8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Customs Act. - Proclamations (dated 15th September, 1920 ) revoking previous Proclamation relative to the importation and exportation of copra.
Defence Act. - Regulations amended. - StatutoryRules 1920, No. 175.
Excise Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 167.
Lands Acquisition Act. - Land acquired at Tharwa, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Northern Territory. - Public Service Ordinance 1913 - Regulations.
Public Service Act. -
Appointment of W. Campbell, Home and Territories Department.
Fifteenth Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Acting Commissioner.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired at -
Lithgow, New South Wales.
Marrickville, New South Wales.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has any information to give honorable senators as to when the Tariff is likelyto arrive?
– If I could judge the time that another place is going to take in dealing with the Tariff, I could answer the honorable senator’s question. The Government propose to take as early an opportunity as possible to bring it forward in another place, but it is quite impossible for me to say how long it will take honorable members in another place to dispose of it.
Dispositionof Captured Guns
– If it is not the intention of the Defence Department to retain the limbers of the captured guns that are now in the Artillery Park, on the St. Kilda-road, as part of the national armament, and seeing that the material is deteriorating and that the wheels, poles, &c, might be of value to soldiers going on the land for vehicles used for agricultural purposes, I ask the Minister for Defence what is the intention of the Defence Department in regard to their disposition ?
– The guns referred to are all for distribution throughout the Commonwealth as trophies of the war. They will bedistributed through the War Museum Committee, of which the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) is Chairman, and of which I and other members of the Ministry are members. That being the case, I do not think that the wheels referred to would be available for distribution for the purpose indicated by the honorable senator.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Bill.
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
Census and Statistics Bill.
Westralian Farmers Agreement Bill.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with a message intimating that the House of Representatives had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in new clause 16 inserted by the House of Representatives.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
The Budget: Press Criticism - Profiteering - Nauru Island Agreement - Westralian Farmers Agreement Act - Conduct of Debate - War Debt: Sinking Fund - War Loans - Bank Deposits - Need for Economy - Immigration : Population and Production - Commonwealth Shipping - Blind and Old-age Pensioners - Maternity Bonus - Quarantine - Amendment of Entertainments Tax Bill - Public Service: Basic Wage: Board of Management - Returned Soldiers and Public Service Associations - Post and Telegraph Department: Works Expenditure - Tariff: Duty on Dredges and Cable Chain - Australian Representation at Washington.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
I think the occasion is opportune to say a few words in connexion with some criticisms which have been offered to the Budget put forward by the Government. I do so for the reason that it is essential, if the finances of the country are to be properly safeguarded, that those who put forward criticisms of the proposals of the. Government should endeavour to speak the truth. I draw the attention of the Senate to a section of the press which has failed lamentably in that first consideration. No Government can object to criticism. It should welcome it, and at a juncture like the present, when finance is all important, it is a good thing that the financial proposals of the Government should receive the closest consideration and be subjected to all the criticism which can reasonably be offered. But the criticism put forward recently is of such a character as to make one wonder whether the journal in question is really endeavouring to get at the truth in this matter or whether it is, of deliberate purpose, endeavouring to sap the financial confidence of the people of this country.
– Why not name the journal ?
– Well, I shall do so. I refer to the Melbourne Age. When it is also remembered that this journal at the present time is engaged in a campaign to keep the Federal Parliament in this city - and, therefore, to keep it saturated in the atmosphere which it is endeavouring to create* - it becomes all the more dangerous that statements such as it has recently put forward on the finances of the Commonwealth should be circulated, and all the more essential that the falsity pi its statements should be disclosed.
– Its criticism ‘-.has had so little effect upon the Senate that recently we gave the Government more money than was asked for.
– I do not say that this criticism by the Age has any conscious effect upon senators, but there is such a thing as unconscious effect. And there is this to be borne in mind : The Seat of Government for the time being is in Melbourne, and Federal members are, either consciously or unconsciously, more or less affected by their environment, as is everybody else. Unless the falsity of the arguments of the Age is demonstrated, the outside public will not realize that the criticism is valueless. The only way, therefore, in which tho public may be put upon their guard in future about accepting statements from such a source is to let them know the truth.
The statements to which I refer have already been alluded to by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), but it may be as well if some’ of them are again mentioned. The Age declared that the taxation in Australia exceeds that of Great Britain by £5 per head, and in this statement the Age includes, for the purpose of comparison, the total expenditure of the Commonwealth and States. It is easy to prove that this is a gross distortion of the facts. I venture to say it was known to be a distortion of facts by the author of the article when it was published, but no doubt it was hoped that the truth would not be given, and that, on this gross distortion of the facts, a feeling of want of confidence in the financial proposals of the Government, and incidentally in the financial stability of the Commonwealth, would be created. The Treasurer in his Budget-speech compared taxation in the United Kingdom with that in Australia, and arrived at the following results: - Taxation: States and Commonwealth, £10 13s. 9d. per head; “United Kingdom, £22 3s. lid. These figures were furnished to the Treasurer by the Commonwealth Statistician, and so far from showing that taxation in the United Kingdom is less per head than in the Commonwealth, it is shown to be £11 10s. 2d. more per head. Let us examine the expenditure as a guide to assess the amount of taxation. If honorable senators will only consider the different conditions in the United Kingdom, as compared with those of the Commonwealth, they will more clearly see the falsity of the argument endeavoured to be set up by the journal in question. For instance, the expenditure for the Commonwealth quoted by the Age includes the amount spent on Government railways and tramways, whereas in the United Kingdom this item is not debited against the Government at all, and it represents ai sum of not less than £30,000,000 against the Commonwealth this year. It is obvious, too, that against this £30,000,000 of expenditure we must set the receipts from fares and freights; and this cannot be regarded as taxation, although the article in question gives no credit to the Commonwealth under this head. Again, in Australia the police are provided for out of the States’ revenue, whereas in the United Kingdom, with the exception of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the police are provided for out of the municipal rates. Another item of expenditure which has very little counterpart in Great Britain is interest and sinking fund on the loans raised in Australia for capital works, which are to a great extent selfsupporting. These are railways, tramways, water supply, and sewerage. Now I come to another, shall I say, cunning fallacy put forward by the Age. In its references to the expenditure in the United Kingdom, it omits altogether to mention the amount which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to pay off national debt this year, but includes in its figures the amount which the Commonwealth Government proposes to pay off the national debt. Therefore, on that side of the ledger a sum of no less than £240,000,000 should be added to the figures for the United Kingdom in order to make a comparison of like with like. A number of other items which have been overlooked by the article in question might be mentioned.
The Age endeavours to make it appear that the Commonwealth expenditure necessarily means Commonwealth taxation. That is another fallacy, as I have already shown, because our expenditure on railways is met by revenue from freights and fares, and not out of taxation.
– A further fallacy or misrepresentation lies in the fact that the payments made out of War Loan Fund are for war purposes, and the payments in the case of Capital Expenditure are out of Loan Fund and not out of taxation at all, but all these are put in to make up the balance as showing the amount of taxation which the people of the Commonwealth are called upon to Pay.
– Is it a fact that the gentleman who is writing all this is a German ?
– I do not know anything about the writer, but I believe the editor is of German descent. I do not in any way impugn his loyalty. I have no reason to do so, nor do I assume that that is the reason why these articles are being written. But I do say that at a juncture like this, when the safety of nations is very largely dependent upon their financial stability, at any rate the truth ought to be given.
There is another class of criticism to which I wish to refer. It is of a more straightforward type but it equally deserves a reply. It is a sort of general declamation that there must be more economy.
– Hear, hear!
– And that, because the figures in the Budget are large, they necessarily mean extravagance. It is quite appropriate that the Leader of the Opposition should say “Hear, hear,” to the first statement, because from the party with which he is associated is coming agood deal of that criticism. The obligation lies on those who make it to show which of the items that go to make up this total they would economize upon. They should also say whether it is not a fact that, in regard to some of the items that constitute the different amounts in these increases, the party with which they are associated endeavoured a little while ago to increase, and not to decrease, the liability, and whether, had they been successful at the last election, and carried out the programme which they put before the people, these figures would not have been increased by at least 25 per cent.
– You are drawing on your imagination - a thing for which you blamed the Age.
– I am going to do something more. I shall quote figures to show that what I have said is a fact. For instance : -
Direct war expenditure -
Payable from loan:
Expeditionary Forces, Land Settlement, War Service Homes, &c, £25,400,000.
Payable from Revenue :
Interest, Sinking Fund, Pensions, Repatriation, &c, £36,841,931.
Is there any item there that any advocate of economy in the Commonwealth is prepared to say that we should retrench? Is it not a fact that Senator Gardiner and the party with which he is associated fought the last election on the principle that whereas the Government of the day were prepared to go to a certain length in this expenditure, they were prepared to go further ? Did they not say that whatever we expended on repatriation their expenditure would be more, and that as to war pensions, they would go to a higher scale? Did they not profess, when these measures came before us, that they were not satisfied with them, because the rates were not high enough, the scales not extensive enough, and the expenditure we proposed not sufficient? Therefore the only criticism they make on these items, when it comes down to details, is not to decrease any of them, but to increase them.
There are various smaller items of expenditure arising directly out of the war to the extent of £17,570, giving a total of direct war expenditure of £62,259,501.
Expenditure indirectly arising out of the war is as follows : -
Grand total, direct and indirect war expenditure, £66,144,556.
The cost of living bonus was awarded by the Arbitration Court. Where on any of these items would the advocates of economy retrench? They may say, “We would not have constructed any ships. We will cut out that item.” But they would then have to show that this would have been an advantage to the taxpayers of Australia, and all the facts are against them. The facts show that the construction of ships has been as economically carried out in Australia as in any part of the world, and that the protection of the primary producer of Australia to-day is due to the Commonwealth being the owner of ships. To retrench on the cost of living bonus would be to repudiate an Arbitration Court award, and that is a thing which no Government could do. If a Government will not observe Arbitration Court awards it must repeal the law, but while the law is there it must obey the awards.
I come now to normal expenditure, as follows : -
Defence and Air Services -
I venture to say that if any just criticism is due there, it is that we are not making sufficient provision for the protection of Australia on the general outlook of the world to-day. If we deduct the £600,033 for air services, and take the money value of what we are actually spending this year as compared with 1914, when the expenditure was in the neighbourhood of £4,000,000, it will be found that for the purchasing power of the £1 there is really no increase in expenditure at all.
I come to a number of other items, which I leave it to the economists to say whether they would cut down or not -
Invalid and old-age pensions, £5,215,000. It does not lie in the mouth of Senator Gardiner to attack that item, because all the criticism of his party is that it should be increased.
– We would add another million pounds to it straightway.
– The honorable senator and his party, therefore, do not propose economy there. Then there is -
Maternity allowance, £630,000.
I have heard no demand for the repeal of that item from my honorable friend or his colleagues.
Payment to State Treasurers, £6,865,000.
That is a statutory obligation which cannot he repudiated by the Commonwealth.
Census and immigration, £250,000.
Redemption, interest (including arrears) and sinking fund - Northern Territory loans, £342,915.
That is a statutory obligationalso.
Interest, States Loan Act, recoverable from the States, £911,250.
Subscription under Oil Agreement Act, £100,000.
Payment to Post Office for meteorological telegrams, £52,000.
These, with the Defence Department’s items, and those war items of expenditure, amount to £87,612,032. The total estimated expenditure from all sources is £98,864,836, and there is, therefore, a balance of £11,252,804 between the expenditure I have mentioned and the grand total. Let us see how this expenditure of £11,250,000 is accounted for. It has been expended in the upkeep of various Government Departments. The first of these is the Governor-General’s establishment, which shows a decrease of £4,595. Parliament, owing to there being no election, shows a decrease of £36,519. Theexpenditure in the Prime Minister’s Department has been increased by £10,799 as compared with last year, but that is easily explained by the expansion of that Department in connexion with the commercial activities forced upon it by the war, and all of which have been strongly advocated by the very people who advocate economy. The commercial activities of the Government have been largely in the interests of the primary producers in the Commonwealth. In the Department of the Treasury, there has been an increase of £14,263, due to the fact that the work of the Department has necessarily expanded as the financial commitments and transactions of the Government have increased. The AttorneyGeneral’s Department shows an increase of £3,891, the Home and Territories Department an increase of £29,948, the Department of Trade and Customs an increase of £17,634, and the Department of Works and Railways, an increase of £23,164. The Postmaster-General’s Department shows an increase of £1,326,94S, and the Northern Territory and Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway an increase of £2,716. New works, revenue, and loan, not previously shown, amount to £338,983, or a total increase over the normal expenditure of last year of £1,727,232. Prom that we have to deduct the cost of living bonus which we have added in the other figures of £439,000, which, with the amount £53,518, which it is expected will be unexpended from last year, makes a total of £492,51S, leaving a balance of £11,252,804.
It will be noticed that’ the largest item is that of the Post Office, where the increased expenditure is £1,226,948. Is there any one who will say that item should be reduced ? Is it not a fact that on all hands - from Parliament, the Press, and the public - there has been a demand for further increases ?
– In what way is the increase being spent?
– I shall give the items. There is £107,000 for the cost of living bonus, leaving an amount of £1,220,000 covered by other increases. Of this, £615,000 is represented by the increased provision for capital expenditure on telegraph and telephone material, the balance being made up in repairs to buildings, pensions, interest, conveyance of mails, general increase in wages, anr cost of material. The increase of £615,000 was absolutely necessary, as the Post Office had been starved during the war years. If the increase of £1,220,000 in the Post Office is deducted from the total increase of £1,534,714, it leaves a balance of £314,714, which is made up of the following items. Loan to the Westralian Farmers Company for the erection of wheat silos, £20,000; loan to Papua for public works, £20,000; expenditure on the Federal Capital, £150,000 ; contribution under the River Murray Act, an increase of our contribution of £93,000, or a total of £283,000. The remaining increases total £31,714, and are made up in sundry increases and decreases in administrative expenditure, and expenditure on capital works.
Is there a solitary item on which a reduction could reasonably be made? 1 have given the items, and it is idle and useless for the critics of the Government to speak of extravagance, and demand economy, and to refer to the financial statement of the Government as a knock-out “ Budget, unless they are prepared to come forward, and place their finger on some particular item on which a saving could be made. When “slip-shod” criticism of the character I have mentioned is made, it is impossible to meet it. It is a general statement, and can only be met in a general way. But let our critics place their fingers on one particular item, and we can supply the necessary answer. If that were done, we would be able to give the country the whole of the facts, and the people would be able to make up their minds as to whether this is an extravagant Budget or whether the Government’s financial proposals are sound. I said at the outset that I thought it was profitable and right that when these loose statements were made - not in Parliament - the facts should be set out through the medium of Hansard, 60 that those who take an intelligent interest in the affairs of the country might be able to ascertain the true position. If the facts are placed before the people, they will be able to see whether the Budget is an extravagant one or whether it does not clearly state the financial position of the Commonwealth.
– I do not know whether I would have addressed myself to the Budget figures had not the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) made certain references to the policy of the party which I represent. I must congratulate the
Minister in doing what I think should always be done when a Budget debate opens, because it seems the fairest course to adopt, inasmuch as it gives us an opportunity to deal with all manner of questions. Had the Minister not endeavoured to link my party up with the extravagant statements to which he referred and drawn upon his imagination in an endeavour to show that if we had been occupying the position that he and his colleagues occupy we would have been more lavish in our expenditure, I would not have had anything to say. The difference between the policy of the party I represent and that of the Government is that onestands for efficiency and the other for inefficiency; and although one cannot point to certain items and show where money could be saved, it would be an easy matter to prove that no set of men could have done worse than those who have been intrusted with the affairs of the country.
In regard to the criticism against that great organ of public opinion, the Age newspaper, I can join with the Minister in believing that a journal which grew into strength by advocating a policy of Protection cannot be anything else but a vehicle of falsehood and misrepresentation. It is part of a policy for which the present Government is responsible. Here is a Government with a majority in both Houses which could have reduced the cost of the materials required for carrying on the government of this country had they beenso determined. They preferred, however, to let the profiteer exact just whatever profit he pleased, and they have merely attempted to overcome the difficulty by the simple method of taxation. Take the case of the Nauru Island Agreement as a case in point. In connexion with that enterprise £1,500,000 has been deliberately wasted at a time when we cannot afford to part unnecessarily with a single shilling.
– It is too early to say that that money has been deliberately wasted.
– I do say it, because only last session Senator Pratten, and several other honorable senators, conclusively showed that no profit can result from it. Even if it were a moot question of future profits, surely the Government can be charged with lack of fair consideration for this country when they enter into an undertaking of that character at a time when money is so valuable. The Government of a prosperous community may, perhaps, be pardoned for speculating to the extent of £1,500,000 in an island which will yield a return upon the expenditure. But to a Government which is recovering from a tragic war, and whose people are loaded with taxation to an extent that has hitherto been undreamed of, the proposal is an unthinkable one.
– Does not the honorable senator think it would be a good thing for him to see the island before condemning it?
– I made myself thoroughly acquainted with the prospects of the enterprise which has been acquired on Nauru Island before I spoke upon the question in this Chamber. I challenge Senator Senior to show that there will ever be a return of a single penny from that undertaking. Another illustration of wasteful expenditure is afforded by the investment of the taxpayers’ money in the scheme which is embodied in the Westralian Farmers Agreement Act. This Government was not called into existence to participate in undertakings of that character.
– No protest came from the honorable senator in reference to the Bill.
– I said that it was an experiment which one might expect the party with which I am associated to dabble in.
– In another Chamber, where the honorable senator’s party is numerically stronger than it is here, was any fight put up against it ?
– The investment of the people’s money in an enterprise of that sort is entirely unwarranted. Any Government which embarks upon it may be rightly challenged as the Age newspaper has challenged this Government.
– Is it the wheat silos of Western Australia or those of Sydney of which the honorable senator is speaking ?
– The Government would have been perfectly justified in erecting silos in Western Australia in the way that they were erected in New South Wales.
– I thought the honorable senator was a Unificationist.
– I am a lot of things. I do not apply unification to the lending of New South Wales money to help the farmers of Western Australia.
– I would remind the honorable senator that that matter has already been decided and cannot be revived.
– With your pernrssion, sir, I propose to give some new information in respect of it.
– Will the honorable senator permit me? It is laid down in our Standing Orders that no honorable senator may reflect upon a decision of Parliament, because that is tantamount to a reflection upon Parliament itself. Parliament has already decided this matter, and, therefore, any reflection upon its decision must be a reflection upon Parliament itself.
– I quite recognised that an attempt would be made to prevent me referring to the matter. I shall not, therefore, discuss your ruling, but I intend to debate the wasteful extravagance of which the Government have been guilty in connexion with that undertaking. Even though a measure may have passed the Senate, surely, if fresh information will go to show that it ought not to have been passed, that information ought not tobe excluded. I decline to accept such a ruling upon the matter.
– Order! The honorable senator must not say that.
– I intend to discuss the matter, and if my rights are curtailed to such an extent that I cannot do so I am prepared to sit down. But you, sir, will not regulate my action.
– The honorable senator must not adopt that tone towards the Chair. My duty is to see that our debates conform to the proper parliamentary practice. The honorable senator has not been deprived of any opportunity to fully discuss the matter to which he desires to refer, and, if he did not take advantage of that opportunity, the fault is not mine.
– It isbecause I do not get fair treatment from you that I absent myself from the chamber.
– Merely because I call his attention to what is the rule of Parliament, the honorable senator has no right to reflect upon me by asserting that I am attempting to curtail his privileges.
– The practice of affording the Senate, on the motion for the first reading of a Supply Bill, an opportunity of a general discussion upon questions affecting , Australia, is a very commendable one. It enables the Government and, indeed, the members of another branch of the Legislature, to form an idea of the feelings which actuate honorable senators. This Chamber is not a party House, and, consequently, has an absolutely free hand in dealing with all questions which may be submitted to it. Its intentions, therefore, are necessarily obscure until it has been afforded an opportunity for full discussion, such as this Bill affords. Had wo been allowed to debate the Budget earlier, certain surprises which the Government and members of another place have experienced, as the result of our action, would have been avoided. I am quite in sympathy with the Minister for Defence ( Senator Pearce) in his complaint regarding the misrepresentation which has been indulged in by the opponents of the Government. But he need not have complained very much of the Melbourne Age, because the misrepresentations which appear in the column of that journal, which is headed “ The Road to Ruin,” are so obvious that very few persons in Australia are likely to be misled by it. The other class of criticism, to which reference has been made - the claim for economy- is inseparable from our political life. Every Government has to submit to it. The political party which is in opposition will always endeavour to impress the people with the idea that, if it were in office, it would do things very much better and very much cheaper for the community than they are being done.
I am very much surprised that Senator Gardiner should have adopted the attitude which he has adopted to-day. He is very seldom present, and, surely, when he does come here, he should conform to our Standing Orders, and not attempt to justify his absence by a complaint that he does not receive fair treatment from the President. Had I been in the honorable senator’s position, and been prevented from re-discussing a measure already dealt with by the Senate, I should have at once obeyed the ruling of the Chair. No one who has had any parliamentary experience will contend for the right to repeat discussions that have already taken place.
– But as this matter is referred to in the Budget, can we not discuss it when discussing the Budget?
– Matters referred *o in the Budget have already been dealt with by special Bills, and under the ordinary rules of debate those items are now withdrawn from the general discussion of the Budget. Otherwise, debates in this House would be interminable. For instance, I could not now go into all the reasons which I advanced, and which 1 intended to advance had I thought of them at the time, against the Bill proposing the repeal of the entertainments tax.
– Why not?
– Because the Senate lias already dealt with that subject.
– Have we not considerable latitude in debate on the first reading of a Supply Bill?
– Under our Standing Orders we have no right to object to being prevented from further discussing questions which have already been dealt with by the Senate.
There are a few questions raised by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in the Budget that have not yet been dealt with, and to which we may reasonably refer. The Treasurer informs vis that the revenue of the Commonwealth for the last financial year exceeded the estimate by £6,336,113. Now we find that, in addition to the actual receipts for the financial year just ended, the Treasurer requires for the ensuing year another £3,766.000. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) referred to many items in connexion with which increased expenditure is absolutely inevitable; but there is one item of increased expenditure from revenue with which we have not yet dealt, and that is the contribution of -J per cent, to the sinking fund of the war debt, amounting, approximately, to £1,600,000 per annum. There can be no objection to a Government providing a sinking fund for the liquidation of a National debt for some purpose essential to the interests of, and particularly affecting, the present generation, or possibly generations in the near future; but when a nation is called upon to incur a debt to maintain its integrity, the expenditure of the money must inevitably be for the benefit of future generations; and I hold that in such a case it is reasonable that a portion of the debt should be paid by generations yet to come, who will benefit by the. expenditure.
Out of a war debt of £335,596,4S9, no less than £220,535,513 was raised in Australia. Just as their action was creditable to the men who actually enlisted for the defence qf Australia and the Empire, so is the action creditable to those who have invested their money in our war loans to this extent. The whole of the interest paid on the loans floated in the Commonwealth will continue to circulate in Australia, and from a national standpoint it does not matter one iota how long that debt continues. If the whole of the £335,000,000 of war debt had been borrowed abroad, and the interest had to be paid in the form of raw materials or manufactured goods sent out of Australia annually, the position would be very different, and it would be in the interests of the Commonwealth that we should get rid of that debt as soon as possible. In the circumstances, however, I do not agree with the Government when they propose to take another £1,600,000 towards the sinking fund of the national debt, which it is suggested will liquidate it in thirtyseven years, when the per cent, now agreed upon would liquidate the debt in something over fifty years.
I think that Australia has good cause to feel satisfied with its prospects of prosperity, as indicated particularly by the banking accounts outlined in the Treasurer’s statement. We find that the trading banks in 1914 had a capital of £163,854.000, while in 1919 their capital had increased to £255,476,000, an increase of £91,622,000. These figures, from a trading point of view, indicate a marvellous advance in that period of five years. Some persons will say that they are no indication of the prosperity of the people generally, since only a comparatively small proportion of the people are associated with the trading of the nation. But there is another indication of the general prosperity of the people outlined in the reports of the Savings Banks. A very much larger proportion of the general population are interested in the operations of the Savings Banks, and we find that, in 1914, the Savings Banks of Australia had on deposit £83,560,000, while in 1919 the amount on deposit had increased to £129,644,000. or an increase for the five years’ period of £46,084,000. These figures are very creditable indeed to the people of Australia.
I wish to impress upon those who may chance to read what I say the necessity of being even more economical and saving in the immediate future. It has been explained over and over again that the sovereign which, in 1911, was worth 203., i.3 to-day worth only about 13s. 6d. It is, consequently, easy to understand that persons spending their money to-day are receiving only 13s. 6d. worth of goods or pleasure for every sovereign they expend as compared with what they would have received for the same expenditure in 1911. If people save their money until more normal conditions prevail, the purchasing power of the sovereign will, probably, have so increased that, as compared with its value in 1911, it may be worth, not 13s. 6d. as it is to-day, but 17s., 18s., or even 203. So that of all times that could be suggested, the present is the most appropriate for persons who can possibly save their money to do so. That is a doctrine which, I think, should be advanced on every possible occasion.
There is one matter included in the Government policy which is all-important to Australia, and it is the encouragement of immigration. Increased population and increased production are of paramount necessity to Australia at the present time. They arc the only means by which we can lighten the burdens of the people, and bring about the conditions of prosperity of normal times. All our denunciations of profiteers and all our agitations against high prices will not afford us an effective remedy for the many ills of a time like the present. The only remedy which can be of any use is that we should produce more of the necessaries of life, and add to the numbers of our people that we may be assisted in bearing our financial burdens. Increased population is falsely regarded by some people as a means to reduce the workers of the country to a position of slavery. People who argue in this way fail to realize that every person who comes to the country not only produces more, but assists to consume more. Although he may compete in one line of industry with those who are already here, he necessarily adds a customer to many other lines of industry, and so adds to the prosperity of the nation as a whole. If we have more people the continent of Australia will be rendered safer for the white races, there will be less taxation per head, and the national debt which we are seeking to liquidate by this increase of sinking fund will also be less per head, and be the sooner liquidated.
– That all depends on circumstance’s. The people who come may be more extravagant than we are.
– If, instead of 5,000,000 people, there were 10,000,000 in the Commonwealth, the per capita indebtedness on account of the war, which at present stands at £335,000,000, would be 50 per cent. less.
The Minister has told us that it is proposed to provide in the Estimates the sum. of £3,000,000 to in? crease shipping operations. This expenditure has my absolute and unconditional support. I have always been an advocate of Government enterprise in the transport of goods and passengers either by land or sea. I believe in Government-owned railways, and hold that no system of Governmentowned railways can be regarded as complete without a Government- owned lineof steam-ships to supply the connecting link between our railway termini and the markets of the world.
– We shall all be able to go to England free then, I suppose?
– No. The honorable senator will have to pay just as much as any other taxpayer, and perhaps a little more. That has been my experience, at all events. Although our experience of shipping has been gained during the war period, it has been such as to encourage the belief that future success is assured. The Treasurer has told us that, during last year, 1,099,335 tons of merchandise was carried by Australian ships, and the profits on the year’s working, after providing for all expenditure and a sinking fund, was £1,160,035. This is a very creditable balance-sheet, especially in view of the fact that the Department comprises only eighteen ships at present.
I am pleased to know that, in pursuance of their humanitarian policy, the Government have decided to allow blind pensioners to supplement their pension payments to a much greater extent than at present without suffering any reduction in their allowances. I do not know what the. policy is, but I should certainly like to see ail restrictions removed from blind pensioners earning money by personal exertion, without any interference with their pensions. Of course, I know it will be argued that if we allow this special privilege to blind invalid pensioners, we may be met with a request to do likewise in respect of other invalids in receipt of a pension; but I do not think the case of a blind pensioner is quite parallel with that of the average invalid pensioner. In the first place, he is in possession of all his faculties, except that of sight, is capable of enjoying life to a very marked degree, and consequently has the same financial needs as his more fortunate brother who is in possession of his sight. Again, there is no doubt at all as to a blind man’s complete invalidity. He has no chance of malingering or imposing on the general community. Although it may be difficult to allow the ordinary invalid pensioners to supplement their allowances, because of the possibility of imposition, a blind man has no chance of deception. The Government, therefore, would be well advised to allow our blind pensioners, men and women, to earn whatever they can without suffering any reduction of pension payments. It is reasonable to suppose, although I have no evidence to support this statement, that a very large number of blind pensioners, who could earn more money by personal exertion, refrain from doing so, because they know that they would suffer a reduction in the amount of their pension.
– Have not the Government made some provision to meet the cases quoted by the honorable senator?
– Yes, but I do not know what the policy is. I understand the Government will, in future, allow them ‘to earn up to a certain sum. We are thankful for that concession, and I am sure the blind people will be very grateful, but I want to impress upon the Government the desirability of entirely removing all restrictions.
I wish now to refer to the position of those old people who are living in the different homes and institutions of Australia. It ought to be the policy of the Government to encourage these aged people to enter homes where they may be well cared for by properly trained attendants. At present, however, no pension is paid to the old people living in the different institutions throughout the Commonwealth, although they receive a little pocket money amounting, I think, to something like 2s. per week. The Government pay to the State Governments a certain sum per head of these inmates for their maintenance, and, besides, allows them this small sum per week. The old people feel that they have lost the independence that is enjoyed by other oldage pensioners living outside these institutions. One old man, eighty years of age, wrote to me recently stating that the whole of his 2s. was about absorbed by the present cost of tobacco, and arguing, that as pensioners outside were getting 15s. per week, the inmates of properly conducted institutions should get a little more pocket money now than was provided for them when the pension was 10s. per week. I think the Government have taken some action in regard to these cases, but I have not heard any of the details.
– -Two shillings will not buy much tobacco now, as very poor tobacco costs 9s. per lb.
– The high cost of living affects the old people as well as others in the community.
– Yes. Little luxuries like tobacco cannot be adequately provided on the present allowance,- so it should be increased. I do not think that the amount involved will be very great, but even if it represented a substantial sum, the Government would be justified in increasing the allowance to, say, 5s. per week.
There is one other question upon which I have not heard an expression of opinion from honorable senators for some time. I refer to the maternity bonus. Our expenditure under this heading last year was £630,000, and I am not at all satisfied about the matter. An investigation has shown that approximately 99 per cent, of the mothers of Australia claim the bonus.
– The last statement I saw on this subject was to the effect .that the number of claims was greater than the number of children born in Australia.
– I have not seen that stated, but I believe it is quite well founded that at least 99 per cent. of the mothers of Australia claim the £5 bonus on the birth of their children. We are, of course, very anxious to encourage the young Australian, because we want him. One native, I think, with all due respect to our friends from abroad, is always better than a man imported from another country.
– I would never admit that.
– Sir Walter Scott wrote -
Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said
This is my own, my native land-
That sentiment runs through the mind of every human being.Unless a man has love of home and love of his country he cannot be a good citizen. Every man born in a country has a special leaning towards that country, whereas the man imported from abroad, although he may be loyal and may have a certain affection for the land of his adoption, cannot forget the land which gave him birth. So I say that the natives of a country are always more valuable to it, much as we appreciate our friends from abroad, than the immigrants. I do not propose to indicate any saving to the Government in this expenditure, but I suggest that better results might be obtained by means of it than we are receiving at the present time. There are in Tasmania, and I believe in other parts of Australia, what are. called child welfare baby clinics, maternity clinics, and bush-nursing centres. If £630,000 per year were expended in the creation and maintenance of maternity and baby clinics in the different centres of Australia, and for the establishment of associations of bush nursing, to provide for skilled attendance upon mothers unable to pay for professional attendance in the greatest crisis of their lives, very much better results would be obtained. Thousands of mothers who to-day take the £5 and invest it in Tattersall’s on behalf of the baby, or break a few bottles of champagne “ over its head “ at the christening, would make their own provision and would not require advice from the clinics or attendance from the bush nurses.
– They do not all put the money into Tattersall’s ; some put it in the Savings Bank.
– Some may do that, but I know that some put it in Tattersall’s. The poorer class of the people, whom it was the desire of the then Government to assist when they brought in this system, would be more effectively helped by that means than they can possibly be by giving them a £5 note for each child born. I strongly urge the Government’s close consideration of the question of establishing some different system to achieve their object than the way in which the money is being spent now.
I referred on a previous occasion, but not so extensively that I should be debarred from dealing with it now, to the question of quarantine. I am apprehensive of a very serious situation arising, particularly in the case of my own State, should another contagious epidemic occur in Australia. Reference has previously been made to the heavy impostplaced upon steam-ship companies in such circumstances, and to-day there has been circulated amongst senators the report, dated the 1st of October, of the Select Committee on the Sea Carriage of Goods, from which I take this sentence -
Evidence has been submitted to your Committee, showing that on a single trip between Melbourne and Tasmania, one vessel alone was called upon to pay £1,162 for quarantine and expenses.
Distinct statements have been made by those interested in shipping that if similar conditions again arose it would be impossible for them to continue trading. If a shipowner or shipping company is compelled to maintain in quarantine the whole of the passengers, and pay for medical attendance on them, in addition to maintaining and paying the crew and meeting the loss due to the ship being laid up, naturally as soon as an epidemic is proclaimed the companies will tie their ships up to the wharf and accept the least loss. What this would mean to an isolated State like Tasmania, or to the Northern Territory, or to parts of Western Australia, or, in fact, to all those portions of Australia which have no railway linking them up with the rest of the Continent, it is hard to estimate at the present time. I therefore appeal to the Government to take the matter into serious consideration, and come to some decision by which in the event of an epidemic, the cost of maintenance of the passengers and crew, and the loss sustained by the inactivity of the ship in quarantine, should be borne jointly, at least, by the company, the passengers, and the State. The visitation of a contagious disease is a calamity which affects the whole of the people of Australia, and no one section of the people should be called upon to bear the whole burden of the cost.
– The Government are to be warmly congratulated on the fact that the Senate is so prepared to trust them that it has granted them even more money than they asked for. I was unable to be present last week when this happened, although I should have liked to be in my place, but I understand that the Senate granted the Government £250,000 more in the way of taxation than they asked for. I know of no greater compliment that could possibly be paid to a Government, and no more effectual way in which a House of Legislature could show its confidence in a Government. It therefore ill-becomes any member of the Senate to find fault on a grievance day with the Government on the ground that they have been extravagant, seeing that we have actually been prepared to give them more money than they asked us for.
– Are you not reflecting on a decision of the Senate?
– Not in any way. I think the Senate paid a magnificent compliment to the Government. Never in my experience in Parliament, or in my reading, have I come across an instance of a. legislative body that has shown such magnificent confidence in a Government. The Government have, indeed, a right to congratulate themselves on the Senate’s exhibition of unparalleled trust in them. Had I been here, I should not have been prepared to be so liberal to the Government, although I am a supporter of theirs, and have very little fault to find with them. I should have been quite satisfied to give them the money that they asked for. That would be all that they could legitimately expect of me. But if a House decides in its wisdom to give the Government more than they ask for. then it seems to me that it is very difficult for any member of that House to say to them, “ You are spending money extravagantly.” What the Senate did is a record. It is unparalleled since the in ception of representative government. I find it very difficult, after such a magnificent display of trust in the Government, to find fault with anything that they do, but I wish topress them to hurry on with the Bill relating to the Public Service.
The Service, as I have said here again and again, is somewhat dissatisfied. In saying that, I speak from the New South Wales stand-point. In that State the public servants are perfectly justified in some of the complaints they are making. A basic wage has been granted there by the State authorities, at a rate somewhat higher than obtains in any other State of the Union. I think I am correct in saying that, as a result quite a number of officials employed by the Commonwealth in New South Wales are not receiving a salary commensurate with that which persons in the State Departments are receiving. A few years ago - before the war - taking the Commonwealth public Service as a whole, the employees werereceiving a somewhat higher wage than the employees of the States were. The result was that there was a rush of State employees to enter the Federal arena, but the position has been reversed, particularly in New South Wales.
Quite recently a measure relating to the appointment of a Board of Management for the Public Service was passed by this Chamber, and, although I did not support it, I do not wish to reflect on the Senate for having given it its approval. According to the information which appeared in the newspapers, the Bill is having a rather rough time in another place, and there is a probability of the Government dropping it altogether, because it has been placed fairly low on the notice-paper. In considering the order of business in another place, it appears that it is not the desire of the Government to deal with the Public Service Bill at an early date..
– Order! The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing the business of another place.
– Will I not be in order in asking if it is the intention of the Government to go on with the Bill?
– I am merely referring to the action of the Government, and asking whether it is their intention . to proceed with the Public Service (Board of Management) Bill.
– The honorable senator ought to know the proper way in which to do what he desires.
– I do not wish to reflect in any way on the other House, and if the measure is to be dropped I shall not be sorry. The Bill left the Senate some time ago, and as it has not been returned to this Chamber, I presume I shall not be out of order in saying that I trust it will not be long before the measure is passed, if it is the intention of the Government to proceed with it at all. If the Government do not intend to pass it, it is time questions of importance to the Public Service were dealt with.
– I thought the honorable senator was anxious to keep the Bill under the control of Parliament until the main amending measure was introduced.
– Yes, so far as this Chamber was concerned; but the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) informed us that they were anxious to pass the Bill, so that the members of the proposed Board would be able to frame the amending measure he has mentioned. If that is so, they should not lose time in obtaining the valuable assistance of the three gentlemen who are to be appointed to the Board. It is time something was done, because members of the Federal Service are working side by side with members of the New South Wales State Service, who are receiving the basic wage in that State, which is higher in many instances than the rate paid to Federal servants. This matter cannot be settled until we have a Board of Management or a Commissioner with an assistant, as Mr. McLachlan suggested, to deal with the Service. Parliament will, to a large extent, be blamed and held up to ridicule if consideration of this question is further delayed, and I ask the Government to either assist its passage or submit some concrete proposal for dealing with the matter, which I consider urgent.
I also desire to refer to a matter which I introduced in the Senate on the 5th August, when I asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the following questions: -
I received a reply from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Milieu) at the time to the effect that he was not in a position to give the information, but that inquiries were being made. Later, I received the following answers: -
It will be seen that that reply was not an answer to the question I submitted, as I desired to ascertain, not only whether the Minister had seen the statement, but whether the report of Mr. McLachlanwas correct. The reply was to the effect that no persons, whether members of an association or a union of the Public Service, were debarred from receiving award rates. I believe the Minister for Defence gave me that information in answer to another question. I now desire to learn whether any organization or association has done as Mr. McLachlan has stated. I received a letter from the general secretary of the Commonwealth Public, Service Clerical Association in connexion with this matter, which reads -
I notice in Hansard on 5th August, page 3261, you raised certain questions in connexion with Mr. McLachlan’s statement, that returned soldiers who are officers of the Commonwealth Service have been prevented from joining certain Public Service associations, because of the strong attitude of these associations against conscription. I have been directed by my Executive Council to bring under your notice that, so far as this association is concerned, no member has been debarred from joining. We have at all times kept our organization free from any political influence, and we have never on any occasion taken part in any public question such as conscription, nor have we levied our members to assist any party, political or otherwise. 1 feel that in justice to my organization, these facts should be placed before you, and I trust you will keep them in view when the Minister furnishes his reply to your question. I would also like to point out for your information that every returned soldier who is a permanent clerical official of the Commonwealth Public Service is a member of this association; and, during the war period, we took every action possible to preserve the rights of these men and to see that they did not suffer in any way, cither in regard to salaries or promotions during their absence with the Australian Imperial Force.
The communication is signed by Mr. Maher, the secretary of the association, and is one which I consider extremely satisfactory. I desire to ascertain, however, whether there were any associations in connexion with the Public Service which did as Mr. McLachlan suggests. I am prepared to support the Government in saying that all public servants should receive the benefit of an award, and that they should not be prevented from joining a union, or, having done so, should not be compelled to contribute towards something in which they do not believe. Mr. McLachlan in his report says that he sees no objection- to an association of the Service levying a certain amount on its members to meet the cost of arbitration, and I think he is right, because if members secure an award that is higher than the rate granted by the Commissioner, and costs have been incurred, a levy should ‘be made. If they are not prepared to contribute in the form of a levy, they should not be entitled to the award rate. But if the association says that, unless its members support a certain political programme, they shall be debarred from joining the association, the Government would be justified in passing a regulation to provide that every public servant shall receive the benefits of the Arbitration Court award. If an association has not done what Mr. McLachlan says, and no one has been debarred from joining an organization, or has been compelled to support any paTty, it is not necessary or fair to have- the regulation of which the Minister has spoken. The letter I have read from the secretary of the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association does not apply to all the members of the Public Service, but only to those who are members of that association. There are a large number of public servants
Who are not members of that body. I shall be pleased if the Minister will obtain that information for me.
I am very glad that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Bus-, sell) is present, because I desire to refer to another matter which I regard as of some importance. When I was speaking upon the Post and Telegraph Kates Bill the other day, he made an interjection which was not correct, although I do not suggest that it was intentionally incorrect. But as the statement in question may possibly have influenced the vote which was taken in this Chamber some little time afterwards, I make no apology for mentioning it here. Whilst I was advocating the retention of lid- postage upon letters instead of 2d., the Vice-President of the Executive Council interjected -
We have definitely laid down a programme for the expenditure of £3,000,000 upon works.
I immediately replied -
Does the Minister mean to say that the Department will be able to expend that amount during the next year? to which the honorable gentleman answered -
I then said that I was staggered at the. idea of £3,000,000 being expended upon postal works during the current financial year, three months of which had already expired.
– In addition, I remember saying that if we could not spend it we would do our best in that direction, because postal works were so far in arrears.
– But there is no provision for that expenditure upon the Estimates. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) stated that the sum of £900,000 has been provided for telegraph and telephone construction this year, as compared with an expenditure of £470,000 last year, of which £375,000 was paid out of loan funds.
– The £900,000 which is to be expended upon telegraph and telephone construction this year is to come out of revenue.
– Yea. But I can see nothing in the Estimates for the current financial year relating to the expenditure of the £3,000,000 to which I have referred. ‘
– There was a Loan Bill.
– The Budget provides foi an expenditure of £1,125,000 upon postal works.
– There is a good deal of difference between that amount and £3,000,000. As a matter of fact, it is proposed to expend upon the Post Office this year about £500,000 more than was expended last year. When Senator Pratten was criticising the Government a few days ago, I made an interjection to the effect that that amount represented as large a sum as the Department could expend in the period that remained of the present year. When I was discussing the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, I expressed the view that a postal charge of 1½d. upon letters would provide us with all the revenue that we required, and I was staggered to learn that £3,000,000 was to be expended upon postal works during the next nine months. I felt that it was utterly impossible for the Government to expend that amount duing the limited portion of the financial year that now remains to us. Of course, there may have been a misunderstanding upon my part, and I shall therefore be glad to know whether it is a fact that £3,000,000 is to be expended upon postal works during the balance of the current financial year. .
– If I made any mistake in regard to the matter which has been mentioned by the honorable senator I apologize for it. I gather from the figures which are before me that a total of £3,070,000 is to be expended upon additions, new works, and buildings during the current financial year. It is, however, quite possible that I confused that item with the item relating to the proposed expenditure upon postal works, which is set down at £1,074,864. The two items appear in consecutive lines, and it is quite possible that I made a mistake in the figures which I quoted. If so, I regret it.
– The figures I quoted are taken from the Hansard report.
– Then I ask the honorable senator to accept the correction I have now made.
– I do not intend to speak at length upon this Bill. Indeed, I would not have spoken upon it at all but for a communication which I received to-day upon a matter which is of considerable importance to one of the public authorities of the State which I have the honour to represent in this Chamber. I know that when Parliament is sitting Ministers have so many duties to discharge that they cannot always grant interviews1 to honorable senators, and that is why 1 take this opportunity of drawing their attention to the subject to which I am about to refer. Under our Customs Act. I do not think that a ship or steamer WA-may be purchased in another country and brought to Australia is regarded as a dutiable article. Nov/, if a vessel be not a dutiable article, duty ought not to be levied upon items of machinery which approximate very closely to punts, dredges, etc., and which are needed by a State authority for the purpose of dredging harbors, improving shipping accommodation, or improving the accommodation which is necessary for vessels of the Australian Navy. For a long time the Marine Board of Launceston has been making commendable efforts to develop a harbor in the River Tamar. Honorable senators will retain some recollection of the fact that a dredge which was ordered by that body in England, and which was on its way to Australia, was sunk by the raider Emden in the waters of the Bay of Bengal or of the Arabian Sea. The Marine Board thereupon repeated its order. That vessel was covered by a satisfactory amount in the way of insurance. But I am not too sure that the second dredge which has been ordered by the Board will reach the shores of Tasmania, because it met with some misadventure on the coast of Portugal. I entertain the hope that it will eventually be got off and that it will ultimately reach the island State and be available there for the operations of the Launceston Marine Board. The following is a copy of a letter which has been addressed to me, and, I presume, to other members of this Parliament, in regard to this matter, and I ask Ministers to lay it before the Government in order that we may secure a declaration of Ministerial policy in respect to it : -
I have the honour, by direction, to bring under your notice that recently this board imported from England a quantity of special cable chain for moorings for our rock-breaking plant, and upon which we had to pay duty to the extent of £420 odd, being 30 per cent. on the value of same.
As you are aware, theboard also ordered a bucket dredger, which has now left Glasgow for Launceston, and upon which the board will also have to pay duty.
If the duty charged be anything like 30 per cent., it will represent a very considerable sum -
My board have, therefore, instructed me to write you and other State Federal members of Parliament, pointing out that the abovementioned plant has been obtained for the purpose of removing the rocks at the entrance to the deep water port at Bell Bay, River Tamar, and as this port has been recommended, and will be used by the Government, as a subNaval Base, as well as for shipping, therefore the removal of the rocks becomes a national work. Under the circumstances, the board will bo glad if you will be good enough to take the matter up, with a view of having the dredger and chain cables passed in free of duty, and, if necessary, to endeavour to get aBill through Parliament to this effect.
I would like to point out that, when the rocks are removed, the entrance to theTamar will admit any of the Australian and British Fleet to anchorage at Bell Bay without any hindrance whatever, with a depth of over 40 feet of water at low tide.
Trusting you will give the matter your favorable consideration, and thanking you in anticipation,
I have the honour to be, sir,
Geo. S. Meredith,
I am not criticising in any way the expenditure which the Commonwealth has necessarily incurred in the attempt to provide harbors for the vessels of our Australian Fleet. But when we have a local authority which is spending money in this way, and making what has been recommended as a sub-Naval Base available in the best sense of the word for the vessels of the Australian Navy, we ought not to impose upon it the obligation to pay these immense sums by way of duty. Let the same consideration be extended to any similar authority engaged in carrying out similar work in any part of the Commonwealth. What is proper to be done in the circumstances, I cannot say. If duty is being levied upon these articles, presumably it is being levied legally. If so, as a matter of policy, an amendment should be made in our Customs Act in the direction suggested; and I respectfully invite the attention of Ministers to this question.
The other matter to which I desire to address myself is one of importance to the Commonwealth and to the British Empire. Some time ago this Parliament, in its wisdom, passed resolutions to the effect that the Commonwealth should be diplomatically represented in the Capital of the United States of America. In pursuance of those resolutions, I understand that the Government contemplate securing, in the not far distant future, suitable representation upon the lines indicated. Their action, I know, has been made the subject of some public criticism. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) in moving the first leading of the Bill before us, indicated his resentment at what he considers to have been injudicious and unfair criticism of the financial proposals of the Administration. He made a rejoinder to that criticism, which I think met with the approval of a very large majority of honorable senators. I am not forgetful of the fact that criticism of the intention of the Administration, pursuant to the resolution passed by both Houses of this Parliament to secure diplomatic representation of the Commonwealth at Washington, has come from outside agencies and authorities, such as newspaper editors. No doubt the editor of a newspaper is very often an able man, whose opinions, expressed in the leading columns of his journal, which he is often called upon to . fill with his written articles, are worthy of consideration and perusal, whether we agree with them or not. But I say that any newspaper that attempts to antagonize public opinion in regard to the representation of this growing Commonwealth at the capital of the great Republic of the West is doing something very inimical to the interests of the people of Australia.
Even if I cared to pose as an authority on international matters, which I do not, I should be very discreet in anything I had to say on the international position as it exists at the present time. All that I have to say is that my fellow senators are seized of my opinions, and they know what I anticipate in the not distant future. They know that, in common with themselves, I view with great regret the fact that the world is by no means at peace. Only last night I read in an article in an American magazine that the Albanians, in revenge for the assassination in Paris of Essad Pasha, a great man of their race and nation, put nearly 500 Italian prisoners to death in cold blood. That is not indicative of a very amicable spirit amongst the races of the world. Our Empire, at the present time, is burdened with exceedingly grave responsibilities. Those at the helm in the Old Country have problem’s of government and of Empire confronting them, the attempt to solve which might well drive mad a man of no mean capacity.
What is the position of Australia? Australia is a Dominion which we hope to see continue to the very latest ages as one of the great society of nations known as the British Empire. But our Empire, although it has come successfully through the great world war, and although its prestige is deservedly very high at the present time, is by no means out of perilous ways. I see, I am sorry to say, a drift to a position which is as inevitable as the rising of the sun tomorrow. I am not going to be particular. I say that I see in the not too distant future another very great war. a war which may closely concern our interests, and because of that fact, in all sincerity, in a spirit of complete allegiance to the British Empire, and with the intention of doing all I can, and advising all I can, in the best interests of the Mother Country, I assert that it is essential that the 5,000,000 of people in the Commonwealth of Australia should do everything possible to bring together the great Englishspeaking nations. It is essential that we should do our very best to keep America and Great Britain on the very best of terms with each other. We . occupy a sort of middle position. We are within the British Empire, and yet, as a people, I do not think that the Americans regard us as being in any way inimical to their interests. That being so, and seeing that the Mother Country has been wise and generous enough to practically admit us to the status of a nation by permitting us to become signatories to the Peace Treaty, I think it is worthy of our new status, worthy of the part we might play in connexion with the solution of the problems to which I have-only very lightly referred ; in fact, it is essential and vital to Australia, that we should be represented at Washington without any delay. Honorable senators, knowing how freely I express myself to them in confidence, will absolve me from the necessity of being more particular and direct in what I have to say publicly upon this great question. I say that although the press of Australia may criticise action taken in this direction on the ground of its being uneconomical, we have the interests of our country and of unborn generations to consider, and we would be false to our trust if, discarding all criticism and putting aside anything of levity and narrowness in this connexion, we did not take those steps which will link us up in bonds of safety ind self-interest with that great community of people we call the United States of America.
I do not wish to add anything more. I believe that the financial proposals of the Government, with certain modifications, are such as an intelligent Administration would put forward at this juncture. The Bill before us provides for the ordinary services of government. Honorable senators generally take advantage of the motion for the first reading of such a measure to express their views, as I have done, on matters they consider of importance. I shall not further delay the Senate, but will express the hope that, in spite of all criticism, the Government will, at an early date, do their level best to secure the most intelligent and able representation of Australian interests at Washington.
Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) [5.131. - In order that I may not appear discourteous, I desire to reply to one or two questions submitted during the debate on my motion for the first reading of the Bill. I am sorry that Senator Thomas is not present. The honorable senator referred to replies given to questions asked by him in the Senate in connexion with a statement made by Mr. McLachlan having reference to certain returned soldiers being debarred from membership of the Public Service Associations because of their political views. I have received the following letter from the secretary to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department dealing with the matter: -
With reference to your memorandum of the 20th September covering an extract from Hansard, dated 15th September, embodying an inquiry by Senator Thomas in connexion with a question asked by him some time ago respectinga passage in Mr. McLachlan’s report on the-
Commonwealth Public Service as to officers having been prevented from joining certain Public Service associations, it would appear that the interpretation placed by Senator Thomas upon the portion of the report referred to is scarcely correct.
The Acting Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner, to whose notice Senator Thomas’ remarks have been brought, has pointed out that returned soldiers were not debarred by any express action or vote of an association from becoming membcrs thereof, but were debarred from the standpoint of their own conscientious opinions in favour of conscription from joining an organization the definite policy of which was in opposition to conscription.
It is observed by the Acting Commissioner that the point taken by Mr. McLachlan in his report is apparently that Public Service Associations should not take sides in political matters, but should exist solely in the interests of public servants in relation to their employment.
The only other matter referred to in the debate which, I think, calls for a reply is that raised by Senator Bakhap in regard to the levy of Customs duties on certain chainsand a dredge which is being imported by a local authority in Tasmania. I point out to the honorable senator that the Tariff is a Protectionist Tariff for the encouragement of manufacturers in Australia. It is not contended that dredges cannot be manufactured in Australia.
– Is a duty levied on dredges or ships built outside Australia?
– There are duties imposed on certain classes of ships.
– Under the new Tariff ?
– Yes, and also under the old Tariff.
– Does the Minister say that if I built a vessel overseas in England, and had it navigated to Australia, and entered on the shipping list here, I would have to pay duty on the cost of that vessel?
– On a ship of a certain size, yes.
– Of a certain size?
– Was it not the object of the letter which the honorable senator read to appeal against the imposition of duty ?
– That is a clear indication that such a duty may be imposed under the Tariff. These duties are imposed for the purpose of encouraging shipbuilding industry in Australia. It may be that there are reasons why duty should not be imposed on the chains or the dredge to which the honorable senator has referred. It may be that they cannot be manufactured in the Commonwealth. That would be a reason which would weigh with the Minister for Trade and Customs in giving favorable consideration to the request which the honorable senator has made. A further reason, no doubt, would be that the matter has reference to expenditure by a public body.
– It will certainly be beneficial to the Australian Fleet.
– It would be beneficial to have the harbor dredged or the rocks which have been referred to removed. But if the dredge could be built in the Commonwealth the rocks could still be removed without the necessity for importing a dredge. I shall bring the honorable senator’s remarks under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene).
I take this opportunity of intimating to honorable senators that at another stage of the consideration of this measure I shall have to ask for the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the Bill to be passed through all its stages before the dinner adjournment to-morrow, because it will be necessary that telegrams should then go out to authorize payments of salaries on Friday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure is a very short one, and is for the purpose of facilitating arbitration proceedings in relation to the compensation claims for land acquired along the route of the transcontinental railway between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. As the Commonwealth Government had no arbitral powers in respect of that land it has been decided to take advantage of the machinery created by the South Australian Government; but the Arbitrator under that law would come under the discipline of the Supreme Court of South
Australia, and it has been thought desirable that as compensation claimswill be determined by the High Court, any determination should not be subject to appeal in the Supreme Court of South Australia. No question of policy is involved.
– It will not take away any rights at present vested in the land-owners ?
– No. It is really a recognition of the general principle that the High Court of Australia shall be supreme, and nob subject to discipline or control by any State power.
– Will the procedure be more costly under thissystem ?
– No, it will be simpler.
– What about clause 2 of the Bill? It states that section 4 of the principal Act is to be amended by omitting the words “ And the land so specified shallbe deemed to be vested in the Commissioner.”
– Those words are found to be unnecessary now, as all land is vested in the Commissioner of Railways. Probably they were inserted prior to his appointment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
– In moving
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to inform honorable senators that we are not in a position to go on with the business to-night, but to-morrow we wish to dispose of the Supply Bill, and then take the remaining business on the noticepaper, as well as the Judiciary Bill, which came up to the Senate from the House of Representatives to-day. With regard to the Public Service Bill, to which Senator Thomas referred earlier in the day, I can only say that it is the desire of the Government to press on with it, and anything we can do to that end will be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19201013_senate_8_94/>.