans arrive and operate off the Western Australian coasts, a cheap but efficient control of creeks to be established, in conjunction with the Government of Western Australia, in places named by the deputation.
n. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380929_reps_15_157/>.