8th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Reduction of Price. senatorFOLL. - I ask the Minister re presenting the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has seen a statement in the press to the effect that the price of sugar is to be reduced to 5d. per lb. If so, will he say from what date the reduction of price is to operate.
-I have seen the newspaper paragraph to which the honorable senator has referred, and it was published without Ministerial authority. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) expects to make a statement on the subjectin another place this week or next week.
Operations in South Australia - Conditions of Occupancy.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation if his attention has been drawn to a statement in the press to the effect that the building of War Service Homes in South Australia is to cease. If this be so, is it the intention of the Government to make some overtures to the South Australian Government to insure the work being continued inSouth Australia in the successful way in which it has been conducted in the past.
– I have not seen any press references to the matter, but from other sources I think I knew what is in the honorable senator’s mind. The South Australian Government have been negotiating with theCommonwealth Government for the carrying on of the work of building WarService Homes in that State, and have asked for an amount larger than that which the Commonwealth Government believe should be given to that State for the coming year. The Commonwealth Government propose in their Estimates to make available a lump sum for the building of War Service Homes, the amount to be apportioned to the several States on an enlistment basis. South Australia will get her quota.
– But on different conditions from those applying to the other States.
– South Australia will get her quota of that amount on an enlistment basis, as I have said. It must be obvious that if South Australia received more thanher quota the other States would have to receive less.
– Following up the reply to my question, I ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that the South Australian Government assumes responsibility for repayment of expenditure on
War Service Homes in a larger degree than dothe Governments of the other States.
– That is true, under the proposal now being discussed between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether all occupants of War Service Homes are tenants or purchasers.
– Some are in occupation of their homes under a wellknown rent and purchase system, paying a certain amount per week or per month, which covers interest and purchase money, and entitles them, at the end of a prescribed term, to acquire the freehold of their property. Others are in temporary occupation of War Service Homes as tenants only.
The following papers were presented: -
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No.93.
Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held at Melbourne, January, 1922 - Report of Debates.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Income Tax Appeal Board Rules - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 90.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired -
For Defence purposes - Brisbane, Queensland.
For Postal purposes - Mount Larcom, Queensland; Karoonda, South Australia; Bridgetown, Western Australia.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 94.
Northern territory - Ordinances of 1922 -
No. 7 - Amendments Incorporation.
No. 8 - Brands.
Willis Island Meteorological Station - Report by Captain J. K. Davis.
Wireless Communication - Report of Parliamentary Committee appointed to inquire into proposed Agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited; together with Draft Agreement recommended by Committee, Minority Report by Mr. F. Brennan, M.P., Notes of Proceedings of Committee, and Scheme suggested by Senator J. D. Millen.
Senator NEWLAND brought up a report from the Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence relating to the proposed establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Cottesloe, Western Australia; als0 a report, together with minutes of evidence, relating to proposed provision, in Adelaide, of office accommodation for various Commonwealth Departments.
Relief of Starving Russians
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Disposal of Timber Properties in Queensland.
SenatorFOLL asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Will he advisethe result of the negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government of Queenslandin connexion with the disposal of timber properties in’ Queensland?
– A further communication from the Queensland Government is expected at an early date. Upon receipt of this communication, it is intended to make a full statement regarding these properties to Parliament.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the Chairman of Committees (Senator Bakhap) be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the House Committee.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed, to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1921.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be’ given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1916.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to bankruptcy.
Debate resumed from 5th July (vide page 157), on motion by Senator. Garling : -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General. Mas it Please Your Excellency-
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– In trying to do justice to this rather time-honoured institution, the Address-in-Reply, I must confess, as one who has had a little parliamentary experience, that I have had conflicting opinions ‘about it. At one time, I thought it was something of a parliamentary superfluity to spend time in discussing subjects which, in the natural order of things, would come before Parliament either in the hammering out or materializing of Bills, or in the very many opportunities that present themselves to the inventive minds of members of Parliament under our present procedure. I thought that it would be well to abolish the practice, bub I am one of those who believe that we can live and learn; in fact, we can learn as long as we are alive and sane. I am. afraid there is very little hope for any one who thinks that there is nothing left- for him to learn in regard to this particular function of Parliament - the presentation of an address to His Majesty’s representative in Australia - but it serves one useful purpose that appeals very much to my mature judgment. It provides an opportunity for members of this Parliament, and of every other Parliament which indulges the practice, to express their opinions freely, voluntarily, and unguardedly on the many public acts of administration that have happened in the interval since Parliament was last called together, as well as on important public events of vital concern. A few things have happened since we were assembled here last year in regard to which I think the Government will be very much the better for some friendly advice. We have only this means, short of the rather drastic action of moving a no-confidence motion in the Government, which we, as supporters of that Government, cannot do without appearing in a not very creditable light, of expressing our opinions. Therefore, we have to appear, according to our lights, as candid friends of the Government in giving utterance to our views on the many events that have occurred since we last met arising out of legislation, administration, or any other cause.
In the first place, I want to say that the position pictured to us during the passage of the principal measure of last session, namely, the Tariff, has not been realized.
-brockman. - Our worst fears have been realized to a large extent.
– We were told that something like a magic wand would wave over this benighted land of ours, and that, as a result, there would be not a vestige of misery or unemployment, and there would be an end of low wages in industries. Unfortunately, after six months’ experience of the new Tariff, instead of finding it a panacea for all political evils, our fears, as Senator DrakeBrockman has rightly said, rather than our hopes, have been fulfilled to the utmost. We see now the spectacle of important works like those at Broken Hill closed down. This is the principal manufacturing enterprise in this country, but the Tariff does not keep it going. Why ?
– Because the Tariff is too low.
– If you give a. dose of medicine to a patient, and he does not improve, the remedy is to give him a double dose, and kill him. I believe that, under any circumstances, taking the present temper of public bodies, and of the public into account, the evil cannot be remedied by Tariff legislation. On the other hand, the consequential and relative effect is that while we have not succeeded in encouraging our secondary industries, we have put a crushing burden upon those engaged in , the primary industries of this country. That result was predicted by the few intelligent members of this Chamber when the Tariff was before us. The Speech from the Throne stated that primary producing is regarded as the main source of the stability and prosperity of this country, but we find that the main source as thus defined has been systematically and vitally struck at as a result of the passage of this Tariff. Mere words are no help. It is about time that we asked ourselves whether the Government was warranted in bringing down such a drastic piece of legislation. In the first place, it did not encourage secondary industries, and in the second place, as I and others predicted, it has had a vital and deadly effect upon that most important element in the industrial community, namely, the primary producer. I could see all this when, it was coming.
Amongst the throng of ladies and gentlemen - for the supporters of the Tariff had enlisted the other sex under their banner as importuning lobbyists - who were in this chamber when the Tariff was being discussed, and within twentyfive paces from where I now stand, I saw Messrs. Cuming Smith’s chief representative, who told me that the price of fertilizer would not be” raised above its then price of £5 2s. 6d. I had hardly reached Western Australia before the news came through that the price had been raised to the present price of £6 12s. 6d. That is an example out of many that I could quote of the inducements that were held out to members of this Chamber in order to secure ill-considered votes to bolster up industries already established and sufficiently protected. These votes had the effect of putting a crushing burden upon those who were already overcrushed. I cite that as an example, and pass on. I only say that as the result of the play and inter-play of opinion on this subject the public of this country will be so re-awakened as to acknowledge that an extra and an unduly excessive burden has been placed upon the primary industries of this country without any correlative advantages having been derived. Why have we any respect for the policy of the Government when we know that they were warned of its effects, and when it does not agree with the policy determined by the electors of the Commonwealth when they voted the Government into office?
Other things besides the Tariff have happened. The Ministry has been reconstructed. All Ministries have to undergo that; but in regard to this particular reconstruction, all I can say is that I congratulate, if I may. Senator Earle on his elevation to Ministerial rank. In regard to those Ministers who have been relieved of their responsibilities, all I can say is, keeping in mind what has been done and said since tha war period’ and before, and the amount of fidelity that has been shown to the Government, and particularly to its’ Leader, that if that gentleman is responsible for the change, he has a strong weakness for ignoring the ordinary claims of common gratitude. I am aware that political exigencies sometimes call for changes; but I do not think that -where such _ a marked degree of loyalty has been dis’played under most trying circumstances, those men should have been tossed overboard, and new loves and new associations brought in, or sought to be brought in - people whom we know made their loyalty depend upon the toss of a coin, or abandoned their allegiance and were openly hostile to the Government. If the Leader of the Government or the Government itself is going to discard the old associate who went with them through the dark jungle, where enemies were on every side ready to pounce upon them like a garrotter in, the dark, and to cast aside a faithful ally, they are running counter to the maxims - fidelity and gratitude - that govern ordinary civilization to-day. I hope that there is another side to the picture–although I cannot see it - and that, instead of adopting the cute and cunning method of indulging -with smiles, wooings, and preferment those whose fidelity and loyalty were not only questioned, but had not any existence, consideration will be shown for those who have been most faithful allies during the most critical time in the history of the nation.
Looking at the position of the Senate in regard to the reconstruction of the Cabinet, we find that this Chamber has at present two Ministers with portfolios. The other portfolios, which are the allimportant ones, are held in the other Chamber. Whoever is responsible, whether the head of the Government or the Government themselves, is acting in a way that must have no other effect than that of casting an unwarranted slur on the Senate. At the initial stage of Federation, there seemed to be a desire to place this Chamber in a somewhat inferior position, notwithstanding the coequal position with the House of Representatives that the electors of the ! Commonwealth deliberately said it should occupy. When the Parliament first assembled in 1901 there were in it a number of leading political figures from, the various States, such as ex-Premiers and others, whose claims, .1 suppose, had to be recognised in some shape or other, with the result that the other Chamber received the lion’s share of the representation in the Cabinet. If the world is to be told that the Ministry should be composed of members of both Chambers, and that some sense of fair play should be recognised, I desire to know why the Senate has not its relative proportion of the portfolios. It may be argued that the members of another place are superior, but I repudiate that suggestion absolutely. I claim that the members of this Chamber are quite the equal to - no better and no worse than - those of the Hons© of Representatives.
For some time after the inauguration of Federation, the Senate was given only meagre representation in the Government. The Fisher Ministry put a third Minister in this .Chamber in an honorary capacity. This Administration said that it would be fair to allot threetenths of the Ministerial representation to the Senate. Then the Cook Administration came along and recognised that arrangement as equitable. Later on the Government had thrown on them the great responsibility of discharging many new functions arising from and in consequence of the war. New portfolios were added; but did they come here? No. They are in the other Chamber.
– Repatriation is a new Department created by the war, and it is here.
– Yes, and it is a dying Department. It was once an important one, but it is coming to its dissolution sooner or later. Within a few years there will be no Minister for Repatriation. I desire to cast no reflection on either of the honorable gentlemen who have occupied the office, because I am on tolerably good terms of independent relationship with both of them, but by general consent the two portfolios which have been flung at this Chamber are the least important in the Cabinet. Who is responsible for this treatment of the Senate ? The blame must be laid at the door either of the Government or the head of the Government, because this Chamber has had nothing to do with it. If we leave out of consideration for the moment the Department of Repatriation, the cither Department represented here does not come in contact with 80 per cent, of the population. Take the Post and Telegraph, the Customs, the Works and Railways, and the Treasury and Defence Departments - all these come into touch with almost 90 per cent, of the people. The Repatriation Department, even at the height of its activity, had not the same ramifications as the other Departments I have mentioned.
If it is to be understood that the Senate is deserving only of the least important portfolios, I say no more; but if it is contended that this Chamber receives its fair share of representation, I flatly disagree with the proposition. When the Fisher Ministry were in power, they had less solid support in the Senate than the present Government have. _A similar remark applies to the Cook Administration. Although the Cock Government had not as large a following in this Chamber as have the present Government, the Senate’s share of the portfolios was not disturbed. The present Government have practically no opposition in this Chamber, and that is the reason, I suppose, why they have assigned to the Senate the least important portfolios in the Cabinet. The Senate deserves well, not only of the Government, but of its critics, because, unlike any other second Chamber in the world, it springs from the people, is the people’s own creation, and, notwithstanding what shallow or interested critics may say, true and undiluted public opinion is here refreshingly uttered. One set of critics say that the Senate ought to be dissolved because it is failing to fulfil its functions. Another set would have us believe that it has outlived its usefulness, and has ministered to no essential constitutional function, being, therefore, so much of a legislative excrescence. Strangely enough, those two classes of critics belong to widely different sections. These two sections of radical extremists and extreme reactionaries are not represented here, and that accounts, possibly, “ for their ailments. Take the Melbourne Age, whose utterances are typical of some of the press criticisms throughout the State. Reading that paper on occasions, one would really be led to believe that this Chamber, in some ill-defined way, was not deserving of that popular acclaim, recognition, and applause which its nature and essence warrant.
– Who cares for what that paper says ?
– The value of this criticism is judged by the insignificance of the accusers. These critics clearly want to lower the Senate in the estimation of the. public. They want the people to believe that we are not as the people made us. It will be an ill day for any .Democracy when the so-called mouth-pieces of the people are permitted without objection to foul their nests in this unspeakable manner. The finger of reproach cannot be pointed at the characters of any of the thirty-six members of this Chamber.
Let me now take the other class of critics - those who declare that the Senate has outlived its usefulness. These radical extremists are to be found in the ranks of the Official Labour party. I do not forget that there was a time when their slogan was - “ Preserve the Senate. Keep it intact with all its powers.” They have since become inveterate in their hatred and strong in their determination to demolish an institution which once they were so anxious to preserve. Why? I will tell honorable senators the reason after I have dealt with another matter. There are critics also who say that the calibre of the men now in this Chamber is not equal to the calibre of its members in days gone by. I am not prepared to dispute that statement very strenuously. I admit that in the early days of Federation the Senate attracted to it men, big men, from all the States. But that does not keep me from saying also of the men now in this
Chamber, that although they may not be able to reach the Himalayan heights attained by those earlier legislators to whom I refer, nevertheless they are of a type just as necessary in the country’s progress and development as are the others. No city is composed of high towers and spires alone. The flatroofed buildings in between are just as essential for the true development and adornment of a city as are the more ornamental class of buildings. While we have had towers and spires m our public life, I do not forget what happened when these high-statured men were in charge. In their time they were, no doubt, the right men in the right place. But I want to say just a word or two as to what took place then.
Honorable senators know as well as I do that while this high statuary among our public men had untrammelled sway in the several States, we became possessed of a disjointed railway system which the mediocre men of the present day are trying to unravel from its hopeless tangle. In addition .to that disjointed railway system there grew up an aggregation of estates, east and west, north and south, with a result that our inland towns were absolutely strangled in their development until the small men came along, and by virtue of the legislation which they enacted these townships in the far interior of this continent sprang into prominence and prosperity for the first time in their history. We had also an area of slumdom in many of our capital cities. This, it may be said, was the work of ‘the big men. At all events, as a result of the intrepid spirit of those pioneers who came over 12,000 miles, we established here a white dependency of the British Empire, but when those big men were in charge, self-interest predominated, with the result that the introduction of black men from the east and yellow men from the north seriously threatened the ideal that had been set up for this country. It took the socalled small men to rectify these grave errors in administration by the spires and towers in the earlier political world of this country. They must be judged by their work just as we, of the present generation of legislators, must be judged by the manner in which we discharge our duties.
It may be said also that, while these big men were in control, there was a very largo expenditure of public money without rhyme or reason. _ They flooded this country with borrowed money for illadvised and ill-digested schemes, with the result that in the early nineties an unduly inflated system of credit collapsed, and we had a devastating experience of unemployment. Without perhaps being too modest, it may be said that the mediocre men at present are engaged in endeavouring to unravel the industrial, economic, and domestic tangle which resulted from the legislative actions of these big men in the political world in days gone by. I am dealing with this question in a non-party spirit. These critics, who never get down to very definite particulars, declare, some of them, that ‘the Senate is not doing justice to its charge. I refer to the press element particularly. But I should like to know why. the press, which so unmercifully criticises the Senate, has little or nothing to say concerning the position of Second Chambers in the respective States. Take Victoria. Why does the Melbourne Age never inveigh against the Legislative Council in the State Parliament? That Chamber is almost as secure in its tenure as are Lenin and Trotsky in the political life of Russia to-day. An election is rarely contested, candidates merely waltzing to position as a matter of daily routine. Yet the press of this State is as silent almost as mummies in an Egyptian tomb concerning anything the Legislative Council may do.
All thi3 leads to the conclusion that self-interest is at the bottom of the varied criticism of the Senate. There is no more effective remedy for real or imaginary grievances than an element of selfinterest. In the case of the Second Chambers in the State Legislatures, silence on the part of the press indicates that the opinion of the press is more clearly reflected in those Chambers than in this Senate.
It is said that the Senate has failed to be a States House. This involves cue of two impossible conclusions; either that the Senate should yield to each State something more than that State’s subscription to the common pool, or there is a kind of Pandora’s Box external to the whole scheme, from which fresh honours may come. Since the same small cry comes from all the States, the argument breaks down in six different places; but there is no Pandora’s Box.
But long after its critics have ceased to trouble this vale of bitter tears, the Senate will live and prosper, and embed itself more firmly in the hearts of the people than any other institution I know of in this country. It is the only Chamber that will hold the scales evenly between the conflicting sec-, tions in our social order. Therefore it ill-becomes any of its critics, from the Prime Minister and the Government downwards, to do anything that will reduce the Senate in public estimation, and by that means infuse a pernicious or poisonous influence in the body politic concerning the representative institutions of the Commonwealth.
The financial position, is the first to be considered in the stereotyped maxim of the economists who say that ‘ ‘ finance is government and government is finance,” and I am certain that that still holds good, notwithstanding the fact that economists do not agree with each other on many public questions. The financial position of the country, as far .is the Central Authority and the position of the States is concerned, is a matter that calls for careful and urgent attention. The Federal system, as we know, is one that has to be carried out. It is one that we cannot ignore unless there should be some untoward or unthought-of upheaval in this country, and nothing can upset the Federal system which at the present time is a part and parcel of our form of government. What has happened since Federation? Although the Federation was called into existence to- take over certain functions performed by the States, and to carry out other functions created from time to time, the Central Authority has been calling more and more to its aid both financially and morally all the resources of the Commonwealth, to the impoverishment and reduction of the status of the States, which are undoubtedly an indispensable integral portion of the Federal system. The States as such, and I have heard them described as political organizations that can be dispensed with, must continue to function. They are vastly different from what States were originally under the Constitution of which our own is a model. They do not exist merely as the custodians of law and order in the community, and bear little resemblance to States as contemplated when the American Constitution was adopted. Rightly or wrongly, the popular conception of the States and their powers has changed greatly. The function of the States in early days was merely to preserve the ring and to let those individuals within the ring have free play according to their individual judgment. The States here, according to the latter-day conception, are vastly different, because they not only keep a ring, but step down from the parapet and enter the ring themselves by functioning in the interests of the community. They engage in numerous undertakings, from running steam-ships on the north-west coast of Western Australia - as the Western Australian Government are doing - conducting hydro-electric works, as has been done in Tasmania ; and controlling tramways, as is being done in Sydney. These undertakings have had unstinted and unqualified public approval.
– And in other States also.
– Exactly. ‘ The American and Australian States are functioning in a way that was never dreamed of, and our governmental system is working in a manner vastly different from what was intended, or even thought of some years ago. It is therefore about time we revised the relationship between the Central Authority and the States. Some may say, “Let the Commonwealth go on absorbing everything into its insatiable vortex,” as if it were driven by a huge vacuum pump, but what would happen then? We would have to begin de novo, by a process of slow devolution, to undo the work we have already done.
Having said so much by way of preliminary concerning the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States, let us consider what has happened in a financial sense, because finance is the keynote to success in both spheres. We could make one financially opulent to such an extent that the other would starve and die, and that is what is happening in Australia. When the Commonwealth was inaugurated in 1901, the fathers of Federation went to some pains to compile a list for the purpose of showing the electors that a Federal system could be conducted for an expenditure of about £300,000 a year in addition to the expenditure involved for acquired services. But what is the position ? I have figures to show that the spending power of the Commonwealth during the early days of Federation for all services was in the neighbourhood of £3,900,000 in round figures. The next year it was about £3,900,000, or even better than the previous year, and the Commonwealth waa apparently living within its means. What happened after that? Biting storms came and the good resolutions of the past were severely frostbitten. The Commonwealth went gaily on levying upon the resources of the people - upon which the States were also levying - and the position now is that in the financial year of 1920-21 no less than £35,000,000 was raised by the Central Authority as compared with £3,900,000 in the first year of Federation. The expenditure on war services and on money required for services arising out of the war are excluded from this, and the amount of £35,000,000 represents the total of ordinary expenditure.
– Largely owing to natural expansion.
– And to such works as the Trans-Australian railway.
– It shows a clear increase of 792 per cent, on every £1 raised for the governmental functions carried on to-day. Senator Duncan referred, by interjection, to the cost of the TransAustralian railway, but he should have also mentioned the Federal Capital and a few other trifles which are responsible for the increase. The TransAustralian railway is not responsible for as much as some would imagine. The historical fact must not be overlooked that the construction of the Transcontinental Railway was an inducement held out to the people of Western Australia to join the Federation. The railway itself is but a pre-Federation promise duly honoured. They were promised that if they entered the Federation that practical bond of union would be carried into effect before many years. The construction of the line was admitted to be necessary also as an adjunct to the defence of the Commonwealth. I might make a reference also to the Federal Capital in this connexion. It is well, perhaps, to remind the people of the good old “ Mother State,” which I am sometimes inclined to think should be called the “ Mother-in-law “ State, because she is very troublesome unless she has her own way; that New South Wales was given the Federal Capital, not by the Convention that drafted the Commonwealth Constitution, but as the result of something that happened afterwards. It was secured by a kind of gratuitous windfall to keep her quiet. It was understood that it was the one thing that would satisfy New South Wales, and so it was given to her. I am not against it, and my vote will be given for the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra as soon as possible.
It will be found that in the nineteen years of financial progression, to call it that for want of a better term, for every £1 raised by the Federal authorities in the first year of Federation we now raise £9. We have to ask ourselves now, how the State authorities have fared during that time. I have the figures from the Budget papers, and propose to put them on record. I find that the revenue of the State of New South Wales in 1901 was £11,000,000, and in 1920. the latestyear for which I can obtain figures from the Commonwealth Tear-Book it was £28,000,000, which shows a very substantial increase. In Victoria the revenue in 1901 was £6,900,000, and in 1920, £15,800,000. In Queensland in 1901 the revenue was £3,500,000, and in 1920, £11,200,000. In South Australia the revenue in 1901 was .£2,400,000, and in 1920, £6,500,000. In Western Australia the revenue in 1901 was £3,300,000, and in 1920, £5,800,000. In Tasmania in 1901 the revenue was £826,000, and in 1920 it was £1,800,000.
– And the figures are still going up.
– The child is growing into the man all the time.
– These figures count for little, without some measure showing the relative rate of increase in revenues of the Commonwealth and of the several State agencies. Let us consider what has been the rate of increase in the revenue of the different States. The highest on the list is Queensland, where the increase in revenue over the period of eighteen, years represents 279 per cent. ; in South Australia the increase was 165 per cent.; in New South Wales, 160 per cent. ; in Victoria, 126 per cent.; in Tasmania, 119 per cent.; and in Western Australia, 74 per cent.
– What was the increase of population during the same period ?
– The increase of population was up and down the scale; at a greater ratio in some States, and a lesser ratio in others.
– But not at rates to correspond with figures quoted by the honorable senator.
– What I am concerned about, and what I apprehend honorable senators are concerned about, is the relative rates of increase in revenue of the States on the one hand as compared with the Commonwealth on the other. We must know that if we are to understand what is taking place in one sphere of government as compared with the other. I find that the average rate of increase of revenue for the whole of the States in the period mentioned was 150 per cent., .as compared with an increase of 792 per cent, for the Commonwealth. In other words, whilst in 1901, when the hymeneal banns were first published and the union of the States consummated, for every £1 raised by the State authorities then, 50s. is raised to-day, as compared with £9 raised by the Commonwealth. We have double laud taxation, double income tax, double death duties, and, I believe, a double entertainment tax. No doubt, for the Central power has “ caught the double “ all right. I do not know to what sources of revenue the Central Authority will not yet reach out. It may enter the spheres of Road Boards and other minor State instrumentalities, and may yet put on a wheel tax or a dog tax.
Let me now compare results in the Commonwealth and in the States for the last four years. I have referred to the financial aggrandizement of the Central Authority, and over the last four years,, as shown by the Budget, the Commonwealth shows a surplus of £4,500,000. That may be considered a very creditable position for the Central Authority to occupy. What has been happening in the States during the same period? In New South Wales there is a deficit of £1,760,000 over the four years; in Queensland, a deficit of £544,000; in Western Australia, a deficit of £2,712,000 ; and in Tasmania, a deficit of £116.000. Victoria is the only State of the six which, over the period of four years, shows a surplus, and it amounts to £116,000. It will therefore be seen that, over the four years ending 1921 - right up to date and “right ofl the hob” - whilst the States grouped as such, show a deficit of £4,558,000, the Central Authority shows a surplus of £4,500,000. These figures show an enormous ugly gap, representing a difference of £9,000,000 between the financial position of the States on the one hand and the Commonwealth on the other.
Let us now ask ourselves how we are getting on, and what are the effects of the position. Is the Commonwealth going to impose any more taxation? I believe not, because public opinion has been aroused by remonstrances coming from time to time from various persons, including myself, and by other forms of protest. If the Federal Authority will not be stopped in its impositions upon the taxpayers in any other way, it will, in the last resort, be stopped at the ballot-box, which will indicate unmistakably the unwillingness of the taxpayers of this country to stand any further imposts.
In the last Federal Budget the position of the Commonwealth in the matter of taxation was compared with that of New Zealand. I do not know whether that was quite a fair comparison, but I noticed that no comparison was made with Canada. According to the last Budget statement, taxation here amounted to £9 odd per head. We were not told what was the position in Canada, but I think I am right in. my recollection of the Canadian Budget when I say that taxation there at the same time amounted to something in the neighbourhood of £7 per head. That was not quoted in our Budget.
The Central Authority of the Federation has been taking to itself every available source of revenue, and the people have been called upon to stand the strain. It is questionable whether it is a wise policy for the people of this country to permit the financial resources to be drawn upon to such an extent for the purpose of aggrandizing the Central Authority, whilst at the same time the effect is to correspondingly impoverish the State authorities to the disadvantage of the people for whom they function.
– They are not drawn upon for such a purpose. Why does the honorable senator make such a statement? They are drawn upon to meet the obligations which Parliament imposes upon the Federal Government.
– We know what Parliament imposes on the Government. 1 have some idea of the tremendous power of initiation and execution of the Government and its leaders. They are open to criticism, and ‘cannot shelter themselves under the plea that Parliament told them to do certain things. The throwing of the blame upon Parliament is an old dodge. We are told that Parliament did it, and not the Government, and that Parliament is responsible. In this case the Government accepted the responsibility.
– The honorable senator’s obligation is to. show what expenditure should not have been incurred.
– On one hand we find the Treasuries of the State Governments depleted- ‘
– We should come to the relief of the depleted State Treasuries, certainly to that of Tasmania.
– We have depleted the Treasuries of the State Governments to the great disadvantage of the people for whom the State Governments have to function.
– They are the same people as those for whom the Federal Government have to function.
– That is true; but the different authorities function in different ways; but the trouble is the Commonwealth is “ flush,” and the States “ stony-broke “ in comparison. On the one hand the Commonwealth can treat lavishly the people for whom it must function, because of the unreasonable power of financial extraction possessed by the Federal Authority as against that possessed by the State Go- ‘vernments. I can give honorable senators an idea of the effect upon the people for whom the State Governments are particularly called upon to function by a quotation which will be found on page 213 of the report of a New South Wales Commission appointed to inquire into the conditions of the agricultural industry in that State and methods to improve the same. The condition of the inland people in New South Wales and in other States is very hard, indeed, and they can scarcely live and prosper whilst the State Governments are unable to come to their assistance financially because the Federal Government is placing itself in a position of positive financial opulence. Let me quote from the report of the Commission to which I have referred.
– Who were the Commissioners ?
– The mere fact that the report comes from New South Wales should be sufficient for an honorable senator representing that State.
– It is the finest reportof its kind over published.
– This is what the Commissioners have to say -
Everywhere the farmers who gave evidence emphasized how vitally they were affected by the character of the roads or by the need of railway communication. In many cases pathetic stories were told of extreme hardship to settlers and their families in the case of unbridged creeks and streams. On the South Coast, one witness, Mr. Bate, told of a district lying near the ranges, on the waters of the Upper Tuross River and its tributaries, where the road journey necessitated crossing a stream seven or eight times in order to reach the nearest town. Children going to school were naturally taking great risks where there were unbridged streams, and settlers were isolated in wet seasons for considerable periods.
I might continue the quotation to show the positioninwhich settlers in New South Wales are placed, on the authority of these Commissioners.
– The revenue of the States has not decreased since Federation.
– It has decreased as compared with the revenue of the Commonwealth. I am talking about Monday, whilst the honorable senator is talking about Saturday. I am endeavouring to point out to honorable senators how impossible it is for the State Governments bo come to the rescue of inland industries, particularly because the fountain of revenue is nearly dry, and they cannot impose further taxation. The people engaged in primary production are handi- capped in consequence.
– Let the honorable senator tell us about conditions in Victoria.
– Victoria is more closely settled, and that State, as I have explained, is in a better position than the other States. It is the only one of the six that shows a surplus over the last four years.
– The principal means of communication in Victoria were established before Federation.
– Victoria is a compact and highly-developed State, and I am speaking of States that have yet a great deal of pioneering work to do. New South Wales, Queensland, and particularly Western Australia, are in that position. The Central Authority is reaching out its tentacles to get the last farthing from the taxpayers, and the State Governments are left without funds to build bridges, make roads, and provide railways and proper schools for the benefit of settlers. We should give the State Government’s some chance to expend money in this way.
– What guarantee have we that they would do so if they had the chance?
– We should reduce our taxation and give the State Governments achance to get in some revenue to enable them to carry out their obligations to their people. The matter cannot be any more clearly explained than that. We see it quite plainly; it is as clear as the noonday sun. The States are ministering to the wants of settlers far and wide, and when a very ordinary requirement is asked for the invariable reply is,”We have not the money.” It isthe same when a road is wanted.
– The honorable senator is referring to a State where they spent money on a city tramway instead of spending it in the country.
– That interjection will not drag me off the track. I am referring to a State where men have to carry water 10, 15, and 20 miles, to my knowledge, because the State Government has not the money to make provision for an adequate water supply. If honorable senators are satisfied to let the Central Authority continue getting the last farthing - if there is a last farthing left - let them vote accordingly, and dry up the only fount from which relief can come. I will neither vote for it nor approve of it. What satisfaction is it to the man in the back country who has to cart water 20 miles to be told that the Federal Authority has a surplus of £4,500,000 ? When he cannot get a water supply, and when his produce is bogged in the creek, what is it to him to know that the Federal Government has a balance of £4,500,000 when the State Treasury is empty. Is there any blame attaching to’ him if he takes refuge in language? How will it help him to get his provisions out of the creek? I am crying a halt to all this sort of thing. The Government and its Leader (Mr. Hughes) who has the final say in these matters, ought to give a lead to the people of the country, and show how to make ends meet. I am not here to find fault with the Government, of which I am a supporter. Honorable senators may laugh. Something has been said about laughter and what it indicates.
I am not here to find fault with the Government unless I am prepared to give a remedy for the acts which have resulted in this lop-sided financial condition. The remedy is to begin at the start, and not to indulge in wild-cat schemes or ‘respond to popular clamour. The Government must live within their revenue and save money. I am asked where to begin. The task is so appalling that I do not know where to begin, but I may cite the civil servants for a start. I know the ground I am standing on, and I have always had to run counter to the opinions of others. It is nothing new to me to have to come out and say unpleasant things, especially when I know that those unpleasant things are the truth. Money that should not be spent is being paid to public servants. A Commission was appointed to inquire into the basic wage and other things. Certain recommendations were made, and Parliament was appealed to. The Commission inquired into what a normal family could barely live upon, and figures were put forward based upon items of household expenditure that every man knew to be incorrect. It was said that an overcoat should last three years. Mine has lasted ten years, and I hope it will last another ten. There were ties at 4s. 6d., and this class of boots and the other class of boots. I never paid such a price as 4s. 6d. for a tie in my life. That is the Commission upon whose advice the Government acted. These doctrinaires appointed by the Government brought in a report for the guidance of the Government. It was scouted with derision by every man of sense in the land. Nobody believed it to be practicable, and the Government itself said so, But it did not stop the Government shouting . “ Something must be done.” The Government said, “ We have a report, and although we do not believe a word of it, and it is absurd from A to Z, we must do something.” There was a clamorous body of public servants who appealed, appealed, and appealed for more consideration. I have only received one appeal from the Western State. This is apparently because there is nothing more to be got. They appealed for justice, justice at the expense of every poor devil who has to fight the battle of life in an infinitely more thorny way than men in the Civil Service. In 1920, these gentlemen appealed, by all the rules of the game, to arbitration to settle absolutely and finally every dispute they had. Mr. Justice Starke was the man who sat and heard the thing from A to Z. He listened to a catalogue of grievances of the civil servants, and he immediately, as a result, increased their substantive wage by something like £500,000. He made increases upon the already existing increase, in respect of allowances and other considerations, amounting to £300,000 odd.
– That also happened in the Civil Services of the States.
– The Minister must not speak too soon. The facts are set out on page 23 of the Acting Public Service Commissioner’s report for last year. The order in the laughable drama was this : The civil servants had already taken advantage of the only means that are available to other bodies of labour in this country. They had their case put before the Court in a most exhaustive way, and Mr. Justice Starke said they should get increases of, roundly, £500,000 in the substantive wage. They were to get £150,000 to pay off arrears, and £311,000 as an annual charge. No sooner was the award on the table of this Chamber - I believe that the attendants had not wiped the first dust off it - than the Government came down and said, as a result of what Mr. Piddington had reported, “ Something must be done.” What was that “something”? The Government made a statement in the other House, through the mouth of Mr. Hughes. Many statements are made through the mouth of that gentleman, and he said, on this occasion, “ Something must be done.” He got a resolution passed by the House to the effect that “ something must be done.” The result was to give the public servants living allowances and other allowances amounting to £450,000, making a total of £981,000 for the year. I want to say, in contradiction of the Minister (Senator Pearce) that no State in the Commonwealth did what the Commonwealth did in respect to these allowances.
– The New South Wale3 Government basic wage was higher than ours.
– And they are now reducing it, and the Commonwealth is not. If you except New South Wales, which did not grant a child allowance, but did give some sort of allowance, the position is that no other State did it. Senator Pearce is not so fond of pointing to precedents of the Official Labour party in other matters as he is in this. The Commonwealth Government based its action on the report of Mr. Piddington, which the Government did not believe in. We have these extra increments of £450,000 given to a body which had just left the Court with an award, which was placed on the table of this Chamber. When this money is given on top of that granted by the award, we are entitled to ask, “ What does the Government mean?” It is quite true that the civil servants are not going to suffer at my hands. I want to see them amply rewarded, and that can be said just as well by a candid friend as by one who would reward them at somebody else’s expense. I do not think that the public servants of this country want to be put in a speciallycared for and coddled position at the expense of the community, but side by side with that it must be borne in mind that there are in the Service to-day extremists of a kind who are never satisfied, and who have carried the Service with them in making extortionate demands to which this Government has lent a too pliant ear. Half a million pounds has been granted to the Public Service in a year. That cannot be said of any State except New South Wales, where the Official Labour party were in power; but what they have done in New South Wales they are now undoing.
– Even then, it will not bring them below the Commonwealth rate of pay.
– If anything has brought the Arbitration Court into contempt it is the unwarrantable action of the Government in ignoring it. If we were going to give an advantage to civil servants, and at the same time lever every other body of workers up to the same level, it would be making progress; but while we only raise one ‘little section, at the expense of every other section, we are making no headway at all. I would like to see a wise policy enacted that would give all workers a fair chance of equitable advancement on their merits. I know how words can be twisted, and as a final remark say that: The tribunal that is good enough for other sections of labour ought to be good enough for the public employees; but’ the Government has taught the Public Service that it is not. I can never agree with that, cost what it will.
Look at the number of people being appointed to Commission after Commission! On glancing at the Government’s own publications I find that, while the personnel of Departments shows a gentle curve, the curve of salaries is going up in a very rapid fashion. What is wanted most is a Commission to inquire into the mind of this Government in appointing Commissions. That is where the money goes, and is still going.
– I remember that last session the honorable senator demanded another Commission.
– If I demanded one, then there was something needed that should not be denied. The Commission referred to was agreed to by the Senate and the Ministry, but, so far, has not been appointed. It was one for the purpose of inquiring into the different activities of the Commonwealth, and ascertaining where one industry was getting advantages over another. It would be more useful than any other Commission yet appointed, and I shall return to that subject on another occasion. ‘Such a Commission would ask what warrant there was for one privileged set of workers or employers being in a particularly fortunate and favorable position at the expense of others. I want to know why the coal-miners have been making £2 a day, while the metalliferous workers in Western Australia and other States, who are always referred to by the coalminers as “ comrades,” cannot earn any such wage. Why did not the present Government tell the coal-miners to go to the Arbitration Court? If the Government had had any pluck they would have done that; but instead of that they appoint Commissions, with the result that all the industrial elements have been saddled with the extra cost, to the detriment of an overwhelming majority of the workers. What was the effect of the inquiry? Simply to put up the price of coal. That could have been found out from a kindergarten. In New Zealand, it is noticed that 150,000 tons of Welsh coal was imported.
Behind the back of the Arbitration Court the Government appointed a Commission in connexion with the seamen’s dispute. I went so far as to offer my own services as an engineer in order to bring those men to their common sense. The effect of the awards in the maritime disputes has been to keep freights up to an exorbitant extent. Yet this pliant Government have ignored their own Arbitration Court, allowing arrogant and selfish unions to obtain terms that they would not get from a self-respecting and independent-minded Administration. Coal has been a prohibitive price ; but the miners in Western Australia are not earning more than 15s. a day, if that, because the economic conditions cannot and will not permit of higher wages being paid. Otherwise it would mean shutting down the Kalgoorlie fields. Because the price of base metals will not allow of an increased cost of working the mines, these arrogant unions are taking advantage of the position to the detriment of their fellow industrialists. I am not opposed to any workers getting a fair wage. I will pit my sympathy for the workers against that of any honorable senator; but this Government have made themselves a willing and plastic tool in the hands of big ‘ unions, who, engaged at strategic (points in key industries, are able to obtain special tribunals and receive a wage that the industrial position does not warrant, whilst smaller unions have to go to the Arbitration Court. The result is that the field of industry is thrown into confusion, and one contributing factor is the pusillanimity of the present Government.
Being an island community a.t the very end of the earth, and being dependent on the cheapest possible means of communication with the rest of the world, Australia is in need of cheap freights. Mr. Archibald Hurd, that leading naval authority, has pointed out that the tonnage laid up recently in British ports is about 4,000,000 tons, and in the United States of America 2,250,000, making the total amount of shipping idle in British and American ports 6,250,000 tons. Freights, according to this authority, are as low as they were in 1913. We have a Commonwealth steamship service, but what are we getting out of it ? All I can say is that it has furnished another example of how this Government have yielded in flabby fashion to overbearing unions. When Mr. Havelock Wilson protested against the action of these same unions here, did .the Government render any assistance? The men had their way on that occasion, but the Government have at last taken a firm stand, and I am glad of it. The freight from Australia for case stuff is, on the author itv of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, 95s. to the United Kingdom, and to America 105s. These rates are 100 to 200 per cent, more than in the pre-war period, and the freights to Eastern countries, from Java to the northern parts of China, show an increase of from 200 to 300 per cent. There was a sorry position created to a large extent by the Seamen’s Union, and Australia has suffered to the extent of the Government’s inaction in that connexion. The Government should take the Commonwealth Line, and register it in London, and if the fight must come, let it be now. The Australian Line of steamships should remain on the ocean, the possession of the people, and should not be owned and controlled by one microscopical section. If the Government say that primary production is the keystone to the success of the Commonwealth, let them back their statement up by action. Failing that, they should be hurled from power with all the obloquy that such an unspirited attitude demands.
I welcome the belated action of the Government in appointing a Commission to make inquiries into Commonwealth Departments, in order to see whether savings can be effected. It is better to do that late than never, even at the eleventh hour, and even before the elections. It would have come with better. grace if the Commission had been appointed immediately after the Economies Commission had presented its report. I welcome it as an instalment of what is going to be done.
My remarks this afternoon have been made with the object of guiding the Government in what I regard as the right course of political rectitude. I am not a sycophantic supporter of the Government, and never will be. The opinions I hold are my own, and whether they bring me well fare or ill fare matters not to me. I am quite content to plough my own furrow, and to criticise the actions of the Government whenever and wherever I may feel inclined, and leave to the electors alone the task of saying whether I have dome my duty or not. In the present instance’, I can only hope that the Government will mend their ways in these respects otherwise they will deserve to forfeit the confidence of the people.
– Like every other honorable senator who has spoken, I deplore that, since the prorogation, death has taken from us two honorable gentlemen. I had not a lengthy acquaintance with the late Senator Adamson, but I had known the late Mr. Tudor for a great many years, and I am glad to say that whatever our political differences may have been, they did not in any way interfere with” our personal friendship.
I greatly appreciate the work done by Senator Pearce as the Australian representative to the Washington Conference, and I should like to read an extract from The Times Empire Day edition of 24th May concerning the work done by our representative at that gathering. After referring tpi Australia’s position in regard to the Pacific problem, Lord. Northcliffe stated -
Consequently Australia was more vitally interested, her voice was listened to with more respect, and her fate was more irrevocably bound in the issue than was ever the case at Versailles or at Paris. She played her part in peace as loyally as she had played it in war, and I know, how far the efforts of Senator Pearce and Sir John Salmond went to help in the happy solution which was found in the abrogation of an old alliance and the formation of a new.
This quotation is from a magnificent review by Viscount Northcliffe that appeared in The Times supplement.
Coming now to the Governor-General’s Speech itself, I must say that I agree with hardly anything that appears in it, because, from my point of view, I do not see how we can- provide the money for the various proposals outlined in it. In the first place, we have to remember that. next year, the Commonwealth and “State Governments will be called upon to renew about £38,750,000 of loan money. This is an enormous sum. Some people have the idea that those who invest in loon securities will renew them when they fall due, but it must not be forgotten that a great many people invest in loan securities at under par, and expect to be paid at par when the loans mature, so as to reinvest their capital in other securities at under par in order to get an advantage in the principal in tha,t way. Therefore it would appear that a great deal of Australian loan money falling due next year will not be available again, and we must give some thought as to where the necessary new money is going to come from. I have examined the position to see what is left in the way of possible taxation, and I find, according to the report of the Royal Commission on Taxation, that in Western Australia, on a taxable income from personal exertion of £7,766, the State tax is 108. Id. per £1, and the Commonwealth, taxation cm the same income is 102.375d., making a total of 210.475d., or, say, 210½d., leaving to the taxpayer only 29Jd. out of each £1 of taxable income. I understand that if the income is derived from property practically nothing is left for the taxpayer. Other countries are becoming alive to the situation. In Canada, for instance, the ordinary expenditure has fallen from §357,000,000 to §324,000,000, and capital expenditure from $48,000,000 to $16,000,000, and I may add in passing that the Canadian pension list, estimating $4 to the £1, amounts to about £8,000,000 per annum, as compared with the Commonwealth pension list of £13,000,000, notwithstanding that our population is considerably less than that of Canada. Of course, everybody would like to advocate an increase in pension payments, but the fact that I have just mentioned is worth remembering.
– Is the honorable senator dealing with military pensions only ?
– No. The figures I have quoted include all forms of pensions.
– I do not think the Canadian Government pay an old-age pension.
– I am not in a position to say. I am only quoting this statement because it attracted my attention at the time, and I thought it was well to mention it. Mr. Massey, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, stated recently that economies would reduce the expenditure in the Dominion this year by £5,500,000. All that I have said points to the necessity for a careful review of our financial position. We have, I think, about reached the limit of possible taxation, and we must not forget that the more that is taken from the people by way of taxation the less remains for the development of industry and for wages account.
Every honorable senator, except perhaps our Labour friends, will approve of the Government immigration proposal, though it will necessarily mean the expenditure of a large sum of money. I notice that the Premier of Western Australia (Sir James Mitchell), who appears to be very energetic in this direction, has arranged to bring out 25,000 immigrants per annum. South Australia in fifty years has settled on the land 21,000 farmers, so I should think that a very large sum of money would be required to finance Sir James Mitchell’s scheme. We are all agreed, I think, that we must insure a larger population for Australia. I am afraid our Labour friends take a short view of this project, though perhaps it is natural for any man who is in precarious employment to look askance at any scheme that will bring more men to Australia because of the fear that it may mean less work. We do not want to do that. We want to bring out more people in order to insure that there may be more work for everybody. For instance, houses must be built for the newcomers, and in other directions their settlement in Australia should lead to more work; instead of restricting employment. At least, I hope so.
The next paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech refers to the necessity for the continuous representation of Australia in the United States of America, and intimates that a measure will be introduced for the appointment of an Australian Commissioner. That will probably mean another £25,000 or £30,000 a year for the Australian taxpayer. A Commissioner, with his retinue, will cost a very considerable sum of money. I should like to make a suggestion which was made to me by Mr. Kelly, formerly a member of another place, that instead of having a
High Commissioner we should appoint a Trade Commissioner. It is becoming more and more important that a member of the Government ‘ should visit the Old Country every year and confer with the Imperial Government upon matters which so vitally affect Australia. These visits must have very beneficial results. We want always to look upon Australia as part of the Empire, and therefore a member of the Ministry should, once a year, visit England to discuss, with British Ministers, matters of common concern. It would be easy for a Minister, in the parliamentary recess, to go or return via the United States of America and Canada, and in that way also keep in touch with the people there. This course would not cost nearly so much as would the appointment of a resident Commissioner in the United States of America.
– According ito the Age, it would cost £5,000 or £6,000 .for each trip.
– I feel certain that a fully-equipped Commissioner in the United States of America would cost this country about £30,000 a year.
– The suggestion appears to be a very practical one, at all events.
– It would, I am sure, be greatly to the advantage of this country if one of our Ministers visited Great Britain once a year. We want to bind the Empire more closely together, and I think frequent visits would do a great deal in that direction. We know how expenditure in connexion with the Australian High Commissioner in London has grown, and I am afraid we should have the same experience in the United States of America.
There is also reference in the Speech to the appointment of a Public Service Board in order to secure rigid economy in the Public Service. This course is in conformity with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and it is one of which all might approve. The only trouble is that the members of this Board will have no power. Their hands will be tied.
– They will have power of dismissal, which a Minister has not got to-day.
– I am glad to hear that such is the case. It is to be hoped that additional public servants will not be appointed, because it is patent to every one that if the members of the Commonwealth Public Service are increased it will be particularly hard for many men when retrenchments are made.
Reference is made in the Speech to the appointment of an Income Tax Board of Appeal, and the only objection I have to offer in this direction is that such a Board will involve the expenditure of more money.
Provision has also been made for entering into an agreement -with the Amalgamated Wireless (Australia) Limited, and the services rendered will doubtless be of benefit to the Commonwealth, the Government having invested £500,000 in the venture, which gives them a controlling interest in the company.
It is also intended to undertake additional and necessary extensions in the Postal Department, and. although ‘ the outlay will be somewhat heavy, the work will be of a reproductive character. Special arrangements have been made whereby a largely increased amount of loan money will be made available, so that a continuous and progressive policy may be undertaken, extending over a period of years. Desirable as such arrangements may be, it must not be forgotten that this means further outlay. Such proposals would, I think, be generally acceptable if we had the money, and I want the Government to look carefully into that phase of the question. The paragraph further states that in order to secure the economic expenditure of this money and .the most modern system in equipment, a special expert Advisory Board will be constituted. Honorable senators will see that this means the appointment of another Board, and one naturally wonders when the creation of such Boards will cease.
– Such a Board can save more than ten times its cost in one year.
– But this is to be an expert Advisory Board.
– Consisting of members of the Department with, possibly, an expert from outside.
– The PostmasterGeneral and a Deputy Postmaster should be conversant with the conditions in the Department.
– But what do they know about technical matters?
– There are a number of technical officers in the Department who could give all the information required, and thus obviate the appointment of a special Advisory Board.
Reference is made in paragraph 14 to the report made by the Commissioners appointed by the Commonwealth and State Governments on the subject of a uniform gauge for the main lines of the Commonwealth. That is a most desirable undertaking, as Australia has for a long time been vainly endeavouring to make progress with varying railway gauges. Necessary as the undertaking may be, we have to consider whether the time is opportune for embarking on such an extensive and costly work, when money is urgently needed for immigration and extensions in the Post and Telegraph Department. I direct the attention of the Government to the following remarks which appear in the report of the Commission : -
The Royal Commission estimates that the cost involved for providing a main trunk line by the conversion of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge lines in Victoria and South Australia, and in other places, following route A, would be £21,600,000.
Of this amount, the cost of converting all 5-ft. 3-in. lines in Victoria is estimated at £8,324,000. The report goes on to say -
The figures do not include the cost of transferring passengers, live stock, and goods, or other commodities, during the conversion period, neither do they include interest on lines, capitalization, or increased annual charges, or any charges other than the cost of conversion.
That means more than £21,000,000.
– It does not include the cost of altering the rolling-stock.
– No. Additional costs would be involved for the items I have mentioned. Assuming that the work would he completed within five years, as provided for, these items will involve the expenditure of an additional £3,000,000; so that the cost, on completion, if the work were finished in the time specified, would be approximately £24,600,000. The total tonnage of goods and live stock carried over the Victorian railways during the year 1920-21 was approximately 7,273,000, and the total tonnage of goode and live stock transferred at Albury, from both directions, during a typical year Avas approximately 325,000.
– Does that include coal?
– I presume the total tonnage of goods includes coal. The figures I have quoted represent 4.3 per cent, of the Victorian goods carried; and, if we deduct the tonnage of New South Wales goods, the percentage would be about 2.’ I do not intend to oppose the scheme, but I think we should have, at least, a population of 10,000,000 people before we embark upon such a colossal undertaking. It would be better to wait until conditions are more normal, as in the present circumstances the cost would bo considerably inflated owing to the excessive rates being charged for material and the somewhat high wages prevailing.
– If we postpone the work for five years, would material be available at a lower rate? i
– I believe so, because there is a tendency for costs to come down. If railway works are to be undertaken by the Commonwealth or the States, I should like to see a branch line constructed from West Maitland to Brisbane.
– The work is being proceeded with, as some of the cuttings have already been excavated.
– I am glad to hear that such is the case.
Reference is also made in paragraph 17 to the fact that good progress has been made in the construction of the work under the Murray River agreement. That is a very desirable undertaking, and one on which very large sums will have to be expended. It is generally admitted that under a proper system of development the valley of the Murray will become one of the finest and most productive portions of the Commonwealth.
The general expansion of internal trade and commerce is refererd to in paragraph 18. It is essential that new markets should be found for our produce, and although we are incurring great expense in sending out trade representatives to assist in that direction, it is too, early to judge what success will be achieved. Money will have to be provided to assist the cattle industry, which, at present, is almost submerged.
Money will also be required to finance the Tariff Board, which is a very necessary body.
– Will £4,000 a year be sufficient?
– I do not know. Enormous sums of money have to be found this year to meet our commitments.
We are informed that an amending Electoral Bill is to be introduced to overcome certain defects in the existing Act. One naturally wonders why an effort has not been made to amalgamate the State and Federal Electoral Departments.
– The States, with the exception of Tasmania, are not agreeable.
– If that is the position, it should be made known, because taxpayers are always complaining of the inconvenience experiencd under the present system. Many taxpayers are verging on insanity, and some have had to borrow money to pay their taxes.
– According to the Treasurer’s latest financial’ statement, there is an amount of £7,000,000 out-, standing in the form of taxation, and the banks are refusing to advance money.
– Unfortunately that is the position.
Every consideration will have to be shown to incapacitated soldiers. We must do all we can to brighten the lives of those who have been rendered incapable, even if it means the expenditure of a fairly large sum.
It is the intention of the Government to introduce a Superannuation Bill, and goodness knows what that is going to cost.
– But the public servants will contribute a. portion of the money.
– Yes, but how much are the Government going to1 contribute? A Bill will be introduced embodying the proposals of the Govern.ment, and the matter can be fully debated when it is before us.
We have just appointed two Deputy Presidents of the Arbitration Court, and, while on the whole I believe the appointments are acceptable to the public, they will involve increased expenditure. I was very glad to note the paragraph in the Speech dealing with the Arbitration Court. It refers to the clashing jurisdictions that are so distressing. The Labour party hate them, the employers hate them, and the public are being mulct all the time. Its operations have been productive of ill-feeling and unrest all over the country, and I hope that some way out of the difficulty may be found.
Then there is a little reference to Canberra, a place which I suppose honorable senators have heard of. I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of pounds are to be spent there.
– There is a demand for the expenditure of £500,000 there this year.
– Has the honorable senator ever been to Canberra?
– I never have. I was near the place on one occasion, but I was so cold that I had to come away.
I find that something is proposed to be done in order to safeguarding more effectively the health of the people. Apparently it is intended that we shall look thoroughly well after every man who has a cold. There is to be more “ coordination.” I am beginning to hate the. word. It means simply that once more we are going to duplicate Commonwealth and State activities. The State Governments are looking after public health, and why should the Commonwealth “butt in”? There is to be improved co-ordination of the activities of the Commonwealth and States, and for this purpose a Royal Commission is to be appointed.
– Has the honorable senator forgotten the confusion that occurred between State’ and Commonwealth authorities during the influenza epidemic?
– Where the States took the matter in hand there wis no confusion. So far as I know, the epidemic waa thoroughly well handled in Victoria, and there was no confusion here, whatever may have been the case in New South Wales and some of the other States. I object, at all events, to the appointment of another Royal Commission. Let the Government take some responsibility. If they desire to improve 00-ordination, let them do so. The appointment of another Royal Commission to deal with the matter merely means putting it off for a further two or three years. As Senator Lynch has mentioned, our very respected Leader has coordination and Royal Commissions on the brain. Yet the honorable senator was unable to secure the appointment of the Commission for which he asked.
I think honorable senators will agree that from beginning to end the GovernorGeneral’s Opening Speech suggests further expenditure. No one has more respect for our Leader (Mr. Hughes) than I have. I cannot forget the magnificent work he did during the war, work which no one else could have done sp well. I do hope that he will now devote his boundless energy to trying to get us on an even keel financially, otherwise I am afraid that we are in for’ terrible times. I was a witness of one financial crisis in Victoria, when the banks closed, and I never want to see another. Civil servants were dismissed in hundreds, and people who had been well off were almost begging for bread. I hope that every effort will be1 made to set our finances in proper order, otherwise we shall have here the great distress which has been experienced in other countries.
If the Prime Minister, instead of devoting his time in endless ways to devising means for spending money will apply his wonderful talents and energy to tie amalgamation of Commonwealth and State Departments, and the conservation of our funds, he will deserve the sympathy and admiration of every one in this community.
Although I was surprised to see the extent to which our expenditure had increased, I am not one of those who blame the present Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) for that. I hope that when his Budget comes along, we shall see the effect of his handiwork^ He is too manly to say a word in his own defence, and in submitting his Budget he never said that the Estimates were those of his predecessors and not his own. I am most hopeful that in the honorable gentleman we shall find a man who will deal with our affairs in a business way, and I trust that he will receive the assistance of the .Prime Minister in doing so.
Before resuming my seat, I may mention that I earned a certain amount of notoriety because of a few remarks I made some time ago on the Northern Territory. I take a great interest in the Territory, because I have done a great deal of pioneering work in the past. We are there up against an almost impassable barrier. It is quite clear that the great hopes we had when we took over the Northern Territory from South Australia are doomed to disappointment. I was a member of another place at the time of the transfer, and I tried my best to prevent it, because I felt that if the Territory were left to South Australia it would at any rate be economically managed.
– South Australia will take it back again.
– We have heard that before, but it is of no use to talk in that way. We were told that we should see what would happen when the Commonwealth spent money there. We have spent money there, and to-day most of the people who are not public servants are living on Government rations.
– The Commonwealth has wasted money there.
– In the carrying out of ordinary public utilities it is very difficult for a Government to avoid wasting money, but in carrying out pioneering work we must always be prepared to find that some money is wasted. I am getting tired of hearing that we are keeping the North empty. I find that a very similar problem is confronting the people in Western Canada. If honorable senators will refer to the report in United Empire of an address by Mr. J. D. Cornhill before the Royal Colonial. Institute in London, they will find that there is an important economic problem to be solved on the North Pacific coast of Canada. That country is as great a source of danger to Canada as the empty Northern Territory is to Australia, because the North Pacific coast is equally exposed to the millions of Asia, and the country is rapidly being taken possession of by Japanese.
– It cannot be said that that country, with its ice and snow, attracts settlement.
– I think it attracts settlement as much as the Northern Territory, where there is twelve months of torrid heat every year.
– Japanese are notallowed into Western Canada.
– They have been pouring into that country. There are any number of Japanese on the North -West coast of Canada.
– They have been prohibited from entering that country.
– There may have been some recent prohibition, but there is already a numerous Japanese population there. .
– There are far more Japanese there than there are in Australia..
– That is so. Mr. Cornhill must be a man of some repute, or he would not have been asked to lecture before the Royal Colonial Institute. He said -
There is an economic way of settling our North Pacific coast. What we wont is a series of settlements of young married Englishmen, for the married man is anchored. They should be drawn from the agricultural or seafaring villages of the British Islands. These men, with their vive6 and families, must be maintained whilst settling. Three years’ maintenance and free land are a sine quo non of successful settlement, and the cost of their maintenance must be borne by us in England.
Iii the opinion of the outside world we have a magnificent country in the Northern Territory. I have been looking into it’ lately, and I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we have nothing of the sort. The rainfall is nothing, like that of Java or of the east coast of Queensland, where there is sufficient rain all the year round to keep things going. I have been informed by Mr. Hunt, the Commonwealth Meteorologist, that there are five solid dry months in each year in the Northern Territory. During May, June, July, August, and September not a drop of rain falls there. The grasses become parched, and if any crops are sown they are very difficult to maintain. The expenditure of an enormous amount of money in water conservation is necessary there. The rivers extend over flats, and honorable senators can imagine what working in such country would mean for white men.
– Those remarks apply to only a part of the Territory.
– What about the Barkly Tableland 1
– I have heard of the Barkly Tableland for the last thirty or forty years. I have known people who went up there to settle, but they never made any money.
– The whole of the Northern Territory is purely pastoral country.
– That is so, and most of it is only cattle, and not sheep country. We cannot expect to settle the Northern Territory by cattle stations on which most of the work is done, as it is being done to-day, by aboriginals.
– What about the gold and tin mines of the Northern Territory ?
– The Northern Territory is one of the poorest mineral districts in the whole of Australia. There were a great many Chinese in the Territory some time ago, who raked over the gold-mining district, and took away the gold with them to their own country.
– The honorable senator is speaking of the Pine Creek district. That is where the Chinese were, but it is not claimed as the mineral district of the Northern Territory. The Chinese were never on the real goldfields of the Territory.
– I should be very glad to be shown that I am wrong in my estimate of the country. I have no authority to mention the name of my informant, though I can give it to the honorable senator privately, but I have been informed that the Northern Territory is not at all a rich mineral country.
– What about cotton-, growing there? The Territory is reported to be most suitable for that.
– The honorable senator has probably not grown cotton himself, but I once, planted 50 acres of it. At present an effort is being made to carry on the cultivation of cotton on mixed farms in Queensland. The cotton is a sort of side line, and the crop is gathered by women and children, and in that way the labour difficulty is overcome. I do not think that its cultivation can be carried on on a large scale. I put in 50 acres of cotton on one of our stations, and while it came up nicely, a drought came on and not a single plant survived. They are doing the best work in cotton growing towards the coast, where the rainfall is more settled. I think there is a good chance of the industry succeeding there, but I doubt whether it will succeed in the Northern Territory. There are summer rains there, and the result will probably be that the cotton will get “balled” - that is to say, it will get into balls and it will then be impossible to use it. People have an idea that cotton is grown in a hot country, but, as a matter of fact, it is grown in latitude 30 in the United States of America and in about the same latitude in Egypt. The equivalent position in Australia would be a little north of Sydney. If we can grow cotton in latitude 124-. which is the latitude of Port Darwin, we shall surprise a great many people. I am very hopeful that the industry may succeed, but the possibility of its failure is a matter that has to be considered. We have to find other tropical products which will support a large working population. Personally I cannot think of one indigenous product that will support a population. We have to take account of the rainfall.
– If they have a rainfall suitable for anything, it should be suitable for growing cotton, which is a summer crop.
– Cotton may be worth trying, but the point I want the world to know is that the proposition we have before us in the Northern Territoryis different from that in any other part of the world. The Northern Territory is not like .Java,, It is not even like eastern Queensland, where there is now a great amount of settlement, but where it is still debatable whether the white man’ can succeed. From what I have heard of the Northern Territory - and I have had friends there for years - it’ is little short of downright cruelty to put white men there to cut down the scrub and civilize the country. One of my friends told me that he went up one of the rivers in a boat, and that when the mosquitoes rose from the mangrove in the evening the noise was like an express train passing.
I want to see this country settled for the white man and the white woman. How are we going to do it? Will honorable senators give us a scheme? It cannot be done with the cattle industry. That industry is ideally adapted to the country, but a great amount of the work is done by black boys. There is not a great deal of country fit for sheep in the Northern Territory. There remain the coastal industries and mining. As to the prospects for -mining, I know nothing. There may be mines there, but I am told not. I do not believe that cotton can be grown except on mixed farms. The only possible way to develop this Territory, I think, would be to get a big concern, something like the Canadian-Pacific Railway, to take it up. We must really know by this time the mess that Governments always make. of such work. It is only necessary to look at what the Queensland Government has done in trying to establish cattle stations. They put £1,500,000 into the venture, and their losses, even after paying no rental for their Crown leases, and no taxes to the shire councils, amount to £200,000.- There is a drought there now, and what their losses are going to be this year is not yet disclosed, but I think they would be pleased to get out by writing ofl £1,000,000. I think if anybody would give them £500,000 he could have the stations.
– All the private stations are in the same condition this year.
– T - That is so, and there is some excuse for the Government this year. The Commonwealth Government ought to make up their minds that by present methods they will never settle the Northern Territory. The only way- in which we could induce a company to take up the task would be to give concessions of some sort. The first concession I would suggest would be half the land. They would certainly deserve this if they could make the land valuable; it is absolutely valueless now, and we should be giving away something which is of no value to us, and is a positive danger. The proposal to run a railway to the Northern Territory to protect the country is a most ludicrous idea. The railway would provide the only possible means that an army would have for getting from the Territory and invading the civilized parts of Australia. No nation in its senses would ever land an army in the Northern Territory. They would not be able to feed it for a week.
– What about constructing the north-south railway in orderto develop the country ?
– I think I have informed the honorable senator of £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 worth of work that could be advantageously done in Australia. My regret is that by spending money in all kinds of ways we shall not have enough left to do urgently necessary work. If we spend it on a north-south line to defend the Northern Territory, we shall be spending it unnecessarily, for the Northern Territory will defend itself without any help from us.
– The honorable senator recognises that the building of the railway is part of the contract.
-.- Yes. The contract is to build the railway at some time. I am in hopes, from what the honorable senator has said, that we shall be released from that contract. He said that South Australia was willing to take the Territory back, and cancel the contract. I remember those arguments in the other House years ago. How dreadful it would be, they said, to give up such a splendid asset ! Those arguments have been used in other than political circles. Having been granted half the land, the syndicate could be allowed, under proper rules and regulations, to carry out the preliminary work by employing kanaka labour, as was done in Queensland. Thus the country could be made fit for white men to live in. They might be allowed to get a certain amount of black labour from New Guinea, if it could be obtained there.
– I doubt whether there is enough black labour in New Guinea for the requirements of local industries.
– I doubt it too; but I want something to be done with the Northern Territory, and I want to see Australia kept white. We know it i9 not only necessary for Australia that the Northern Territory should be kept white, but it is necessary for the Empire and for the white world. If the black races get charge of Australia, With all its possibilities, there is no telling where the thing may end. I hope that some effort will be made in the direction that I have indicated.
I think I have taken up enough of the Government’s time. When the measures referred to come before us, I hope and trust that they will receive careful consideration, and that the Government will see that we have the necessary money available. A great many of these things are most desirable, but have we the money for them ? My opinion is that we ought to concentrate on immigration, the development of the Murray valley watershed area, and one or two similar things which will give us a rapid return in filling up the continent and settling our empty spaces. I hope, even yet, that we are going to see a reduction in taxation. It will be a welcome surprise. I feel sure that if the finances of the country are well handled, as I hope they will be now, we shall achieve something in this direction. I am sorry that I cannot more heartily commend the programme of the Government as outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech; but it may be that when the various measures are submitted they will present themselves to us in a somewhat different aspect.
– Honorable senators have referred to the services that I was able to render to the Commonwealth at the Limitation of Armament Conference at Washington. I thank them for their kindly remarks as to my work there. It falls to my lot to reply to some of the things that have been said by way of criticism of the Government and the Governor-General’s Speech by those speakers who have preceded me. I was particularly struck by the speech delivered by Senator Lynch, the burden of which seemed to be1 that if the Commonwealth would repeal a number of its Taxation Acts, and allow the State Governments to re-impose the taxation - which, of course, they would do - and allow them to spend the money, “ everything in the garden would be lovely.” But Senator Lynch went further than that, and, using a word which he is quite familiar with, “lambasted” the Government for a lot of things for which, it seems to me, the Senate is just as responsible as the Government. It is no excuse, nor even an attempt at an excuse, to say that this Chamber, especially since the last election, has most strenuously asserted its right to deal in the most independent fashion with any legislation introduced by the Government. I have never seen any slavish following of the Government in this House. I have never seen a Government treated so independently as this Government is treated by this Chamber. The fact that all but one member of this Senate was a supporter of the Government was never any guarantee that measures were safe.
– In some cases they had a narrow squeak !
– I have seen several measures have a” narrow squeak.” One financial measure that came from another place received its quietus in this Chamber. The Senate must accept responsibility for the legislation it has helped to frame.
Senator Lynch spoke to day as if the present Government were solely responsible for the Tariff. It is a matter of history that the Tariff on the statute-book to-day is not the one that was introduced bv the Government. It is a very much higher one, and, from the Protectionist point of view, therefore, very much improved. In lecturing the Government that the Tariff was too high, the honorable senator was really administering a rebuff to this Chamber and’ the other House. There were no slavish supporters of the Government in the framing of that measure, and Senator Lynch was certainly not one. Did he ever cast a. vote on the Tariff out of loyalty to the Government? Every vote he gave was cast in a way which he conscientiously believed to be in the interests of the. State he represents. Will he refuse to concede to other honorable ‘ senators credit for the same conscientious discharge of their duties that he would claim for himself? When the honorable senator attacks the Tariff as an imposition on the people, he is inferentially condemning the Parliament, and especially this Chamber, which had the power to alter the Tariff - a power which not only Senator Lynch, but every other honorable senator, exercised at times to the full, and it was used in the direction “of increasing the rates brought down by the Government.
– To which amendments1 the Government weakly yielded.
– They yielded in many cases after having been outvoted, i Senator Lynch said that the Tariff did not accord with the policy put before the country by the Government at the election, but he can never have read the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at Bendigo.
– I read every word of it.
– There the Prime Minister pledged the Government to bring in an increased Tariff on Protectionist lines. It was a clear promise, so Senator Lynch’s statement is incorrect.
The honorable senator then went on to refer to the treatment that had been accorded, he said, by the Leader of the Government to the Senate in the matter of Ministerial portfolios. I am sure the honorable senator does not expect me to agree with him that the portfolios allotted to this Senate are the least important.
– You can speak impersonally upon the matter.
– Yes. Let me apply the test which the honorable senator himself has adopted. He referred to the Post and Telegraph Department as one of the big Departments represented in the other Chamber. He said that the test to be applied was the number of people with which the Department came in touch. Applying that standard to the Department over which I preside, the Home and Territories Department comes into touch with more people than any other, excepting, perhaps, the Post and Telegraph Department, because through the electoral law it has to do with every adult in the country. So the Department that has to administer the electoral law is one of the most important.
– That is too long a bow to draw.
– It is the standard set by Senator Lynch. The Leader of the Government has not lessened the number of portfolios in this Chamber. The number is exactly, as it was last session, and it represents an increase over the number in earlier periods in the history of the Commonwealth. It will be found by Senator Lynch that the relative importance of portfolios has varied ever since Federation. If he will come down with me some day to the building in which the Home and Territories Department is housed, he will notice that, in the early stages of Federation, this Department was given to senior Ministers in the Cabinet. The Department has certainly had a chequered career, and that may be some solatium to the honorable senator whose feelings have been wounded. Of the other Departments, can anybody say that there has been a more important one in the last few years - possibly with the exception of the. Treasury - than the Repatriation Department, which has been dealing with one of the greatest problems Australia has had to face, and which, in the absence of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), I am free to say has been most efficiently administered ? I am sure it has added prestige to this Chamber that such an important portfolio has been allocated to it. Although it may be said that the activities of this Department will decline, it cannot be stated that they are declining at present.
– Do you care to say anything about the proportion of portfolios allocated to this Chamber 1
– No: but I have often wished I could share my work with more Ministers. We have adopted in our Constitution two distinct principles. We have the American system and to it we have added the British system of responsible government. Whereever we find a Government responsible to one House, they will naturally strengthen their position in that House as much as they can. This Government are like all others; they have the instinct of self-preservation, and if Senator Lynch were at the head he would keep a strict eye on the position of the Government in another place, because he would know that the life of the Administration depended, not on this House, but on another place.
– Political tactics instead pf fair play.
– It is simply due to the grafting on to the American system of the British system of responsible government.
I regret that any member of the Commonwealth Parliament should lend him.self, as Senator Lynch has to-day - and I sa.y it with great regret - to speeding on that unworthy and contemptible campaign that has been conducted by the press, particularly of Melbourne, to mislead the people into the belief that the money of the taxpayers is being squandered upon an unwieldy, over populated, and overpaid Public Service.
– Overpaid ! That is the word.
– I have had experience of two Departments, and I can say that the Commonwealth Service compares unfavorably with most of the State Departments in regard to pay, the number of people employed, and more particularly the manner in which the public servants are housed. When I returned from America recently, I naturally wanted to see what my new Department was like, and I spent a few days in inspecting the conditions under which the officials were carrying out their work. These conditions I found to be a disgrace to the Commonwealth Government. If any private employer housed his servants under such conditions he would be held up as an example of meanness and unfairness from the point of view of health and sanitation .
– Under those circumstances efficient work cannot be expected.
– It is due to the unhealthy and false atmosphere that has been deliberately created by the
Melbourne press particularly, which has alleged waste and extravagance in Commonwealth Departments in a manner that is altogether unwarranted and untrue. Senator Lynch made an attack on the Commonwealth Service, which he said had overgrown itself. This class of talk has been served up to us daily, but where is there a senator or a newspaper that makes any suggestion for the lessening of any service now being rendered by the Commonwealth ? Once let a Commonwealth Minister proceed to reduce any public service, or shorten sail in the slightest degree1, and he is assailed on all sides, but first and foremost by those very newspapers who are howling loudest for economy.
– If you read the report of the Taxation Commission you will find that the overstaffing is there.
– I have read the annual report of the Taxation Commissioner, who complains that, while he has asked time after time for a certain staff, the Government have not made the number of appointments requested. Why should honorable senators lend themselves to an attempt to make the taxpayers - who, I agree with Senator Fairbairn, are already hard-hit - believe the infamous lie emanating from the press about money being wasted in every direction. I asked Senator Lynch -where a saving could be effected in Commonwealth administration. The only indication he gave us of increased expenditure which he considered we could have saved was in regard to the cost of living allowances which were added to the salaries of Commonwealth public servants who were at the bottom of the ladder. Senator Lynch waxed satirical at the Government for having paid those allowances, which, I may remark, were not based upon Mr. Piddingtons report at all. If Senator Lynch will do the Government ample justice by looking up the matter he will find, in the statement by the Prime Minister, that the allowances were based on figures furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician, not on Mr. Piddington’s report at all. The Commonwealth Government deliberately avoided making the allowances on the basis of Mr. Piddington’s report; and they were approved, not by the Arbitration Court or by Mr. Piddington, but by this Parliament.
– Do you say that Parliament agreed to Mr. Piddington’s basic wage finding?
– I did not say that. I said that the Commonwealth Government took the Statistician’s figures for the high cost of living allowances, and based the cost of living allowances upon them. If Senator Lynch will look up the Prime Minister’s speech he will find that what I have said is correct.
-brockman. - Have the cost of living allowances been varied ?
– They were varied at the time, but not since they were authorized.
– Were they granted on the assumption that a man had to support a wife and three children?
– The honorable senator is now referring to the child endowment. In regard to the cost of living allowance, we simply took the difference in the cost of living between the time the basic wage was determined and the cost of living in 1921. There is, therefore, the high cost of living allowance and the child endowment. Senator Lynch did not differentiate between the two.
– Tes, I did ; or, if you think- 1 did not, I was misunderstood.
– The child endowment is different altogether from the cost of living allowance. It stands by itself, and it was an entirely new and debatable principle, which was brought forward by the Government and adopted with the full approval of Parliament.
– And yet you blame me for taking the stand I have and for expressing my opinion?
– I am not blaming the honorable senator. I am merely pointing out that this was the only Commonwealth expenditure which, in the opinion of the honorable senator, could have been avoided. Then he also suggested that if we had repealed the authority to pay the allowance, this course would in some way benefit the States. Senator Lynch assumes that this Government, apparently because it is a Commonwealth Government, must of necessity be extravagant; and that a State Government, because it is a State Government, must necessarily be economical; and if Federal expenditure can be reduced and the money so saved handed over to a State Government, it will be spent more economically, and particularly in the interests of the country districts. Well, I have recently been looking over my file of the Western Australian newspapers - I dare say Senator Lynch has also - and I have noticed reports that while country people have to cart water great distances, and while the State Government cannot build bridges because, so we may assume, of Federal expenditure, the State Government recently committed itself, without the consent of Parliament, to heavy expenditure for an extension of a city, tramway system, under State control, to a suburb that is already connected up with the city by a speedy ferry service. If, as Senator Lynch suggests, State Governments are economical, it is rather extraordinary that in Western Australia, which has a deficit of £250,000 this year, a work of this nature should be sanctioned.
– Is there a Labour Government in Western Australia, may I ask?
– I shall come to the actions of a Labour Government presently. I am keeping the worst examples till the last. Does Senator Lynch hold out any hope that if we cut out this child endowment and saved whatever it costs, say £100,000, the Western Australian Government would build bridges in country districts rather than expend money that may be available on works such as the Como tramway ? Judging by the past the Como tramway scheme would have the strongest pull. Clearly, then, Senator Lynch has not much to choose between the Como tramway and child endowment expenditure.
I turn now to the State of New South Wales. I well remember, during the war, going to Sydney and finding there, at a time when the British Government were appealing to the Commonwealth Government to restrict expenditure, and at a time, too, when we were being bombarded by the various State Governments to obtain money for urgent public works, that one of the “urgent” public works in Sydney was the widening of an already good and wide roadway through Moore Park! Senator MacDonald, by interjection, invited me to say something about the shocking example set by the Queensland Government, but I am afraid that words would entirely fail me to do justice to that subject.. When I think of the money that has been wasted in Queens.land. and in the other States, judging by the comments in the various reports by the Auditors-General, I do not think there is encouragement for the taxpayers from the point of view advanced by Senator Lynch. The very fact that a State Treasurer would have more money to spend, assuming that Federal expenditure were cut down as suggested, would, it seems to me, lead a State Government into such wild extravagances that the taxpayers’ load would be rendered much heavier.
The basic wage allowance and child endowment policy, after all, are an endeavour to deal out substantial justice to the lower-paid branches of the Public Service. I do not think that, if we examine what was paid at the time, it can be regarded as too extravagant. I - admit that the conditions under which salaries and conditions are determined in the Public Service is anything but satisfactory. The time has arrived when the whole system should be reviewed, and one of the paragraphs appearing in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech has behind it that intention. At present the Public Service Arbitrator and the Public Service Commissioner, are both empowered to fix salaries and allowances, and at various times the Government, under public pressure, or because of absolute necessity, have been obliged to do something also in the way of rectifying what were at the time real grievances. It is obvious that under any such a system the results must be more or less haphazard in their nature. The system of determining salaries and allowances has to a certain extent got out of joint, and it will be the duty of the Public Service Board to straighten out these difficulties. Honorable senators will note that these measures, the Public Service Bill, the Superannuation Bill, and the Public Service Arbitration Bill are significantly bracketed together. I can assure Senator Lynch and the Senate that the Government have a definite policy in this matter. The difficulties cannot be dealt with piecemeal. The Senate will have an opportunity at a later stage to consider the policy of the Government. I feel certain that honorable senators will realize that the Government are dealing with the matter in a manner that will do justice to the Public Service generally, and lead to greater efficiency and economy.
I think that upon reflection Senator Lynch will regret having made some of his statements this afternoon, especially the charge that the Government are ignoring the Arbitration Court and bringing it into contempt. That w,as an extravagant and altogether unmerited criticism of the action of the Government. In connexion with arbitration, the Government acted only when the Arbitration Court had failed ; not because of any inability of the Judge to deal with matters in dispute, but because the law did not allow for or could not cover the particular industry or dispute in question. Those who have studied the history of the arbitration law of the Commonwealth must admit - whether they believe in arbitration or not is beside the question - that the position of the Arbitration Court, as it has been interpreted by the High Court, is absolutely unsatisfactory. We are nominally in possession of certain powers in connexion with Inter-State disputes, but we have not the same powers as a State ‘ Parliament, and Senator Lynch knows that.
– In what way?
– In many ways. If the honorable senator refers to the judgments of the High .Court he will find that our powers are not as extensive as those of a State.
– What does that avail when the main question is considered ? The shearers have refused to shear, although an award has been made.
– I am coming to that. Senator Lynch holds this Government up as if it had been weak, puerile, halting, and incompetent in dealing with industrial disputes, all the time, of course, the reflex of that picture being that the State Governments are omnipotent, strong, determined, and able to deal with the situation. Has Senator Lynch forgotten the seamen’s strike? Does he forget so soon how one State Government, at the very crisis of that fight, was prepared to compromise? Does he remember the request made by the State of Tasmania that communication with the island State must be opened up, even if it meant submitting to the seamen’s demands? I remember, but Senator Lynch has apparently forgotten, how the Premier of that State, proposed to man a steamer, under the terms demanded by the union. In other words, he, on behalf of Iris Government, was to surrender, and it was left to the Commonwealth to carry on the fight. Ib was the Commonwealth that saw it ‘through.
– lt was certain members of this Senate who unofficially settled it.
– I am’ not going to detract in any way from the credit due to those who were responsible.
– And they were Tasmanian senators, ‘too.
– With the exception of one strike, in which we obtained some real assistance from the Government of New South Wales, I do not remember any extensive Inter-State dispute in connexion with which we have received the slightest assistance from any State Government. On the other hand, we have been hampered by the demand that the State’s needs must be met at all costs.
– Why do not the Government tell the men that they have to obey the awards of the Court?
– They have been told that very often; but it is another matter to make them comply. Senator Lynch, as a student of the Constitution, knows how limited our constitutional powers are, and when he is discussing this question he should tell the people that the Commonwealth Government is inadequately armed to deal with industrial disputes.
The honorable senator referred to-day to the power of the employees in the coalmining industry to prey on the community, and he used the unjustifiable expression that they were aided and abetted by the Government. Those words are inexcusable, because they are far from the facts.
– But they are having all their own way.
– By reason of the fact that coal-mining is a key industry, and they are in such a position that they can take the community by the throat and paralyze industry. The Government are handicapped and limited by their constitutional powers.
– The action you did take was probably ultra vires.
– It may have been restricted in application, and doubtful constitutionally. The coal-miners do hold power which is greater than that possessed by operatives in other industries, particularly the gold-mining industry, referred to by Senator Lynch.
– Cannot the mcn be punished for breaking the law like ordinary offenders?
– The men hold the power. The Government did not give them that power, nor is it a consenting party to them having such authority. Senator Lynch knows how the Government have fought continuously for additional authority; and he gave us little credit, and that in a most grudging way, for what we have achieved in connexion with the manning of the Largs Bay and Moreton Bay.
– ‘Have the Government no punitive powers to exercise?
– We have no constitutional power.
Senator Lynch dealt, with high overseas freights; but surely he does not blame the Government for the present position. The only action we have taken has been in the interests of shippers, because we have placed Commonwealth steamers in competition with others. It is generally conceded that, however high freights are to-day, they would be even higher if the Commonwealth vessels were not in the trade; and I do not think we can logically blame the Seamen’s Union for the high freights prevailing on overseas steamers, because the members of that organization are controlled by the union in Great Britain. The Government are just as anxious as Senator Lynch is that industrial law and order shall be maintained.
– With favours to none.
– Yes, and justice to all. Senator Lynch knows that we are imperfectly armed under the Constitution.
– Appeal to the electors, and you will wipe the board.
– We appealed to the electors in the only effective way to provide us with the necessary legal power to deal with industrial disputes, and until that power is given I do not think that the people can expect the Commonwealth Parliament or the Commonwealth Government to deal with industrial disturbances which wrack this country from time to time and are going a long way to wards ruining the prosperity of the Commonwealth.
Senator Fairbairn appalled me by saying at the outset of his speech that he agreed with the first paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech, but that he could not agree with any of the others. His criticisms, however, of many of the paragraphs were more favorable than his forecast indicated. The honorable senator referred to the expert Advisory Board proposed to be appointed in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, and although it is not within my province to explain the nature of the Board, I ask him., as a business man, to consider whether several million pounds sterling should be expended on technical work without the approval of expert authorities. The money is not to be spent on ordinary postal services, but on the extension of telephone exchanges and the installation of the latest telephonic and telegraphic appliances.
– Is not work of that character constantly going on?
– Not to the same extent. Senator Fairbairn said that the officers of the Department should be able to do the work ; but in the present circumstances they are unable to advise the Minister as they are engaged in the different States, where they have recognised duties to perform. As the Post and Telegraph Department is constituted to-day, the adviser to the Minister is the secretary to the Postmaster-General’s Department, who is not a technical man; and any advice given to the Minister from expert officers must circulate through different . channels, and this may or may not reach him. The Postmaster-General wishes to be assured that the money is being spent in the right direction, and additional works involving the expenditure of large sums of money should be undertaken on the advice of experts in the particular line involved.
– He should be able to do that without the advice of a Board.
– If the word “ Board “ is objectionable, some other term can be substituted.
– When a Board is appointed, it must have clerical assistance, which means increasing the number of public servants.
– If the honorable senator objects to the term “ Board,” I dare say the Postmaster-General would not mind calling it by some other name.
During the debate reference has been made to the unification of the railway gauges, and for the information of honorable senators I shall read the following from the report- of the Commission : -
Question 2. What is necessary to be done in order to unify the gauges of the railway systems of Australia?
Regardless of the time in which the actual work of unifying the gauges may be commenced, it is of the utmost importance that if a decision to unify the gauges is to be made, it be made promptly. It is also of as much importance to decide what is to be the standard gauge. These two questions having been decided, it will be possible, and very desirable, that officials of those railway systems which are to be changed begin immediately to adjust their plans for construction…..
Many of the critics of this proposal use the arguments adduced by Senator Fairbairn this afternoon, who said that if there were only so many thousands of tons of goods carried between Victoria and New South Wales last year, and that tonnage represented only a small percentage of the total tonnage, the question was hardly worth considering. I am astonished at any one who has given the matter full consideration submitting such arguments. Of course, the tonnage transferred is comparatively small. How could it be otherwise? The cost of loading and unloading in the transfer of goods from one gauge to another is prohibitive, and the use of different gauges is the surest way to prevent the development of Inter-State trade. That is the explanation of the smallness of the figures representing that trade. Do honorable ° members forget what happened not so very long ago? I am certain that Senator Fairbairn does not forget that when there was a drought in the Riverina district of New South Wales, and fodder was urgently required from Victoria to keep stock alive, as a result of our brilliant railway system, every one of the terminal railway stations on the Murray was absolutely congested with trucks loaded with fodder. They could not be unloaded and loaded quickly enough to enable the fodder to be taken to the starving stock, and it is estimated that in that year stock to the value of over £2,000,000 perished in the Riverina district alone. That stock might have been kept alive if the fodder could have been run straight through into the droughtstricken areas, and distributed quickly.
– And if the owners . of the stock had the money to buy it. There are two sides to the picture.
– They had the money to buy the fodder, but they could not get it.
– Whose figures does the honorable senator quote?
– They are the figures supplied by the Railways Commissioners of Victoria, to the Prime Minister. They were read to the Premiers’ Conference held in Melbourne, at which it was decided to appoint the “Uniform Gauge Commission. They are absolutely authentic, and included the number* of trucks and the tonnage of fodder held up, as well as the value of the stock that died, and that might have been saved if fodder had been quickly available.
– So much national wealth was destroyed.
– Yes, as the result of our iniquitous difference of railway gauges. Any one who travels from Sydney to Western Australia, and notices the hindrances and absolute barriers to InterState trade imposed by the breaks of gauge must agree that the system we have adopted is the greatest deterrent to the development of Inter-State trade that one could invent. It would appear almost as if the several States had deliberately invented the existing systems to prevent Inter-State trade. I say that this is an urgent question, and whilst it means the raising and expenditure of money, I ask whether there is any business man in the community, who, finding his business hampered by unwieldy or unworkable machinery, would hesitate to’ substitute a workable system if he were in a position to do so.
– He would hesitate until he had seen his banker.
– Of course, but if he could raise the money he would not hesitate to adopt a workable system.
– Many put up with antiquated methods to-day, because of the high taxation.
– They would substitute modern methods if they could alford to .do so. ,
With regard to the adoption’ of uniform Federal and State electoral rolls, I agree with Senator Fairbairn that it is time the people of the country understood, and they have been told it often enough, that the Commonwealth is not to blame for the absolute waste of money that is going on in the printing of duplicate rolls for State and Commonwealth elections. We have practically the same adult franchise for both, and yet with the single exception of Tasmania, although the door has been open to all the States for years, none of them have adopted the uniform rolls. I think it was Senator Keating who, when Minister for Home and Territories, secured the passage of a Bill providing the machinery to enable the State Governments to cooperate with the Commonwealth Government in this matter. Only one State has done so.
– South Australia has also adopted the uniform rolls.
– I had overlooked the fact that South Australia has recently co-operated with the Commonwealth in this matter, and that the last elections in that State were carried out on uniform rolls. The system has been in operation in Tasmania now for years without any interference with the sovereignty of the State, and it was worked with success in the last State elections in South Australia.
– Yes; it is a great improvement.
– The Victorian Government are now negotiating for the adoption of uniform State and Federal rolls, and I hope they will soon be adopted. At any rate, the skirts of the Commonwealth are clean in this regard, because, as I have said, the door to cooperation has been open to the States for years, and there is no reason why the State Governments should not make this very necessary saving in expenditure.
Senator Fairbairn painted a very serious picture of our financial position. It must have made us feel that we shall have to be careful and watch our steps. But .the honorable senate* will agree that Australia is a young country, and is in only the initial stages of development. It is a rich country, and needs population. We cannot develop it without the expenditure of money, and it is rather a costly country to develop. With the exception of the Murray River we have no great natural highways, such as the Mississippi, in America, and to make even the Murray available for navigation all the year round, large sums of money must be spent. The test of true economy is not the amount we spend, but the manner in which and the object on which we spend money. It may be true economy to spend large sums of money in the development of a country like Australia. Senator Fairbairn will be amongst the first to admit that the expenditure to-day in conserving the precious waters of the River Murray and making them available for the thirsty but fertile lands on its banks, is true economy.
– It is money well spent.
– It is not fair to judge any part of Australia from Melbourne only. What may appear to a Melbourne critic to be wild expenditure might, if he visited the part of the Commonwealth where it is proposed, and looked at it from the angle of the peoplethere, appear to him to be true economy.
From this point of view I invite Senator Fairbairn and others to regard Canberra. I think it is probable that he looks at Canberra through Melbourne spectacles.
– No; I said only that the building of the Capital involves the expenditure of money.
– That is so; but so does the retention of the Seat of Government in Melbourne involve expenditure.
– Quite so; but not to so great an extent. <»
– If honorable senators will peruse the return recently tabled of the rentals that are being paid in Melbourne for the housing of Commonwealth Departments, and bear in mind that we have nothing in the way of assets to show for that expenditure, they will realize that if it were capitalized it would pay interest on all the expenditure at Canberra that is contemplated in the next five or ten years. At the same time, - as a result of that expenditure, we shall have an actual asset, because every additional building erected at Canberra and every additional person settled there will add to the value of lands owned by the Commonwealth.
– If the Minister will capitalize in the same way the money spent in Sydney and compare it with the money spent in Melbourne, he will laugh at his own argument.
– It is a part of my Ministerial duty to supervise the leasing of premises and lands for the Federal Departments, and I say that in this State particularly the bill for rent which has to be paid by the Commonwealth is continually mounting.
– So it is in every State.
– Perhaps so; but in Victoria, at any rate, the rent bill of the Commonwealth is going up continually, not merely because Commonwealth Departments are expanding and requiring additional accommodation, but because of increased land values or something of the kind, higher rents are being continually demanded for buildings already in occupation, although not a penny has been spent to enlarge or improve the accommodation provided to meet our requirements. Sitting suspended from, 6.S0 to 8.15 p.m.
– Before dinner I was dealing with the question of how to reconcile the policy of true economy with the policy of properly developing the country, and it was very a propos that during the dinner adjournment honorable senators should have had an opportunity of hearing a very interesting lecture, and seeing pictures which indicate what a tremendous responsibility rests upon this Parliament in respect of this vast heritage of ours. How can any one living in the great cities, and knowing little or nothing of the country out back, fully appreci ate the difficulties of the Government? How can they realize the great cost of administration and the immense liabilities that have to be met to insure effective development? I say again that there is a true economy which is reconcilable with expenditure, and I give an instance in the Federal Capital Territory. I quite believe that if a firm of accountants were asked to investigate the Commonwealth accounts, ‘and were to report as to the cost of government from Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra, they would be able to show that this country could be more economically governed from Canberra than from either of the other two cities I have mentioned. The Government will be the landlord in Canberra. We shall own the land values, and shall receive any accretion that comes from the development of the Territory and the growth of population and Government Departments. I have had an opportunity of residing for three months in a city that is absolutely a political city. I refer to Washington, which exists purely as an administrative centre. It is not a manufacturing city in any sense of the term, and any one who visits it and sees it for himself must realize that if the land on which it stands belonged to the nation, practically the whole expenses of the central Government could be met but of the returns from land values. It is a city of over 300,000 people, and the land values have increased enormously, but, unfortunately, they belong to private land-owners. In the Australian Federal Capital Territory that will net be so. There are good reasons why, under Federation, the Federal Government should be housed and situated in’ Federal Territory. But even from the point of view of economy, I do not regard the transference of the Seat of Government to Canberra as being in any Way opposed to the true principles of economy, provided that the establishment of the Capital is carried out in a proper way, that money is not wasted, that the buildings are constructed in accordance with the requirements of the time, and that due arrangements are made to take full advantage of private enterprise by allowing it to do its share in the work. The policy of this Government is as soon as the buildings to be erected at the Capital are sufficiently developed, to invite private capital to come in and play its part in the development of the city. That will relieve the Commonwealth Government of a large amount of expenditure, and every £1 expended in that way will go to increase revenue.
Senator Fairbairn dealt with another of our problems, namely, the development of the Northern Territory. He did not take a very hopeful view of the future of that part of the country. I am a student of affairs’ in connexion with the Northern Territory, but I have never visited it, and therefore I do not pretend to be an expert regarding its possibilities or its productive capacity. I have made it my business, however, to read as many as I can of the many reports that have been supplied to the Government regarding the land and possibilities of the Territory, and I have informed my mind in every possible way of what can be done. I am free to admit that the Commonwealth has not been very happy in its administration of the Territory, but I do not pretend to fill the part of critic of my predecessors. Whatever I may propose may, perhaps, fail also; but I do say that a large amount of money has been, wasted in tha Territory. I only wish that I had available one-tenth of the money that hae been wasted. With it I could do the things which I believe are absolutely necessary, and would give the Territory some little chance to get its natural development. It is a rather sin gular thing, looking back over the history of the Territory, to find that the one industry that has accomplished something, the one industry that has demonstrated’ that it can bo carried out Successfully - the pastoral industry - has had the least assistance. lr larger amounts of money have been spent on mining and agriculture than have been spent to assist the industry which the Territory has demonstrated cun bo successfully carried on there. . Let me give honorable senators a few facts as I have had thom collated for my information. Since the Commonwealth Government assumed control of the Northern Territory in 1911, nearly £240,000 has been expended on the encouragement of the mining industry. Of that amount the following was granted by way of subsidy : - £7,000 to miners; amount’ repaid, £1,000. £850 to prospectors, amount repaid, £210. f 2S.700 to mining companies; amount repaid, nil. £10,500 for the sinking of shafts. f3,720 for Government returned soldiers prospecting party.
Although this money has been spent to assist mining in the Territory, it has to bc admitted that mining to-day is at a very low ebb. The assistance has been distributed in a manner which, in other parts of Australia, has been considered to be the best for developing industries. The Government have granted subsidies to approved prospectors for surface prospecting; granted subsidies on the £1 for £1 basis for underground prospecting; given loans to miners’ syndicates or companies to enable them to purchase land; made free assays and determinations of all samples sent to the Government laboratories; erected crushing, concentrating, and cyaniding plants for treating gold, tin, wolfram, and other ores; provided diamond drilling for coal, gold, copper, silver, and lead; made or repaired roads leading to a number of mining fields ; and sunk wells on the roads and. at several mining fields. Two steam tractors have been purchased for haulage purposes, and 1-J miles of tram line and forty-five trucks were- purchased by the Government for loan, hire, or sale to miners. In order to prove where payable gold would be found in the reef of the Enterprise Mine, a sum of £10,500 was expended in sinking a shaft to a depth of 260 feet, and cross-cutting to the extent of 280 feet. Prospectors have been granted the loan of horses, camels, buggies, harness, riding and pack saddles, tents, and other camping equipment, tools, &c. A sampling and storage shed has been erected at Darwin, where assays are carried out free. Investigations have been made by three well-known geologists of metalliferous parts of the Territory, and comprehensive bulletins, with maps, have been published containing their rc- ports. In addition, a prospecting party, in charge. of a mining engineer, consisting of twelve returned soldiers, was engaged for twelve months in an investigation of the country between Darwin ‘and the Katherine. An examination of that assistance will show that it is through no fault of the Government that little or no development has taken place in the mining industry of the Territory, and as a result of past experience I am not proposing to the Government at this juncture to spend any other money in this direction. “We propose to confine our efforts to the Marranboy tin-field, where there is an up-to-date battery, which cost £22,000, and where at the present time we are assisting the miners to put a tramline on to the field. If there are .any developments which indicate clearly that it is the duty of the Government to spend more money, and that it would bo worth while to spend more money, I shall not hesitate to come to Parliament and ask for it; but at this juncture I do not think that the facts point to that as being themost helpful way of developing the Territory.
Now let me take the agricultural industry. From 1911 to 1920 a sum of £50,000 was expended in the encouragement of agricultural settlement in the Territory.- This has been productive of practically no satisfactory result at all. Nearly £8,000 has been advanced, to settlers, of which over £5,000 has been written off as irrecoverable. Altogether some thirteen settlers availed themselves of the free blocks ranging from 300 to 600 acres at the Daly River. In order to assist the settlers in the production of agricultural products, experimental farms were established at the Daly River and at Stapleton (Batchelor), at which £15,000 and £20,000, respectively, were Spent. Something has been happening of recent years which, I think, is a pointer to us, indicating that the practice of the Government in doing these things itself is not the best way of developing agriculture. There is one. successful settler in tins Northern Territory, a man named Verburg, and honorable senators saw this evening pictures of his place, and heard Mr. Jackson speak of his achievements. Se has constructed an up-to-date irrigation plant at his own expense, and he provides Darwin with vegetables and fruit. The policy of the Government should be to assist and encourage such men. We should see that they get 20s. of value for every £1 they spend; but when, the Government itself goes into farming it has no guarantee of value for money, and certainly on the result of its experiences did not get even 10s. for every £1 spent. There is another man named Zakharrow. who1 has also been doing dome cultivation, and has produced l£ tons of cotton this year. The Government gave him no inducement at all ; he did it entirely on his own account, but we feel that in order to encourage him and secure him against loss, we ought to put him. in the same position as if he had grown the cotton in Queensland. If he had grown it there he would have got a guarantee of 5$d. per lb., and the Government would undertake to see that his product was taken to the ginning plant, and that the freight was paid on it. The Government did this in recognition of his pluck and as an encouragement to him to go ahead. He is located on the Daly River.
Those honorable senators who have looked at a map of the Northern Territory will have seen that there are two zones - the coastal, which is not so well suited for pastoral purposes, as the inland country, and the hinterland, which has demonstrated by actual results that it is a pastoral country. The railway to the Katherine River, which only touches the end of that hinterland^ provides its only means of communication at present. Cattle can be driven to the line and then trucked to Port Dar- win. On the other side of the Territory there is the Victoria River on the one hand, . and the McArthur River on the other, and these are the natural outlets for the pastoral country.
The Commonwealth Government, in their effort to assist those .pastoralists in the past, have spent a tremendous lot of money, and, I say with regret, have wasted large sums in endeavouring to run a Government steam-ship service. In order to reach either of these places from Port Darwin a steamer has practically to undergo an ocean journey, and yet an attempt was made to get a steamer suitable for both an ocean voyage and for going up tidal rivers. If a steam-ship service could be maintained to those centres it would assist pastoralists to obtain stores, and it would decrease the cost of pastoral .pursuits. I think the policy for the Government and the Parliament to adopt should be to assist private enterprise, because the individuals whose money was at stake would see that the best, steam service available, capable of coping with the trade, and yet not too extravagant, was employed. At present the Government are maintaining an altogether unsatisfactory service. It is not sufficiently frequent, and the vessel is unsuitable. I hope to get the consent of the Government, and later on of Parliament, to the granting of a subsidy, which will not be as costly as the present service, and will be infinitely better.
– Will not that argument apply to shipping generally?
– In overseas shipping there are other considerations.
– More in favour of shipping generally being left to private enterprise.
– I am not dealing with the problem of shipping generally.
Another hindrance to the developmentof the Territory is that, owing to its small population and its vast distance from the markets of the south, freights and fares from Brisbane on the east, or from Fremantle on the west, are abnormally high. The steamers are infrequent, and every pound’s worth of goods that a person in -Darwin or the hinterland wishes to buy, and every passenger fare represents an enormously increased expenditure. Therefore, there is an abnormally high cost of living. This reacts on the cost of labour, and so wages are abnormally high, with the result that people thinking of puttingcapital into the development of the Territory are discouraged. The question is: How can we improve the labour conditions? Obviously, the only way is to decrease the cost of labour. We should try to improve the shipping service from the east and from the west, and also endeavour to reduce freights and fares. That would lessen the cost of living, so that labour, and, consequently, the cost of production, would come down to something nearer what it is in the pastoral districts of Queensland and Western Australia.
Prior to 1913 there were only sixty- three sub-artesian bores throughout the Territory, and since then the number has been increased to 160. Nature has done her part in supplying water to this region, and in order to secure permanent watersupplies between Western Australia and across the Barkly Tableland to Queensland a complete chain of bores within easy travelling distance of each other has been put down. There are five stock routes, aggregating 2,120 miles, on all of which there willbe a good supply of water when the existing Commonwealth contracts are completed about the end of’ this year. That is practically the only assistance which the pastoral industry has received.
– Has that eliminated all the dry stages ?
– Yes, on the stock routes.
The railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek was constructed by the South Australian Government between 1885 and 1889, a distance of 145 miles. Looking at the problems of the Territory to-day, it is interesting to read the criticisms of any developmental proposal when we remember that so many years ago the South Australian Government built 145 miles of railway there.
SenatorRowell. - And carried the telegraph line across Australia from north to south.
– This line was continued by the Commonwealth Government from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, a distance of 55 miles, at a cost per mile of £7,998. A further extension of the line has been authorized by Parliament to the Mataranka Government Cattle Station, a distance of 64 miles: but this undertaking willnot be commenced until reports are received from the Commonwealth Public Works Committee.
– You might start theKatherine River bridge.
– About £20,000 has been spent on wharf improvements. Even the Port Darwin wharf supplies an illustration of the lack of interest we have apparently taken in the development of the cattle industry, which is the one activity that has succeeded. The tide has a rise and fall of 28 feet. A ship lying at the wharf would be either up or down, and the cattle being loaded would have to be driven up or down a gangway. I am assured that under this arrangement the stock are knocked about to a serious extent, and trade is greatly hampered.
– The biggest item is the cost of handling.
– It is a wonder that one beast is shipped alive.
– The Government have had the matter investigated, and find that by an expenditure of £7,500 the wharf can be made suitable for the loading of cattle. Plans are being prepared, and have been submitted to the shipping people, who are quite satisfied with them, for a proper cattle race, and a flexible platform that can accommodate itself to the tidal conditions. This will enable cattle to be handled without injury, as is being done, I am informed, under pre- cisely similar conditions at the north-west ports of Western Australia.
– You should also remember the unsuitability of the wharf for everything besides cattle.
– I am surprised that the cattle industry has survived at all, and the Government are now devoting attention to the beet means of developing it.
One difficulty is the great quantity of land held under the old South Australian legislation which gave a forty-two years’ lease. The country is only partially stocked; but the pastoralists have taken up enormous areas to prevent competitors from having stock around them, and they are using only that part of the country having permanent waters. Under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act there is a section that practically prevents this Government and the Parliament from dealing effectively with the situation.
– The pastoralists cannot use the other parts of their land without a water supply.
– ‘Whether they can or not the Government cannot alter the position, because a section in the South Australian Acceptance Act practically prevents us from resuming those lands. The leases have in some instances from eleven to twenty-two years to run. Apart from the enormous areas held, there is the further difficulty that so much money having already been spent upon the Territory the taxpayers are opposed to any further expenditure, especially seeing that the revenue from that country does not anything like meet the interest on the money invested nor meet current expenditure. Whereas the Commonwealth receives a. rent of less than 2s. per square mile, Queensland gets 12s. 6d. per square mile for similar country. For land on the other side, from which the Commonwealth receives 2s. a mile, Western Australia gets 7s. It is not a fair proposition to the taxpayers of Australia that large sums should be spent for the benefit of these pastoralists unless they are prepared to treat the general community fairly by agreeing to such an alteration of the conditions under which their land is held as will make some of that land available to other settlers, and also give the Government a little fairer rental than is now being received. I say frankly that whilst the obligation is placed upon me to outline to the Government a policy that will lead to some development of the Northern Territory, at the same time there is an obligation to see that the Commonwealth gets a fair deal also. I can only hope chat the lessees will see that it is in their own interests that there should be a consolidated Land Ordinance. At present there are in operation Ordinances under the South Australian Acts and Commonwealth Ordinances, some of the land being held under both laws, with differing conditions as to stocking, improvements, resumption, rents, and so on. If these lessees could be brought under a consolidated Ordinance, and an arrangement made whereby land could be made available in those districts where settlement is possible and will be profitable, the Government could secure Borne revenue to justify further expenditure. [Extension of time granted.]
One of the difficulties confronting the pastoral. industry in the Territory is that it is a long way back from Darwin, and io is widely separated from those means of communication which enable it to get into touch with supplies or market centres. If honorable senators will look at the map of the Northern Territory they will see that the overland telegraph line is practically the only means of communication, and yet lying on its flank are vast areas of good pastoral country, capable of producing great quantities of meat, and possibly of wool. The cattle industry is very seriously handicapped. Before stock can be shipped at Darwin they have to bc brought great distances from the various cattle runs, and assembled in time to meet any ship that may have been chartered. Yet, in some cases it takes weeks for a message to be transmitted from any centra on the telegraph line to cattle stations, and then there is the uncertainty with regard to chartering arrangements. It is possible that the charterers may be unable to obtain a ship, and accordingly cattle, after having been assembled at Darwin, may have to be returned to’ their stations, because at the port of shipment there is no land where cattle can be kept in anything like good condition. The handling of cattle in the Territory requires a tremendous amount of organization. For instance, it has been represented to me that if Vestey Brothers were to_ re-open for the next killing season, which I believe begins in September, they would have to start now to make the necessary arrangements for the cattle to be brought in, so distant are the cattle stations from, any centre of communication. Honorable senators will realize, therefore, how difficult it is to do anything to induce people to settle in the Territory under existing conditions, apart altogether from the certainty of hardship, due to absence of communication, in time of sickness. I have had inquiries made as to the possibility of improving the telegraphic communication.
– Wireless would serve the pastoralists very well.
– I am coming to that aspect of the problem. I find that one telegraph line to link up Camooweal, or any other Queensland centre, with the overland telegraph line would cost not less than £60,000. And that would serve only one part of those pastoral areas.
– And the revenue would be but a few hundred pounds per year.
– That is so, and the areas served would be saddled with the liability to make up the loss to the Post and Telegraph Department. It is obvious, therefore, that it is beyond the capacity of the Commonwealth under present conditions to provide the ordinary telegraphic facilities for this sparsely settled country, but there is every reason to believe that the difficulty may be overcome by wireless. It has been suggested to me that if we were to establish a central wireless telegraph station, . capable of communicating with, the wireless telegraph station at Darwin, we could equip the pastoralists with wireless telephone sets that would enable them to communicate with the central or collecting station, which in turn could transmit the messages, either to the telegraph station or Darwin, or in the case of the Victoria “River country, even to “Wyndham. This scheme would bring Northern Territory pastoralists in immediate touch, not. only with the outside world, but with their markets, and they could make their arrangements for shipment with some degree of certainty. Incidentally, it would provide those out-stations with a ready means of communication in the case of sickness or any other emergency.
– Would not some system of aviation help them?
– I am dealing at present with the means of communication only. The Amalgamated Wireless Company, with, whom the Commonwealth recently entered into an agreement, have been in consultation with me, and at present they are preparing a scheme which I shall submit to the Government shortly with details as to the probable cost of a subsidy for the company to maintain the collecting station, and the cost to the pastoralists of wireless telephone sets. This seems to me to promise the cheapest, as well as the most effective, way to give pastoralists in those out-back areas a proper means of communication. As regards medical requirements, there is already a known system of dealing with that prob- lem, and that is aviation. The experiments which were conducted by the Government, under my own direction, when’ I was Minister for Defence, have been most successful. The aviation service to Geraldton and Derby, after the tragic mishap at the outset, has been running with absolute regularity ever since, and devoid of any accident, over an area of back-country that climatically is not ideal from an aviation point of view, because, during the cyclonic seasons, disastrous “ willy-willys “ are experienced in the north-west.
These conveniences which I have outlined seem, to point the way .by which, in those sparsely populated areas, medical as,sistance may be quickly made available, and mail and other parcels delivered, thus bringing to settlers- ‘ outside some of tlie amenities of civilization… I do not think any one of these proposals will mean very great expenditure. I am certain that the sum necessary to construct a single telegraph line to Camooweal would be more than sufficient to do all that I have suggested. But expenditure must be faced if the Territory is to be developed. If not, what is the alternative? Are we to admit failure ? Are we to say deliberately that we have attempted to develop the North of Australia .and have failed 1 Dare we say that we cannot afford to face this expenditure ? I am not unduly optimistic, but I believe that by altering and improving the conditions, and providing the pastoralists with a means of marketing their stock, we shall induce pastoral settlement and insure the greater stocking of runs. We have a ready market, at Manila, in Java, and if Vestey’s works will re-open, that, too, will absorb a very large number of cattle. If settlement can be induced along these lines we shall, after all, only be repeating experiences in the southern States, where pastoral settlement preceded agricultural development. It is the one industry that has demonstrated its capacity to live and thrive in the Territory, and. I am hopeful of success in the future. 1 shall not put forward any ambitious proposal. Anything I submit will - bo economical, and, I hope,- practical. Everything will, as far as possible, be tried out before it is submitted to Parliament. I believe that if we can increase the capacity of the Territory in the way of stocking the pastoral areas and add to its population, wo shall make it possible for people to live there. One gentleman whom I. ‘consulted concerning the problem before ii3 remarked that one of the great drawbacksis that the pastoralists will not live in the Territory. He does not live there himself. He simply employs as few white men as possible, and . utilizes aboriginal labour. Can we expect .increasing numbers of white men and women to live in the Territory under tha conditions that exist to-day? If. however, we oan provide the means of communication I nave indicated,, is it not just as likely that white people will live there as (hoy are living in similar country in Queensland and in the north-west of Western Australia?’
I have not mentioned the railway at all. I omitted that deliberately, because honorable senators know where I stand on that question. I have never made it a secret that I am a believer in the northsouth railway, and, therefore, I did not think it necessary to mention it. Apart altogether from the question of ‘ railway construction, these means of communication are essential. Even if the north-south railway were built, these other facilities would have to be provided. They stand by themselves. The railway would not meet the situation. Let me ‘ illustrate what I mean. When cattle are trucked through from the Katherine River to Darwin for shipment, whilst they are waiting for the steamer they arc fed on lucerne, which, in many cases, is brought from Geelong, in this State. Honorable senators can imagine the cost, and how difficult it must be to show a profit on cattle shipped in these circumstances. But Mr. Verburg, whose name has been mentioned during this debate, demonstrated that he can grow lucerne in the Territory. I have been in communication with him through the Administrator, and he has undertaken to provide lucerne at a given price at Darwin for this live cattle trade. This, then, is one industry that will depend, and I hope prosper, on the export cattle trade. No doubt there are others.
– That lucerne, I understand, will be grown some distance from Darwin.
– About 60 miles out on the Adelaide River.
– I have no doubtthat Mr. Verburg will in time find means of doing other things, because he is a man of the type that made the Australian States what, they are to-day. I can vividly recall a period in South Australia, where I waa born, where areas of. country which are to-day the homes of happy and prosperous yeomen, in my boyhood days were regarded as desert lands. At the time of which I speak, an. Englishman settled on Yorke Peninsula, where he was named, “ The mad Englishman.” But he grew wheat where people said it could not be grown, and cultivated an orchard where older residents said that fruit-trees could not possibly flourish. That is typical of developmental history in every one of the Australian States, and: I do not think there is an honorable senator who cannot recall- similar experiences by others. While we have this policy of despair preached concerning the Northern Territory, we cannot look for the most promising results’, and although I do not hold out any roseate possibility of being able to profitably grow rice and other commodities, I believe we may be able to. Primary consideration must be given to the pastoralist industry. This is the task to which I intend to devote what knowledge I have, and I believe that when the proposals are submitted’, they will have the unanimous support of those who are now representing the people in this Parliament.
– I desire to offer my congratulations to the Government on the programme submitted for consideration during the present session, and I am hoping that, as this is the last session of the present Parliament, that the Government will have time to carry out many, if not all, of the proposals embodied in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. It may happen that, by some unexpected occurrence, the Government may be defeated at the elections: - although it is very unlikely - and it is therefore hoped that effect will be given to the intentions of the Government. I have, however, sufficient faith in the electors to believe that no such’ calamity as the defeat of’ the present Government is likely to befall the Commonwealth.
I desire to record my high appreciation of the work done during the recess by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who at considerable inconvenience visited every Slate in the Commonwealth to make himself acquainted with the industries in those States. In Queensland, we appreciated very much the fact that the right honorable gentleman spent some weeks in the northern State after meeting with a serious accident, which must have rendered his work much more difficult. I believe I am voicing -the opinions of. not only the Queensland representatives in the Federal Parliament, but of the people of Queensland as a whole, when I say that we are grateful to. the Prime Minister far the active interest he took, not only in the sugar industry, but in other important undertakings in Queensland. Other members of the House of Representatives, and. some honorable senators also, took advantage of the opportunity afforded during the recess to visit Queensland, which enabled them to become acquainted with the vast possibilities which that State possesses.
May I take this opportunity of also expressing my appreciation of the valuable work carried out by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) as Australia’s representative at the Washington Disarmament Conference. I believe the Commonwealth was very fortunate in having such a capable delegate at that memorable gathering. When the appointment of Senator Pearce was announced, there were many who were strongly opposed to the selection; but those who were most bitter in their criticism will be prepared to admit that his tactful speeches and work generally was of such a character that the action of the Government in selecting him as our representative was more than justified.
Reference is made in the Speech to a reduction in Defence expenditure and to the raising of a loan for extending the work of the Post and Telegraph Department.In view of the fact that many returned soldiers who were employed in the Defence Department have been dismissed in consequence of the retrenchment, ! trust the Government will push on with, the projected . extensions in the Post and Telegraph Department to enable those men who have been deprived of their means of livelihood to find remunerative employment. That phase of the question, considering the extent of the scheme proposed, may appear somewhat insignificant, but to the men, and those who are endeavouring to assist them, it is a very important one.
I wish to congratulate Senator MacDonald upon his maiden effort in addressing the Senate; but I regret that in referring to the Burnett Land Scheme he should have referred to some secret conspiracy which he said existed in Federal circles, to prevent the Queensland Government obtaining from the Commonwealth a loan of £2,000,000 to develop that territory. If Senator MacDonald will peruse the Hansard of the last session, when the development of the Burnett lands was under consideration,, he will find that the representatives of both political parties were in favour of the Government making the necessary investigations with a view to the money being made available for soldier settlement in Queensland. If the honorable senator will do that, I defy him to show in any of the debates where any representative of the State of Queensland has at any time endeavoured to throw cold water on the scheme. One of the main reasons why the Commonwealth Government refused to loan that sum was because .the Queensland Government were not prepared to lay. all their cards upon the table. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) desired certain details, which I believe he was unable to obtain ; and probably the principal reason why an advance was not made was the unsatisfactory manner in which the State Government handled the mosey advanced by the Commonwealth Government for soldier settlement. The Federal Govern-‘ ment have, no control over land within a State, and the manner in which the soldier settlement in Queensland has been administered is a standing disgrace to any Government.
– Did not the Prime Minister ask for a guarantee as to how the money was to be spent? .
– He did, at the time.
– He did not want to help the Queensland Government in any way.
– There are many who were previously supporters of the present Queensland Government who have now lost faith in it, and I believe that it will not be long before Senator MacDonald will also be a supporter of the presentFederal Administration. The present state of affairs in connexion with soldier settlement in Queensland is most unsatisfactory, and I do not see at the moment how the system can be altered. An advance of £1,000 per settler is made to the State Government, of which the settler receives £625 With which to develop his block, the remaining £375 being retained by the State Government for constructing railways, and roads,- and for general administrative purposes. It is not fair that the Commonwealth Government should provide money for constructing railways which are an asset to the State, and which should be regarded as part of its natural development.
– But the money is only loaned by the Commonwealth
– Yes, but the soldier settlement is carrying the burden.
– And the whole of the people cany the burden.
– That is so.
– You do not suggest, that the £375 is chargeable to the soldier in any way.
– No; to the general scheme. Apart from soldier settlement, the State Governments construct railways at their own expense, and do not receive advances from the Commonwealth. In settlements such as those at Stanthorpe and Pikedale, quite a number of men are leaving their holdings. Fruit-growing is an industry which does not show a quick return. The prospects are that unless something is done many more of the men will leave their holdings. If an advance of another £20.0 could bo made available to the mcn, many of those who have exhausted their credit and are now leaving their farms would remain on them. It is felt that tho difference between the amount the soldier receives and the amount advanced by the Commonwealth Government to the State Government is too great. We were informed by a representative of. the Pikedale Settlement that an additional advance of £200 to the individual soldier settlers would make all the difference between success and failure, as it would tide them over the time until their farms were productive.
– Tho additional amount might be given to the settler in the way of assistance, and charged to the capital value of his property.
– That might be done. Where the settler has to wait n long time for his crop, it is felt that a larger advance might be made to him than . in the case, for instance, of a man growing pines, from which he can look for a return in a period of about twenty months. Unfortunately, the Queensland Government have’ very little sympathy with returned soldiers.
– Why are there 200 War Service Homes empty in Brisbane?
– I shall deal with that question later, and will be prepared to assist Senator MacDonald in shaking up the War Service Homes Department.
There is a matter about which I have to make a complaint against the Government. It is in connexion with the shipbuilding contract entered into by Messrs. Badman and Mayoh, of Sydney. I was a member of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee who eighteen months ago made a thorough investigation into the building in Sydney of two wooden ships, the Burnside and the Braeside. The terms of our reference were to give the Government our advice as to whether or not Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh should be relieved of their contract. The contract specified that the boats, before being accepted by the Commonwealth, should receive a first-class Lloyd’s certificate; and because the contractors could not obtain such a certificate from Lloyd’s they were unable to carry out their contract. The Public Works Committee was asked to advise whether they should in the circumstances bo relieved of their contract. We went into the matter e’x- hanstively from every point of view. We sat taking evidence in Sydney for long hours, and right up to Christmas Eve. 1 believe that Senator Newland, who is a member of the Committee, was not able to get to his home until mid-day on Christmas Day. We went into details, and submitted our report and recommendations, and from that moment until the present we have heard nothing more of the matter.
– What did the Committee recommend?
– We recommended that the contractors should not be relieved of their contract. The Government hnd made progress payments up to 80 or 90 per cent, of the cost of the ships, and in my opinion they should have immediately endeavoured to secure a return of that money from the contractors. Without going too much into detail, I may say that one reason why we recommended that thecontractors should not be relieved of their contract was that when the first ship was launched it developed what is known to ship-builders as a “ hogback.” The ends went down and the centre rose as much as 39 inches. On investigating the reason for this, it seemed clear that the other vessel would develop a “ hogback “ in the same way as soon as it was launched. The members of the Public Works Committee called to their aid Mr. Farquhar, who is now in control of Commonwealth ship-building, and other experts, and inspected the ships with them. According to the designs ordered by Mr. Curchin, certain edge bolts had to be put into the ships to strengthen them. It was represented to us that those bolts hadbeen inserted. Upon investigation with the experts, it was found that in one part of the ships practically the whole of these bolts had been left out, and in other parts 60 or 75 per cent. of them were missing.
– There must have been a conspiracy there.
– I am sorry to say that we were unable to obtain some evidence we required because, in the very early stages of the inquiry, one of the witnesses whom we desired to examine committed suicide. The information we received from the experts was that if the contractors could have obtained a Lloyd’s certificate for the ships, and they had been allowed to go to sea, immediately they got beyond Sydney Heads, and into rough water, in which they would work, they would have gone to the bottom. I say, without hesitation, that to send out ships in such a condition was a murderous thing on the part of the contractors.
– Would not the honorable senator qualify that statement somewhat?
– I will do so in justice to one of the partners of the firm, Sir Sidney Kidman. He is the man who found the money, and he had nothing whatever to do with the construction of the ships. I believe that he joined the firm from purely patriotic motives. He put his money into the venture without any idea of making a profit, but merely because ships were badly wanted at the time, and he desired to render a service to the Commonwealth by establishing a new industry in this country.
– He was unfortunate in his partners.
– He was unfortunate in providing money for men of that kind.
– Could the bolts to which the honorable senator refers have been put in after the inspection of the vessels by the members of the Public Works Committee?
– It is a little difficult to explain the exact position. A longitudinal ceiling was being put in, and the contract stipulated that edge bolts should be put right through the timbers forming the ceiling, and this was not done. To have inserted the bolts after our inspection of the ships would have practically involved the taking of the vessels to pieces. It was represented to us by expert advisers that, in view of the value of the ships, the expenditure necessary to put the bolts in after our inspection would not be justified. Mr. Farquhar and other experts advised us that the designs of the vessels were nob as good as they might have been, and that no matter what was done to them, it wouldbe impossible to put them in good order.
– Was the faulty construction passed by a Commonwealth inspector ?
– Unfortunately it was. On the second day of our inquiry, this inspector committed suicide, and, as I have said, that considerably hampered our investigations. He was an old man, and, so far as we could learn, should not have been given the job of inspection.
– In such cases the blame is generally put on the man who has died.
– Was it not admitted that if all the edge bolts had been put in, the ships would still have been useless?
– No; that was not admitted at all.
– They were very fine ships.
– There was very fine timber used in them. If the bolts had been put in in accordance with the specifications, the ceiling to which I have referred would practically have been in one piece. There were a number of captains of American sailing vessels in Sydney when we were there, and they spoke in the highest terms of praise of the timber and materials used in the ships. The vessels were not acceptable because they had not been well and truly built I might mention that the contractors endeavoured to provide for extra tonnage, and, as a consequence, the vessels were more bulky than wooden ships should be. Although their contract stated that the ships should be of a certain tonnage, they were to receive £26 per ton. for every extra ton deadweight they provided. The contractors failed in the workmanship provided, and the vessels were not acceptable. My complaint in the matter is that no action was taken by the Government on the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, and since we reported an arbitrator has been called in. I understand that the Mayoh Brothers made certain representations to the Government, and, as a result, Sir Mark Sheldon, of Sydney, was called in as an arbitrator in the matter. I think it would only have been reasonable, immediately that report was made to the Government by the Public Works Committee, for some order to have been taken out against the firm, so that they would not have been able to dispose of their assets.
– Was the recommendation of the Committee unanimous ?
– There was one dissentient. On some of the motions the Committee was unanimous. I understand that the spars, masts, winches, wire ropes, and the valuable rigging of the ships have been disposed of. So far as the actual ships and the shipyards are concerned, the assets have been dwindling. The Government advanced a sum of £113,000, and that money, under the terms of the Committee’s recommendation, the Government should have sought torecover from the company. Eighteen months have been allowed to pass. The Burnside is lying at the wharf at Ryde, and the Braeside is still on the stocks in the same condition as when the Committee made its investigations eighteen months ago. I believe the ships have come in very useful for sleeping accommodation for tramps.
– Does the honorable senator wish to infer that the sale of these items has prejudiced the Government’s financial position.
– I do not wish to infer anything of the sort, but when the Government have £113,000 invested, practically on account of progress payments made to the firm, they ought to have taken out an order against the disposal of any of the firm’s assets. I am not a legal man, but I imagine that that would have been the first thing that I would have done. It was pointed out to me by Mr. Brown, secretary of the Shipping Board, who took a prominent part in the inquiry, that these assets had been gradually disposed of.
– The honorable senator is questioning the financial stability of the firm, which I do not think he is justified’ in doing.
– I am not questioning the financial stability of the firm.
– Then they have a perfect right to realize on their assets.
– Apparently my honorable friend thinks the Government should have taken no action at all to protect the £113,000 which they invested.
– If the Government get a verdict, the honorable senator has no right to question whether the money will be paid or not.
– I am not questioning the financial position of the firm. It is not for me to know anything about that. I am principally interested in the fact that the taxpayers of this country have £113,000 lying idle, and that no effort has been made to secure the return of the money.
– Wedo not need any more security than Sir Sidney Kidman’s name.
– It is evident that the honorable senator knows nothing of the terras of the agreement made with Sir Sidney Kidman. I urge the Government to get this matter settled one way or the other. I believe that Sir Sidney is anxious to have it settled, and I am sorry for the position in which he finds himself. There . is no reason why this thing should drag on for eighteen months, and that the money should be allowed to remain where it is free of interest.
– Have we any guarantee of the bona fides of Kidman and Mayoh?
– A certain guarantee was put up when the original contract was entered into, but it amounted to only a fraction of what the Government has advanced in progress payments. It probably amounts to about £10,000.
I notice that in the programme outlined by His Excellency, reference is made to the Commonwealth Shipping Line, and it is stated that it is the intention of the Government to hand over the management of the Line to a body free from political control. I watch, with a great deal of suspicion the handing over of Government industries to individuals or Boards who are free from political control. We have heard statements like that in this chamber before. It is not very long ago that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) introduced the first War Service Homes Bill, and said that certain powers must be vested in the Commissioner for War Service Homes, and that the management of the Department must be taken away from political control. This was done, and it resulted in one of the rottenest pieces of administration that I suppose Australia has even seen. I refer to the administration of Colonel Walker, at the War Service Homes Department. We have only to look at the position in which we were landed in that case to realize what this haphazard handing over of control to individuals means. I am not in favour of State industries of any description; but if the State has industries it should itself control them. If the Shipping Line is to be owned by the Government, the Government in power for the time being should control it.
– Would the honorable senator apply that to the railways ?
– The railways are practically controlled by the State Governments, except in regard to wages, staff appointments, and so on. Questions of policy, such as where lines should be built and the like, are decided by the Government. The present Nationalist Government finds itself in power bv reason of securing a majority of votes at the last election, and the people expect it to administer the affairs of the country. I am not satisfied to hand over, holus bolus, the Commonwealth Line of Steamers to a Board of management outside of Parliament, which is not responsible to Parliament for the policy of the Line. I consider that it is our job, as a Parliament, to have the controlling voice in matters of policy. After what we did when we handed over to the Commissioner for War Service Homes a blank cheque, thereby letting ourselves in for an expenditure of millions of money, and making ourselves the laughing stock of Australia for the way in which the Department has been administered, I am not prepared to hand over a blank cheque to any Board of management for the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. I would prefer rather to see the ships dispensed with altogether. Unless it can be shown that it is absolutely necessary that the boats should be retained by the Government, I would prefer to see them dispensed with; but if we retain them, it is the duty of the Government in power to control them and the policy of the Line.
– The unions have been controlling the policy of the Line up to the present.
– Unfortunately, they have in many respects. If the unions are coining along to beat the Government on every possible occasion, and if private companies can run the ships as they like, the sooner the Government gets out the better.
– Has the honorable senator noticed that they have put Mr. Walsh out of the business now?
– I think the seamen are quite capable of managing their own affairs, and that they would manage them better with Mr. Walsh out.
I want also to congratulate the Government on what they have done in coming to the rescue of the meat industry. A few months ago, that industry, which is a large one in Queensland, was in a very precarious condition. The Government came to the rescue with a subsidy of £d. per pound, and also by negotiating with the State Governments for a reduction in fares and freights, by taking up the matter .with the shipping companies, and by approaching the meatworks employees for a reduction in wages. In this way they have been able to place the meat industry on a far sounder basis than it was on a little while ago. I very much regret that members of the Country party - men who claim to represent the primary producers - should have severely criticised the Government and Mr. Hughes for coming to the rescue of that great primary industry. It is strange that members of that party should criticise the Government in that respect. They’ evidently cannot see very far beyond their own State boundaries.
– Is it not a fact that the Queensland Government meatshops have done more than anything else to keep up the price of meat in Queensland ?
– I think they have played their part in that direction. They made such bad bargains with their stations that they had to get some money to try to balance the ledger. The employees in the meat works were also prepared to do their share, and they accepted a reduction in their wages, which saved the meat industry to the State. It may be said to the credit of all concerned that the trouble was settled by conciliatory methods at a round-table conference, and I would commend that plan to other industries in Australia suffering from unrest on account of low prices.
Now I come to the question of the War Service Homes. To-day I sought information regarding the empty houses in Queensland that were built for soldiers under the group system. Several questions were put to the Government last session concerning these houses which had not been taken over by soldiers, in some cases because of the high prices, and in other instances because they were situated too far from railway stations, or in suburbs where the fares were high. In order that the money expended should not continue to lie idle, I suggested that where returned soldiers would not occupy the homes they should be disposed of to private citizens. However, there was a scheme to let the houses on a weekly tenancy. It would have been far better to keep them empty rather than let them on those conditions. Many of the homes will remain unoccupied if they are restricted to returned soldiers, so it would be far better to dispose of them to other people.
– Are they empty because they are too highly capitalized?
– Yes, in some cases. Some of the houses are built at Sandgate, about 14 miles from Brisbane, and the return railway fare would amount to about 15s. per week, which is far too much for a man receiving only the basic wage to pay. Some of the premises will probably remain empty for ever, judging by the localities selected. Groups of houses were built here, there, and everywhere, apparently in the hope that soldiers would come to the rescue of the Department and purchase the homes.
– Will it not be hard to dispose of houses at £900 which can now be bought for £700 1
– Yes, and the loss will probably have to> be cut. That is the result of taking the responsibility away from Parliament and giving a blank cheque to a Commissioner. .
I have repeatedly urged the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond) to keep the Canungra Mill in oi5eratio.il whether the Government intend to dispose of it or not. I have been assured that the Government are very anxious to sell the whole of the properties purchased in Queensland by the Repatriation Department. In the case of this mill, the Commonwealth has a fair asset for its outlay, but I cannot see the wisdom of taking over the property and then shutting it down. A deputation of Queensland members waited on the Assistant Minister for Repatriation a few months ago with reference to the timber areas held by the War Service Homes Commissioner in Queensland, and at the Minister’s request General Sir James McCay gave some information as to the stops that had been taken to protect the Commission’s property and dispose of the timber at Canungra and Beaudesert. It was stated that over 4,000,000 feet of timber had been sold at satisfactory prices. Only some 40,000 or 50,000 feet of timber remained there for disposal, and this was under offer at the present moment. As Queensland is practically the only State producing building pine in large quantities, I am of opinion that there would be no difficulty in disposing of every foot of timber that the -mill at Canungra could turn out.
– What is happening with the produce of the Yarraman mill ?
– I suppose it is being disposed of in the south.
– Is it being stacked ?
– There is no reason why it should not be disposed of, because the private mills are all at work. Under the terms of the purchase of the Canungra Mill, the property will revert “to Messrs. Leahy Brothers after a few years have elapsed, because the Commonwealth Government have only purchased the timber rights. The town of Canungra practically depended on this mill for its existence, and the closing of it resulted in unemployment. I feel sure that the Government could sell the mill better as a going concern than if the machinery is allowed to stand idle and depreciate. Certainly the timber is growing, but the time for getting it off is limited. Under present conditions the mill is simply eating its head off.
I am pleased that the Government intend to provide a superannuation scheme for the Commonwealth Public Service. This matter has been too long delayed, and I hope the question will be treated as” a non-party one. I desire to bring under notice a number of matters in connexion with the Public Service, because I understand that an amending Public Service Bill will be introduced. The treatment meted out to members of the Public Service located in the Northern Territory and also New Guinea has always struck me as being very unfair, because they have no right of transfer to any other branch of the” Service outside those tropical areas.
– Some of the Departments in Melbourne want to become watertight themselves.
– It is very improper. There should be a free interchange of officers throughout the Commonwealth Service. This would prevent valuable officers iu any part of the Service from getting into a particular groove.
– I understand, there is considerable difficulty in filling some of the positions hi the tropical regions because they do not get a sufficient allowance.
– I should think there would be very great difficulty in filling many of the positions in the Northern Territory. I had an opportunity only a few days ago of discussing this question with a man who had served in the tropics for thirty-five years, having been appointed there prior to Federation, and he informed me that he had had no opportunity at any time to apply for positions in the Public Service elsewhere. It seems that once a mau is sent to New Guinea or any other tropical area, there he has to stay. To be perfectly fair, a man who serves four or five years in Darwin should be entitled during the next four or five years to serve in a place like Melbourne or some other southern place. At present, as I have said, permanent officers of the Northern Territory Service have no right of transfer. This means that they must be prepared to spend their whole lives in a sparsely populated tropical town boast- ing no modern conveniences, amusements, or other recreations so necessary in making life worth living. The other alternative is to resign and seek employment or enterprise iii a more congenial atmosphere. This, however, for obvious reasons, becomes increasingly difficult as the length of residence in the Northern Territory increases. To a man with a growing family, ‘ the difficulties of making a fresh start and earning enough to provide for them make it too hazardous to undertake. The conditions of life, therefore, render it essential that the officer must seek respite at certain limited periods - a complete change of environment, rest, and recreation. This period at present is set at three years for a married officer and five years for a single officer. At the end of each of these periods a return passage is allowed to either Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, or Adelaide, and one month for travelling, with a month’s leave in respect of each year’s service. . This enables a married officer to leave his work for four months every three years and a single officer six months every five years. The expenses for the trip, however, are heavy. A complete outfit of southern clothing for every member of the family is necessary on each occasion on which the trip is undertaken. Warm winter clothing, such as is never required at Darwin, becomes all the more necessary owing to an added susceptibility to colds and other ailments when the southern States fire reached. A married man on, say, an annual salary of £400, after paying 10 per cent, for rent and £5 8s. for rates, and after providing ordinary living expenses, cannot save sufficient in three years to provide and pay the fares of his children, fare back of his wife, outfits and clothing, and incidental extra expense of a holiday during three months. A single officer may, perhaps, save sufficient in five years by denying himself all except bare necessaries, but it has been repeatedly found that five years is far too long for any one to go without a holiday. The officer’s health suffers, and when the holiday is undertaken he is often on the verge of a breakdown, which may necessitate medical fees and treatment during the first months of leave. After three years the efficiency of the officer is lessened, and the Department suffers through having an officer whose vitality is lowered. Interest in the work slackens and the officer is incapable of concentration, to the detriment of the duty performed. ‘
That is the position in which Commonwealth officers in tropical areas are placed. When we remember that the return fare from Darwin to the south is £50, and that the Government only provide for the fare of the officer, not of his wife or children, we can readily understand how difficult it is for any married man to scrape together enough money to enjoy anything but a mean sort of holiday. ‘ Facilities should be provided for every officer to have a decent holiday, otherwise it is hardly possible to have an efficient Public .Service in the Northern Territory or New Guinea. Some people say that Darwin is an ideal climate. It is not. If people are to stand up to their work in the Northern Territory they should be able to get away to the south every few years, .in order to recuperate. When my colleagues and I were there last year in the middle of winter, we found it swelteringly hot. I urge upon the Government the necessity of providing better conditions for all those employed in the Public Service in the tropics, in order to insure greater efficiency and contentment.
I wish now to direct attention to the great sugar industry of Queensland. I shall not attempt to reply- to the carping criticism of those who have made violent attacks upon the industry recently, because I cannot imagine that any member of this Parliament is likely to do anything to endanger the great primary industry of our northern State. I believe that this Government and this Parliament will guard the sugar-grower -just as jealously as they would guard the wheatgrower, fruit-grower, or any other primary producer of the Commonwealth.
– Hand it over to Mrs. Glencross or the editor of the Age.
– Unfortunately, there are a number of loud-mouthed antiAustralians like those who control the policy of the Age, and Mrs. Glencross, and people of that type, who are ready to damage the industry. But I shall not attempt to reply to their criticism, because my colleague, Senator Crawford, as a recognised authority on sugar growing, is possessed of first-hand knowledge of all the details of the industry, and is better able to do that than I am. Nevertheless, I want to place before honorable senators some facts in connexion with the industry that will go to show how important it is to the Commonwealth, and how desirable it is that it should not be allowed to disappear. At present about 4,000 farmers are engaged in sugar growing, and production totals over 200,000 tons per annum. The capital value of the farms under cultivation is in the vicinity of £5,000,000.
– What is the total value of the crop ?
– Last year the crop was about 250,000 tons, valued at about £8,000,000.
– What is the capital value of the industry ?
– About £5,000,000.
– Then the growers get their money back in one year and 25 per cent. over. It is a very good game.
– I am speaking of the value of the farms only ; . in addition, there are forty-three huge mills, tramways, refineries, and so forth. It pays in wages each year about £6.000,000, and it has insured settlement in that part of Australia which, as Senator Pearce a little earlier in the evening showed, is causing some concern to all those who have the welfare of the Commonwealth at heart. Prior to its establishment that part of North Queensland where it is now flourishing was practically a tropical jungle. I remind the Senate that the conditions under which pioneering work is being done there are very much more severe than m connexion with the wheat-production or fruit-growing industries in the southern States. But I am not one of those who care to pit one primary industry against another. I am merely stating the facts. I may add that numerous small towns in North Queensland, as well as such places as Bundaberg, with a population of 10,000, and Mackay and Cairns, with a population of 6,000, are practically dependent upon the industry.
– When I was in Cairns the other day I noticed a lot of big timber.
– Cairns, fortunately, is situated in good timber country. Some of the largest sugar mills in Queensland are in the Cairns district.
– But Cairns does not produce as much sugar as Bundaberg.
– The area under production in Bundaberg is not as large as that in the far North, and we cannot pit city against city, because the district is a large one, and one might include Mourilyan and the country in that locality.
– When I was there I saw only timber on the wharfs.
– The honorable senator would not see sugar, because cutting has only just commenced. It must not be forgotten that the cane-growers in Queensland are not large planters, and many of them are not in the position of well-established grazietre and successful wheat farmers. Generally speaking the sugarcane-growers are men working in a small way, many of whom were originally cane-cutters or the sons of cane-growers. The production of sugar-cane assists closer settlement to a remarkable extent, and the employment given per square mile in sugar growing country is far greater than in any other primary industry in Australia.
– I would like the honorable senator to prove that.
-I have made the statement, and if the honorable senator desires, he can endeavour to refute it. If he had acted as others had done during the recess and visited Queensland, he would be in possession of information concerning the industry which would be invaluable to him. The honorable senator displays a petty spirit,’ and although he claims to represent the primary producers, I know of no primary industry, apart from those in which he is particularly interested, which he has ever supported. Senator Wilson had an opportunity of showingwhether he was anxious to support primary industry when the protective duty on bananas was under consideration. He failed miserably on that occasion and he will find, when the time arrives, that his action is not supported by a majority of the primary producers in the Commonwealth. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 July 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220712_senate_8_99/>.