9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Supply to Tasmania
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health see that a supply of insulin for the cure of diabetes is made available to the hospitals in Tasmania?
SenatorWILSON. - I recently replied to a similar question put by another honorable senator from Tasmania, and I then stated that at the earliest possible moment the Department would supply insulin to the Tasmanian hospitals.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow : - 1, 2, and 3. Yes.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What does the Government intend to do in the matter of consideration that might be due to the Australian wool-growers in connexion with wool supplied to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited at appraised prices under the Imperial Purchase Scheme?
– The Prime Minister states that the matter is at present under consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Are any data being collected by any Department of the Commonwealth showing -
– The Department of Health is gradually collecting such information, but it may be some time before sufficient information is available to justify reliable deductions. Tie work, however, is regarded as of considerable importance, and it is steadily proceeding,
asked the Minister for Homo and Territories, upon notice -
– The answer is as follows : - 1 and 2. The conditions under which aboriginals and haft-castes may be employed in the Northern Territory areprescribed by the Aboriginal’s Ordinance No. 9 of 1918 and regulations thereunder, which were published in the Commonwealth Gazette of 29th May, 1919. Amongst other things, it is provided that no personshall employ or continue to employ any aboriginal native or female half-caste unless he is the holder of a licence under the Ordinance. Applicants for licences in country districts undertake to pay the prescribed rate of wages, and to provide food, clothing, Ac, as prescribed. Applicants for licences in town districts, of which there are four for the purposes of the Ordinance, ‘undertake to enter into an agreement with each of their employees, such agreement covering wages, food, clothing, &c., and being executed in the presence of the local Protector of Aboriginals.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That take report he adopted.
– In keeping with the promise made yesterday to Senator Elliott, I submitted his amendment on clause 35 to the Crown Law Department, which sees no objection to it. In order to meet the wishes of the Senate, I move -
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause35.
– I presume that the Minister now proposes to do what honorable senators wished him to agree to yesterday.
– We had no opportunity yesterday of ascertaining what would be the effect of the amendment which was hurriedly sprung upon us.
– Evidently the Government and their supporters are satisfied that the argument submitted from this side of the Senate yesterday was sound, and I congratulate the Minister (Senator Wilson) on the course he has adopted. I am glad that the departmental officers for once are in accord with the opinion of honorable senators..
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 35 -
Section 256 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section insertedin its stead: - “ (4) Sub-section (1) of this section shall not apply to -
an averment of the intent of the defendant; or
) proceedings for an indictable offence or an offence directly punishable by imprisonment.
.- I move -
That the words “Sub-section (1),” subclause 4, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “The foregoing provisions,”
I spoke on this amendment yesterday, and I withdrew it at the request of the Minister (Senator Wilson), who desired to consult the Crown Law authorities. The honorable senator has now intimated that the Government is prepared to adopt the alteration.
– I am somewhat at a loss to appreciate just how the amendment will affect the sub-clause. I doubt whether the Government are not going further than honorable senators desire by applying the averment to criminal prosecutions.
-Brookman. - No.
– I shall make that matter clear.
– If that is not the intention why remove words that are quite clear? Sub-clause 2 provides -
This section shall apply to any matter so averred although: -
evidence in support or rebuttal of the matter averred, or of any other matter, is given by witnesses; or
the matter averred is a mixed question of law and fact, but in that case the averment shall be prima facie evidence of the fact only.
Is it the intention of the honorable senator to connect that sub-clause with the provision relating to indictable offences? I am really in doubt, and I do not want the amendment to be adopted unless it is clear and definite.
.- If Senator Gardiner will refer to the clause, he will see that sub-clause 4 reads -
Sub-section 1 of this section shall not apply to -
an averment of the intent of the defendant ; or
proceedings for an indictable offence or an offence directly punishable by imprisonment.
I desire to make it perfectly clear that sub-clauses 1, 2, and 3 shall not apply in the case of serious indictable offences, and I have therefore moved to omit from sub-clause 4 the words “ Sub-section 1,” and to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ The foregoing provisions.” It would seem on the face of it that only subsection 1 was not to apply to serious offences. Sub-clauses 2 and 3 are so dependent on sub-clause 1 that the effect, I think, would be the same even if the amendment were not agreed to. To make assurance doubly sure, I have moved for the deletion of certain ambiguous words and the insertion of others, so that there can be no doubt that the preceding sub-clauses will not apply in the case of serious offences.
– By a very simple method Senator Elliott has given effect to the contention of honorable senators on this side. The wording was so ambiguous that there was a danger that the averment of an official would be sufficient in prosecutions for serious offences. The object of the amendment is, I understand, to make it clear that sub-sections 1, 2, and 3 shall not apply in such cases, and I take no exception even at this late hour to the Committee doing what I desired yesterday.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with a further amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended ; reports adopted. .
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26th July (vide page 1615), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the Estimates and Budget-papers 1923- 24 be printed.
– I desire to take this opportunity to refer briefly to the position which has arisen at Canberra. I have always taken a very keen interest in the establishment of aFederal Capital, and particularly in the proposed new Houses of Parliament. I have perused the report of the Public Works Committee, and nave generally kept in close touch with the whole situation. This branch of the Legislature should take definite action in regard, to the proposed provisional Houses of Parliament at Canberra. When the plans of the proposed structure were first placed before the Committee it was so dissatisfied with the design and arrangement of the accommodation that it recommended thirty-two distinct alterations. This conveys the impression that the Committee was entirely dissatisfied with the plans of the proposed building as submitted to it by the officials of the Department of Works and Railways. In the preparation of the plan originally submitted to the Committee, the location of the Senate chamber and of the House of Representatives was not sufficiently considered. The Committee was dissatisfied with the arrangement, and it recommended an alteration in each case. It is a striking coincidence that the gentlemen who draw these plans treat members of Parliament in a manner different from that in which they treat the permanent officers of Parliament. I quite realize that in many countries Parliament has grown up very slowly and in great fear, and its meetings have been held in what might almost be termed dungeons. Any one who visits the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and many other Houses of Parliament cannot but be struck by the great precautions which in the past have been taken to protect members of Parliament, apparently, from the people outside. Surely, if the need for such precautions ever existed, it has passed in Australia. Yet we find that the proposed House at Canberra contains a replica of the chamber in which we are now deliberating. Every honorable senator knows that a very small quantity of fresh air is permitted to enter this chamber. The condition of the air in the chamber has frequently engaged the attention of expert officers. At the present time a considerable number of honorable senators are indisposed. I do not say that their indisposition is due to the quality of the air in the chamber, but there can be no doubt that it has an injurious effect upon their health. The same thing applies to members of another place. The proposed Senate chamber at Canberra which was suggested by the officers of the Department of Works and Railways did not, except at a great height, come into direct contact with the open air. In the first place, it was surrounded by a high’ wall. On two sides of the Senate chamber was a foot corridor, abutting at one end on what might be termed the Queen’s Hall, and at the other end on a long passage. Mark the difference in the accommodation suggested for the officers attached to Parliament. In absolutely every case, so far as I have been able to ascertain, there is direct natural lighting from at least one side of their rooms. That is as it should be. If honorable senators study public buildings in which are housed the permanent officers of the Departments, they will see that proper precautions have been taken to insure to those officers a plentiful supply of fresh air and natural light. At one time in this chamber a horrible contraption in the shape of a huge chandelier was suspended from the roof which seriously injured the eyesight of a number of honorable senators. Finally it was removed - to the advantage, I am sure, of every honorable senator. In Parliament House honorable senators will find that telephones are attached to the walls; whereas the permanent officers have table telephones. This is only a detail, but it indicates the different treatment meted out by permanent officers to members of Parliament. So long as members tolerate that kind of thing, it will probably be good enough for them. I enter my protest against the proposal, which I understand has been approved by another place, for the erection of a provisional Parliament House at Canberra. Originally it was intended to have no fresh air admitted to the chamber except at a very great height. Following upon representations made to officers of the Department of Works and Railways by the Public Works Committee, a revised plan was submitted. From information gained at second hand, I believe that it was intended to bodily remove the Senate chamber so that at least one end of it would abut on the open. When I brought the matter under the notice of the Senate last night, Senator Pearce drew my attention to the plan embodied in the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, with which I was already quite familiar. I was under the impression that that plan had been further amended. Inquiry to-day convinced me that the revised plan shows the building which it is proposed to erect. I invite the attention of honorable senators to the plan numbered 3. A slight alteration had to be made in regard to the Senate chamber; a door has been placed on each side, abutting on a small verandah, but no fresh air or natural light will be admitted to the chamber.
– How can fresh air be separated from draughts?
– Easily. Apart from the gaols of the country, I do not know of any public building in which the windows have been placed, as in this case, at a height of 14 or 15- feet. Windows at that height are entirely out of place. What is proposed by these astute gentlemen ? With the exception of the chamber, very nearly all of the rooms will be open to the fresh air on at least one side. I feel deeply in the matter, because in the occupation which I followed many years ago it was most difficult to induce the employers to provide what I regard as suitable accommodation. Many of the men employed, even when they had suitable accommodation, seemed to be inclined to do things which, to my mind, were injurious to their health. As a result, many scores of them have joined the great majority. They died for the want of sufficient fresh air suitably supplied. In the revised plan it is proposed to provide access from each side of the Senate by means of covered lobbies to small verandahs. On one side is a reception hall, and between the open air and the Senate are found an officers’ lavatory, a small area, the ‘senators’ lavatory, a covered-in corridor, the Committee room, and the verandah. All these rooms, lavatories, and areas should be transferred to another position. The Senate chamber should be moved so that one side of it would communicate direct with the fresh air. The work of the Senate could then be done more satisfactorily than we can hope to do it in the absence of a supply of fresh air.
– Why does the honorable senator concern himself so much about the Senate? Does he not intend to abolish it?
– I should not abolish the Senate.
– It is on the platform of the honorable senator’s party.
– That is so. The abolition of the Senate would take some time, and probably, in the opinion of the best-informed men of this country, it would be much more advantageous to abolish the other branch of the Legislature, and increase the usefulness of the Senate. That is my view, but it does not correspond with the views of my party. Sometimes my party makes a mistake, and it may be right or wrong on that question. Having shut out the fresh air from the Senate chamber, it is proposed to install a complicated piece of machinery, worth £12,000, to pump in fresh air and extract foul air. It seems to me to be an operation that ought not to be countenanced for one moment. I am not quite sure what the Senate’s powers are in this matter; but I think it should make representations in the right quarter so as to have the proposed new temporary chamber erected to an up-to-date and healthy design. The days have vanished when we need fear that great crowds of people will menace the lives of members assembled in a Parliament.
– Those days may come again.
– I do not think they will. There does not appear to be any justification for the perpetuation of this antediluvian, old-world foolish idea of excluding fresh air, and asking honorable senators to deliberate in any but the’ best possible conditions. It is “up to “ this country to develop some ideas of its own. I know that some people will supply original ideas only with reluctance, and they are liable to copy, wherever they can, the actions of other countries. The conditions that prevail in one country are not always suitable for another. The housing accommodation in many parts of the Commonwealth is not suitable for the prevailing climate. Any one who goes into the tropical or semi-tropical parts of Australia will notice that the styles of homes in Great Britain and Northern Europe have entirely disappeared. The homes in those parts of Australia are surrounded to a large extent with wide, comfortable verandahs, and are in every way more suitable, more healthy, and better than those provided in the northern hemisphere. As we come further south into New South Wales and Victoria, and to the still colder region of Southern Tasmania, the wide verandahs and other conveniences disappear. It must be remembered that Canberra is only about 2,000 feet above sea level, and that the climate is almost the same as that of Sydney. It is warmer than Melbourne, and much warmer than Tasmania. The style of home adopted in Tasmania and many parts of Victoria is out-of-date for Canberra. This Chamber ought to take deliberate and decided action so as to insure that this branch of the Federal Parliament shall meet at Canberra under the best possible conditions. It cannot do that if we are confronted with a £12,000 machine for pumping in fresh air and extracting foul air. All that expenditure is quite unnecessary, and will only lead to trouble. I make these remarks because I feel sure that honorable senators have not looked closely into the matter. Otherwise, they would not have remained quiet while another place approved of such a proposal. As to whether we should have a temporary Parliament House at Canberra, or the nucleus of a permanent one, I may say at once that I am in favour of a temporary one. I realize that some difficulties will confront us if we have a temporary Parliament House; but I am of opinion that a temporary building would suffice for a considerable period - probably fifty or sixty years. I am entirely opposed to the idea of having the building on the side of a hill. That would be an outrage of the first order. It has been suggested that instead of erecting it on a fiat, the side of a hill should be excavated, and the building constructed there. If that were done the top of the building would be almost on a level with the surrounding country.
That would be a huge blunder, and ought not to be countenanced for a moment. Surely it should be possible to erect the Parliament House at Canberra on a vite that would permit of all the rooms being on the one level. I hope that whatever else is done there will be no occasion to excavate into the side of a hill and place practically one-fourth of the building below the ground level. It has always struck me as peculiar that our builders or architects should burrow 10 or 12 feet below a street level for the purpose of making a cellar or basement. It would almost pay them to build up from the street level a distance of about 10 feet and provide cellars, if they must have them, with good natural lighting and fresh air. Apparently proper attention has not been given to this matter in connexion with the proposed Parliamentary buildings at Canberra. I hope that another site will be found for the temporary building. I would prefer a start being made upon the nucleus of the permanent structure, but plans and specifications have not yet been drawn, and if competitive designs are invited, it will not be possible to proceed with that work for two and a half or three years. In the circumstances’, I think it better to proceed with the erection of the temporary building. I believe, nothwithstanding what may be said to the contrary, that the temporary Houses of Parliament may be completed within two or two and a half years.
– Experts say that if we made a start on v the permanent buildings it would only postpone the removal of Parliament to Canberra by about a year.
– I doubt if the plans could be. prepared and tenders obtained for the nucleus of permanent Houses of Parliament in less than three and a half years. In the circumstances, I favour the erection of a temporary building. I regret that for some reason the arrangements made for the turning of the first sod on Saturday next have been cancelled, but I hope the ceremony will take place at an early date.
– What is the honorable senator’s view with regard to competitive designs for the Houses of Parliament?
– I presume that world-wide designs will be invited for the permanent building, and, that, as in the case of the lay-out of the Capital, the successful competitor will obtain the premium on the erection of the building.
I hope that the proposed accommodation for the Senate at Canberra will not be provided in accordance with the revised plans.
There are a number of other matters to which I should like to refer. When Federation was accomplished, the States retained their sovereign rights and delegated certain powers, about thirty-nine in all, to the Federal Parliament. Quite a different procedure was adopted in both Canada and South Africa. The Union of South Africa assumed control of all the utilities of Government, and relegated certain powers to Provincial Councils. Canada did likewise. In Australia, the State Parliaments were reluctant to relinquish their sovereign powers, and, as a result, there has been a sharp conflict of authority in regard to certain matters. Among the subjects that have not been dealt with, so far, by the Commonwealth Parliament, are those relating to marriage, divorce, and matrimonial causes. As a result, a great number of people are suffering acutely. I realize, of course, that there are very great difficulties in the way, and that powerful influences are at work to prevent this Parliament from legislating in that direction for a number of years; but the sooner we do so and challenge the opposition the better it will be. During the war, other matters of more urgent importance had to be dealt with, but this question should engage the attention of the Parliament upon the return of the Prime Minister from London.
National insurance is a subject that might well be considered by the Commonwealth Parliament, and I should like to see a Commonwealth insurance office established. A number of private institutions appear to be preparing to conduct very extensive business, and, knowing the excellent work that has been done by the Labour Government in Queensland in the matter of insurance and workmen’s compensation, I believe that this Parliament should, at the earliest possible moment, be asked to consider a scheme of national insurance.
I am glad that the matter of bankruptcy has been taken up in the Senate
– Order! The honorable senator may not discuss that matter now, since a measure relating to it is on the notice-paper.
– I intended merely to make a passing reference to it. There are other important subjects that should, in the near future, engage our attention.
In response to very urgent appeals, the Government has decided to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The system of invalid and old-age pensions has been brought into operation very slowly. I’ believe that the Reid Government, in New South Wales-, many years ago, suffered defeat because of its attitude on this subject, but finally a measure dealing with it found its way upon the statutebooks of that State. At a later date - I think in 1909-10 - the matter was taken up by the Commonwealth. The old-age pension, first granted, amounted to 20s. a fortnight. In 1916-17, the payment was increased to 25s. a fortnight, and in 1919-20, to 30s. a fortnight. The Government now proposes again to increase the amount, and while its action ought to be supported, I think it should have gone further than it has decided to go. After 30th September it is intended to fix the payment at 35s. a fortnight, and a great number of deserving people warmly approve of that decision. I have no doubt that the Government and its supporters had a caucus meeting, and that a greater payment than 35s. cannot be expected at present. A pensioner is permitted to earn 20s. a fortnight, and it is proposed to allow him to earn up to 25s. a fortnight. Assuming that he can find a job, it will mean that the maximum amount a person in receipt of the full pension can receive will be 60s. a fortnight. It will thus be possible for a married couple to receive an income up to £6 a fortnight. This is a step in- the right direction. Whenever the Act has been amended it has been liberalized. The Government is confronted to-day with a very substantial expenditure in connexion with the maternity allowance, war pensions, and other payments, but I have no fear for the future of Australia, and I think that the Government are proceeding on safe lines in this respect.
– Like Senator Grant I am, as a representative of New South Wales, and, I hope, also, as a good Australian, interested in Canberra, but considering that we are now discussing the financial situation of Australia, I am not particularly concerned at this stage about the comfort of honorable senators and of honorable members of another place when they reach the new Federal Capital. Although, no doubt, it is very desirable that members of the Federal Parliament should be as comfortable and healthy as possible at Canberra, there is a time and place for the discussion of every matter, and I look upon this occasion as a peculiar opportunity for honorable, senators to review the financial position of the country, and to offer whatever comments they may feel disposed to make regarding the Government’s administration. I intend to devote myself to the consideration of financial matters, certain aspects of administration, and certain pro- posals made by the Government for the future. It must be recognised that honorable senators are at a disadvantage, compared with the members of another place, in discussing the Budget, because the subject has already been more or less worn threadbare in the other branch of the legislature. The best brains of that House have been directed to its consideration. Most of the points in respect of which criticism could be levelled against the Budget have already been mentioned, and those who wished to praise it have done so fulsomely. There is therefore very little of an original nature left for honorable senators to say, and as I do not. like repeating what has been said by others, I feel that this Chamber is, as it always has been, at a decided disadvantage in this respect. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has had a comparatively easy task this year, because of the sound financial position of Australia. He has had a year of mounting revenues ana abounding prosperity. It may be said that for some years conditions in the Commonwealth have been exceedingly prosperous. A Treasurer, no matter how incompetent he might be - I am not suggesting that the present Treasurer is incompetent - should find it a comparatively easy matter to direct the financial affairs of the country when he has a bigger revenue than he could possibly spend, and little before him in the way of extra expenditure for the future. The task of the Treasurer has been easy because every section of the community has’ enjoyed comparative prosperity. I was amazed not long ago to hear Senator
Hoare give utterance to the belief that the poor were becoming poorer and the rich becoming richer.
– That is an extraordinary statement.
– It is. I did not have the figures available at the moment to refute the statement, but I felt that if such were the case, the facts should be known, and, if not, such a misleading assertion should be denied. I have been to some trouble to ascertain .the actual facts; and in going into the figures in a dispassionate and impartial manner I find that the position instead of being as Senator Hoare stated, is quite the reverse. I shall submit certain facts and figures which I feel sure will more than disprove the statement which the honorable sena- “ tor made. From 1913-14 to 1922, which is the last year for which the figures are available, the population of Australia increased by 13 per cent. The number of depositors in the Savings Bank increased during that period by 62 per cent., and the number of depositors per thousand of the population increased from 428 to 613. It will be seen, therefore, that out of every thousand .persons in Australia, 613 were not only able to maintain themselves in reasonable comfort, but were also able to have a banking account.
– Is the honorable senator speaking from an Australian point of view !
– Yes. The figures show that during the period when a Nationalist Government has been in office the prosperity of the Commonwealth has not in any way decreased, but, as a fact, has considerably increased. The amount of money on deposit in the Savings Banks during the period I have mentioned increased by 48 per cent., and the average amount on deposit per head of population increased from £16 17s. lOd. to £29 2s. 10d., while the average amount on deposit per depositor increased from £39 12s. 4d.. to £47 10s. lOd. In view of these figures I should like to know upon what basis Senator Hoare could make the statement I have mentioned. I have been into this matter quite impartially, and if my investigations had shown that his statement was correct, I should have been quite prepared to admit it.
– The honorable senator should deal with the question from an international point of view. He is speaking only of the position in Australia.
– That is what I am doing. Since the Commonwealth has been under the control of a Nationalist Government the condition of the people has improved to such an extent that not only have more people been able to maintain themselves in a reasonable standard of comfort, and to a greater degree than in any other period of our history when other Governments have been in office, but they have been able to save more than has before been practicable. According* to the official figures, which cannot , be challenged, not only has a greater number of people been able to save money, but the average amount per depositor in the Savings Bank has increased to a greater extent than during any previous period. The actual position of the workers has not only improved, as disclosed by the deposits in the Savings Banks, but the condition of the workers, as revealed in the official figures, has improved out of all proportion when compared with any previous era in our history. I have not been able to obtain the figures relating to industry as a whole; but in connexion with secondary indus1tries the number of factories increased between 1914 and 1922 from 15,428 to 18,023. The number of employees during the same period increased from 331,728 to 395,425, and the amount paid in salaries and wages increased from £34,103,703 to £68,050,861.
– The amount was doubled.
– Yes, there has been an actual increase of practically 100 per cent, in the amount paid in wages and salaries.
– But what of the purchasing power of money?
– I shall deal with that later. There is another point that will perhaps interest the honorable senator. I have referred to the benefits derived by the workers during the years mentioned, and I shall now refer to another section of the community which may be termed the capitalistic class.
– Is the honorable senator satisfied with what has been done for the workers ?
– I do not suggest that we have gone as far as we should, but I am disproving the absurd statement by Senator Hoare.
– Is the honorable senator satisfied with the present position?
– No. “We should always strive to do something better, and we hope, some day, to reach that stage when every one will be perfectly happy and when no one will want. That isthe objective we should all have in view, and with a continuation of an administration such as we have at present - not what we would expect from a Government composed of gentlemen supporting the policy of honorable senators opposite - possibly before many years have elapsed every one will be satisfied. The value added in the process of manufacture during the years mentioned increased from £66,661,441 to £129,921,500, equal to 95 per cent, gross.
– It cannot be said that the workers have been going slow.
– The value of plant and machinery increased from £41,154,389 to £78,058,680, an increase of 77 per cent., and the value of land and buildings in connexion” with factories increased from £39,352,432 to £67,322,458, an increase of 72 per cent. The total increased value of plant and machinery, plus the increased value of land and buildings, was equal to £64,901,317, which represents a gross increase, taking into consideration the value added in manufacture, of about 95 per cent. It might be said that that was the increase in the returns to the manufacturers throughout the Commonwealth as compared with 100 per cent, increase to the workers, but the 95 per cent, is the gross increase, from which has to be deducted the interest on capital invested, which at 5 per cent, amounts to over £3,245,065. In addition, allowance has to be made for the taxation which manufacturers have to pay, and advertising and other charges not included in these figures. After making allowance for these deductions the total increase to those engaged in manufacturing industries during this period would not be more than, if as much as, 70 per cent., whereas the increase to the workers has been equal to 100 per cent. These are very illuminating figures, and, taken in conjunction with inquiries I have made, prove to me, at any rate, that the workers have been able not only to maintain their position, but to enormously improve it. This has been done during a period when a Nationalist Government has been in office. Whether it is due to the strength of their organization or outside influence I cannot say, but we cannot dispute the fact that under good government the workers of the Commonwealth have had a fair deal, and have been able to improve their position to an enormous extent. That being so, it would be idle for honorable senators opposite to say that the workers were becoming poorer, the rich richer, and that children were starving.
– So they are starving.
– That may be so in Russia, and to a certain extent it may be true concerning the position here. I do not wish to dispute the fact that, to our shame, we have poverty in our midst, and that little children are hungry and men and women in some, cases are unable to maintain themselves in decent comfort, which is their right in a civilized community.
– It is a disgrace to the Government.
– It is a disgrace if such is the case, but the blame cannot be placed at the doors of this Government or the Government which immediately preceded it. Labour Governments have been in power, but will honorable senators opposite dare to say that when Labour Governments were in office there was no poverty in Australia, that children were not going bare-footed, and that there were not large numbers of men and women who were unable to maintain themselves ?
– When Labour Governments were in office, poverty was not so prevalent.
– I believe the proportion would be about the same. The less wealthy section of the community deposits its savings in the Savings Banks. The figures relating to theSavings Banks show that the people of Australia are better off to-day than they have ever been in the history of this country. That being so, I have no compunction in urging upon my friends opposite the advisability of remodelling their views to a very large extent. There is sufficient to engage our serious attention without continually crying “ stinking fish.” Instead of talking about the poverty of our people and the conditions under which the workers live we ought to stand up fearlessly and say to other countries, that in sunny Australia the people are better off, have greater opportunities,’ and work under more agreeable conditions, than the people in any other part of the world. The figures I have quoted prove that the position of the workers has improved in a greater ratio than has the position of those whom we might call capitalists. There are other figures in the Budget which show that wealth- is being more evenly distributed. The figures which have been compiled from the income tax returns made by firms and individuals cannot be disputed, and. they bear .out my contention, relative to the distribution of wealth.
– Are they reliable returns ?
– They are at least equally as reliable as were the returns made in past years. There will always be a percentage of faked returns sent in by those who are not prepared to tell the truth. In 1920-21 there were 822 individuals and companies ‘with incomes between £10,001 and £100,000. In 1921- 22, the number had been reduced to 718 - a good thing, because we do not want to see enormous incomes made in this country! In 1920-21 ..there were 49 individuals with incomes over £100,000, but in 1921-22, that number had been reduced to 23. If these figures prove anything they prove that the poor are not growing poorer but richer, and that tho rich are not growing richer, but poorer.
– The honorable sena- - tor does not believe that.
– I do believe it. With taxation at its present level, it is impossible for the position to be different. If statistics are of any value in enabling us to arrive at the true position, these statistics show that wealth is being more evenly distributed, and that the great masses of the people are improving their position. It would be a hopeless situation if, after all these years of concentrated human effort, not by one party, but by many parties, we had not succeeded in bettering the general position of the masses. Even my honorable friends opposite will not suggest that the most Tory Government Australia has known did not - under pressure, maybe - do something for the workers. The position of the masses has been improved to a greater degree in this than in any other country.
There is in the Budget sufficient to provide honorable senators with food for thought and discussion. The Commonwealth is a huge business concern. It ought to be run as such - not in the hardhearted way in which an ordinary business is run, but with a proper regard for all sections of the community, consistent with the necessity to keep the . country financially on an even keel. The Budget is the balance-sheet issued each year to the shareholders, the people of Australia. Members of Parliament, I suppose, occupy the position of’ a Board of Directors. From the balance-sheet we ought to be able to discover which branches of the Government’s activities are paying and which are not. We ought to be able to take any department, more particularly the trading departments, and discover from the Budget what those departments have cost during the year, what they have made, and whether they disclose a credit balance. In New Zealand, as the result of an alteration made quite recently, the Budget is presented in that way. Every department submits a separate balancesheet, which is audited by the AuditorGeneral. The various trading departments of the Dominion issue a balancesheet embodying a profit-and-loss account and a statement of income and expendi’ture, signed by the head of the department and audited by the AuditorGeneral. Any one who takes up the New Zealand balance-sheet can see at a glance the position of any department.
– How is the State Insurance Department working in New Zealand ?
– I cannot say from memory.
– The opinion seems to be held by. honorable senators opposite that Queensland is the only place which carries on State insurance.
– That is an entirely wrong idea. For years there has been in Australia a growing recognition of the necessity for adopting such a course as I have suggested. It is felt that there is an increasing tendency for Governments to interfere more and more with industry, and to trade to a greater extent than has been the case in the past.
The Country party was more vociferous than any other party in urging the desirability of presenting a clear statement of accounts. It threatened Governments which did not do so, and stated that it would not be satisfied until its ideas were given effect to. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is the Leader of the Country party. He was foremost in his criticism of past Budgets, because they were not presented in this way. He has had his opportunity, and it is regrettable that in the preparation of this Budget he did not observe the principles which he formerly enunciated. This Budget has been presented in the same old style ; if anything, it is worse than previous Budgets. It is not possible for the average man or woman to determine the actual position of the Government. I take exception, not only to the form in which the Budget has been presented, but also to the figures which purport to show the receipts and expenditure and the balance at the end of the year. I admit that the finances have been administered in a properly conservative way, but there have not been those remarkable reductions which we were inclined to believe would follow the replacement of the late Government by this Administration. The actual decrease in expenditure for the year was only £386,000, which is not worth mentioning. The surplus disclosed amounted to a little over £1,020,000. It has been pointed out that that was not the actual surplus. As a matter of fact, it should have been very much greater, since large sums which were voted for specific purposes were not expended. It was impossible to expend some of those votes, because the necessary legislation had not been passed by Parliament. Those items are included as expenditure, although they have not been expended, and as a consequence the actual surplus is very much less than that set out in the Budget
A decrease in Customs receipts is expected this year. Before I come to that may I say that a large surplus is not necessarily a good thing. If due to careful and wise administration, it is all right, but if it results from over-taxation of the community, then it is all wrong. The Government should not take more out of the community in the way of taxation than is required. It is no use building up surpluses to play with in the future. I do not know why the Government expects a decrease in Customs receipts this year, and I do not believe there will be a decrease. In other countries, particularly in those that, felt the war severely, there is a growing realization of the necessity for expanding their export trade. If they can readjust themselves so as to resume their normal, or even fifty per cent, of their normal, activities, they must export .large quantities of goods. Per head of its population, Australia is one of the best buying countries in the world. The people of Australia can afford to buy more per head than the people of any other country, not excepting the United States of America. The countries that need an export trade will look to Australia as a field for their exportable products. It is more than likely that they will be prepared to export cheaply for the next two or three years, and that being so, I cannot agree that there is likely to be any very great decrease , in Customs revenue. There is therefore no necessity to consider an increase in taxation. One of the complaints I have to make against the Budget is that it does not propose to decrease taxation to the extent that it should. Indeed, judging by .the utterances of a Minister, there is a fear that taxation may be increased in the near future. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr, Austin Chapman) went to Sydney a little while ago and spoke at a dinner of the Commercial Travellers’ Association. He said he “ hoped “ there would be no necessity to increase taxation. While the people of this country are looking for a decrease in taxation, and expecting it in view of the Budget proposals, the Minister for Customs merely “hopes” that there will be no necessity to add to it.
After that criticism I wish to congratulate the Government, upon the fact that the national debt has been reduced during the year by £5,074,193. It is to me always a matter for regret when I find that our huge national debt has been increased to any degree, and the fact that it has been possible to reduce it in one year to . the extent stated, is a matter for sincere congratulation. The actual reduction of our public debt is greater than the figure quoted indicates. The note issue has undergone a gradual but steady deflation. The value of the notes in circulation in June, 1921, was £58,228,070 10s., while in June, 1923, twoyearslater, the issue had decreased to £52,102,241 10s., representing an actual reduction of £6,125,829. In addition the proportion ofactual reserve to notes has steadily risen from 32.29 per cent, in June, 1917, to 47.40 per cent, in June, 1923. The notes in actual circulation last June amounted to £23,200,490, while the banks held £28,901,751. Those figures show that the proportion of notes held by the banks is greater than is necessary to provide for the normal requirements of the country. We ought to congratulate ourselves upon the fact that we are approaching a normal gold basis of currency; that will be a good thing for this country, and, if a gold basis were adopted throughout the world, it would be good for the world. Of the many countries in the world, it seems that Australia will be the first in whichthe normal gold basis of currency will be reached. It would be interesting, if I had the time, to reflect upon the position that will be reached by the world in a comparatively short period by reason of the fact that the demand for gold for currency purposes is increasing each year, while the supply of gold from the mines is decreasing. Gold is becoming more and more valuable because the demand for it for currency purposes is growing faster than the supply.
– The demand for gold for industrial and other purposes is also increasing.
– That is so, but I am dealing particularly with currency. Owing to the closing of mines which supplied gold in the past, and to the decreased output of the mines which have remained open, it is within the bounds of possibility that before many years have passed we shall find that there is no gold currency.
– Would that matter much ?
– I do not believe that it would, provided we hold what gold we have. That is our security against the paper issue. The idea entertained by some honorable senators, and by many other people, unfortunately, that we should issue paper money ad lib., without regard to its actual value, has already led countries to ruin. It would lead this country to ruinif we adopted it. It is one of the factors which, more than anything else, are retarding Germany’s reestablishment. It would be a fine thing if we could print enough notes to nay off our national debt, and then start afresh.
– Does the honorable senator consider that Germany’s position is analogous to ours?
– Not to-day. If, as has been advocated by an honorable senator, the printing presses were set to work and enough notes were printed to do various things-
– Who said that?
– It is in Mansard, and can be quoted. The statement was made a week or two ago by my honorable friend, Senator McDougall.
– That is not so.
– I took particular notice of the remark, and decided to refer to it when discussing the Budget. He advocates an almost unlimited use of the printing press for the note issue, and an almost unlimited note issue. That would spell financial and industrial suicide to this country, and I congratulate the Government upon the fact that the note issue has been reduced, and is being reduced each year. I hope it will continue to be reduced until a par condition has again been reached.
– That statement is like the rotten lie which the honorable senator gave to the press of Sydney on Monday.
– I did not give a lie to anybody. There is another aspect of the note issue that needs some explaining. The Budget tells us that the net increased profit on the note issue for the year was £7,107. I cannot understand how this increased profit was obtained, in view of the fact that the issue has been materially reduced. Looking at the matter superficially, it would seem that a reduced issue should be accompanied by a reduced profit. I should like to know how it has been done.
I wish to refer to one or two economies which have been effected in Government Departments. The expenditure of the Prime Minister’s Department decreased by £147,621; of the Home and Territories Department by £94,818; of the Defence Department by £473,135; of the Postmaster-General’s Department by £114,000; and of the Health Department by £22,000. I should like to be quite sure that the economies in the Defence Department have not been effected at the cost of efficiency. I am more than afraid that a great deal of the efficiency of the Defence Department has gone overboard in this mad scurry for economy in a Department which ought, at all costs, to be maintained at the highest possible efficiency. This country has to provide for its effective defence against possible aggression. The money we spend on defence each year is an insurance premium that we ought not to hesitate to pay. There has been an insistent demand for a long time that the Defence Department should be cut down, until I fear that it is carrying more than its share of the burden of economy. Economies are all right provided we do not pay too high a price for them. I hope that the Government, and honorable members generally, will look very closely into this matter. I, personally, intend to do so. We have gone much too far with our Defence Department economies, in view of the world’s position generally, and I hope there will be no more retrenchment in that direction. The Postmaster-General’s Department shows a very substantial surplus. That is not exactly as it ought to be. We should not look to that Department for huge profits, and a profit of over £100,000 in a year is too much. The Government is evidently of the same opinion, for it has announced a reduction in the rates of postage. That will probably mean that such a big profit willnot be earned next year. There has also been an economy to the extent of £22,000 in the Health Department, which, I have reason to know, is doing a very fine work. I believe that future generations will concede that the money we have spent and are spending upon our Health Department will give a better return than expenditure in any other direction. I hope, therefore, that the economy in this magnificent Department has not been effected at the expense of efficiency.
Expenditure on war pensions shows an increase of over £100,000. I welcome that increase. It is undoubtedly true that many war pensions paid have proved quite inadequate for the needs of individuals concerned, especially in the case of widows and other dependants.
– Why did not the honorable senator support an amendment in the last Parliament to increase war pensions ?
– In season and out of season I have urged that the position of our war pensioners should be improved. Perhaps the honorable senator is not aware that in this Parliament there is a non-party committee of soldier members, including members representing Labour, engaged in watching the interests of returned soldiers. We have made repeated requests to the Government in respect of various matters which affect our returned soldiers, including this question of war pensions. As I have shown, there was an increase last year of £100,000, and I hope that in future, if the necessity arises, the Government will not hesitate to give further assistance.
There are a number of other matters to which I might direct attention, but I have no desire to detain honorable senators too long. The attitude of the Government towards the primary producers is one in which I am deeply interested. In view of the composition of the Ministry, I examined their proposals very carefully to see in what direction they intended to afford relief to our primary producers. I regret that, so far as I am’ able to see, the Budget contains only three proposals that directly concern our primary producers. It is proposed to introduce a Bill to abolish the land tax on Crown leaseholds, to abolish the duty on sulphur, thus insuring the manufacture of cheaper superphosphate, and to provide for an advance of £250,000 to small holders for the purchase of wire netting. So far as they go, those proposals are all right, but I regret that further relief is not to be given. No section of the community offers a better return for money expended. It has been said that our primary producers carry the cities upon their backs. To some extent they do. If they are prosperous, our cities, likewise, are prosperous, and business people throughout the Commonwealth are doing well. On the other hand, if our primary producers, through unfavorable seasons, or other causes, are having a hard time, so also are other sections of our community. The Government should do everything possible to grant them relief in the matter of taxation, and in respect of other burdens that have been placed upon them. I hope that, as time goes on, the Government will realize more fully the pressing used for further relief being given to our primary producers.
The Budget, speaking generally, evidences a desire on the part of the Government to encourage individual effort. The Ministry realize, as also do most people, that the prosperity of any community depends upon the degree of freedom allowed to individual effort in commercial and industrial enterprises. The Government propose, therefore, to encourage private enterprise in such a way as to insure the development of this country on sound and satisfactory lines. Our friends opposite, members of the Labour party, do not agree with this doctrine. They do not approve of individual effort. This divergence of opinion marks the clear line of demarcation between us. We do ; they do not. They look forward to the great day, according to their point of view, when they shall reach their objective - the socialization of industry and the means of production, distribution, and exchange. We believe ‘that when that day dawns, it will see the end of individual effort and of everything that is worth while. We stand fast in our desire to maintain the liberty of- the individual, to encourage private enterprise, and to better the conditions of our> people in order to make this country what it should be - a place fit for white men to live in.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Duncan, and I was particularly struck by his remark that the workers of Australia were very well off and in comfortable circumstances. I do not agree with him. The honorable senator, to prove his assertion, quoted statistics relating to Savings Bank deposits. I cannot follow the honorable senator in that line of reasoning. The average worker in. the Commonwealth is not as well off, and is not as comfortable, as he should be.
– He is more comfortable in Australia than he would be in any other country in the world.
– There we have the “parrot cry.” Is it any consolation to a worker who is on the bread-line iu the Commonwealth to be told that the workers in other parts of the world are below the bread-line? This is the point to which I direct attention, and in my reply to Senator Duncan I turn to the report of the Royal Commission on the basic wage. That Royal Commission, I remind honorable senators, was appointed by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes).
– Is that the Piddington Commission?
– Yes. The exPrime Minister, when appointing the Commission, which was thoroughly representative of employers and employees, declared that the Government would give effect to its recommendation. Unfortunately, they did not honour the undertaking.
– What would have happened if the Government had done so?
– The employers would have received a little less profit, and the workers would have had a little more comfort. If that recommendation had been adopted and the highest basic wage - in the case of Sydney it was fixed at £5 13s. Id. per week-had been paid generally in industry, even then the workers would not have been in that comfortable position which Senator Duncan would have us believe they are in today.
– If that basic wage were paid, where would the public come in?
– Who are the public?
– The producer is one section.
– The workers comprise the public of Australia.
– I am one of the public.
– Living on whom?
– On the rest of the public.
– I do not think that Senator Thompson is a drone in the hive of industry. I repeat that Senator Duncan was very wide of the mark when he stated that the workers of Australia were well off. He went further, and contended that there was no poverty; but at this time last year I noticed poverty iD Western Australia as a result of unemployment, and I have seen poverty in Melbourne from the same cause. I haveobserved children ‘ going to school bare-, footed.
– A very healthy thing, too!
– Sometimes children go barefooted from choice.
– In ninety-nine cases out of every 100 it is due to stern necessity. The breadwinner has to work forty-eight hours for the wonderful remuneration of £4 or £4 10s.
– The average working week is now less than forty-eight hours.
– Senator Guthrie, presumably, is among those who oppose the reduction of the number of working hours from forty-eight to fortyfour per week.
– I believe in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay; but the average number of hours worked is now 46.22 per week.
– I ask how a workman receiving £4 10s. a week can be expected to rear, educate, and clothe a family of three or four children, when he has to pay a weekly rental of £1 2s. 6d. to £1 10s.?
– Rent amounts to more than that.
– From 10s. to 15s. in Queensland.
– But Queensland has a Labour Government. If each of the States were in that happy position, the workers might be in the comfortable position alleged by Senator Duncan. I am proud to say that the Queensland Government has set an example to the world in domestic legislation. There is no Government in the British Empire that has been so bold, and at the same time so beneficent, in its legislation as the Labour Government of Queensland has been during the last ten or twelve years.
– There is more unemployment in Queensland than in any other State.
– When Senator Thompson’s friends - the London financiers - refused to lend money to the Premier of Queensland, because he refused to repeal certain legislation that affected Senator Thompson’s friends, Mr. Theodore floated a loan in the United States of America at a rate onehalf or three-fourths per cent, lower than was demanded by the London financiers.
– If I were the honorable senator, I should not say too much about what the Queensland Premier did in the way of repudiation.
– I should like to entertain honorable senators for the rest of my speech with what has been done by Mr. Theodore in Queensland. He stands alone as an Australian, and the people of Queensland quite recently have again shown their faith in him.
The only congratulation I can offer the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is upon the fact that the Budget has been brought down earlier than hitherto.
– Simply, because the shutters of Parliament are soon to be put up.
– After the remarks of Senator Duncan concerning the Treasurer’s failure to effect economies, I feel that it is unnecessary for me to say anything on that subject.
The Budget indicates that the Government intends to increase the invalid and old-age pensions by 2s. 6d. per week. This news will be particularly welcome to old-age pensioners. No honorable senator will dispute the fact that the cost of living is very high. It is 50 per cent, greater than it was during the pre-war years, despite the fact that Senator Duncan has assured us that the worker is well off. The average wages of the worker, as a matter of fact, have not increased in proportion. The oldage pensioner has had no Wages Board or Arbitration Court to which he could appeal. He has been endeavouring to manage on the miserable pittance of 15s. per week. In 1919 the Labour party suggested that if it were returned to power it would increase the pension to £1 per week. After a lapse of nearly four years the present Government has decided to increase the dole by the small amount of 2s. 6d. per week. It could well have made the payment £1, and it might have gone even further and made the increased pension retrospective. With a surplus at its disposal the Government could have provided even a pension for widows and orphans. Mothers struggling with two or three children of tender years, with the bread-winners in the grave, are deserving of every consideration at the hands of Parliament. When it was previously suggested that widows and orphans should receive the pension, the constitutionality of the proposal was questioned, and I understand that the legal opinion given was that it would be quite within the bounds of the Constitution for the Commonwealth Government to grant such pensions. I suggest to the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce), that generosity should be shown to people who are entitled to the pension and are inmates of philanthropic institutions. If a person has once been an inmate of the Consumptive Sanatorium, at Wooroloo, in Western Australia, and after his discharge finds his way to the Old Men’s Home, the pension is denied him. Why should a man who is stricken with the disease of consumption, and has been an inmate of a consumptive sanatorium, be deprived of his right to the pension? The Government should consider the advisability of amending the Act to remove that disability.
– If- he received the pension prior to going into the Home, he would still get it, but not otherwise.
– Some people in the Old Men’s Home at Claremont will receive the extra 2s. 6d., but those who have been discharged from a sanatorium will be deprived of the benefit. About 50 per cent, of the inmates are pensioners. The Commonwealth allows an amount per week for the maintenance of each person, and another 2s. is granted to the inmate, making a total of 12s. 6d. Why should these people have to submit to a reduction of 2s. 6d. in their pensions on admission to the Home? At present the State is subsidizing the Commonwealth to the extent of the balance of the cost of the pensioners’ maintenance.
– What is the cost of that maintenance?
– About 10s. 6d. Roughly, 50 per cent, of the inmates, a great number of whom are qualified for an invalid pension or old-age pension, are debarred from receiving the pension. These men are placed in an invidious position compared with the men for whom the Commonwealth pays maintenance. Inmates who’ are transferred from the Wooroloo Consumptive Sanatorium, which is a proclaimed institution under the Pensions Act, are permanently debarred from a pension if they were resident in the Wooroloo Sanatorium immediately prior to their admission to the Old
Men’s Home. If a person transfers from the Hospital for the Insane at Claremont, which is not a proclaimed institution, he is similarly debarred.
– Why is he debarred ?
– That is the law. I have obtained this information from an authoritative source, and it shows that persons transferred from the Wooroloo Sanatorium are debarred because they have been residents of a proclaimed institution; but when transferred from the Hospital for the Insane, which is not a proclaimed institution, the same applies.
– There must be some misunderstanding.
– I can assure’ the right honorable senator that the gentleman who has supplied the information - and whose name I am prepared to give if the Minister so desires - has had nine or ten years’ experience in connexion with this work, and would not make an inaccurate statement. There should be no discrimination. The fact that a man has been an inmate of a sanatorium should not debar him -from obtaining what he is entitled to under the Act.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– After the cost of maintenance in an institution has been paid, *I would give them whatever balance remains. Some pensioners who smoke require a little tobacco, and others allowed out of an institution may need a little light refreshment. These privileges should be allowed.
– -They receive an allowance.
– Yes, 2s. 6d. a week.
– But they should receive the full amount of the pension, less the cost incurred in maintaining them in the institution.
– Would there be any residue after their weekly allowance was paid?
– That would depend upon the cost of maintaining them in the respective institutions. I have already stated that the proposed increase of 2s. 6d. a week is inadequate.
In the Budget speech the following paragraph appears : -
The question of the disposal of this surplus has been very carefully considered by the Government, which feels that there is no necessity to apply the whole of it in redemption of the public debt, because definite arrangements have been made for an adequate sinking fund. It is proposed that it shallbe dealt with in the following way: -
The proposal is that one-third of the surplus shall be devoted towards the reduction of the national debt, one-third set aside for capital works of the Department of Defence, if such works should become necessary owing to failure of the forthcoming. Imperial Conference to formulate a scheme for Empire defence that will satisfy Australia, and one-third to remain in the Treasury in order that increased taxation will not be necessary as a result of any adjustment with the States, or of an unexpected shortage of Customs and Excise revenue.
One of the best ways in which the surplus - if it is a surplus - could be utilized would be to increase the invalid and oldage pensions to at least £1 per week, make the payments retrospective, and provide for the payment of pensions to widows and orphans.
– Expenditure on pensions is fairly heavy at present.
– It is not heavier than the occasion demands.
– It is fairly weighty.
– Yes, but when we realize that we are expending huge sums on weapons of destruction and on armaments, it is not large.
– On defence, and not on destruction.
– Defence might mean the destruction of human life.
– We trust that the occasion will never arise when weapons of defence will have to be utilized.
– Yes, but we are under an obligation to help those people who made this nation what it is. Even if it costs a large sum to-day the money is well spent, and the increase I have suggested would assist these men and women to spend their remaining days in comfort. I do not think Senator Reid would quibble at the expenditure of £500,000 or £1,000,000 in improving the conditions of these people.
– Australia is carrying a very heavy burden in this respect at present.
– That is so; but many of those people for whom I am now appealing are fathers and mothers of men who went to Prance to assist in the great conflict. They have now lost their only support. The nation is not helping them to the extent that it should do.
– But war pensions are paid to assist such persons.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the war pensions are adequate?
– I do not say they are in all cases. The honorable senator was suggesting that the mothers and fathers of those who went to the war were not shown sufficient consideration.
– War pensions and old-age pensions should be considered quite apart.
– So they are.
– One should not be regarded as a set-off against the other. Largely in consequence of the agitation of Labour members, that is not done today.
– Because of the fairness of the Nationalist Government.
– The honorable senator was not in this Parliament in 1915-16, when this matter was debated without his assistance or the support of the Nationalist party, to which he belongs. In spite of the opposition of a section in Parliament, with which the honorable senator is associated, war pensions and invalid and old-age pensions arc now regarded as being quite distinct. A perusal of Hansard will prove that what I am saying is correct.
Another paragraph in the Budget speech reads -
There were not any notable differences between the amounts of revenue estimated and the actual collections, except in the case of Customs and Excise, which yielded more than £5,000,000 above the estimate, and above the receipts from that source in the previous year.
We have been informed that because of the existence of a Tariffwall around Australia we are self-contained; but the so-called wall cannot be even a hoarding, when the amount of revenue received last year by way of Customs duties on apparel and textiles amounted to £1,310,920.
– I think it was more than that.
– I am quoting the Treasurer’s figures. I do not wish to initiate a fiscal discussion at this juncture, but nearly all of the articles I have mentioned - and which the Treasurer also quoted - could be produced in Australia. Instead of importing them, we should be exporting them. I am a Protectionist, but our alleged Protectionist Tariff appears to be more of a revenue Tariff. I would rather support Free Trade than a revenue Tariff.
– Does the honorable senator think we should have a higher Tariff?
– There is no Protection at all. The Minister, I know, is a Free Trader at heart. He was converted to the New Protection policy for a while, but abandoned that as he has abandoned other ideals, The Tariff has not had any effect upon Australian industries, and instead of importing textiles and wearing apparel, we ought to be exporting them..
– We ought, at least, to be manufacturing our own.
– We should manufacture all we require, and also be able to export a certain quantity. If we handled the materials at our disposal, we should be able to do that. We could then export to other countries.
I understand that it is proposed that the Taxation Department of the Commonwealth shall be transferred to the States. What action is it proposed to take in regard to the Commonwealth taxation officers, male and female, who will be retrenched ? Will due regard be paid to their term of service with the Commonwealth ? Will they receive any compensation for the accrued rights that they may lose ? Will compensation be paid to the families of the officers who will be affected ? I have received representations from returned soldiers, many of whom will be placed in a rather awkward position. These men have been for some time in the Commonwealth Taxation Department, and they will not be fitted to go on the labour market and compete with the average man.
I desire to bring under the notice of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) a superannuation matter affecting the widows of five officers in Western Australia. I have received from the secretary of the Western Australian branch of the Telegraphists’ Union a letter of which the following is a paragraph: -
In a general sense the Superannuation Act provides (section 38) that where an employee, having ten years service, dies between 31st December, 1920, and 5th January, 1923, a pension is payable to his widow and children. This applies in all States. However, later on (sections 51 to 58) the Act makes special provision for employees with pension rights, apart from, and existing prior to, the Superannuation Act, to transfer or convert their rights, or to come under the Act for the limited purpose of a pension for their widows and children.
This part of the Act was evidently designed to prevent employees being entitled to two pensions upon retirement, and it was thought wise that persons with pension rights already in existence must convert same, or only come under the Superannuation Act under certain conditions.
Further on the letter states -
However, section 51, which was designed to prevent payment of two pensions to one person, has had the effect of nullifying section 38 as far as officers with previously existing rights are concerned, and has affected widows and families of some of our late members (who had long and meritorious service) in an adverse manner, simply because the employees died before they had an opportunity of coming under the provision of the Superannuation Act.
The officers referred to were Messrs. P. McKnight, A. J. Besley, telegraphist; D. W. Thomas, clerical assistant; W. F. Cole, telegraphist: and G. P. Marks, clerical assistant. The letter points out - Had these officers not been entitled to a pension under a Western Australian State Act, their widows and children would have received the benefits, but, as it is, their dependants get nothing.
Representations have been made, and we are informed it is proposed to amend the Act in the direction desired. As there are only five such cases - and there can never be any more, seeing that the time limit has expired - we trust that you will use every endeavour . - . to see that justice is done.
J The president of the Superannuation Fund Management Board (Mr. F. Eoss), replying to the secretary of this organization, stated -
I agree with you in the view that the widow of an employee with pension rights who receives no consideration in respect of the death of her husband, should receive the same treatment as .the widow of an employee without pension rights who dies in the Service.
The matter has not been lost sight of, and the question of amending the Act in the direction desired is now under consideration.
I wrote to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) on this matter, and I have received the following reply: -
Referring to previous correspondence in connexion with request for compensation for the widows of five officers who recently died in Western Australia, namely, P. McKnight, A. J. Besley, W. F Cole, D. W. Thomas, and G. F. Marks, I desire to inform you that the Treasurer thinks that the benefits of the superannuation law should not be extended at present.
Before the session ends the Superannuation Act should b.e amended to enable compensation to be paid to the dependants of these five officers. We are rushing legislation through at a break-neck pace, . and I think that we might pause for a moment, before Parliament rises and the delegates leave for the Imperial Conference, to amend the Superannuation Act in the direction suggested by the president of the Superannuation Fund Management Board. I would not suggest the amendment of the Act if it meant the perpetuation of such cases ; but under the Act as it stands there cannot be a similar case.
– Is the honorable senator sure that there are no such cases in any other State?
– Western Australia is the only State affected. These five widows and their dependants are unprovided for because of two conflicting sections in the Superannuation Act. The Senate will rise in a few weeks and reassemble some time next year. Meantime, what are these five women and their dependants to do? In all sincerity, I commend this matter to the Leader of the Senate, and ask him to see if it is not possible for the Government to bring down a short amending Bill before the session closes.
– I desire to address myself to the Budget and to some extraordinary assertions which were made by certain honorable senators opposite during the debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. It is regrettable that such a doleful picture should have been painted of this great country, which is more prosperous, gives a greater equality of opportunity, and affords a brighter outlook generally, than any other country. Honorable senators opposite have advertised this country throughout the world as a poor, miserable place, in which everybody is downtrodden. Senator McDougall Was particularly pessimistic; he had nothing good to say of this wonderful Democracy and of the opportunities which it affords to every one. I thought also that the criticism of the immigrants coming to Australia - people of our own kith and kin coming from the British Empire - was most unfair. It was stated by some honorable senators that those immigrants were weak mentally and physically.
– I did not say that.
– That statement was made during the debate. As a mat’ter of fact, as a member of the executive of the New Settlers’ League, and one who wishes to hold out the hand of friendship to our kith and kin from across the seas, I have had the privilege of meeting on -their arrival many of the immigrants who have come to this great, empty country. Both physically and mentally they are splendid specimens of our race. It is lamentable that the statement should go forth to the world that, not only is this country not fit for them, but also they are not fit to be citizens of this country. . The greatest necessity of the British Empire to-day is undoubtedly a redistribution of its white people. It is urgently necessary for the Commonwealth to have more people. Unless we increase our population we shall have great difficulty in developing and defending Australia.
– We are all agreed on that.
– If the honorable senator will refer to his speech on the Address-in-Reply he will find that he painted a very doleful picture of this country. Instead of being proud of his country, as we on this side are-
– I am prouder of it than is the honorable senator.
– I am an Australian native.
– So am I.
– I am proud of Australia, and of the British Empire, to which we belong.
– In that respect, I am as proud as is the honorable senator.
- Senator McDougall did not show that pride in his speech. He painted a picture which would condemn this country as a sorry land in which to live. Facts and figures, on the contrary, show that the Commonwealth of Australia is extraordinarily prosperous. There are hundreds of thousands of ex-service men in England, Ireland, and Scotland who are available to-day to help us to develop and defend this country. In 1.908, according to the Commonwealth Y ear-Book, the total production of this country amounted to £164,934,000, and in 1920- 21, it had increased to £402,208,000. The imports in 1913, prior to the war, were valued at £79,750,000, and in 1921- 22, at £101,064,000. On the other hand, we exported in 1913, goods to the value of £78,572,000, which consisted mostly of primary products. In 1921-22, that figure jumped to £127,923,000. The value of the goods manufactured in Australia increased from £28,905,000 in 1910, to £68,655,000 in 1920-21. The best and fairest indication of the prosperity of a country is the Savings Bank deposits of its people. In this connexion we find, as Senator Duncan has shown, that a very large percentage of the population of Australia has Savings Bank accounts. In the year 1901, which is little more than twenty years ago, the deposits in the Savings Banks of Australia amounted to £30,883,000, whereas in 1922 which is the last year for which figures are available, they had increased to £162.273,000. It must be remembered that those who use the Savings Banks are mostly of the working class. Savings Banks deposits in 1901, amounted to £8 3s. per head of the population, and last year to £28 2s.10d. per head. That figure does not represent the average deposits of the depositors in the Savings Banks, but the Savings Bank deposits averaged over the total population of the Commonwealth. I find that in the year 1912, the deposits in the banks of issue were over £84,000,000, the Savings Banks deposits were £66,000,000, and the total deposits and investments in war savings certificates were £216,763,000. For the past year they were £413,903,000, which was nearly double the amount ten years previously. The savings of the people of Australia in the last ten years, despite the war, and owing largely to the fact that a National Government has been in power, increased by 100 per cent.
Senator Needham referred to an alleged land monopoly in this country, and other honorable senators opposite have made similar allegations. Those statements are, of course, nonsense, because the facts are that less than 10 per cent, of the total area of Australia is alienated, and of the 718,000 existing estates only 12,182 pay the whole of the land tax. Senator Grant is in favour of abolishing the exemption. Farmers are exempt from land tax upon valuations up to £5,000. We, on this side, believe that it is better to collect the tax from the largest owners. I shall read a letter to the press of Melbourne in which I am taken to task for saying, in my speech on the AddressinReply, that only 10 per cent, of the land was alienated. In this letter the writer states that, according to the official Year-Book for 1922, the land alienated and in process of alienation is not as much as 10 per cent, of our spacious national real estate, and that a stock-taking would show that, of a total area of 1,903,000,000 acres,the land alienated and in process of alienation was 173,000,000 acres, or less than 10 per cent. Considering the enormous size of Australia, and the fertility of its soil, that statement proves that there is any quantity of land available for immigrants, as well as for our own people.
– The Premier of
Western Australia has said that there is in that State as much good land available as has been settled.
– Of course. That is true, not only of Western Australia, but also of the other States.. Australia is a very fertile country, but one would conclude, by the speeches of honorable senators opposite, that it was a barren waste, and that its people were downtrodden and badly treated. We want British people to come out here.
– In my speech I said that, in certain conditions, we wanted them in unlimited numbers.
– In that case the honorable senator must define the conditions.
– One of the conditions laid down by members of the Opposition, as precedent to bringing immigrants here, appears to be that we must not bring in any bricklayers until every watchmaker in the country is in employment.
– Members of the Opposition contend that certain artisans should not be brought here. Every one knows that thereis a tremendous shortage in Australia of all kinds of artisans. I notice in to-day’s newspaper that Mr. C. J. Langford, president of the Master Builders’ Association, in proposing the health of the Federal Ministry, at a banquent given by the association, said -
He had to speak of one sad mistake made in proceeding with the building of the Federal Capital at Canberra, when builders were hard pressed to obtain men to work in the trade. The work would take menfrom all the Australian capitals at a time when they were most required. This was to build a place 40 miles from nowhere. Had the work been postponed for five years the demand for labour would probably have been easier, and the work would probably have been carried out for half what it would cost to-day.
I know, from practical experience, that certain classes of labour are unobtainable in the country. I know gentlemen who have for two years been advertising contracts for fencing in. Victoria. And I have been trying for six months to get a 2-mile rabbit-proof fence erected. I cannot find a man to put up the fence, and I have the material lying on the ground. In certain industries there is an extreme shortage of labour. Farmers cannot obtain labour, and they have the greatest possible difficulty in gathering their harvests. We want hundreds of thousands of people to settle on the land.
– Does the honorable senator insinuate that the large number of men at the Labour Bureau do not want work ?
– I do not say that for a moment. I deplore the fact that there are men unemployed; but the amount of unemployment in Australia today is very much less than it was in previous years.
– Has the honorable senator applied to the Labour Bureau for men to erect his fence?
– Yes ; I cannot get a fencer in Melbourne. When the Government made a large sum of money available for road works in the country, and advertised for men, only eighty out of the thousands who had registered as unemployed were willing to go out of Melbourne to work.
– The advertisement asked for “ diggers only.”
– That is not so. The money was granted for the unemployed. The official Y ear-Books show that the percentage of unemployment is lower in Australia than in any other country. In 1914, the year prior to the war, unemployment in the trades unions in Australia amounted to 11 per cent.; in “1921 it was 9.56 per cent.; and at the present time it is 7.2 per cent. Honorable senators opposite seem to think that unemployment is the fault of the National Government, and they have boasted about the condition of affairs in Queensland, which is the only State in Australia where a Labour Government is in power. Statistics show that the percentage of unemployment is greater in Queensland than in any other State of the Commonwealth.
– Why is that so?
– Because of the misgovernment and mismanagement of the Labour Government which is in power there. Honorable senators opposite have suggested that the workers of Australia are not well off. They are, in fact, better off, in proportion to the cost of living, than the people of any other country. I think it was Senator Needham who said people worked forty-eight hours a week for what he called a “paltry average wage of £4 14s. 6d.” The facts are, that in 1914 the average hours worked in Australia were 48.87 per man per week, and the average wage paid was £2 15s. 7d. Statistics for the year 1921 show that the average number of hours worked by the people of Australia had dropped in that year to 46.22 per week - I do not say that I deplore that reduction - and that the average wages had increased to £4 14s. 6d., which compares very favorably with the wages paid in any other country. If that average were maintained, and we could insure that everybody would be employed, the workers should be satisfied.
Nothing has contributed to the increase in the cost of living so much as the policy of strikes, ca’ canny, and “go slow.” Naturally, if, in the building of a house, bricklayers decide to lay only a certain number of bricks per day, the cost of the building must be appreciably increased to the owner, whether he be a man of means or a worker who has saved sufficient to build a home for himself or a house from which he hopes, in his old age, to derive revenue from rent by way of interest on his savings. To meet this increased cost the owner must demand as very much higher rent if he is to get even the moderate return of 5 per cent. Nothing is damaging this country so much as is the pernicious policy of encouraging industrial strife. Unfortunately, the workers are being misled by paid agitators, who realize that their comfortable billets at £5 or £6 per week will be endangered if conditions approximating to industrial peace are allowed to prevail in Australia. Thus, they persist in fomenting trouble, and incidentally they are largely responsible for keeping up the high cost of living to the workers. In the consideration of this problem I want to be quite fair. I admit that, owing to the unfavorable seasonal conditions, the cost of meat, par;ticularly in the southern States, is deplorably high. We have experienced a very bad season. The rain did not come until May or June, and as we cannot hope to fatten bullocks, or even sheep, for many months after rain falls, we have had to import from New Zealand - a course which every one must deplore, especially in view of the fact that in the northern half of Australia cattle are saleable only at a price that does not cover the cost of production. Owing to the tick pest in Queensland, there is an embargo upon the importation of live-stock from the northern State, and so we have to look elsewhere for our immediate needs.
Senator McDougall, in the course of his remarks upon land settlement, declared that the land purchased for the settlement of immigrants or returned soldiers cost £8 per acre. I have taken the trouble to examine the Y ear-Book on this point, and I find that the 3,895,849 acres of freehold land purchased by the various Governments of Australia cost, on the average, £3 16s. per acre. That is much below the figure quoted by the honorable senator. Even in Victoria - the smallest and most closely populated State, where land is much higher than elsewhere in the Commonwealth - the average cost of all land, including city lands, bought for repatriation of our soldiers- and for closer settlement purposes generally, is £7 per acre. That is high enough, but, in the circumstances, it cannot be des.scribed as exorbitant. I do not want to see the price of land increased through Government re-purchases for the settlement of either immigrants, or Australian citizens, f agree that before we encourage immigration for land development we should make land available for our own people; hut I maintain that an abundance of good Crown lands is available for the settlement of not only our own people, but also thousands from overseas. What is possible has been well demonstrated in the mallee country of Victoria. The farmers there are as prosperous, on the average, as are producers in any other part of the Commonwealth. Thirty years ago that portion of Victoria, speaking generally, was regarded as absolutely useless ; but, as a result of a policy of water conservation and distribution, the_use of fertilizers, and modern methods of cultivation, it is now one of our most important wheat belts. The Wimmera United Water Trust has no less than 6,000 miles of water channels for the distribution of water throughout the northwestern corner of this State. What has been done there is an example of what is possible in almost any other part of Australia.
I agree with honorable senators opposite, that it is useless to encourage immigrants to take up land unless we have a comprehensive and sound land settlement policy to insure their success. We can afford to spend a vast sum of money on such reproductive works as the construction of railways and roads, the conserva- ti on and distribution of water, and the establishment of postal, ‘ telegraphic, and telephonic facilities to malco ‘ life in the country worth living. I hope that a great deal of attention will be given to this matter in the future. The statistical returns concerning production, earnings per head of population, deposits per head and gross totals of deposits in our Savings Banks, reveal a condition of prosperity that is absolutely astounding.
Australia is essentially a country for primary production. We are capable of producing immense quantities of raw products required by the rest of the world. Chief amongst these is wool. Honorable senators opposite, who so often declare for the policy of “ bursting up “ our sheep walks, and who so often decry the wool industry of the Commonwealth, will no doubt be surprised to know that at the present time over 80,000 families are engaged in the industry, and that in value our exports of wool contribute very materially to the total of exports. The actual figures, which are truly illuminating, are as follows: -
These figures show that, for the financial year that has just closed, the exports of Australian wool represented in value nearly half of our total exports. They illustrate the enormous importance of the wool industry.
– Can the honorable senator give figures showing what the pastoralists made out of the wool between the years 1912 and 1922 ?
– Fortunately for Australia there has been a very keen demand for our products, and the price of wool, like the price of other com.modities has advanced.
– And still the pastoralists refuse to pay fair wages foi cutting the wool.
– No “labour in the world is paid better than the shearers of Australia.
– Yes it is. Can the honorable senator now give some -figures as to the price of the wool ?
-I can. The average price of wool produced in Australia for the five years prior to the war, was 9.7d. per lb., and the average price during the period of the appraisement scheme, when the Australian clip was sold to the Imperial Government, was 15Jd. per lb. For the financial year ended 30th June, 1923, the average price for all wool grown in Australia was 16d. per lb., an increase of a little over 60 per *nt.. compared with the pre-war average prices. This advance is considerably less than the percentage increase for all other raw commodities in the world. Figures relating to middling American cotton, which is wool’s greatest competitor, show that the average pre-war price was 4½d. per lb. and the latest quotation is about 15d. per lb., an increase of over 300 per cent., compared with an increase in the price of wool of about 60 per cent. It would be a good thing for Australia if wool were twice its present price because, as I have pointed but on many other occasions, the increased cost of raw wool in an all-wool suit of clothes is infinitesimal.
– Is it?
– Yes. The actual weight of raw wool in an all-wool suit of clothes is 71bs. Therefore, if the price of wool increased - by 6d. per lb. the actual increase in the cost of the raw material for an all-wool suit of clothes would be only 3s. 6d., and as the honorable ‘Senator knows,’ a decent all-wool suit costs from £12 to £13. I have repeatedly deplored the fact that although we produce the best wool in the world, and immense quantities of it, and by a high protective Tariff endeavour to encourage the allied secondary industries, we are still importing 75 per cent, of our requirements in woollen goods. . I am glad to be able to say, however, that as the result of the Protectionist policy of the Nationalist Government, woollen mills are springing up all over the Commonwealth. The number in Victoria has doubled during the last five years, and many factories are also being established elsewhere in Australia. The last company which I had the privilege of helping to float is a new woollen company in’ the south-east of South Australia. I am pleased to be able to say that I have just received a telegram stating that the company has been successfully floated and that a woollen mill is to be built at Mount Gambier. I should like to seewoollen mills established all over Australia. We are using only 3 to 4 per cent of the wool actually produced in the Commonwealth, and we aremanufacturing only 25 per cent, of our requirements. This anomaly is being rectified from day to day by the establishment of new factories. Geelong alone will soon have six mills in operation. I hope to see the day when Australia will not only manufacture the whole of its requirements in woollen goods, but will also export them on a considerable scale. As a matter of fact, Australian-made blankets are already being exported to the United States of America, . where they are admitted to be the best in the world, and where it is recognised to be to the advantage of the people to purchase them in preference to the American-made article.
– Our blankets should be the best, because we produce the best wool.
– That is perfectly true. I am sorry that there will be a serious decrease in the value of exports from the Commonwealth during the coming year. Senator Duncan remarked that he thought the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) was pessimistic in his estimate of the Customs receipts for the next twelve months. I do not share Senator Duncan’s opinion, because, I regret to say, I believe that there will be a serious falling off in our exports. Taking Australia’ generally, the season has been so unfavorable that there will probably be a decrease in the export of wool from 250,000 to 225,000 bales.
– The honorable senator should not overlook the huge stocks held in London.
– But the balance of trade this year has turned against us. Owing to climatic conditions, the intrinsic value per pound of the wool-clip will not be equal to what it was last year. We had a dry season up to a certain period, and, owing to the excess of rain that fell subsequently, the area under wheat will be less than the acreage sown in 1922. In Victoria it is estimated that the area under crop is from 33 to 40 per cent less than it was last year, and the crops prospects, unfortunately, are not very good. Although a lot is said about the season being a good one, it should be realized that the rain came too late. There will be a splendid growth of herbage and grass, and an abundant supply of water, but the fact remains that there will be a decrease in the production of wool, meat, and wheat, and consequently a shrinkage in our exports. The wheat market, moreover, is not as good to-day as it has been, therefore I foresee a very serious falling off in the value of Australian exports generally during the coming year. There will be less wool, less wheat, and less meat sent abroad.
Honorable senators have heard much stupid talk about “ bursting up “ the sheep-walks, and also about the “ beef barons.” Concerning this matterI desire to quote from a speech delivered by a well-known Labour parliamentarian from Queensland.
– The honorable senator is devoting a lot of attention to Labour.
– The remarks I am about to quote are perfectly true. Their author comes from Queensland, and knows what he is talking about. In reference to the cattle industry, he states -
Many of the properties have not paid working expenses during the last three or four years. With regard to the smaller men, they are in a very impecuniousposition. They have not got tie security the others hold, and consequently cannot get loans. In my travels through central Queensland many of them have asked me to try to get the opossum season opened, so that they could catch opossums for a living. Others have asked me to use my influence to get them a job, so that they could earn something to keep their homes together. That is the position of manymen in the cattle industry, not only in Queensland, but also in other parts of Australia. . . . Travelling amongst them, one realizes that to-day many of them are practically bankrupt. Even those in a large way of business are not making working expenses. They have large overdrafts. . . .
Those are the opinions of Mr.Forde, the honorable member for Capricornia.
I noted with interest the visit paid to Australia by Mr. Swift, of the United States of America. The fact of his visit, and the remarks made by him, filled me with misgiving. The cattle people of Australia, instead of being “beef barons,” are having a very lean time. As the speech I have just quoted indicates, they are so hard up in Queensland that they are prepared to catch opossums for a living. We all know of Swift’s great combine in the United States of America. I am as strenuously opposed to combines as any body in Australia, because I know perfectly well what America has suffered at the hands of meat combines. I fear that, on account of the low price of the Queensland cattle stations and meat works, and of cattle all over Australia, there is something significant in Mr. Swift’s visit to Australia. He inspected very many of the large cattle stations, and all the meat works. I only hope that he is not going to take advantage of the depressed condition of the industry in Australia by buying up those properties at the deplorable prices ruling to-day.
– Has the honorable senator noticed that cattle have just been sold at £70 a head at Bendigo?
– If the honorable senator had done me the honour of listening to the earlier part of my speech he would have heard me explain why the price of cattle in the southern parts of Australia is deplorably high. It is due to the fact that owing to adverse seasonal conditions nobody has any fat cattle. There is an abundant supply in the Northern Territory and Queensland; but unfortunately those cattle cannot be sent to the southern markets, and it is necessary to import bullocks from New Zealand. I deplore the high retail price of meat, but it is due entirely to the law of supply and demand. Owing to the bad season I sold quite well-bred cattle, within 30 miles of Melbourne, at £2 per head less than a month ago. Until quite recently they were in poor condition. Honorable senators should remember that it takes from six to nine months to fatten cattle.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8p.m.
– I was referring to the visit to Australia of Mr. Swift, the American meat magnate, and expressing my fears that it was not a coincidence that he should have visited the Commonwealth, and have inspected cattle properties and meat works when the cattle and meat industry was languishing. It behoves the Government of Australia to see that the American Meat Trust does not obtain control of the Australian cattle and meat industry, because it could do so at pre sent at a minimum expenditure, and at a price, which to that enormous Trust, would be insignificant. Unfortunately, the beef industry of Australia is at present in a deplorable position, but we trust that it will very soon recover.
I am prepared to admit that probably the American cattle, or, at any rate, the South American cattle, are better than ours; but I was rather amused with the cheap advice Mr. Swift, while here, gave to the cattle-raisers of Australia when he advocated the de-horning of cattle. That is a cruel and unnecessary process. We have very good hornless breeds in Australia. We have, for instance, the polled Angus, which is, from a purely beef -producing point of view, one of the best possible breeds. There is also the red poll, which is the best for general utility purposes. We can . also breed hornless Herefords and other types. I am in favour of breeding natural polled cattle rather than adopting the cruel process of dehorning. Mr. Swift also said that our sheep were not of the best quality, and that we should devote more of our time to improving our mutton breeds. I have made a study of this question, and having seen most American breeds of sheep, I consider that they are inferior to the Australian sheep. The American sheep may not be inferior from a mutton or early lambing viewpoint, but they are certainly not superior to ours. From a wool-producing viewpoint the American breeders are a hundred years behind the times as regards the quantity of wool produced per head, its value per lb., and the methods by which it is prepared for market. It is almost ludicrous that in such an enlightened country as America the woolproducers do not skirt or class their product, and tie it up with hay bands in ill - shaped, unpressed packages weighing up to 700 lbs. As a fact, most of the wool in the western States is contracted for by ‘ dealers at so much per lb. on the sheep’s back, and not sold by auction as it is in Australia. The contractor buys at so many cents per lb., and the wool is not classed at all. An Australian gentleman named Mr. Richards, of Sydney, while visiting the western States of America, has been instructing wool-growers in the construction of wool sheds, machineshearing, and also in the art of classing and properly preparing the wool for market. At last some of the Americans have started, disposing of their wool at auction in Boston. While the Americans are a hundred years behind Australia in this respect, it is very out of place for Mr. Swift to comment as he did on our methods.
T notice that the Government received from Customs and Excise during the last financial year the huge sum of £32,872,000. That, in my opinion, is too large a sum to obtain from that source. We have been over-importing, and, unfortunately, a high Tariff has not been the means of protecting some of our industries. When the Tariff was under consideration I voted in some cases for lower duties than were adopted, but the manufacturers in England during the last twelve months have been dumping large quantities of woollen goods into the Commonwealth. This exorbitant amount of revenue has been extracted from the people in the form of Customs and Excise duties in the one year; but the Government must realize that they cannot rely upon receiving in the future a similarly large amount. The revenue has been unduly inflated, and woollen goods have been dumped into this country - I honestly believe that they have been dumped - during the last twelve months. The value of apparel and textiles imported into Australia has actually amounted to £44,944,000, which is easily a record. The importation of woollen goods into Australia so freely during the last twelve months was due to two factors - I wish honorable senators to pay particular attention to this, because it is very important - one of them being that British manufacturers became acquainted with the propaganda with which Mr. Stirling Taylor and others are associated in connexion with the great secondary industry of wool manufacturing in Australia. The British manufacturers learned that we were contemplating the erection of many more woollen mills, and that policy did not suit the Yorkshire manufacturers or the Australian importing houses. A great many of the country mills established are, perhaps, undercapitalized, and are at present experiencing an anxious time.
I find, on making inquiries, that the wool manufacturers in England have, during the last year, been selling in England serges, which cost 21s. a yard to manufacture, at 4s. 6d. per yard. It is the British Government, and not the manufacturers, who are the losers, because the British Government are recouping the manufacturers from the war profits tax to the extent of 80 per cent. Therefore the British Government, which, is losing the money, is indirectly encouraging the dumping of goods in Australia. Serges . have been selling in Flinders-lane, and are still on the market, at lower prices than the cost in England of the yarn in the goods. I regret that that some of the British manufacturers are in league with certain large importing houses in Australia, and that they appear to be endeavouring to throttle the Australian wool manufacturing industry.
– Combines again.
– Yes ; I abhor combines at any time.
– Does not our antidumping legislation apply?
– I am astounded that the Tariff Board has not taken any steps to deal with this question.”
– The position is largely due to the fact that Australians demand imported goods.
– Unfortunately, the stupid old prejudice against Australianmade goods still exists in some quarters; but it must be broken down.
– Is the Australian product of equal quality?
– Australia can manufacture woollen goods equal to any in the world. There is another reason why these goods have been exported to the Commonwealth. There has been a big balance of Australian credits in England, and as it would cost a lot to send the actual money out here, much of it has been sent in the form of goods. That, to some extent, is responsible for the abnormal importation of textile goods. For some years, our exports have been greater than our imports, and the balance of trade in London has been in our favour. But now the balance of trade “ has swung against, Australia. On the 30th of June last, our imports were valued at £131,808,000, and ‘ our exports at £117,913.000. Our imports during the last year have exceeded our exports by £14,000,000, and during the coming year the balance of trade against us is likely to be even greater owing to the decrease in the wool clip and in the output of mutton, lamb, wheat, &c. The price of wheat also is likely to be lower than it has been of late years.
In view of these facts, the value of our exports for the next twelve months will show a serious shrinkage. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is optimistic if he believes that the amount of money to be collected from Customs and Excise during the coming twelve months will be as much as he anticipates. With the balance of trade against Australia, we cannot afford to import such large quantities of goods from other countries as we have been doing in the past.
– That has been said before.
– The imports have been abnormal for the reasons given. Money has been sent to Australia in the form of goods. Every one is anxious that our secondary industries should expand.
– Does the honorable senator favour higher duties?
– No. I think the present Tariff is high enough; but the Tariff Board should have immediately considered this question of dumping, and have taken steps to protect Australian industries. Under normal conditions the Tariff is high enough, because we have at our doors the best wool in the world, whereas those with whom we are competing have to buy our product, transport it 12,000 miles, pay interest and insurance, and when it is returned to Australia - another journey of 12,000 miles - in the form of manufactured goods, pay a duty of 35 per cent.
Coming to the Budget statement, I cannot understand the action of the Treasurer in debiting to last year’s revenue the £500,000 which has yet to be spent on main roads.
– A very wrong thing to do.
– Very wrong. We require a clear statement of facts, and the Treasurer’s action in this respect is a blemish on his Budget. He has debited to the preceding year halfamillion of money, none of which was spent in that year, nor even voted during that year. I hope there are not any other items which he has debited to the revenue of the previous year. He shows that’ £500,000 as if it had been spent, whereas the Government has not yet started to spend it.
I must also reprimand the Government on the fiasco of the Fruit Pools, in connexion with which £500,000 has apparently been lost. All the Governments of Australia encouraged men - returned soldiers and others - to grow soft fruits. The Commonwealth Government has declared that it will not finance any more pools, but it cannot allow the unfortunate men who have been encouraged to engage in the industry to starve on their blocks. There is not a man growing soft fruits in any part of Australia to-day who is making anything like the basic wage.
SenatorFoll. - That is not an encouragement to immigrants.
– The fruitgrowing industry has been overdone. There are many other occupations in Australia to-day in which immigrants could profitably engage. It is our duty, however, to assist, in a practical way, the fruitgrowers, who were encouraged to embark on that industry. The Government should act in the direction of securing preferential trade with Great Britain. We give an enormous preference to Great Britain in our Tariff; and while I admit that she has given us magnificent protection with her Navy, she has given us very little preference in trade. Therefore, I urge the Prime Minister to fight at the forthcoming Imperial Conference for preference for Empire goods. [Extension of time granted.]
We have a very valuable dried-fruits industry in Australia which provides an ideal form of closer settlement. It gives employment to a large number of returned soldiers and others, and unless we can get an outlet for dried fruits we shall be in “ Queer-street.” Canada imports dried fruits, and therefore I urge the Government to make an arrangement with that Dominion by which a market will be opened there. I hope also that an effort will be made to win back the splendid market that we once had for tinned goods in India. That market was “ murdered.” In my speech on the Address-in-Reply, I read a letter from a buyer of tinned goods for the Indian Government. He used to buy from Australia 2,000 tons of tinned goods per annum for that Government. Unfortunately, through some lack of supervision, or want of proper cooperation between the fruit-growers, the canners, and Government officials, the goods, when they arrived in India, were not up to sample. Australian fruit is unequalled in quality, and the flavour is good. We can produce tinned fruits equal to those of any country, but we should take steps to see that uniformity is obtained in grading and packing, and that the goods are attractively tinned and labelled, and, above all, true to sample. Unfortunately, these conditions were not observed when goods were sent to the Indian market. It was clearly shown that when they arrived in that country they were not properly graded ; they were often wrongly labelled, and were sometimes not up to sample. Consequently, this Australian gentleman received instructions from the Government of India not to buy any more Australian tinned goods. The failure to exercise proper supervision over such exports is one of the greatest blunders that this country has ever perpetrated. The Government talk of subsidizing steam-ship services to the East, and spending large sums of money in opening up fresh markets. In India we had a splendid market, and we throttled it. It may take years of careful and honest grading and packing to get that market back again, but we must bend our energies toward that end.
– We had the same experience iu Java.
– I have not heard of that; but I do know of our failure in India. We should sheet home the responsibility. Was the loss of that market due to dishonest dealers here, and were the Government inspectors in any way to blame ? An inquiry should be held to determine that point. Nothing has been done, the scandal has been glossed over, and the Government has apparently lost £500,000 of the taxpayers’ money in ill-conceived and mismanaged Fruit Pools. The fruit industry is now in a chaotic condition. The men who are growing fruit in Australia are going to have a lean time, and I cannot see how they cao make even a living. It is our duty not to desert them; but they, on their side, should organize with a view to increasing the consumption of fruit within Australia. It has been said that if the people of Australia ate an apple a day the whole of the production would be absorbed locally, and the local market, as we know, is generally the best of all markets. Australia can produce fruit second to none in the world. The growers are not receiving enough money to pay them for picking it, but the price to the public in the cities is exorbitant. There is an absence of coordination and organization in the marketing of our fruit. A propaganda should be launched to encourage the people to eat more fruit, and an organization should be created through which householders could buy our magnificent fruit at a reasonable price.
– There is a local combine among the sellers.
– I have not heard of that.
I now desire to say a few words about the estimated expenditure on defence. For the coming year the Government propose> to spend £3,425,829 under this head. We must defend ourselves, but I .have frequently said that the cheapest and best way to defend this vast, rich, empty country is to people it. The means for the defence of Australia should be increased population, plus aeroplanes and submarines. The aviation branch of defence is starved and neglected. We are behind every other country, as far as I know, in the encouragement we give to the development of aviation, both civil and military.
The amount voted last year for expenditure upon aviation was £151,915, but only £120,861 was spent. For civil aviation £99,127 was voted, and only £48,342 was spent. That is false economy. I do not favour the encouragement of military aviation so much as civil aviation. For the current year the estimated expenditure upon aviation is practically the same as last year. There is no advancement. For civil aviation the Estimates provide only £87,000, actually less than last year. Very much more should be spent. We have splendid aviators. Australian flying men at the war proved themselves equal, if not superior, to the airmen of any country in the world; but they are not being encouraged. Many of them are trying to get a living out of civil aviation, and they are not succeeding. The Government should spend far more money than it is spending on the encouragement of civil aviation as a means, particularly, of developing the back country and carrying mails. Incidentally, it would form a nucleus for defence. To spend less than is voted by Parliament for the development and encouragement of an arm of defence like civil aviation is not economy. Every one says that we should defend Australia primarily by submarines and aeroplanes. Practically .we have neither; “We are only “fiddling” with the job, and are discouraging many splendid young men who are willing to embark in the business. All the mail contracts in the back country should be carried by aeroplanes as a means of encouraging aviation, and to provide a nucleus of airmen and flying machines for the defence of Australia. The amount estimated to be spent this year on general stores and the maintenance of aircraft is ridiculously small.
I notice that the Government intends to reduce postal charges. That is a popular cry, but the reduction will make very little difference to the average individual. The people who will derive the benefit from it are the big commercial houses, like the one with which I am connected. That business will probably save more than any other in Australia, for it spends in postage on letters and for telegrams, perhaps, more than any firm in this country. Large distributing houses will benefit by the reduction; the average farmer or other citizen will not. I agree that the Post Office should not be used as a taxing machine. The revenue derived from it should be spent on providing a more efficient service, and the development of telephonic, telegraphic, and postal communications for people on the land. In many isolated places - I am connected with one - they have a mail service only once a month. In some parts of Australia the people have to travel a couple of hundred miles to send a telephone message or telegram. It has become the custom in the press and elsewhere, when discussing our postal charges, to compare them with New Zealand, where the conditions are altogether different. Australia is a land of vast distances. A letter posted from Perth or Darwin has to be carried thousands of miles. The charges for city deliveries may be considered high, but they are not excessive when the average distances are taken into consideration.
– We cannot have it both ways.
– A system might be evolved to reduce charges for city deliveries, but I would not advocate preference, because I want to be quite sure that people in our out-back country are provided with reasonable facilities. I repeat that a reduction in our postal charges will benefit large commercial houses more than the average citizen in the Commonwealth. I notice that the future construction policy of the Department is to draw, to a large extent, upon loan moneys. This is only right. In the past, too much has been spent out of revenue for such purposes. Post-office buildings will last for fifty or 100 years, and therefore it is not fair that money for their erection should be drawn from the current year’s revenue. I applaud the Government for their intention to give better attention to country districts, and hope that, in future, those who are the backbone of Australia are provided with better postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services.
– I always listen with a great deal of pleasure to Senator Guthrie, and I hope he will pardon me if I say that I think that some day he may become a statesman. But he has yet to devise a policy that will square with his selfish idea that, in the general scheme of things, every other country but Australia must make sacrifices. For instance, it seemed to me that he was keener about a policy that would keep out British woollen goods - because they are likely to compete with industries in which he is interested - than on any other question.
– Because they are being dumped in this country.
– Of course they are. The honorable senator is interested in keeping British ships away from our ports. I wonder if he can explain how, if that were done, we should get ships to take away our wool and other products to other centres of the world. The sooner we realize that this
Empire of ours cannot be held together by a policy of flag-flapping the better. The trade of the Empire belongs to the Empire. It is interwoven. We must get rid of the idea that Australia must have all the kernels and the British people all the husks. We must realize that every section of the community can produce something that is required by people in other parts of the world, and that trade should flow along its natural channels. What does he say with regard to our fruit producers? I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable senator, but if I understand him rightly, one of his remedies for our present troubles is that Britain should pay more for her dried fruits in order to’ give us a preference - that she should shut out the dried fruits from other countries. The honorable senator affects to believe that we give Great Britain a preference. I do not know how he, as an intelligent man, can entertain such a belief. In what way do we give Great Britain a preference? On the very woollen goods which the honorable senator says are being dumped by British manufacturers on the Australian market, we impose a duty of 40 per cent. We give Britain a preference by imposing a penalty of £40 on every £100 worth of woollen goods she sends to Australia.
– The penalty is on the users here.
– Of course, the user pays. I am under no misapprehension in that regard; but does not such an impost interfere with Britain’s trade with us? Senator Guthrie, and, indeed, all honorable senators opposite, are, so far as mere words go, enthusiastic supporters of Empire. They will, if necessary, die for the Empire, but they will not trade on an equal footing with the rest of the Empire. Without the existence of a high Tariff, trade with the Empire would interfere with their banking accounts and their businesses. They are prepared to do anything for the Empire, but they will not trade with it on an equal footing.
– We are Britain’s best customers.
– Exactly, but we make the other people pay. Our idea of British competition is that it shall be burdened to the extent of, at least, a 40 per cent. Tariff. If we are to work in harmony with the rest of the Empire, we’ should not impose a trade barrier. The two things are not compatible. We want either one thing or the other. I speak as a Labour man. On this question of preference, I do not want the British workingman to come here and share our unemployment. 1 take the view that the whole of our competitive system is wrong. It gives the best results to the most unscrupulous. The high-water mark of our love of Empire would be reached if we demonstrated practically our desire to trade with Britain even in the things that we produce ourselves. I have no desire to place any additional burden on her starving millions in order that our primary producers may market their products to greater advantage. We speak of all our magnificent opportunities, and we invite immigrants to come and share them with us ; nevertheless, we want the British people to give us preference in regard to the marketing of ‘ our butter and other products. Notwithstanding that in climate, soil, and in other respects, we have opportunities undreamed of by the people of Great Britain or in European countries, we say that we cannot compete with them unless we put up a barrier to give our people the necessary trade protection. Britain has given us a very real preference. She has permitted our wheat producers to market their products without any fine in the shape of Tariff duties, and we, in return, show’ our love of Empire by imposing on articles that she produces a duty of 40 per cent. Then, forgetting all this, honorable senators opposite rise in their places from, time to time and talk about Empire preference I This system of production for profit has failed utterly. All this talk about Empire preference merely covers our own shortcomings, and prevents a consideration of the real cause and the application of the real remedy.
I think I heard Senator Guthrie say, this evening, that he had sold some bullocks recently for 50s. per head, although, according to a press report, fat bullocks in the Bendigo market were sold a day or two ago for over £70 each. This is the fault of the competitive system. Senator Guthrie has lately been giving some of his time to public affairs, and therefore, in the business world, he has been at a disadvantage. He sold bullocks at 50s. per head, and now that the grass is growing somebody will, no doubt, re-sell them at £50 per head, and will congratulate themselves on having beaten him in a deal. The workers now pay more for their meat and get less than ever for their money. Consumption has fallen off, and it will continue to do so, because the competitive system permits a small section of the community to make huge profits while thousands are struggling for an existence. I am always interested in Senator Guthrie, because I believe that, owing to the tangle caused by preferential trade and high duties, there is room for an Empire statesman. Senator Guthrie would like to see a dumping board appointed to keep out of Australia all the fabrics that are manufactured in Great Britain, and that come into competition with the mills in which he is interested, including the mill that was given away by the present Ministry.
– If the honorable senator repeats that statement often enough he will eventually believe it.
– I intend to repeat it frequently because I am satisfied that the Commonwealth mill was positively presented to the company that acquired it. The position is analogous to the so-called purchase of wheat from the “Wheat Pool in New South Wales. That grain was practically given to a company, which immediately sold it to Japan at a higher price. The Commonwealth woollen mill was given to a company which first paid a small deposit, and even arranged for that to be reduced, and it subsequently set the mill at work to earn sufficient money to pay the remainder of the instalments. Senator Guthrie has a slight interest - some 2,000 shares - in the company. I shall go on repeating that story until, the whole community believes it, because it is perfectly true. Why should Australian wool be carried to Great Britain, manufactured there, and then sent back to Australia, when we can buy quite as good machinery as is used in Great Britain ?
– The honorable senator and Senator Guthrie agree on that point.
– The only difference is that I think Australia can compete without a Tariff, while Senator Guthrie wants the Tariff Board to prevent British manufacturers from dumping woollen goods in Australia.
– I said that under normal conditions the Tariff would be too high, but owing to the abnormal conditions ruling, the woollen combine was able to dump goods in Australia and hinder local manufacture.
– The revenue raised by means of the Tariff last year amounted to £32,872,129, and it has averaged over £30,000,000 a year; but employment has not been increased. The only result has been that the workers have paid more through the Customs.
The opinion was expressed by Senator Grant that the reduction in the postage rate would mean much to big business firms, but very little to the rest of the community. I hold the view that cheaper postage may mean that a little less money will be taken from the people ; -but in the end it is the worker who pays, no matter how indirect our methods may be.
Although there has been a loss over the Fruit Pool, we should not grumble about that. There will be a loss of over £100,000 to the Commonwealth on the meat we are helping the meat companies to export from Australia ; but judging by the retail prices ruling in this country, the meat trade was never in a more flourishing condition.
– The growers are to get the benefit of the beef bounty.
– I wish that I could think that the growers would get the benefit of that bounty. The people have to pay from 8d. to ls. 6d. per lb. for beef, and I fail to understand why their money should be used to enable beef to be exported. In the long run we shall have such a scientific system of helping one another that the hat will be passed round on behalf of every man, woman, and child in the community; and it will be done by the anti-Socialist section.
When the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) was appointed to the Cabinet the man on the land declared, “ At last the interests of the primary producers are to be safeguarded.” The country-man’s Treasurer has produced a most interesting Budget, but so far as I can see there is not a single’ sentence in it to give effect to the , promises made by the Treasurer in his pre-election speeches.
– What about the remission of duty on sulphur. Is not ‘that one little sop?
– The Tariff Board, I think, has been dealing with that matter; but, as far as the Budget goes, the country-man’s representatives in the Ministry propose to do nothing until Parliament meets again.
– What about the creation of a sinking fund to pay off the national debt.
– Will that help the man in the country? Will it make two bushels of wheat grow where only one grew previously? The farmer is thinking seriously that he has been deceived by this composite Government that has been swallowed by the old Nationalist party. On the 12th October, 1922, Dr. Earle Page said-
Promises have been made of constitutional amendments, but those promises have not been honoured by the Government. The Treasurer’s statement of last year referred to this matter, and pointed out that constitutional amendment was the only way to attain real relief from taxation and undue expenditure; yet there is no mention of this reform in the Budget of this year. Nor is there any attempt by the Government to submit constitutional amendments to a referendum at the forthcoming elections, although there was a definite understanding to that effect.
That is what the present Treasurer had to say about Mr. Bruce’s Budget in 1922. The Treasurer now comes along with a Budget which should include constitutional amendments to enable two new State Parliaments to be created. The district that the Treasurer represents was to have one of the new State Parliaments. Perhaps he has now reached the height of his ambition, and there is not the same necessity for new States. I have heard that as there are only three representatives of the Country party in the present Ministry - I refer to the Treasurer, and Messrs. Stewart and Gibson - and as they are satisfied with their Ministerial positions, nothing else matters. All that I can say is that never was there a more favorable opportunity than the present for a Convention to deal with the subject of the formation of new States. After the present session terminates there will be a considerable recess during which the whole matter could be discussed by any Convention called into existence. If advantage were taken of that opportunity it would be possible, when Parliament meets again next year, to give effect to what the Treasurer and his colleagues once claimed to be of the utmost importance to Australia. Speaking on another oc casion concerning the Country party, the present Treasurer said-
It will fight for a reduction of duties on the staple necessities of the producer and for the admission of implements and tools of trade free of duty when made within the British Empire.
I suppose that during the recess the Treasurer will tell the people of the Northern Rivers district of New South “Wales that he has put up a splendid fight on their behalf. The people generally must have wonderful faith in a gentleman who can attach “Dr.” to his name; but an ordinary man such as I am does not possess the same faith in the University- trained men. Soma imagine that a University training gives a man unbounded ability, but if such is the case I am sure that in this instance it has not been displayed in Parliament.
– The people know the honorable senator. He has been here long enough.
– And it is because the people know me that I am here. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), when speaking on the 12th October last, said -
This shows of what little value the protective Tariff of this Government apparentlyis. The collection of nearly £1.500,000 worth of additional duty through the Customs Department is due to causes which are not advantageous to Australia.
They are not. Is the honorable gentleman, now that he is Treasurer, going to alter the causes? What is he doing in the matter? Probably he now thinks that because his colleague in the Senate, Senator Wilson, is going to England, and Parliament is going into a long recess, the country can wait for all these matters, the settlement of which he considered of such urgency and importance prior to the elections.
– Is not all this an argument in favour of the abolition of Hansard
– It is a strong argument in favour of the removal of such men - men who directly deceive the people - from the public life of the country. Some think we are living in prosperous times ; but we have never been in a more serious position than we are in at present. The greatest injury that could possibly happen to Australia is the loss of confidence which should exist between constituents and their representatives.
That lossis more serious when an honorable member is elevated from the position of a private member to that of a member oft the Ministry, and his so-called principles areat once thrown overboard.
– Is he a free lance?
– The Treasure is not a free lance. He is responsible to a majority in the Cabinet, at a party meeting, or in Caucus ; but that will not relieve him and his supporters from the demand of their constituents that they shall adhere to their principles and do as the people; wish. The work of this Parliament has been hurried. A number of measures have been thrownbef oreus.not for consideration, but merely to enable the Government to go into recess this month, and to allow their supporters to return to their constituents and say, “ We have passed a number of Bills. The Honorary Minister (Senator Wilson), also moved the second reading of the Bankruptcy Bill- an effort that required a good deal of exertion on his part,, and we passed’ a Customs Bill which was simply a machinery measure:” They will not tell the people: that, in the Customs Bill an attempt was made to violate a longstanding principle of British justice; and that they endeavoured to pass in that measure A provision: which meant that a man would be held to be guilty until he could prove his innocence. The Government supporters’ will’ point with pride to a long list of legislation passed in. ten or twelve weeks, and say that there was no occasion for Parliament to sit during the hot summer months. They will also say that the Empire was calling the Prime Minister to confer with British Ministers on Imperial and trade questions. This is the Empire for which they say they will fight and die. They will die for it rather than trade with, it! Under their policy, if we trade with the British Empire the British manufacturers must pay a penalty before any business can be done. Of course, I know Senator Payne and others will say that it is not the British manufacturer, but it is the Australian user of British goods who pays the difference. I candidly admit that. But there is a Tariff barrier preventing trade between Australia and Great Britain. In thiswonderful composite Government, one half of the members are pulling in one Way and the other half is not game to pull at all. The Bruce section is dragging the Page section wherever it likes. The Page section we were told by. . the Treasurer would , pass out of the alliance with its forces intact. I have not the exact quotation, but it was to that effect. The Treasurer said that it was an alliance between the Nationalists and the Country party, but that a composite Government had been formed from which the Country party should any disagreement arise could withdraw its division intact. During this year we have had the extraordinary exhibition of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) governing the Commonwealth, although not once has a majority of the representatives in another place met in the room of his parity. The members necessary to form that majority have met in a separate room; they have not yet attended the meetings of the Nationalist party.I trust that the Prime Minister will inform the British people of this innovation so successfully carried out and in a way that was never dreamt of on that side of the world.
I wish now tot refer to a statement by Senator Duncan published in the Sydney Morning Herald, on the 7th of this month. It is headed. “ White Australia - Labour Senators?’ Attitude,” and reads -
The refusalof the Federated Seamen’s Union to affiliate with the Australian Labour party showed that the seamen had good reason to doubt thebona fides of the Labour party, said Senator Duncaro yesterday. During the past week, said. Senator Duncan, there had been an attempt by Labour senators to nullify that portion of the Navigation Act which prevented British ships carrying, in some cases, coloured crews from enjoying the coastal provisions of the Act, but. it had beendefeated by Nationalist senators, fortunately for the Australian seamen and the principle of a White Australia.
I do not mind giving in the Senate as much as I can and taking as much in return, but , I strongly object to misrepresentation in the public press.. I do not think that any honorable senator, irrespective of the side of the Chamber on which he sits, will say that that is a fair report of what occurred in this Chamber last week. What occurred was this: Senator Ogden submitted a motion dealing with the position in which Tasmania was placed owing to Certain provisions of the Navigation Act. As Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber, I rose to speak to the motion, but, unfortunately, did not catch the eye of the President, and the debate was adjourned on the motion of Senator DrakeBrockman. Had I been given an opportunity to speak to the motion, I should have stated that the members of my party would strongly oppose it. The statement that Labour senators supported the proposition is false and misleading. I am prepared to give and take with others, but I strongly object to statements such as are being published in the press, particularly when they put the position so unfairly. The position should have been stated in a perfectly clear and intelligent manner. Senator Duncan ‘ knows as well as I do, that Senator Ogden is not in favour of black labour being employed on British ships. If such statements were allowed to pass unchallenged, our deliberations would be reduced below the customary high standard. I have sent the following telegram to the Sydney Morning Herald: -
Attention has been directed to a false and misleading statement attributed to Senator Duncan, appearing in your issue of 7th inst.. viz., that there had been an attempt by Labour senators to nullify that portion of the Navigation Act which prevented British ships carrying, in some cases, coloured crews. Labour senators never attempted anything of the kind; and, on behalf of the party. I give the statement a most emphatic denial.
As regards the attitude of the Nationalists, if my memory serves me aright, I think the only Nationalist who spoke was Senator Payne, and he supported the motion. I am prepared to let it stand at that.
– No vote was taken on the motion.
– Has the Sydney. Morning Herald published the honorable senator’s telegram?
– I despatched it only to-day, but I am sure that it will be published. Our newspapers would not assist in deliberately misrepresenting the position.
Senator Guthrie was at pains to tell us how the present system of conducting business has failed,- and’ how all sides suffer. I think he referred to cattle- breeders in Queensland being in such sore straits that they had to engage in opossum hunting.
– That is right. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) said that they should be allowed to engage in that work before the season actually opened.
– Let us consider the serious aspect of the question. If all the big business concerns have to come to the consumers, and the hat has to be taken round on their behalf, something must be wrong with the whole system. Surely we can get nearer a remedythan we should do if we were guided only by the figures quoted by Senator Duncan. The honorable senator quoted statistics showing the amounts per head on deposit in the Savings Bank, and said that, in his opinion, every one was in a good financial position. There must be an increase in the amount deposited with the Savings Banks, because the number of people in actual employment is larger. In such circumstances the thrift of our Australian people would naturally lead’ to an increase in that amount. But what are we doing to keep in constant employment that large ‘body of men who, year after year, are looking for work? I measure the prosperity of a people by the number of ablebodied men and women who are able to maintain themselves in a reasonable standard of comfort.
– The number of depositors in the Savings Bank is an answer to the honorable senator’s question .
– I am not going to enter into a discussion as to the number of savings bank depositors. The number of depositors is not an indication of the prosperity of the people. There are a number of contributing factors. During recent years the banks have been receiving larger amounts.
– Over three million people out of a total population of 5,500,000 men, women, and children are depositors in Australian Savings Banks.
– That may be so; but income tax imposts have been fairly heavy, with the result that although in days gone by, the father of a family placed all- his savings in the bank, he to-day distributes them over the accounts in the names of his sons, and thus avoids the payment of the tax. There are many who are sufficiently skilled to dodge the tax gatherer. I could quote a number of methods employed. Mr. Falkiner, who was once a member of another place and who is a director of one of our big banking institutions, said that many were adept at dodging income taxation, and he said quite recently that more were engaged in fleecing the public than in fleecing the sheep. He is an expert - I was going to say in both - but I shall not do him that injustice. At least, he is an expert in wool. With all his years of experience as a director of the Bank of New South Wales, when addressing some of the most responsible people of Australia, he pointed out that it was easier to fleece the public than to make money by fleecing sheep. The question arises, what will happen to the sheep industry when all the shrewd men adopt that idea? We have had the schoolmaster abroad for some time, and many people are becoming shrewd. It will be no use for us then to hold up our hands in horror and say, “ They will not work’; they are going slow.” If the big men are adepts at dodging the income tax, and if it is easier to fleece the public than to get a decent living from the fleeces of sheep, then we are rapidly approaching the time when an educated Democracy will say to these men, “ What are you going to do about it. If you cannot manage things better than this, wo will.” All my life I have been working and fighting to induce Democracy to turn its attention to capturing this and the State Parliaments. I have advocated that they should do that in a constitutional way, which I believe to be the best way. If they would do this they could remedy all the evils under which they suffer.
– They have captured this Parliament. That is why we are here.
– That is what Senator Pearce thinks, but I am inclined to the view of the American who said, “ It is easier to buy up Parliament than to fight elections.” The Nationalists are here to keep the workers out of their own.
– The workersput us here.
– I do not complain of that. The Western Australian workers put Senator Pearce where he is at a quite recent election, and if he comes back after the next election, I suppose that will be the fault of the Australian workers, too.
– It will not be a fault, but a virtue.
– I am stating my opinion, but we must “ wait and see.” I venture the prediction that speeches regarding unemployment such as those to which we have listened are dangerous. The unemployed have been told that they have no reason to complain. Supporters of the Nationalist Government have proved, by bank statistics, that the Government has made things so good that’ the unemployed are better off than ever they were. Let them tell that story to the man who has tramped (his and other cities looking for work. Let them tell him that the average investments are so much higher ; that the deposits are now millions, whereas they were formerly only hundreds of thousands ; and that he ought to be satisfied with such a magnificent advancement, made possible by the Nationalist party. All I have to say on this point is that most of the benefit derived from the reign of the Nationalist party is due to the fact that it has not yet repealed much of the legislation passed by Labour Governments. The greater part of that legislation is still operating, particularly that which enables the workers to get a little better wage than they would otherwise receive. Who are the opponents of giving the workers what they earn? The opposition comes not from this, but the other side.
– It was a Labour Government that granted an old-age pension of only 12s. 6d. a week.
– It was a Labour Government that first introduced old-age pensions.
– The real opponents of arbitration are those who preach direct action.
– Old-age pensions were granted by a Liberal Government in Queensland before the Labour Government came into power there.
– Was Senator Reid a member of the Labour party or was he a Nationalist in those days? That does not matter, I suppose.’
– The Labour party pushed (the Liberal Government very hard to introduce the system.
– The Labour party pushed old-age pensions into the arena of practical politics, and forced other Governments to grant them. I suggestto Senator Pearce that the two parties in this Parliament should declare anarmistice on the question’ of old-age pensions ; that the 2s. 6d. increase should be made l5s, so that the old-age pensioners would receive 30s. a weekeach, and thatboth parties should agree for twenty years not to advance beyondthat amount. That would removethe old-age pension question from public discussion, and ‘it would prevent the partiesbidding oneagainstthe other in 2s. rises for the people’s support. I am quite sure that our party wouldbe lucky enough tobid £1. If we were sensible men in this Parliament we would surely say that the aged people of Australia were entitled to 30s. a week each. We could hold a conference, agree to a fixed amount, and declare an armistice for a certain number of years. If the Government will make it 30s. a week I promise not to open my mouth again on the subject while I am in public life. Labour commenced in this country, as Labour ‘has always done, in fear and trembling. Those men who are prepared to go the whole distance in one stride have -always been looked upon as extremists, and have never ‘been listened to. I am one of the timid men, cautious in what I do, careful in what I propose, intent upon ‘keeping to the old cleared track. 1 do not very often look for support or try to win elections by what I offer to the people. The one thing I have in my mind is to keep intact the machinery which, if taken possession of in real earnest by the workers, would make their conditions better. I do not want them to follow any of the wild-cat schemes, which I have no doubt are financed by the big-monied interests of this country, and have for their object the introduction toourmovement of men who, by passing exaggerated resolutions and making wild statements, will make the movement look as ridiculous as possible. The war panic being over, the workers are now determined to organize and take possession of the State and Federal Parliaments. When they have done that they will gomuch furtherthan they have ever gone before and will make it impossiblefor men who are willing to work to wait an therain as they do at the foot of Bourke-street, Melbourne,and round ‘the employment agencies in Sydney, in thehopeof finding it. These men formdeputationsand demonstrate when the State Parliament is opened in New South Wales. What do they demonstrate for? The right to earn the wherewithal for themselves and their families. This is a matter that Parliament should settle. Idonot thinkthere are two opinions about the need for settling it, butthere are, perhaps, 100 opinions regarding the way in which it should besettled. I believe that if Senator Guthrie and I were sitting at a table and tryingto devise a scheme for continually employing those who are willing to work, and providing for those who are not, there would notbemuch difference betweenus after an hour’s discussion. Assoon as he realized that all I wanted was a sound scheme to prevent theeconomic waste caused by unemployment, I have notthe slightest doubtthat he would meet me more than half way. He would say, “ I go farther than you. I have had a business training. I am connected with one of the great business houses inthis country, and knowhow . to develop and do these things.” He would put me onthe rightroad to solve the problem.
– Has thehonorable gentlemanany scheme in mindat present ?
– My scheme is simple. It postulates that no man willing to work shall have to look for it, but thatthose who have work to do shall look for him and fetch him. We have plenty of work crying out to be done,but we are doing everything possible to find the other fellow to do it. Let us suppose that there are 1,000 men in Bourke-street, Melbourne, willing to work. Let ussuppose that we have an intelligent Government, which wants to develop this ‘undeveloped country, and to do work which will furnish a return, perhaps not tomorrow, but in the course of a few years. Surely we couldevolve a scheme toemploy these people for that work.Surely it would bea saving to the community to employ them. There is something wrong, not only in this country, but in Great Britain, the United States of America, andelsewhere, when these are 11 percent, ofthepopulation unemployed. Unemployment is an awful economic waste. There are many ways in which those men could be usefully employed in this young country; and if they were usefully employed,no objection would be raised bythe Labour party to our brothers from Great Britain being brought here. Wehave no ill-feeling against the (Britisher. What we complain of is that glowing picturesof Australia are drawn in Britain, but when the immigrant comes here, the promises made to him are not fulfilled. Some of the new arrivals becomestowaways in order to get backto their native land. If we could onlydevisea method by which men who are willingto work would have work togo to, I venture to say that we would deserve wellofourday andgeneration, and this
Parliament would go down to history as Shegreatest Parliament that ever sat. It isdifficultto imagine, with theprosperity of the people increased by the earnings of the 151 per cent, now unemployed, where development “would begin and end. The Nationalistparty is not bent on doing that, but on keeping in existence the present system by which a few men become wealthy. Subsequent speakers from the other side will probably point to a few men who have drawn prizes in -this gamble, and have risen from the lowest rung ofthe ladder to thehighest. These men areto be found in thePublic Service andin the business life of the community. In Sydney there are thousands of men who, withverylittleadvantage in theirearly childhood, are now big busi- ness men.
– One ofthe f eaturesofoursystemis that a man may be a worker to-dayanda capitalisttomorrow.
SenatorGARDINER.- That is one of theprizesa man may draw.
SenatorGUTHRIE. - There isequality ofopportunity.
SenatorGARDINER. - Yes it islike the scrambleforlolliesat aSunday school picnic- -thetrongest : get the largestfrstfull.If it is mostthe strongest,then, it is themost ‘unscrupulous. Some men have risenby resort tomeans from whichothers wouldshrink. I donot say that as a generalcon- demnationof the wealthyclass, because
I recognisethat the easiest andstraightest road to prosperity in business as straightforward and honest dealing. At the same time, it cannot be denied that when a man has made money - as many do-by most dishonorable methods, if he invests it wisely, it earns from the workers interest for all time.
I have said, perhaps, not whatI wanted to say, but what came into -my mind after I rose to speak. I have said, as I always say, what I believe in. I lookupon the Budget as a blank-Page” Budget. It is a complete blank page, as far as progress isconcerned. It throws over allthe aspirations of the Country partyandthe New States party.It is simply a declaration that for the next -twelve months, as far as they and their party are concerned, Parliament will do-nothing,. We shallthen be so close to the general election that there will beno time to do anything. With these words, I leave theBudget. I can promisethe Minister thatthe details of the Estimates, when we come to them, will receivecloser scrutiny.
– I should not have commenced my contribution to this debate in the -manner ‘I now intend to adopt but forSenator Gardiner’s direct reference to myself. Pointing his finger at mehe suggested that I was prepared to do anythingI could to assist wealthy people to ‘become wealthier in Australia.
SenatorGardiner. - I think the honorable senator is a good representative man of that class.
– Perhaps when the honorable senator has heard what Ihave to sayin refutation of the charge he may change his mind. To attempt to get at (the root cause of unemployment inAustralia, we might very well sit here all night and all day to-morrow. I intend, inthe time at my disposal, to advance some of the reasons why this bright and sunny land of Australia is notfree from atrouble that is common to the older countries of the world. It appears to one that one of the main reasons is that industries, which ought to havebeen established on a sound basis, have not been able, as the result of a mistaken policy on the part of those engaged in them, to continue profitably owing to the continued diminution of output. We hadsuch , an instance but a short time ago at Newcastle. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s steel works there were closed down for many months mainly because of this diminution of output from week to week. The management being unable to meet the competition of the imported article, were forced to close the works, and hundreds of men were thrown out of employment. I have no doubt that the same contributing causes are at work in connexion with many large industrial concerns in our metropolitan areas. The future development of Australia depends on the continued expansion of her primary and secondary industries; but, unfortunately, the army of. unskilled labourers is year by year growing in size, while, on the other hand, the skilled artisans who play so important a part in our secondary industries are becoming fewer. This state of affairs in .the industrial arena is, in my opinion, one of the chief factors in our unemployment problem. Those primarily responsible for it sure trade unionists who, many years ago, combined to make the skilled trades a close corporation and to demand what wages they pleased.
– They did not succeed in getting such wages.
– No, because no industry can stand unreasonable wage demands. If wages are too high, the. industry must go to the wall. The object originally was, as I have said, to create a close corporation for the especial benefit of a limited number of skilled artisans. Those men forgot, however, that the time would come when they would have growing lads of their own, who had’ just as much right as their fathers had to adopt a skilled trade as a calling. These lads were debarred through the operation of the policy limiting the number of apprentices to be employed in skilled trades.
The position has become so acute that all the States are now legislating against this injury - I use the word advisedly - which has been put upon the youth of Australia. Only in yesterday’s press there appeared a statement that a Bill to deal with the apprenticeship question was to be introduced next week in the New South Wales Parliament, and similar legislation is on the notice-paper of the Victorian Parliament.
– And there will be no objection to it.
– Not now, because it is realized that this, exclusion of lads is working an injustice upon the sons of trade unionists themselves. They have come to their senses, and now approve of a substantial modification of this policy of exclusion.
– The honorable senator cannot quote one instance of a boy having been excluded from a skilled trade in New South Wales to-day.
– I know of many instances where lads have been prevented during the past few months from following trades for which, by technical education, they were fitted.
– Nearly every industrial award provides for a limitation.
– And unfortunately in the building and carpentering trades this limitation is seriously hampering industry.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to Arbitration awards)
– I am opposed to any award that would prevent my boy or the honorable senator’s boy from following any occupation for” which he might be suited. It is generally acknowledged that there is a serious lack of skilled artisans, especially in the building ° and allied trades.
– The employers do not care about starting a boy in the building trade.
– They are prepared to do that. In view of the present position, is it any wonder that unskilled men among immigrants now arriving in Australia are finding it difficult to secure employment in our cities? I am confident, however, that if we approach this problem in the right spirit, we shall eventually find .a way out of our present difficulty.
We have been ‘ hearing .a good deal about the preference which we should show to Great Britain and which Britain should show to Australia. Notwithstanding that in our Customs Tariff Act the duties against articles of British manufacture are fairly high, yet the schedule, as a whole, gives substantial preference to Great Britain. Senator Gardiner would have us believe that, because there is a duty on British goods, we are not giving any preference to Great Britain. That, of course, is an erroneous conclusion. Let me refer honorable senators to one item in the schedule, namely, that relating to cotton textiles. I forget, how many mil- lion pounds’ worth of manufactured cotton goods were, imported last year. It is important ,to note that they came in duty free from Great Britain, whereas there- is a duty of 15 per cent, on such goods imported from the United States of America. I remind honorable senators that this is one of the biggest items in the Tariff list, and, if it does not give substantial preference to Great Britain, I do not know what preference is. It must not be forgotten that, from a manufacturing point of view, Australia is a comparatively young nation. British industries are firmly established, whereas Australia is just at the beginning of her career as a manufacturing country. How could we possibly evolve a Tariff to fit in with our necessities as a manufacturing country if we admitted duty free the bulk of the goods that would compete with our industries? We could not, of course, hope to compete with the manufacturers of the Mother Country. We must first build up our industries. I am not, by any means, a prohibitionist. I do not believe in the erection of a Tariff wall over which competitors from other countries could not possibly climb. That policy would be directly responsible for the establishment in Australia of jelly-fish, spineless manufacturing industries, devoid of initiative and resource. When our industries, are firmly established, we may then consider the revision of our Tariff schedule in respect of competitive manufactured goods from other countries, and perhaps without fear that the competition will be disastrous to our own industries.
I desire to remove a misconception that has arisen in the course of the debate. Senator Needham referred to the proposed increase of the allowance to old-age and invalid pensioners. Speaking of the allowance made to the inmates of benevolent institutions, he made what appeared to be a reasonable suggestion, namely, that those people should receive the difference between the cost of their upkeep and the amount of the pension. If the actual cost of their maintenance was, for instance, 12s. 6d., and the pension 17s. Cd. per week, the honorable senator suggested that the inmate should receive 5s. I happen to know a good deal , about the administration of benevolent institutions in Tasmania. I find that in 1914 the average cost of main tenance per head at the Newtown charitable institution at Hobart, and at an allied institution at Launceston, was £37” per annum, or approximately 14s. 6d. per week. In 1921-22 - the last year for which: statistics have been published - the average cost had, however, increased to £66 per annum, or about 25s. a week. That disposes of the suggestion of Senator Needham that there should be a balance available for the men and women in such institutions who happen to be in the same category as old-age pensioners. The proposal in the Budget is that, irrespective of what it costs to keep a person in a benevolent institution, he shall receive an allowance of 3s. a week for pocket money. That puts a totally different complexion on the whole matter, and I am glad that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) finds himself in such a happy financial position that he is able, not only to increase the pension from 15s. to 17s. 6d. per week, but also to increase the weekly allowance of these inmates from 2s. to 3s. a week. I am sure that With the attention the inmates receive in such institutions, they will be quite as well off as, if not better off, than the average pensioner outside with a larger income. The increased cost of maintenance in. these institutions has been mainly brought about by the fact that the barracklike buildings have been transformed, and wardsmen have been replaced by nurses. This has made a great deal of difference to the comfort of the inmates, and the diet provided is on a much more liberal scale than it was a few years ago.
On page 6 of the Budget-papers there is a reference to the very heavy additional expenditure that has occurred in late years. The increase in expenditure omitting war expenditure, for the year 1922-23, as compared with 1918-19, amounts to £9,735,000. If we did not analyze the true position of affairs to-day we might think that we were considerably increasing our expenditure without receiving anything in the way of compensation ; but on looking through the Treasurer’s statement I find that the revenue increased during the same period to the extent of £20,300,716. Those figures are very gratifying. But what is even more pleasing is the fact that the statement shows clearly that instead of last year’s operations resulting in a deficit, they ended with a considerable surplus . That was brought about by the unusually large sum. collected in Customs and Excise duties. I find that the- Customs receipts for 1922-23 amounted to £32,872,129. In 1918-19’ th» amount received- was- £11,465,410, so that’ the increase amounted’ to£2I,406,7il’9 in the short, space of. four years. It is a wonderful record, and it makes one wonder whether the- apex of Customs revenue has been reached’. The details’ arc, I think, appalling; inasmuchas we find’ that 43 per* cent, of the total7 amount received by way of Customs- and Excise revenue represented duties on stimulants and narcotics.
– One may wonder whether we have reached the apex as far as. the, consumption of stimulants and narcotics is, concerned.
– It seems to me that these figures suggest either that the. people of Australia are becoming, more der moralized - if I may put.it that, way5- or that, they are. in such a wonderfully prosporous condition that they can purchase this huge quantity of stimulants, and narcotics without, seriously affecting their financial position.
– The. figures do not suggest that the people are. povertystricken.
– Has not. the borrowing policy something to. do with it ?
– I do not’ think, so: I prefer to think that, the, average, prosperity of the. peoples has., reached a.- point never attained previously since- the establishment of Federation. There is. a wonderful increase in the deposits’ in the Savings” Banks, and’ in the number of depositors. One , is forced’ to’ the con-: elusion that the prosperity of th’e people, is astounding. My’ only fear is that their prosperity may increase to such an extent that instead, of being, a blessing it may become a curse.
It should be gratifying to the Treasurer to know that there is an accumulated “surplus of £7,428,574. It is not always’ a good thing, for a Government to. have, a. balance on the credit side, but- it is. certainly more desirable than having, to. face a huge deficit. I do not agree with, the methods, proposed for the disposal of portion of the surplus. - 1 am in favour of using some of it,, as the- Government propose, to* increase- the invalid, and old-age pensions;, and I also agree to-‘ provision being made for a. sinking fund, and the paying off o£ the gratuity bonds.
– Do- you’ favour the reserve’ for defence ?
– That is all” right;. ‘ but I- disagree’ with the- retention of the amount of £2’,475i726’ to- meet’- con’.tingencies. I have always- contended’ that’ iti is not the duty.’ of’ Parliament, the Government’, or- the Treasurer ‘ to* impose more* taxation om the’ people’ than is necessary-‘ to– meet- current obligations: Money- unnecessarily withdrawn from the > people- might, be utilized to greater advantage in developing’ our industries. That would) provide increased employment and bring- in- its train a- greater, measurer o&i prosperity,. .Thee time has arrived- when the Government should reduce-, direct- taxation- which, during- recent- years, has., necessarily been, heavy, because- until as- year, ago: enormous expenditure, was being met. out? of revenue. To-da.9, we. are in a) different, position. Out loan indebtedness: bass been funded, and we have’ provided f op an adequate “sinking” fund in order to redeem- our national debt- within a– specified period. This is’ an opportunity to afford’ relief to- a* large- number of people who- have hitherto* met’ their obligations: Last year an amending- Income Tax Act! provided1 for a’ reduction’ equal to 10 per cent. the original income tax was’ increased from- time to- time until it eventually returned 6’0 or’ 70 per- cent, more* than* the original- amount, received”- from1 that- source- - and1 a»- further 10 per cent, reduction could now be ma’de without unduly” impoverishing our finances’. In– 19-21-22 there were 759,1’7-1 income taxpayers’ in- the Commonwealth who- contributed’ £14’,575,871. ©f; that number of taxpayers, 84X,(f75 ‘ paid £1’,190;442> so that 218,’000> of the total number of taxpayers contributed the enormous* sum’ of £13;385,429: Last year, 5’41,000- taxpayers’- were entirely relieved from the’ payment of direct taxation,, so that; a- comparatively’ small number were called’ upon . to- pay income1 tax: The Treasurer anticipates’ receiving £T3’,0’0,,000 in income taxation this1 year, and’- we can readily see -that it. will’ bV an enormous burden on’ the few- remaining income taxpayers.- If a. reduction of 10 per cent, were made’ from the, £13,000,000’ anticipated: iti- Would! be- equal, to £1, 300,000.If that amount were diverted into industrial channels instead of remaining in the Treasury,, where it cannot be effectively handled this year, it would provide additional employment andgenerally assist in promoting prosperity.
Reference has been made to the loss incurred by the Commonwealth in connexion with the fruit industry and I indorse all that has been said in regard to the possibility of overcoming the existing difficulty by effectively organizing distribution and thus minimizing expenditure. Those engaged in the fruit-growing industry, unfortunately, are not adept at organization. A few years ago when there was an enormous crop of apples, the Victorian growers arranged to supply householders throughout Melbourne and the metropolitan areas with graded fruit at certain prices.Delivery was made to householders on specified days. The distribution was so well organized that a large quantity of apples which would otherwise have rotted were readily sold at good prices, and this helped the growers to tide over the period of temporary difficulty. Organization of that character is commendable, and I have frequently told the growers in Tasmania that they should adopt a similar policy.
– The system of distribution is defective.
– Yes. The average householder has very little opportunity ofsecuring good quality fruit at a reasonable price.There should be no difficulty in arranging for supplies of case and half -case lots on receipt of cash with the order. Reference has also been made to the quality of certain exports which it is said wereof an inferior quality, badly packed, and unfavorably commented upon by purchasers in other countries, with the. result that the trade has received a setback from Which it will take some time to recover. Certain business people in New South Wales and in other States have thus lost the opportunity of establishing a permanent business connexion with Java. The goods exported were not up to standard.
– Who was responsible? Wasit the canning companies?
– I am not referring to fruit. In this instance the merchants were responsible, because the goods were not up to standard.
I am glad that the Government have sufficient money at their disposal to enable them to take an active interest in thesupply of wire netting to the various States.
– Is that not Socialism?
– No. An effort isbeing made, as far as possible, toprotectthe interestsof farmers and pastoral- ists whose crops and grass are threatened with rabbits and other vermin. The average man on the land hasnot the opportunity of purchasing his requirements in wire netting, and no doubt the action of theGovernment in this direction will toe appreciated . When the Appropriation Bill is in Committee, due attention will, I trust, be given to the various items of departmental expenditure, and I shall reserve any further comments I have to make until that stage is reached. I sincerely trust that the Treasurer’s estimates will be realized.. If the measures proposed to be submitted,are approved by Parliament, I have not the slightest doubt that Australia will continue to prosper, and that industries throughout Australia will recover from the setback they have received during recent years.
Debate (on motionby Senator Graham) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at10.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230808_senate_9_104/>.