8th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Discontinuance of Weather Reports
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Reward for Discovery in Mandated Territories.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government has considered the advisability of offering a reward in a similar or modified form, to that applying in the Commonwealth for the discovery of mineral oil and petroleum in the IslandPossessions in the Pacific under Commonwealth control?
– The Government reserves the right of searching for mineral oils, and, therefore, it is not proposed to offer any reward to private prospectors.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Imports for Box Manufacture
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Motion (by Senator de Largie) agreed to-
That a return be prepared and laid on the table showing -
Debate resumed from 13th July(vide page 411), on motion by Senator Garling -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
May 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.
– I do not think I need make any apology to honorable senators if I should devote the greater part of the remarks I have to make this morning to the consideration of the sugar industry. Judging by the space devoted to it in the press of thiscity for a considerable time, it is a matter of very great public interest at this juncture. For various reasons the sugar industry in other countries has always attracted a very great deal of attention, and has been the subject of much special legislation. I may be pardoned perhaps for going back a couple of centuries in connexion with this matter in order to inform honorable senators that from 1660 to 1854 British colonial sugar was admitted on preferential terms into Great Britain. The preference, which was a substantial one, was given to assist planters in British Possessions in the West Indies.
– Surely the honorable senator’s dates are wrong.
– I have no doubt that many of the figures I shall give will be questioned, but the dates I have mentioned are quite correct, and are taken from an official publication.
– The honorable senator has taken us back to the days of the “ Merry Monarch.”
– There is no reason why even in those days a fiscal effort should not have been made to assist one of the industries of the Empire. In 1854 the preferential duties to which I have referred were abolished, and slavegrown sugar from Brazil and Cuba was admitted to Great Britain on the same terms as British colonial sugar.
It is interesting to note the way in which the production of sugar has increased. In 1853 the world’s production of sugar amounted to 1,500,000 tons, whilst in 1914 it had risen to over 18,000,000 tons. This year it is estimated that the world’s production of sugar will be 16,500,000 tons, showing a falling off of over 1,500,000 tons since the outbreak of the war. This reduction is due chiefly to the fact that the production, of sugar has practically ceased in Russia. Owing to the conditions at present existing in that country, Russia is neither producing nor consuming any sugar. If we eliminate Russia, we shall see that the world’s production of sugar at the present time is just about equal to what it was at the outbreak of the war. I have been looking into the matter, and I find that practically the only country in which production has increased during the last eight years is Cuba, where, however, the production this year will be 500,000 tons less than it was in 1920-21.
There has been for a great many years the keenest competition between beet and cane sugar. The increase in the production of beet sugar was largely due to the bounty legislation of European countries, and especially of Germany, Austria, and France. In 1896, Germany increased the import duty on sugar to £20 per ton, or double what it had been before, and increased the bounty on export to £10 per ton. Austria and France had to follow the example of Germany, and the effect of the legislation of these countries was to greatly stimulate the production of beet sugar, with the result that in a few years, in 1902, 88 per cent, sugar was selling at £6 per ton f.o.b. Hamburg.
– With the bounty added, the value of the sugar was £16 per ton.
– Yes, of course; but the effect of the bounty of £10 per ton was to enable producers of sugar in Germany and other continental countries to sell sugar for export at a price considerably below the cost of production.
If no countervailing action had been taken, there is no doubt whatever that the production of beet sugar would have practically stopped the production of cane sugar, with the result that during the war there would certainly have been a sugar famine. The first country to take action was the United States of America, which imposed a countervailing duty upon all bounty sugars. In 1903 the Brussels Convention was signed, which provided for the abolition of all bounties upon sugar. This had the effect of so stimulating the industry in various countries that at the outbreak of war the production of cane sugar represented 54 per cent, of the total world’s output.
It is unfortunate that sugar-growing in Australia should be confined to practically one State. It is true that there are three sugar mills in New South Wales, producing at present about 15,000 tons per annum, and that in Victoria there is one beet-sugar factory, with an output of from 1,000 tons to 1,200 tons per annum. As a result, most of the business of sugar production in this country is being carried on in what, from a southern point of view, is a remote part of the Commonwealth, and, consequently, there is very much misunderstanding, both as to its conditions and requirements, and a very great deal of misrepresentation concerning the industry is made possible. Australia is a country of magnificent distances. It is practically impossible for anybody to know very much about the whole of its industries, which necessarily must be conducted under greatly varying .conditions. I have made this statement before, but it will bear repetition, in order that we may impress upon ourselves, as well as upon others, the immensity of this continent, and, therefore, its great possibilities from the point of view of production. Queensland alone comprises an area that was before the war greater than that of Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, and Portugal, and yet at the present time its population is less than that of either Melbourne or Sydney. Although a. great part of its territory lies within, the tropics, Queensland possesses, owing to1 varying altitudes, practically all the climates of the whole of the States, and, therefore, ia capable of growing anything which can be produced in any part of the Commonwealth, and, in addition to products of temperate climates, it ia capable of growing all tropical products in abundance.
– It is a wonderful State.
– It is; and for that reason, amongst others, its requirements merit a great deal more attention from the people of Australia than they have received hitherto, for while its richness may be regarded as our strength, from one point of view, it is, from another point of view, also a weakness, because. there is no doubt that, owing to the vastness of its area and the variety of climate, Australia is looked upon with envious eyes by the people of the overcrowded countries of Asia. If this were a poor country, we would probably be left in undisturbed possession for all time; but as it is rich in actual and potential production, the day . will probably come when we shall have to fight to retain it.
Now the sugar industry is of vital importance to Queensland, and of great importance to the whole of Australia. The prosperity of my State depends, at the present time, more upon sugar-growing than upon any other industry. It represents an immense amount of capital, because, after taking into account the money invested in the sugar farms, Ave must also bear in mind the capital outlay on sugar mills and the money invested in what we may call the sugar towns,” some of which have a population of from 6,000 to 7,000 people. If the sugar industry went to the wall, most of these flourishing towns would dwindle to mere hamlets, or cease to exist . altogether. I have said that the industry is of very great importance to the Commonwealth, and, lest it be suggested that I speak with a biased mind because I have been actively engaged in the industry for the past twenty-seven years as a grower, shareholder, and for many years a director, of one of the largest co-operative mills, I purpose reading a paragraph from the report of the Royal Commission oh the sugar industry of 1911-12, appointed “by the Fisher Government^ of which Sir John Gordon was for a. time chairman. He was succeeded in that position by Professor Jethro Brown, now
President of the Arbitration Court in South Australia. Paragraph 13 of the report is as follows: -
The problem of the relation of public control to the sugar industry affords’ a striking illustration of the truth of the statements just expressed. While the wide divergencies of opinion which exist to-day with respect to that problem are often *he result of a mere ignorance of essential data, they are still more frequently the result of a failure to outgrow ideas, opinions, or policies which belong to the limited outlook of pre-Federal -times. The problem of the sugar industry to-day is not. save in subordinate respects, a problem of industry, of wealth, or of production; it is primarily and essentially a problem of settlement and defence. No nation can afford to regard lightly the development of its industries, the progress of its wealth, or the economic efficiency of its productive machinery. But, important as these things undoubtedly are, they rank, as regards the sugar industry, on mi inferior plane. The Commonwealth today is -brought face to face with one of the gravest problems which has ever taxed the ingenuity of statesmanship - that of the settlement of tropical and semi-tropical areas by a white population living under standard conditions of life. And -intimately associated with this problem is the question of national defence. If the ideal of a White Australia is to become an enduring actuality, some means must be discovered of establishing industries within the tropical regions. So long as these regions are unoccupied, they are an invitation to invasion, as well as a source of strategic weakness. Granted so much, it follows that the supreme justification for the protection of the sugar industry is .the part that the industry .has contributed, and will, as we hope, continue to contribute, to the problems of the settlement .and defence of the northern -portion of the Australian continent. The recognition of the nature of this -supreme justification is the first condition of a sound public policy in relation to the sugar industry. Relatively to it, all other issues are of minor importance.
The sugar industry has tested, in a practical way, the suitability of the tropical areas of the Commonwealth for settlement by the white race, and I think it may be said without the slightest hesitation that it has passed beyond the experimental stage. It has been demonstrated that white men and women can live healthy lives and bring. up healthy families in the north of Queensland just as well as in any other part of Australia.
– That is the best news the honorable senator can give us.
– May not those remarks apply also to the Northern Territory?
– I see no objection to applying them to the whole of the tropical area of the Commonwealth; but it must be borne in mind that the climate of the coastal areas of north Queensland is modified by two conditions which may of may not - I cannot speak from experience - exist either in the Northern Territory or in Western Australia.
– There is as much difference between the climate of north Queensland and that of the Northern Territory as there is between heaven and hell.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– The conditions to which I refer are the southeast trade winds, which prevail for nine months of the year, and the coastal range from which there is a cool land breeze practically every night of the year. I have’ lived in north Queensland for twenty-seven years, and during the whole of that time I never experienced a hot night in the sense that it is known in the south. If you sleep in a well-ventilated room - and many people sleep out of doors - and if you are in good health, you wake up “after a night’s sleep thoroughly refreshed., and quite ready for a day’s work. There is no doubt that north Queensland is capable of maintaining a large and healthy white population. And when one considers what a population of coloured people could be maintained there, according to the Asiatic standards of comfort, one is simply appalled. A contemplation of the .possibilities makes one more determined than ever - I speak as one who has lived in the north, and has come into contact with the coloured races - to do all that is possible to maintain the principle of a White Australia. We must not fail to realize the effect, that an invasion of coloured peoples would have upon the future of the Commonwealth, and also, if we take a wide view of the subject, as we should, the effect that a large coloured population in Australia might have upon the history of’ the world. Australia is the only country in the world in which it is possible to largely increase a purely white population. There is no portion of America in which the population is wholly white. We were told during the course of this debate ‘that there are about 100,000 Japanese in Western Canada, and we know there are very large numbers of the same race in California. In the United States of America there is a negro population of 20,000,000, and, proportionately, it is1 increasing much more rapidly than the white population of that country. It is estimated that in South America the coloured population is equal to_ 40,000,000 people. Although the opinion has not been freely expressed, it has been contended in different quarters that there is a feeling of revolt on the part of the Asiatics in some parts of Asia against the domination of the white races. In Australia there is room for hundreds of millions of coloured people, and if Australia were eventually to become populated to the extent that India and China is, it is evident to every one that the coloured races would eventually dominate the whole world. I, therefore, maintain that it is npt only our duty to do all we can to maintain a White ‘Australia, but it should be the aim of other countries with predominating white populations to support us in that regard.
A great deal has been said concerning the cost of the sugar industry to Australia, but similar arguments could be adduced concerning other protected industries. Following the same line of reasoning, reference could also be made to boots, shoes, clothing, textiles, and practically everything protected by the Tariff. But it is said by some that, in addition to a protective duty, the sugar-growers receive a bounty; that statement is frequently made in the press of this city in a way which amounts to misrepresentation. The sugar industry has never received a bounty in the proper sense of the term. We are told that there was an import duty of £6 per ton, and to that must be added a bounty of £3 per ton, making a total protection representing £9 per ton. Those who make such statements omit all reference to the Excise of £4 per ton which the industry had to pay.
– On all sugar?
– Yes ; and it worked out in thi3 way: There was protection amounting to £6 per ton, less Excise, on Australian-grown < sugar of £4 per ton, plus a bounty if certain conditions were observed, of £3 per ton, making a net import duty of £5 per ton.
– That does not affect the industry, as no sugar is imported.
– No. Practically all legislation respecting the sugar industry has been suspended during the currency of the Sugar Agreement.
– Is not the net result equal to £1 per ton?
– The net result was that we had a protection of £6 per ton, with Excise of £ 1 per ton.
– That is equal to £5 per ton net.
– Yes ; but the industry was never able to avail itself of the prevailing prices of sugar, as the price had to be kept £1 per ton below the rate at which duty-paid sugar could be imported, in order to maintain the Australian market for Australian sugar. One of the operations of Excise and bounty legislation was that the Excise paid into the Treasury amounted to £2,441,000 more than the bounty paid out. Whatever the industry may have cost before the war - I have already pointed out that it has not cost any more in proportion to the value of its output than any other protected industry - it has been more than repaid, because, not only did Australia have comparatively cheap sugar from 1914 onwards, but, with the exception of two or three occasions when shipping was held up owing to strikes, it had a bounteous supply.
– The people also had cheap bread.
– That is quite true, and the interjection of the honorable senator reminds me of what we have often read, that if the people of Australia had paid export parity for the wheat used for localconsumption, the wheat-growers of Australia would possibly have received £12,000,000 more than they did. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am not making any complaints concerning the price we have receivedfor our product during the war period. The sugar-growers had no desire whatever to join the ranks of the profiteers, although during that time they carried on their industry under very great difficulties, one of which was occasioned by the large number of enlistments from the sugar districts, as practically all the growers sons who were eligible enlisted, and so did the best of the workers. The very first men Australia sent abroad were from the sugar districts of Northern
Queensland, and I was present in Cairns when the Kanowna left with 1,500 Northern Australians on board, for, I think, Thursday Island. Shortly after, other contingents of Queenslanders, large numbers of whom were drawn from the sugar-growing districts, left for other parts.
In regard to the prices paid for raw sugar during the war, commencing with 1914, we received in the first year £14 15s. per ton, which was £1 7s. 6d. less than the average price received during the three years preceding the outbreak of hostilities. It so happened that, owing to the heavy production, in Java, particularly, the price of sugar dropped early in July, and war was declared with Germany on 4th August, 1914. The State tribunals in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia kept the price of sugar down to the low rate which was then ruling, although they allowed increases in the prices of almost all commodities produced in the south. The price received for raw sugar in 1914-15 was £14 l5s. per ton; in 1915-16, £18; 1916-17, £18 ; 1917-18, £21 ; 1918-19, £21; and in 1919-20, £21. Since the present agreement the price has been £30 6s. 8d. Those rates were for raw sugar, known as 94 per cent. net titre.
– What extra cost is involved in converting the raw product into refined sugar ?
-I have the figures. For that sugar the producers received £30 6s. 8d. on a basis of 94 per cent. net titre. But the sugar, however, averaged 96 per cent, net titre, which was worth about £31 per ton. To convert the sugar into the refined product costs £6 10s.8d., which amount covers freight from the ports, insurance, wharfage, harbor dues, sacks for the raw sugar, bags for the refined product, exchange, carting from ship’s to refinery, all refining charges, cost of handling and distributing, and depreciation on refining plant.
– Does that include wholesalers’ cost of handling?
– As a matter of fact, the refining companies do not deal with the wholesalers to any extent, because the retailers order through the wholesale firms, who give the orders to the refiners to deliver direct to the retailers, although the wholesale firms are responsible for the payment. The sum of £6 10s. Sd. per ton brings the cost of a ton of 96 per cent, sugar in its refined state to £37 10s. per ton, but a ton of 100 per cent, refined sugar is not obtained from a ton of 96 per cent, sugar, and, in addition, there are certain losses in the process of refining. The cost of a ton of refined sugar delivered to retailers in the metropolitan area, or at the railway or f.o.b., is £39 per ton, and that is what the industry receives. That amount includes the refiners’ profits, which under the agreement is limited to 20s. per ton, and has also to cover depreciation on refining plant. I should say that means a net profit to the refinery of 15s. per ton, and seeing that the average consumption per head in Australia is about 1 cwt. per annum, it means that the profit of the refinery amounts to 9d. per capita of the population. If the refineries would give the people the free use of their plant and their working capital, amounting to £8,000,000 or £9,000,000, each of us would get our sugar for 9d. a year less than it costs us at present, supposing, of course, that the distributers would be prepared to pass that 9d. on to the consumers.
We hear a great deal about the enormous profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Senator Wilson said that they had paid a dividend of 17$ per cent., but any one can see that, as they make only 15s. per ton, or 9d. per cwt., on all the sugar they refine, a very little inefficiency here or there in the course of their business would eliminate the whole of their profit. I venture to say that there is no business of any kind in Australia that is run more efficiently than the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in all its departments. We have to remember in considering the position of that company that it is not a business1 of mushroom growth, like some that exist to-day in the Commonwealth. There is a retail- drapery business in Bourke-street, Melbourne, established, I understand, twenty years ago, which, a few weeks ago, issued 300,000 9 per cent, preference shares. This is a business of mere mushroom growth as compared with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which was established in 1843. It was not established under the same name that it bears to-day, but it was somewhere in the 1850’s that the name was changed to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Sir Edward Knox took over the management of the business, and he or his son managed it until twelve months ago, when the latter retired from the position of general manager and became chairman of directors. He was succeeded in his former position by Mr. Rothe.
– A great many of the earlier shareholders were ruined, and until the late eighties the company never paid more, I think, than 6 or 7 per cent, dividend.
– That is so.
– Is the statement that the company paid 17£ per cent, true?
– I have the latest publication of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, which states that the dividend of the company last year was 12^ per cent. ; and the fact has to be borne in mind, as Senator E. D. Millen stated last night, by way of interjection, when Senator Wilson was speaking, nhat the whole of the profits of the company have not been made in Australia, but part of them have been drawn from their Fiji and New Zealand businesses. Some time in the eighties the Colonial Sugar Refining Company took over the business known as the Victoria Sugar Company, and paid the shareholders with Colonial Sugar Refining Company shares, but the shareholders in the Victoria Sugar Company had to provide £400,000 to cover the losses of that company, chiefly in the refining business. This shows that money may be lost, as well as made, in refining sugar. Senator Glasgow can bear me out when I say that £500,000 was lost by the original owners of the Millaquin Company, and that when the Queensland National Bank took over the concern they (had to write, off as mortgagees a sum of £300,000. As showing how flourishing the industry is, and what immense fortunes are made out of it, it may be mentioned that the Millaquin shares to-day can be bought at under paf. I think the last quotation was £9 5s. for £10 shares. Then there is Fairymead, -which is one of the best-managed sugar concerns in Queensland, and is growing cane on a rich soil and doing business in a big way. £1 shares in that company are quoted on the Exchange at from 17s. to 18s., and I saw in the last report of the Melbourne Stock Exchange that odd lots of them had been sold at 15s. The company had a good year last year, and paid 12 per cent., but the year before it paid no dividend at all. Such facts, I think, should be a complete reply to what has been said regarding the financial position of the industry. In the Stock Exchange of Melbourne Official List of Quotations and Sales for the month of June, I find that a number of banks have paid dividends of 10 per cent., 13 per cent., 15 per cent, (the Union Bank), and 20 per cent. (Western Australian Bank). Nobody ever says anything about the profits which these banks make. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a very important institution, and so are the banks ; but why is it wrong for a big industrial organization, whose activities cover the whole of the Commonwealth, to paf 12$ per cent.. .Dart of which is made outside Australia, while it is perfectly right and’ legitimate for our banks to pay up to 20. per cent. ?
– Is the 12$ per cent. paid on capital paid up, or on shares that were granted ?
– The honorable senator might also ask whether the shares are not represented by undistributed dividends of past years.
– There is no doubt that Senator Millen’s contention is correct. I think that the paid-up capital of the company is £3,250,000, and that £2,750,000 was actually paid by the shareholders, who now number about 3,000. The reserves are supposed to be at least equal to the disclosed capital. The reserves are the accumulation of some seventy years. We know the acquisitive powers of money. A very small sum set aside seventy years ago would today be represented by a very large sum. Public companies have set aside, and ought to be encouraged to set aside, to a reserve, a reasonable amount every year, because it is the tendency in Australia, and all over the world, for business to be carried on by public companies and corporations. To meet the natural expansion of business more and more capital has to be provided, and surely the most reasonable way to provide it is for the company to set aside a small sum every’year. They have a right to receive a return upon the money set aside in that way - just as much right as they have to receive a return from money actually subscribed by the shareholders.
There is no* difference, so far as I can see, in this respect, between the conduct of a public company and a private firm. If a man starts with a few hundred pounds and increases it, after some years, to a few thousands invested in his business, we think it is to his credit. Is it not just as much to the credit of a public company when the same thing takes place? That is what happened with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and with the banks, and it happens with most of the concerns that are run by public companies, not only in this country, but throughout the world. For an increase in business you must have an. increase in capital, and the business of Australia can only expand in proportion to the amount of money that is put into it.
– Does the honorable senator know the amount of debenture money that the company employs?
– I know that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company did work upon a considerable amount of debenture money. I have a tabulated statement showing the progress of the company, and I find that in 1888 their debentures amounted to £901,000. These they gradually reduced until in 1910 their debenture account stood at £64,050. They were not only working upon their, own capital, but also, to a very large extent, upon borrowed capital. Naturally a company such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, doing the business that they do, are still big borrowers.
– During the two or three years following 1910, is it not a fact that they credited shareholders with a number of fully paid-up shares?
– In admitting that that was so, it must be remembered that they were bonus ‘ shares, and could only represent the undistributed . dividends which otherwise would have gone to the shareholders.
– That i3 exactly so. Some companies would have paid the money out in dividends. It sometimes happens that a company will pay a dividend, and at the same time give notice of a call. Where is the difference ?
– The difference is important as affecting the rate of profit.
– I cannot ses that it is. There are some people who will insist that if a company transfers £100,000 or £1,000,000 from reserve funds to capital account, it is watering its stock. As a matter of fact, it is doing nothing of the sort.
– That is the position with many of the companies in Australia to-day.. Their dividends are paid on what is undoubtedly watered stock.
– It is not watered stock if the money is actually in the business. It is immaterial where the money comes from. The company has as much right to obtain a return on its reserves as upon the capital actually subscribed by shareholders.
– In later years, the company’s rate of dividend seems much smaller than in earlier times.
– For at least twenty years the dividend has not been less than 10 per cent. This has been earned not only bythe capital but by the reserves.
– Adding the reserves to the capital the rate of dividend would be considerably less.
– Yes; probably not more than 5 or 6 per cent. Under the agreement with the Commonwealth Government the company is limited to a profit of £1 per ton on the sugar it refines. That £1 has to cover, not only the profit on the capital in- vested, either in cash or plant, but also depreciation on the plant. The whole of the accounts are under the strictest audit by the Commonwealth. The company is limited to a charge for refining of 31s. per ton. If that charge is exceeded it is to the loss of the company, and if the rates is below 31s., it is to the profit of the Commonwealth sugar account.
– The profits depend on the company’s efficiency.
– That has always been the case. It is the company’s efficiency that gives it the commanding position it occupies in the industry today. If it were not forthis company the sugar industry of Australia would not be in nearly as good a position as it is.
– They refine the sugar with brains.
– They conduct all their business with brains. They have five mills at present in Queensland ; there were six. There are three mills in New South Wales, and four in Fiji, and the company is able to maintain a staff of technical experts such as it would be im possible for a small company to employ. The benefit of the research work is more or less at the disposal of the whole industry. Any one engaged in it can go into the company’s mills to note any improvements that have been effected, to see how the work is controlled, and to observe the results obtained. There is practically no secrecy, and for many years the company has been one of the chief bulwarks of the industry. The pity of it is that we have not more concerns like it.
– Everybody admits its value; but what is necessary to be done to retain the industry?
– I am leading up to that now.
I have referred to the prices paid during the first year of the war, when the price was determined by State tribunals, and to the prices paid under the three agreements, which average £22 15s. per ton. If we had been able to supply the whole of the requirements of Australia at the latter price, sugar could have been retailed throughout the period covered by State and Commonwealth control at an average of4d. per lb., but, owing to adverse seasons, the Government had to import considerable quantities. I understand that their purchases abroad were made on the very best advice obtainable. Comparing the figures which it is stated that the Commonwealth has paid with the prices paid by the British Royal Commission on the sugar industry, one is bound to say that, considering all the circumstances, the Commonwealth bought prudentlyand well. The British Commission’s second report shows that in 1920. when the Commonwealth paid high prices for sugar purchased abroad, this Commission bought sugar at prices ranging from £49, which was the lowest, up to £87 per ton. Other prices paid were £50, £55, £58, £65, and £78. For 200,000 tons of white sugar from Mauritius, up to £95 per ton was paid.
– Is that c.i.f.?
– Yes. Prior to the war Great Britain had been consuming from 1,600,000 to 1,800,000 tons; but in 1920 only between 900,000 and 1,000,000 tons were imported.
– Sugar was still being rationed.
– At one period the ration allowance was only 8 ozs. per week. During 1914 the price at which sugar was sold to distributors in Great Britain varied from £27 to £30 per ton. In 1915 it ranged from £27 to £32; in 1916 from £34 to £41; in 1917, £46 15s.; in 191S, £57 15s.; in 1919, from £57 -15s. to £66; and in 1920, from £66 to £112. The prices charged to manufacturers varied from £22, in 1914, to a maximum of £160 in 1920. Jam manufacturers paid £66 in January and February of 1920, and in May the price went up to £160, while manufacturers in Australia, who were paying only £26 per ton, were denouncing the industry, the Government, and everybody concerned, because they were charged so much. Queensland purchases quite as much in the way of .southern commodities and manufactures as the other States purchase from Queensland. We do not get gold for our sugar, or even Treasury notes. Every ship that comes to Queensland’s sugar ports brings large cargoes from the south, and in return takes sugar back. The sugar season only covers about six months of the year, but ships are bringing us goods from the other States for the whole year.
-brockman. - What has that to do with the price of sugar 1
– It is unreasonable to expect that some parts of the Commonwealth should bear all the disadvantages of Federation, and not get some of the benefits in. return.
-brockman. - Are you now speaking of Western Australia?
– I am referring to the Commonwealth as a whole. I am not specifically referring to Western Australia, nor am I excluding it. It was never anticipated that Federation would be a one-sided arrangement. I venture to say. that it would never have been accomplished if Queensland had refused to come in. In that State it was carried only by a small majority. The southern portion of the State voted against Federation. In the central districts the vote was just about equal; but in the far north there was a substantial majority in favour of Federation. I think it was owing to the affirmative vote in Queensland that Western Australia was “eventually persuaded to come in also.
– The Queensland vote had no influence at all in Western Australia.
– It had a considerable influence on the fortunes of the Convention Bill in the second referendum in New South Wales. I was in New South Wales at the time, and heard many people saying, “Now that Queensland has come in, we are satisfied.”
– A great deal has been said with regard to the disabilities imposed on other industries, and particularly the fruit industry, owing to Government control of sugar prices during the war. The fruit industry never had a more prosperous time than it has had since the middle of 1914, when for preserving purposes sugar has been available at a lower price in Australia than in almost any other country in the world.
– Some of us would like the honorable senator to be very clear on that point.
– I shall endeavour to be quite definite on it. I should like at this stage to quote an extract from a letter I received some time ago from Sir Henry Jones. I presume that he will be accepted by everybody as an authority on the manufacture of jam and the canning of fruit. He is a man who perhaps, above all others, has been successful in that business. Writing to, me as President of the Australian Sugar Producers Association in April of last year, and referring to something I had said at a meeting of the Association in Brisbane, he stated -
We are not up against the Australian sugar industry. We know quite well that we must pay a price that will enable the sugar to be grown by white labour, and we are willing to do this.’ In so far as the Australian market is concerned, it does not matter to us what price we pay for sugar.
As regards the export market, we are absolutely in agreement with the motion that was passed at your meeting giving effect- to your expression of opinion concerning rebates on imported sugar required for manufacturing purposes, and re-exported in manufactured form. An arrangement such as this would undoubtedly be of very great assistance to the , Australian fruit-growers to-day.
There is no doubt that, in our opinion (and here, again, we agree with your remarks], much of the present depression in the fruit industry has been caused by over-production, fostered to a great extent by the Governments of the various States in settling returned soldiers and others on the land. We are quite sure that, at the present moment, more fruit is being produced than can be consumed in Australia at prices that will provide a decent living for the producer.
We do not” ask more than that sugar for export purposes be supplied at a rate in accordance with the world’s parity, or that a rebate be made on sugar re-exported, so as to enable the surplus fruit which is now being produced in Australia to be sent abroad in the shape of jam. Tfe would be glad of the assistance of your Association in bringing this about in accordance -with your resolution.
We do not know that there is any market in the world that is as good and as constant as the Australian market. The Australian market for canned fruits and jams is an exceedingly good one, considering the small population of Australia. But, good as it is, at the present moment there is undoubtedly an over-supply due to the cause already mentioned.
Bad as things are in Australia, they arc evidently - from cabled reports - very much worse in America, where, from latest advices, canned fruits are selling at 2s. per dozen for standard quality. The price of dessert fruit, by the way, is not influenced to any extent by the price of sugar, since only a small portion of sugar enters into the manufacturing of dessert fruits. We mention this as typical of the all-round slump that is at present being felt everywhere in the world.
I shall have some other authorities to quote later, but following upon that I should like to say that people who talk about the effect of the price of sugar on the fruit industry seem to assume that all the fruit produced in Australia is made into jam or is preserved.
– The honorable senator’s quotation indicates, I think, 4-hat it is not profitable to use Australian sugar in the manufacture of Australian jams for export.
– I think that has always been realized, and was recognised by the Government. Before the war, foreign sugar was imported by the Australian refineries specially for the Australian export trade in jams and other commodities containing sugar, and when the jam was exported a rebate equal to the duty was allowed by the Trade and Customs Department. During the war, when the price of sugar was £29 per ton to distributors less discounts, which made the price £27 lis. per ton, manufacturers were given a special concession, and allowed to obtain sugar at from £24 to £26 per ton. At the present time they are getting sugar at £26 per ton; and when any commodities in which that sugar is used are exported to Great Britain, a rebate of £4 5s. per ton is allowed by the Imperial Customs authorities upon the sugar contained in those commodities. So that the price of sugar, so far as ex ports of these commodities to Great Britain is concerned, is only £21 15s. pelton .
– Does that mean that we can never look forward to a time when Australian sugar will be used for making Australian jam for export, and we must always rely on black-grown sugar for the manufacture of jam for export?
– I am afraid so. I do not see how we can employ white labour and produce sugar in Australia at the price at which it can be produced in coloured-labour countries, any more than we can expect to compete with the production of other commodities in countries in which coloured labour is employed. I know Chat it will be said that Australian wheat is in competition with wheat grown by coloured labour in India. That is quite true ; but it has to be borne in mind that the exportable surplus of Indian wheat is very small as compared to the wheat production of the world.
– What about the wheat produced by coloured labour in other countries, such as Egypt?
– I could give Egypt in; but I remind the honorable senator that only a little while ago Egypt was buying wheat from Australia.
– What about the wheat produced in Russia by labour that is not more costly than coloured labour?
– The honorable senator knows the conditions under which wheat is grown in Russia. They grow it there to-day in practically the same way as they did a century ago. Ours is the only white-grown cane sugar in the world, and honorable senators must bear in mind that the Australian production is very small compared to the world’s production of sugar.
I was saying that when the price of sugar is discussed in its relation to the* fruit industry, it seems to be assumed that the whole of the fruit produced in Australia is either converted into jam oris canned. I find that in 1920 the total value of the fruit production of Australia was £5,819.045.’ Of that amount, apples represent £1,609,200; bananas, £496,287;- . lemons, £185,372; pineapples, £199,470;- pears, £332,858 ; and oranges, £1,031,018. These are fruits which are not made into* jam to any great extent; and we have it on the authority of Sir Henry Jones that, so far as the canning industry is concerned, the quantity of sugar used is so small that the price is not a material consideration.
Before the war the export of commodities containing sugar was very small indeed. From a table I received from the Trade and Customs Department, 1 find that from the 1st July, 1914, to 31st December, 1921, products containing sugar were exported from Australia to the value of £17,772,129. The amount is made up as follows: - Condensed milk, sweetened, £6,820,688, and it should be” borne in mind that there is 40 per cent, of sugar in this article. Biscuits accounted for £1,763,945; confectionery, £624,425; canned fruit, £1,957,569; and jams and jellies, £6,605,502. I venture to say that if it had not been that sugar could be obtained in abundant supply at a very reasonable price, there would never have been anything like such a large export of jams and jellies, and the other commodities containing sugar referred to, as there was’.
It is not to be expected that the export trade will continue in the same proportions, because a very large part of the trade covered by the figures I have given was made up of orders from the Allied and American Governments. They bought condensed milk, jams, and canned fruits in very large quantities. I remember reading in official documents published in the press of orders for 20,000,000 lbs. and 30,000,000 lbs. of these commodities. I believe that one order from the Government of the United States of America was for no less than 38,000,000 lbs. in a single year.
It is said that owing to the high price of sugar, and the consequent high price of jams, there has been a reduced consumption of jams in Australia, and also of canned fruit. A report recently published by the New South Wales Government deals somewhat extensively with the effect of the price of sugar on the fruit industry. As my time is limited, I shall not quote at length from the report. The Select Committee, which was appointed to inquire into the conditions and prospects of the agricultural industry and the methods of improving the same, consisted of ten members of the New South Wales Legislative Council, presided over by Sir Joseph Carruthers. A very serious mistake was made in the report, as will be seen from the following statement on page 101 -
Probably the matter of greatest importance to the fruit-growing industry at the present moment is in respect of the cost of sugar, inflated by reason of Customs duty and other charges. Inasmuch as sugar is essential to jam making and fruit canning, being used in practically equal weight to the fruit, the price of sugar seriously increases the price of the manufactured product.
The report also quotes the costs of canning fruit at the Leeton ‘“factory, in the Mumimbidgee area, as ranging from 14s. to 17s. per dozen, but for the period for which these figures were given, namely, the 1918-19 and 1919-20 seasons, sugar was selling to the manufacturer at from £24 to £26 per ton. Assuming that it cost £28 per ton at Leeton factory, that is to say, 3d. per lb., there is only i lb. of sugar to each 2-lb. tin of canned fruit, so the cost of sugar would represent only fd. per tin,, or 9d. per dozen tins. That could not make any appreciable difference to production costs. If the factory had got the sugar for nothing, it would only have reduced the cost of production by 9d. per dozen tins. The fundamental mistake made by the Select Committee was in assuming erroneously that, for canning purposes, sugar and fruit are used in equal weights. In another section of the report, the Committee stated that nearly the whole of the fruit grown in the Mumimbidgee area was eather, canned, or dried ; not used for’ jam making at all.
– What is the proportion of sugar to fruit for jam manufacture?
-Fifty per cent, sugar, 50 per cent, fruit, whereas for canning purposes the sugar content is from 10 per. cent, to 14 per cent, total weight of the tins. The Select Committee, arguing upon the erroneous assumption as to the quantity of sugar required for canning fruits, declared that the cost of the output was unnecessarily high, and that, as a consequence, canned fruits were not consumed in anything like the quantity that might be expected. But the trade in dried fruits has ‘ increased very largely in recent years. It is very much cheaper for householders to buy evaporated fruit, 1 lb. of which, I understand, is equal to about 5 lbs. of green fruit. If they buy fruit in that form, they will not demand so much canned fruit, nor will they consume such a considerable quantity of jam. [Extension of time granted.’]
After devoting a good deal of space in their report to the disabilities under which the fruit industry labours owing to the price of sugar, the Committee quoted the opinion of a grower of apples with very little justification, because comparatively little jam is made from that class of fruit. This grower stated that he was not doing very well owing to the high cost of production, because prices of almost everything he required in his business, had increased by about 100 per cent. It was stated that cases had increased from 9d. and ls. in 1915 to 2s. and 2s. 3d. in 1921; that paper had advanced from 2s. 3d. to 9s. 6d. per ream ; and that nails had increased from 24s. to 55s. per Cwt
– Nails would represent a very small proportion of the cost of a case of apples.
– That is so; but this apple-grower mentioned cases, paper, nails, lead, lime, sulphur, black leaf 40, benzine, red oil, freight to Sydney, and wages, as all having an important bearing upon his costs of production. It was pointed out that the freight to Sydney had increased from 15s. to 26s. 7d. per ton; and that wages had advanced from 6s. and 7s. per day of ten hours to 10s. and 12s. per day of eight hours. The report of the New South Wales Select Committee is very unreliable in other respects. For instance, it states -
The area of land in’ Australia under sugar cane is very small (17 square miles).
The Royal Commission presided over by Mr. Piddington, and which inquired exhaustively into the industry, stated that the area under cultivation was 17 miles square - a. totally different matter. If, as stated by the New South Wales Select Committee, the area under sugar cane was only 17 square miles, that would be only a little over 10,000 acres, and, on the face of it, that statement would be absurd. It is possible, of course, that members of the Committee did not see any difference between 17 square miles and an area of 17 miles square. The same report has something to say with regard to the disabilities of the fruit industry in other respects -
As to the retail marketing of fruit, there can be no doubt that, between the price paid to the grower and the price paid by the consuming public, there is a very wide margin. It was explained that cartage, freight, shop rent, wages of sellers, and losses from unsold fruit absorbed a large portion of the retailer’s apparent profits. . . .
One thing, however, stands out very clearly, and that is that the price of fruit to-day must be governed by the increased cost of production; and as this latter has doubled with higher’ wages and higher charges for land, &c, so the price of fruit must be much above that of some years ago, no matter how much effort there may be to diminish undue profit to middlemen or retailers.
Apart from the price of sugar, which seems to agitate the public mind very much at present, there is the question of a continuance of Government . control. The industry in the first instance did not ask for Government control. It was forced upon the growers by the action of the States- in holding the price of sugar down to a. point below the average of the three years prior to the war, and, as growers’, we had to appeal to the Commonwealth Government to protect iis from the predatory hands of the State Governments.
– Was not the agreement drafted to prevent the Colonial Sugar Refining Company from exporting the Fiji product to other countries, and leaving Australia bare of su.pplies 1
– The agreement contained no reference whatever to the Fiji sugar.
– That was my impression,’ at all events.
– Well, it was not so. The agreement dealt only with Australian-grown sugar, and made no reference whatever to Fiji sugar, most of which was sold under agreement to theNew Zealand Government.
– And people there could purchase sugar at a lower price than in Australia.
– That is so; but the sugar consumed in New Zealand’ was grown by cheap coloured labour in Fiji, and surely it is worth something to us to keep in the Commonwealth all the money that otherwise would have gone to other countries for the purchase of sugar. The fact that we were able to get. the sugar here meant the keeping of something like £50,000,000 within the Commonwealth.
As I have said, the industry did not ask for control in the first instance, and we would have been perfectly satisfied to have adopted the world’s parity during the war period. We did not, however, hear anything concerning world’s parity so long as it was higher than the Australian price ; but now world’s parity is lower than the price ruling in Australia there is scarcely an issue of the Melbourne papers which does not make some comment upon current prices.As the sugar producers did not participate in the very high prices which ruled in the world’s markets for a number of years, we have a right to ask for protection against the disastrous effects which the low prices have produced in the world’s sugar markets.What has happened? The President of the United States of America refused to exercise the authority given him by an Act of Congress passed towards the end of 1919, under which the whole of the Cuban output might have been purchased at a reasonable price - slightly more than that now paid for the Australian product. The consequence was that prices immediately began to rise and continued to do so throughout the whole of 1920, reaching as high as £137 per ton. Then, partly owing to the action of the FederalReserve Banks, of which there are twelve in the United States of America, which curtailed advances to other banks, of which there are some 30,000, the deflation of prices in America rapidly followed. Moreover, the British Royal Commission purchased 500,000 tons less than in the previous year; so that, in 1921, owing to. decreased consumption, there was a surplus of 1,000,000 tons of sugar in Cuba, which resulted in bringing down the price to about one-halfthe cost of production. There are a number of people in Australia who thought that the same thing should happen here, although the Australian producer did not participate in high prices. In short, the industry, having served Australia so well during the war, when prices were high, should, it is suggested, have reduced prices below the cost of production, which would have meant the scrapping of the industry. In Cuba, Hawaii, and
Porto Rico, which produce 5,000,000 tons,the industry is carried on by big American companies which, having made huge profits while prices were high, did what any sensible business man would have done and placed a portion of their profits into a reserve fund which enabled them to stand up during the crisis which followed. Had the producers of Queensland, who have been kept on the bread line, and a great many below it - certainly until the price was increased to £30 6s.8d. - suffered as the Cuban producers did during the past year, it would have ruined the industry, which would have been detrimental, not only to Queensland, but to the whole of Australia. There are some who consider that a particular industry benefits only those who are engaged in it; but that is a very narrow viewpoint to take.. Reasonable protection of an industry which produces a fair quantity at a reasonable price is of advantage to the whole community, and not only to the few engaged in it.
– It may market its product in other countries.
– Undoubtedly. It means the circulation of more money.
Reference is frequently made to the high wages paid in the sugar industry, and I know there are a number of people who consider that the one and only solution of all our industrial and economic problems is a reduction in wages. Nothing worse could happen, and Australia is under a debt of gratitude to the Commonwealth Government because they have refused to listen to that clamour for economy which would have meant a reduction in the pay of all employees in the Public Services. If the Government had economized to the extent which some thought necessary we would have had a financial panic, and the position would have been infinitely worse than it is, although it is better here than in any other part of the world. We want to keep up wages so that the purchasing power of the people will be at the highest possible point, because what is the good of high production if the masses, who are the principal consumers, have not the money to purchase the commodities they require? In such circumstances, we would in a little while have over-production as a result of under-consumption, general unemployment, and financial chaos.
In considering what is to be done to stabilize the sugar industry I trust the question will receive attention from every stand-point. Notwithstanding the fact that it is carried on chiefly in one State in a somewhat remote part of the Commonwealth, the industry should receive the same consideration as it undoubtedly would if it were established in every State. Let us remember that at one time more sugar was produced from beet than from cane, and it has been said that at present conditions are favorable in all States for the production of beet sugar. But, strange to say, although the beet sugar industry has been established in Victoria for some years, it has not made any progress, notwithstanding the prevailing price of sugar, which has been considered high by those in the southern States. The Victorian Government, which owns and controls the Maffra Beet Factory, refused to put their product into the Pool, and as a consequence this product is being sold at a higher price than the Queensland people are getting for their sugar. For the information of honorable senators, I shall read the following, which was taken from one of the Melbourne papers: -
The Maffra beet-growers are wise in resisting the proposal that the Commonwealth Government should take over the product of the State Sugar Factory. It would he unprofitable for the growers if this were done, involving them in a loss of about £14 per ton. Apart from that aspect of the question, the principle of handing the product of State activity to the Commonwealth is unwise. In most branches of primary production the producers are themselves capable of transacting their own business, and if the State Ministry is incapable of doing what it has undertaken at Maffra, and doing it profitably for the growers, it makes a sorry confession of incapacity. Mr. Oman’s policy to give the producers all the profit the market will yield - restricted as it is at the present time - should meet with the approval of the beet-growers. The price is not so high as could be obtained in the world’s markets, but it is now £49 as compared with the £35 the Commonwealth offers; and the price will certainly not fall for some years.
– At Maffra, no commissions have to be paid, and the proceeds go direct to the producers, who also use the waste product for feeding their cattle.
– My appeal is on behalf of an industry carried on where it lis not possible to carry on other industries ; but according to Senator Russell almost any form of production can be carried on where the Victorian beet is grown. The price the cane sugar-grower is receiving is not too high when we consider that the Maffra producers are getting £14 per ton more and have, in addition, a valuable by-product which is not available in the Queensland industry.
– The Victorian taxpayer is paying interest on the capital cost of the Maffra plant.
– Exactly. Nothing would please me more than to see the beet sugar industry flourishing in all the States, because it would assist in stabilizing the whole industry. It would also give every State a visible and direct interest in the production of sugar, and the whole question would be treated more sympathetically than it is at present.
– That would mean that production would exceed consumption, and producers would then have to face the export question, which would necessitate a bonus.
– I have no great fear in that direction, because with increased population the consumption of sugar will also increase; and supposing it increased, as it did before the war,to the extent of 5,000 tons a year, we would be able to build a new factory every second year with a capacity of 10,000 tons, and the. Australian market would not be over-supplied.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of higher protection or a bounty?
– That is the point with which I shall endeavour to deal during the few remaining minutes at my disposal.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The point of what I have said lies mainly in its application. I have endeavoured to show, and I think to any unbiased mind it ought to be apparent, that, so far from the sugar industry being under an obligation to the people of Australia, the people of Australia are under an obligation to the sugar industry. Looked at from a broad point of view, it is one of our great national assets. Up to this point I have dealt chiefly with the past, but those in the industry, and others, are naturally most concerned about the future. In these times the minds of all thinking people are directed towards the question of increased production. With increasing population we necessarily must have increased production if we are going to maintain anything like the present standard of living in Australia. The maintenance of that standard ought to he the earnest desire of every one. The sugar agreement covers the crop which is now being harvested, and the question that arises is, what is to be done, after the present agreement expires, to maintain the industry in undiminished proportions and to enable it to expand, so that no matter how rapidly our population increases the production of sugar will be able to keep pace with it?
I would like to have had time to speak comprehensively upon the advantages of Government control of the sugar industry, which is desired by the sugar producers. TwoRoyal Commissions, of which Sir John Gordon and Mr. Piddington were chairmen, devoted considerable space in their reports to the advocacy of Government control of the sugar industry.
– Did they advocate it for that time only, or for all time?
– They advocated permanent Government control. Failing Government control, there is only one alternative, and that is adequate protection. At the present time the protection afforded is altogether inadequate to meet the circumstances that will obtain when the present agreement expires. The cost of production has greatly increased, as compared with what it was when a protection of £6 a ton was first given. Until 1912 the wages of field workers in the industry ranged from 203. to 25s. a week, and keep; in 1912, after evidence had been taken by Sir John Gordon’s Commission, the wages of field workers were increased by Commonwealth regulation to 8s. per day of eight hours; and later, in June, 1914, a few weeks before the outbreak of war, the first award in the sugar industry made by the Queensland Arbitration Court came into effect, and under it the wages in the industry were fixed at from8s.8d. to 9s. 2d. per day. Wagesin the north are now 17s. per day, and although there may be some reduction within the next twelve months, owing to the reduced cost of living, they, as well as other costs, must remain sub stantially higher than they were in 1914. The same is true of other industries. To meet that increased cost, extra protection is imperative if the industry is to be maintained. The present duty is equal to less than two-thirds of a penny per lb. It must be remembered that sugar is a very costly commodity to produce. The article as placed upon the table is the result of a very technical, elaborate process, in which most expensive machinery is required. The latest mill built in Queensland, with its equipment, cost £500,000. Those in the industry, who have met and considered the matter in all its aspects, say that to enable them to continue to pay the same rates of wages as are paid in industries throughout Australia, and taking into account the peculiar circumstances of the industry-namely, that it is carried on in a remote part of the Commonwealth, and that employment is only seasonal - it will be necessary, if the agreement is not continued, to increase the import duty to l½d. per lb., or £14 per ton.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I desire to add my meed of regret, along with that of other honorable senators who have spoken, regarding the loss that Parliament has sustained since we last met in the death of two distinguished members, in thepersons of the Leader of the Oppostion in another place (Mr. Tudor), and of Senator Adamson here. Their deaths are merely a further tribute to the strenuous work that members of Parliament are called upon to perform. The nerve-racking nature of the work has the effect of very considerably impairing their health and shortening the period of their lives.
I also wish to compliment the mover of this motion upon his first effort in this Chamber. I am sure we all listened with a good deal of pleasure and interest to the honorable senator’s first speech, and we have no doubt that from time to time he will be heard with interest in the Senate, and with advantage to himself as a parliamentarian.
I must also take this opportunity to compliment the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) on the work that he accomplished at the Washington
Conference, not only for Australia, but also for the civilized world. At any rate, we hope that the result of that gathering will have very far-reaching effects, and we are glad to know that the honorable senator, who was then the Minister for. Defence, distinguished himself so signally, notwithstanding the fact that when he left Australia there .seemed to be a conspiracy to handicap him in his work overseas. I was not here when Senator Pearce left for Washington, being at that time in the centre of Australia. Newspapers, however, reached our party from time to time, and we read more or less extensively the adverse criticisms levelled at him. 1 think it is only right and proper in this place, where we can express our opinions of those whom we know and of the work that they do, that we should enter .a protest against the press and some of the public’ men of Australia for the way in which they discount Australian ambassadors who are sent overseas to do important work for this country. Some of the criticisms published in Australia of Senator Pearce must have preceded him to Washington. A less capable or a less determined man might have been very much disconcerted, but we are glad that in spite of all he was able to complete the work he was sent to do with, credit to himself and with satisfaction to the people of Australia. Some honorable senators will say that we ought not to take too much notice of what the press says. I disagree entirely with that. If such statements are allowed to go week after week and month after month uncontradicted, a very large section of the people of Australia may believe them to be true. Therefore, I take it that here, in this Senate, is the place where our protest should be entered and our appreciation of work well done recorded. A section of the press has not yet ceased its efforts to discount our public men. Looking this week at the Melbourne Age, which seems to rae to be the one paper that lays itself out to discount public life and to do its very best to undermine responsible government, we find it still making efforts to discount the work that Senator Pearce did. In last Tuesday’s issue I find a column headed, “How the money goes. Political missions abroad. Cost to the country.” Then follows a table of the various delegations that have gone from this country since 1902. The cost of those delegations is set out in bald figures, which may be right or wrong, but nothing is said of the fact that a Minister going to a conference, such as that at Washington, must take a very considerable staff with him. Any one who did not know the facts of the case would immediately assume from the newspaper criticism that the Minister mentioned in the list - the “ Trippers’ Diary “ as they call it - accounted for the whole of the expenditure. Instead of that the expenditure covered the whole of the Minister’s staff, and whatever professional or advisory assistance he may have required overseas. This is very carefully overlooked in the article in the Age. I protest against the unfair criticism of the work of Ministers, who are called upon more frequently nowadays than ever before to go abroad in the interests of Australia. Senator Pearce is very hopeful of the peaceful results of the work accomplished at Washington. I am not one of those who believe that lasting peace is to be expected from the Washington Conference and the previous ones. I hope I am wrong, but I am afraid that such Conferences have not altered the aggressiveness of human nature or the liability of nations to quarrel. It is quite possible that for a very slight reason a big conflagration may break out in the near future. It is the duty of Australia, and of the British Empire, not to disorganize its defence machinery as a result of the agreement reached at Washington.
I am afraid that the smashing reductions recently decided upon in connexion with the Naval and Military Forces are premature. The Government yielded to the popular clamour for economy to a greater extent than they should. The scheme for retrenchment will very considerably affect the machinery created during the war period. We are now retiring many of our most distinguished soldiers, and we are cutting at the roots of the defence system. We are destroying to a great extent - if not entirely - the Military College at Duntroon, although the officers trained there have attained an enviable’ reputation as good leaders. Members of the Senate yesterday listened to Senator Drake-Brockman with very great interest on this subject, because of his wide experience as a soldier. I agree with him. that if we destroy our Defence Force it will never be possible to recreate it within, the. short period that may be available in the event of a further war.
– It is not proposed to do away with it altogether.
– No; but its usefulness will be considerably impaired. It will be hard to induce suitable young men to take up naval and military careers in view of the uncertainty surrounding the defence question. I hope that before long Parliament will have an opportunity to express an opinion on the matter, and that the Senate will be guided largely by the opinions of those who have had wide military experience.
We need to fill the empty spaces of Australia as quickly as possible; but care must be exercised that unsuitable immigrants are not brought in, and that ample provision is made for newcomers as .they arrive. Western Australia has an ambitious scheme to take about 25,000 .immigrants a year. I do not know whether the Government of that State are in a position to absorb such a large number. The Commonwealth Government are responsible for the introduction of immigrants to the number applied for by the various States, and unless the States make adequate provision for their reception, the Commonwealth will receive all the blame if success is not attained. Incalculable harm will be done to Australia if large numbers of immigrants cannot be placed in- i suitable occupations soon after their arrival. I would remind1 the Senate that a most suitable type of immigrant for our more tropical regions is the AngloIndian officer who is now being retrenched to some extent, and the time-expired soldier who has been accustomed for many years to living in a hot climate.
– A great many of those now retiring from India have been’ in that country for only a few years. They are young men.
– Some offer should be made to the retiring AngloIndians to induce them to settle in the northern parts of Australia, where the climate would be more suitable for them than for immigrants coming from cold countries. I should say_ that AngloIndians would make admirable residents for the Northern Territory.
Reference is made in the _ GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the necessity to have a representative in. the United States. The press has been busy in recent months ridiculing the idea of Australia being represented at Washington. I fail to see why our press and some public men should take delight in decrying their own country. This land is not of second or third importance in the community of nations; it is looked upon with very envious eyes by other peoples, and I am sure that great good would result from Australia sending a representative to America, where he could help to advertise Australia’s possibilities, and encourage trade between the two countries. Other countries consider it worth while to have trade representatives in the United States.
– What could we sell to America?
– Our seasonable products, such as fruits.
– We grow more of certain products than we can consume, and our business ‘is to find markets for them. We must take our place among the nations with respect to trade, just the same as we have done in other matters. I am in favour, not only of sending a representative of Australia to the United States of America, but to other countries as well. Representatives of large interests in other countries are continually coming to Australia, and, while they may have some interest in the export of Australian goods to the countries from which they come, they are certainly much more concerned about the import to Australia of goods produced in the countries they represent. We should take our place with the other nations of the world in the endeavour to extend our export trade.
Reference is made in another paragraph of the Speech to the necessity of lightening the burdens of the taxpayers by economy in public expenditure. Every member of this Parliament is as alive to the advantage of economy as are the critics outside who level such severe criticism at this Parliament. Economy can be very easily overdone. There is, for instance, no economy in curtailing expenditure on necessary developmental work in this new country. I hope that in connexion with the proposals for the settling of people on the land and encouraging them to produce goods required by the people of this and other countries, and proposals for the construction of railways and developmental works throughout the Commonwealth, the Government will not be unduly influenced by the clamour of persons who are continually preaching economy. It is indicated in the paragraph to which I now refer that it is intended to appoint a Board of Commissioners, such as was recommended by the Economies Royal Commission, and I want to say here that I am opposed to the appointment to these Boards of persons without political responsibility. The Government and Parliament are responsible to the taxpayers for the expenditure of their money, and we should not appoint a Board of Commissioners who will be practically outside the control of Parliament as soon as they are appointed. Ministers may not agree with me on the point, but I believe that disastrous consequences have in some cases resulted from, the appointment of such Boards. If the proposed Board of Commissioners is to be appointed, it should be composed of men directly responsible to the taxpayers. It should be composed of members of the Senate or of another place, who must submit themselves every six or every three years to the electors. “We are spending the taxpayers’ money, and they should be in a position to criticise every person charged with responsibility for public expenditure.
We can very well imagine what would be likely to be the effect on the development of the country generally of undue economy in a Department such as the Post and Telegraph Department. I heard some one objecting recently to the continual pleading for the man who goes out-back. But all that he wants is a fairdeal. He does not think that at this time he should be left so isolated when others in the community have all the conveniences and luxuries of civilization provided for them. I have every sympathy with the man who goes out-back, and I say that up to the present time neither the Federal nor the State Governments have given him the consideration he deserves. In the early days pioneers went out-back to remote districts without much assistance from the Governments of the day. But times have changed since then; large cities have grown up, and the lure of the large city has now to be reckoned with. If men are to be lured away from the cities to undertake the work of pioneering in remote districts it is certainly the duty of Parliament to see that they shall be provided, not with the luxuries, but with some of the necessary conveniences of civilized life. A curtailment of the expansion of the facilities provided by the Post and Telegraph Department must have a very disastrous effect upon the advance of settlement in Australia. I know of persons in the State I represent who certainly think, if they do not openly complain, that, not only the present, but previous Federal Governments have not given them the consideration they had a right to expect. I am glad in the circumstances to find that the authorities of the Post and Telegraph Department are determined to extend to outlying districts of Australia, facilities now provided for people in the more thickly populated centres only.
In this connexion I hope that the financial arrangements of this important Department will be placed on a more satisfactory basis. I understand that in the past, if the Postmaster-General has had unexpended balances in hand at the close of the financial year, they have all gone into the revenue again, and he has had to suspend his operations in the extension of telegraphic and telephonic facilities until money has again been voted for the operations of his Department. Under the existing system, a considerable interval very often elapses before his votes for necessary works are replenished, and he often finds himself in the position that he is able to expend not more than half of the votes for the financial year. As a result of this system of financing the Department, there is a continual suspension of works. I hope that in future, whatever money the Postmaster-General has unexpended at the end of the financial year will be transferred to a fund upon which he can draw in order that he may be in a position to continue the work of his Department without interruption all the year round. Since we last met, the members of the Public Works Committee have investigated a good many alterations and improvements which the Post and Telegraph Department has in hand in the large cities. Manual telephone exchanges are being replaced by automatic exchanges, and the appliances so displaced in the cities are being sent to the country districts. In order to equip large automatic exchanges, there must be a continuous importation of necessary appliances for some years, and unless funds are provided for the Post and Telegraph Department under a system different from that adopted in the past, it will be impossible to carry out works that are urgently required. In many of our cities the manual exchanges* have become so crowded that it is impossible to extend the telephone service with them, and the Government are wisely providing automatic exchanges for Australia, as is being done in almost every other country in the world.
– The honorable senator would accumulate and fund any surplus which the Post and Telegraph Department might have at the end of any financial year?
– I say that the practice now adopted hampers the PostmasterGeneral considerably in the extension of telegraphic and telephonic facilities. Most of our appliances have to be . imported from America, and the evidence submitted to the Works Committee showed that there is such a demand throughout the world for automatic telephone appliances that each order for them must be filled in its turn. If there are a dozen orders received before an Australian order is received, ours must wait its turn until the others have been attended to. This has been responsible for much of the delay in the past in telephone extension.
– What would the honorable senator propose when the operations of the Department showed a deficit? Would he set that against a surplus in the revenue from the Department?
– I understand that what the honorable senator proposes is that the capital account of the Post and Telegraph Department should be kept separately, and unexpended balances transferred to it.
– Tes. I recommend that any unexpended balance of votes for the Post and Telegraph Department should be paid into the capital account for new works, and should not be allowed to lapse and go into revenue again at the close of each financial year.
– Every PostmasterGeneral has pleaded for the adoption of that system.
– Such a system was in operation in many of the States before Federation.
– I hope that the system will be adopted for the Commonwealth.
There appears to be a great desire on the part of a few members of this Parliament, and a considerable section of the people outside, to dispose of the ‘Commonwealth Line of Steam-ships. ‘ It is contended that the Commonwealth Government should cut out all trading interests: and, if that contention is -right, then we should- cut out our trading interests in telephones, telegraphs, railways, and so on. I fail to see that the Commonwealth or any Government can run a railway successfully and cannot run a line of steamers, when each are engaged in practically the same business - the carriage of goods and passengers. If the Commonwealth Line of Steam-ships is sold or scrapped, we shall still require a considerable fleet, because the Lighthouse Branch and the Quarantine Service will necessitate the employment of a considerable number of vessels.
– The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) indicated that the Government intended to go out of the business of providing shipping for those ‘services.
– The Minister . suggested that we might subsidize a line of steamers trading on the north coast of Australia, where, up to the present, the Commonwealth Government have made some of their biggest blunders in trying to carry on necessary work with unsuitable ships. For most of the time those ships are on the rocks around the coast, or on the slips being repaired. I hope the Government will not for a moment consider any suggestion for the disposal of the Commonwealth Line of. Steamships. I am not unmindful of the fact that considerable difficulty exists in the manning of - these vessels, and I should like to put this before those who are responsible for delay in connexion with the sailing of those ships : There are two or three ways by which the Government might overcome the difficulty. The first way is that suggested, perhaps naturally, by large private shipping interests, and that is that the Government should sell their ships to a syndicate or shipping company in any part of the world. It is certain that the big shipping companies would, for various reasons, be very glad to buy the Commonwealth vessels, for if these ships were registered in some overseas port, perhaps in China, they could be manned with black or yellow crews. In what better position, then, would Australia or our seamen be?
– They would bevery much worse off.
– Of course they would, because their occupation, so far as these ships are concerned, would be gone; and certainly the sale or transfer of the ships would not help the primary producers, who, up to the present, have derived much benefit from the operation of the Line. Another suggestion is the re-registration of the vessels in London or some other British port. In that event they could still trade with Australia with British crews. But if anything like that were done, it would be an admission of failure on the part of the Commonwealth Government to run their own business in their own way.
– And there would be trouble in all the Inter-State ports.
SenatorNEWLAND. - Yes. The wharf lumpers and other waterside workers would no doubt make trouble. The Commonwealth Government ought to stiffen their backs, and, in spite of all opposition and interference by the Seamen’s Union, should continue to run the vessels on business-like lines. Seamen employed on the Commonwealth ships have better accommodation, are better paid, and better provided for than are seamen on ships sailing from any other ports in the world. As soon as the Commonwealth ships reach Sydney Harbor, where the crews are paid off, there is a rush to sign on for the new voyage; but as often as not union officials, in some cases men who cannot speak the English language, go aboard and persuade these foolish seamen not to sign the articles. I have no doubt that the arm of the Commonwealth law is long enough and strong enough to reach these agitators, and the sooner action is taken the better it will be for all concerned.
Another reason why control of Commonwealth ships should continue in the hands of the Government is that at Cockatoo Island Dockyard there are repair works second to none in Australia. I know that many failures have been attributed to the dockyard, and that the management has not alwaysbeen what it should be; but at present the Cockatoo
Island Dockyard is being managed effi- cientlyand effectively. It is said that the dockyard is competing with private businesses in Sydney. But what real objection can be urged to any competition so long as fair prices are charged? And I understand that is being done. A little while ago I had the privilege of visiting the dockyard, and was very much impressed with its splendid equipment for repair work. To insure efficiency it is essential that the staff should be kept together, and this can only be done by a continuity of work, because you cannot discharge shipyard men this week and re-engage them next week. The work must be continuous, otherwise the staff will drift away and become disorganized. The Government are quite within their rights in competing with any other dockyard, so long as proper prices are charged and unfair undercutting is not resorted to. It has occurred to me that some little economy might be possible if the Government came to some arrangement to prevent the duplication of ship repair work at Cockatoo Island Dockyard and the Naval Dockyard at Garden Island. There is no earthly reason why repair work now carried out at Garden Island should not be done at Cockatoo Island.
– Is it not a fact that at Garden Island there is certain equipment which cannot be installed at Cockatoo Island.
– That may be so; but I cannot imagine that any equipment at Garden Island cannot be installed at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– It is admitted that it can be done.
– I think Garden Island is retained because of the tradition that it was the British Admiralty establishment.
– Well, I urge the Government to look into this question and see if all the necessary repair work cannot be done at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and Garden Island utilized for some other purpose.
The Government proposal to appoint a Shipping Board to control the Commonwealth Line will not receive my support. I shall oppose most strenuously any attempt to remove the Line from parliamentary control and vest it in any Board, unless it be a Board composed of members of Parliament, who are responsible to their electors, and are familiar with the requirements of the Commonwealth, and thus in a position to use some influence to insure the success of the Line.
SenatorFoll. - Hitherto our experience of administration by Boards has not been satisfactory.
– Would not your objection apply also to Railways Commissioners ?
– Railways Commissioners are controlled by Ministers, who are responsible to Parliament.
– This proposed Shipping Board would be similarly placed.
– The Board would be free from the influence, and independent of, parliamentary criticism. For that reason I shall object to its appointment. Usually members of Boards object to parliamentary criticism, and become independent of it. They say, in effect: “We took this job on, and we intend to run the business in our own way. Parliament and the Ministers can go hang.”
– The honorable senator’s proposal would put members of Parliament in a very invidious position.
– I do not think so. Members of Parliament would feel that they were responsible to their electors for the success of the Shipping Line. This, I think, is the safest way to conduct any big undertaking of the kind.
– The honorable senator does not want shipping to be taken away from political control?
– No; nor any other Government business concern.
This brings me to another important question, namely, that of the proposed unification of the railway gauges in Australia, with which work, I understand, the Government intend to proceed. I de- sire to approach this matter with quite an open mind ; I have no desire to express any definite opinion one way or the other, though personallyI am rather against unification because of the tremendous expense it would entail on Australia at the presenttime. In my opinion, there is not the necessity for unification that several honorable senators suggest. On several occasions we have been told of great in convenience entailed on passengers who do the journey from Perth to Brisbane; and it is worth while to inquire whether that inconvenience exists to the extent suggested. When the Transcontinental Line was built, the Western Australian Government had, more or less, definitely decided to widen their railway from Kalgoorlie to Perth. No Act in contemplation of such work has yetbeen passed, but I may say that it is now suggested in Western Australia that if a new line were constructed it would be taken by a different route. If the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government were to agree that any new line constructed between Perth and Kalgoorlie should be on the 4-ft. 8½in. gauge, that would get over the gauge difficulty at that end ; and it seems to me that that is what the Western Australian people have in mind. There would then be a clear run without break of gauge from Perth to Port Augusta. It is suggested, and I believe negotiations have taken place between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government with this end in view, that there shall be another line constructed from Port Augusta to Adelaide which could, of course, be on the same gauge. As a matter of fact, I think that the South Australian Government are already building a portion of that line on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge; but it might be arranged between the Governments to adopt a gauge that would afford a clear run from Perth to Adelaide. I may say here that, in my opinion, that is about as far as a train should run continuously. A train cannot be run for thousands of miles without a break - a fact which all railway managers recognise.
– In Russia, before the war, a train from Moscow used to run for six days continuously without any change.
– That is only exposing railway travellers to added risks. A vehicle cannot be used until it falls to pieces; from day to day, from hour to hour, it must be kept up to “concert pitch,” so as to avoid accidents. I should say that on a journey from Perth to the Eastern States there would always be a delay of a few hours at Adelaide, and it would not matter whether the passengers resumed the journey in the train in which they had arrived or in another.
– You would not run through Adelaide?
– I take the honorable senator to mean that, perhaps, the running of a train right through Adelaide would mean the loss of the expenditure of a few shillings by the passengers in that city ; but that aspect of the question does not concern me at all. I am suggesting a scheme in the hope that it may save the taxpayers of Australia an expenditure which seems to me unnecessary at the present time. However, the narrow-gauge railway could be brought from Albury to Melbourne; and, of course, on arrival at Sydney there would necessarily be another break.
– Are you in favour of a direct route from Adelaide to Sydney without touching Melbourne?
– I do not wish to be led away from my subject, but I may say that I hope those mad schemes suggested in Sydney will appeal to the people generally as little as they appeal to me. To resume, it would be a matter of choice whether the railway was widened from Wallangarra to Brisbane; and thus we should have the complete journey from Perth to Brisbane with three stops and three changes. I doubt very much whether, with one train right through, the journey could be completed with fewer breaks.
– The probability is that there would be one gauge from Brisbane to Sydney, but not vid Wallangarra.
– The Brisbane people, I know, say that that is the wrong route, and that they would prefer another which would not mean a widening of a line, but a new line altogether. I recognise that to some extent such a scheme as I have outlined would interfere with the working of the branch lines which run into the main lines; but, at present, it would seem that the railway managers are giving more attention to the unification of the gauge than to other means of overcoming the difficulties. No railway manager worthy of the name would agree to third rails or other mechanical devices, and in that view I agree, because there is sufficient danger already attached to railway travelling.
– Your scheme would not overcome the present difficulties in defence transport and the transport of produce.
– In that regard we have a lesson to learn from the war. We were previously told that it would take many weeks to transport troops and munitions from one point to another with the breaks of gauge; but the fact is that disciplined troops can transfer themselves as quickly from train to train as a man can with his wife, family, and baggage. Every soldier jumps to his post, and such transfers would not take more than a fewminutes.
– A man cannot take a field gun under his arm.
– No; but ten or a dozen men can make short work of the transfer of such a weapon. In any case, the difficulties of transporting troops and munitions we’re found to be unexpectedly slight during the war.
– What about the railway difficulties in the Riverina referred to at the Premiers’ Conference?
– Such trouble will arise whatever is done ; but it applies more where there is no railway communication at all, and it is a matter for expert railway management to deal with. I admit that there was no justification at all for that great block which occurred on the border ; it was an example of muddled railway management which was no credit to any one responsible. I may say that I am a believer in narrow-gauge railways. But for .these cheap means of communication, Australia would not have been anything like so well provided with railways as it is. It may interest honorable senators to know that in South Africa there are only 3-ft. 6-in. railways, and when I was in Java I saw lines on a 3-ft. 5-in. gauge. In the latter case the carriages were 10 feet wide and 9 ft. 6 in. from floor to ceiling.
– What pace did they go?
– Up to 60 miles an hour sometimes.
– What are the life insurance premiums there?
– These lines have been in use for years, and many times when there I travelled up to 45 miles an hour. I do not wish it to be thought that a speed of 60 miles per hour is usual, because the average rate is about 45 miles per hour. The locomotives used weigh 130 tons, the rails are 80 lbs. to the yard, the track is laid in such a way that it is perfectly safe; and I believe that similar narrow-gauge lines would suit in many parts of Australia for at least 100 years. On the South African railways they are using engines up to 180 tons on80-lb. rails, hauling 1,600 tons on a ruling grade of 1 in 100. The passenger locomotives weigh 134 tons, and haul very heavy loads on a grade of 1 in 80. The rails used weigh 80 lbs. per yard, and the trains take curves of a 4½-chain radius.
During the trip to Java of a section of the Public Works Committee exhaustive inquiries were made into the possibility of securing additional trade with the East, and our investigations proved that a tremendous increase in trade with Java, Singapore, and eastern countries generally, was possible. The SubCommittee presented a report to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) containing the information acquired, and since that report was published greater activity in securing Eastern trade has been shown in Australia than during any previous period. I do not suggest that our report had anything to do with recent activities, but since it was published Trade Commissioners have been appointed by the Western Australian and South Australian Governments,and in Melbourne a large company has been formed, consisting of manufacturers, who are opening up extensive business with Shanghai. The Federal Government have also appointed Mr. Sheaf as a Federal Trade Commissioner, and doubtless his efforts will be the means of Australia securing more business in the countries I have mentioned.
– Why did the honorable senator and his colleagues limit their inquiries to Java?
– Because there was nothing to justify us going further, We felt it our duty to visit Java to make inquiries concerning the possibilityof an increase in trade and purchasing materials for the construction of the railway project into which we were inquiring.
When Senator Thomas was speaking the other day, he suggested that the Government should in future refrain from submitting the construction of works at Canberrato the Public Works Committee for investigation and report, as such a procedure was largely responsible for delays which have taken place. When such a charge is made specific instances of delay should be given; but the honorable senator did not do that. I do not know of any instance in which the construction work at Canberra has been delayed in consequence of investigations made by the Committee; but the Committee has been responsible for saving large sums of moneyon work which has been undertaken there, and the Committee cannot be blamed for whatever reckless expenditure has been incurred at Canberra. The Committee, which is appointed by Parliament, consists of members of both Houses, and is really the watchdog of the public purse in the interests of the people. When an inquiry is being conducted plans and estimates are submitted by responsible officers, and the Committee is always on the alert to see where savings can be effected. The recommendations ofthis body are published in the reports which are brought before Parliament, and which are always available to honorable senators. It is somewhat difficult for a member of the Committee to speak as I am doing ; but it appears that it is only members of that body who have an intimate knowledge of its work, and who are able to refer in detail to the numerous proposals considered from time to time. In some cases its recommendations have not been carried out; and during a recent visit to Sydney we were informed of what had occurred at the Mobilization Stores, at Leichhardt. We visited the store, and found that our recommendations had been deliberately departed from, although exhaustive inquiries had been made. The store at Leichhardt is perhaps one of the best of its kind in the Commonwealth, and after the closest investigation the Committee recommended that three lifts be placed on each side of the building. Our recommendation, however, was ignored, and the six lifts were placed in the centre of the structure, which reduced its usefulness by 25 per cent. Those who are responsible for the alteration can now see that a mistake has been made, and it is one which they very much regret. I therefore trust that in future the recommendations of the Committee will be carried out; and if that is done, they will always be prepared to take the responsibility.
I also wish to refer to the construction of a note-printing office, the report in connexion with which was submitted to Parliament two or three years ago. After exhaustive inquiry as to whether the establishment should be erected in Melbourne, Sydney, or Canberra, the Committee ultimately reported in favour of a building estimated to cost £46,800 being erected on a site behind Parliament House. When we went into the question of constructing a similar building at Canberra, with the necessary contingencies, it was found that the cost would have been £186,265, as against £46,800 in Melbourne. In that report we show that we saved £1,000 by making certain alterations in the floors of the building. I find that since the report was furnished the Commonwealth Bank has taken over the note-printing business, and are preparing plans at considerable cost, and calling for tenders. They are ignoring the -whole of the work of the Public Works Committee. We went into the question of plans and quantities, and to what extent portions of theold building could be saved and used for the new building. This report has been scrapped by the Bank authorities, who are now calling for fresh tenders to their own design. Parliament has not a word to say in controlling the Commonwealth Bank. I ask this Chamber whether it is a fair thing, after having appointed the Works Committee to inquire into these things, to ignore the Committee’s report in this way?
– Are the Bank authorities utilizing the services of the architects in the Works and Railways Department?
– I think not. The architects to the Bank, Messrs. J and H. G. Kirkpatrick, are called upon to prepare plans which will cost the people of Australia up to £5,000, notwithstanding the fact that plans filed in the Works andRailways Department are already in existence, and that everything is ready for going on with the work.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer in connexion with another work which has been withdrawn from the Public Works Committee. Some years ago, the Committee investigated a proposal to construct a railway from the main line in New South Wales to Tuggeranong,in the Federal Capital Territory, where it was proposed to erect an arsenal. The railway was recommended, but nothing further was done regarding the arsenal. Now I understand that portions of the arsenal are being erected at Maribyrnong. Several small buildings in connexion with it have already been built, and there is a Government Gazette notice, of the 13th July, withdrawing from the Public Works Committee, in accordance with the Public Works Committee Act, instructions to inquire into a certain further buildingto be erected in connexion with the arsenal. By-and-by, in a few years’ time, or perhaps sooner, the question of the construction of this arsenal may be referred to the Committee. What choice will the Committee have if the building has already been partly erected piecemeal in this way? When it comes to deciding the question of the best site, the Committee will be tied down to this particular one, no matter how unsuitable it may be. I know that certain secret works for Defence purposes may be withdrawn from the Committee, but I fail to see that there is any need for secrecy in connexion with the erection of an arsenal. The Gazette notice says -
In pursuance of the. Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913, theGovernorGeneral in Council has approved of the public . work known as the Explosive and Filling Factories, being a work for the naval or military defence of the Commonwealth, being exempted from the operation of the Act.
I could understand a question of fortifications being withdrawn where absolute secrecy might be advisable, butIfail to see why this work should be constructed piecemeal and taken away from the Public Works Committee. I am not dealing with this from a personal point of view, for my term on the Works Committee will soon expire, but after six years as a member of it I have a great appreciation of the valuable work it has done. I feel that the Government are doing something unfair in this matter. Somewhat similar tactics were adopted by a previous PostmasterGeneral, who divided a job into two or three parts so as to bring the expenditureunder £25,000. I think he spent two sums of £15,000, the object being to prevent the Public Works Committee inquiring into it.
– I do not know whether it is so in this particular work, but there is one work at Maribyniong for which we obtained plans from the British Government of a secret and a confidential character. Those plans may have been for the particular work to which the honorable senator refers.
– In any event, is not the exemption a matter for the discretion of the Executive?
– That is so; but the Postmaster-General’s actions made us rather suspicious of this kind of thing.
– I am not justifying that.
– It was seriously contemplated to erect this arsenal at Canberra. If, in the future, the question of the erection of the main arsenal building is referred to the Public Works Committee, they will be tied down to the site where the subsidiary works are already erected. That is why I complain of the works being removed from the investigations that are made from time to time by the Committee. I think it is my duty, and the duty of other honorable senators, to draw attention to matters of this description, and to give such advice to the House and the Government as they think necessary.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bakhap) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration(Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 8 of 1922- Commonwealth Temporary Clerks Association.
No. 9 of 1922 - Line Inspectors Association.
No. 10 of 1922 - Australian Postal Electricians Union.
No. 11 of 1922 - Professional Officers Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 12 of 1922- Common Rules (Nonreduction of allowances in certain cases, and deductions from recreation leave).
Senate adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 July 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220714_senate_8_99/>.