6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether a financial agreement has been arrived at between the Commonwealth Government and the States, and, if so, whether he is in a position to inform the Senate as to its nature?
– An agreement has been arrived at, but I have not yet been supplied by the Treasurer with a copy of it. I shall endeavour to obtain a copy to present to the Senate.
– Has the
Minister of Defence yet obtained a reply to the question I asked on the 28th October in reference to the pay of soldiers who have enlisted from the Public Service of South Australia?
– The original question was -
Is the Minister of Defence aware that in some of the States soldiers have been paid the difference between their regimental pay and their official pay in their different offices? Is such done by the Commonwealth, or is there any intention to do so?
In reply to that inquiry, I outlined an agreement which had been arrived at, and which in certain circumstances, was departed from by New South Wales. The honorable senator then asked this further question -
Is it not a fact that the South Australian Government have done, not exactly the same, but have increased the military pay of any of their employees who have enlisted?
I promised to get the information. I have ascertained that the Government of South Australia have decided to pay the deficiency between the State salary and the Military pay in cases where the latter is less than the former.
– Several months ago a good deal of dissatisfaction was expressed with the postal arrangements for the troops in Egypt, and the PostmasterGeneral, I understand, appointed Mr. Keith Murdoch to inquire and report as to the postal facilities. Is the Minister yet in receipt of a report from that gentleman as to whether the postal facilities have been improved or not ?
– We have received a report from Mr. Keith Murdoch, but, at the request of the British Government, we are not making it public. We are in communication with them as to when we shall be able to give publicity to the report, and we have intimated our desire to do so. So far, we have not received permission ; but one of the recommendations made by Mr. Murdoch has been put into effect during the last day or two by the Postmaster-General on representations by myself, and that is to have an alphabetical sorting of the mails here. . Mr. Murdoch, however, made a number of recommendations for action to be taken in Egypt. The officer in charge of the Postal Corps which has been established has left Australia with them, but before leaving he was supplied with a copy of Mr. Murdoch’s report, to enable him to adopt some of the proposals put forward.
– May I have permission, sir, to make a statement about the agreement arrived at in regard to the wheat question?
– I propose to read a statement as to the scheme agreed upon by the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States for dealing with the wheat crop.
– Does it contain the names of those who were present at the Conference ?
– No; I think that it was attended by the representatives of the various States, with the exception of Tasmania.
– The names ought to be given.
– I can procure the names.
– They ought to be given in the statement.
– It gives me much pleasure to be able to announce that the Conference of the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States has agreed upon a comprehensive and workable scheme for dealing with the new season’s wheat crop. The news will be received with very great satisfaction all over Australia. To the producers and others directly interested it will remove a load of anxiety and the growing fear, justified by the circumstances, that much of the new wheat crop could not be marketed, and that, in consequence, the benefits of the bounteous harvest would be lost. The presage of this disaster, coming on the heels of last year’s drought, which brought ruin to some and plunged thousands into debt, filled the minds of the farmers with gloomy forebodings. And satisfaction that a workable scheme has been devised is not confined to the man on the land, but will be felt throughout financial and commercial circles. Every thinking man realizes what failure to market our products at reasonable prices means. The position was, and is, one that needs to be driven home to every citizen. As a community, we live on what we produce; largely we live on what we sell overseas. Last year we suffered from a drought, and so had . little to sell, and are many millions to the bad in consequence. This year, although we have not our normal quantity of wool to sell, we have very much more wheat than we ever had before, and prices of wool and wheat are high. Yet, unless we can find means to transport our produce to the oversea markets, these high prices cannot help us in any way. It was to the solution of this problem that the Wheat Conference of the Commonwealth and States directed its efforts. It accepted without question that the successful marketing of our products was absolutely vital to our national, as well as industrial, welfare. We must sell our products. That is essential. There is no difficulty in finding buyers. The world is clamouring for wheat. The difficulty is to carry the wheat to those who want it. Scarcity of freight is the trouble. Some 25 per cent, of the world’s tonnage is either locked up in enemy ports, or at the bottom of the sea. Another 20 per cent, has been requisitioned by the Admiralty for transport and war purposes. The British Admiralty, so we are informed, has 800 steamers - not including trawlers - and is requisitioning more every day. The enemy’s submarine campaign, although it has suffered a severe check, is still to be reckoned with. Here, then, is the position : With a greater harvest than we ever have had, calling for nearly twice the tonnage normally required, we find ourselves set an almost impossible task if we are asked to transport our surplus wheat to the oversea markets by the end of June next. By supplementing the freight chartered, and to be chartered, with the Commonwealth fleet of requisitioned and interned enemy steamers, we entertain no doubt whatever that we can carry all the new surplus wheat crop to market within a reasonable time, but we do not anticipate being able to do this in the first six months of next year. This, of course, is most satisfactory as far as it goes, ari3 it may be said at once that without the aid of the Commonwealth fleet and the cooperation of the British Admiralty any attempt to transport the exportable surplus of our new crop would be hopeless. But the question is only half solved. The Conference had to consider the position of the farmer, who, with wheat to sell, upon the sale of which he is, in fact, depending to pay his way, cannot sell for six or nine months, for it is certain that the wheat-buying firms would only buy wheat to the extent covered by the freight actually allotted to them, and they would not buy any more until they were allotted more freight, and had sold the wheat they had bought. Let us see what that would mean to the farmer. In December, January, and February, 1913-14, 615,000 tons were exported. Assuming that we are able to obtain an equal amount of freight during December and the first two months of 1916 - we hope to do that, and even more - less than one-half of the estimated amount of wheat available for shipment during that period would be provided for, and the remainder would be unable to find transport, and so could not be sold. This difficulty would continue during subsequent months. Other contingencies, too, may arise which would intensify the difficulties of this situation. We must not forget that the Empire is at war, fighting for her very existence, and every arrangement for transport is contingent upon the exigencies of war. All freight is now subject to requisition for war purposes, and, therefore, there is absolutely no guarantee that ships chartered for the purpose of conveying our wheat, or those of the Commonwealth fleet, may not be taken bv the Admiralty for war purposes. This being so, if we are to avoid disaster, allay uneasiness among producers which may lead to them rushing their wheat upona local market, which could not absorb it,, and so bringing about disaster, arrangements to finance the farmer and to enablehim to get, as far as possible, the advantage of the present high prices must be made. This the Conference has done. Thescheme, which, as I have already said, covers every phase of the matter, is practicable, and has enlisted the support of the interests necessary to insure its success.. The wheat-buying firms and flour-miller* have unanimously approved it, and agreed to work under it. It has been submitted to and approved by some of the ablest business and financial men outside of the shipping interest. Shortly stated, the scheme is as follows: - “ The Commonwealth and the respective State Governments to control the receiving, financing, shipping, and marketing of the whole of the wheat crop of the wheat-exporting States in excess of seed and feed requirements.
Methods of Control. The internal State organization to carry out the responsibilities as outlined in the preceding paragraph, to be arranged by the respective State Governments co-operating with the interest concerned. A London Board, representing Commonwealth and States, is to be appointed, which is to have the co-operation of the London representatives of the principal Australian wheatbuying firms. Government agents are tobe appointed to receive wheat on behalf of their respective Governments.
Agents’ Duties. The Government agents to receive the wheat at various centres, to issue certificates, to store and safeguard it, to consign it to various shipping ports, to ship it, and throughout from reception of shipment to be responsible for weight, quality, and conditionof the wheat. On receipt- of the wheat the Government agent to issue a storagecertificate showing quality and quantity of wheat delivered. Certificates only to be issued by firm’s chief office in State,. Quality to be stated in certificate. If inferior, value to be marked.
Advances to Farmers. Arrangementsto be made for part payment to holders of certificates on the basis . of 3s. per bushel f.o.b. at principal ports of shipment. The difference between the amount thus received and the average price received for all the wheat exported from the States, less expenses, including interest, to be paid to the holders of certificates at the close of the season.
London Board. The selling to be intrusted to a London Board. Selling commission and charges to be paid at the rate fixed.
The return from sales of each cargo to be credited to the exporting State. Deliveries of wheat under this scheme to cease on 30th September, 1916, and accounts to be paid up, and final payments to farmers to be made subsequent to the sale of the last shipment, probably not later than 30th November. As soon as possible after the sale of the last cargoes the Minister to ascertain the net average price realized for the whole of the wheat shipped by his State, and each farmer to be credited with this rate on the whole of the amount delivered to the Government agent. Provision is to be made for supplying millers with wheat sufficient for their requirements at a price to be approximately the London parity.
The control of the whole scheme is to be vested in a Committee representing the Commonwealth and States, with an advisory board of experts.”
These are the main principles of the scheme, which, I venture to believe will commend itself to the producers and to the community in general. It has behind it the resources of the Commonwealth and the States. It is practicable. All the wheat-buyers and millers are co-operating under it. They are satisfied it is a workable scheme, and are determined to make it a success. Under it every farmer will get a fair deal, and there will be no scramble. Every producer who desires it will get an advance without waiting for his wheat to be shipped, and he will get at the end of the season every penny of the difference between the advance and the average price realized for the wheat exported from his State, less expenses. The arrangement covers all sales of the new season’s crop, and on behalf of the Commonwealth, as well as the responsible Ministers of the respective States, I appeal with confidence to all concerned to lend it their hearty support.
– Is the Commonwealth Government to finance this scheme alone, or in conjunction with the States?
– In conjunction with the States.
– Have the financial arrangements been completed?
– I do not think the financial arrangements have yet been completed.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Has the Minister any idea of what the probable cost of financing the scheme will be?
-I have no information on that point.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911. - Award dated 1st November, 1915, made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on plaints submitted by Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers Association and Commonwealth Postmasters Association respectively ; Statement of the Laws and Regulations of the Commonwealth, with which, in the opinion of the Deputy President of the Court, the Award is not, or may not be, in accord; Copy of the “Reasons for Judgment” of Deputy President; Opinion of the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth; and Memorandum by the Public Service Commissioner.
Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1911 and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-1912 . - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 219.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911- 1915. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 207.
European War. - Austrian and German papers found in possession of Mr. James F. J. Archibald, Falmouth, 30th August, 1915. - Paper presented to British Parliament.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act 1911 - Particulars of approved Goods Rates for eastern and western divisions.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 - Land acquired under, at West End, Townsville, Queens- land - For Defence purposes. - Heidelberg, Victoria - For Postal purposes. - Majura, partly in Federal Territory and partly in New South Wales - For Federal Capital purposes.
Naval Defence Act 1910-1912.- Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 217 and 218.
Papua. - Ordinance No. 6 of 1915. - Customs Tariff.
Public Service Act 1902-1915.- Promotions of A. P. Westhoven as Inspector of Accounts, 1st Class, Central Staff, PostmasterGeneral’s Department; H. Howqua as Clerk, 4th Class, Accounts Branch (Telephone Accounts ) , Postmaster-General’s Department, Victoria.
Return to Order of the Senate of 25th August, 1915- Works, Buildings, Additions, &c. ; Expenditure in each State for years 1909-10 to 1913-14 inclusive.
– Has the Minister of Defence received the information I was seeking; as to the number of medical officers at the Claremont Camp, Tasmania 1
– The honorable senator asked the following questions -
The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
– Has the Minister of Defence yet received from Egypt any report relating to the recall of LieutenantColonel Ramsay Smith?
– No report has yet been received. We have again cabled to remind the Army Council that we have not yet received a report.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– It will not be possible to deal with the Tariff during the present year.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That standing order No. 68 be suspended up to and including 19th November, 1915, for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after half-past 10 o’clock at night.
Debate resumed from 5th November (vide page 7278), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I welcome this Bill as it embodies a scheme arrived at by the Government to which I belonged, in consultation with the representatives of the States concerned, and the work covered by it is much more entitled to be regarded as a great national work of development than any previously submitted to this Chamber. The term “national” is often applied to works that are in no sense entitled to the description, and I have more than once noticed that any work of a particularly suspicious character is generally introduced and buttressed with the recommendation that it is a “national” project, but without stretching the meaning, this work may be termed “ national “ in the true sense. It is a project which must open up to any one with the gift of imagination a vista of very pleasant prospects. We have for years talked about the possibility of utilizing our water supplies, but, so far, principally owing to the inability of the States to agree, this big undertaking has remained in abeyance. We have now reached a point at which we can finalize the efforts of many years, and, by approving of this Bill, enable at least a new starting point to be arrived at with. every prospect of a successful conclusion. In considering the Bill, its very close relationship to the question of land settlement comes to mind. For years past the demand for land has greatly exceeded the supply. I do not mean that there is no land available, but the demand has come largely from men without capital. Men of that class twenty-five or thirty years ago could, by the application of their own labour, supplemented by occasional working for others, generally manage to push through, and make a success of a block, but farming conditions have so altered that the man who goes on to land to-day with no capital but his own stout heart and strong hands, starts with a tremendous handicap. The altered conditions render it imperative to have some capital in going on to the land. The increased price of land, and the cost of working it, render it almost impossible for the demand created by intending settlers poorly provided with money to be met, but irrigation seems largely to solve the difficulty. The area embraced within an irrigated holding is necessarily much smaller than that devoted to grazing or ordinary agriculture, and the smaller the area the bigger the part played in developing it by the labour of the individual. The labour of a single man on a 20-acre irrigation block will, in a short time, count for much, but the same labour spread over a 10,000-acre grazing farm counts for little. The larger the block the greater the need for capital, and the less does the labour of the individual count. The need then being for land for moneyless people, irrigation offers the best promise of success. The Assistant Minister said ‘the engineers estimated rhat 1,400,000 acres would be made irrigable by the scheme. A fair irrigation holding would be 50 acres, although blocks devoted to fruit-growing would be smaller, and those used for lamb raising greater.
– You might reckon 30 acres.
– We are a people who cannot yet shake ourselves free from the idea of broad acres, and at first the tendency will be to give larger areas than will ultimately be found sufficient. It will be found in the course of time that one man cannot well cultivate a 50-acre block under intense culture, and the size of the holdings will be cut down ; but taking for the present a 50-acre average - to which no one can demur - we are making available by this scheme 28,000 holdings. This may not sound much, but when it is remembered that any State which, makes 1,000 or 2,000 holdings available in the course of a year pats itself on the back for doing it, we must regard the scheme as entitled to commendation and reasonable consideration. Twenty-eight thousand holdings, mostly irrigated, would, on a very modest estimate, give employment to 84,000 men. I know irrigated blocks of 10 acres which require more than three men, and therefore my estimate of three men per block is very safe. Each worker represents an average of five people, so that this scheme promises a direct means of livelihood to about 400,000 people, even on the very modest figures I have submitted. The indirect effects must also be considered. The Assistant Minister said it was safe to estimate that for every man placed on the land work would be found for one town resident. I would go further, for in spite of all the misleading talk about congested cities, experience shows that we cannot put an additional man in the country as a producer without automatically increasing the metropolitan population.
– Do you not think the cities are congested ?
– Not in the slightest, and, in this respect, I am altogether out of touch with a large number of people of both shades of politics.
– Then where are the unemployed ?
– There are no unemployed in the broad sense of the word to-day. Under average conditions, there are more men walking the roads in the country districts, travelling from one farm to another looking for a job, than there are unemployed in our cities, but we do not hear of them because they are scattered. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, and, indeed, anybody with country knowledge, will agree with me that in our rural areas there are hundreds of men at a particular moment who are out of work.
– They are not clamouring for Government relief, though.
– They are not the type of men to do that.
– Perhaps it is a bit far for a deputation.
– When we hear of 200 or 300 unemployed in a city, we must not imagine that the labour market in that city is necessarily congested. There are just as many men unemployed in the country districts, but being scattered they have no means of voicing their condition. Whether or not a city is congested can be determined by answering this question: Are the people in it well employed and well paid? If they are, how can it be congested? The idea that persons flock to our cities because they like city life is a far-fetched one. Those who reside in our cities do so because the conditions which obtain there are such as to enable them to secure a decent livelihood. Consequently, our cities cannot be called congested at the present moment. As a matter of fact, half the work of our farms to-day is done in our factories. I can recollect seeing, some years ago, a veritable army of men entering a wheat field armed with scythes for the purpose of harvesting the crop. To-day one man with a complete harvester can do the work of that entire army, while quite a number of town artisans are profitably employed in making these agricultural implements. Thus every additional man put on the productive lands of this country will automatically create a demand for articles which are produced by our city population. Therefore, if this scheme is capable of supporting upon the lands to be irrigated a population of 400,000, I shall be quite safe in saying that an equal number will be employed in industries ministering to their needs, on the railways in handling their produce, and in other avenues of production which will be stimulated and expanded by reason of their productive efforts. I see in the result of this scheme the maintenance of a little short of half-a-million souls. It is important to bear this in mind when we remember that prior to the outbreak of the war there was a recognition of the fact that every new arrival in Australia represented an addition to its wealth. That half -million additional population seems to be provided for under a scheme which will cost £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. When the Assistant Minister was speaking upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, Senator McDougall interjected that the undertaking will cost £10,000,000.
– It will cost £20,000,000 before it is finished.
– I think that the honorable senator’s statement that it will cost £10,000,000 is probably right, although I do not know anything of his capacity for checking engineering estimates. But it is safe to assume - as it is in connexon with nearly all estimates of this character - that the only thing which will be left of the estimate by the time the work has been completed will be a very pathetic recollection of the confidence with which it was advanced. Assuming, however, that the entire scheme costs £10,000,000, that will be equivalent to only £20 for each unit that will be added to our population. To condemn the scheme on the ground of cost is ridiculous, seeing that we cannot bring an immigrant to Australia for the same money. Even if the undertaking cost £20,000,000 - and here I think Senator McDougall is perhaps proceeding to an unsound extreme - when we consider the value that will flow from the utilization of these lands, surely nobody will dispute that by the addition of 500,000 souls to our population the Commonwealth will not be advantaged to the extent of the £40 per head- or £2 annually if we base our calculation upon a 5 per cent. interest basis.
– Where are the people to come from ?
– I am now dealing with the scheme in its large outlook, and that is all we are asked to deal with under thisBill.
– Will the people come and settle on these lands from outside Australia?
– I am not so sanguine as are some others that we shall witness a big influx of population on the termination of the war. I do not know where the people are to come from. Certainly they will not crane from the denuded countries of Europe. When the great conflict terminates it is reasonable to assume that there will be a tremendous demand for labour in Belgium and France, to replace the industries which have been destroyed there; and in Great Britain, to make up lee-way.
– I understand that the balance of population was in our favour last year.
– But we ought not to limit our vision to the period that will be covered by a year or two after the close of the war. I have unbounded faith in the future of this country.
– It will take ten years to complete this scheme.
– I shall come to that point directly. We in Australia are unable to check what we have here by instituting a comparison with what exists) in other countries. We have no conception of the wealth of Australia. We have utilized its natural products, and because they have been so quickly forthcoming we have been inclined to treat, as secondrate, opportunities which, elsewhere, would be regarded as magnificent. This scheme is destined to support a bigger population than is possessed by three of the States to-day. I am very glad that the Government have decided to give effect to an undertaking which was prepared at the Conference to which I referred. There are other aspects of the matter which have been introduced into this debate largely owing to the persistent interjections of Senator Stewart, who seems to have challenged the right of Senator Grant to be regarded as the chief apostle of the gospel of the unearned increment. Generally speaking, it must be admitted that the carrying out of any big public work adds considerably to the value of the lands in the neighbourhood of that work. But in this particular instance the question of whether any increment will be derived by adjacent land-owners will depend entirely upon the rate which is to be charged for the use of the water. That rate will certainly eat up some portion of the added value of the land. The mere locking of the river will not add to its value. What will do so will be the placing of the water upon it. That, however, is an entirely secondary scheme.
– This is No. 1 proposal. Without this we could do nothing in that direction.
– We could, if we wanted, do a great deal. It is impossible to say whether any unearned increment will be derived by the lands in the vicinity of this undertaking. The subsidiary works will determine what that added value will be, and those charged with their control must decide how much of that unearned increment will find its way into the pockets of the land-owners, and how much of it will be absorbed in water rates.
– Without the subsidiary works we will not have the population.
– They are all part of the scheme to be covered by the £20,000,000 referred to. I recognise Senator Stewart’s difficulty, but if the Commonwealth is not to undertake any public work unless there is associated with it his scheme for collecting what he calls the community-created value, and what ordinary individuals call the unearned increment, it should be a general policy adopted throughout the Commonwealth.
– Let us begin now.
– If the honorable senator wishes to make a commencement with his proposal, he will be doing so on one of the most complicated matters that have come before this Chamber. He had a much easier task in adapting it to the Northern Territory when we were dealing with that portion of the Commonwealth.
– I tried to do so, as it was our own territory, and we were masters of the situation.
– And, therefore, we had no complications with State authorities.
– I tried it also in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, by asking the Western Australian Government to give us 20 miles on each side of the railway.
– And what did the Western Australian Government do? With a certain amount of slimness, which is to its credit or to its discredit, as one views it, it simply made a reserve on either side of the line. But that did not stop the honorable senator attempting to apply his principle to that work. In the case of the Northern Territory, however, I suggested that, as we were running a railway through the estates of large leaseholders, we should point out to these people that, as we were adding greatly to the value of their holdings by reason of the transport facilities being afforded to them, it would be fair to take some portion of their land from them and make it available for smaller settlers. But honorable senators merely gave casual attention to my suggestion, and it dropped. My point is that, if we are to get the communitycreated value, if we are to have the Commonwealth collecting the increment created by public expenditure, that principle should not be applied to any particular undertaking, but should be a general policy. To apply it to a single work would be unfair, not only to individuals, but also to particular States. It would lead to endless confusion and lay us open to a well-merited charge of having done an injustice.
– If we never make a beginning, it will never be done.
– And why not make a beginning with the Northern Territory when all the factors are under our control? Whether the land is leasehold or freehold, it makes no difference.
– Yes it does, because with leasehold there can be reappraisements.
– It is all very well to say that rents can be raised. They can be raised, but only within certain limits. As I was saying, if we are to apply the principle of the State collecting the increment created by its own expenditure, it could not be applied to a more complicated case than in connexion with the project now before the Chamber. In the first place, the land is controlled by the States, and they are intrusted with the task of carrying out all the subsidiary work, without which the scheme will be useless. In these circumstances, it seems almost impossible to adopt any fair scheme on the lines suggested by Senator’ Stewart. I ask him to recollect that there can be no more complicated or difficult problem of assessing the unearned increment than in the matter of this scheme.
– I did not propose to do so. I proposed to lend the £1,000,000 to the Murray Waters Commission instead of making a donation of it.
– I thought that the honorable senator was a bitter opponent of borrowing, and therefore would be a bitter opponent of lending. Apparently, his sole objection to the Bill amounts to an expenditure of £40,000 a year.
– It will be £45,000 a year.
– I was assessing the interest at 4 per cent. The honorable senator proposes to lend the money. The Government propose to give it. There is an amount of £40,000 a year standing between him and the realization of a national scheme.
– There is also £1,000,000. That must be repaid, seeing that we are borrowing the money.
– If we take the £1,000,000 from our own resources and lend it to the Commission, we do ‘no more than the Commission could do itself. It can borrow the £1,000,000 as well as we can, and in the circumstances we might as well stand out of the scheme altogether as adopt the suggestion of Senator Stewart. I was under the impression that the honorable senator meant that we should lend the money free of interest, in which case we should be paying £40,000 a year, or £45,000 at the outside, for this national scheme. The difference between lending and giving the money is £45,000 a year.
– The £1,000,000 has also to be repaid by us.
– If we borrow £1,000,000, for which we pay £45,000 every year, we do not have to make that annual payment when we repay the loan, and if we renew it we simply continue the £45,000 a year. An annual payment of £45,000 for this scheme is the most excellent bargain that has ever been offered to Australia.
– Three States will be borrowers for the rest of the outlay, so that the burden will rest on them equally with the Commonwealth.
– I do not know whether the States are coming to the Commonwealth cap-in-hand in order to find them the money in the shape of loans. We are drifting into a condition of affairs now - and it seems to me that it is not going to stop - in which the
States take up the -position of regarding the Commonwealth as a wellprovidedfor relative to whom they can come when they are in a necessitous condition. There must be a limit to this. It is all very well for the States to enter gladly and lightly upon big projects in the shape of public works for which the Commonwealth has to find the money. It will open a new era. If the Commonwealth has to find the money for the States it must charge itself with the responsibility of exercising some supervision over the works to be undertaken.
– Where are they going to raise the money ? They need money now to carry on their ordinary works.
– That is so; but the interjection raises an aspect which at the present juncture does not come within the scope of the Bill before us, and which may be left for discussion on another occasion. I wish to deal with the financial problem as it confronts us to-day. It is all very well to enter upon these schemes. Much as I approve of this project, I say that we cannot adopt it and give approval to it without giving some consideration to the financial aspect, and to the circumstances under which’ we accept our share of responsibility for it. The Minister, in urging the passage of the Bill, pointed out that we had no immediate financial responsibility of any magnitude. I think he said that it will be twelve or eighteen months before we shall be called upon to find more than the salaries necessary to pay the engineers and draughtsmen engaged in preparing the plans. I think that in my younger days I used to read an argument of that kind attached to a gentleman known by the name of Micawber. It i3 all very well for the Minister to say “ for twelve or eighteen months we shall not have to find the money, and, therefore, let us rush into the scheme.” The fact is that that period will have come and gone before we shall know where we are, and then we shall be up against the financial side of the proposal. I refuse to look upon this scheme as merely a relief work for returned soldiers.
– It is not.
– If I thought that it was being put forward in that way, I would not vote for the proposal, because I do not think it is necessary yet to talk of relief works.
– I said that it was impossible for a community of 5,000,000 persons to assimilate in ordinary pursuits 200,000 people in a period of twelve months.
– The Minister pointed out that one of the advantages of this scheme would be that when the soldiers returned this work would be in progress, and, therefore, we would be able to find employment for them.
– If the 200,000 returned soldiers get preference, they will displace somebody.
– The Minister did make the statement that a community of this size could not absorb 200,000 men rapidly, and, therefore, this work would provide a sort of haven of refuge for them.
– Not necessarily.
– The honorable senator led me to believe by his remarks that he looked upon this work, which would be in progress, as a means which would provide with employment a number of the soldiers or other men whom they might displace. I wish to dissociate myself from any idea that I am supporting the project as a sort of relief work. It is idle to rush into a project of this kind if we know that, in the ordinary progress of events, we shall be called upon in twelve or eighteen months to find a very substantial sum. Is there so much urgency about this work that we should immediately commit, not only ourselves, but the States, to an expenditure without a clear idea as to whether we can afford it or not? I wish to remind the Senate of the position of Australia to-day. Let me take the loan expenditure alone - and I assume that this work will have to be carried out with loan money. Last year the States spent loan money to the amount of £27,000,000, and, so far as I can see, they are quite prepared to spend as much more this year, if it can be raised. I do not doubt their capacity to spend double the money if they can find anybody willing to lend it to them. In Australia there has never yet been a disinclination on the part of a Government to borrow money provided that there was a lender, and I see no indication of a change.What the States spend this year will depend upon their borrowing capacity; but I presume that they will make a strenuous effort to spend nearly as much as they did last year. I assume that they will try to borrow as near to £27,000,000 as they can. Outside of the war, the Commonwealth is borrowing this year for its public works three and a third million pounds, and I expect that the war will necessitate our borrowing from £40,000,000 to £50,000,000 within the next twelve months. That makes £80,000,000 which we shall have to find somewhere in Australia; or, if we fail in that regard, it will cause a serious disruption somewhere. It is clear that the war expenditure is one which cannot be allowed to stop to the detriment of our military efficiency. I do not know whether honorable senators have considered the capacity of Australia to raise £80,000,000. It may be that a portion of the money may be obtainable from Home, although the indications there are not at all bright. I think that a little time ago we had an intimation from the Imperial authorities that the greatest service which Australia could render to them would be to finance itself. The intimation was given in those terms which are characteristic of communications from the Imperial Government, but was none the less plain and direct.
– That was when they cut out the item of £3,500,000 for public works.
– Since then, if the newspapers have informed us correctly, there has been another intimation that the Imperial Government are not disposed to take any responsibility, orto assist the States to obtain the money they want. They practically say to the States, “We do not feel disposed to assist you to carry on your public works.” These are all plain intimations that the source of supply hitherto so abundantly available to us is running dry. Therefore, it seems to me that Australia has to face the question of whether it is able to raise £80,000,000 largely in its own Territory within the year. To take that sum out of the ordinary business activities of this country will exercise a tremendous influence.
– It is likely to bring about a crisis.
– I hesitate to use terms of that kind, though I do not think there is any exaggeration in employing them. The war expenditure cannot be cut down. What other expenditure can be reduced? I think that, at this moment, we would be entirely disregarding the facts of the case, and our simple duty, if we were to add to our liabilities and responsibilities. I cannot help thinking that the Government would be doing the correct thing if, while asking Parliament to pass this measure, they gave us a plain intimation that no expenditure would be incurred, that the work would not be started, until the end of the war was in sight. The worst, and the only thing which would happen as the result of a policy of that kind would be that, in perhaps eighteen months or two years, there would be one less public work going on. That brings me to the remark of the Assistant Minister as to the power of this community to absorb 200,000 returned soldiers. He cannot overlook the fact that those men were withdrawn from this community. Therefore, if it cannot absorb that number thrown suddenly into its midst in a few weeks, what happened when they were withdrawn? One would think that the only effect of such withdrawals would be to make employment plentiful for those who remained. Yet, at the very time when that number of men were taken out of their ordinary private activities, and placed on the public pay-roll, we heard honorable senators protesting against the cutting down of public works expenditure for fear that it would create unemployment. If the country is in such a parlous condition that we dare not curtail such expenditure, the sooner we understand and face the position the better. I do not think that, with that large number of men withdrawn from ordinary avocations, there was any necessity for the Government to carry on a public works policy beyond the old scale. This is the time when surely they might have said, “ As the Commonwealth is employing the active men in the community, we may ease down the public works policy.”
– The drought created more unemployment than the war did.
– If any one ventures to suggest to the Government that they should cut down the expenditure on public works, he is immediately met with the cry, “ If you do that you will create unemployment.” According to that argument, this country is working up to its full limit. I cannot credit such a thing.
– There will be a shortage of labour for public works next month.
– Yet the Minister is asking the Senate to ignore the PublicWorks Act, and rush through a project to extend a railway in the Northern Territory, because if we do not we shall have 600 men unemployed there.
– You cannot bringthese men away without great expenseand difficulty. They are already working there.
– I admit that difficulty. At the same time, honorable senators will see that while the Government subscribe to the general doctrine that there ought to be an easing down in public expenditure, yet when one indicates a. particular work which might be postponed, he is met with a little local difficulty of that kind.
– The war has not affected us in the matter of employment as much as did the drought - the “ little- - drought.”
-“ Little drought “ was a ridiculous term, coming from one who ought to have known something of the conditions of Australia.
– It was used to avoid alarm at that particular moment.
– It was more ridiculous on that account. There was not a commercial centre in the world which did not know how we stood when it learned that a country which had been exporting wheat had a “little drought,” causing it to import. The point I wish to make clear is, that if we should reserve some public work so that at the end of the war we can absorb returned soldiers, or those whom they will displace, we ought to diminish the expenditure on public works now. To carry on with a full head of steam, and to hornet the moment the war is over with the demand that we must carry out this scheme, seems to me not only unsound in itself, but absolutely wanting in logic.
– What particular works would you stop?
– That is the point I mentioned when I said, “ While the Government profess to subscribe to thedoctrine that we should go slowly with our public works policy, yet, when one mentions a particular work, a local difficulty associated with that work is brought forward as a reason why it should be proceeded with.” What are the Government going to do with the men in the
Northern Territory when the proposed railway extension is finished ?
– They will be in Adelaide when it is finished.
– Is it the intention of the Government to duplicate the track, and bring the men back to the Northern Territory. I am afraid that this is another of the things associated with all sorts of fairy predictions as to what will happen, which are discounted as little by little the true facts are brought home to the people.
– What about the 500,000 people the honorable senator conjured up a few minutes ago?
– There is a vast difference between 500,000 men employed upon a public work and the same number of men settled on the land producing something to maintain themselves and to assist in maintaining the community. I have said that the scheme in itself is an entirely admirable one. But the point I am urging now is whether, in view of the fact that Australia will have to find £80,000,000 somewhere within the next twelve months, and that we have no knowledge as to when the extraordinary demands now made upon us will cease - since no man would be so bold as to say that the war will be over in twelve months’ time - we ought at this time to undertake this additional obligation.
– The honorable senator ought to be opposing the Bill instead of supporting it.
– I support the scheme, and will vote for the second reading of the Bill to show that I do support it, but I am at the same time urging that the policy which the Government should adopt is to say that while they approve of the scheme they are not prepared to enter into any financial responsibility in connexion with it until they see a little more clearly than it is possible for them to do to-day, the position in which they will stand financially at the termination of the war. I express a whole-hearted approval of the project covered by the Bill, but I say that we have a right to be cautious about entering upon any expenditure which it will involve. I find some comfort in the fact that the Bill itself makes no appropriation of money to give effect to its purpose. I recognise that if the Bill is passed it will be within the competence of the Government to start the machinery contemplated under the measure, that that will involve expenditure, and that the Commonwealth will have to take its share of the liability. But it is also within the competence of the Government to inform the State Governments with whom they are associated in the Murray Waters Agreement that they are not prepared to accept any financial liability under it during the currency of the war, and that at the close of the war they will consider the financial position, and then decide whether they are able to go on with this scheme or not. To-day we are being asked to sign promissory notes, without the slightest knowledge of where we are to get the money to redeem them. That does not appear to me to be a practical, common-sense or business-like proceeding. I therefore urge the Government, whilst in no sense wavering in their support of the scheme, as I do not waver in my support of it, to take the view that, as at the present moment the Commonwealth is confronted with a stupendous financial obligation, the like of which has been unknown in Australia heretofore, they should plainly intimate to the State Governments concerned that until later on, when our financial position is more clearly defined, and they know how far we can meet the liabilities consequent on the war, they will not be in a position to take up the financial obligation imposed upon them by the Bill which has been presented for our acceptance.
– I am in a difficult position in dealing with this measure, because while I approve of the locking of the Murray and the conservation of its waters for navigation and irrigation, I disapprove of the means by which it is proposed to carry out this work. We have listened to a most optimistic speech from the Leader of the Opposition. He has drawn a very fine picture of what is going to take place along the banks of the Murray after this scheme has been put into operation. I agree very largely with the honorable senator’s forecast of what will follow if the scheme is properly carried out. I believe that it will result in a very large settlement of people on irrigable lands along the banks of the Murray. That it will practically add a province to Australia I have not the slightest doubt. But I object to the method by which this scheme is to be carried out. Senator Millen referred to my objection with regard to the community-created value. He said that if we are going to adopt the policy of appropriating the communitycreated value for the community, we should make that policy general in its application, but that this is not the time to do that, and some other occasion would afford a better opportunity. I say that this is the time. This is an opportunity when the Commonwealth Government might at least do something in the direction indicated.
– If we are to tax the full unearned increment on the banks of the Murray, why should we not apply the same principle to the banks of the Brisbane ?
– I quite agree with the Assistant Minister. If the Commonwealth advances money to aid settlement on the banks of the Brisbane, it is not only the right of the Commonwealth Government to see that at least some proportion of the value created by the community in that way comes back to the community, but it is their absolute duty.
– Then we should bring down a general proposal, and should not deal with only one section.
– The honorable senator says that we should have an allembracing scheme. No sooner does he secure a seat on the Treasury bench than he immediately begins quoting the litany of Conservatism. From time immemorial, whenever a scheme of reform has been submitted for their consideration, the Conservatives have said, “This is not the time. The time is not ripe. Some other day we will consider this matter.”
– I did not say anything of the sort. I said that there ought not to be a sectional application of a general principle.
– I point out that the control of this £1,000,000 is in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. What do they propose to do with it? They propose to assist South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales to conserve the waters of the Murray. That is a most laudable project. The thing ought to be done. The scheme is, also, one in which the Commonwealth ought to play its part. I have no objection whatever to that aspect of the matter. But when it is proposed, as it is under this
Bill, that we should present the landowners along the Murray and its tributaries with the land value that will be created by the expenditure of this money, so far as I am personally concerned I must call a halt. I am not prepared to donate millions of money to the fortunate people who at present own land along the banks of the Murray. If any honorable senator came forward here, and proposed that we should present any class in the community with a few millions sterling without value returned, he would be scorned, and, at the next general elections, he would be very properly turned out of his position in this Parliament. But we have a Government calmly coming forward and actually making a proposition, the inevitable result of which will be to enrich the fortunate owners of land alone the banks of the Murray. I cannot be a party to any such proposal. I say that the Labour party ought not to be a party to any such proposal, and no member of the Labour party has any right to support a proposition of that character. If he does so, he will be directly violating the platform of the party. I should like to give honorable senators some idea of the magnitude and importance of this proposal, and the far-reaching nature of its effects if it is carried out, as I hope it will be. I propose to quote from a report of a Royal Commission on the Murray River, which appears in the Proceedings of tha Parliament of South Australia for 1903, volume 2, paper No. 22. I quote from pages 21 and 22. This is what the members of the Commission said -
The extent of irrigable land in the Murray basin - that is, land commandable by water and of quality and character suitable for wet culture - within the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia is shown in the following tabular statement. It is not to be understood that the whole of this can be irrigated in any one year. It cannot be so. The available volume of water is wholly insufficient, even in years of high river discharge. It is the land that might be profitably irrigated if water were available.
I find from the report that in New South Wales the area of irrigable land is no less than 43,542,400 acres; in Victoria, the irrigable area is 4,000,000 acres; and in South Australia the irrigable area is 2,500,000 acres. The total irrigable area in the three States amounts to 50,042,400 acres.
– What does the honorable senator mean by “ irrigable area “ when he says that this is irrigable “ if the water were available “ t
– I mean the land capable of being irrigated if the water were available. This is according to the report of the Commission to which I have referred. I have not the slightest doubt that some day in the future every acre of this area will be irrigated.
– If the water is available.
– The water can be made available. I believe that the enterprise of the people who will live in Australia in the future will see that every single acre of this huge area is irrigated.
– From the Murray ?
– I do not know where they will get the water, but I am sure that they will get it. I point out that 48,000,000 acres of this area can be irrigated by gravitation.
– In New South Wales and Victoria.
– The honorable senator has added a nought too many.
– No, I have not, as Senator Millen will see if he turns to the report of the South Australian Commission.
– The levels of the country may be suitable if the water were available; but the water is not there.
– In South Australia, for a portion of the irrigable area of 2,500,000 acres, the water will require to be pumped to a height of 110 feet, and for the irrigation of 1,500,000 acres it will have to be pumped to a height of 160 feet. Honorable senators will see that the prospect before us is almost illimitable. That being the case, it is all the more necessary that we should take care that the interests of the community are properly conserved. Senator Millen referred to the large settlement which will follow, and to the splendid opportunity which will be afforded to moneyless men. He emphasized the fact that men without money, and having nothing but their own strong arms and clear heads, will have an opportunity to settle on these irrigated lands which is denied to them in every other part of the Commonwealth. I should be very glad if I could agree with Senator Millen in this particular. If the community-created values were secured to the community, it would be possible in this area to settle a large number of men with comparatively small means, but, knowing how the values of these lands will immediately jump and soar, I have not much hope of moneyless people ever being settled on these areas. I have no doubt the position at Mildura is very much better than it was in 1902, but in that year the irrigable area was 35,000 acres, of which about 10,000 acres were under intense culture. The population of Mildura was then 4,000, and the capital value of the improved lands was £500,000, “ which fact,” says the report, “ seeing that they were practically valueless without irrigation, affords an excellent objectlesson of what can be accomplished by skilful cultivation and judicious application of water.” The average value, on the figures I have given, was nearly £30 per acre.
– Do you know how long it takes before a tree will bear fruit profitably ? In the case of oranges, you have to wait for five to six years before you get a return.
– Only in the case of seedling oranges. You wait about three years with grafted trees. The report further says -
Mildura and Renmark are notable as the only settlements in Australia which, as a eonsequence of the concentration rendered practicable by irrigation, can afford the advantages of town life.
That raises probably the most important aspect of the irrigation question. Everywhere the people are leaving the land and drifting into the cities. I wish I could share Senator Millen’s belief that the cities are not congested. To my mind, the proportion of city to country populations in Australia is much opposed to the well-being of the Commonwealth. The people desire to live in communities, and here is a chance to give a large number of people who would engage in agricultural occupations the opportunity to live in contiguity with their fellow creatures, but the prospects of success depend entirely upon the conditions upon which the people are settled on the land. Water, sunshine, and labour are the three great necessities for making crops grow, but if we allow the land-owner to mop up the economic value of the land we place the holder of it in as bad a position as those who were settled on that country before irrigation or navigation was brought about. I can see in my mind’s eye these 400,000 people settled along the basin of the Murray, growing crops of every conceivable kind, but I see them also practically in the position of wage-slaves, unless something is done to divert the huge community-created values into the public Treasury instead of into the pockets of. private land-holders. The difference between the money going into the hands of private individuals and into the public Treasury is as great as the difference between night and day.
– Not for the man who pays it.
– Certainly. If it goes into the pockets of private individuals, it is lost to the community, which can do little else than tax the possessor. If it goes into the public Treasury, it is available to relieve the burden of taxation, and to carry on public works without the necessity of borrowing. What we are here to see is that justice is done to the community. If the values created by the community are paid to private individuals, the community is robbed.
– The community now owns the lands on which these things are to be created.
– We have no information on that point.
– The community does not own it.
– On that point I prefer to believe Senator Millen. If any, the community owns a very small proportion. If the community creates values by the expenditure of public money, the community ought to benefit, and I cannot see how any honorable member of the Senate can support a policy of which the result is to plunder the community. In the case of Renmark, the concession was 250,000 acres, and the area under the new Trust, in 1902, was 12,000 acres. Quoting again from the report-
Three thousand acres of irrigated land maintained 1,000 persons, whereas a neighbouring station, “ Chowilla,” having an area of 250,000 acres, carried only 5,000 sheep, although the soil is mostly similar to that of Renmark.
– That is good journalism, but not good fact. The 5,000 sheep do not look after themselves.
– There might be one or two men looking after them.
– Is the station freehold?
– The report is, unfortunately, silent on that point. I am merely pointing out the extraordinary advantages of irrigation, and that is all the more reason why we should be exceedingly careful of what we do to-day. The report says further -
On the banks of the Nile there are five persons to every acre cultivated. Professor Hilgard says, “Arid countries are always rich countries when irrigated.”
This part of Australia is undoubtedly arid, and the soil is probably rich in the materials for the production of crops. All it wants is water, and that is what we propose to supply under this Bill. We can perhaps find in California the best instances of the advantages of irrigation, and on this point the report says -
Riverside, orange growing colony in Southern California, discloses astonishing results. The settlement, originally consisting of 2,000 acres of pastoral land, bought at 10s. per acre, has been gradually extended till it now embraces 10,000 acres. The farms are from five to ten acres in size. When irrigation was available the land sold at £5 an acre.
I read in another report that this land had been originally bought for 5s. an acre. It was parcelled out to the first holders when water was available at £5 . per acre.
– With a water right.
– With a water right.
A few years later unimproved lands were sold at from £60 to £100 per acre. Improved irrigated orchards evolved from the sheep pasture sold at from £200 to £400 per acre.
Here is another quotation from a book written by Mr. Elwood Mead, who was formerly Victorian expert in irrigation - a book entitled Irrigation Institutions -
Lands which were once not worth £2 10s. an acre have, by irrigation, been made worth £360 per acre.
The prospects which are held out to us under this proposal are very alluring, but unless something is done a very large proportion of the advantages to be derived from it will be availed principally by one class of the community - the persons who fortunately own the lands which will one day be irrigated. So far as I have been able to discover, neither the Government of New South Wales nor that of Victoria or South Australia has done anything whatever to resume the irrigable land.
– Then the honorable senator has not searched the South Australian records.
– The bulk of the lands along the banks of the Murray are Crown lands, and these have been reserved.
– I am very glad to hear that statement, but I am afraid that there is a very considerable proportion of privately-owned lands there. I would like to be assured to the contrary. If there is a considerable proportion ‘ of privately-owned lands there, what is happening everywhere else will happen there. The moment the State spends money on public improvements, the private owner of land will capitalize the improvements, and the unfortunate people who come after will have to face just as bad an. economic condition as they would have done had those improvements not been effected. The Labour party are in politics to get for the community the value which the community creates. It does not matter two straws what Parliament may do. It may shorten hours, it may increase wages, and it may confer a number of benefits upon the workers of this country, but, whilst it permits communitycreated values to pass into the pockets of private individuals, whilst it allows private land-owners to capitalize those community-created values, the industrial emancipation of the worker can never be accomplished. Unless we stop this huge leakage - this theft-
– Might we not stop private enterprise at the same time?
– -I have no desire to do so. Honorable senators know just as well as I do the methods which are followed by the holders of land. Whenever they discover that some great public improvement is to be effected, they snap up areas of land.
– The honorable senator speaks as if he had been moving amongst them.
– I know something of their methods, and I suppose that the honorable senator does, also. There is a class in the Commonwealth today who do nothing else but look here, there, and everywhere for opportunities of this character. They get in early. I am sure they are getting in along the banks of the Murray now. Having got in, they sit down and wait till the opportune moment arrives when the pressure becomes so great that the unfortunate people, who are anxious to get land, are prepared to pay them their price for it. Every advantage which’ the expenditure of public money, and the construction of improvements, ought to bring to the community is capitalized by the land-owners in the price which they charge for their land. It is this system which is responsible for a very great measure of the industrial serfdom which exists in the community at present. Take the case of men who pay £60 and £100 an acre for land which was originally bought for 40s., or, possibly, 10s. per acre. What is their position? Suppose that a man buys 10 acres at £60 per acre. On a 5 per cent, basis his expenditure represents a rental qf £3 per acre - a charge which he ought not to be called upon to pay. If he pays rent at all it should be to the community, and not to the private individual. My objection to this scheme is that no safeguard has been provided against this sort of thing.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I can suggest nothing. Some honorable senators have said to me that the Commonwealth will have power to tax the holdings.
– The minimum will be very small then.
– That is so.
– Not if the lands are going to reach the value of the riverside blocks that have been quoted by the honorable senator.
– Who is the pessimist now? Only a little while ago Senator Millen painted a very fine picture, and one which’, I think, will materialize. Whether we do the right thing or the wrong thing the people will be settled along the Murray, but if we do not do the right thing they will be living in industrial slavery. It is a scandal if such a thing is permitted. In the old days, when the Conservatives were in power, we accepted this position as a matter of course. It represented their policy, and they pursued it. But what about the Labour party, who are in power now ? This is one of the things that that party came into existence to kill. Yet what are we doing? We are endeavouring to perpetuate it. I will not be a party to anything of the kind.
– What would the honorable senator have us do ?
– There are two things which can be done. Apparently we cannot tax these lands. There are two Labour Governments involved in this proposal, and neither has taken any steps, to cure the evil of which I complain.
More shame to them. There is one Conservative Government involved in the scheme. We did not expect that it would do what I have suggested. But we did expect some decent adhesion to principle on the part of Labour Governments. Yet we have none. Every Labour member in Australia is pledged to get the communitycreated values for thecommunity. Yet no attempt is being made to do it. There are two alternatives which present themselves to this Parliament. The first is to refuse to sanction the expenditure of the £1,000,000 which it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall expend on this scheme until some arrangements have been made by means of which the community-created values along the Murray and within the benefited area will be secured to the various States connected with the scheme and to the Commonwealth.
– How can we do that in cases where lands have been sold years ago?
– Here is another old and Conservative argument. I can remember when it was quite a common practice to keep pigs in centres of population. Then some sanitary crank got up on his hind legs one fine morning, and told the public that the practice was an unhealthy one, and that the pigs ought to be sent to the outskirts of the town. But there were men like my friend Senator Senior, who were very careful to point out that pigs had been kept there from time immemorial, and that it would be a very wrong thing to disturb them. The honorable senator’s interjection is a repetition of the same argument - the same old story. I do not mind listening to it when it comes from members of the Opposition, but when it comes from the chosen people it seems to me that it is a very strange thing indeed.
– It is not so strange as are some of the honorable senator’s arguments.
– No doubt they sound very strange to the honorable senator. The Government can refuse to sanction the expenditure of the £1,000,000 that it is proposed the Commonwealth shall incur in connexion with this scheme unless the conditions which I have outlined are fulfilled. Senator Millen gave a most excellent reason why nothing should be done at the present moment in connexion with this matter. In all seriousness, I ask honorable sena tors where is the need for hurry? Every honorable senator knows the position that Australia occupies at this juncture. I recollect the time, in the early days of Federation, when it was our boast that we had no debt.
– And that we never would have any.
– We did not contemplate the war then.
– I am sorry to say that, before the outbreak of the war, our indebtedness was being built up at an extraordinary rate. While the war continues our public expenditure should be cut down to the very bone. As Senator Millen has pointed out very truly, nearly 200,000 men have been withdrawn from their ordinary avocations in Australia. Surely if ever there was an opportunity for the Commonwealth and the States to do without borrowing, it presents itself now, because the work done by these 200,000 men must be done by others, and there should be opportunities offering for men to be employed on other than public works. I do not wish to enter upon a disquisition as to the borrowing disease which affects Australia so very heavily; but I point out that we are proceeding upon entirely false economic lines by maintaining a huge army of workmen on borrowed money while our lands, which ought to be a great source of wealth and livelihood, are allowed, to a large extent, to lie unproductive. This borrowing business cannot continue for very long. Already the British Government have told us that they will be very much obliged if we could find money in Australia, or wherever else we please, to carry on our public works. In language more or less polite, we have been told that the British Government are not prepared to find loan money for works in Australia at present, or even in the immediate future. That being the case, we should go slowly, and it is a very good reason why this Bill should not be passed. We were not at war when this business was first mooted, and the agreement was entered into by the Liberal Government. I am not at all surprised as to its terms, seeing that it came from such a source; but that a Government holding diametrically opposite opinions on the land question and other related matters should carry out an agreement of this character entered into by a Liberal Government is somewhat surprising to me, more especially at a time when every farthing we have, or can get, is required for the purposes of the defence of the Empire. This is a time when the Government may very well hold its hand, and the Senate may very well say to the Government, “ Hold your hand; no more expenditure until we see how and when the war is going to terminated” I have said that the Government may refuse the £1,000,000; but if they are determined to help in carrying out this scheme there is an alternative - they may lend the money to the Murray Waters Commission. If we make a donation of £1,000,000 to the Commission, we involve ourselves in an annual interest payment of £45,000, and, in addition, must pay a Commissioner and a Deputy Commissioner and the expenses of their offices.
– Our total liability is covered by £1,000,000.
– I was under the impression that the Commonwealth Government would have to pay a Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.
– Of course, we may be sure that if the scheme is not the success anticipated, there will be no appeals to the Commonwealth for assistance.
– Let us deal with the appeals when they come.
– The old story. “ Deal with the appeals when they come; but get it started anyhow.”
– That reminds me of the story of the camel which got its head into the tent, and by-and-by got his shoulder in, and then, before the occupant knew where he was, it was right inside the tent. We had a very good example of this in regard to the Northern Territory. The picture that was painted as to the great advantage the acquisition of the Northern Territory would be to the Commonwealth was something beautiful. We were told that we could settle thousands of people there, and that the Territory would be a source of great revenue to us. We know what the result has been. If we agree to give this £1,000,000 we shall be involved in an annual payment of £45,000. Are honorable senators prepared to make a donation of £45,000 to the land-owners along the River Murray ? Because that is practi cally what it means. I am not prepared to do so. We hear the question frequently asked, “ How are old-age pensions to be provided for when such a huge interest bill is to be paid - such as we have never had to pay before?” or, “ How is this or that expenditure to be met?”
– The reply was given last week in another place that old-age pensions could not be increased because of the exigencies of the Treasury.
– The “wretched” old-age pensioner is still to get his or her 10s. per week, notwithstanding the fact that the cost of living has increased by 25 per cent., and notwithstanding that pensioners were promised an increase some time ago. They will have to forego that increase while this donation of £45,000 per year is to be paid to the land-owners along the River Murray. I do not propose to be a party to anything of the kind. If these people are to have this £1,000,000, let us lend it to them, and let them pay interest and sinking fund upon it.
– They can easily do so if there is any truth in the picture that has been put before us.
– It would be the merest bagatelle for them to do it. Any one hearing of the glowing possibilities of this scheme as disclosed to us would say that there are millions of pounds in it.
SenatorGardiner. - Hundreds of millions.
– Then let the people who are to benefit more particularly by it repay the money to the Commonwealth.
– The whole of the Commonwealth will benefit by it, and the whole of the Commonwealth should pay for it.
– That is an undiluted platitude. The whole of the Commonwealth will not benefit by it. Those who will more particularly and especially benefit by it are those who are settled on the banks of the River Murray. In many a corner of Australia the people, instead of being benefited, will be injured. The probability is that when this scheme is launched injury will result to a considerable number of people living in Queensland.
– In what way ?
-In Queensland, we grow a large number of oranges. If this scheme goes ahead the people along the Murray River will be able to grow large quantities of oranges, not only for the people of Australia, but also, I hope, for the export trade. But I do not base my opposition to the scheme on these grounds, though I might very well do so ; I am merely pointing out that, so far from benefiting by the carrying out of this scheme, considerable numbers of people throughout the Commonwealth will be injured, and the statement that every one will benefit is misrepresenting the matter. Everybody will not benefit. The more successful the scheme will be the more likely it will be to injure people who are already settled on some of the outlying lands of Australia. I intend to vote against the second reading of the Bill.
– Is not irrigation part of the platform of the Labour party?
– Here is another quibble ! I do not know whether that is parliamentary language, but it expresses my opinion of the interjection. Irrigation is on the platform of the Labour party, but not irrigation under the conditions laid down in the Bill before us. If the honorable senator thinks that he can blind me by this verbal juggling, he is very much mistaken. It may do very well when speaking to other people, but it has no effect on me other than to make me wonder what kind of man we have in the honorable senator who uttered the statement. His suggestion that because irrigation is on the Labour platform, I must be prepared to agree to irrigation on any terms is utterly unworthy of one holding a position in this Chamber, much less a seat on the Treasury bench. I am not prepared to do anything of the kind. I seek to have irrigation upon the terms laid down in the Labour platform.
– How would the honorable senator carry out the system of irrigation laid down in this cheme, and at the same time protect the interests of the people from private land-owners?
– I would have an area of land adjacent to and on both sides of the Murray, which would be benefited by the operations of the Commission, marked out by men skilled in that kind of work, and I would resume every acre of it at its present value, plus a sum to be fixed for disturbance. Then the land to be benefited by the money to be expended by the three State Governments and the Commonwealth would be owned by the Commission, and the Commission could impose whatever conditions it pleased upon the people taking up areas for cultivation purposes. I am sure that this Parliament will not allow the Commission to impose other than fair conditions. I am sure that those conditions would be very much fairer than they would be if the whole matter were left, as is proposed in the Bill, to the tender mercies of private enterprise. I think that the water ought to be conserved, that navigation ought to be provided for, and that people ought to be settled on this country; but I contend that they ought to be settled in such a way as not to make them the victims of the present system; not to place them in a condition of industrial slavery and servitude.
– The present Bill will do that.
– Certainly the Bill will do that; and that is my objection to it. If I get an opportunity, I shall move an amendment to the effect that the Commonwealth lend £1,000,000 to the Trust.
– The politest thing I can say about the address of Senator Stewart is that it had no foundation. His reasoning was unsound, because he had not made himself acquainted with the position along the banks of the Murray. Apparently he is not aware that in South Australia the largest portion of the land traversed by the river is held by the Government.
– I am very glad to hear that.
– Starting at the border, we find the Bookmark Station, on which the Renmark settlement is located, is held by the State Government under a short lease, with power to resume the land at any time for irrigation purposes, and without liability to pay for disturbance. At a distance of 12 miles from Renmark we come to Berri, a settlement formed by the State Government on land resumed from Cobdogla Station. It is under a Water Trust, on which a Government official has equal power with persons elected by the settlers. The unimproved values belong absolutely to the State Government.
– And the Government made the improved values.
– The whole point of Senator Stewart’s argument was the unimproved values. The Cobdogla Station, I may explain, extends close to Overland Corner. That comprises the whole of the irrigable land on the northern side of the Murary. Then Senator Stewart raised an objection about private owners. What has been the result of settlement on the Murray ? It originated out of the village settlements which were started many years ago.
– And they were all failures.
– No; the village settlements have been the greatest success which Australia has experienced, because they have demonstrated what can be done with the land.
– At the time they relieved the unemployed difficulty.
– At a time of very great depression, a number of individuals were deported, practically, to village settlements along the Murray to undertake cultivation. Unfortunately, they had had little experience in this sort of work; but the effect of their settlement was to demonstrate the value of the land for cultivation, and very many of the settlers are still. located there. Men who acquired a knowledge of how to use the land and cultivate trees are to be found to-day settled in Moorak, Pyap, Lyrup, Kingston, Holder, New Era, and other places, successful owners of the land they took up under those conditions. What was the effect of that experiment? It was to direct the attention of farmers to the fact that land along the Murray could be cultivated without irrigation. It became necessary for the village settlers to have a supply of hay and wheat, and so it was found that the land could be profitably cultivated. The unearned increment of this land, I may tell Senator Stewart, was a halfpenny per acre. He could have gone to the celebrated Loxton district, and got 1,600 acres on perpetual lease at a rental of a halfpenny per acre per year. What would the unearned increment be?
– I do not know.
– It would be very little.
– It might not.
– The honorable senator talked about giving the unearned increment to the people. Here is a case where it was valued at a halfpenny per acre. I venture to say that the progressive land tax imposed by the Commonwealth has extracted the whole of the unearned increment of that land. Is the honorable senator satisfied with that result? The next argument which he used was that the consideration of this scheme should be deferred to a future time. He spoke about the arguments in support of the project as being Conservative. If ever I heard a Conservative argument it was when he urged that the consideration of this measure ought to be deferred. In his opinion, the time is never opportune to do a good thing. The opportune time always lies in the future, never in the present.
– It is a sound Tory argument.
– There was a good deal of sound in the argument, but not much sense. In 1887 a Commission was appointed by South Australia to confer with the other States, and it remained in existence until 1894, when they could not get a meeting.
– You could go back to 1863.
– Yes; but I am now speaking of an attempt to induce the three States to come to an agreement under which this project could be carried out. From 1894 to 1902 correspondence was continually passing between the States in the effort to bring about an agreement. It was felt all along that the Murray should be locked, because of the need there was to conserve the water for navigation. An honorable senator has only to glance at the map here for a moment to see that it is the finest highway in Australia. Absolutely, it gives access to some of the best land to be found in Australia; and seeing that water carriage is very much cheaper than land carriage, it shows at once that to the settlers along the tributaries, as well as the Murray itself, it is absolutely indispensable that navigation as well as irrigation should be considered. The first Conference to deal with this question was held in Corowa in 1902. It resulted in a joint Commission being appointed ; but its findings, if adopted, would have reduced the quantity of water to which South Australia would have been entitled, so that the channel would have been practically dry for ten months in some years, and generally for a period of five and a quarter months. In 1903 a tentative agreement was arived at by the Premiers sitting in Sydney, but it was not ratified by the States. In 1904, in the South Australian Parliament, Captain Ritchie tabled a motion to the effect that South Australia should move for an injunction to restrain Victoria from taking water from the Murray for her very large irrigation works. At that time a weir had been built across the Goulburn River. A large quantity of water had been taken from that tributary of the Murray, and the Tooleybuc scheme particularly seemed to cause Captain Ritchie to think that Victoria was taking a very much larger quantity of water than she was entitled to have; but since then, I may point out, that has not rested with one State alone. Other diversion schemes would have been carried on, not merely for the irrigation of a small area like Mildura or Whitecliff, or even Renmark itself, but for developing large areas. These schemes have rendered the river largely unnavigable for many months in the year, so that, without locking, South Australia is losing considerably.
– Is not irrigation more important than navigation?
– I think that a man would need a great deal of wisdom to be able to say which is the more important, seeing that the two problems are so linked up together. Navigation is needed for the cheap carriage of that which is produced by irrigation. Not only did Victoria divert a large quantity of water from the Murray, but she also built railways to the river, with the view to divert the traffic to her own capital. One or two of the States were continually making use of the waters of the Murray, whilst South Australia was being deprived of the water she needed. Does Senator Stewart contemplate for a moment that he is going to impede what he acknowledges to be one of the greatest national schemes undertaken in Australia ? He believes he says, that all that Senator Millen has said will materialize.
– So I do, but it ought to materialize under proper conditions.
– What are the proper’ conditions? The unimproved value of the land is½d. per acre, and the Commonwealth is getting the whole of that to-day by means of its land tax.
– How do you know?
– I have shown my honorable friend that prior to the demonstration of what irrigation could do. the land along the banks of the Murray was worth a rental of Ad. per acre, and if that rental is capitalized it will be found that the total land tax collected by the Commonwealth from the owners of that land has been greater than the whole of the unearned increment. Because it is not proposed to carry out the scheme in what he regards as a proper way, the honorable senator says he is prepared to vote against the second reading of the Bill. The honorable senator believes that this proposal will result in great national benefit, and in the successful settlement on these lands of thousands of people. He believes that the areas will be small and within the reach of poor men, and then he says that he will vote against the proposal.
– How can the Federal Government get any land tax from these lands?
– TheFederal Government to-day get income tax as well as land tax.
– Income tax is not community-created value.
– I have said that one halfpenny per acre represents the unimproved value of these lands.
– What will be the unimproved value when this scheme is carried out?
– Senator Stewart quoted the case of an orchard that yielded a certain amount per year, and he talked about the community-created value in that case. That was individually-created value.
– I told the honorable senator that in that case the unimproved value of the land was £60 per acre.
– That is not a true statement of the position as regards the lands to be served by this scheme.
– I have not said that it was.
– That cannot be said to be the value of the land at Renmark or Lyrup. I can inform Senator Stewart that in the centre of the Renmark community there was some land which was considered low and swampy, and regarded as worthless. It was passed over by all the selectors, who preferred to take up land a mile or two miles further back, that was more difficult to cultivate, and involved the carrying of the produce a greater distance. The honorable senator would say that the community-created value covered that low, swampy land, as it did all the land surrounding it. However, one man thought that this land, which was generally regarded as worthless, might be made valuable by the application of gypsum to it. He applied gypsum to the land, with the result that it was found to be more fruitful than, the land which had first been selected in the district. That was a case, not of community, but of individually, created value. Senator Stewart would say that the value of that land, after the application of gypsum to it, had shown how fruitful it might be made, was community-created value, although, until an individual had experimented with it, it had been passed over by every one.
– We do not tax improvements. The application of gypsum was an improvement.
– On that argument we could not tax an acre of land along the Murray. I can give honorable senators an idea of what has taken place on the South Australian irrigation lands. I can speak of the matter with full knowledge. I have the Bill under which the regulations concerning them were framed before me, and it was passed in the South Australian Parliament when I was a member of it. The land was resumed from a lease held by the owners of Cobdogla Station.
– How much land?
– The area resumed was 2,000 acres, which was as much as it was at first thought would be taken up. It was surveyed in blocks of from 10 to 50 acres, and any person securing a block of irrigable land could have an allotment further back for residential purposes. The Government constructed the channels through which the water was to be run, and they purchased and erected the engine to pump the water from the Murray. A trust was formed by the selectors, and a Government officer was appointed chairman of the trust. The rates to be paid for the water were fixed by the trust, and the Government specified what was to be paid annually as rental for the land. Every selector had the choice of secur ing an area as a perpetual lease, or of making the land his own. Senator Stewart would not object to that, and yet he says that if things were different he would vote for this Bill.
– I want to pin the honorable senator down to something. Does he say that the land in South Australia, that will be affected by this Bill, has been resumed by the State Government?
– No, I do not say that.
– The honorable senator said that before; he is now contradicting himself.
– I pointed out clearly that when the village settlers went up there others took up perpetual leases for larger holdings, and they came from the Murray flats. I could give the honorable senator the names of some of the owners of land there.
– I want to know how much of the irrigable area of 2,500,000 acres has been resumed?
– I could not tell the honorable senator that. The area of 2,500,000 acres, of which he speaks, extends a long way back from the river. As the honorable senator has read from the report to which he referred, water required to cover some of that land would have to be lifted 200 feet, and it cannot be economically lifted more than 125 feet at present.
– I understand that they are lifting it 160 feet.
– That is to send water to land many miles back from the river. It is not being lifted 160 feet for irrigation purposes. The SurveyorGeneral of South Australia informed me that 125 feet is the highest economic lift to-day. Whilst an area of 1,400,000 acres along the banks of the Murray is capable of irrigation, it is well known that there is not sufficient water in the Murray to irrigate that area.
– How many acres can be irrigated ?
– Under the most careful conservation, with locks and storage basins, the mean flow of the Murray is sufficient to irrigate only 1,400,000 acres in the three States concerned.
– How much of that area in South Australia has been resumed ?
– South Australia to-day holds the whole of the country from Overland Corner to the border on the northern side under leases that can be resumed at six months’ notice.
– But they have not been resumed yet.
– Is not that a petty interjection, when,, I tell the honorable senator that they can be resumed upon six months’ notice? The pastoralists, having flocks and herds running on that land, know that it may be so resumed from them by the Government. The lands are resumed as they are required, and the whole of the unearned increment goes to the State. The honorable senator can, therefore, have no objection to this scheme, so far as it affects South Australia. In 1903 a Conference of Premiers was held in Sydney, when certain terms were proposed. It might be interesting to Senator Stewart to notice that South Australia is not asking for any more to-day, nor is she getting as much by the Agreement as was proposed at that Conference. I point out that, under the proposals then made, the Federal Government undertook the locking of the Murray. I wish to impress upon honorable senators that this is not a new scheme. The Federal Government are not now undertaking the locking of the Murray, and Senator Stewart objects that they should assume responsibility for one-fifth of the cost. He says that we should wait until the war is over. I want to tell him that South Australia has begun operations already, so vitally is she interested in the matter!
– She has not on her shoulders the burden of the war which has to be borne by the Commonwealth.
– She is assuming one-third of the burden of locking tie Murray. To show how many difficulties! she has had to overcome, I may say that, in 1905, there was a project that South Australia should bear only one-third of the cost of the construction of the Lake Victoria storage basin. That was agreed to by the Premiers of the States interested. But when they brought it before their respective Parliaments, I suppose they had to deal with some persons like Senator Stewart, who were looking for unearned increments. The)’ said that the time was not opportune, and the proposal was not confirmed, with the result that South Australia has to pay £20,000 for the right to conserve water in Lake Victoria. She has to buy the land practically to conserve the water there. At her own expense she has to construct weirs and locks to take the water into Frenchman’s Creek, and besides that, she has now to construct the whole of the locks - nine in number - from Blanchetown right up to that point. Senator Stewart says, “ We will lend them the money.” The honorable senator speaks as a bloated aristocrat and great money-lender. He cries out against the Commonwealth borrowing money, but he has no objection to lending money to the States, provided they pay a satisfactory rate of interest. What is the value of his virtue? South Australia, in conjunction with the other States, will have to borrow £4,000,000 out of the £5,000,000 required to finance this scheme; and is it any particular virtue on the part of Senator Stewart that he should be willing that the Commonwealth should lend them £1,000,000 in addition at the same rate of interest? When the Assistant Minister was speaking, the honorable senator interjected, “ We can keep our money,” as if it were to be taken out of his own pocket.
– And he charged me with being a Conservative.
– That is so; but the honorable senator is an example of the most ultra-Conservatism. I never heard a more Conservative statement than the honorable senator’s interjection, “ We can keep our money.” He declines to come to the assistance of the States concerned in this matter. I believe it is a fact that the offer of assistance was voluntarily made by a Prime Minister of the Commonwealth.
– By the Cook Government.
– I am inclined to give credit where credit is due; and the Government- which gave the promise recognised how national the undertaking was. It is a national undertaking, and it will be a national profit. Senator Stewart argued as if only the States directly concerned would benefit; but he must admit that an increase of population will mean an increase of Customs receipts, and the very basis of a true increase of population is the increase of profitable land settlement. The honorable senator quoted instances to show how profitable this settlement will be, and said he believed it would materialize, yet all he will do is to lend the States the money if they undertake to pay the interest. If Shylock ever drove a harder bargain, I should like to hear of it. In 1905, at the Hobart Conference of Premiers, Mr. Jenkins, the then Premier of South Australia, submitted the following motion : -
I quote this to show that what is proposed in the Bill is less than what was considered necessary at that time, that it was proposed to appoint engineers as commissioners, and that the Lake Victoria conservation works were even then contemplated. Lake Victoria is filled by the flood waters coming in at Frenchman’s Creek. As the river falls, the outflow comes out through Rufus River, and it has been proved that the outflow from Lake Victoria will keep the river navigable for between two and three months longer than would be the case without it. The lake is not a catchment in the ordinary sense, and lies back about 4 or 5 miles from the Murray. When filled, it will hold about two-thirds of the contents of Sydney Harbor, and about half the quantity of Lake Alexandrina. The present proposition is to build three weirs there with a view to raising the normal bed of the river, so that directly the flow reaches the high summer level the water will begin to flow into Lake Victoria. Then, by controlling the outflow through Rufus River by means of flood-gates, the waters of the Murray can be kept at a fair level so as to allow of both irrigation and navigation. The deeper the volume of water the less the evaporation. The evaporation on a shallow surface will amount to about 3 or 4 feet a year in a district like this; and that it is dry I know, for a trip I once had up the
Murray was the driest and hottest I ever experienced. The immediate bed of the Murray when filled will really be the largest and best conserving basin we can possibly have. I am not referring to the ancient bed of the river, which was very much wider than the present one. The high banks of the old river are still visible, lying in some cases 6 or 7 miles back, and showing a strange uniformity of height. The immediate bed can be filled to the highest summer level by locks along the Murray itself. The States have taken much trouble to ascertain what the proposed locking will cost, but there has been a good deal of variation in the estimates. In 1902 the work of locking Lake Victoria with one weir and lock, with embankments at Frenchman’s Creek, was estimated to cost £84,000. In 1907, when a Bill passed its second reading in the South Australian Parliament, the understanding being that similar legislation would be passed by Victoria and New South Wales, the estimate furnished to the late Mr. Price, Premier of South Australia, by the EngineerinChief, for constructing two weirs and lock, with the same embankments, was £164,000. Mr. Stuart Murray, the Engineer employed by South Australia, in 1910 estimated for the South Australian Government that similar work would cost £164,800; while in 1913, Captain Johnson, a leading engineer on river works, imported from America by the South Australian Government, estimated the cost of three locks to conserve water at Lake Victoria at £463,000. He advocated three weirs so as to give a high lift to the river, and preserve its navigability from February to May. The total estimated cost of locking the Murray from Blanchetown to Wentworth, locking the Upper Murray, and locking alternatively either the Murrumbideee or the Darling up to Bourke or Hay, is over £5,000,000. As the matter has been carefully gone into by eminent engineers, we may reasonably conclude that if we begin to construct the work to-day that amount is the highest possible estimate. So deeply interested is South Australia in the matter that she has authorized, on her own responsibility, the construction of locks on the Murray. Will Senator Stewart withhold his vote from a State which is prepared to help herself in that way?
– She can go on; I will not hinder her.
– But the honorable senator will not help her. He was sent to this Chamber not only to represent his own State, but to voice national ideas, yet when he sees a great national work, which he indorses, he withholds his vote from it. He would throw the work back for ten or twenty years, unless the halfpenny unimproved land value is paid to him. I feel inclined to produce a penny and pay him for 2 acres myself. The capacity of storage bv means of the locks is estimated at 22,000,000,000 cubic feet, or sufficient to irrigate 144,000 acres. What will it mean to Australia if 144,000 acres are rendered as fruitful as Mildura or Renmark is to-day ? What would that mean in regard to reclaimed land ? Probably some honorable senators paid a visit to Adelaide last year during the prevalence of the drought. If so, they saw land which was not irrigable, in an absolutely parched condition, whilst from the train at Murray Bridge they might have seen land which had been reclaimed producing bright crops of lucerne - crops which yielded 10 tons per acre of dry lucerne hay, or an equivalent of 30 tons of green fodder. The unearned increment derived by that land represented a rental, possibly, of ls. per acre. That is as much as any pastoralist would pay for it for depasturing sheep. Prior to its reclamation it was covered with water during a large portion of the year. An embankment had, therefore, to be built, trenches had to be cut, and the water upon it had to be pumped out and thrown back into the Murray. The land had then to be cultivated, and the seed planted. The enhanced rental value of that land does not exceed ls. per acre. The total irrigable land within the reach of the pumping stations and of the reclaimed lands in South Australia amounts to 615,000 acres.
– Up to what date?
– Up to 1914.
– And that State is still reclaiming land.
– It is still reclaiming, still irrigating, land. Yet Senator Stewart will not assist it. I desire to answer a few of the objections which he urged against this undertaking, because I gathered from ‘his speech that he was speaking without knowledge, and for a soul to speak without knowledge, the Bible says, is not good. He spoke as if private land-owners in that State would make immense fortunes out of this scheme. May I tell him that South Aus tralia is not so blind as to permit that. She has done all that she possibly can to insure that large areas held on long leases shall not pass out of her reach. Where it has been necessary to do so, she has resumed those areas, and she still holds control over the remainder. When she has settled people on the land, she has done so upon perpetual leases.
– What is the total area in South Australia that is held subject to Crown lease!
– All Crown leases contiguous to the Murray are held under terms of resumption.
– What area of such lands will be affected by this scheme?
– Fully one-half of the lands along the banks of the Murray are in the hands of the Government.
– Land that can be irrigated by virtue of this scheme ?
– Yes. During the past two or three years Waikerie and Ramco have been increased to more than three times their original size, and Berri, too, has been settled. The same thing is occurring at Kingston. Old settlements are being enlarged on land that has been resumed by the Government. The South Australian Government, therefore, is using its own. land, and is assisting settlers upon it right up to the time when that land will yield them a profitable income. A statement has been made this afternoon in reference to an orange tree coming into bearing within three years of being planted. Certainly a block was pointed out to me at Waikerie from which, three years after planting, a ton of dried currants per acre had been taken. But I know of no orchard planted anywhere along the banks of the Murray which has yielded a . profitable return in three years. I kept an orchard for fourteen years before it began to keep me.
– What kind of trees had the honorable senator?
– Apples, plums, apricots, and pears.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator was as bad a gardener as he is a politician.
– The honorable senator should not jump to conclusions. I had to employ others to do the work on the orchard because I had to earn the money with which to pay them wages. I hold in my hand the South Australian
Consolidated Crown Lands Act 1915, and if Senator Stewart will turn to section 38 he will see that upon these irrigation blocks personal residence will be required. Then section 31 limits the amount of unimproved land values that a man may hold. Sections 33 to 37 cover all perpetual leases, and, since the advent into politics of the Labour party, perpetual leases have been subjected to land tax. Sections 38 to 41 of the Act deal with the revaluation of perpetual leases, and provide that there shall be a revaluation every fourteen years. It will be seen, therefore, that, in South Australia, the community is getting the communitycreated land values.
– It is not.
– These sections apply to all irrigable and reclaimed lands. Moreover, schedule 3, subdivision 4, empowers the Crown to resume lands for public purposes, and I presume that lands acquired under this scheme would be acquired for public purposes. Quite twelve years ago, all pastoral leases along the banks of the Murray were resumed by the Crown, and these have since been let on annual lease. Further, the foreshore of the Murray, on which jetties, wharfs, or ferries may be built, belong to the Crown. The private land-owner, therefore, cannot benefit.
– But South Australia is only one of the four parties to this agreement.
– That is the old Tory argument. Because two other parties will not agree with the honorable senator, he will not do what is right. 1 wish also to point out that, under this Bill, the responsibility of the Commonwealth is limited to £1,000,000. Surely it will be admitted that Australia will benefit to that extent? Are we to stand aside and refuse to take part in this great national enterprise? We did notso interpret our promise in regard to the construction of the east-west transcontinental railway. The great national undertaking which we are now considering will benefit, not only the three States immediately concerned, but the whole of Australia. In the circumstances, we shall be doing less than our duty if we do not consent, without any reservation, to the expenditure of this money. When the three States chiefly interested in it prosper as a result of She undertaking, the Commonwealth will participate in their prosperity. I will welcome any Queens- land project, which would benefitths whole Commonwealth, that has as great possibilities in it as this. If it will propound a scheme that will commenditself to statesmen I shall not withhold my vote upon it, although South Australia would not benefit one penny from. it. We should not look at these questions from the standpoint of any State. We are partners with the States in this matter, and if we wish to be partners in the gain, we should likewise be partners in the responsibility. If we wish to profit by a great settlement along the Murray River, surely we are not doing our duty if we are not prepared to shoulder part of the burden that must necessarily be undertaken before those advantages are gained. I do not think much more need be said upon this matter. It has been threshed out thoroughly by the States concerned, individually and collectively, at conference after conference, and when honorable senators say now, “ We must wait a little longer,” it seems to me to be a statement not characteristic of men who believe that the scheme will be a success or an advantage but characteristic of men who dare not take up what they believe to be right, and seek to shirk their duty. Apart from the fact that I represent a State that is concerned in the scheme, and will benefit by it, the Bill commends itself to me so much that I should not have the slightest hesitation in voting for it even if 1 were not so interested in it.
– Not one honorable senator who has addressed himself to this question has placed before the Senate the areas held by the owners of land which will be benefited by this huge expenditure of money, nor the names of the owners, nor the value of the land held by them. It seems to me that those who have spoken so eloquently and so forcibly in support of the Bill are actuated mainly by the desire, not to benefit the men who are to work on these lands, but to give an immense advantage to the land-holders along,’ the Murray River at the expense of the Commonwealth and the States.
– Does not the honorable senator know that there are hundreds of small owners who are practically workers in every sense of the term ?
– Those small owners will also be advantaged.
– As New South Wales will also be benefited, why does not the honorable senator submit some names of owners of lands?
– I do not concern myself as to whether the land-owners in New South Wales will be benefited. The main point is that land-holders will be benefited, and not the people who work upon the land. It is merely a question of increasing the value of the land which it is proposed to bring within the irrigable area. That fact cannot be too strongly stressed, and it is scandalous that honorable gentlemen sent here, many of them for the express purpose of looking after the interests of the workers, should forget themselves so far as to use their utmost endeavours to increase the value of privatelvheld land.
– Is it not possible that the honorable senator forgets himself sometimes when he talks in that way ?
– There is a remote possibility of that, but on this particular point I am not forgetting myself.
– On this one point the honorable senator is mad.
– I am not like Senator O’Keefe, who is not mad on any particular point, but is always prepared to vote for anything that will benefit landholders, especially when it is a question of exemptions from land taxation. We have had considerable experience of the cost of constructing many of our large public works, and I venture to say that the estimate of £5,000,000 will be exceeded several time’s before the works connected with this scheme are carried out.
– What does that matter when the liability of the Commonwealth is limited to £1,000,000?
– A few days ago we were told that we must abandon all kinds of legislation, and direct our attention exclusively to the conduct of the war. We were told that we could not afford money for the construction of public works, or that public works should be cut down to the very bone; yet a few days later we are told that we are to spend £1,000,000 on this work, and co-operate with the States in the expenditure of many million pounds more.
– Did the honorable senator oppose the idea of taking the referenda poll ?
– Then the honorable senator was prepared to spend money in that direction.
– The expenditure of £100,000 on taking the referenda poll would be a mere flea-bite in comparison with the millions that will be required for this scheme. I am not concerned so much about the expenditure of public money as with the fact that it will be spent for the advantage of the people who hold the land in the districts concerned.:
– I have shown that the Crown holds most of the land.
– The honorable senator was referring to a small area of about 2,000,000 acres in South Australia. He will not say that the 50,000,000 acres in New South Wales which will be benefited are held by the Crown.
– There are not 50,000,000 acres in New South Wales that will be benefited by this scheme.
– We were told by Senator Stewart that practically 50,000,000 acres of land in New South Wales would come within the area affected by the scheme. Does Senator Senior pretend to inform us that this 50,000,000 acres is held by the Crown ? He cannot do so; he knows that it is nearly all held privately. It was in the interests of these land-owners that the honorable senator spoke so eloquently this afternoon, and in order that land which is now at about £1 an acre may be increased in value to £10 or £20 an acre or more.
– Less than 1,250,000 acres in New South Wales can be irrigated by the waters of the Murray, so why talk of 50,000,000 acres?
– Senator Stewart’s statement still remains uncontradicted. However, no matter what area is concerned, I would not have the slightest objection to the Bill if the Commonwealth had the power to resume the land, and lease it in perpetuity ; but there is no proposal in the Bill in that direction.
– I have shown that it is not necessary so far as South Australia is concerned. The Crown holds the land there.
– I have heard the statement of the honorable senator that the unearned increment of the land in South Australia is worth½d. per acre. I am not prepared to accept such an absolutely absurd statement.
– If the honorable senator saw the land he would understand the statement better.
– If I saw the land, I would come to the conclusion that it was worth a good deal more than £”d. per acre.
– So it is, to-day.
– Yet we were told by Senator Senior that the unearned increment is worth only -Jd. per acre.
– That statement was quite correct.
– This Bill proposes to spend public money merely for the purpose of placing large sums in the pockets of land-owners.
– Does the honorable senator know of one block of land privately owned that will benefit by this scheme ?
– No; but the Minister is not prepared to say there are not many blocks of land privately held which would benefit by the scheme. Probably, he knows nothing about the matter; possibly, he cares less. At any rate, he has furnished the Senate with no information as to the number and value of blocks privately held, and the names of the land-owners, and I say that this Bill should be held up until we have those particulars, and until the States are prepared to resume all this land at its present valuation, and let it out to the workers on perpetual leases at a fair rental. It appears to me that nowadays nothing can be done unless we foist a number of Commissioners on to the backs of the workers. Everything requires a Commission of highly-paid officers. Under this Bill we propose to appoint a Commissioner and a deputy. I suppose that the Commissioner will receive a fairly substantial salary, while the deputy will do the work, and, no doubt, there will also be a staff of clerks under the deputy. If a private owner were dealing with that land he would cut it up into suitable areas and dispose of the leases to the highest bidders. That is what should be done.
– Does the honorable senator maintain that the proper thing would be to sell the land to the highest bidder?
– My idea is to put up the lease to the highest bidder.
– That is an iniquitous system.
– I am certainly in favour of the lease of the land going to the highest bidder. It will prevent all possibility of the lessee subletting.
– It is a very good old Tory method.
– Nothing of a Tory character can be pointed out in that idea. It is better than giving the communitycreated value to the private holder.
– But tb.e wealthy man will outbid the poorer man every time.
– All that is necessary is to put up the lease to the highest bidder and make residence compulsory. In those circumstances would the wealthy man purchase the land and live on it?
– He would dummy it.
– We have heard of dummies sticking to their blocks and remaining owners of them.
– The honorable senator seems to be discussing rival schemes of land settlement. I have no desire to prevent hia using arguments by way of illustration, but he seems to have left the Bill alone. I ask him either to connect his remarks with the Bill or to discontinue that line of argument.
– I was only referring, in a very exceptional way, as I thought, to the method which ought to be adopted, first, in the acquisition of this land, and, subsequently, in the” disposal of leases of it. I was certainly under the impression that I was speaking well within the compass of the measure, and if I have trangressed in any way I very much regret it. I contend that until that is done, the Senate ought to reject the measure. I do not intend to rote for the second reading, but if, unfortunately, that stage is carried, I shall seek in Committee to amend various clauses, so as to give effect to the views I have expressed.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [6.22].- The utilization of the waters of the Murray River is a question which has been before the public for very many years. But the difficulty always has been to get the States to agree to the apportionment of, not only the waters, but the cost of a scheme. Agreement after agreement has been partially arrived at, and turned down, and at last a stage has been reached where an agreement has been come to. I feel quite certain that every member of the Senate, in fact, every man in this country, must realize that it would immensely benefit the whole of Australia to make use of all the waters which the Almighty sends,or order to promote irrigation and settlement throughout the arid districts. Although this is a most unfortunate time at which to call upon us to deal with a great project, nevertheless, we have to consider whether the agreement is based on reasonable terms and conditions. I recognise, of course, that at present it would be almost impossible for us to obtain the money which the work will cost. The agreement limits the time within which the work has to be commenced, and fixes the time within which portions shall be performed, and also the time when the whole of the work shall be completed. We are told that the estimates embodied in the agreement cannot be relied upon. The scheme is estimated to cost between £4,000,000 and £5,000.000, and, under the agreement, the Commonwealth is only to be called on to contribute £1,000,000. And, from the way in which’ the proposal was put before the Senate, it would appear that that expenditure will be irrespective of the cost of carrying the works into effect. We are told that their cost will be at least £10,000,000. I ask. honorable senators where, under the agreement, the other £5,000,000 is to be obtained in order to carry out the scheme? Is the Commonwealth to assist the contracting parties, or is it to stand still after it contributes its £1,000,000, and decline to give a penny more?
– Certainly not.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD.-The Bill says so, but the agreement does not. It appears to me that the provision in the Bill which says that £1,000,000 shall be the limit of the Commonwealth’s expenditure cannot, under the terms of the agreement, really be the limit which was contemplated by the States when they came to a settlement. The Minister says that it can ; but my view is that the Common wealth must be prepared to face a larger expenditure than the £1,000,000. It is a party to the agreement. I wish honorable senators to clearly realize the position of the Commonwealth in regard to the financial aspect of the proposal.
– Look at clause 1 of the agreement.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I have already said that I am prepared to accept an agreement, even containing conditions like that, so long as I am satisfied that it is a national work which is to be carried out, and the apportionment of the cost is regarded as fair.
– I think that clause 1 of the agreement will remove the honorable senator’s objection.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD.- The clause reads-
This Agreement is substituted for the said recited agreements bearing date the eleventh day of November, One thousand nine hundred and eight, and the fifth day of January, One thousand nine hundred and twelve, respectively; and is subject to ratification by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia; and shall come into effect when so ratified.
– There is no agreement until ratification of the Commonwealth Parliament is given.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Of course there is not, but the agreement which we are now asked to ratify imposes these conditions
– With modifications.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I admit that there can be no agreement until the ratification of this Parliament is given. It is provided that when the terms of the agreement have been ratified by the four Governments concerned, the agreement shall come into force. But we are now askedto ratify the agreement, subject to certain conditions which were never contemplated so far as the insissima verba of this document are concerned. Under the head of “ Finance,” we find this clause -
The cost of carrying out the works mentioned in clause twenty of this Agreement is estimated at Four million six hundred and sixty-three thousand pounds, and shall be borne by the Contracting Governments in the following proportions, namely : -
Then clause 36 reads -
If in the opinion of the Commission for the effective construction of any of the works provided for in this Agreement it is necessary to exceed the amount set out in clause thirtythree of this Agreement the Commission may pay to the Government constructing such work an amount in excess of that so set out, and the amount of such excess expenditure shall be borne by the Contracting Governments in the proportion set out in clause thirty-two of this Agreement.
If, when one half of the scheme hasbeen carried out, it is found that the cost will be £10,000,000, honorable senators will not be able in honour to repudiate a request to vote a little more money. If the work is started, it will have to be finished.If it is found, after the expenditure of £4,000,000, that the work is only half completed-, honorable senators would be madmen if they were to say, “ We will stop the work now and will not spend another cent.”
– We did not stop the construction of the Western Australian railway when we had exceeded the estimated cost of £4,500,000 ?
– No. Clause 43 of the agreement contains a provision for taking proceedings in case of a contracting party making default in a payment of any moneys it is called upon to pay in excess of the amount originally contemplated. The clause reads -
If any Contracting Government whose duty it is under this Agreement or under any direction issued in accordance with this Agreement to construct or continue the construction of, or to maintain, operate, or control any works, orto carry on any operation, or to provide its share of the cost of the construction, maintenance, operation, or control of such works, or of carrying on such operation refuses or neglects to do so after being thereunto required by the Commission, the other Contracting Governments (or any one or more of them) withthe sanction of the Commission -
may, without prejudice to their or its other rights, under this Agreement, construct or continue and complete the construction of or maintain, operate, or control the whole of such works (or any portion thereof specified by the Commission), or carry on such operation (or any part thereof specified as aforesaid), and pro vide the cost thereof; and (b)may in any court of competent jurisdiction recover as a debt fromthe Contracting Government so refusing or neglecting the share of such cost to be provided by such Contracting Government in pursuance of this Agreement, together with interest on any sums expended, at a rate to be determined by the Commission.
For the purpose of any act orthing to be done under this clause the Contracting Governments, or any one or more of them as aforesaid., shall have the rights and powers of aConstructing Authority;but the Contacting Government so refusing or neglecting shall’, on completion of such act or thing andthe payment of its share of the cost thereof, be deemed to be the Constructing Authority.
– I admit that under this Bill the agreement is being ratified subject to a provision that the Commonwealth shall not be liable for more than £1,000,000, butI think that, in giving effect to the scheme, it will be found quite impossible to limit the expenditure of the Commonwealth to that amount. If, after the work is started, it is found necessary to expend a further £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 to cover the cost of completing the scheme, it will be incumbent upon the Commonwealth, in accordance, at all events, with the spirit of the agreement, to bear its share of the further expenditure involved. If the agreement had been drawn in such a way as to impose the burden of the whole cost of the scheme upon the three States specially concerned, with a provision for a contribution of £1,000,000 by the Commonwealth towards the cost, the Commonwealth would not then have been legally or morally bound to pay any more, even though it should bp discovered that it would cost double as much as was originally estimated to complete the scheme. As the agreement is drawn, however, while the limitation provided for in this Bill may be of some value, I think it will be found that the Commonwealth will be looked to to bear its share of any additional expenditure involved. It is contemplated by the Bill that the works will be completed within a period of twelve years, and it may be. said that the expenditure will be distributed over that time, but, so far as I can judge from the terms of the agreement, whilst we may know what work is to be performed ina certain year, we shall be unable to estimate what it will cost. I have great sympathy with the views expressed by honorable senators who have directed attention to the financial aspect of the matter. There can be no question that, until the end of the war and for some time after, the States and the Commonwealth must be prepared to materially reduce public expenditure. Though we may say that we should like this or that work carried out, we shall be brought by the firm logic of facts to a realization of the necessity for reducing public expenditure if we are to meet our obligations. This Bill does not make any appropriationof money, and before we are called upon to expend any partof the £1,000,000, there will have to be a specific appropriation, when Parliament will have all the facts before it. The agreement contemplates the appointment of a Commissioner by each of the contracting parties; but the preparation of the plans does not devolve either upon that Commission or upon the Commonwealth Government. Under clause 23 of the agreement it is provided that -
The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia shall each, as soon as practicable, cause to be prepared and submitted to the Commission, for its approval, a general scheme of the work to be constructed by them respectively under this Agreement; and before commencing the construction of any of such works shall cause to be prepared and submitted to the Commission, for its approval, designs and estimates of such works.
The Commonwealth Government will not, therefore, be called upon to give their approval of plans and specifications. That is to be done by the Commission. If the Commission approves of a contemplated work it will be proceeded with forthwith, and then the Commonwealth Government must contribute their share of the expenditure. We must be very careful of the action taken by the Commonwealth Government under this Bill when it becomes law. The passing of the measure will, at all events, constitute the approval of the Commonwealth as one of the contracting parties to an agreement which, at last, after years of trouble, has been evolved to the satisfaction of the States specially concerned. There is an estimate given of the quantity of water that may be retained by each State, but no estimate of the number of acres that may be irrigated by this scheme.
– Yes, the number is 1,400,000 acres.
– I had overlooked that. Senators Grant and Stewart are concerned about the enhancement of the value of private property as the result of the carrying out of this scheme. I realize as fully as they do that, whilst the holders of the irrigated lands will have to pay for the water used, the value of those lands will be materially increased. If we do not desire that this increase of value shall go to the owner of theland the only way to avoid that is to resume the private lands which will be benefited by the scheme. It may be said that we can impose taxation upon these lands, but, if we do that, the owners will pass the tax on to the tenants who rent the land from them. The difficulty can only be met by the resumption of the lands at their fair market value, whatever it may be at the present time; but I remind honorable senators that this Parliament has no power over the lands of the States. The State Parliaments are supreme in the control of the lands of their States, except that, of course, we can resume land for public purposes very different from those which it is sought to promote by this scheme. Honorable senators may say that they will not assent to this Bill until they are satisfied that the States concerned will resume the lands to be benefited by the scheme; but they should remember that the State Parliaments and Governments may resent dictation from us as to the policy they should adopt in dealing with their lands. It should not be forgotten that, in the main, the members of theState Parliaments and Governments are actuated by the principles which we profess, and we must be prepared to trust them to do the right thing in the matter. We have no right to hold a pistol to the heads of the State Parliaments, and say that unless they legislate in the way we think right we shall not assist in the development of a great national scheme in the interests of Australia as a whole.
– I think that is what we should do.
.- I do not think that this Parliament has any right to attempt to overawe the State Parliaments. It was not created for any such purpose.
– The honorable senator would rather condemn thousands of people to industrial slavery.
– I would not do anything of the kind. I have said that I would prefer an agreement by which our financial responsibility would be definitely limited to £1,000,000, and the State Parliaments would be called upon to make good all expenditure over the estimate found necessary to complete the scheme. The State Parliaments get their share of the Customs revenue, and they have a multiplicity of means of raising revenue open to them. They will receive the charges made for the water supplied under this scheme, and, though I regard it as a blemish upon the agreement that the responsibility of the
Commonwealth is not distinctly limited, I still think that we will be well advised if we avail ourselves of this opportunity to bring such a scheme into operation. Many millions of acres in the United States of America are made fruitful and valuable by irrigation. In India, and especially in Madras, enormous areas of country are irrigated. In Egypt, without irrigation the land is a desert, and it is easy to see what may be done for such a country by irrigation. It is quite unnecessary now to emphasize the value of irrigation, as it is recognised by all. The question we have really to consider is whether the agreement we are now called upon to ratify is the best we can get in view of the conflicting interests of the States concerned.
– This is irrigation in the interests of the land-owner, and not of the producer.
– If it is irrigation in the interests of the land-owner, will not the State Parliaments take steps to protect their interests?
– I do not believe that they will.
– I remind the honorable senator that when the New South Wales Parliament passed the great scheme for irrigation at Yanco, they took care to resume the whole of the areas that were to be benefited by the use of the waters of the Murrumbidgee.
– That has not been done in this case.
– If sufficient influence is brought to bear, I have no doubt that the Parliaments of the States concerned will take all necessary steps to protect the interests of these people under this scheme.
– Where do we come in? We give £1,000,000, and get nothing for it.
– How can it be said that we get nothing for it if we attract additional population to the country, and if we make the people settled on our lands more prosperous ?
– We shall have to pay the States 25s. per head for all the additional people we get.
– And we shall get £3 per head from them through the Customs.
– We shall get something from them through the Customs. The honorable senator forgets that we are all one people, and the prosperity of each State means the prosperity of the Commonwealth as a whole. In my opinion, the Senate will be well advised to accept the Bill, at the same time urging upon the Government the necessity to be careful not to start to work until they see their way clearly in the matter of finance.
– We ought to be fairly satisfied with the reception accorded to the Bill in this Chamber, for no reasonable or practical objection has been raised to it. It is true that it has been objected to on account of some fanciful theory of certain honorable senators who are going to oppose it because they cannot give effect on it to their views, although they have themselves confessed that it represents a great national- movement. The correct way for them to endeavour to carry out their taxation ideas is to bring in a separate measure, and test the feeling of the Senate on it.
– The honorable senator signed his name to the “ fanciful theory “ he refers to, but that is all he intends to do. He signed a promissory note that he never intended to honour. I am against any scheme that- condemns the workers to slavery
– I am as much concerned as is the honorable senator to see that the workers are not condemned to slavery. I see nothing in the Bill that will do that to any section of the workers, but I do see in it a means whereby many men who have been working hard along the banks of the Murray for twenty years and more will obtain some measure of relief, in that they will be guaranteed, as far as it is possible to guarantee anything, a supply of water that will overcome the difficulties they have had to face in the past. The honorable senator made a strong point of the contention that we proposed spending money to advantage certain private landholders. Last week we discussed a measure for spending money in a Territory, every yard of which belongs to the Commonwealth, and the honorable senator opposed that expenditure also. He told us on the Works Bill that we ought to cease this reckless expenditure of public money, so that whether we spend money on our own Territory or on public utilities elsewhere the, honorable senator is still displeased, and advises us to go slowly.
– Reference to a previous debate on another matter is distinctly prohibited by standing order 4132 which reads -
No senator shall allude to any debate of the same session, upon a question dr Bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the Senate for personal explanations. If honorable members were permitted to refer without limitation to previous debates, discussion might become endless;.
– I was endeavouring to point out Senator Stewart’s inconsistency. He told us that there w.ere two alternatives to passing this Bill. One was to refuse, the £]-,000,000, which meant to reject the Bill, and the other was to lend the money to the States, which, showed that he- had no objection to collecting interest from the poor workers. The third course that I would suggest is for the honorable senator to change human nature, for he will not find many people who will work for years along the banks of the Murray under this or any other irrigation scheme without expecting some reward for their labour. Senator Senior and I have ‘a little better acquaintance with, the Murray than most of those who have- opposed the measure, and in what we say on this matter we speak, not from theory, but from knowledge acquired after many years’ experience.. One of the charges laid against the .Commonwealth for many years is that,, through Inter-State jealousies, we have done practically nothing with a splendid river. This. Bill offers the. best scheme for the distribution of the water which we have yet had, and I am confident that we shall get nothing better if we wait for years, longer. The lands will not be- publicly acquired, and whether we wait ten or twenty years the result will be. the same.
– Then you think the State. Governments will not resume the land?
– I do not think anything of the kind.
– I do not think so either.
– I do- not possess the honorable senator’s prophetic vision, but I know that New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia- have already acquired, large areas for irrigation pur poses, and it is more than likely that they will acquire further areas aa the necessity arises.
– I hope so.
– But I am not prepared to hang the Bill up until the honorable senator’s pious hope is realized. Let me glance at the progress of irrigation on the Murray since 1829, when it was first discovered by Captain Sturt. On his return from his voyage of discovery and exploration he wrote-
I could not but think that I was leaving be hind me the fullest reward of our toil in a country that would ultimately render our discoveries valuable. Hurried, 1 would repeat,, as my view was, my eye never fell on country of more promising aspect or more favorable position.
All our experience since then has gone- to substantiate the words of that great explorer. The only tiling necessary to realize his vision is to put the waters of the river to their full use, so that we may see along its banks a succession of happy homes, prosperous settlements, splendidorchards and vineyards, waving cornfields^
– And mortgages.
– Mortgages are very handy things. I am not pleading for the mortgagee, but I am pleading for an extension- of’ the conditions which I have been trying to outline. In view of the prosperity that has attended- settlement on the Murray in normal years, we should have nothing but condemnation for those short-sighted statesmen who, in the past, refused to do anything towards the development of the Murray country; In this measure we are simply attempting, in a small way, to bring about a realization of Captain Start’s splendid vision. Whilst we have not done as much as we might to give effect to that vision, we have at least done something. South Australia has taken a very prominent part in the development of the River Murray, and, in doing so, she has not been actuated by any selfish motives. From the very commencement, her people have recognised that the States higher up the stream have been disposed to claim, not only a large portion of the waters of the Murray, but the whole of them.
– New South’ Wales claimed the entire river at one time.
– The honorable senator has no reason te» complain of this agreement. New South Wales has treated South. Australia very generously in the matter.
– I do not think so. The agreement is a fair compromise between the claims of that State and of South Australia.
– Is it a fact that an old Imperial Act lays it down that the Murray is the property of New South Wales?
– I understand that that is so.
– Only as to the boundary between New South Wales and Victoria.
– I do not know how New South Wales would have fared if she had attempted to enforce that agreement. In 1853 the river was first opened to navigation by South Australia, and I learn, from reading, that the Government of the day were not too keen upon supplying facilities for rendering it navigable. From that time onward South Australia has been persistently pressing . her claims, so far as navigation is concerned. But she is not, even now, making navigation the basis upon which she will subscribe to this agreement. No sensible State would desire to use the waters of the Murray for navigation purposes if they were required for irrigation purposes. The Murray was rather difficult to navigate in those days, because of the obstructions in it, and consequently an effort was made by South Australia to induce the other States to co-operate with her in clearing it. Invariably she met’ with a refusal, at least in the earlier stages of the negotiations. In 1863 a National Conference was held in Melbourne, at which a resolution was carried to the following effect : -
That, in the opinion of this Conference, the commerce, population, and wealth of Australia can be largely increased by rendering navigable and otherwise utilizing the great rivers of the interior, such as the Murray, Edward, Murrumbidgee, and the Darling, and that the obligation of carrying into effect the necessary works to accomplish these objects devolve primarily upon the respective Governments having jurisdiction over these rivers.
That was a very excellent resolution, but unfortunately nothing was ever done to give effect to it. In 1885 a Commission consisting of representatives of New South. Wales and Victoria met, and carried a resolution affirming -
That the waters of the Upper Murray and its tributaries, and the whole of the waters of the Lower Murray are the common property of New South Wales and Victoria.
These two States met in solemn conclave and adopted that resolution. There was no third party present to disturb the harmony of the gathering. Needless to say, the resolution evoked from the South Australian Government a very emphatic protest. Whether for that reason, or some other, the line of argument then developed was not further pursued. Between 1885 and 1902 conferences Were held by the various States practically every year, but nothing resulted from these gatherings. In 1902 the Corowa Conference was held, and, I think, it may justly be described as the first gathering at which anything practicable was done in regard to a settlement of the vexed question of the utilization of the Murray waters. It adopted certain resolutions, one of which would have had the effect of reducing the navigation period of the year from ten months to five and a half months. But although that resolution was affirmed, others were carried of a more favorable nature, which formed the basis of all subsequent agreements. Whilst these conferences were being held, Victoria was proceeding cheerily on her way, and was using the waters of the Murray as freely as she chose. Senator Senior has referred to the fact that, in 1904, a motion was submitted to the South Australian Parliament affirming the desirableness of securing an injunction against the Victorian Government restraining it from an excessive use of the waters of the Murray. So far as I am aware, however, nothing was ever done to give effect to that motion.
– Except that legal opinions were obtained from Sir Josiah Symon.
– But nothing practical was done in the matter.
-I understand that very pronounced opinions were expressed by counsel.
– Yes. But we are not now dealing with those matters. In 1912, the question was handed over to a conference of Inter-State engineers, upon whose report the present agreement has been based.
– Were there not agree ments madebetween that time and the present?
– There were agreements made practically every year, but, as I have already remarked, the present’ agreement is based on the report of the Inter-State engineers, who met in 1912. From their intimate knowledge of the River Murray and of the requirements of the different States, they were able to frame a scheme better than could a conference of Premiers or of politicians. They had no special interests to serve, and were actuated only by the desire to achieve the best results for all the States concerned. The agreement, if not the best in our scheme of nation building, is certainly the best that has so far been arrived at. In our attempts to settle the interior of Australia, nothing better has been conceived, and no Australian ought to vote against the scheme because it does not accord with his views in every detail. If every man who has taken part in the framing of previous agreements had insisted upon his own views being adopted in every particular, the problem would never have been solved. Those who take up the attitude which I have outlined are retarding the progress of Australia. Something has been said to-day about the area of land that is under irrigation along the banks of the Murray, and the Government have been blamed for not having brought forward the names of every land-holder there and the area held by each individual ; but, in my opinion, the names of those who happen to hold the land for the time being are of little consequence. I propose to give some information that will be a little more interesting. The Murray River from Echuca to the mouth is 1,066 miles long. The distance by rail from Adelaide to Sydney is 1,066½ miles.
– The distance of the Murray includes all the windings.
– Yes ; and it is those windings which are responsible for the splendid irrigation areas that are possible, and for the slow rate at which the river flows. I ask honorable senators to imagine what a tremendous improvement it would be to Australia if it were possible to irrigate the whole stretch of land alongside the railway from Adelaide to Sydney and divide it into small holdings on which men were making a good living and producing large quantities of produce. I have no record of the land which has been resumed in. New South Wales, with the exception of that resumed in connexion with the Burrinjuck scheme, on the Murrumbidgee, but the following figures in regard to irrigation settlement on the Murray River should be of interest.
In some cases, the water is used only for domestic purposes, but the land is capable of intense culture if a greater water supply were available. In other cases, the areas are closely-settled irrigated blocks. There are the following settlements in existence in Victoria and the Riverina district : -
Kow Swamp, 130,000 acres; Cohuna. 94,230 acres; Koondrook and Myall, 12,590 acres; Benjeroop and Murrabit, 19,740 acres; Swan Hill and Nyah, a large area; Tooleybuc and Wakool, 250,000 acres; Burrinjuck, a largedam of 33,000,000 cubic feet capacity, calculated to irrigate 196.000 acres of first-class land and give a domestic supply for 162,000 acres of second-class land, or a total of 368,000’ acres; Mildura 10,000 acres; Wentworth, about 10,000 acres; White Cliffs, 10,000 acres; and Lake Victoria, 200,000 acres.
In South Australia, we have - Renmark, 33,000 acres; Berri, 20,000 acres; Lyrup, 5,000 acres; and Pyap, 1,000 acres. Pyap was abandoned by the settlers, and is now leased privately. Lake Barmera - or Cobdogla, as it is now called - is just now being thrown open in South Australia, and contains 36,000 acres which are capable of being irrigated, while watercan be supplied over 100,000 acres for domestic and stock purposes. BetweenMorgan and Lake Alexandrina, at the mouth of the river, there is probably an additional area of 50,000 acres under intense culture - in the Murray Bridge district alone there are 10,000 acres, and there is a scheme projected for reclaiming Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert - the latter has a capacity of 41,000 acres, and the former a capacity of 224 square miles - and making them available for intense culture. With the locking scheme in operation, there will be a continuous irrigation area from Renmark to OverlandCorner, a distance of about 100 miles; and from Morgan to the lakes at the mouth of the river, about another100 miles. Much of this country is now under intense culture, but a great deal of it has yet to be reclaimed by the State Governments. In addition, there are large areas of back country which it is impossible to utilize for intense culture, owing to its altitude and its distance from the river, but the locking of the river will supply it with water for domestic purposes, and will enable the settlers to do much better work on their farms. In order to satisfy the minds of those honorable senators who consider that too much of the land is held’ by private owners, I may say that there are practically no private owners on one side of the river. The land is nearly all held on lease, subject to be resumed at any time the Government may give notice of its intention to do so. It has been said that many of the village settlements in South Australia were a failure. They were commenced over twenty years ago. Unemployed were placed on them, and it was’ hoped that they would be able to work on communistic principles; but that experiment resulted in failure, as experiments of that kind almost invariably do. However, the settlements are still in existence, ana most of them are very prosperous. . I believe that one in particular is the best conducted on the Murray River. The settlers do their work very largely on the co-operative basis, which gives every man the fullest result for his labour. The settlers are well satisfied with their position. The latest figures that I have received from Mildura show that there is a population of 5,000 people on an area of less than 10,000 acres under cultivation. In other words, there is one o person living on every 2 acres of land irrigated. The value of the output is about £250,000 per annum. No one will dispute the fact that this is a very handsome output from 5,000 people, cultivating less than 10,000 acres of land. I am inclined to agree with Senator Stewart when he says that the cities are congested. Here is a means by which much of this congestion can be removed. In Mildura, one person is living on 2 acres, and 5,000 people are raising £250,000 worth of products each year.
– The means I propose would be very much more effective.
– I do not know that I would quarrel with the honorable senator as to the means he proposes if on another occasion he came forward with his requirements in a Bill providing for them alone. I would be prepared to go with him then. The Renmark settlement dates back to 1887. The land was originally taken up by the well-known irrigation firm of Chaffey Brothers. The South Australian Government set aside 250,000 acres for the use of this firm, on condition that they spent £300,000 within the first twenty years on permanent improvements ; but, as financiers were not forthcoming in the way that the Chaffey Brothers anticipated, they were compelled to go into liquidation. However, the settlers formed a Trust, and Renmark is now run by that Trust. Several Bills have been passed through the South Aus tralian Legislature extending their water rights, and repayment, and so on, but they are practically the governing body of Renmark. They rate the land by the popular vote, and in other ways do all their own work, and control matters for themselves. There are 14,000 acres, with a commonage of 20,000 acres, under the control of the Renmark Trust. The area under irrigation is about 6,000 acres, and the annual output is estimated at about £150,000 worth of goods. It has risen from about £7,000 to this figure in about twenty years. Surely this fact is a tribute to the intelligence and, undaunted courage of the Renmark settlers. They have lived there under all sorts of conditions ; they have wrested this garden from the wilderness; and surely no one will attempt to say that they are not entitled to anything they have got as the result of their labours for the past twenty years. They had to contend with many handicaps. When they commenced operations, irrigation was new to Australia. Frequently the wrong kinds of trees and vines were planted and had to be rooted up. Whole vineyards had to be rooted up and replanted, and while that was being done the men had to go out and work on the roads in order to keep the blocks. Yet our honorable friends are afraid that some persons will reap too much wealth as a result of getting the unearned increment, which surely they have earned by such labours. The orchards, I say, had to be rooted up again and again and planted afresh. Besides, they were struck time and again by disastrous droughts. The river fell too low, the men could not irrigate their holdings, and everything on the land died from the want of water. That was another handicap with which they had to contend. Then bush fires swept over the settlements, and practically burnt everything. Moreover, in the summer, the men had scorching suns, which destroyed much of their produce, and in the winter blighting frosts, which prevented them from reaping the crops they had a right to expect. To-day, Renmark, Mildura, and many of the other settlements along the Murray stand as a splendid monument to the determination and the persevering industry of the early pioneers, who stuck to their holdings through good report and ill report, and are now looking forward to getting some tangible reward from their labours as a result of the help which will be given to them by the Federal authorities. This afternoon, Senator Senior referred to the work at Lake Victoria. It is going to be constructed by the South Australian Government at their own cost. It will not only benefit that State, but keep back the storm waters of the Murray, and release them when they are wanted. It will keep the river available for navigation several months longer than would otherwise be the case. The settlers in the States higher up who desire to take advantage of the river to get their produce to market will have the benefit of the work carried out by South Australia for the mutual benefit of all the States. That point, I think, should be remembered L ake Victoria has a capacity of 22,500,000 cubic feet, covers 30,000 acres, and is situate within about 3 miles from the river, 36 miles below the junction of the Murray and the Darling, and about 14 miles from the boundary of South Australia. Mr. Wade, late Engineer for New South Wales, estimated that in the vicinity of Lake Victoria there were 200,000 acres of land which was irrigable, but which it was not proposed to irrigate further than was required for stock or domestic purposes, on account of the lift. Even if water was available, and to spare, the lift of from 120 to’ 140 feet would be too great, in the opinion of the engineers, to make the use of it profitable. But, apart from that, it was held that it would be of more consequence and benefit to the three contracting States if the water of Lake Victoria was held back to assist in the navigation of the stream farther down, and also to aid in the irrigation which could be carried on. It has been said that no information has been furnished concerning the rates which will be charged for the water. Every settlement on the Murray to-day has its own rate. According to what it costs to raise the water, so is the user charged. The prices vary practically on all the settlements, so that it would have been impossible for the Government to put in this measure, or for the framers of the agreement to lay down a hard-and-fast rule. We are confident that no more will be charged for waterfor the purpose of irrigation than is absolutely necessary to pay for the cost of pumping, . and so on. I have here the reports of the Surveyor: General of South- Australia; andaccounts of the Goulburn Valley diversion scheme, the Murrumbidgee scheme, and other schemes, but they are not relevant to the subject-matter before the Senate to-night. What is relevant, however,’ is a survey plan of the latest reclamation scheme in South Australia. It shows the sizes of the blocks. The State Government do all the work; they reclaim the land, drain it to the river, and subdivide it. The applicant for a block is able to tell exactly fromthe plan what it will cost him. The improvements are outlined in a schedule. The cost is given for the first year, the second1 year, the third year, and the fourth year. The instalments are fixed on a sliding scale commencing very low, and the settler pays for all the improvements. If, for instance, there is a house on the. land, he pays for the house in instalments till the liability is extinguished, and then a rental per year is fixed for practically all time. That is the method by which the State Government have managed these irrigation blocks from the very commencement. The blocks run from about 10 to 50 acres each. The high land shown on the plan is garden land.
– What is the range of the ultimate rental ?
– The rental varies according to the improvements on the. block. Here is a block of 19¼ acres, and in the first year the. rental is £5 3s. 6d.; in the second year, £10 7s.; in the third year, £15 10s. ; and in the fourth year, £20 14s. The. improvements on, the block consist of fencing, sluicing, and channelling, valued at £98.
– Do the men never get the fee-simple?
– No; a block is perpetually leased. The rental in the third and fourth years goes, up to nearly £2 an acre, but I can assure my honorable friends that that rental does not frighten anybody. In many instances the land is planted before the person goes on it.
– Can you give us an idea of what . the maximum rentals vary from?
– It is payable in the fourth year, and; every succeeding year. Here is a block of 23 acres, and the. rental is £40 5s. per year. That includesthe cost of fencing, sluicing, breaking up and clearing.
– Does that include water.?
-No ; the water is pumped off, not on.
– Would that be an average case ?
– It varies, according to the size of the block. Here is a block of 44½ acres, and the rent in the fourth year, and every subsequent year, is £43 9s. The amount depends upon the quality of the land. There is some of the land with patches, perhaps a bit high, or cold, or containing some limestone. The settlers grow lucerne, potatoes, onions, and other root crops of that description. The settlers along the river from the Murray Bridge downwards, are not wealthy, but prosperous. They are all perfectly happy and content with their lot. They do not work very hard, and are not very much afraid of the landlord when he comes around to collect the rental. In South Australia we have done our share towards settling this question in a way with which I am sure Senator Stewart will not find any fault. We have done fairly good work. I feel confident that no member of the Senate will vote against this measure on the ground that the lands have not all been resumed. I hope that Senator Stewart will not take any action to jeopardize the passage of the Bill. I have every confidence that it will be carried, and that we shall bo able to make provision for many thousands of settlers along the banks of the Murray. Something was said to-day - by Senator Mil- len, I think - regarding returned soldiers, and it was that if he thought that this money was to be devoted to purchasing land on which to settle returned soldiers he would not vote in favour of it.
– I did not say anything about purchasing land.
– Well, as a relief work for returned soldiers or unemployed. I am satisfied that thousands of the men who have gone from offices and shops in Australia to the front will desire, on their return, to get on to the land. I have spoken to many men on the subject, and the result ofthe training they have had in the field has been such, they tell me, that they have no wish to get back to the office or the shop. Their desire is, if possible, to get a block of land on the Murray. I can assure Senator Millen that many of the men are looking forward very eagerly to getting a block there owing to the fact that only a small amount of capital is required.
– My remarks had no reference to the possibility of these men settling on this land, but to the remark of the Minister that this money would be spent on works, and that the employment on the works would furnish opportunities to these men. The settlement on the land is a later and quite a different project.
– I do not want to do an injustice to the honorable senator, but he knows perfectly well that, in order to give effect to the provisions of the Bill, it will be necessary that work shall be provided for a large number of men. I am not pleading for the proposal on that ground, but on the ground that, in a comparatively dry country men will be able to secure, at any rate, a comfortable living for themselves and their families. For that reason and for the reason that it will do much to settle the problem of production, I support the proposal. If we had had these Murray lands settled during the last year of drought, we should not have been obliged to import a ton of fodder for our stock. If these lands were irrigated, we could produce on the banks of the Murray crops sufficient to supply the whole of the requirements of Australia during such a time of drought as we had last year. For these reasons it appears to me to be the duty of this Parliament to vote this sum of £1,000,000, not merely to assist the States concerned in this scheme, but in order that the development of this great country may be carried on in a way that will return handsome profits indirectly to the Commonwealth as a whole, and directly to the States specially concerned. I have every confidence that the Bill will be carried.
– If the position of affairs so far as irrigation in South Australia is concerned, as detailed by Senator Newland, had any particular application to this Bill, and if it were possible for the Commonwealth to carry oat such a scheme, there would not be one voice raised in this chamber against this measure. If the Commonwealthowned all the land to be benefited by the scheme, and might look forward eventually to a return of anything from £1 to £2 per acre, and to the settlement of alarge number of people on the lands on perpetual leasehold terms, there would be no objection to putting £1,000,000 into the scheme. I visited Mildura on one occasion, and I admit that the quantity of water used, and of fruit grown, and the apparent prosperity of the residents afforded an object lesson in the value of irrigation. Senator Newland has said that the residents of Mildura have prospered exceedingly since 1887, when the lands were taken over from the Chaffey Brothers and vested in a Trust. But the Government of Victoria had to come to the relief of the people of Mildura, and their present prosperous condition would lead one to assume that they have probably done something to get themselves out of debt. Instead of that, I find that in the latest Y ear-Booh the statement is made - ,
No precise figures are available as to the capital cost of the works at Mildura, but probably the sum is not less than £180,000.
That, I take it, is the amount put into the venture by those who have practically lost what they had, besides what the Government have had to put into it. The statement continues -
The amount due to the Government now is £72.451, exclusive of £12,G59 for accumulations of interest.
One would imagine that a prosperous community like that settled at Mildura would at least be able to pay the interest charges on the money it owes. I believe that Mildura is a prosperous community, but I have an idea that it is not all beer and skittles in an irrigation area.
– There is no beer at Mildura. They have prohibition there.
– I was not going to touch upon that subject, but I may say that Mildura was the first prohibition area I was ever in, and I saw more liquor there than I have seen in almost any other place I have been in. For a “ dry “ area, it was about the limit. One has to ask himself two or three questions in considering a matter of this kind. We have been appealed to to consider it from the Australian point of view. Senator Newland has said that no one who claims to be an Australian could possibly vote against a measure of this description. The advantages of this scheme are pointed out. We are told that it will add to the wealth of Australia, will enable settlement to take place, and that the people who will be induced to settle on the soil will contribute largely to the revenue of the Commonwealth. That is all perfectly true, but the same might be said of the construction of every mile of railway in Australia, though there is no appeal made to the Commonwealth Government to contribute to that form of State development. It is said that this is a wonderfully good scheme. I have read the report of the proceedings on this Bill in another place. It was pointed out there that this is a splendid investment, and on the amount of money involved will return something like £200,000 a year. If that be so, it is a wonder that the scheme was not carried out long ago by South Australia and the other States concerned.. If all this profit is anticipated, there must be some reason why the State Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have not carried out schemes of this kind for themselves. But what do we find? We find that the Government of Victoria has had to wipe hundreds of thousands of pounds off their books in connexion with the irrigation schemes undertaken in this State.
– Over £1,000,000.
– Success, apparently, did not attend the efforts of the people who settled on the irrigated lands, and they had to fall back on the Government for assistance. The State has had to bear the whole of the expenditure, so that the settlers might start practically with a clean sheet. That is the Victorian experience of irrigation areas. Considering this agreement, and its advocacy by honorable senators from South Australia, we have to take into account the benefits of irrigation and navigation. I have looked up a number of works upon American irrigation systems, and I find that little or no attention is paid in that country to the question of navigation. So long as they can use the waters for irrigation, they are satisfied to trust to other means than navigation for transport of the produce of irrigation areas.
– The honorable senator overlooks the cutting of canals for the special purpose of transport.
– Senator Senior must be aware that as railways are extended to various points from which traffic may be obtained the canals to which he refers are doing less and less of the work of transport. Even the large rivers of America are now doing much less of the work of transport than they did years ago. According to a statement made by an honorable member in another place, the returns for a period of ten years show that the value of goods transported by the navigation of the Murray system was £544,000; but during 1910, which was not a year of drought, the total value of the goods transported by this river was something like £45,000. This shows conclusively that wherever railways tap districts near a river they secure the traffic, and transport by navigation is dropped.
– The river is deserted.
– That is so; and the reason is that perishable goods must be conveyed by the quickest means of transport to the markets where they are consumed. Although the rate of freight may be higher by rail than by boat, the Murray will each year be less extensively used for transport. The question of irrigation is, therefore, in this connexion the most important question to consider. We are told that the area capable of irrigation under this scheme is 1,400,000 acres, and something less than 200,000 acres of this area is in South Australia. In Victoria and New South Wales, where the larger irrigation schemes must be carried out, there will be a demand for more and more water. I do not think that this agreement will stand for many years when it is realized that in the upper reaches of the river the value of the application of the water for irrigation purposes will vastly outweigh the benefit to be derived by South Australia from the navigation of the river.
– The honorable senator forgets that the river -borne goods passing through South Australian waters come from long distances in New South Wales.
– There is very little of that traffic now. I remember the time when boats came up to Rourke, on the Darling, for loading. How much of that is done now ? Railways have tapped the river district at various places, and they are used for the transport of wool and other produce to the ports. By the time that wool could be taken from Bourke to South Australia by boat it could be taken by rail to Sydney, and by boat half-way to England. The principal traffic of districts along the river at the present time is taken to the various seaports by rail instead of by boat because the river transport occupies too long. Mr. Sampson, in another place, has given figures in connexion with the matter which I presume he derived from reports supplied to the Victorian and South Australian Parliaments. If the Common wealth had jurisdiction over the whole river and could formulate an irrigation scheme without considering the interests of any of the States, we should not be prepared to support a scheme like this. We have the experience of New South Wales to guide us. That State, in starting the Burrinjuck scheme, which has cost a large sum, and is intended to irrigate sufficient land to provide 7,000 farms, and settle a population of 100,000, bought back 350,000 acres at a little more than £2 per acre, so that any advantage accruing from the undertaking will go to the New South Wales Treasury, and the land will be taken up on perpetual lease instead of being alienated in freehold. That is the only way to make a success of an irrigation scheme. The Commonwealth is asked first in connexion with this scheme to nut down £1,000,000, but it cannot afford to act like the man I once saw in a comedy, who presented any one that annoyed him with a cheque for a million pounds. The present is a bad time to ask Parliament to agree to a scheme of this description, especially in view of the persistent advice by successive Treasurers to avoid all forms of extravagance. The ex-Treasurer said -
I do not limit the possibilities of finding money for ourselves to £10,000,000, or even, perhaps, £100,000,000. if the people are determined; but I do say “that the interests of the Commonwealth demand economy in every walk of life. It is an error, in my opinion, honestly made by many men, to think that frugality is attended by diminished trade and destroyed industry. The effect is quite the opposite.
The present Treasurer in a recent utterance conveyed the impression that electors should refrain from pressing their members to get public moneys spent on works in their electorates, as we should have all we could do to raise money to carry the war to a successful issue. It appears to be a case of “ Don’t do what we do, but do as we tell you.” The Treasurer reminds one of the description of the celebrated Pecksniff, as a signpost pointing the way to places that he never went to himself. We are asked by the Government to vote £1,000,000 with very little information before us regarding the scheme, although we are told that the project has been in the air for the last thirty or forty years. Very probably it has, for South Australia has been trying to keep it alive for many years. Resolutions have been passed, Premiers’ Conferences have met and agreed, but nothing practical has been done.
– And piles of information has been given.
– Possibly, but no information in the shape of reports and documents has been put before this Parliament. All I have been able to get has been two or three papers laid on the table last year or the year before. In the circumstances it is not fair to ask Parliament to pledge the credit of the Commonwealth for £1,000,000 to carry out this scheme at the present time. In the debate in another place we were told we should not require any of this money until after the war. We do not know whether that is so or not, nor do we know how many appeals will be made to our people to raise money to prosecute the war ; but we have already incurred an expenditure of £40,000,000 this year, and are being asked to raise about £1,000,000 a week for that purpose alone.
– We must have the land prepared for the soldiers when they come back.
– If there is anything in that argument, the statement that the money will not be required until after the war is over is all fudge. It looks as if the Commonwealth will have to raise all the money for this scheme, because the probabilities are that the States will have to borrow their share from the Commonwealth, and call on us to subsidize it by £1,000,000. The States are already asking for £17,000,000 to keep their public works going, and we know that they cannot get it outside of Australia.
– The whole of the States cannot spend more than £500,000 a year on this project.
– The half-millions here and half-millions there all count up, and we are told that strict economy is essential in every walk of life to enable the community to supply the Government with money to prosecute the war.
– Economy doesnot mean burying your money.
– Certainly not; but when we are in a fix and require every penny to prosecute the greatest project the Commonwealth has ever been in, it is unwise to pledge our credit for £1,000,000 for a scheme of this description. We are told that, so far as South Australia is concerned, this is the best agreement arrived at so far out ofnumbers.
– No South Australian said so.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that various schemes had been put forward, but that previous agreements had not been ratified.
– New South Wales failed to honor the promise made by the Premiers.
– The matter has never been referred to the Premier or Government of Queensland, which, as a matter of fact, contributes a portion of the water that flows down the Darling, and could use some of it to great advantage within its own borders.
– Under this agreement that will not be allowed.
– We could not be prevented from using our own water within our own borders. A clause is to be inserted in the Bill to provide that the Commonwealth shall not have to contribute more than £1,000,000 to this scheme, but I do not think it will be worth the paper it is printed on. I can guess what will happen if the scheme is once started. No one believes that the work will be carried out within the estimate. Senator Millen quoted figures to show that it would cost at least 100 per cent. more. No scheme is ever, in the opinion of its authors, likely to exceed the estimated cost; but we have had a striking experience in regard to the east-west railway.
– It would be interesting to invite those who dispute your contention to name a big public work that has been carried out within the estimate.
– I do not know of one of them. Take the case of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway as an illustration. It was estimated that an expenditure of £4,500,000 would be sufficient to cover the entire cost of that undertaking. But I now gather from a reliable source that it cannot be completed for less than £8,000,000. Here we have another public work which we are assured will be carried out for an expenditure of £4,000,000. Personally, I believe that it will cost millions of pounds more. As soon as the States realize that they have got so far and cannot proceed further without more assistance from the Commonwealth, they will approach this Parliament with a view to obtaining that assistance. Honorable senators will naturally feel inclined to favour their own States, with the result that they will accede to demands which they might otherwise resist. It is all very well to urge that the Commonwealth has no direct legal responsibility in this matter. But, when once a work has been initiated, we cannot draw back from it. I believe that the States will approach the Commonwealth, and will say, in effect, “ You were a party to this scheme. You were prepared to contribute a. certain percentage of its cost, and we want you to contribute that percentage of the total expenditure upon it.” In such circumstances I believe that honorable senators will be almost morally compelled to support that view. I do not believe in backing schemes which have not been well thought out and to which effect cannot be given to the satisfaction of this Parliament. We all remember what has happened in connexion with other schemes that have been placed before the Senate. Take the Northern Territory Agreement as a case in point. To-day, there are quite a number of politicians who openly repudiate it. I read in Hansard quite recently a statement by the late Prime Minister that he had never believed in the terms of that agreement, and that the Leader of the Opposition, in reply, declared he was always of opinion that those terms were altogether too generous. The truth is that political changes were in progress at the time the matter engaged our attention, with the result that an agreement was passed which placed a millstone round the neck of the Commonwealth for a generation to come. I do not intend to assist in adding to that millstone. I know perfectly well that this Parliament will be called upon in the future to incur further responsibility in connexion with this scheme - assuming that we pass the Bill - and that is why I intend to vote against it.
– I desire to say a very few words in explanation of my attitude of opposition to this Bill. In the first place, I do not think that the present is a time when we ought to embark upon any huge expenditure. Senator Millen put the position very plainly this afternoon when he said that he would not be a party to the scheme in the absence of an assurance from the Government that it would not be entered upon until after the termination of the war. But I would remind honorable senators that the States did not arrive at an agreement on this matter until the Commonwealth’ had consented to con tribute £1,000,000 towards the expenditure upon it. I do not think that the agreement will be ratified by the States.
– I fancy that the Bills have been passed by the State Parliaments.
– That is so, but there may nevertheless be developments in the future. However, I rose chiefly for the purpose of placing on record a few figures by an authority who is capable of thoroughly understanding this matter. I do not pretend that I am able to do so. But I wish to put on record certain statistics, so that in the future it cannot be urged that honorable senators were not duly warned of the consequences of their action.
– Who is the authority that the honorable senator proposes to quote?
– It is estimated that the expenditure by New South Wales on the Cumberoona dam will be £1,221,000. My informant, speaking of this matter, says -
The only benefit New South Wales receives under this Agreement, and for which it pays £1,221,000. is its share, namely, 500,000 acrefeet of the water to be stored in the proposed Cumberoona dam, above Albury. This dam is the pivot upon which the Agreement may be said to turn; if it is too costly, the whole scheme must be recast. The retaining wall of Burrinjuck dam is 940 feet long, and goes down below the surface about 34 feet, and the cost of the dam is about £1,000,000. The retaining wall of the Cumberoona dam is 8.000 feet (1½ miles) long, and goes down in places 200 feet below the surface - this wall would fill up the space between Sydney Heads from level with the top of the cliffs to the bottom of the water - and all that is allowed to build it (after allowing for land resumptions) is about £1,000,000. Would any contractor undertake to fill up between Sydney Heads with a heavy dam wall for £1 000,000? He would not attempt it for £10,000,000. The financial recklessness exhibited in the Agreement is amazing, considering the fact that the States’ liability to find the money to finish the works is unlimited.
– Who is the authority whom the honorable senator has quoted ?
– An engineer - Mr. J. C. F. Harkness.
– Can the honorable senator pit him against an authority like Mr. Johnson from America?
– The engineers do not guarantee the estimates of the cost of the work at all. Those costs are merely approximate. As a matter of experience, we know that the cost of all big public undertakings is considerably in excess of the official estimate. The writer proceeds* - £3,105,000 out of £4,663,000 is to be expended on locks and weirs for navigation only. These locks and weirs are of no use whatever for irrigation. This enormous expenditure is to preserve extremely small, chiefly South Australian, navigation interests, the whole of the plant, steamers, barges, &c. of which are valued at not more than £80,000, one year’s interest on the money expended on, and the upkeep of these locks and weirs, namely, £186,000. would buy up the whole affair twice over. This large expenditure is not justified, as in years of high flow there is plenty 61 water, and always will be, for both navigation and irrigation, and these locks and weirs would only come into full use during years of low-water flow, and’ in drought time they would again become useless (no water). The Inter-State engineers did not recommend, and were uncertain as to the estimates. They might well be, as take, for instance, the Manchester ship canal, that was estimated to cost £5,000.000, but actually cost £15,000,000.
Every big public work that is carried out costs 50 per cent, more than the official estimate. If the Commonwealth contributes £1,000,000 towards the expenditure upon this scheme, and the States find that the funds available are insufficient to complete it, they will certainly approach this Parliament with a request for further financial assistance. We cannot, therefore, foresee the end of our commitments in this connexion. The engineer whom I. have quoted has gone exhaustively into the matter, and, in his opinion, the scheme will inflict an injustice upon certain of the States, and will confer a great benefit upon only one State. I protest against embarking on this huge expenditure with our eyes closed, especially at a time when we should be carefully conserving all the money that we can secure in Australia. For this reason, I intend’ to vote against the Bill. I do not say that the undertaking is not a national one, or that it will not benefit the country. But I do say that it will confer a greater benefit upon the private land-owners along the banks of the Murray. It is all very well to urge that in South Australia all the lands fringing the river are practically Crown lands. In other States they are not, and under this Bill the people who own them will certainly benefit at the expense of the Commonwealth. If we knew precisely the cost of the enterprise, the position would be entirely different. But we do not, and it is impossible for us to forecast our ultimate expenditure under the scheme. I am not prepared to cast my vote in the direction of committing the Commonwealth to an unknown expenditure, especially at a time like the present.
– This is such an interesting discussion, that I cannot resist the temptation to contribute a few words to it. Many honorable senators appear to have lost sight of the real position. Neither South Australia nor Victoria is asking this Parliament for any favour. Senator Turley has complained that he has not sufficient information to guide him in this* matter, and I propose therefore to read for his benefit a summary of the negotiations which have taken place between the States from the very inception of the trouble. The position is that, as the result of protracted negotiations, the States directly interested in the utilization of the Murray waters have arrived at a fair compromise. The agreement which has been framed is based upon the report of a conference of Inter-State engineers, whose opinions should certainly carry more weight than that of the engineer, Mr. Harkness, whom Senator McDougall has quoted. These engineers went exhaustively into this matter, and prepared estimates of the cost of the scheme - estimates upon the accuracy of which their professional reputation depends. That has all been done. The States have all agreed among themselves, and the Cook Government, on behalf of the Commonwealth, undertook, to clinch the matter by subscribing £1,000,000 towards the cost, realizing, as a National Government should, that this was the greatest national work ever proposed in Australia, and that it was their duty to endeavour to bring matters to a settlement, and so start the work at the earliest possible moment. The States are quite prepared to go on with the undertaking. As a matter of fact, South Australia, which has always been in the lead since responsible government came into force in Australia, has already spent money upon it, and the other States are prepared to do the necessary work for the conservation of water in the carrying out of this great scheme as soon as this agreement is ratified ‘ by the Commonwealth Parliament. I heard Senator Stewart, or Senator Turley, say, “It is our money.” It is the money of the people of Australia, but do not South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales contribute the greatest part of the Commonwealth revenue? Why” should these senators from the northern part of Australia who always oppose everything -that does not benefit their State say, “ For what reason should we contribute our money towards this scheme?” What Queensland will contribute towards the scheme will be infinitesimal. The chief objection, of Senator Stewart is that this expenditure will benefit private property, and put money into the pockets of private landowners, but the honorable senator voted for the money required for the huge military barracks now being erected close to Brisbane, which will have the effect of improving the value of property all round. Assuredly the expenditure entailed by this scheme will improve the value of certain land, as with even smaller works the value of land is improved, but let me point out to Senator Stewart that both the State Governments and the Federal Government have the power to take back the added value that is given to the land by the expenditure of public money. In that direction the States are making great advances. I am satisfied that the Government of South Australia, if they felt they had the majority behind them, would take the whole of the unearned increment, not only on the land along the River Murray, but also on all the land of the State. Senator Stewart’s opposition to the Bill seems to me paltry in the extreme.
– Never mind. You have a good majority with you.
– It is not a question of having a majority. After agreeing as to its importance, and admitting that it will settle a large number, of people on the land, and employ a large population in productive works, I think the honorable senator has given a very paltry reason for opposing a great national work, on the ground that some private people are going to get a little advantage from it. I have already said that South Australia has taken the lead in many things. It was the first to point out the advantage of navigation and irrigation in connexion with the Murray River. A pamphlet written by Mr. David J. Gordon, M.L.C., who formerly represented Boothby in the House of Representatives, gives a concise history of the movement for the utilization of the waters of the River Murray. The stream was first opened to navigation in 1853 by the efforts ;of the South Australian Government.
In 1857 the Government of South Australia endeavoured to obtain the cooperation of New South Wales and Victoria in the improvement of the navigation of the river. They claimed that it should be made a great navigable stream into the centre of Australia, giving cheap carriage to the coast. Undoubtedly cheap water carriage, as against very expensive railway carriage, must benefit the settlers on the banks of a river, unless, as has been done in many cases, rival railway authorities in different States run goods at a loss in order to divert trade from its natural outlet to the capital cities, anu thus increase the congestion in those centres. As far back as 1863, at an Intercolonial Conference, in Melbourne, the following resolution was passed -
That, in the opinion of this Conference, the commerce, population, and wealth of Australia can be largely increased by rendering navigable and otherwise utilizing the great rivers of the interior, such as the Murray, Edward, Murrumbidgee, and Darling, and that the obligations of carrying into effect the necessary works to accomplish these objects devolve primarily upon the respective Governments having jurisdiction over such rivers.
Nothing was done to carry this into effect. It was simply a pious expression of opinion at a Conference. But even then they saw the necessity for combined action. In 1885 the Government of Victoria proposed a joint Royal Commission to inquire into the subject. The South Australian Government expressed itself willing to join the Commission ; but without any further notice to South Australia, Royal Commissions of New South Wales and Victoria then sitting held a Conference and adopted a resolution declaring -
That the whole of the waters of the Upper Murray and its tributaries, and the whole of the waters of the Lower Murray, were the common property of New South Wales and Victoria.
Senator Turley is practically advancing the same argument- that the whole of the waters of the Murray should be utilized in the upper reaches of the stream, and the lower part that runs through South Australia should be allowed to go dry. He seems to lose sight of the fact that there are such matters as riparian rights, and it was when this fact was pointed out by Sir John Downer, then Premier of South Australia, that the joint Commission was induced to reconsider the matter. Mr. Duncan Gillies, then Premier of Victoria, admitted that his Government had no desire to place the rights - navigation, or others - of South Australia either in jeopardy or at the mercy of any Commission in which South Australia was not represented, and that nothing was further from the intention of his Government than to do anything destructive of the rights of South Australia. In 1886 a further Commission was appointed. In 1887 a Royal Commission was appointed by South Australia to inquire into and report upon -
The question of- utilizing the waters of the River Murray for irrigation purposes and the preservation of the navigation and water rights of this province in the river, and for that purpose to confer and consult with any Commission appointed, or to be appointed, by the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria on the same subject.
In 1890 no conferences were held, owing to the fact that New South Wales declined to participate. In the correspondence which took place at this period the claim was made by Sir Henry Parkes, then Premier of New South Wales, on behalf of that colony, to the whole watercourse of the Murray fromits source to the South Australian boundary, and the waters of that portion of the river. From 1894 to 1902 correspondence took place between the Colonies without result. Meantime Victoria was extending her irrigation work and diversions. In 1902, as the result of action in the three States, culminating in the assembling of a Conference of political and other public men at Corowa, an Inter-State Royal Commission was appointed jointly by New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia -
To make a diligent and full inquiry concerning the conservation and distribution of the waters of the River Murray and its tributaries for the purpose of irrigation, navigation, and water supply, &c.
This Commission presented its report, but it was not unanimous, the South Australian Commissioner dissenting from the finding of the other members in matters of substance. The majority of Commissioners decided on an allotment of the waters of the river and its tributaries between the three States, the effect of which on the navigation of the Murray is shown by the following figures: -
In the years 1886 to 1901 inclusive, under natural conditions, the average annual duration of navigation had been ten months; under the conditions of the Commission’s allotment it would have been five and a half months.
During the actual existence of this Commission, Victoria, in the face of the strongest protest from New South Wales and South Australia, initiated further large diversion works. I am merely quoting these facts from Mr. Gordon’s pamphlet in order to point out that all these Commissions presented reports which are available to any honorable senator who claims that he has asked for information upon this subject, and is un-. able to get it. In 1903, subsequent to the presentation of the report of the Commission, correspondence passed between the Premiers of South Australia and Victoria, bearing principally on the legal aspect of the question, and in the same year the matter was fully discussed at a Conference of Premiers in Sydney, with the result that a tentative agreement was made modifying the apportionment proposed by the Inter-State Royal Commission slightly in favour of South Australia; but this agreement was again altered at the expense of South Australia. It was unanimously received in all the States, and was not ratified. To show that litigation of a very expensive and farreaching character was only avoided by a further Conference, which came to an agreement, the South Australian House of Assembly, in 1904, on the motion of Mr. Ritchie, passed the following resolution: -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is advisable that the Attorney-General should, in the name of the State, move for an injunction against the State of Victoria, and against all officers of that State, and persons acting under its authority restraining them from the appropriation of water from the River Murray under the Tooleybuc and other schemes.
The question was again brought forward at the Conference of State Ministers held at Hobart in February, 1905, when, the principle of the apportionment of the waters being laid aside, a great advance towards an amicable settlement was made and a decision was come to for the preparation of a statement by the Government of South Australia -
On the basis of the resolutions attached, which, in general terms, affirm that the ultimate requirements of navigation and irrigation will necessitate the construction of a system of locks over all that portion of the river now customarily used for navigation, to be gradually installed as the diversions of New South Wales and Victoria render such locks necessary; the cost of all such works to be paid for in equal shares by the three States, Lake Victoria storage to be the first work constructed.
Although South Australia would have had a third of the area of irrigable land which Victoria and New South Wales Would have, still under that agreement she was to pay an equal proportion towards the cost of the whole scheme, and under “the present agreement, she will, as Senator Senior reminds me, have to pay in addition the cost of the Lake Victoria storage scheme. In 1905, the South Australian Parliament passed a Bill authorizing surveys to be made with the view to select sites for locks, and begin work in that State. In 1906, the South Australian Government forwarded a report to New South Wales and Victoria, in compliance with a request of the Hobart Conference. The Government obtained legal opinions from Sir Josiah Symon, K.C., of South Australia; Mr. Isaacs, K.C., of Victoria; and Mr. Glynn, of South Australia; and the unanimous view waa expressed that South Australia had riparian rights which could not be infringed. An agreement, subject to the ratification of the Parliaments of the three States, was signed by the Premiers at the Sydney Conference in April. In July, 1907, an agreement was signed. The Bill was shortly afterwards introduced into the South Australian and Victorian Houses of Assembly. The second reading was carried in South Australia on 9th October, 1907, and in Victoria on 17th December, 1907. The Bill was left in the Committee stage on the ground that it would be useless for South Australia and Victoria to pass the Bill until it had been brought before’ the Parliament of New South Wales. During October and November, members of both Houses of the Legislatures of Victoria and South Australia paid a visit of inspection. The Victorian legislators travelled by steamer from Echuca to Mildura, whilst South Australian members made the voyage from Echuca to Goolwa. After the opening of the New South Wales Parliament in that year, the Premier said -
The time of the session being short, State business must give precedence to legislation of domestic importance. If it was practicable to consider matters which were in the interests of the ad jacent States, he would give consideration to the Murray question.
In December, 1907, the following telegram from Melbourne appeared in the press -
Further communications have passed between the Victorian and South Australian Governments with regard to the Murray Waters Bill, and it has been agreed, that, as New South Wales cannot proceed with the Bill this session, it will be useless for the other two States to do so. It will, therefore, stand over till next year.
Early in January, 1908, the South Australian Government sent a formal protest to the Government of Victoria against the construction of the Trawool reservoir on the Goulburn River, pending the passing of the Murray Waters Bill. A reply was received stating that the Victorian Government intended to proceed with the survey “ with a view to ascertaining the best site for a reservoir.” In 1908, a Premiers’ Conference attempted to reconcile conflicting interests by compromising. The Victorian Parliament refused to ratify the agreement, and another Commission of Inquiry was appointed. In 1909, the Commission submitted a report, but this in turn was shelved. I hope that honorable senators who have complained of a lack of information are listening to these dates in order that they may procure copies of the reports, and so make themselves acquainted with what has been done. In 1910, Mr. Stuart Murray was engaged by the South Australian Government, and. prepared a report on the best means of controlling the waters of the Murray.
– Do you suggest that consideration of this Bill should be post- oponed until we have time to read the reports ?
– No; I am merely pointing out that honorable senators who complain that they should not be asked to deal with the measure on scant information are themselves to blame, seeing that all the information has been available. Any member of Parliament ought to know where to look for information if he really desires it. I am perfectly satisfied that any member of the Senate who has made up his mind to a certain course of action can very easily get any information he desires to back up any arguments he intends to advance, and carefully avoid getting any information he does not want to give. In 1912, at the Premiers’ Conference, it was resolved to refer the whole question to a committee of InterState engineers. In 1913 the engineers presented their report, and it formed the basis of the final agreement. Let me suggest to Senator McDougall that he should get a copy of the report of these engineers, published in 1913, and compare it with the figures which he gave to-night, and which were supplied by Mr. Harkness. I am sure that whatever conclusion he arrives at will be satisfactory to the Chamber.
– They say that the figures are only approximate.
– On the 7th April, 1914, the final agreement was signed by Mr. Joseph Cook, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth; Mr. W. A. Holman, Premier of New South Wales; Mr. W. A. Watt, Premier of Victoria; and Mr. A. H. Peake, Premier of South Australia. That is the position to-day. The States have agreed to a compromise, which, if ratified by this Parliament, will prevent the possibility of litigation and perhaps a heavy expenditure.
– Did Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania agree to it too?
– Those three States are not interested in this agreement.
– They are interested in the million pounds, though.
– Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania are, or ought to be, interested in the welfare of Australia, and when an agreement to carry out a great national work comes up for ratification, honorable senators, even from States which are not to derive a o direct benefit from the project, ought to be glad to give a vote which must result in immense benefit to the whole of the Continent. I believe that Senator Long, when he is convinced of the benefit which this work will be to the whole of Australia, will not refrain from voting in favour of the Bill merely on the ground that it is not going to bring any direct or immediate benefit to Tasmania. I commend that point of view to the Senate. This is an agreement which has been arrived at after long years, and through very great difficulties; and unless it is ratified now by this Parliament, it is possible that the whole thing may be thrown into the melting pot again, and an agreement may not be arrived at by the next generation, which, I feel sure, will not be for the welfare of Australia. Senator Stewart interjected a little while ago that we have the numbers to carry the Bill. I fervently believe that it will be carried not only through its second reading, but through the Committee stage, in the shortest possible time, and so ratify -what will be a monument to the patience, the skill, and the diplomatic tact of the statesmen of Australia.
.- In speaking to the Address-in-Reply this session, I made a remark respecting the proposal to spend £1,000,000 on the River Murray scheme. I said that without some information on the subject I was not prepared to commit myself to vote one way or the other, but since then I have diligently sought for information. In connexion with laying the foundation stone of the first lock, I embraced the opportunity to take a trip up the Murray, and from what I saw on that occasion I am quite convinced that along its banks, as far as I went at least, there are vast possibilities for irrigation and the establishment of numberless happy homes. I regret, however, that an arrangement was not made to enable the members of this Parliament to travel down the river and see for themselves the class of land it drains, and the opportunities it provides for irrigation. One can read a good deal on the subject, and come to a conclusion, but it is always much better to form a conclusion from practical observation. I have read everything I could get hold of touching the question of the Murray waters, because previously I knew very little about it. Starting from the time when Captain Sturt navigated the Murray for 1,500 miles, I have read the story of the progress of the movement down to the present time. It seems to me that this measure offers a system of irrigation which will provide constant employment for a very large number of persons. It has been stated that the whole population of Australia could be profitably settled on the banks of the Murray and one or two of its tributaries. That, perhaps, may be a rather strong statement. Whether it is true or not I cannot say, but even taking the statement of Senator Millen, that from 400,000 to 500,000 persons could be profitably employed in connexion with the “irrigation arising out of this scheme, it would be a very wise act, I think, for us to enter into this agreement, and spend £1,000,000 or more if we are likely to secure profitable employment for that number of persons. Irrigation is a question which is engaging the minds of enterprising people throughout the world more than ever it did before. From a plot of second-class land, 60. acres in extent and irrigated, I have known £7,000 worth of produce to be taken off in one year. I do not know that there is very much land in Australia to surpass that result, but it was obtained from a little portion of land in the Derwent Valley, in Tasmania. If we can only obtain a fourth of that result from the land on the banks of the Murray, I think it will provide for more than 400,000 or 500,000 persons. It seems to me that we have not more than entered upon the fringe of the possibilities of irrigation. I have very little doubt that this scheme will prove of very great advantage not only to the three States directly concerned, but to the whole of the Commonwealth. There is another point which seems to me to be of importance, although not much has been said about it during this discussion, except by Senator Turley, who spoke somewhat disparagingly. In my opinion, inland navigation is a question of the very first importance. According to my reading, countries in Europe are entering very largely upon inland navigation. Canals are being cut in various parts of Europe and America for purposes of transport. It must be obvious to any one who gives the subject consideration that transport by water is very much cheaper than by land. As the result of competition for traffic between the different States of the Commonwealth, railways have been constructed to tap various districts of the Murray and its tributaries, with the object of diverting trade from the river. The traffic thus secured has been conducted by rail at a very considerable loss. In all probability, the locking of the Murray will provide such a quantity of water as will enable the navigation of the river to be carried on all the year round, instead of, as at present, for only_ a few months in the year. The uncertainty of the navigation of the river at the present time has been the reason why it has not been availed of for transport to a greater extent. After a period of serious contention between the three States directly interested, an agreement has at length been arrived at. I remember reading at one time that the difficulty of settling this question might possibly lead to civil war. We know that the contention between the States interested has been very severe during the last twenty or thirty years, and after all the Conferences that have been held we seem now to have arrived at a solution of this long-standing problem satisfactory to the States concerned. If the Commonwealth Parliament, by entering into the agreement and contributing a portion of the cost of the scheme, can put an end to this long-standing contention, it will do good work. It has been stated that quite a number of agreements have been arrived at from time to time. Whether these have been ratified or partly ratified by one or more of the States interested I am unable to say, but we now have before us an agreement which seems to meet the difficulties fairly. It has been ratified by the three States particularly concerned, and it remains now for the Commonwealth to ratify its share in this agreement to put an end to the trouble. It must be obvious to every honorable member of the Senate that Australia’s need is a population profitably employed. Senator Millen has stated that this scheme will find profitable employment for 400,000 or 500,000 people. I have said that I have seen in print the statement that the present population of Australia might be settled on the Murray and its tributaries. We may fairly conclude in the circumstances that a very large number of people may be settled on the banks of the Murray as the result of the carrying out of this scheme. It is estimated that it will cost £4,663,000 to carry out the necessary works, and under the agreement the Commonwealth’ is to provide £1,000,000 of that amount. By clause 5 of the Bill the contribution by the Commonwealth is limited to that sum. I have been somewhat exercised in mind as to the value of clause 5. If the’ three States specially concerned are satisfied that the Commonwealth should provide £1,000,000, and are prepared to undertake to provide all the rest of the cost themselves, clause 5 should be sufficient to limit the contribution of the Commonwealth. I personally think that the Commonwealth will have done very well if it contributes £1,000,000 to the cost of this scheme. As a matter of law, I believe that the Bill will be effective in limiting the contribution of the Commonwealth to that amount, but if after a few years’ time it is found that the money provided for has been expended, and that the estimate of cost is too low, I presume that an appeal will be made to the Federal Parliament to supplement the amount it has agreed to contribute.
– There will be time enough to meet that difficulty when it arises.
– That may be so, but under the Bill we undertake to provide only £1,000,000 of the cost. If the works cost less than has been estimated, so much the better for the States, but if they cost more they will, I think, have to take the responsibility of finding the additional amount required. I notice that a period of twelve years is allowed for the completion of the -work, and there is, therefore, no great force in the objection raised to the Commonwealth contribution of £1,000,000 in the circumstances. It would be very unwise for us to sit down and say that, because the Commonwealth is engaged in a war, it will do nothing for Australian development. If this proposition is as profitable as it appears to be, it would be not only unwise, but extremely foolish, for us to say that we shall do nothing to forward it because we are engaged in the war. I say that we should go on with ‘this work if it is what it appears to be, and if we cannot find the money necessary we shall be unable to continue it. I think that we shall be able to find the money, in view of the fact that the expenditure is to be carried over a period of twelve years. I must say that I have a good deal of sympathy with the position taken up by Senator Stewart. When the public, by their combined enthusiasm, enterprise, and energy, have added value to land, they have a right to the value which, as a community, they have created. On the other hand, the Federal Parliament has no control over the lands of the States. We should be charged with unduly interfering with State rights if we tried to impose such a condition as Senator Stewart has suggested. The best way in which to secure the unearned increment in land arising from the expenditure of public money is to tax land-owners on the unimproved value of their land. It may be said that the Parliaments of the various States have not adopted an. effective unimproved land value tax. That is true, and I go so far as to say that if the State Parliaments will not tax land so as to secure the unearned increment in those lands, we must consider whether the Commonwealth Parliament should not reduce the exemption under the Federal land tax, so that we may tax the unimproved value if the State Parliaments will not do so. In view of the growth of the People’s party throughout the Commonwealth, I believe the time is not far. distant when we shall have a land tax in every one of the States which will secure to the public the increment in land values due to the expenditure of public money. I have no desire to delay the passage of this measure, but, having said that I required more information on the question before deciding how I should vote, I have risen to say that, after making diligent inquiries, and having embraced the opportunity of going up the Murray as far as I could, I have come to the conclusion that the £1,000,000 which it is proposed by this measure the Commonwealth should contribute to the cost of the scheme will be money well spent, and I therefore intend to support the Bill.
– We have had a very full and free discussion on the merits and demerits of this measure, and a few points have been mentioned with which I should like to deal briefly. In regard to the engineering authority quoted by Senator McDougall, I should advise that authority, before circularizing members of Parliament, to see that his facts are correct. In the first place, he seems to be actuated by the “ little pimp “ State ideas which I thought had disappeared from the minds of all big Australians. His appeal for the rejection of the proposal is mainly on the ground that Victoria is to receive more water than New South Wales. He argues that the distribution of water between the two States should be according to the contributing area in each; but I have no hesitation in saying that if he went to the west coast he would get more rain there iu a short space of time than over millions of acres in another part. By his method of arriving at an estimate of the scheme, that authority would very soon find himself in difficulties. I do not think that one honorable senator opposes the Bill on the ground of its lack of merits or lack of possibilities in regard to the development of Australia ; but the opinion has been expressed by some honorable senators that we ought to delay all public works, particularly big developmental works, until such time as the war has been determined. I listened with interest to the very able and eloquent speech by Senator Millen, and I formed the opinion that if he had been a sharebroker endeavouring to sell shares in a company he would have disposed of a good many because of the glowing colours in which he painted the picture. He gave us a vision of millions of people settled along the banks of the Murray River, of thriving homesteads, a considerable shipping trade, and no unemployed, and land which to- day is not worth 2s. ah acre was to be worth £20 an acre. But all these great possibilities, we are told, should be abandoned or delayed because the war is in progress. The Government are asked to tie the hands of Australia and engage in no developmental work until the war is over. The application of that doctrine by private business people would be the very policy to pursue if we desired to lose the fight. We are told that this proposition may involve increases up to even 100 per cent, in land values. Yet the Government are asked to stay their hands. Every man in Australia cannot go to the front. The young men of the Commonwealth have responded magnificently to the call of duty up to the present time, and Australia has promised to support its soldiers at the front. It will be impossible to do that unless steps are taken to secure the development of the country.
– You will not be able to support the soldiers by developing this particular territory.
– The interest on our debts must be paid, and if we are honest enough to pay back the principal, a large proportion of the money must be provided by the development of the country, including that along the River Murray. Australia is limited, not in its possibilities, but in its population; but the statistics show that there is a drift of population towards the continent. I do not anticipate that when the war is over we shall have a rush of population to the Commonwealth; but I have no hesitation in saying that the numbers of our people will be steadily augmented by new arrivals. It must be remembered, also, that at the conclusion of the war there will be a very large number of men - probably 200,000 or 250,000- who have been out of industry and business for a considerable time, returning to Australia, probably within a period of six months. I am not prepared to say that the return of those men will not increase our local markets, but I do say that it is impossible for a small community of 5,000,000 people to assimilate in ordinary occupations such a large number of men in a short period. If we have not public works prepared, and enterprises in operation or ready for commencement, when those men return, we shall have industrial chaos. Are the men who have fought and bled to maintain the Empire to be permitted to walk about Australia idle or dependent on charity ? Such a disgraceful condition ought not to be allowed to happen. I do not urge we should immediately rush into an expenditure of millions of pounds on the Murray River, but we ought to proceed with tile preparation of plans and surveys, and, if need be, the States can stay their hand until such time as it is necessary for them to step in. I know that some honorable members feel strongly that the Bill will give the unearned increment of the land to be benefited’ to the private land-holder. I endeavoured, after the discussion started, to get into touch with the Commissioners for Water Supply in “Victoria. I regret that it is not possible for me to state the exact proportions of privately-owned and Crown lands within what is known as the Murray bed, but I am credibly informed that in Victoria at least one-third of the land affected is already in the hands of the Crown. I believe that at least 40 per cent., and probably 50 per cent., of the total area to be affected by this scheme is in the possession of the Crown. I would remind those honorable senators who have expressed such strong objection to benefiting the “ fat “ man that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power, other than that of taxation, to make any laws regulating the lands adjoining the Murray River. There is nothing to prevent Senator Stewart, and others who think with him, from proposing a Commonwealth tax on the unearned increment, but of the three Parliaments that control these lands two are led by Labour Governments, and are quite as competent, and just as honest and determined as Senator Stewart and myself, to bring the land of their States into full use.
– They have Upper Houses to deal with.
Sena’tor RUSSELL. - One of them has a nominee House, and, after all, a determined Democracy is not going to be stopped by Upper Houses. The Government have considered the financial aspect of the question, and feel quite confident that they can take this responsibility. The finances of Australia are a little strained, and we have big responsibilities, but the Government have looked well into them, and, although all due care must be exercised throughout the Commonwealth, no one has ever heard the Government wailing that Australia is hard up or likely to be “ broke.” Thank God, she is a long way from that. I urge the Senate to pass the Bill in its present form, because to alter it would practically mean throwing it back in the teeth of the State Parliaments, and perhaps postpone the settlement of the Murray waters question, and retard Australian development, for a considerable number of years.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
This Act shall commence on a day to he fixed by proclamation.
.- I move-
That the following words be added: - “but such proclamation shall not issue before the termination of the present war.”
-Why would you deny the people the chance to conserve water for that time?
– I stated myreasons fully this afternoon. A general demand has come from all sides of Parliament, and from all parts of the country, to go a little slow in the matter of public expenditure.We are confronted with fresh demands on the public purse arising out of the war, and it is impossible to gauge the extent of our commitments, yet no tendency is apparent on the part of the Commonwealth or State Governments to slow down in their public works policies. The question is whether it is competent for the Commonwealth, with all its resources, to finance these additional undertakings at this moment. If, as the Minister says, the Commonwealth’s liability for the next year or two in regard to this work will be very small, relating only to the preparation of plans and surveys, no great harm will be done by delaying operations until the war is over, and we know more clearly what our financial obligations will be. The Senate has firmly expressed its approval of the undertaking by the vote on the second reading, and I supported it strongly, but common sense and prudence dictate delay in commencing tie work.
– I may be permitted to express my surprise at the position in which I find myself, in charge of . this Bill. I take it that Senator Millen, as one of the leaders in the late Cook Government, deliberately entered into this agreement with the States. It is true that we were not at war then, but it is also true that Senator Millen was a member of the Government which declined to sink party questions. This matter of the Murray waters was submitted to the people of Australia by both parties, and it was one of the questions on which the late Government were sent to the country. What has transpired since? Is it the war, or is it that the wrong Government are introducing this legislation? I have given an assurance, not personally, but on behalf of the Government, that we see no difficulty in financing this measure. Australia is in no distressful position, and Senator Millen admits that this is a national work, which, if it does not produce direct revenue to the Government, will, at all events, mean immense wealth for the country. If there is one result of the war it is that Australia feels bigger than she did eighteen months ago. We are determined now to make more of our country than ever we have done before. This amendment, of course, means delay ; and the question is whether we are to stand and wait events, or whether we are to undertake our proper responsibility. If Senator Millen were a member of the Government, I am sure that no man would more resent an amendment of the kind now before us. The proposal con- tained in the Bill has the indorsement of the Opposition, and the unanimous assent of the people as disclosed at the elections. Now, however, when the Bill is before us, we are told that the time is not convenient. If, however, the people of Australia believe in the policy, the Government will undertake the responsibility of financing it.
– I have listened to Senator Russell, and all I can say is that he is poverty-stricken for argument when he introduces the party element. There was no suggestion that any party issues were involved, or that party sympathies were appealed to; and it comes to me as a surprise that the honorable gentleman should introduce this factor into the debate. If ever there was anything that might be discussed free from party considerations, it is a matter of this character. I have already expressed myself as being a warm supporter of the project itself. I entirely agree with the Minister that Australia is neither poverty-stricken nor bankrupt. But this is not a question of mere words. He talks lightly of financing the proposal ; but we do not forget that we have had no statement from the Government as to our financial position. The task before Australia in the next twelve months is to raise £70,000,000 or £80,000,000.
– Is it not singular that at the elections you did not suggest that you were going to postpone this agreement ?
– For reasons, I took no part in the elections; and, further, no one at that time contemplated the financial responsibility that would be thrown on the Commonwealth by the war.
– Will the scheme not be a profitable one?
– It is quite possible that the scheme may prove profitable, but I know dozens of undertakings which would return a handsome profit, but in which I cannot invest because of other calls, or because I have not the money. Where could we borrow? The English market is closed against us.
– Our own is not.
– Our own market is limited, and, as I have said, we are faced with an expenditure of £70,000,000 or £80,000,000. It may be said, and I admit, that the resources of Australia are not severely handicapped ; but to draw such a sum from ordinary commercial and industrial undertakings is to leave commerce and industry in a parlous condidition; and I decline to be one who would do anything to precipitate a financial crisis.
– Would all this not apply to the States as well as to the Federal authorities?
– No doubt; but at present I am privileged to address only the Federal authorities. The war has happened since this question arose; and nobody in this Chamber could have foreseen the expenditure now in front of us.
– You had Lord Kitchener’s declaration before the elections that there would be a two-years’ war.
– In the first place, I am not aware that Lord Kitchener made that declaration; and, secondly, I repeat that there was no man in Australia who could have assumed for a moment that our Defence expenditure would amount to the present appalling figures, and that the English market would be closed to us. But we are confronted with the fact that, during the next twelve months, the obligations thrown on the governmental bodies of Australia - unless there is a marked diminution in our expenditure upon public works - will amount to between £70,000,000. and £80,000,000. Can the Assistant Minister predict that, at the end of twelve months, our military obligations will cease? I am not optimistic enough to indulge in any such prophecy. Honorable senators should not delude themselves into the belief that our financial resources are unlimited.
– If we are to continue our military obligations the sooner we fertilize our plains the better.
– The idea that, because a thing is desirable, we should immediately proceed to give effect to it, is unworthy of the honorable senator.
– We shall certainly be in a worse position to face our obligations after the war than we are now.
– That is an additional reason why we should not enter upon this undertaking until we have survived the period of financial stress.
– Does not that remark apply to all other public works?
– Yes. But other works have been commenced, and there is a marvellous difference between leaving a work incomplete and entering upon an entirely new undertaking.
– Is this a new undertaking?
– It is.
– Judging by the talk that has been indulged in I thought it was a pretty old one.
– The project is as old as is the honorable senator himself, but the work has not yet been commenced. All that I am pleading for is that we should observe the same rule in regard to our public expenditure that we observe in regard to our private expenditure. There is not one of us who has not experienced a time when he was desirous of embarking upon new enterprises, but was prevented from so doing by reason of his financial resources. That, it seems to me, is the position of the Commonwealth to-day.
– Yet the Treasurer says that he can find the money.
– I should have a great deal more faith in his statement if he told us that he can not only finance the amount that is required for the current year, but can also find £70,000,000 to cover next year’s expenditure. In this connexion we must not forget that, in addition to the amountswe have already borrowed, we have utilized our note-issue to the extent of £40,000,000. We have had the benefit of that inflated issue, which will shortly be expanded to £45,000,000. But that benefit cannot be obtained again. It has largely been restricted to the past year. It has proved a tremendous aid to the finances of this year. But there cannot be another issue of £45,000,000. In the meantime the Imperial authorities have told us, in the plainest possible terms, that they are not prepared to finance us further. Consequently, we are thrown upon our own resources. And although we obtained £13,000,000 when we first invited applications for the £20,000,000 loan, we must not suppose that when we require £70,000,000 we shall get it in the same easy f ashion. With all the earnestness of which I am capable I urge honorable senators to allow considerations of prudence to prevail and to defer embarking upon this scheme until we know how the war will leave us financially. Should it terminate within a year, and should the financial sky then be bright, we can, with confidence, enter upon the undertaking. But if, owing to the continuance of the European struggle, our finances become still further straitened, we certainly ought not to embark upon this new enterprise, I do hope that, discarding all party considerations, the Committee will adopt a prudent and business-like view of the situation.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.16].- I intend to support Senator Millen’s amendment. I spoke in favour of this undertaking, but expressed the view that we ought to carefully husband our resources in view of the special circumstances which exist to-day. We all know that there are times in a man’s lifewhen he has not the means to do exactly what he would like to do, and when it would be the height of folly for him to incur expenditure upon new enterprises. To adopt any other policy would be to invite bankruptcy. I do not desire the Commonwealth to take any steps which will land it in financial difficulties.
– There are sound business men on the Treasury bench.
– And we want them to realize the wisdom of adopting a prudent policy. I ask the Assistant Minister whether he really believes that, before the termination of the war there will be a change of Ministry? If he does, he entertains a view which very few of us share. He stated that this great work will not be undertaken unless the Bill becomes law. I would like to know when it is proposed that the proclamation shall issue, if the measure be passed. I find, by reference to Mr. Knibbs, that the States have not held their hands in this matter as has been suggested. Speaking of the utilization of the Murray waters that authority says -
In accordance with resolution xiv., this agreement is now. under consideration of the Commonwealth Parliament and the Parliaments of three interested States. In New South Wales, pending the results of the investigation ofthe dam foundations of the proposed storage dam at Cumberoona, surveys are being made by officers of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission of the lands on the New South Wales side of the Murray River which are capable of irrigation from that stream. The lands suitable for irrigation are much in excess of the area which can be served by the volumes of water which will be available, and it istherefore necessary that the most suitable and high class land shall be selected for that purpose. So far as South Australia is concerned, the construction of the first lock at
Blanchetown is practically now in progress, as the machinery required in the construction of it is now being erected, and the necessary data for determining the sites of the other works included in that State’s portion of the general scheme has been obtained.
If the States have such confidence in this undertaking, is there any reason why they should not have prepared their plans in anticipation of the proclamation? I admit that the Commonwealth will not be able to appoint the Commission until this Bill becomes law, but the Commission will not be able to do anything until the plans prepared by the States have been submitted, so that the States can go on preparing their plans if they see fit without there being any interference with the scheme up to that point. I urge honorable senators to look at the situation, however, from an ordinary business stand-point. The ordinary business man would look about to see how he could under existing circumstances, invest his money to the best advantage. It might be that he desired to carry out some special work, but if his financial position did not justify it, or if he saw financial stringency in the markets from which he hoped to obtain his money, he would hold his hand until he could seehis wav more clearly; and honorable senators would be consulting the best interests of the Commonwealth - which are the interests they are called upon to serve- if they took a similar course and supported the amendment indicated by Senator Millen. It would, at any rate, show that we desired to see more of what the future had in store before committing ourselves to an expenditure which has been estimated in the aggregate at something like £10,000,000.
– The amendment, if carried, will have the effect of definitely postponing the commencement of the work.
– Until the termination of the war. We hope the war is not going to last many years.
– Not only would this work be postponed, but, if certain honorable senators had their way, many other public works would also be stopped. I am entirely opposed to the idea of shutting down public works. This proposal has been ratified by the States concerned, it has been accepted in another place, and also by this Chamber and the amendment seems to be only another way of defeating the measure. I hope that the Senate will refuse to entertain it.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreedto.
Clause 5(Ratification of Agreement).
.- I move-
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Provided that the Commonwealth shall not contribute any sum towards the cost of the works provided for under the Agreement unless and until the Parliaments of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia enact laws securing to the respective Governments of those States the increase in value caused by the works provided for under the Agreement of the lands which benefit by those works.”
The effect of the amendment will be to secure to the community the values it has created, and unless it be accepted, the expenditure upon these works, which will probably amount to £10,000,000, will merely enhance the value of private land on the Murray River. We have had too much of this kind of thing in Australia, and it is time that we called a halt. This is the opportunity for members of the Labour party to subscribe in a concrete way to a doctrine that has been preached ever since the Labour movement commenced, namely, to secure to the people that which belongs to the people, and to prevent the people from being exploited as they have been exploited in the past. Any one doubting the necessity for this amendment has only to examine the conditions that prevail in the various States. The best of our accessible agricultural lands, which are held by men who will not use them, or allow any one else to use them, have been enhanced in value enormously by the construction of. railways. We do not want a repetition of this on the banks of the Murray River. The community should secure the values that will be created by the construction of these works. If the people of Australia had only obtained the community-created values of the’ past they would have been able to wipe out the national debt of Australia. It is estimated that, in 1902, the unimproved value of land in the Commonwealth, was £350,000,000, the price originally paid to the Crown for this land being £96,912,532. The increment in value, to 1902, was £253,000,000, which was equal to the accumulated debt of Australia at that date. The total price paid in the State of Queensland for land purchased from the Crown to the year 1898 was £8,687,814, but at that date the unimproved value of the land had increased to £38,745,000, so that publiclycreated land values amounting to £30,000,000 had been presented by the Tory Government of Queensland to land sharks, speculators, and exploiters. These figures show the manner in which the people of Australia have been consistently robbed by Conservative Governments, and now that we have a Labour Government in power in the Commonwealth, we have a splendid opportunity of putting into effect the pet plank of the Labour platform. There is not one member of the Labour party who has not, at some time or. other, on the public platform, cursed the fact that communitycreated values were passing into the hands of private individuals. We can give effect to our platform by including in this Bill the proviso which I have moved. It is unnecessary to argue the justice of the amendment at length. It is self-evident.
– I trust that the Senate will not accept the amendment. We can sympathize with much of what the honorable senator has said, but I may point out that South Australia, in the establishment of irrigation works, has not given away the unearned increment to private individuals, the land having been resumed in that State, while in New South Wales the Labour Government in office has not given away the unearned increment, and I am not aware that even in Victoria, with a Liberal Government ia office, the unearned increment is given, away in connexion with irrigation areas.
– Not only have they done it in Victoria; they have also wiped off £1,000,000 of debts.
– Surely the honorable senator is not at this moment proposing to discuss the inception of irrigation in Victoria, and the land laws existing thirty-five years ago. Practically thewhole of the irrigated land in Victoria of recent years has been resumed.
– In Victoria, mora money has been lost over the resumptions than on anything else.
– That may have been the case, but I do not think the honorable senator, or any one with a knowledge of Victoria, will say other than that irrigation has been of great benefit to the State. There is mismanagement in ordinary life as well as inpublic life. The object of the amendment is to kill the Bill. The Commonwealth has no power to make land laws. From time to time there have been attempts to amend the Constitution, but I am not aware that it has been proposed by any member of the party to which I belong that the Commonwealth shall take over the lands of the States. I agree with the honorable senator in principle; but, as we cannot do what he wishes to have done, are we to play the part of the dog in the manger, and to prevent the States from working out the Murray River waters problem ?
Senator GRANT (Queensland) [11.41). - The proposal of Senator Mullan is that the Commonwealth shall refuse to pay any part of its contribution until the States interested in the measure have passed laws appropriating the values which will be added to their lands by the works which have been carried out. It is not proposed to interfere with the land laws of the States; we merely tell the State authorities that, until they do what we wish to have done, we shall not contribute to the cost of the works which they wish to have carried out. We say that, until they do what we desire, we shall not pay £1,000,000 to increase the value of privatelyowned land. Nothing affects the workers more seriously than the enormous rents that they have to pay for land for agricultural and for residential purposes, and we have now an opportunity to place on record our views on the subject. Honorable senators know that it would be better to wipe out the £5,000 exemption, which is a blot on the Federal land tax, and undertake this work as a Federal one. In New South Wales, practically no revenue is obtained from land taxation, and it is not anticipated that the Parliament of that State will increase the land taxation there to any extent. The revenue derived from land taxation last year did not exceed £6,000.
– The honorable senator excludes municipal taxation. He should have regard to the total taxation upon the land.
– We have to consider in this connexion the amount of revenue paid to the State by the owners of land. The value of the land of New South Wales is stated, on information which I do not regard as very satisfactory, as approximately £200,000,000; but those who own that enormous amount of wealth do not contribute more than £6,000 a year to the revenue of the State, and there is no hope of the imposition of a decent land-values tax there for some time to come, although the taxation of bookmakers, totalizators, stadiums and picture shows, is talked of. The amendment will not prevent each of the contributing States from expending the money which they propose to spend; the only contribution that will be held back will be that of the Commonwealth.
– And we propose to impose a condition only so far as the Commonwealth contribution is concerned.
– As soon as the States concerned agree that those who settle on the land shall not be robbed by its present owners of the value which our expenditure will give to it, we shall hand over our contribution. I support the amendment.
– The amendment is a very clever ruse. It seeks to impose conditions on the States in respect of expenditure for which they will be responsible. The Commonwealth is to withhold its contribution until the States have imposed taxation which will bring in revenue equal to the value added to land by the expenditure of themselves and the Commonwealth. Therefore we are imposing a condition in regard to our contribution of £1,000,000 that affects the total expenditure of nearly £5,000,000, of which the greater part will be provided by the States.
– Is not that right?
– We have no right to impose conditions regarding State expenditure. The amendment imposes a condition covering the money for which the States will have to be responsible, as well as the £1,000,000 to be given by the Commonwealth. There might be some force in the amendment if it covered only the latter sum.
– We want the whole of the community-created value, and not a part of it.
– My honorable friends are entering into a field which belongs entirely to the States. I am not complaining of the principle of this amendment, but of its application. In Australia no Government has done more to establish that principle than has the Government of South Australia.
– What are you complaining about?
– I complain that my honorable friends are inflicting upon the State a condition which she has already striven to accomplish.
– It will not do her any harm, for it will not apply to her.
– Senator Grant complained that very little has been done by the Government of New South Wales in the way of imposing a land tax. Recently the Government of South Australia increased its land tax, but, before it took that step, it resumed land, so that the State would get what my honorable friend calls the community-created values, but it will be hit by this amendment, if carried, just as hard as New South Wales will be.
– It will be a regular God-send to the people of South Australia.
– No. It will put an added burden on South Australia, simply because the honorable senator, and others, wish to hit other States which have not done their duty.
– In South Australia you will have no burden to bear.
– Certainly we shall, because the amendment will duplicate the burden on the State. In places along the banks of the Murray there are cliffs where irrigation cannot be carried on. The soil is good, but the water cannot be used. Yet it is proposed by my honorable friends to tax land which can receive no direct benefit from this project. The amendment means that for the use of the water a man will have to pay a rate of 30s. a year. There will be tolls imposed on the Murray after we have spent £5,000,000 on its improvement. A narrow margin of land along the River will have to bear the whole burden. Those who think that by this amendment they are hitting at the big man are really hitting at the man who is settled on a block of 15 or 20 acres. When they begin to take a piece of the communitycreated value, they will alter the whole burden on the smaller man. In the early days I went along the Murray, and, therefore, know the difficulties which the settlers experienced in commencing their work. I was at Waikerie when the men could not get the quantity of water they wanted through the lack of pumping machinery. What did they do? They told the Government that they were willing to pay 30s. an acre if the former would provide a pump. If my honorable friends are going to take the community-created value, where are they to take it there?
– We will take it everywhere we can.
– It will be found amongst the horticulturists rather than amongst the farmers, because the latter will claim that their land is not being improved. The farmer will reap a richer harvest than the horticulturist, but the latter will have to bear the burden. This proposal looks well on paper, but it cannot be worked.
– You do not mean to say that the idea is impracticable?
– It is. Let me give another illustration of the effect of this amendment. In South Australia a large drainage work is being constructed, which was initiated by Mr. Price in 1903, when he was Premier. The arrangement was that a third of the cost of the work should be paid by the land-holders in the form of a tax, according as the land was made better. Does my honorable friend agree with that betterment tax?
– Certainly not.
– Yet the honorable senator comes here with a proposal to take what he calls the community-created value ! Surely he must see that a betterment tax cannot begin until a betterment has taken place. The amendment fs too specific. It does not state when this principle is to be brought into operation.
Sitting suspended from midnight to IS. 45 a.m. (Thursday).
– I have only to say, in conclusion, that Senator Mullan, by his amendment, seeks to evade the second reading of the Bill, and the immediately preceding decision of the Senate. In other words, he seeks to hold up the work for which the Bill provides by introducing a principle which could not be carried out, since no machinery is. provided for it. It is really beyond! the scope of this measure, and belongs properly to a land Bill. The Committee will do well to reject the amendment as being out of place in a measure of this kind.
.- The principle of the Bill was affirmed by the Senate in agreeing that it be read a second time, and it is within the jurisdiction of the Committee to amend the Bill in any way thought to be desirable. From that point of view, therefore, the amendment is quite in order. It cannot be described as an attempt to get behind the decision of the Senate in agreeing to the motion for the second reading. It often happens that such a motion is carried on the votes of a considerable number of senators who express their intention of submitting in Committee amendments which will impose certain conditions. That is Senator Mullan’s object in this case. He asks the Committee to agree to impose a condition which he and others think will conserve the interests of the many people who may avail themselves of the opportunities that will be afforded as the result of the proposed expenditure. We are told that in supporting this amendment we are endeavouring, by indirect means, to destroy the Bill. There is no reason why the amendment should have that effect. A man giving money for any purpose whatever has the right to declare the conditions under which it shall be expended. In this case it is proposed to lay down certain conditions regarding the contemplated expenditure of £1,000,000 by the Commonwealth. Senator Senior says that the amendment, if carried, would, hit the small man, and allow the hig man to go free. As a matter of fact, all that we ask is that the increased values given to land by the expenditure of this money shall go to the State. This principle has been put into execution in South Australia, and I cannot understand why representatives of that State should object to the amendment. Why should the principle not extend to other States, provided they approve of this grant of £1,000,000?
– The States directly concerned will get no advantage from the Commonwealth grant.
– Undoubtedly they will. They must be relieved to the extent of the grant made by the Commonwealth. If that were not so, South Australia would not be anxious for the Commonwealth to have anything to do with the scheme. If it would cost them as much to carry out their portion of the scheme, despite the Commonwealth grant, the representatives of that State would have no objection to this amendment, because it would give South Australia a bigger return from the investment of its money in this direction than.it would otherwise secure. It is true, as has been said, that we cannot amend the land laws of a State; but it is just as well that we should consider for a moment what the States have done in connexion with their own schemes of this kind. We are told that the principle embodied in the amendment has been followed in South Australia, and we know that it has also been adopted in New South Wales. The New South Wales Government expended £800,000 in re-purchasing lands that were capable of being irrigated as the result of the Burrinjuck scheme. They took care to buy back the land before entering upon that scheme, so that they would not have to pay an increased price for it. They purchased the land for a little over £2 per acre; whereas they would have had to pay, no doubt, £4 or £5 per acre for it had they held over the purchase until the completion of the scheme. The Minister has told us that a great deal has been done in Victoria in the same direction. I am not able to say, from my own knowledge, what has been done here, but statements made from time to time in the Victorian newspapers show that, in nine cases out of ten, the State Government have “ fallen in “ where they have purchased estates for closer settlement.
They have scarcely been able to get back the money so invested. The policy has also been a bad one in Queensland. There the State Government have purchased a considerable number of estates, and in many cases have had to continue for a long time to help the people settled upon them, because, as the result of the expenditure of public moneys upon railways and other improvements, the value of those lands had been so increased that the price paid in repurchasing them would not permit of the settlers making a fair living out of the areas taken up by them.
– The State paid more for the land than it was worth.
– More than it was worth to the men who had to pay the added value before they could go on it. That practically has been our experience all over Australia. I would remind honorable senators that we have always availed ourselves of every opportunity to carry out what I understand to be the policy of the Labour party in this regard. When we took over the Federal Capital site, the Labour party decided that not one acre in the Territory should pass out of the possession of the Commonwealth, our desire being that the added value given to it by the expenditure of Commonwealth moneys should remain with the Commonwealth. It is not long since we had in the Senate a debate regarding the establishment of a Small Arms Factory in the Federal Territory.
– Surely that is no analogy.
– It is. When we are asked to vote £1,000,000, or any other sum of money, to carry out a scheme which must enhance the value of the landa of a State, we have a right to impose the conditions upon which we shall advance it. It will then be left to the States asking for the Commonwealth contribution to say whether they are prepared to accept it upon the conditions we stipulate. Every one admits that the amendment is consistent with a principle which has always been advocated by the Labour party. We are carrying out the principle in the Northern Territory.
– We have the power to do it there without any compact.
– Would South Australia have handed over the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth unless we had been prepared to accept the conditions she imposed? South Australia dictated the terms, and told us that we might take over the Northern Territory on certain conditions.
– To which we agreed.
– They were agreed to, but not because they were generally considered fair. A late Prime Minister practically repudiated the agreement, and a Leader of the Opposition did the same thing. They have said that the terms wore altogether too favorable to South Australia. The Commonwealth Government having taken over the Territory under the conditions imposed by South Australia, the representatives of that State are now asking that we should carry out our agreement. We are asked to contribute money towards this irrigation scheme, and we have a right to say on what conditions we shall do so. The condition which would be imposed by the amendment is one which should be imposed wherever the Labour party have an opportunity to carry out their policy. The Labour party in Queensland at the present time are endeavouring to give effect to what has been a plank of their platform for twenty years. The same principle is being put into operation in South Australia, and surely we are justified in asking that the States that are looking for a contribution from the Commonwealth towards this scheme shall adopt the same principle.
– The amendment, if carried, would punish the two States in which the principle is being adopted, because the other State might not adopt the principle.
– If this condition were imposed, in all probability it would be found that all three States would agree to give effect to the principle. It would be to their own interests to do so, because the enhanced value would go, not to the Commonwealth, but into the coffers of the States.
– Does the honorable senator mean that the State Governments would charge the full rental value tothe tenants ?
– Undoubtedly, they would get the full rental value from the tenants. When leasing lands in Commonwealth Territory, we shall expect to get the full increased value of those lands due to Commonwealth expenditure on railways and public works generally. It is quite reasonable to ask the States con cerned to consider the condition that would be imposed by the amendment, and they can then decide whether they will be prepared to accept the £1,000,000 from the Commonwealth under that condition.
– I want to point out to Senator Turley that the lands resumed in South Australia for irrigation purposes are let upon perpetual leases, and by section 38 of the Consolidated Land Act of 1915 of that State it isprovided that -
The rent for each period of fourteen years, excepting the first said period, of a perpetual lease, subject to revaluation, shall be fixed by the Board at least twelve months before the expiration of the next succeeding period of fourteen years.
Under that provision the re-appraisement for which honorable senators supporting the amendment are fighting would be accomplished.
– Then South Australia will have nothing to complain about.
– I complain that the amendment is so general that a State that is doing what is desired by honorable senators supporting the amendment will receive nothing towards the expense of this scheme, if another State refuses to give effect to the principle for which they are contending.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 22 agreed to.
.- Paragraph 32 of the agree- merit sets out the estimated expenditure as £4,663,000, and it is so cunningly worded that I take it the intention of the framers was not to limit the liability of the Commonwealth to £1,000,000, although clause 5 of the Bill imposes that limitation. I should like to know whether it is perfectly clear that the liability of the Commonwealth is absolutely limited to £1,000,000, notwithstanding paragraph 32.
– I have consulted the law advisers of the Commonwealth on this point, and they assure me that there is no doubt that the Agreement is ratified subject to the provisions of the Bill. It is possible for Parliament to impose any limitation upon the agreement, and such portions of the agreement as are in conflict with the provisions of the Bill are not binding on the Commonwealth.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– In regard to the point raised by Senator Mullan, I can assure the Senate that under the terms of the Bill the Com- . monwealth is not liable to any expenditure beyond the sum of £1,000,000. Paragraph 32 of the schedule expresses the estimated cost of the works, and indicates the proportion of such estimated cost to which each party shall be liable. But the provision in paragraph 32 is subject to clause 5 of the Bill, and that clause indubitably provides that the Commonwealth shall not be liable for more than £1,000,000. If the cost exceeds the estimate set out in paragraph 32 of the schedule, and the Commonwealth is to be asked to accept a further liability, another Bill will be necessary. Honorable senators can, therefore, rest assured that the responsibility to which they are committing the Commonwealth by this measure will not exceed £1,000,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Re presentatives, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Re presentatives, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 5th November, vide page 7284) :
Department of External Affairs.
Divisions 38 to 45 (£50,241).
– An outspoken Labour supporter, who has lately spent five months travelling through the Northern Territory representing a party with a few hundred pounds each, and anxious to get land for sheep-farming, writes me thus: -
While I was there, money would not have put me on the stump to talk Labour, seeing things as they were.
That is a most remarkable statement, for I never knew the writer hesitate before to talk Labour politics anywhere. He raises another interesting question -
I hope you will use your endeavours to get the Government to put down bores en some of the dry tracks which the mailmen have to travel from Camooweal to Bonroloola. There is one stage of 80 miles without water from Anthony’s Lagoon to Top Spring. I know that the Administrator is up against looking for water, and favours the stations putting down bores and selling the water to the public.
Such conditions will effectually prevent settlement. They prevailed many years ago in the pastoral districts of western Queensland, and settlement was greatly promoted by putting down tanks and sinking bores to provide water for travelling stock. The writer has lived for the last thirty years in western Queensland, and if he says that the conditions in the Territory are worse than they were in the old days in western Queensland, they must be very bad. If there is anything in our professions that we desire settlement in the Northern Territory, we must do something to improve matters, because travellers are evidently at the mercy of the men holding large areas who have the water-holes on their leases. We must try to make things easier for the pioneers.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s remarks under the notice of the Minister of External Affairs. I quite agree with him that it is almost as important to give facilities for travelling stock as it is to provide railways. The honorable senator’s remarks about the difficulty experienced by Labour supporters in expressing their views about the Northern Territory are also worthy of the utmost consideration.
– I should like to draw attention to something in the Northern Territory accounts which appears to me to be wrong. I find that £23,161 is to be spent, and yet not a single penny, so far as we can judge, is for developmental works. Are we to understand that all such works are to be stopped ? Then I see there is a subsidy for a steam-ship service from Port Adelaide to Darwin. Only a few days ago a contract was laid on the table providing for a subsidy of £3,000 a year for two years to the E. and A. Co. to provide communication between Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane and Port Darwin, and no mention of Adelaide was made; and I should like some explanation of the position.
– When the Minister is consulting with his responsible colleagues in regard to the ‘matters raised by Senator Turley, I should like him to see whether something cannot be done in the Northern Territory, on a comprehensive scale, in the way of water conservation. The rainfall is higher at Port Darwin than further inland, but even at a considerable distance from the coast the rainfall is very considerable. The fall ranges from about 50 inches per annum at Port Darwin to something like 30 or 35 inches at a distance of 200 or 300 miles inland. If the Territory is to be developed and become a satisfactory possession, it is clear that systematic steps should be taken in the direction I have indicated. I am aware that evaporation is an important consideration, but, in my opinion, it is possible to devise means by which the loss in this way can be minimized. With a proper system of water conservation, I have no doubt it would be possible to introduce irrigation, though, perhaps, not on the same extensive scale as that we discussed earlier in the evening on another Bill. Of course, productivity varies in the Territory, and I think that the less productive regions could be improved by means of irrigation. These may bc questions for hydraulic engineers and other experts, And I do not think that we have had reports from qualified men of this kind. Our information, I think, has been supplied mainly by surveyors, who, while they may have a general knowledge, have not that expert knowledge which is so desirable. However, .. it is clear that something could, and should, be done to conserve a portion of the heavy rainfall. The Government, in regard to the Territory, have absolute and uncontrolled power without any constitutional limitation, the Territory belonging absolutely to the Commonwealth. This means that the Parliament is supreme ; and I hope that, in view of this fact, the Government will apply themselves to the proper development of the Territory, in order that it may not become, as some people have been gloomy enough to predict, a “ white elephant.” Its strategical importance, in view of possible invasion, demands every consideration ; and I hope that the Government will do everything within their power to hasten the development of this portion of Australia.
– The position in regard to the steam-ship subsidy appears as unreasonable to me as it does to Senator Guthrie. I cannot at this moment assign reasons for the present circumstances, but I shall obtain the information by to-morrow. As to the development of the Northern Territory, I remind honorable senators that the present Estimates are based on last year’s Estimates, and that a large portion of the money is really for developmental works, such as surveys, mining subsidies, and assaying. I may further say that in last year’s Estimates there appears £6,000 for bores. I can assure honorable senators that the Government are quite alive to the importance of water conservation, and other developmental works in this part of Australia. I believe that, with the return of normal times, this great province will be developed in such a way that, instead of proving a source of danger from invasion, it will be a source of strength to the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 46 to 89, £5,713,816.
-36 a.m.]. - The Minister of Defence will recollect that when he visited Queensland recently, a number of deputations waited upon him. One of these represented the Clothing Union, an organization which controls the persons employed in the manufacture of clothing. I confess that I could scarcely gather the aim which the secretary of that union had in view from the way in which he stated his case. The Minister, therefore, can scarcely be blamed for failing to grasp it. I have, however, learned since that the object of the deputation was to ascertain from the Minister whether it was not possible - seeing that there is a fair amount of cloth in the possession of the Department - to get move work done in Brisbane in connexion with the manufacture of uniforms for our troops. The secretary of the union assured me that there was a large number of its members out of employment, and that his desire was to learn whether the Department could not employ more labour in the making up of the cloth which was then in hand. I should like some information on that point.
– In reply to the remarks of Senator Turley, I wish to say that I quite understood the desire of the deputation. The honorable senator is misinformed when he says that there is any considerable quantity of cloth in the possession of the Department. That is not so. Whilst we have plenty of clothing manufacturers who are prepared to make up uniforms, we have experienced a serious difficulty in getting the quantity, of cloth that is required.
– Is an equitable distribution of the cloth being made amongst the States?
– I believe so. Representations have been made that Queensland has not been getting her fair share of the orders. I have looked into that matter, and it seems to me that the allegation is not borne out by the facts. Moreover, during the past three or four months, Queensland has received a larger number of orders than she received previously. But we are scarcely able to procure sufficient cloth to keep those who have already entered into contracts with the Department, fully supplied. As soon as we can get more cloth, we shall undoubtedly increase the number of contractors for uniforms, because we desire to issue those uniforms as early as possible.
– I should like to know whether the training of our Citizen Forces is still being carried out? It has been represented to me that, to some extent, that training has been suspended.
.- The training of our Citizen Forces, and of the Senior Cadets, has been suspended till the end of December. The reason is that the supply of officers and instructors is so limited, and the number of reinforcements required for our Expeditionary Forces so large, that we have had temporarily to suspend the training of our Citizen Forces in order to make available the services of instructors to train our Expeditionary Forces. That, however, does not prevent voluntary parades being held by our Citizen Forces. A considerable number of those Forces are still holding parades. We hope that by January, when a large number of troops in our Expeditionary Forces will have left for the front, sufficient instructors will be available to enable the training of our Citizen Forces and Senior Cadets to be resumed.
– I ask the Minister whether his attention has been called to a report which recently appeared in the Age of a Naval court martial which was held in Sydney. I cannot recall the name of the medical officer who was the subject of that court martial. But, according to the press report of the proceedings, he was charged with having deserted from the Navy. The evidence showed that he was a medical man who had joined the Navy, I think, about the 14th August, 1914 - some ten days after the declaration of war. He was in the Navy on probation for twelve months thereafter. Before that period had expired, he found that he could not continue his services, and accordingly wrote, either to the Minister of Defence or the Minister for the Navy, intimating his wish to resign. In reply, he received a communication to the effect that he would not be permitted to resign. The twelve months of his probationary period elapsed and he continued in the Navy, but was not confirmed in bis appointment. Quite recently, the vessel to which he was attached was about to leave Sydney1. On the day upon which she was to sail, he visited Garden Island, or some other Naval establishment, with a letter addressed to the Commander, or other superior officer, informing him that he would be unable to proceed with her. His wife at this time was seriously ill, and he knew that if he did leave Sydney he would probably lose her. He then went and procured the services of a doctor and a nurse. The vessel sailed without him, and he was subsequently court martialled. At the inquiry, the circumstances I have outlined were disclosed, and he was dismissed from the Navy with disgrace. The authorities would not permit him to resign but, nevertheless, they dismissed him with disgrace. What does that mean ? When the circumstances associated with his leaving the Navy are forgotten, he will be branded as a man who was dismissed because he tried to desert in time of war. His counsel contended that he was not in the Navy, his period of probation having expired.
– Had he been discharged ?
– He had not been discharged nor confirmed in his appointment. Apart from technical considerations, however, it would appear that the man had in every way manifested his bona fides. When he signified his wish to retire, he was given no indication as to what he should do, and on the day when he is alleged to have deserted he actually attended for some hours before the departure of his vessel, and left a letter explaining why he could not go. It is not as if the man was a shuffler. It is not as if he had developed “ cold feet.” Why was he dismissed in disgrace? It was as if the Court realized that it could not punish him. Had he been a deserter, had he been a shirker, had he been a man with “ cold feet,” he perhaps deserved to be shot or yard-armed.
– Does the honorable senator complain because he was not shot?
– No; but if there had been any justification for dealing with him as an actual deserter, as a coward, that might have been the appropriate punishment as a warning to others. What I complain of is that it seemed as if the court martial realized that the merits of the case were not against this man. aVid yet the natural inference to be drawn from the punishment that was meted out to him is that he shirked his responsibility. I do not know this officer from the veriest stranger. I have seen no letters in the paper about him. I know nobody who knows him. I have not discussed the matter with anybody, but when I read what was in the paper I felt that, if correctly reported, it was a case wherein a gross injustice had been committed. I asked the Minister if his attention had been directed to this case. If it has not, I will turn up the paper and find the account for him, and I hope he will give every consideration to the matter, and. if justice has not been done, T trust he will see it is done.
Senator PEARCE (Weston Australia - Minister of Defence) [1.46 a.m.1. - I do not know whether the honorable senator is aware that an alteration of portfolios took place a few months ago, and that a Minister for the Navy was appointed. I have no knowledge of the facts of the case, but I will bring the honorable senator’s remarks under the notice of the Minister for the Navy. I would, however, like to make this comment: Does the honorable senator contend that an officer himself must be the judge as to when he shall leave his ship ?
– Not at all.
– As an officer, he would have a copy of the regulations, and he would know that, unless he had received his discharge, he had no right to leave, especially in time of war. The circumstances, stripped of all sympathetic reference, practically amount to desertion. There may be extenuating circumstances, but the bare fact remains that this officer did not receive his discharge. The fact that his appointment’ was not confirmed does not affect the matter one iota. He could have got leave of absence by applying for it in the proper way; but an officer cannot be the judge as to when he shall leave his ship. What would be the position supposing on, say, Melbourne Cup Day the whole crew decided that they would not go to sea. If a man has the right to leave his ship because his wife is ill, why has he not the right to leave it for some other reason ? Looking at the facts as presented by the honorable senator, they suggest that this officer took a course that would be disastrous if it were taken by other officers, or by the crew.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Trade and Customs Department.
Divisions 90 to 103, £85,438.
– There is an item here for the investigation of bitter-pit. Will the Minister tell us the nature of that investigation, and if the results will be made known to the States interested?
– Upon this question, the Commonwealth and the States came to a joint arrangement some years ago to retain Mr. McAlpin, an expert on the subject, to investigate the causes of bitter-pit and to suggest a remedy. I think that all honorable senators have been supplied with volumes descriptive of the work done. Experts Bays that Mr. McAlpin, by a process of weeding-out, has narrowed down the cause of this particular trouble to one thine, and investigation is now proceeding with the object of arriving at a remedy.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Home Affairs Department.
Divisions 104 to 113, £146,588.
– Can the Minister inform me as to what steps are being taken towards the early construction of the proposed railway line from Yass to Canberra ?
– No Bill has yet been presented to Parliament authorizing the construction of a railway from Yass to Canberra, and, without such authority, no work can be undertaken in connexion with it.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 114 to 123 (Department of the Postmaster-General), £825,850; division 30 (Refunds of Revenue), £50,000; and division 31 (Advance to Treasurer), £250,000, agreed to.
Postponed clause 2, abstract, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
At the next sitting the War Loan Bill (No. 3) will be the first business, and then the Income Tax Bill will be considered. There will also be a Bill to recall the writ for the referenda and a Bill in regard to a grant of money to Lady Bridges. We Lope to adjourn for the Christmas vacation at the conclusion of the sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 2.2 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 November 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19151110_senate_6_79/>.