8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Representation of Australia by Senator Pearce.
. -(By leave.) - I have pleasure, which I have no doubt will be shared by this Chamber, in informing the Senate that the Government have decided to nominate a delegate to the Washington Disarmament Conference. The opportunity for making that nomination arose inconsequence of a cabled invitation from the imperial authorities expressing their willingness and desire that Australia should be included in the’ British Delegation. The Government responded in the affirmative, and have nominated Senator Pearce for that very responsible and, if I may say so, very privileged mission. Senator Pearce will be leaving Australia by his boat to-morrow, and a little later I shall ask the co-operation of honorable senators in suggesting that Mr. President should leave the chair for a sufficient period to enable such members of the Senate as may wish to do so to bid Senator Pearce farewell, and wish him a successful issue to his mission.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
Transfer of Seat of Government to Canberra
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways whether it is a factthat when
Sir George Fuller was Minister for Home and Territories he had plans arranged by which the Federal Parliament might be removed from here to Canberra within twelve months. If so, will the Minister make those plans available?
– My colleague, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), states that he is not aware of any such plans. A report recently presented by the Federal Capital Advisory Committee indicates that that body of experts considers three years as the shortest time within which Parliament and Ministerial offices could well be provided for at Canberra.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act. - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1920-21, dated 21st September, 1921.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act.- Statement of income and expenditure to 31st May, 1921, together with AuditorGeneral’s report.
Commonwealth Bank Act. - Aggregate ‘balancesheet of Commonwealth Bank of Australia at 30th June, 1921,’ together with Auditor-General’s report thereon. ‘
Commonwealth Bank Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 172 and 193.
Defence Act. - Regulations amended.- Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 173, 174, 175, 176, 178, 183, 184, and 185.
High Court Procedure Act. - Rules of Court - dated 5th August, 1921 (Statutory Rules 1921, No. 158). Dated 29th August, 1921 Dated 26th September, 1921.
International. Labour Conference. - Draft conventions and recommendations adopted during first session, held at Washington, 1919, and secondsession, held at Genoa, 1920.
International Postal Congress, held at Madrid, 1920. - Report by Mr. Justinian Oxenham, Commissioner representing Australia.
Lands Acquisition Act-Land acquired at - Bellata, New South Wales- For postal purposes.
Laverton, Victoria; Derby, Tasmania - for Defence purposes.
Tuggeranong, Federal, Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
New Guinea. - Ordinances of 1921 -
No 11. - Quarantine.
No. 12. - Expropriation (No. 3).
No. 13. - Customs Tariff (Amendment).
No 14. - Intoxicating liquors (No. 2).
No. 15. - Business tax (amount).
No. 16. - Treasury.
No. 17. - Appropriation 1921-22.
Norfolk Island. - Ordinance No. 4 of 1921. -
Public School. Norfolk Island. - Report of Administrator for year ended 30th June, 1921. Northern Territory. - Ordinance No. 9 of 1921. - Darwin Town Council (No. 3). Papua. - Ordinances of 1921 -
No. 1. - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 2) 1920-1921. No. 5. - Trust Fund advances.
No. 6. - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 3) 1920-1921. No. 7. - Superannuation.
Post and Telegraph Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 120, 121, 12,6, 130, 139, 150, 151, and 159. Public Service Act - Appointments, promotions, &c. -
Attorney-General’s Department - W.
Galt, R. E. Rickards.
Department of Trade and Customs - H.
E. Neal, R. B. Curd.
Department of the Treasury - C. Hurst, C. E. Moylan, A. W. Munro, J. H. Buckle, J. V. Ratcliffe. Postmaster-General’s Department - A. P. Buckerfield, F. Goss, T. B. Harris, C. P. Wilson. Prime Minister’s Department - D. A. Primer.
Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 152.
River Murray Waters Act. - River Murray Commission. - Report for the year 1920-21.
Trading with the Enemy Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 181.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 180.
Treaty of Versailles of 28th June. 1919. - Protocol modifying Annex II. to Part VIII., signed at London, 5th May, 1921. (Paper presented to British Parliament.) War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired - New South Wales - Armidale, Balgownie, Goulburn, Mayfield, South Goulburn, Tamworth, Wallsend, Wauchope, Weston.
Victoria - Bendigo.
Wireless Telegraphy Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 127.
– Has the Minister for Defence introduced this year a Bill providing for a, new Army; and, if not, is it his intention to do so?
– No such Bill has been introduced, nor, so far as I know, is such a Bill contemplated.
Charges by Mr. T. R. Ashworth.
asked the Minister for Repatriation -
In view of the definite charges made by Mr. T. R. Ashworth in the Argus of the 30th August, 1921, regarding the administration of the War Service Homes Department, will the Government appoint a Judge as a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the charges made, as suggested by him?
– I have already personally brought this matter under the notice of the Government, which is now considering it.
Sale of Horses in England - Alleged Cancellation of Good Discharges.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 and 2. The Minister is not aware of the rumours referred to, nor of any grounds for them. Australian Imperial Force horses in England were sold by public auction, portion by the Imperial Disposals Board prior to the establishment of the Australian Imperial Force Disposals Board, and the balance by the Australian Imperial Force Disposals Board, of which Sir W. G. McBeath was Chairman. The prices realized were, on the whole, considered satisfactory.
Senator DE LARGIE (for Senator Elliott) asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Department is, or has been, calling in and cancelling good dis charges granted to returned soldiers, with a view to issuing bad discharges in lieu of them, on the ground that, when searching the records of these men in connexion with the grant of war gratuity, it was discovered that these men had crimes against their record ?
– The answers are -
No. The issue of a discharge, and the “ reason for discharge “ thereon stated, are in no way connected with the various Gratuity Boards, either central or district. Discharges were issued by the District Military Commandant (now issued by District Base Commandant). It may be explained that no “character “ is stated on a discharge fromthe Australian Imperial Forces, the only statement which may be taken as indicating “good” or “ bad “ discharge is contained in the “ reason for discharge.” The various -reasons normally given were: -
In December, 1919, instructions were issued by telegraph to all Military DistrictCommandants, in the following terms: - “Reference finalization men returning having been sentenced abroad following instructions approved for immediate adoption all cases not yet finalized. In case of sentences awarded after eighteenth July nineteen including sentences awarded on voyage if sentences do not expire within thirty days exclusive from date disembarkation district of demobilization men will be treated as disciplinary cases and will receive no leave.” It was discovered in July last that in a certain case action had been taken by a District Base Commandant to recall a discharge which had been issued in error, showing reason for discharge as “ Termination of period of enlistment,” and to substitute therefor a discharge showing as a reason “ Services no longer required.” Instructions were issued to all District Base Commandants that this practice was to cease.
– I desire to obtain the permission of the Senate to make a statement relative to the
Budget and the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, to table the papers in connexion therewith, and to submit a motion.
– Honorable senators are familiar with the practice that has grown up of bringing under the early notice of the Senate the Budget formally presented by the Treasurer in another place. I may be permitted to refer briefly to the reason for that practice. Having regard to the constitution of the two Houses, it is impossible for the Budget in ordinary circumstances to reach here in time to afford honorable senators the full opportunity to which they are entitled to discuss the national finances. The disinclination of another place - a disinclination founded upon sound reasons - to pass the Appropriation Bill and so to let’ the Estimates go from its keeping until the last possible moment is, of course, well understood; but that entails with it a limitation of the time which this Chamber would have to study the national Budget. To get over that difficulty there was introduced, some time ago, the expedient of the Minister representing the Treasurer bringing the Budget papers here and submitting a motion that they be printed. The debate which can follow that motion gives the Senate an opportunity of discussing the public finances and the various matters connected with the Treasurer’s statement without any formal submission of the Appropriation Bill itself. Clumsy though that expedient may be, it is the only one that has yet occurred to any of us as affording honorable senators a reasonable opportunity to discuss these matters while, at the same time, keeping well within their rights.
– And to do that without committing ourselves.
– This course gives honorable senators an opportunity to discuss matters, and when the Appropriation Bill itself comes up they can present specific amendments if they desire to do so. There may not be time, when the Supply Bill is Submitted to this Chamber, to go into these matters of detail,but it will be competent for honorable senators to do so on the informal motion -if I may use that term - I intend to propose.
– The Government’s action is helpful, at all events.
– It is. It gives an opportunity for the expression of opinion, and it is an expedient which has been adopted- in compliance with the desire of honorable senators generally.
I should like, before I proceed to the statement, to mention another matter. When the Senate was summoned for today it was thought that the Supply Bill, which the Treasurer is under the necessity of presenting to another place, would have been available for consideration today, but as honorable senators are aware, the time of the other House last week was taken up in the discussion of the very important statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) upon his return from the Imperial Conference in. London. As a result of that debate the Supply Bill has not been dealt with by that House, and is not likely to be available to honorable senators until Thursday. A Supply Bill, apart from its financial aspect, gives honorable senators an opportunity, on the motion for its first reading, to discuss what are generally known as grievances. Therefore, if the Bill reaches us on Thursday, as of course it should, and it is required to be passed on that day to enable payments to be made to the public servants, it is quite clear that a great restriction will be placed upon honorable senators in the ventilation of matters which they might desire to bring forward. The motion which I am about to move will enable honorable senators to discuss these matters without waiting for the presentation of the Supply Bill. I invite the Senate to take advantage of this opportunity in order that more time may be available on Thursday to deal with the actual details of the Supply Bill itself.
In presenting the Budget-papers to the Senate I desire to make a brief summary of their contents. The estimated revenue for 1920-21 was £63,364,700, and the actual revenue £65,517,608, being £2,152,908 in excess of the estimate. The chief excesses were : - Customs and Excise, £3,876,906; income tax, £751,408; entertainments tax, £299,828; the last-named due chiefly to the Government proposals for the reduction of the tax on small admissions being rejected by the Senate.
– How can we be said to have any grievances againstthe Government in view of the fact that we gave them over a quarter of a million more revenue than they asked for last year?
– Personally, I am unable to discover how this Chamber or another place can have any sound reason for complaint. Against these increases in revenue there were large decreases, notably, in the Post Office, totalling £933,431, and in the war time profits tax, £1,916,861. The expenditure out of revenue for 1920-21 was estimated at £68,872,578, and the actual expenditure was £64,624,087, or £4,248,491 less than the estimate. The chief items in this decrease on the estimate were - Military Department and Air Services, £452,000; additions, new works, and buildings (chiefly Defence works and buildings in Air Services), £972,000; interest on sinking funds on war loans, £1,099,000; repatriation of soldiers, £1,128,000 ; other war services payable from revenue, £1,328,000.
-Some one must have been out on the economy stunt.
– I submit, in reply to the interjection, that, seeing the actual expenditure was, roughly, £4,250,000 less than was budgeted for, the. claims of those outside who urge that extravagance ‘has been running rampant throughout the Commonwealth Departments are seriously discounted. Whilst no doubt there are some wonderful financiers outside who, if they were only given the opportunity, would be able to accomplish much in the way of economies, I submit that these figures are an indication of a desire On the part of the Government and the Treasury to effect substantial and real economies, without impairing the efficiency of the Public Service.
SenatorFoster. - Can the Minister say why there have been such substantial savings in his own Department?
– Savings were effected because it was not necessary to expend the money. No obligation placed by the Repatriation Act upon the Department has been shirked. These savings are due largely to a natural shrinkage of many of the services. Men, as theybecome re-established in civil life, pass off the books of the Department. The expenditure on vocational training has been reduced considerably, and expenditure in many other directions is shrinking, which is only another way of saying that the Department is steadily progressing towards the end of its job. While during the year there were substantial decreases in expenditure as compared with the Estimates in certain Departments, on the other hand there were several increases, the chief of which was £523,000 in the Post Office Department, due mainly to the basic wage and other payments which could not be anticipated. As previously stated, the revenue for 1920-21 was £65,517,608, and the expenditure out of revenue was £64,624,087, showing a surplus on the year’s transactions of £893,521. The surplus brought forward from the previous financial year was £5,724,806, and the accumulated surplus brought forward to the current financial year is £6,618,327. This surplus has been placed in the Trust Fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions and war pensions. Up to the date on which the note issue was transferred to the Commonwealth Bank, there were accumulated profits of £7,780,524. These profits were applied in redeeming Commonwealth Government inscribed stock and Treasury-bills which had been issued for Works loan purposes.
The estimated revenue for 1921-22 is £61,787,350, being a decrease of £3,730,258 on last year’s receipts. It is expected that Customs and Excise will yield only £26,131,000, being £5,678,906 less than last year; that income tax will yield £648,592 more than the previous year; and that profits from the Australian note issue, which in 1920- 21 were only for a portion of the year, will yield £1,105,984 more than last year.
Now, as to the expenditure. The estimated expenditure out of revenue for 1921-22 is £64,604,458, and the actual ex penditure for 1920-21, £64,624,087, showing an estimated decrease for 1921-22 of £19,629. It has been possible to show a slight decrease for the current year as compared with the actual expenditure last year., notwithstanding that the unavoid able increases totalling £4,096,000 had to be provided. The chief of these are as follows : -
These items are additions to outgoings which, as statutory obligations, are unavoidable. Although the estimated expenditure on Defence, Navy, and Air Services shows an increase as compared with the actual expenditure last year, the provision for the current year does not show any increase on the provision made in 1920-21.
The estimated revenue for 1921-22 is £61,787,350, and the estimated expenditure, £64,604,458, showing an estimated deficit on the year’s transactions of £2,817,108. The surplus brought forward from 1920-21 was £6,618,327, so that the estimated surplus at the 30th June, 1922, is £3,801,219. The expenditure from war loan is this year confined exclusively to expenditure on behalf of the soldiers. The total is £11,196,000, made up as follows: -
The amount expended last year out of war loanwas £24,148,501, so that the estimated expenditure for the current year shows a decrease of £12,952,501.
The estimated expenditure for works out of loan is £5,597,174, as compared with £4,101,726 expended last year, being an increase of £1,49 5,448.
The chief item is for shipbuilding contracts already entered into, £3,000,000. Provision is also made for £750,000 for telegraph and telephone material and conduits.
The necessity was recognised of making increased provision this year for Post Office capital expenditure, and provision was, therefore, made for £1,747,300 as compared with the expenditure last year of £963,472. The allocation as between revenue and loan expenditure is as follows : -
The total estimated expenditure for 1921-22, as compared with the actual expenditure of the previous year, is as follows : -
These figures show that, on the aggregate expenditure of the Commonwealth, it is anticipatedthat there will be spent this year £11,476,682 less than last year. The public debt of the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1921, was £401,720,025, made up of -
The public debt was increased during the last financial year by £20,410,121. The actual gross increase in the debt was £38,697,071, but redemptions during the year amounted to £16,286,950, and the estimated war indebtedness, which had previously been included in the debt, was reduced by £2,000,000, thus bringing out the net increase previously referred to of £20,410,121. I should like, in amplification of the last statement, to point out that it means that during last year there was a reduction of the public debt of this country by £16,000,000- that is, the gross debt was added to by £38,000,000; but there have been certain redemptions, leaving the net increase at only £20,000,000. These redemptions were due to the accumulated war profits on the note issue which were devoted to that purpose, and the redemption out of revenue of some war gratuity bonds, and certain other sums which the Treasurer had available. I have merely indicated the head-lines of the Budget. I have no doubt that honorable senators, interested as they are in the financial position, will have perused very closely and with considerable interest the statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) elsewhere, and I do not propose to reiterate what he said. I remind honorable senators again that they have now the opportunity to discuss anything they like under the sun on. the motion I am about to move, and that in due course, when the Estimates are before us, they will be able to submit specific and effective motions regarding their contents. I lay on the table the Budget-papers and Estimates of Expenditure, and move -
That the papers be printed.
.- The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has taken a wise course in view of the fact that Supply Bills are usually delayed in another place, and only reach us in time for us to pass them but not to discuss them. I congratulate the honorable gentleman on giving us this opportunity to deal with matters which we may think of sufficient importance to bring before the Senate and the public. I shall take advantage of the motion to make some remarks first about the appointment of Senator Pearce to represent Australia at the Washington Disarmament Conference. I suppose that, according to all the “ rules of the game,” I should follow the lead taken by my colleagues in another place and re-echo what they said there, or, probably, owing to the advantage I have of closer personal knowledge of Senator Pearce, add a little more. I am not going to do that. This appointment is one of the most important that has ever been made in this country; and, realizing that, I feel that whoever goes to the Conference must be viewed, not through party spectacles, but in the light of his capacity to worthily represent this great country. Looking at Senator Pearce’s record of service and achievements, I know of no man in the public life of the Commonwealth who could perform the responsible duties of delegate to such a Conference with more satisfaction. His is a long record of faithful service, and it is one that any man in public life would be pleased to possess. I suppose the viciousness of party spirit enters as much into my nature as into that of any one else; but we have to remember that the Minister for Defence has on five occasions been returned as the representative of a great State, the democracy of which will stand the test of a comparison with that of any other State. As a representative of the_ people he has not only carried out his parliamentary duties, which in themselves are almost sufficient for most of us, but he has served on Select Committees and Royal Commissions, and in a Ministerial capacity, for about ten of the twenty years he has been in public life. In a man with that public record behind him Australia will have a very worthy representative - one whose ability, capacity, character and attainments cannot be questioned - at the Washington Disarmament Conference. Holding these private views concerning the Minister. I feel it my duty to declare them publicly. Of course, there is a feeling in another place that a representative of the Commonwealth should have been selected from that Chamber; but I am not going to argue in that direction. It is simply an attempt to reverse that axiom of Euclid which says that the whole is greater than the part. Honorable members in another place have endeavoured to prove that’ the part is greater than the whole; but when one remembers that an honorable senator represents the whole of a State, whereas an honorable member in another place represents only one twenty-seventh, surely the representative of one twenty-seventh is » not of more importance or entitled to more consideration than one who represents the whole. That is a perfectly sound proposition to submit concerning the difference between the two Houses. Viewing the matter from that stand-point, I cannot support the claim that the Chamber which is probably more popular - it dan not, claim to be more democratic - should have representation and this Chamber should not. When it is a question of representation in other countries, we have only to consider the ability and capacity of the gentleman selected to carry out the important work. Viewing the long record of the Minister for Defence as shown by the Parliamentary Handbook, and realizing that our delegate has been five” times returned by the electors of Western ‘Australia, and has carried out his parliamentary and Ministerial duties with such marked success, the selection is one with which we should be satisfied. There are two possible representatives who could have been selected from another place. I know comparisons aire invidious, but they cannot always be avoided. I suppose the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) would be the first choice. No such phrases as “ America slamming the door in our face “ are likely to be uttered by the selected representative. Another delegate mentioned was the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.. Massy Greene). Apart from other considerations, the selected representative is one of Australia’s sons. Honorable senators may not agree with narrow sentiments; but to me it is a pleasure to think that on this occasion it is an Australian born who is to represent Australia.
– That will carry a great deal of weight with a large number of Australians
– I believe it will. At any rate, it appeals to me. I know that many Australians ‘by adoption can show as good a record as many Australians by birth; but I am glad to think that the Commonwealth is to be represented by an Australian-born Minister. I shall now allow the matter to pass. I do not know ito what extent I have gone; but, at any rate, honorable senators will realize my attitude in this matter.
– The honorable senator has gone in the right direction.
– I have endeavoured to look at this question in the right way, and to lift the criticism of a public man to a proper level, free from party spirit and party sentiment. I wish the Minister for Defence the best of good health on his forthcoming trip, and every success in the very important business which he is to transact on behalf of the great Commonwealth.
I desire to say a few words in connexion with the Budget-papers, with which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) says he cannot imagine any fault can be found. Those may not be bis exact words; but he left the impression that criticism could not very justly’ be levelled against the Government. I was going to say “ Neither can I “ ; but, unfortunately, sarcasm cannot be recorded in Hansard.
– Neither can a feeble attempt at humour.
– The matters calling for criticismare so numerous that one does not know where to begin. It is now nearly three years since the Armistice was signed, and most of us believed that when the war, with its awful cost and consequent burden of taxation, was over, the Government would have endeavoured to see how money could be saved in the interests of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. But what do we find ?
– The signing of the Armistice did not relieve us of the obligations created by the war.
– I realize that; but surely it ushered in a time when, freed from the expenditure incurred in consequence of the warand the general responsibilities it entailed, the Government should have turned their energies in the direction of tackling the question of lessening the burden resting upon the shoulders of the taxpayers.
– Have not they done that ?
– If they have I am unaware of it.
– It is for the honorable senator to indicate where it can be done with safety.
– I do not know whether the present Government will be in office the week after next, but if they are not it will be a delightful opportunity for me to show how it can be done. Economy can be effected by men of capacity, energy, and ability by courageously facing a serious situation, and not go on from day to day or from month to month, simply waiting for something to turn up, as the present Government are doing. Now that the war is over, the Government should seriously face the position, and consider the direction in which we are drifting. The financial position is most serious. The Minister for Repatriation has said that a saving has been effected because certain money was not expended; but that is not proof of any actual attempt at economy. During the closing months of the financial year the Government dispensed with the services of1,000 men who were employed on the cruiser Adelaide, and kept them out of employment until after the end of the financial year, and then re-employed them to complete the work. Was that economy ? Was it saving money to discharge 400 or 500 men who were employed at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory and still retain the highlypaid staff and the immense overhead charges of the Defence Department in full operation? The Minister may claim that the Government have economized because during the concluding months of the last financial year they threw into idleness 1,000 men who were doing useful work, and also machinery that represents a large amount of capital, and then after an interval during which the expenditure was discontinued, they recommenced operations. By that means they may claim to have saved so much money. They may say that they did not build as many War Service Homes as they intended to build, that the estimated expenditure in that directionwas not reached, and that, the houses not having been constructed and the expenditure not having been incurred, they, therefore, have effected a saving. That is no saving.
– There was no saving on War Service Homes expenditure.
– Unfortunately there was not; there have been gross and serious losses in connexion with that Department. Senator E. D. Millen quoted the estimated cost of government last year, and then, with an air of satisfaction, pointed to the fact that the Government spent many millions less than the estimate. This year the estimated expenditure is £64,000,000, and the estimated revenue about £61,000,000. I am not bothering about the odd thousands, because to the present Government £l,000,000 is neither here nor there. On many occasions Ihave pointed out in this chamber how savings could be effected, and I say again that the first place to exercise the pruning knife is in the Navy and Defence Departments. I do not suggest that we should make the defences of the country weaker - that we must never do - butwe should cut down those costly overhead charges which are no strength to the country in time of war. It is not any saving to spend more money this year on military services than was spent in other years, and while employing fewer men at Lithgow in preparing defence material, employ two officers at head-quarters doing in time of peace the work that one officer did in time of war. I know it would be acting harshly to say to those “very distinguished” men, “We have. to treat you as we treat the workers at Lithgow and Cockatoo Island; on account of the need for economy we give you a moment’s notice that your services are no longer required.” My opponents will reply to me that those officers never “go slow”; that they go full speed ahead all the time, and, therefore, there is no occasion to punish them.
– They create work.
– Yes ; there is so much for them to do!
This Budget is unsatisfactory to the whole of the people of this country. I know that the Minister for Repatriation will agree with me that we in Parliament, viewing matters at close quarters, and Ministers in their Departments, viewing them even closer, very often go our own way until we suddenly find that we have lost touch with the people for whom we are governing and legislating; too late we realize that the paths of the people and their legislators are diverging. I warn the Government that we are walking right away from the sense and thought of the community, and that from one end of the country to the other there is a strong feeling that it is time somebody faced the financial problem seriously and earnestly, and honestly sought to curtail the cost of government.
-Brookman. - Is not the first step to call a halt, and has not that been done?
– I fail to see where it has been done. My hearing may be defective; but I should imagine that the note sounded by the Government in regard to expenditure is “ charge “ rather than “ halt.” I see no sign of a halt in the Estimates of Expenditure for the current year.
-brockman. - Can you see any increased expenditure, generally speaking?
– There are increases in almost every Department, and Ministers excuse that fact by saying that they are due to’ the increased cost of materials and. everything else.
– What about increased expenditure due to Arbitration Court awards?
– They are very necessary increases.
– Justifiable, are they not?
– Whether or not they are justifiable, if Parliament makes the cost of living so high that men cannot live on their former wages, and if the Government, by means of a Tariff, makes clothing and boots 40 per cent, dearer than their natural price, the community must’ pay the penalty by submitting to the increased wages awarded by Arbitration Courts. I realize that the increased and increasing cost of living
– The cost of living is coming down.
– That talk is all nonsense. Purchase commodities in the shops, and then say if prices are coming down.
– Mutton can be bought for 2½d. per lb. Does the honorable senator want it given to him?
– Did not Judge Beeby reduce the price of milk in New South Wales by a farthing a gallon?
– Yes ; but the cost of delivery may have been increased a halfpenny a gallon, so that there will bo- no benefit to the consumer. I do not say that there are not some articles which are a little cheaper than they were when prices had reached their peak, but in regard to the articles daily used and consumed no one can honestly say that the cost of living is cheaper.
– I take the liberty of saying that those articles are cheaper.
– The honorable senator may, but the liberty he takes with the truth may be allowed to pass unnoticed. In no unfriendly way, I am pointing out that through lack of management in public affairs the desired reduction in the cost of government is not being made. Drastic methods must be resorted to if a reduction worth mentioning is to be brought about. One of the best methods of decreasing the cost of government is by amending the Constitution, to abolish to a great extent the sovereign rights of the State Parliaments, and bring into existence one Australian Parliament, with provincial councils to manage affairs that can best be controlled locally. Five millions of people continue to maintain six separate Governments, with sovereign powers for borrowing and taxing, and all the overhead expenses incidental to six distinct governmental systems.
– And duplication everywhere.
– Yes, duplication of costs and expenses everywhere. I know that the proposal to have one sovereign authority in Australia will not be acceptable to those people who clamour loudest for economy. They will turn it down as being too large an order for their consideration.
– Thereby showing their wisdom.
– Yes, if it is wisdom to continue having six separate Parliaments all exercising sovereign powers of borrowing money.
– If the honorable senator represented one of the small States he would not express these ideas.
– I quite realize that the fear of the larger States may be some justification for the opposition of the smaller States to real economy, but has Tasmania, South Australia, or Western Australia any complaint to make against the manner in which they have been treated by the representatives of the more populous States?
– Unless it is proposed to abolish State Parliaments and concentrate all legislative work in the Commonwealth Parliament expenses will not be reduced, whether the powers of the State Parliaments are sovereign or delegated.
– The State Parliaments would be replaced by small governing provincial bodies, perhaps a little more important than municipalor shire councils, but certainly of much less importance than the existing legislative bodies, which require sets of highly-paid officials. There is no need in Australia for six. separate representatives of His Majesty the King in addition to the GovernorGeneral. Surely one representative of His Majesty is sufficient for this country at any time. Surely we could with advantage and economy dispense with the six others. But the States which claim sovereign rights and special importance would not dream of lessening their status by consenting to the removal of these high and dignified offices.
– There are also six Australian Agents-General.
– Real economy must begin in looking seriously at the question of cutting off the higher overhead charges and not in dispensing with the services of men who are at work producing something of use to the country. Senator Thomas has mentioned that, in addition to the six representatives of His Majesty in Australia, the States pay for the services of six Agents- General in London, and probably they will soon be hitting out and sending representatives to other countries. Some of the children now alive will possibly live to see Australia, not only in numbers, but also in greatness, more important than Great Britain is to-day; but we cannot become a great nation unless we face the problem of living within our means. Our ideas may be great, but at present our numbers are small.
– Our population is now 2,000,000 more than it was twenty years ago.
– I know that our numbers are growing rapidly, but our ideas are growing more rapidly. Any attempt to live up to an importance which is not warranted by numbers is a serious burden on the taxpayers. It is no use whining and saying, “ We will cut off 3d. here or 2½d. somewhere else.” That is no remedy; it is of no value either to the States or to the Commonwealth, and is simply a cause of irritation and annoyance. . Any move in the direction of effecting economy must be well considered, and should lead to a substantial reduction in the cost of governing the country, and in the amount of taxation burdening the people. Twopence ha’penny economies are of no use to any one. Dispensing with public servants today, and trying to make one man do the work of two is false economy. Real economy is effected by retaining that which is really essential to the good government of the country, and dispensing with everything that is unnecessary. The intentions of Ministers are all right. The trouble is that they cannot make up their minds to carry them into effect. I do not know whether this is due to the fact that they have got out of form. I will not say that Ministers are growing too old for their work. Nevertheless, the fact remains that they cannot make up their minds to carry out their intentions. Take the case of the representation of Australia in London. The cost of our London Office is proceeding all the time, less the salary of the head of the establishment.
– We have Mr. Shepherd there.
– Yes. We sent him there, and increased his salary by £1,000. I read a good deal of press comment at the time the salaries of members of Parliament were increased to £1,000; but I do not think I read one comment on the fact that Mr. Shepherd’s salary had been increased. However, I do not wish to discuss a public servant who is not here to speak for himself. We have a costly office in London, and everything necessary to enable Australia to be represented there; but we have a Government here which, for nine months past, has not been able to make up its mind to fill the position of High Commissioner. Out of 5,000,000 people in Australia there is not one man it can choose for the post. Its inaction in this respect is indicative of the manner in which it is dealing with the finances. Ministers’ intentions are all right, and I believe they will eventually make a good appointment in London.
– Do you not think that they have known all the time who was to be High Commissioner?
– Possibly ; but there is many a sliptwixt the cup and the lip, and if I am any judge of the trend of events, Ministers may miss their opportunity next week. No saving is effected by withholding the appointment. The officials are there, and the establishment has to be maintained all the time. Everything is there except the man who is to fill the position of High Commissioner.
– While there is no High Commissioner we are saving £5,000 a year.
– I realize that we are not paying any salary, but I recall reading something about the conditions which Mr. Hughes found prevailing in the High Commissioner’s office, ‘and how he spoke about those who were in charge. Possibly Australia would be effecting a direct saving by having a High Commissioner in London. Mr. Hughes paid an unexpected visit to the office, and commented strongly upon the lack of knowledge of Australia displayed in the Intelligence Branch.
– That was before Mr. Shepherd’s appointment.
– I thought from my perusal of Mr. Hughes’ remarks that it was after Mr. Shepherd’s appointment. At any rate, Mr. Hughes found that the officer in charge of the Intelligence Branch knew absolutely nothing about the Commonwealth; I am simply calling attention to the indecision of the present Government. One cannot depend on men who cannot make up their minds to do anything but keep putting things off until another time. A Government which is to manage the finances of a country effectively and successfully must display some courage, energy, and determination in dealing with the financial situation.
– Why should the honorable senator delay getting on to the Treasury bench. By his own argument he ought to be there now.
– Anxious as I am to get on the Treasury bench, the votes of the people of Australia prevent it. I emphasize the gravity of the mistake made at the last elections. Until the people remedy their error there is no prospect of the practice of economy and efficiency in the management of the affairs of the country.
– What about the administration of the New South Wales Labour Government ?
– That State affords an example of real efficiency and economic administration. The New South Wales Government are facing big problems, and are handling them ably and effectively. Each of the State enterprises which, under the former Nationalist Government, was being worked at a loss, is now showing a profit. During the last year of Nationalist administration, the State trawling industry showed a loss of £60,000. In the first year of Labour administration a handsome profit was shown.
– Were the books kept in the same way?
– I repeat that the business was handled efficiently. The same may be said of the State brick works, which have practically paid for themselves and are working at a handsome profit from year to year.
– And what about the State railways?
– They are such a huge concern and they require so much material, the cost of which has gone up enormously, that it is inevitable that the railways should occasionally show a deficit.
In almostevery branch of activity controlled by Labour there is now efficiency, compared with the inefficiency of the Nationalist regime. The Nationalist Government of New South Wales carried on at a loss; the Labour Administration is showing a profit.
– If Labour management has been so successful, why should the fact have been disguised ?
– Who said it has been disguised?
– It has certainly not been apparent.
– And what about the Queensland railways?
– They are the longest of all the State railways. The Queensland population is small, and production is not yet sufficiently large to make them profitable.
– But they were profitable before Labour took a hand.
– The contrast was due to the fact that Labour refused to increase fares and freights.
– But they did so, in respect of both.
– State Labour administration is efficient. Labour control pays. The Commonwealth Government appear to be unaware that they are out of touch with the whole community.They do not seem to realize that the country is crying out for more careful and more efficient’ administration, and that there is a general demand for economy where there is no economy. Expenditures in all directions are growing. The attempts to reduce these costs are not real and earnest.
– The needs and demands of the people seem to increase every year.
– Quite so; but while the Government and the country are being impoverished, the possessions of wealthy individuals are enormously increasing. We are now indebted as a nation to the extent of about £250,000,000. Those who have lent the money are getting huge returns by way of interest. The Commonwealth’s war debt - an immense feature of cost of government- while it is a burden to the community as a whole is a wonderfully good investment in the hands of a comparatively few rich people.
– The honorable senator cannot call the national war debt a cost of government.
– I do call it a cost of government. The Government are not realizing their responsibilities. I know the particulars, and have mentioned -them before, concerning ; an Australian who fought at the war, and who has returned, and has been receiving a pension of £1 per week. He is in the last stages of consumption. The Pensions Board takes the view that the man had contracted the disease prior to his leaving Australia for the war. There is, however, an admission of a certain degree of governmental responsibility. The pension is being continued, but has been reduced from £1 to 10s. per week. That is the kind of economy practised by this Government.
– It is a matter of carrying out the Act. The honorable senator should recognise that, and not blame the Commissioners or the Department.
– The fact remains that this returned man is unable to work to-day because of the ravages of the disease from which he is suffering ; yet his pension has been reduced in the name of economy–
– Not in the name of economy! It has been reduced because the Act states that pensions shall be reduced in certain circumstances.
– A Minister who will make such an admission should have the grace to hurriedly move the suspension of the Standing Orders to-day to enable him to introduce amending legislation. This man was fit when he left for the war.
– The Government doctors must have given him a clean bill of health, or he could never have been accepted for active service.
– That is so, of course.
– Our men were required to give to the examining medical officers certain information which they alone could have provided. Many refrained from doing so.
– A Government, even though so callous as to deal with returned soldiers in the way I have indicated should, at any rate, show sufficient courage to tell people who have become wealthy out of the war that they must pay their share. If we have an enormous debt in Australia, for which the people are responsible, we also have here an enormous number of bondholders who have made really good money out of the war, and on that account there is a growing dissatisfaction with the management of the country’s affairs. There is a widespread feeling among the people that the Government are not facing the position with sufficient earnestness. The Government should deal as drastically with men in high positions as they do with those at the bottom rung of the ladder. I shall not ask the Government to treat the high officers in the Defence Department in the way the men at Lithgow and Cockatoo Island were dealt with, or even the returned soldiers, whose pensionsare on a scale that is an absolute discreditto the country. Advantage is taken of any technical reason for which a shillingcan be deducted from the amount of a pension. The Minister states that the law provides the rate to be paid. If it is true that the law prevents returned soldiers from getting sufficient to maintain them in their closing years - and it is acknowledged by the Department in the case mentioned that the illness, ifnot contracted, was aggravated by war service - this or some other Government must face the larger problem of putting the finances of Australia on a much safer basis than at present. I see no advantage in reducing the cost of government by 3d. or 6d., but I do see a great advantage in the early consideration of a comprehensive scheme by which we may secure economy and good government at a much cheaper rate. Bearing on the case to which I have just referred, I have received the following reply from the chairman of the Repatriation Commission : -
Dear Sir.- William I. Kent, ex-No. 3567, Private, 41st Battalion. - With reference to your representations to the honorable the Minister for Defence regarding the case of the above-named ex-member of the Forces, I have to inform you that the Commission recently considered this case, and in view of the medical evidence decided that payment of more than one-half of the maximum rate of pension is not warranted. According to Mr. Kent’s statements and his medical history, his disability pre-existed his enlistment, and it is very doubtful if his condition was in any way aggravated by his military service. The Commission, however, decided to admit the responsibility of active service for a certain amount of aggravation, and it feels that this aggravation is fully compensated for by the rate of pension now being paid.
If that is the best treatment the Defence Department can give the returned soldiers, all I can say is that we need bigger men to do the country’s work, men with a more generous attitude and a more comprehensive view of our financial affairs. I realize that it is useless to expect that from this Government, which appears to be putting off its responsibilities from day to day instead of facing them. As I understand honorable senators wish to say farewell to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) 1 shall not continue the debate at this stage.
– May I suggest that this will be a convenient time to suspend the sitting?
– As it is the general desire of honorable senators, the sitting will he suspended until 5.30 p.m.
Sitting suspended from4.26 to5.30 p.m.
– I listened to the remarks of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) in moving the motion that is now before the Senate with a great deal of interest and attention. I realize that at this stage of our national life we are face to face with a very grave necessity which is being forced upon our notice by the public of Australia, by the ratepayers, and by the public press, perhaps to an even greater extent than the facts warrant. It is being forced not only upon this Parliament, but upon all the Parliaments of Australia. We find that, in spite of the fact that we have come through a very serious financial period as a result of the war; in spite of the fact that we are face to face with the necessity for conserving our resources, for fostering our industries and promoting our future welfare, so far as lies in our power; in spite of the fact that the conditions of the world are forcing upon the attention of Parliaments and statesmen the necessity for scrutinizing carefully every shilling and every penny that is spent, so that good value may be obtained, the Government, perhaps rightly, have not applied the pruning knife, as some people might desire, almost without discrimination ; but have, nevertheless, shown some care in their revision of the Estimates. Taking it by and large, there is in this Budget statement ample evidence of that real economy that the public of Australia are demanding to-day. I feel sure that there is no need for me to dilate upon our financial position. All honorable senators know that this- is not the time to do so; but I desire to say, and I say it with emphasis, that expenditure of money on the unproductive services of this great Commonwealth, to the extent of hampering the productive services, some of which are not within the direct purview of the Government, is not warranted in the present circumstances. So far as the Budget is concerned, and so far as the statement of the honorable the Minister discloses, there has been a very poor case made out to warrant any additional expenditure in certain directions where additional expenditure is contemplated.
– At Canberra, for instance?
– That is not an additional expenditure; but I will come to a matter which the honorable senator for Western Australia will know more about than Canberra - I refer to the proposals for military expenditure. I am one of those who hoped that when the great war from which we have just emerged ended we would have been able to limit to a very large extent our expenditure on armaments and military preparations. I find that the Government, instead of restricting the expenditure upon defence matters, propose to increase it very largely in directions which, to my mind, are unwarranted. I ask honorable senators to look at the. position. We have in Australia hundreds of thousands of men who were highly trained in the best of schools - that of actual warfare. Their services will remain available to us for a number of years - let us say ten years. They may deteriorate as soldiers in that period, but to a certain extent every man who has been through training under actual warservice conditions, although he may be out of training in ten years’ time, can be brought back to efficiency quickly. The majority of our soldiers, after all, were youths, and their knowledge of warfare and military tactics could be quickly restored to them. I speak more particularly of the private and non-commissioned officers, who would require very little additional training if, at any time in the future, they were again called on to give their services to their country. I had hoped, in view of the circumstances, that it would have been possible for us, knowing that we have behind us this mag nificent fighting force, which could be called to arms should we want it during the next few years, to carry on our defence programme at this stage with merely the nucleus of an administration sufficient to staff the larger and more effective force.
– Would you dissipate the staff we have collected?
– It may not be necessary to do that. In these Estimates it is proposed not merely to retain the staff that we have at present, but to increase it very largely. The vote for the Permanent Forces has been increased by £292,893 in comparison with that of last year. I would remind the honorable senator that he and other members of the Senate who served with distinction during the war were not permanent officers at its outbreak.
– We had occasion to deplore the absence of a better permanent staff.
– My distinguished friends, Senator Drake-Brockman, Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow, Senator Cox, and others, rendered signal services to their country during the war, and it must be remembered that they were not permanent” officers. Seeing that we still retain the services of these honorable gentlemen, and of tens of thousands of qualified officers who received their training under better conditions than could obtain in peace time, there is no need to-day for any extension of the personnel of the Defence Department. Whilst it is proposed to increase the expenditure on the Permanent Forces by nearly £300,000 a year, it is also proposed to decrease the cost of the administrative and instructional staffs by £249,257.
– What increase in the numbers of permanent men is proposed?
– I have not those figures before me.
– The honorable senator should bear in mind that we are paying the. permanent men more highly than we did some little time ago.
– We are not paying them so much more than we paid them last year as to account for the tremendous difference between the expenditure proposed on the Permanent Forces this year as compared with the expenditure proposed last year. The difference must be due to an increase in the numbers. A very large number of the permanent staff consists of men on the instructional staff. These are the men whom we need to retain, and the men to whom, I take it, Senator Drake-Brockman referred. They will train our Forces should the necessity arise to again ask them to gird on their armour aud go forth in the defence of Australia and the Empire. While it is proposed to decrease the vote for the administrative and instructional staffs the vote for the Permanent Forces shows a very considerable increase.
– Do I understand the honorable senator to say that the increase in the personnel of the Permanent Forces accounts for an increase this year of £300,000 over the vote for the same purpose last year?
– In the vote proposed for the Permanent Forces there is an increase of £292,893 on the vote for last year.
– The honorable senator says that that is due to an increase in the personnel of the Forces.
– The personnel must have been increased.
– Other things are required for the maintenance of a force besides personnel.
– That may be, but I should like the Minister to point out from the Estimates what those other things are. I fail to see any necessity for the large increase proposed in the vote for the Permanent Forces, especially in view of the fact that a reduction is proposed in the vote for the administrative and instructional staffs. I do not cavil at any proposal to increase the vote for the ordnance branch and the maintenance and equipment of existing armament.
– If the honorable senator knew anything about it he would know that that is where the pruning knife might be applied.
– It seems to me that, so far as armament and equipment are concerned, we should spend whatever may be necessary. The point I am making is that we have already in Australia a highly trained Army, dispersed it is true, but capable of being called into existence at very short notice. What we require to be quite sure of is that should we find it necessary in the near or distant future to again call into being the magnificent Force known as the Australian Imperial Force, we would have arms, accoutrements and equipment to enable the Force to take the field with confidence and with some hope of success. It appears to me that the Government are proposing increased expenditure on what might be called the non-essentials and not upon the essentials of defence.
– I think the explanation of a great deal of what the honorable senator complains of is that many men who used to be classified as a portion of the instructional staff have now been transferred to the civil side.
– I remind the honorable senator that the increase in the vote proposed for the clerical and general staffs of the Defence Department this year amounts to £68,417. No doubt it is necessary that, we should have a fully-equipped general staff, if we are to have an effective military organization, but that is provided for, and to a greater extent than on last year’s Estimates. Where then is the necessity for the enormous increase proposed in the expenditure on the Permanent Forces ?
I pass from this to another very important aspect of our Defence expenditure. I refer to the expenditure on the naval arm of defence. The time -has arrived when we should seriously ask ourselves whether at this stage any very large increase in that expenditure is desirable, or whether even the maintenance of the existing high rate’ of expenditure on naval defence is justified. I know just what naval defence means to any country. I am aware that without an effective Navy Great Britain would not occupy the position she does to-day. I know that but for the protecting arm of Britain’s mighty Fleet Australia would not be in the position it is in to-day. But I see that the United States of America and Japan, in their contemplated naval programmes, are outdistancing the programme of Great Britain. When I see these great nations, with almost unlimited financial resources, particularly in the case of. the United States of America, proposing to build huge navies, not only for the protection of their countries, but also for the protection of their interests in every part of the world, I ask myself how can we in Australia, in view of the limitations of our financial resources . ex- pect to build anything in the nature of an effective naval weapon.
– The honorable senator suggests that we should do nothing. .
– I will tell honorable senators what I suggest. We have already built a Fleet. We spent a huge sum of money on the Australia, and by the action of our Navy Department that vessel is to-day lying a useless and obsolete weapon costing money for maintenance, whilst as a fighting unit she is perfectly useless.
– It was not the Naval Department that made the Australia obsolete.
– It was the Naval Department that laid her up. What has made her obsolete has been the progress of naval construction in other parts of the world.
– Any one would think, to hear the honorable senator talk, that he was a “ little Australian.”
– I am pointing out what should be obvious facts to men who keep their eyes open to current events.
– Why point out the obvious ?
– Because in the case of some honorable senators it is necessary to do so. The other units of the Fleet are also to a certain extent obsolete. The work which they will be called upon to do in the next few years will be merely police work in connexion with the mandated Territories and the Territories Belonging to the Commonwealth. I point out that instead of using these expensive, and, after all, impotent weapons for this purpose, it would be much better for us to use the smaller craft, such as destroyers and submarines. We have plenty of them, and they do not cost to maintain onehundredth part of the cost of the huge and useless naval weapons to which I have referred.
I find that the Government propose to extend our Air Service very largely in the near future. I believe that in the future this will be found to be the most effective weapon for the defence of Australia, and not mighty battleships, the construction of which we cannot finance; not men-o’-war costing from £2,000,000 to £4,000,000 before they can be established here as fighting units. We cannot hope to maintain that sort of Fleet, and without it it would be useless for us to attempt to challenge the great navies of other countries of the world.
The Government propose to extend our Air Service, and I indorse their action in that regard. Hero we have an arm that does offer some hope of effective defence, and, after all, it is only defence we require. We do not wish to attack any one, but merely to defend this country. We must see to it that the method of defence we adopt, whilst effective, shall be as inexpensive as possible. Here is a method by which we can hope to secure a means of defence more efficient than any other we could provide. I have, therefore, no quarrel with the Government for the proposed increase in the vote for air defence. So far as the other, expenditure to which I have referred is concerned, I say that, for the next- few years, at any rate, we can at least afford to mark time, even should we not be in a position to dispense with men employed in connexion with our military and naval defence schemes. But what do the Government propose to do ? They do not propose to mark time, but to join in the rush to provide “what, after all, cannot be an effective means of defence for this or any other country. I have pointed out that we cannot hope to compete with the great countries of the world in this direction, and we should be eager to put all the money we can expect to raise in the next few years into productive works, and into the extension of- our agricultural, pastoral, and manufacturing industries, to insure increased production and settlement to the limit of our capacity.
– The honorable senator is suggesting that we should leave the Mother Country to bear the whole cost of the naval defence of the Empire.
– I am not suggesting anything of the kind. I am contending that it is impossible for us, with our limited financial power, to build and maintain an effective Fleet. In my view, it would be infinitely better for us to hire the Fleet we require from the Mother Country, or, if that cannot be done, to do as I have suggested, and extend our mosquito Fleet as much as possible. We should not build the bigger ships, which are obsolete, and which cannot be maintained except at very heavy expense, and must be of very little use for the purpose for which our Fleet is required.
Senator Gardiner, referred to one or two matters that are worthy of cons derati6n. He said that the country was crying out for more efficient management, and he asked where it is to be secured. I agree with the honorable senator. I believe the Government are honestly doing the best they possibly can. When Senator Gardiner asks where the country is to obtain more efficient management than it has to-day, I remind him that it is not likely to obtain it from the Labour party, when we remember by whom the party is composed in this Parliament, and also in many of the Parliaments of the States. It is hardly likely to secure more efficient management from the Country party. I think that to the most casual observer it must be evident that there is only ohe party in this Parliament which can give the country anything like ‘ the efficient management it desires, and that that is the party in control of the administration to-day. I believe we can make improvements, so far as the administrators themselves are concerned, and I can say so without in any way making an attack on the party that I have the honour to represent here. We fortunately are not tied hand and foot to any man who may be appointed to administer a Department, and we have a perfect right to criticise the administration of any Minister if we feel that it is deserving of criticism. There is certainly great room for improvement in that direction, but I am not looking to the Labour party, the Country party, or any other party that may rise up in this Parliament within the very near future to bring about that improvement. I repeat that there is only one party that can give to this country at the present time the kind of administration that it wants, and it is up to us, as members of that party, to see that it gives the Commonwealth just that kind of administration for which our industries and public services are crying.
– Would the honorable senator be good enough to refer me to the particular item in respect of which he said just now there was an increase of nearly £300,000 ?
– It is to be found on page 124 of the Estimates. The amount voted in 1920-21 was £375,000. and the actual expenditure was £374,000, whereas the estimated expenditure for 1921-22 is £666,921.
– The honorable senator, before making such a sweeping remark as he did, ought to have looked at the items that go to make up that total. They are all shown in the Estimates, and he should have selected from them those which, in his opinion, are wrong.
– I shall be glad if the honorable senator will show how that huge increase can be justified ?
There are other matters on which I could speak; but I prefer to wait until they come directly before us for discussion. I refer more particularly to the administration of New Guinea and its management, in so far as the expropriation of the Germans in that Territory is concerned. I have a very grave suspicion, from evidence that has been given, and statements that have been made to me by Australians who have recently returned from New Guinea, as to the bona fides of the administration there in certain respects. It seems to me that there is too much Burns-Philp entering into the administration, and too little regard for the real welfare and advancement of the Territory. The statement is a rather serious one, and I propose at another stage to speak more clearly and definitely, because I have at my disposal certain facts that I believe warrant me in making it. In conclusion, I believe that the Government, considering all the circumstances, are doing fairly well. I believe .that there is an honest desire on their part to meet the insistent demand for economy that has arisen outside; that they realize that unless we do have proper regard to this demand for economy on the part of the taxpayers, others will be put in charge of the finances of the Commonwealth, and I consider that they have that proper regard for it. Although the Budget does not go as far as I should like it to go, it nevertheless goes a fairly long way, and, apart from the items I have mentioned, I congratulate the Government upon their proposals. I am convinced that when the country comes to realize, in spite of the bitter pres3 campaign that is being waged in certain quarters against the Government and against our party as a whole, the difficulties with which the Ministry have to contend - when it realizes the magnificent work that it has achieved in many directions - it will say to the Government and their supporters, “ Well done good and faithful servants, go on with your administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth.”
– I do not rise to make any very close analysis of the Budget, because that is a particularly difficult task for even a Treasurer to discharge. The rank and file in both Chambers very rarely have the time, even if they had the inclination, to make that analysis of the terms of the Budget which would, to the very convincing point, demonstrate whether it was a good ora bad one. I remember, however, the Honorable William Watt, who has had very great experience in administering the finances of Victoria, which is supposed to be a well-governed State, and who has acted as Prime Minister, and has’ held office as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, stating, certainly not more than a couple of years ago, that he had been through the Budget with an axe, but could not reduce expenditure any further-, and- at the same time preserve that efficiency which is necessary in the services of the Commonwealth. I’ understood’ that the figure of speech used by Mr. Watt was intendedto convey to his hearers the meaning that he had lapped off all redundancies with an unsparing hand, and did not see his way. to effect any major economies such as many people outside Parliament were demanding. The remark was made by him,I repeat, not. more than two years ago, and I cannot think that the Treasury authorities : and the - Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) could have been insensible to the demands of the public foreconomy when compiling the Estimates of Expenditure, and preparingwhat is known as the Budget. I feel sure that in regard to major expenses very great economies cannot be achieved. The public of Australia is probably more insistent than the people of any other Democracy in. demanding that the. Government shall perform a multiplicity of services. If the Government had simply to maintain what is known as law and order, and carry out those major functions always regarded as being within the particular province of any administration, it is possible that the national expenditure could be reduced most substantially. But the people of this Australian Democracy would not permit of that being done. Day after day members of the National Parliament, as well as members of the State Parliaments, Federal Ministers and State Ministers’, are importuned by representative men from among the electors to do certain things which cannot be done without substantial increase of the national expenditure. And so I interjected in a friendly way when Senator Gardiner spoke just now of. the growing cost of government, but at the same time confessed that it was essen tial that the cost of government should be increased, since it was necessary to meet the growing needs of a growing community. We all hope to see the Commonwealth in the near future with a population of 15,000,000 or 20,000,000, and we must be sensible of the fact that all the services necessary for the achievement of. that great end, and for supplying all the conveniences of civilized life in a governmental sense to that- largely increased population, cannot be provided without money. I see nothing for it, therefore, but to increase the national expenditure. Having regard to the temper of this Democracy it must increase. The people are not going’ to demand fewer services; obviously they will demand more. If they do, then more money will have to be spent, and that money can be found only by the development of the resources of. this continent at the hands of that increased number of people that we expect soon to have here. It is possible, perhaps, that some substantial economies might be effected in connexion with the working ofthe Commonwealth services if more attention were paid to the curtailing of what I might call minor expenditures in, perhaps, certain unnecessary directions. But I do not’ anticipate that any very great savings can be achieved by a substantial curtailment of the major functions of the Commonwealth Government. Is any one going : to incur at this juncture the possibleopprobrium of reducing our Defence vote? I would not care to bethe parliamentarian who’ would vote f orany substantial decrease of the financial provision which is necessary to defend the Commonwealth.
– Or to decrease old-age pensions ?
– How could we reduce them?
– Or the baby bonus?
– That vote could be decreased.
– Such an attempt would be successful only as the -result of a well-reasoned deliverance to the effect that the money was going to be more effectively expended in some other direction for the same purpose.
– We might have more efficiency, but no financial saving.
– That is true. I am not .competent, without a very close study of the Budget, to point out where anything in the way of substantial economies can be achieved. We hear people say, “Why go on with the Federal Capital “ ? I am one of those who have more respect for the Commonwealth Constitution, and for the promise made to the people of New South Wales, than to say that expenditure in connexion with the Federal Capital should be substantially curtailed. Australia, if it is going to be a nation worthy of the name, must eventually have that Federal Capital which it was intended it should possess at the time when the people entered into the agreement known as the Commonwealth Constitution. For a long time I had a sort of grudge against the people of New South Wales from a Federal stand-point, because of their somewhat lukewarmness in regard to entering the Australian Federation. They secured very considerable benefits, as the result of entering it. New South Wales was the oldest, and, at that time, the most important State, and she is to-day certainly the most important State from the stand-point of, if not territorial resources, at least population, but. she has benefited by no special provision inserted in the Constitution. Up to the present, the only expenditure that has been specially made in New South Wales is that which has been entailed by the comparatively moderate and slow development of the Commonwealth Capital Site. I admit that as a Tasmanian it would be quite satisfactory to me for the Parliament to continue to meet in Melbourne. If the people of Tasmania continued me as one of their representatives it would be more convenient for me to come to Melbourne than to go to Canberra. But, after all, the interests of that very large section of the Australian people who live in New South Wales have to be considered, and the spirit of the bond has also to be borne in mind.
– But is the building of the Federal Capital essential?
– It is possibly not essential to have a Capital at all in the sense of establishing one at Canberra - but that is not the question. It was deemed to be essential when the Commonwealth was inaugurated, and there is ho doubt that the majority of the people still - because a very considerable minority of the ‘population of Australia resides iri New South Wales - consider it essential. If we had a referendum to-morrow, the result in the affirmative would, I believe, be a considerable shock to those people who decry expenditure on the Federal Capital.
– If we had a referendum, on that subject the people of New South Wales would turn it down.
– I must confess that I differ from the honorable senator in that regard.
– Any objection to the Federal Capital project should have been stated before the acceptance of the Constitution.
– After all, it is part and parcel of the national agreement that we are now called upon to honour.
– But the development of Australia should come first.
– We cannot complain if New South Wales now displays some insistence in regard to this matter, because nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the inception of Federation and we are still established in Melbourne. If the people- of New South Wales are willing to waive their claim to expenditure’ on the Federal Capital at Canberra - if they do not want it - I am certainly not going to thrust the gift upon them. But I am quite sure that not one representative from New South Wales, which contains over 2,00.0,000 of Australia’s population. would care to get up in his place in this chamber and say that New South Wales did not want the Federal Capital to be established within Federal territory as part and parcel of the Constitution.
– They think it, though.
– The fact of the matter is that any attempt to defer expenditure necessary for the establishment of the Commonwealth Capital would create a, feeling of resentment among the people of the Mother State, and possibly lead to certain friction which I, personally, would like to see absent from the working of the Commonwealth machine. Therefore, I do not see any particular virtue in urging economy or what may pass for economy in that direction. Although we seem to be on the threshold of great events, and may faintly entertain very large hopes as to the future, it would be unwise, seeing that human nature is what it is, for the Commonwealth to contemplate, at this moment,’ any very serious reduction in its Defence expenditure. ‘ Let us remember that we have a continent almost empty of men. The population of Australia, though considerable in a sense and equal to that’ of many historical European countries, is’ congregated along what is practically the south-eastern seaboard. I read in an Australian publication the other day that if we drew a line across the north: of Australia, we would, find that the area north of the line, although including a very large portion of Commonwealth territory, contains a population of only about 8,000 persons.
– We do not want to draw any line. We want to build a line.
– We do not want to build , any line unless it is likely to be of strategic value to ourselves and not to possible enemies. The question of defence is becoming a very difficult one for a Legislature to handle. Members of Parliament must be largely dependent nowadays, so far as legislative action is concerned, on the opinions of technical advisers of the Government. War has become a highly technical operation. In the successful conduct of any warlike operations % sound defence scheme is just as important as a well thought out aggressive movement. We all know, of course, of the comparatively recent developments in regard to submarines, aeroplanes, and particularly in the field of chemical research as applied to the manufacture of high explosives, and for our opinions on all these aspects of defence we must be dependent upon highly technical and professional advisers. I have no doubt that an attempt is being made to defend Australia on fairly economical lines, but, after all, defence, to be effective, cannot be very economical. If there is any golden rule for the defence of the Commonwealth I should like . to hear of it. If plonguers as the French call a certain form of submarines, or as we call them, submersibles, are going to , be the naval arm of the future, let the technical advisers say so. If there are going to be no capital ships in any future scheme of naval defence, .then I, as a legislator, cannot’ determine that question.
If it be said that high explosives, used by aviators, have placed in the power, of flying men the ability to destroy all capital ships, that is a question which I, as a layman, cannot decide. It must be determined by men of technical knowledge and experience. All I can say is that the defence .of this continent, by 6,000,000 of people,’ who want’ all the country’s financial resources for its material development, is a tremendous task. It is a task that must make any outbreak, or threatened outbreak of war, almost a nightmare to any Government worthy of the name. My vote will not go; in these times, for the reduction of any of the provisions necessary to our defence.
– Particularly naval defence.
– As to that, I cas only repeat that in the present juncture of world affairs I do not know- I do not feel competent” to judge - what is the best line of defence for this country. All I can say is that I wish we had 15,000,000 or 20,000,000 more people- in Australia. I should then feel more confident as to the issue if Australia should be threatened at any time.
– That is the real line of defence. We should spend the money to bring people out to this country.
– So far as the munitioning of the forces necessary to defend Australia is concerned-and I use the term in its larger sense - I confess myself to be incapable of judging whether we should spend more money on the fleet, on the air, or on our Citizen Defence Forces. Australia really wants peace. We are a peaceful people. We have no intention of being ‘ aggressive towards any of the other nations of the world. All we sincerely hope is that other nations will cease to be aggressive, and leave us alone. But let us not be weak. Let us do our best to defend ourselves should the occasion arise. Let us take time by the forelock and make the necessary provision against any possible danger “of the future. For what has been one of the most prolific causes of unrest in the world ? Why is our Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) going to. Washington? Why has that Conference been called in Washington? It has been convened, as we know, because of national weakness of a people who ought to be strong. It hasbeen called because a nation that has plenty of men lacks that cohesion, that unity, and thatdirectness of patriotic purpose that should enable it to use these men aright. I speak of China. If China were only a moderately strong military nation, do honorable senators think that there would have been any necessity for the Washington Conference? The state of affairs in China is the bone of contention. Iris the possible cause of another war which may drag the exhausted countries of Europe into its vortex to their hurt, and, perhaps, to the eternal ruin of civilization itself. All this talk about the open door in. China, of maintaining the integrity of. China, is due to the fact that China is too weak to determine these issues for herself. Nobody talks in this way about thesphere of influencein Japan. Why?. Because the Japanese have developed the power to look after their, own interests ; consequently, nobody isknocking at their door and saying, “Open - youmust open, or we shall force it.” The outsiders have too much sense; they know it would be a hazardous enterprise to attempt the forcing of the Japanese door. It is because of the weakness ofthe greatnation of Eastern Asia that we in Australia are oppressed, and threatened with a kind of nightmare of another great war to which we might have to become a party, and thus load ourselves and our posterity with a burden almost too heavy to be borne.
– What would be our position if China were to become a great military Power?
– We have to take the national temperament of China into consideration. If aggressive, the Chinese would be a danger as great as “Germany was to the world’s peace ; but the Chinese temperament is not aggressive.
– Not now!
– It never has been very aggressive. When we consider the peculiar situationof China, and read the history of the nations around her territory, we find that those nations have nearly always been the invaders of China. Very rarely has China invaded the territories of the nations and tribes surrounding what is ordinarily known as the Chinese Empire. Hordes of horsemen have invaded China from time to time; the invaders possessed what the Chinese did not, namely, cavalry, and were mobile and able to impose their rule on China.
-What were the Orientals who overran half of Europe?
– Mongols, who were the very men who overran China, They are of the same race, but no more Chinese than the Japanese are; they bear about the same racial relationship to the Chinese as the Japanese. In a sense we might call the Turks Chinamen, seeing that their original home was on the borders of the Chinese Empire. They are not, however, Chinese, nor are the Manchus, although all are of the Mongol race. The Chinese have imposed their civilization on surrounding nations more by example or peaceful penetration than anything else; they have done so on many nations, much as the Romans imposed their civilization on the nations surrounding the original Roman territory- by a kind of innate civilized superiority. If all the nations had the same temperament as the Chinese, and the same lack of desire to interfere in the affairs of foreign nations, we should be a peaceful and happy world. I believe that the Chinese are the only nation which, until the last few years, sincerely believed in and were supporters of the principle of international arbitration. I trust that as one of the results of the, Washington Conference wisdom will be justified of her children, and that the Chinese will peacefully get what they imagine to be their rights in the development of their territory.
That brings me to the Washington Conference and the departure of the worthy Minister (Senator Pearce), whom we have just sent off as our envoy. I feel sure that that gentleman will play an honorable and distinguished part, so far as his inclusion in the British delegation will permit. However, at this stage, I ask the . leave of the Senate to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That the Senate, at; -its rising, adjourn till 3 p.m. to-morrow.
Senate adjourned at 6.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 October 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211011_senate_8_97/>.