10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the serious outbreak of foot rot among the sheep of Australia, which has never been so bad as it is to-day, will the Leader of the Senate state whether the Government is prepared to instruct the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to make an immediate investigation into the cause and possible means of preventing the disease?
– I am under the impression that the honorable senator placed that question on the notice-paper yesterday, and that I replied to it. From memory, I believe I informed him that a conference of scientists is sitting in Sydney at the present time, and it has been asked to make recommendations as to what diseases ought to be investigated. I have no doubt that it will recommend investigation into this particular disease. A report ought to be received from the conference within the next day or two.
Single and Double Line Tunnels
– Some considerable lime ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways to furnish the Senate with an estimate of the cost of constructing single and double line tunnels on the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway. Is that information available? If not, why is it being suppressed?
– I very much regret that the information is not yet available. The honorable senator must recognize thata good deal of investigation and calculation must be made before it can be supplied. The question cannot be answered offhand.
– Will the Minister wire to-day to the Ministers for Works in New South Wales and Queensland, requesting them to furnish him with the estimated cost of work of that nature which it is proposed to have done on the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway? If that action is taken, my wishes will be met.
– I shall bring the request of the honorable senator under the notice of the Minister for Works and Railways.
– I have received from Senator Grant an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate to 11 o’clock a.m. on Tuesday next for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance, viz., “.The sale and transfer of building site leases at Canberra.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
– I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 10th August.
– Why waste the time of the Senate?
– I offer no apology to either Senator Thompson or any other honorable senator for having asked for time to discuss what I regard as one of the most “important questions that can possibly engage the attention of this Parliament at the present time. I remind honorable senators that the Commonwealth possesses in the Federal Capital Territory an area of very nearly 1,000 square miles, the greatest portion of which has been under its control for a quarter of a century. After innumerable consultations, and the exercise of great care in the preparation of specifications, steps were taken to advertise throughout the world for designs for the lay-out of the Federal Capital city. Ultimately the plan submitted by Mr. W. B. Griffin, of Chicago, was chosen as the winning design. Fortunately, his plan has not been departed from to any great extent. For various reasons members of the Federal Parliament have not been able to see their way clear to give immediate effect to the desire that the Seat of Government should be removed to the Federal Capital Territory, and accordingly it has remained in Melbourne until the present time. I have repeatedly urged, both here and elsewhere, that the basic work required should be put in hand so that the Seat of Government could be removed to Canberra with the least amount of inconvenience, and at the earliest possible date.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator has moved the adjournment of the Senate for the specific purpose of discussing the sale and transfer of building leases at Canberra. Standing Order 64, which bears upon the matter, states that only the subject in respect of which the motion is made can be debated. I ask you, Mr. President, whether the honorable senator is in order in discussing the whole question of the selection of Canberra as the Federal Capital city, the lay-out of that city, and the removal of the Parliament to it?
– The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing those general questions; he must confine his. remarks to the terms of the motion of which he gave notice. For the moment I was engaged in an important consultation with an officer of the Senate, and I was not paying close attention to the remarks which the honorable senator was making.
– I offer not the-, slightest objection either to your ruling;, sir, or to the action of the Leader of the Government, in taking every possible point to keep me within order.
– Order ! No point of order has been taken that 13 not allowed by the Standing Orders.
– I have been speaking for only three minutes, and already one point of order has been taken. I had the impression that I should be allowed to indicate the location of the territory, and to state briefly a few particulars regarding it. I have no intention* of coming into conflict with the Chair. I desire that the Senate shall discuss the sale and transfer of building site leases at Canberra. I presume that I shall be in order - at least I shall take the risk - if I state that the Federal Capital city has been laid out to a certain extent, and building allotments have been pegged out. Presumably I shall, also be in order if I state-
– I shall inform the honorable senator when he is out of order.
– The proposal to conduct a sale of certain building allotments at Canberra on the 24th December, 1924, was advertised very -widely throughout the Commonwealth. A number of people attended the sale, and certain leases were disposed of. I have not the figures showing what the number was. Since that time a second auction has been held ; and in the period that elapsed between the two sales, a considerable number of allotments were disposed of bv the Minister or the commission in accordance with the regulations. So far as I am aware, every action taken has been strictly in accordance with the regulations that have been approved by the Commonwealth Parliament. I understand that another sale is contemplated at a. very early date. I believe that it was almost unanimously resolved by this Parliament that the land at Canberra should not be sold outright, but that only the leases should be sold. I feel quite certain that the idea all along has been that the Commonwealth should receive the full rental value of that land. It was never intended that speculation in land values should , be made possible by any regulation approved of by this Parliament. But Parliament has approved of regulations which have permitted speculation in land there, and has prevented those desirous of building from doing so unless they comply with the terms demanded by the original lessees. When a private corporation decides to dispose of land on a 99 years’ lease without re-appraisement, speculation is inevitable, and sometimes the speculator fails to gauge accurately the increased value that will accrue to the land; but at other times he makes a substantial profit in making way for the person who does the actual work or the land. In my opinion, nobody should be allowed to come between the Commission and the actual user of the land. If a person discovers an alluvial gold-field, Le is not allowed to hold a block boyond a limited time - the warden can compel him to make way for the individual who desires to work the claim. The Government has made a faint, but unsuccessful, effort to put a somewhat similar regulation into effect so far as Canberra is concerned, with, I think, disastrous results regarding settlement. At the first sale, held there in December, 1924, the lease of certain blocks was offered at auction to the highest bidder. It waa laid down that within a specified time the purchaser would be obliged to build upon the block and complete building within a certain time; but too long a period was fixed. I have the statement on unimpeachable authority that some of those who purchased leaseholds in December, 1924, have made no use of the land, except to place it in the . hands of a local firm, of auctioneers, with an intimation that they are prepared to sell their interests provided that the prospective purchaser is prepared to pay the premium asked.
– Residential or business blocks?
– I refer to business blocks. I am told that in one case as high a premium as £1,500 was demanded.
– What was the original cost of the lease?
– The rental value was £60, and the lessee has taken no visible steps to build upon the land.
– The honorable senator knows as well as I do that it is difficult to obtain labour at Canberra at the present time, and it is occasionally necessary to grant extensions of the prescribed period within which building must be commenced.
– I know nothing of the kind. Plenty of labour i3 available at Canberra. I believe that, after negotiation, a contract was signed by the original lessee to part with the block to which I have referred, on the payment of £1,100.
– That man undertook a big liability in addition to paying a rental of £60 a year.
– He agreed to erect a building to suit the locality. I do not wish to be understood as objecting to the Commission having power to regulate the quality of the buildings. Evidently speculation of the worst type has taken place at Canberra, and no doubt it will continue if building sites are made available under the present regulations. Settlement there should be made as easy and attractive as possible; but under present conditions, progress is retarded.
– Have many sales taken place?
– A considerable numberwere made both at the first and second sales. One finds block after block vacant; but on making inquiries learns that they are all being “nursed” for a rise in value. The purchaser must accept the terms of the original lessee. We are informed that another sale of land is to be held in or near the civic centre, and that therefore the original lessees will be unable to demandthe high pre - miums now sought; but I point out that that will be only a temporary remedy. Although the Minister promised that if speculation took place more blocks would be available immediately, that undertaking hasnot been honoured. People who have not laid one brick, or even dug out for the foundations, are able to obtain, in twenty months, £1,100 for a block which cost them only £60. It was my intention to move for the appointment of a select committeeto inquire into this matter, because I realized that, once a government had made up its mind, it was very difficult to effect an alteration, for some fatuous reason the Government is determined to adhere to its policy of marking the first re-appraisement of Canberra lands after a period of twenty years have expired. It might as well be 99, or even 999 years; it is merely a matter of gauging, the progress of the city. The provision that the lessee of a block shall build on it is practically no protection. I have been told, on unimpeachable authority, that some of the residential sites disposed of at the first sale could now be disposed of at a very substantial profit. I do not think that that was intended when the leasehold system was determined on. I believe that the Senate dues not approve of speculation in land at Canberra. My desire is to make land settlement in the
Federal Capital easy, to ensure that the lessees shall pay the full rental value of the laud and no more, and that the commission shall receive that rental value.
– What does the honorable senator suggest as a remedy ?
– The only way to overcome this difficulty is to alter the period of re-appraisement.
– Move in that direction, and support will be forthcoming.
– The existing regulation providing for re-appraisement after twenty years should be amended immediately. While I have no hope that the Government will agree to reappraisement every year, or even every two years, it should be agreeableto reduce the period sufficiently to make speculation in Canberra lands impossible. So far as those who got in on the ground floor are. concerned, I wish to make it clear that I do not stand for any repudiation of the contracts entered into. They are legally entitled to fleece their fellow Australians.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I support the motion, a course: to which I have been driven by the contemptuous manner in which the Government has replied to questions which I have asked regarding land at Canberra. We are rapidly approaching a condition in this Chamber in which honorable senators are unable to influence the Government in any direction.
– The departmental heads are the bosses.
– That is so, particularly with commissions. When I was at Canberra I told one high official that the system under which land at Canberra was made available would have to be referred to in Parliament. His reply was, “ What has Parliament to do withit?” That is the way in which we are being treated.
– That has been the position for years.
– Recently I asked the following question -
Is it a fact that, although there arehun dreds of acres unoccupied in the Federal Capital site, the commission will not at the present time sell a business site in or near the civic centre to a bona fide applicant? and received the reply -
Forty-six business sites near the civic centre have already been made available by theFederal Capital Commission. The commission considers that these, in addition to the business sites in other subdivisions, adequately meet the present business requirements of the Capital. The commission proposes to submit additional business sites for sale at an early date- It is considered that the sale of isolated business sites would be inadvisable from an Architectural point of view.
– To make more sites available would interfere with the premiums.
– Quite so. The information supplied by the Minister was known to me two weeks previously. When I called at the office of the commission to inquire for land, I was informed that none was available. I then called on Messrs Woodgers & Calthorpe, the Government’s auctioneers, and inspected two plans of subdivisions. Those plans showed the whole of the lands which were made available at the first and second subdivisions.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the business area?
– Yes, but I believe that the same conditions obtain in respect of areas set aside for residential purposes. The only land which was available in the Blandfordia No. 5 subdivision was block No. 13, which is more suitable for a quarry than for a residence: in fact, I informed the Commission that the only thing a purchaser of that block could do would be to hand it back to the commission to be used as a quarry to obtain stone for paving the roads. I was informed that if I were content to wait until the public servants had made their choice of the blocks, I could then select any of the blocks remaining. But at the time of my visit the only block which was available in that subdivision was one with a large outcrop of granite. Nothing would grow on it in 100 years.
– It could, at least, be said that a house built on ft would be founded on a rock.
– I invite the attention of honorable senators to the upset prices fixed for these blocks. Business sites with a frontage of 20 feet have an upset price of £400 each. In estimating the returns which they may expect from land subdivision, land salesmen consider that in each acre of land, after allowing for streets, &c, 200 feet of frontage would be available for sale. By multiplying 200 by the price per foot which they expect to realize, they are able to make an approximate calculation as to the result of the subdivision. That rule applies to blocks with a depth of 150 feet ; these blocks have a depth of only 88 feet. Moreover, their frontage is 20 feet, as against, say, 50 feet in ordinary subdivisions. The upset price of £400 for a block with a 20-ft. frontage is £20 per foot. I emphasize that that is the price asked for a block 88 feet deep. I understand that the Federal Capital Territory was acquired for about £4 an acre; the Government is endeavouring to dispose of it for £4,000 an acre.
– It is too much altogether.
– It cannot be obtained for less ; that is the upset price. Certain business institutions, whether they like it or not, are compelled to build at Canberra, and to pay at the rate of £4,000 an acre for the. land.
– That should assist to make Canberra a paying proposition.
– If land remains at that price, Canberra will not make much progress. At the original sale very few blocks realized more than the upset price. In the case of blocks 7 and 8, however, a price far exceeding the upset was realized. . A wealthy squatter determined to buy those blocks, and to erect a building on them, so that his name would be associated with the foundation of the Federal Capital city; but a representative of an insurance company, desirous of obtaining the same blocks, also attended the sale, with the result that land, the upset price of which was £875, realized £2,055 at auction. The remaining blocks at the other end of the subdivision brought only the upset price. I ask honorable senators to realize that the Civic Centre at Canberra will, in time, be comparable with “ The Block “ in Collins-street. At the second sale of Canberra leases an extraordinary thing happened. On the original plan a magnificent site was reserved for the Commonwealth Bank premises. As, however, that site called for a building costing between £500,000 and £1,000,000, which would not be justified for 100 years, the Commonwealth Bank was forced to attend the auction sale to obtain another site. There was spirited bidding for a good corner site. Eventually it was knocked down to the Commonwealth Bank for £7,000. After the sale, the runner-up informed the bank’s representative that, had he known that his competitor was the Commonwealth Bank, he would not have competed for the block, but would have allowed the bank to obtain it at the upset price. Honorable senators should realize the difficulties which arise in consequence of values being fixed in that way, as the land in the neighbourhood will be valued, and the rates assessed on that basis.
– It was sold at public auction.
– It would be satisfactory to the Government if it was in the same line of business as Mr. De Garis, but the commission’s policy is not in the interest of the future development of the capital. Those who purchase building sites at such exorbitant prices have to earn interest on the capital expenditure, which will eventually be added to the cost of the goods they sell. I am thinking more of the unfortunate individual who has to endeavour to make a living on these building sites, and not of persons such as Senator Cox, who will perhaps remain in the Territory for a little while, and then slip off to Sydney. If Senator Cox is unfortunate enough to reside there, he will have to contribute indirectly towards the interest on the capital expenditure, because it is only reasonable to assume that business men will have to sell their goods at a price sufficiently high to meet their expenditure. The rent on a building lease costing, say, £7,000, must, of course, be distributed over the commodities .which are sold in the building erected. Generally speaking, the prices in Canberra will be so high that the main shopping centre will be at Queanbeyan, where business people can erect a tin shanty at a very low cost, transport their goods by motor trucks over an excellent road to Canberra, and unfairly compete with these unfortunate people, who have to submit to such conditions. Business people in Canberra will be asking the Government to erect a great wall around the Territory in order to keep the Queanbeyan business people from entering into competition with them.
– Are there any hotels in Queanbeyan for sale?
– There are not any for sale, and I understand that the erection of others is contemplated. At the first sale at Canberra. 28 blocks were sold, and at a subsequent auction about one-half of that number, the remainder being reserved in order to force up prices still higher. If the Government or the Commission intends to boom land values, the policy is a good one, but it is detrimental to the inerests of Canberra.
– It is waiting for the unearned increment.
– Under the regulations, lessees are supposed to build within a specified time, but apparently there are some who are looking for a tremendous rise in prices. If future values are to be determined by the price at which the Commonwealth Bank acquired its site, prices will be too high for business men. Apparently the Commission has adopted a policy under which it will be possible to obtain, in a few years, sufficient revenue to meet the whole of the capital expenditure on the Federal capital, but such a policy can be carried to extremes.
Senator Grant has suggested a remedy by re-appraising the land each year. I may purchase a block at £1,200, just as the Commonwealth Bank was compelled to pay £7,000. Am I to be re-assessed at that price? Such a method would be impossible.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– In the first place, I wish to inform the Senate that as the time which it was intended to devote to the discussion of the agenda-paper of the Imperial Con:ference has been taken up in dealing with this motion, no further opportunity for that debate will be available. I have but a few observations to make concerning the statements that have been made on five or six occasions concerning the land policy and building conditions at Canberra. In the first place Senator Grant said that certain lessees of land at Canberra were willing to sell their leases. Is there anything strange in that? Is it not reasonable for a lessee to dispose of his lease if he can do so at a profit? How can that be prevented ?
– By re-appraisement at shorter periods.
– As I did not interrupt the honorable senator when he was speaking he should extend the same consideration to me. Queensland pastoralleases, which are under the control of the Labour Government, are being sold to-day at tremendous profits.
– I rise to order. I submit that in discussing a motion relating to building sites at Canberra, the Minister (Senator Pearce) is not in order in referring to pastoral leases in Queensland.
– The Minister is quite in order in referring to Queensland leases by way of illustration.
– I was not allowed to refer by way of illustration to such matters
– The honorable senator was allowed the privileges to which he is entitled under the Standing Orders. The Minister will not be allowed more than that.
– There is only one point upon which Senator Grant and Senator Elliott are in agreement. They want a free selection of business sites. They suggest that the whole of the land at Canberra should be thrown on the market at once, and that the public should be allowed to make their selection at the upset prices. What would happen if that were done ? Such a policy would play right into the hands of the land speculators.
– Every business site available would be purchased by land speculators to-morrow if the opportunity offered. It would be playing right into the hands of speculators. All the abuses which Senator Elliott and Senator Grant are alleging against the existing system would then apply over the whole area, and the result would be that the increased values given to land by reason of the expenditure of public moneys there would benefit private speculators instead of the commission.
– But those who acquire the leases have to build within a certain time.
– We have at Manly, near Sydney, a striking illustration of the results which would follow the adoption of such a system as Senator Elliott suggests. In one of the best streets in Manly, where the land was. all thrown open, there is a block thathas remained vacant for many years. A few years ago it was worth. £5 or £6 a foot, but to-day, I am informed, it is worth £35 a foot. That block is heldby a private speculator. Who is this private speculator ? I am informed that it is Senator Grant. If the system which he suggests were in operation in Canberra, land would remain unoccupied for many years, but under the present policy all the land thatis leased must be built on within a specified time.
– I rise to order. I should like to know, Mr. President, if the Minister is in order in quoting land values at Manly?
– I have already given a ruling on a similar point.
– I come now to the point upon which Senator Elliott and Senator Grant are wholly at variance, and that is in regard to annualreappraisements. In connexion with the business areas, the point at issue between Senator Elliott and the commission is simply this : The commission say, “ We wish to build this city in a proper way. We want to secure the unearned increment for the taxpayer, and, therefore, we are not going to throw open to the public the whole of the business or civic centre of this city. We are going to make available to the public, as the demand arises, such of these blocks as will enable us to establish the business or civic centre in an orderly way, instead of having a few shops built at one point, and others perhaps half a -mile away. “ By feeding the market according to the demand, the commission will secure the unearned increment resulting from its own activities. In these circumstances, the unearned increment resulting from the expenditure of public moneys at Canberra will go, not to private speculators, but to the taxpayers. The reply to Senator Elliott, or any one else who says that he is unable at present to select a business site, is that quite recently a number of leasehold sites were offered for sale after being duly advertised, and that he then had an opportunity of bidding, in competition with others, but he did not think fit to do so. He has been informed by the commission that more leasehold business sites will shortly be placed on the market, when he, in common with others, will have a further opportunity to bid. That is perfectly fair. Any other system, I repeat, would be to the advantage of the speculator. Every one believes that before long Canberra will have a population of 15,000 or 20,000, and if the whole of the civic centre were thrown open now, it would at once be bought up by speculators.
– But the leases have to be improved.
– Lessees are allowed a certain period within which to build. Meantime the city would be growing, and, even if the speculator got an advance of only 10 per cent, on the money invested, he would do very well. That is not the policy of the Government or of the commission. At each of these land sales, as. Senator Elliott admits, the bidding showed that the” commission had rightly judged the demand for land. Whilst it is a fact that large sums were paid for choice sites, some of them:, including blocks, in the business centre, were not sold, which showed that the * commission had rightly gauged the position.
– If the blocks were not all sold, how is it there are now none for sale?
– Because they have since been sold. In answer to a question recently asked by Senator Elliott, I replied, on behalf of the Minister for Home and Territories, that another sale would shortly take place. Senator Elliott further complained that £4,000 an acre had been paid for land at Canberra.
– That was the upset price.
– Keen business men, who know the value of the land, and are the best judges of their own business requirements, paid that amount. Who gets the benefit of these high prices ? Not the speculator, but the Commonwealth taxpayer. There is a good deal of land available at Canberra, but the competition for its purchase is regulated. Those who understand their business know what they should pay for these sites. Senator Elliott said that in one particular residential area there was only one block available. As settlement increases, other sites will be thrown open. To throw the whole area open, and allow the people to settle promiscuously in a large city would result in a heterogeneous collection of buildings, without order or method. This, in turn, would lead to unnecessary expenditure in providing roads and footpaths, as well as other conveniences, in sparsely settled areas, whereas under the system adopted by the commission we expect orderly progress. I do not propose to prolong the debate except to say that the policy adopted by the commission has been justified. I can assure the Senate that the commission will not unduly raise land values with the idea of making a profit, but will make land available in an orderly way to provide for any genuine and substantial demand. The commission will not heed the whim of any persons who may make inquiries concerning business or residential sites, but will proceed with the development of the Capital City area in pursuance of a definite and settled plan.
– I overlooked the fact, Mr.. President, that, as the mover of the motion, I had: the right of reply, otherwise I should not have interrupted the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), and been called to order by you. The Minister carefully evaded replying- to the main point which I had raised. His long experience in this Chamber enabled, him to put his case, in such a way as to. cloud the issue. I hope, however, that honorable senators have given close personal attention to the subject-matter of my remarks. The Minister did not sa.y a word about the first re-appraisement of. leasehold values in twenty years’ time. Under that system speculation is encouraged. Unfortunately,, the Minister stands for that condition of affairs. He says, he is anxious that all tha profits from the sale of leases at Canberra shall go into the coffers of the commission, but he does not take the necessary steps to ensure that. Why, I do not know. He has informed us that there will be another sale at an early date. If the present regulation as to the re-appraisement stands, we shall have at the next sale of leases a repetition of what occurred* at the first. I know I shall not be in order if I refer at length to the building of cottages for public servants ; but I believe that the fictitious values mentioned by Senator Elliott will probably have some effect on values at subsequent sales of leases for residential purposes. Senator Pearce stated that if speculators secured 10 per cent, on their investment they would regard it- as good business. I invite the Minister to figure out what would be the net return in twelve months on £100 if an investment of £60 on a business site at the first land sale gave a net return of £1,100 to the purchaser in twenty months. It is a simple sum. The return is about 1,100 per cent. That is what the Minister stands for.
– What is the honorable senator making out of his block at Manly ?
– It is highly improper to introduce personal matters in the Senate; but it is quite true that I have a home site at Manly. It is my intention to build on it. Why should not I have two or three homes? The Prime Minister has a magnificent home, and he is building another. Does any one object? Senator Pearce has probably one of the finest seaside homes in the Southern Hemisphere. Good luck to him. Why should not I have a home in a salubrious place like Manly, or anywhere else in the Commonwealth if I wish it? I am delighted that I have to pay my share towards the cost of the Sydney Harbour bridge. My regret is that I am not called upon to pay some share of the cost of the Spit bridge. My allotment at Manly overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and is unequalled in the Southern Hemisphere.
I presume that the Minister, like every one else, desires to see Canberra progress. Therefore, I appeal to him not to allow this obnoxious regulation as to the re-appraisement of the leases stand. If a private owner of land cuts up an estate he does not lay down any regulation as to where building operations shall commence. Sometimes building restrictions are imposed, and occasionally they are set aside by the courts. If a person wishes to build at Canberra he should not be compelled to pay a high premiuim to some one else who has got in ahead of him and purchased all the available blocks. The case mentioned by Senator Elliott is typical of many others. If people have to pay a heavy premium for the limited number of blocks available at Canberra the progress of the city will be retarded. Again I appeal to the Minister to review the decision as to re-appraisements. That is the cause of all the trouble. If the Minister does not accept my suggestion I intend to move for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into and report upon this subject. I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
Has consideration yet been given to the representations madeby a deputation of applegrowers for financial assistance; if so, when will a replybe given?
– The Minister for Markets and Migration states that he hopes to be in a position to reply to the representations at an early date.
The following bills were read a third time : -
States Loan Bill.
Shale Oil Bounty Bill.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Bill.
Customs Tariff(New Zealand Preference) Bill.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the measure is to enable those engaged in the production of canned fruits to effectively control the export and marketing of the surplus production which it is necessary to send abroad. The billis practically identical with measures that were passed by this Parliament in 1924, which conferred similar powers on the dried fruits and dairying industries. That legislation, during the short period of its existence, has led to satis- factory results. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board has, in conjunction with its London agency, sold the whole of the surplus of the 1925 pack of currants, sultanas, and raisins, to the extent of 23,258 tons, at prices which would not have been realized under the previous unorganized system. That board has only recently secured a reduction i.u oversea freights, which this year will represent an additional return to growers of about £30,000. The Dairy Produce Export Control Board, under which last season’s surplus of butter and cheese was sold, has saved producers about £20,000 in marine insurance, and has so regulated the supply of produce to Great Britain that the level of prices throughout the season has been on a more stable basis than heretofore. The Australian Fruit Canners’ Association, which comprises all the leading cooperative and proprietary canneries in New South “Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, and with which is associated the State-controlled cannery at leeton, New South Wales, has asked for this legislation; and the Australian Canning Fruit-growers’ Association, representing growers of canning fruits in New South Wales and Victoria, has. supported the request.
The bill is designed to include three varieties of fruit, namely, apricots, peaches, and pears. These are, with the exception of pineapples, the principal canning fruits of Australia, and constitute practically the whole of the exports. Pineapples, the canning of which is confined to Queensland, are excluded because almost all of the fruit processed is readily marketed in Australia, and this section of the industry is not concerned with the export trade at present. However, provision is made in the bill for the inclusion of this or any other canning fruit, should the necessity arise at any time. The bill provides for a poll to be taken of owners of canneries to determine whether it has their approval, and it will come into operation only in the event of a majority of the owners of canneries agreeing to it. The definition of cannery contained in the bill will not exclude any of the existing factories interested in the export trade, but will eliminate from the poll small factories which are not in any way concerned with exports. It is pro posed that the control of the marketing of exports shall be placed in the hands of a board consisting of three members, one elected by co-operative and Statecontrolled factories, one by proprietary factories, and one appointed by the Governor-General as the Government representative. It is considered that three members are sufficient to enable the board i.o efficiently function. The board may appoint a London agency, which will consist of such a number of persons as the board may decide ; but one of its members must be appointed as Government representative by the Governor-General. This agency will keep the board fully advised on all matters affecting the industry, and will assist in the sales of canned fruits abroad. The board will be financed from the proceeds of a levy on canned fruits exported. A separate bill will have to be introduced to enable this levy to be made. It will not exceed 3d. per dozen 30-oz. tins of fruit. The proceeds of the levy will be paid into a special fund, which may be drawn on by the board to defray expenses, advertising, &c, The export of canned fruits will be regulated by licences issued by the Minister on such terms and conditions as the board advises. This power of control is necessary to enable the board to regulate supplies and to control the avenue through which sales are effected. The bill does not in any way compel owners to export, but if they so desire, producers can place their fruit under the control of the board for shipment and sale abroad. The board can then market this produce, and, if necessary, obtain advances on it through the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank. The canned fruits industry is both a primary and a secondary one. The main production of fruit is on. the irrigation areas of Victoria and New South Wales, but large quantities are grown also in South Australia and Tasmania. The industry has rapidly /expanded in recent years, due largely to closer settlement schemes undertaken by the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria, and the placing of returned soldiers on the land. Production has increased from 1,140,000 dozen 30-oz. tins in 1921-22, to 2,500,000 dozen tins in 1924-25. The quantity of fresh fruit used for canning purposes during the 1921-22 season was 14.431 tons, and 26,278 tons were absorbed by canneries during 1924- 25. The proportion of the production of fresh fruits (1924-25) in the -various States,” is -
Although the consumption of canned fruits has increased from one to three tins per head of the population as a result of an extensive advertising campaign carried out by the Commonwealth Government, when winding up the fruit pools in 1923, it is necessary to export about 30 per cent, of the pack. The principal oversea market is Great Britain. Our export to that destination in 1922 was 450,000 dozen 30-oz. tins. In 1925 this trade increased to 850,000 dozen tins. The possibilities of this market may be gauged from the fact that the annual importations of canned fruits by Great Britain are about 4,000,000 dozen tins, 80 per cent, of which is received from California. It is expected that, as a result of the preference granted by Great Britain, the advertising campaign now about to commence, and the high grade and quality of the fruits, Australia willeach year secure an increasing proportion of this trade. New Zealand obtains about 66 per cent, of its requirements of canned fruits from Australia at the present time, although the preference granted to the Commonwealth by the Dominion is only 5 per cent, over foreign, countries. Since the Trade Reciprocal Agreement was concluded with Canada, small consignments of Australian canned fruits have been sent to that dominion, and there is every possibility of a trade being established. As is already well known, the Commonwealth has rendered substantial assistance to the canned-fruits industry. In 1923 the present Government wound up the pool, which had been in existence since 1920, and obtained the consent of Parliament to the payment of a bounty on production and export, for the season 1923-24. This bounty placed the industry in a very much improved position. During 1924-25 the Government paid a small subsidy on the export quota, of apricots and clingstone peaches sent to Great Britain to enable the Californian competitors to be faced. The total amount paid that year was approximately £10.000. This year also the Government is paying a subsidy, estimated at £19,000, on apricots and clingstone peaches exported to Groat Britain. The assistance given this year has enabled canners to sell practically the whole of the available surplus to one of the largest distributing associations in the United Kingdom, under an arrangement which will ensure that the fruit is sold, direct to the consumer under the Australian label. The bill will affect 22 fruit canneries : -
Seventeen of these factories are under proprietary control, or are privately owned. Four are owned by co-operative organizations, and one by the Government of New South Wales. A marked feature of the expansion of this industry has been the increase in the capacity and number of the co-operative canneries owned by fruit-growers. The cooperative and State-controlled canneries during the present season processed about 62 per cent, of the total production, and will export about 81 per cent, of the quantity to be consigned overseas. Three years ago the percentages were 42 per cent, and 45 per cent, respectively. It is satisfactory to note that the fruit packed for export this year is of ,a higher grade and quality than anything previously produced in the Commonwealth, and compares more than favorably with the Californian fruits sent to the United Kingdom. This result has- been obtained from the careful and rigid system of inspection carried out by Commonwealth officials in connexion with the packing of fruits for export. The annual value of the production of canned fruits in the Commonwealth to-day may be taken at not less than £1,000,000. In the actual production of the fruits, it is estimated that the growers and employees, apart from their dependants, number at least 5,000. At the various canneries throughout the Commonwealth a large body of workers are employed at good wages and under good living conditions for four or five months of the year. Provided that the present quality of the pack is maintained and that the system of sale and distribution is based on business-like lines, this industry is capable of considerable development in the Commonwealth, and will be found suitable for the settlement of a large number of people under very favorable conditions. The bill does not involve any new principle. It follows practically the same lines as the Dried Fruits Export Control Act which was passed by this Parliament.I therefore hope that honorable senators will be prepared to continue the debate to-day and pass the bill through its committee stage.
. This is a further instalment of the Government’s socialistic legislation. A little while ago it went to the country and condemned everything that had about it any taint of socialism. It expressed amazement that any one should dare to suggest the nationalization of an industry.
– Thereis nothing of nationalization in this measure.
– It is seminationalization. The Government proposes to stand solidly behind and to assist the industry.
– Thebill provides for co -operative marketng.
– Co-operationis a part ofsocialization. I am glad that the Government, and Senator Crawford in particular, realizes that it is worth while to experiment with certain planks in the platform of the Labour party. In introducing a measureof this character, the Minister is slavishly adopting the objectiveandthe ideals of thatparty. I do not intend to opposethebill. It is somewhat difficult for me to make myself thoroughly acquainted with thedetails of legislationthat isrushedthroughto wards the end of a session. So faras I havebeen ableto gather, the proposalis to establish a board consisting of three members, to control the export ofsurplus cannedfruits. The bill does not specify the system of election ofmembers to the board. Clause1 8 providesthatthe membersof the board and their deputies while acting as such, shallreceivesuch fees and expenses as are prescribed. I draw particular attention to this clause, because the bill should specify the fees to be paid to the members of the board, just as the acts under which thePublic Works and Public Accounts Committees operate prescribe the members’ fees.I understand that all the expenses of the board will be met by a maximum levy of ¼d. per tin of exported fruit; That is a good feature of the measure.I remember money being paid by way of bounty to fruit canners, and a huge profit being made by them. I realize that the fruitgrowers haveexperienced hardtimes since the war. The Government has established many returned soldiers in the industry, and up to the present time, apparently, they have not done well. I am unaware whether this is due tothe selection of unsuitable land, or whether the growers are too far removed from the markets. I believe that their greatest difficulty has been to find suitable markets, and if the bill will assist them in that direction, it will be most useful. Even when adequate markets are obtained, the prices received for fruit are not remunerative. Owing to the operas tions of the middlemen, the consumer does not reap benefit from the low prices received by the growers ; and if the measure will bring the producer and the consumer in closer contact, good will be accomplished. From 1920 to 1923, the Government assisted the industry by forminga pool, because thebanks, after the war, had refused to further finance it. The Government, throughthe pool, became the purchaser of the fruit, and as a result, lost£618,000 in three years. I hope that similar loss will notbe incurred under thepresentproposal. I do notwant the industry to be assisted at theexpense ofthe taxpayers.Of the money paid out by the Government through the pool,the canners received three times asmuchas thegr owers.
Sena torGuthrie. -Too muchfruitis nowbeinggrown .
-Yet the con sumerhas to pay high pricesfor it. I hopethatthe bill willnot result in still higherprices being charged. My party desires to eliminate the middleman.
-He pays wages for thework of distribution.
– Yes ; but he obtains greater profits than the growers, and is the curse ofthe industry. Its salvation lies in bringing the producer and the consumer closer together. During the three years in which the pool was in operation, Henry Jones and Company made anetprofitof £331,000.
-What was their capital?
– I knowtheir capital. If we divide that profitby three, we arrive at the annual profit. Up to date, £129,191 has been paidby way of bounty on canned fruits. This Government, in 1925, said that it was opposed to interference with private enterprise.
– This bill in no way interferes with it.
– It provides for semi-nationalization, and I congratulate the Government upon showing its approval of one of Labour’s ideals.I hope that the bill will materially benefit the industry, and that the chief gainers will be the growers. Further information should be supplied regarding the cost of the proposed London agency. I may have something further to say on the measure when it reaches the committee stage.
SenatorJ. B. HAYES (Tasmania) [12.40]. - I have pleasure in supporting the bill, because it represents a step in the direction of marketing our primary produce in an orderly manner. Provided the board is controlled practically by those engaged in the industry, nothing but good can result. The Tasmanian apple-growers are in much the same position as the growers of canning fruits, and have asked for a control board ; but, unfortunately, they have been unsuccessful upto the present time. This year Tasmania exported 2,100,000 cases of fresh apples, or over two-thirds of the total quantity sent out of the Commonwealth. In view of the fact that two-thirds of the producers of apples are supported by other growers in their request for a similar board, I think that it might well have been granted. Under the bill certain varieties of fruit are specified - apricots, peaches, pears, and “ such other canned fruits as are prescribed.” Apples, plums, gooseberries, raspberries, and currants are canned, and considerable quantities of canned apples are exported.
– I understand that although a large quantity iscanned, it is not exported. Very little canned fruit other than that covered by the bill is exported.
– If it can be shown that other varieties of fruit, such as those I have mentioned, are exported in considerable quantities, will there be any difficulty inbringing the growers under the board ?
– No. The bill provides for that.
– Would it be necessary simply to take a ballot of the growers ?
– A fresh ballot would be required.
– Does the Minister assure me that there will be no difficulty in other growers being brought within the scope of the bill?
– There will be no difficulty so far as the growers of any other varieties of canning fruits are concerned.
– Then I am satisfied with the measure.
– Can the Minister give an assurance that, when the produce reaches London, adequate steps will be taken to ensure that it will be retailed as Australian produce, and that it will reach the retailers in good condition ? Statements made in the Senate recently disclosed a most deplorable state of affairs in relation to some consignments of apples shipped to London. I understand that the condition of some apples sent from Tasmania was so bad on arrival that the retailers were ashamed to exhibit them.
– The apples sent from Tasmania this year were of a particularly good quality.
– The statements which have been made regarding the quality of the apples which reached London must have a damaging effect on the Australian apple trade. I should like the Minister to give us an assurance that steps will be taken by the London board to ensure that Australian fruits will reach the customer in a marketable condition.
– Can the Minister say whether it is true that some of the best Australian fruit sent to London has been sold there as the best Californian fruit, and that inferior Australian fruit has been disposed of as the best Australian fruit? I have been informed, on the authority of a reliable man who was in London recently, that that is the case. The Minister should see that the London board will safeguard the interests of the Australian producers in this connexion.
– I haveno opposition to offerto the bill, which I believe is necessary if the Government is to continue its policy of entering the domain of private enterprise. The principle of granting bounties having been established, this bill was inevitable. I understand that another bill has reached the Senate, in which provision is made for a levy to cover the cost of the board to be appointed under this bill.
– The provision is the same as in the case of the boards controlling the export of dried fruits and butter.
– I have no objection to that; but I point out that, especially in the case of fruit, it is necessary that our produce shall be landed in London at the minimum cost if we are to enjoy . an extensive export trade. For many years Australia has had to meet severe competition from California, and now that in South Africa the fruits which are dealt with in. this bill - pears, peaches and apricots - are being grown in large quantities, from that source also there is considerable competition. Like the United States of America, South Africa is nearer to the London market than is Australia, and the freights are less. That makes it exceedingly difficult for Australian producers to compete successfully with the fruit of those countries. That difficulty should not be accentuated by adding either to the cost of production or of export. We must remember that fruit is regarded as a luxury, and that the world can only absorb a certain quantity.
– Fruit should not be regarded as a luxury, but as a necessity.
– While that may be so, the fact remains that fruit is not an every-day commodity like meat and bread.
– Fruit and fish should be made available to the people at the lowest possible price.
– There has recently been a glut in the apple market in England. The same may happen in the case of canned fruits. The creation of this board may so add to the cost of placing our canned fruits on the London market, that it will be impossible for them to compete with the products of other countries.
– Is not the grower the best judge of that?
– No. I admit that a board might be able to gauge the markets better than the producers themselves could gauge it; but costs of production have increased so greatly, and the iniquitous Navigation Act has so affected freights, that the producer is between the upper and nether millstones. I offer no opposition to the passing of the bill, but I fear that if we add materially to the cost of production and of export, we may lose the market, which, in any case, is limited, and in which there is severe competition.
– I rise to correct the wrong impression that honorable senators may have gathered from the statements which have been made regarding certain shipments of fruit from Tasmania which arrived in London in bad condition. Senator McLachlan’s statement last night might be taken to apply to all the apples which have been exported from Tasmania. That is not the case. I agree with him that it would have been better for the Australian apple trade had certain consignments not been exported. I believe that the Government’s permission, given at the request of the growers themselves, to export spotted fruit, has had a prejudicial effect on the Australian apple trade.
The PEESIDENT. - The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing that subject at length.
– The highest standard should be striven for; we should see that only the best quality fruit is sent to London. The heavy cost of production and of transport makes the price of Australian fruit in London so high that many who otherwise would be consumers of it are unable to buy it. Every effort should be made to keep the costs as low as possible. I support the bill.
– Senator Needham referred to this bill as a socialistic undertaking on the part of the Government, whereas it merely enables those engaged in the canned fruits industry to organize and to acquire a legal status. Would Senator Needham say that a business corporation, incorporated under the Companies Act, was a socialistic enterprise? There is a . great difference between socialism- and cooperation. Socialism,: as defined in the Labour party’s- platform, is the State ownership of the means of production; distribution and exchange.’ This bill provides for an organization of. private owners who will control their own business. Similar legislation which has already been placed on the statute-book- to deal with the export of butter and dried fruits has had a beneficial effect; it has resulted, not only in a better price being obtained for those commodities; but also in considerable savings in freight- and marine insurance. The saving in freight so far has been £28,000, and in marine insurance, £30,000. Senator Needham also asked- for information respecting- the method by which members of the board would be elected. In my second-reading speech I stated that the board would consist, of three members, representing- the Commonwealth Government,’ the cooperative canneries, and the. privatelyowned canneries respectively. The manner of their election is as prescribed by clause 3. No cannery whose output was less than 120,000 tins during the year. 1925-26 ‘ will be entitled, to vote. The voting strength of the different canneries will be . based on their output; that is to say, a company whose - output, during . the year 1925-26 was - 1,000,000 tins,: will have more votes than one. whose, output was the minimum provided in , the bill. ‘ The honorable senator also desired further information . in relation to. the payment of fees.. These.’ fees will’ be a charge upon the funds of. the board. The practice which has been followed- in connexion with similar boards will b*e followed in connexion with this one. It is for the board itself to. recommend, what the fees shall be.
Sitting suspended from 1p.m. to 2 p.m.
– It is. impossible,, under the regulations,, for Australian . fruit to be sold, in. London :. as.Californian fruit,. as on, the export labels used in connexion, with . our . canned, fruitssamples, of whichI produce for tha information of the Senate - the. word “ Australian.” appears. .
– Are, those’ labels censored before they are;used?
– Every- consignment is inspected befbre.’it- isshipped: Honorable, senators’ will be interested’ to learn- that, of last year’s pack, the Home and- Colonial Stores in London sold last year- 400,000 dozen- tins of Australian canned fruits, all of which went direct from the purchasers to the consumers. Senator J.. B. Hayes asked whether it was possible to bring any other fruits under this bill. Provision has been-made in that direction, but it would be obviously unfair to include fruits of which a large quantity is canned, and consumed, but which is not exported, because it would be taxed, and the producers would not receive the benefits they would derive if it were exported. Every effort’ is made to see that . our canned fruit reaches the overseas market in a . good condition, and I understand that no complaints have been received of late concerning its quality. The only difficulty experienced is that Australian growers cannot . produce . sufficient to keep the market. fully supplied.” throughout the year - our. pack being sufficient to meet, the, demand, for only a . few. weeks. The. Home and Colonial. Stores,, which. are handling, pracr tically one-half- of the quantity exported from: last, year’s pack, are, placing, it on the market throughout the year,’ which will- be of . great -advantage to Australian fruit-growers.
Question resolvedin the ‘.affirmative.:
Bill read a second . time.-
Clause 2 (Commencement) -
SenatorGUTHRIE(Victoria). [2.3].- On one of the. labels circulated by the Minister- (Senator Crawford) the word “ Ibis “ appears. Trouble occurred some time ago. because a picture of the. ibis, which is a sacred bird, in the East, , was show on certain labels.
– Some time ago, the picture of the ibis was - shown on labels, but. ‘inthis instance the name only is used.
– As the people in the East expressed strong, dissatisfaction with -such a label, it . is equally, unsatisfactory to use the word “ ibis.”.
– That is the trademark of -the Government of . New South Wales.
– Tt is a pity it cannot adopt a more suitable brand.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions) -
– As I understood the Minister to say that the larger canneries will have a preponderance of votes, I should like to know if those conducting smaller canneries could not have more representation ?
– When previously referring to this matter, T said that the votes were counted on a pro rata basis, according to the output of the factories. That is the system in connexion with the Dairy Produce Control Board, and the Dried Fruits Control Board, which, I understand, has operated satisfactorily.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Canned Fruits Control Board) -
.- As the people in eastern countries, with whom we should endeavour to increase our trade have seriously objected to the ibis appearing on labels, cannot even the use of the word be prohibited ?
– The ibis is a sacred bird in Egypt, but not in the East.
– We should also endeavour to build up a trade in Egypt, and that may be very difficult if a label such as I have mentioned is used.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Fees and expenses) -
– This clause provides that the members of the board, and the deputies “of members of the board while acting as such, shall receive such fees and ex.penses as are prescribed. I suggest that the clause might be amended by including the fees which the members are to receive. As the fees of members of committees of this Parliament are fixed by law, there does not appear to be any valid reason why the remuneration to be paid to the members of the board should not be stated.
.- The fees will not be paid from government funds, but from money raised by an export tax, which the growers provide. In all probability the board, at its first meeting, will recommend to the Minister the fees to be paid, and if they are considered reasonable, a regulation will be framed prescribing the amount. If Parliament were passing a Companies Act it would not fix in the bill the amount to be paid to company directors.
– There is a marked difference between a Companies Act and this measure, which is receiving Government suPport. Although the Minister has said that the fees will be recommended by the board, and will eventually be paid by those who pay the tax, the clause specifically states that the fees shall be “ as are prescribed.” By whom will they be prescribed ?
– By the Minister.
– Surely the Government can say what is a reasonable amount, particularly as it will be the prescribing authority.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (London agency of board) -
– Under this clause the board may constitute a London agency, and I should like to know if any limit has been placed upon the London expenditure.
.- The total expenditure of the board will be limited by the amount it collects from the tax of id. a tin. For the information of the honorable senator, I may explain that the Dried Fruits Control Board pays its representatives in London fees amounting to about £500 a year, and the secretary a salary of £700. The total expenses of the London agency of that board amount to about £1,500 a year. As the London agency of this board will not have as much to do as the agency of the Dried Fruits Control Board, probably the expenditure will be less.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Appointment of officers).
– This clause provides that officers appointed by the board shall not be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act, and that their salaries and conditions of appointment shall be as prescribed. Are we to understand that they will be paid out of the same fund as that from which the remuneration of the board itself will be drawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 29 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is the complementary measure which I referred to when introducing the Canned Fruits Export Control Bill. Its object is to give authority to enable the necessary levy to be made so as to provide funds for the administration of the act. Subject to a lower rate being prescribed, the rate of charge is to be¼d. for each 30 ounces of canned fruits exported. All moneys payable mu3t be paid to the Collector of Customs on or before the entry of the canned fruits for export. Any lower charge than¼d. may be fixed by regulation after report to the Minister by- the Canned Fruits Export Control Board. The full rate of levy, if applied, will result in approximately £10,000 being collected annually. The levy will be paid into a Canned Fruits Export Fund, and will be utilized by the board as set out in clause 21 of the Canned Fruits Export Control Bill. A considerable portion of the money will, no doubt, be used for advertising and publicity purposes.
– I realize that having passed the Canned Fruits Export Control Bill we must now provide the machinery to give effect to that measure. The Minister has stated that the proposed levy will provide £10,000 forthe operations of the board. Is there any danger of the Commonwealth becbming liable for any shortage of revenue? Suppose, for instance, that the levy realizes only £8,000. Will the Commonwealth be liable for the remainder ?
– The board will have no authority to commit the Commonwealth to any expenditure.
– If the anticipated revenue is not realized, will the board have power to increase the levy?
– The board will have to do what every private citizen does. It will have to keep its expenditure within its income.
– The Minister having replied to the point which I raised, I have no objp.ction to the passage of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without request.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure does not deal with the rates of pensions or the conditions under which pensions are granted, but provides the money for the payment of pensions which have been, or will be, granted in accordance with the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Up to the present Parliament has voted £71,250,000 for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. The actual expenditure to the 30th June last waa £69,236,952. The balance of the appropriation which remained unexpended at the close of the financial year was therefore £2,013,048. It is “estimated that during the current financial year £9,000,000 will be required for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. As the amount available, £2,013,048, will be barely sufficient to cover payments during the first three months, Parliament is asked to appropriate a further amount of £10,000,000. I trust that the Senate will pass the second reading without delay.
– As this measure provides for the usual appropriation to meet our commitments in respect to invalid and old-age pensions I shall offer no objection to its second reading. But I should like to direct the Minister’s attention to the position in Western Australia. Under the Miners’ Phthisis Relief Act the State Government has set up a medical institution for the examination of miners employed in mining operations. If they are found to be suffering from that occupational disease they are withdrawn from the mines and given monetary assistance until the Government can secure other employment for them. Some time ago the Premier of Western Australia communicated with the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and myself to ascertain if the financial aid given to miners during the period mentioned would be regarded as income under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The advisers of the Government have decided that it shall be considered as income. The Government ought to reconsider that decision. The Government of Western Australia has adopted this humane method of treatment with a view to saving the lives of those who are infected with this dread disease. Although these men are receiving slight monetary assistance from the State Government, the Commonwealth Government should not be relieved of its liability towards them. I cannot recall the amount that a miner receives, but, to all intents and purposes, he is an invalid. If from any other cause he was incapacitated, and was unable to follow his usual occupation, he would be eligible for an invalid pension of £1 per week. No one knows better than the Minister (Senator Pearce) the ravages of this dread disease.
– Are they not entitled to an invalid pension?
– Not according to the construction which has been placed upon the act by the Treasury, which says that any man who receives assistance under the Miners Phthisis Act of Western Australia is not eligible for the benefits that are conferred by the invalid pension section of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– That does not state the position quite correctly. If the relief which a man receives under the Miners Phthisis Act exceeds the income stipulated by the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, he is not entitled to an invalid pension.
– I am endeavouring to impress upon the Government the fact that such relief should not be counted as income.
– That principle could not be given a general application.
– Miners’ phthisis is not a general disease. Surely an exception could be made in the case of men whose lives are being saved, and who are being made good, virile citizens, by the humane action of a government that is endeavouring to prevent the spread of the disease! I believe that a man who re ceives the benefits -of a similar act in NewSouth Wales is entitled to the invalid pension. Section 9 of the Miners Phthisis Act of Western Australia reads -
I ask the Leader of the Senate to endeavour to induce the Treasurer and the other members of the Cabinet to go further into this matter, and to reverse the decision that now stands in relation to these men.
– -An amendment of the act would be necessary.
– Possibly it would. I am not questioning the legal aspect of the decision of the Government; I stress more the humane side of the matter.
– This matter was first brought under my notice in a letter that I received from the Premier of Western Australia (Mr. Collier). Something more than an amendment of the act is necessary to give effect to the wish that the honorable senator has expressed. Such an amendment might deal with these particular cases, but it would place the men who receive the benefits of. the Miners Phthisis Act of Western Australia in a more advantageous position than is occupied by a person who in another part of the Commonwealth is suffering from miners phthisis. In the case of the latter, any income earned is taken into consideration in deciding the amount of pension that shall be payable. I do not know whether Senator Needham is aware that under the Miners Phthisis Act of Western Australia, when a man is withdrawn from a mine he is entitled to and does receive the full rate of wage applicable to that calling. He is, therefore, in a better position than are the majority of those in other States, who, unfortunately, suffer from this disease. When I placed the letter of the Premier of Western Australia before the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), he sent me the following reply: -
With reference to your letter of the 2nd February forwarding correspondence received, by you from the Premier’ of Western Australia on the above subject, I have to say that this matter has been given careful consideration.
The Miners Phthisis Act of Western Australia provides that all persons engaged in mining operations shall submit themselves for medical examination whenever called upon. If the result of the examination shows that the person is suffering from tuberculosis, he may be prohibited from employment in a mine. In such a case, he becomes entitled to receive from the Mines Department of Western Australia compensation equal to the ruling rate of pay for the class of work on -which he was engaged. This compensation remains payable until other suitable employment is found for him by the Mines Department.
The Premier asks that this compensation be not regarded as income for invalid and oldage pension purposes.
Payments of compensation provided for in the Miners Phthisis Act - constitute income within the meaning of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and in order to comply with the Premier’s request, it would be necessary to amend section 4 of the latter act.
There does not appear to be any good reason why payments under the Miners Phthisis Act should be exempt from calculation as income for pension purposes. Such exemption would not benefit the Government of Western Australia, because that Government would still be liable for the full amount of compensation. The only persons who would benefit would be the prohibited miners; but as they are to receive compensation equal to the ruling rate of wages for the class of work on which they were engaged at the time of the prohibition, they would not appear to be in need of invalid pensions in addition. Moreover, as the Miners Phthisis Act contemplates the finding of suitable work for the miners affected, it would seem that these persons are not permanently incapacitated for work within the meaning of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and are, therefore, ineligible for the grant of invalid pensions.
In view of the above considerations, I regret to say that it is not possible to take action on the lines desired by the Western Australian Government.
Later the Premier of Western Australia again wrote to me and said he had been informed that differential treatment was meted out to miners in Broken Hill. I forwarded that letter to the Treasurer on the 23rd July, with the comment -
If, as stated in Mr. Collier’s letter, these exemptions arc allowable under the Workers’ Compensation (Broken Hill) Act, and Miners’
Accident Relief Act 1000, of ‘the State of NewSouth Wales, it seems somewhat invidious, that they are not allowable in the case of. Western Australia. I would urge that the matter be reconsidered.
The reply which I received on 29 th July reads as follows: -
With reference to your letter of 23rd July, copy herewith, forwarding correspondence from the honorable the Premier of Western Australia on the above subject, 1 have to say that I have given consideration to the matter.
The Premier has requested that paymentsmade under the Miners’ Phthisis Act to certain miners who are unable to work be exempted from the income provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In support of his request, the Premier has referred to the Workmen’s Compensation (Broken Hill) Act and the Miners’ Accident Belief Act of New South Wales.
Payments under the Workmen’s Compensation (Broken Hill) Act are not exempted from the income provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. On the contrary, these payments constitute income for pensions purposes, and are taken into account in determining claims for pensions.
Payments under the Miners’ Accident Relief Act are exempted from calculation as income. The reason for this is that these payments were exempted under the New South Wales Pensions Act prior to the transfer of pensions to the Commonwealth. This exemption was omitted from the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908, with the result that, in a small number of cases, transferred from New South Wales, the payments were maintained as income, and the pensions were thereby affected. In order that these few pensioners should not- be placed in a worse position under the Commonwealth Act than they were under the State legislation, the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was amended in 1909 to provide that payments under the Miners’ Accident Belief Act should not be computed as income for pension purposes.
There are probably now very few eases in which pensions are being paid to persons in receipt of assistance under the Miners’ Accident Belief Act, because that Act was repealed when the Workmen’s Compensation Act of New South Wales came into force in 1917. Moreover, the amounts which were paid under the Miners’ Accident Relief Act were comparatively small.
In these circumstances, I regret to say that, it is not possible to exclude payments under the Miners’ Phthisis Act of Western Australia from the computation of income for invalid and old-age pension purposes.
Those letters make the position clear. I regret that the case presented by Senator Needham cannot be met in the way he suggests.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure does not deal in any way with the rates of pensions or the conditions governing the granting of pensions, but merely asks Parliament to provide the money to pay the pensions. The number of pensions in force at the 30th June, 1916, was 252,609, the annual liability being approximately £7,220,000. The number of war pensions is steadily increasing, and it is estimated that at the 30th June, 1927, the annual liability will have increased to £7,450,000. The increase in the annual rate of expenditure is due to the granting of new claims, the majority of which are in respect of new dependants, such as newly-born children and recently-married wives of ex-soldiers who are pensioners. The total expenditure to the 30th June, 1926, on war pensions was £58,154,625. The last appropriation was made by Parliament in September of last year, the amount then appropriated being £10,000,000. The balance of that appropriation which remained unexpended at the close of last financial year was £6,343,100. This amount will be sufficient to cover payments of pensions to the end of April, 1927; therefore, further appropriation is required to meet the total payments for- 1926-27. The usual practice of asking Parliament to vote a lump sum has been followed, and the amount of £10:000,000 has accordingly been included in the bill.
– I realize the necessity for the bill, and I do not intend to debate it. Complaint has been heard on a number of occasions about the manner in which certain claims by returned men are dealt with, the reply of the department being that the disability is not the result of war service. Several cases of thisnature have come under my personal notice.. Every man who volunteered for active^ service- was certified as medically fit before be left Australia; otherwise he would” not have been allowed to leave for Prance, Gallipoli, or Egypt. It, therefore, seems- to me that the department has erred in rejecting well-founded claims. I hope that in future more sympathy will ‘be extended to these returned men than they have received in the past.
.- I generally find that the reasons given by the department for the rejection of claims are sound, and in many of the cases brought under my notice I have been prepared to accept the decision of the Minister. Recently the present Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) has taken upon himself a rather heavy duty in endeavouring to investigate all applications personally. In one case that I have before me, I have exhausted every avenue in endeavouring to obtain favorable consideration of the claim, and I feel that the individual concerned has suffered an injustice. I refer to the case of an ex-petty officer in the navy, J. W. Everett, who transferred to the Melbourne in London from the Imperial Navy in 1912. Under the terms of his five-years’ engagement, which would have ended in 1917, he was entitled to a free trip back to England: He fulfilled his contract to the letter. The war intervened, and he was sent on active service to the North Sea and elsewhere*. When his time expired, in 1917, he had to continue in the service because a state of- war existed. He remained in the Aust tralian Navy until 1918, when he asked to be transferred to the auxiliary shore forces. He remained with: the land, forces for a further three years, and eventually reached ;the retiring age of- 57 years. He then applied for; a- free passage -back to England; but this was refused by the department on the ground that, since he had applied for transfer from the sea force to the land force, he had forfeited his right to it. Under ‘his contract he was entitled to fourteen days’ annual leave and a free passage back to England, subject to his -service being satisfactory. He had not a single black mark against him, and his character was indicated as “ very good.”
– This is not a war pensions case.
– I think that the money would have to come from the war pensions fund. . At all events, the matter concerns the Minister for Defence, and I take this opportunity of bringing.it under the notice of the Government.’
– I have one or two cases to which I desire to draw attention.
– Why not do so when the Appropriation Bill is under consideration!
– Will there be a chance then?
– Yes; each department will then be under review.
– Although we have innumerable opportunities to bring pension cases under the notice of the Government, we are unable to obtain justice in every instance. If the regulations are not sufficiently elastic to meet all cases, more suitable regulations should be provided.
– Why not bring these cases forward when the Appropriation Bill is under consideration?
– Unfortunately, the time usually allowed for its consideration is limited. I do not propose to occupy more than a few minutes.
– I draw the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that a more suitable opportunity to discuss this matter will be provided when the Appropriation Bill is under consideration.
– But will sufficient time be allowed me then ? There is no time like the present. A case came under my notice recently in which the mother of a deceased soldier was refused a pension because her husband did not die within three years of the death of her soldier son. Had the framers of the regulations anticipated a case of that nature, provision would have been made to meet it. I rose to suggest to the Minister, who is always willing to listen to representations made from this side, that when amendments of the existing legislation are contemplated, cases of this description be taken into account.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss an item of that description when dealing with this bill, which is one to appropriate a specified sum of money for a definite’ purpose. I remind him that he will have an opportunity to . discuss it when the bill dealing with it comes before us.
– I thought, Mr. President, that you would allow, me to allude to it, seeing that you had permitted Senator Ogden to do so.
– I have already done so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to provide for the grant of invalid and old-age pensions to Indians in Australia who were born in British India. As the act stands at present, Asiatics, except those born in Australia, are not eligible to receive pensions. British nationality, whether inherent as natural born, or acquired by naturalization, does not overcome this disqualification. The position of Indians was considered by the Imperial War Conferences of 1917 and 1918, and in April, 1919 the Commonwealth Government promised that legislative proposals would be submitted as soon as possible to place Indians on an equality with other British subjects, so far as invalid and old-age pensions were concerned.- Honorable senators are aware that Indians have now been admitted to the franchise, and the Government is of opinion that the proposed extension of pensions benefits to Indians should be no longer delayed. The persons affected by this bill will, of course, be required to conform to the ordinary provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Thus, it will be necessary for an applicant for an old-age pension trader this legislation to have attainted the age of 65 years in the case of aman, and 60 years in the case of a woman, and to have completed twenty years’ continuous residence in the Commonwealth. In the case of an application for an invalid pension, the claimant will have to be sixteen years of age, and to have completed five years’ continuous residence in Australia. He will also have to be permanently and totally incapacitated for work. It is not anticipated that the Commonwealth will be involved in any heavy expenditure as a result of this legislation. When the legislation to extend the franchise to Indians was before Parliament about twelve months’ ago, the
Commonwealth Statistician furnished figures’ which showed that there were only 2,300 British-Indians resident in Australia. It is calculated that not more than 200 of these are of pension age. The experience of the Pensions Department is that one person in every three who has attained pension age receives a pension. On that basis it is anticipated that the increased expenditure involved by the grant of pensions to British-Indians will not exceed £3.500 per annum. As no more British-Indians can obtain domicile in Australia, this bill will apply only to those who have already obtained domicile. Under our immigration laws, British-Indians coming to Australia may only do so as visitors. Honorable senators will remember that Dr. Sastri, who visited the Commonwealth a few years ago, referred to the little pinpricks which were used by the anti-British section in India to foment feeling against Britain. The granting of invalid and oldage pensions to these people, while meaning little to us, may do a great deal to counteract that propaganda. It is as well for us to do what we can to maintain good relations between India and the other portions of the British Empire.
– These people are riot entitled to vote in their own country.
– Home Rule has been extended in India. If the honorable senator will take the trouble to inquire, he will find that in local and district matters there is a very wide franchise in India. Only in the higher spheres is the franchise restricted. I ask the Senate to pass the measure, which I believe will not only give justice to the Indians resident in Australia, but will also tend to sweeten our relations with India.
– I realize that this measure is, to a certain extent, complementary to the legislation which we passed last year to amend the electoral laws to enable Indians domiciled in Australia to exercise the franchise, and to be admitted to the full rights of citizenship. I should not have supported the measure, however, if there was any danger of increasing the number of Indians whom it would affect. I understand from the Minister’s remarks that the bill applies only to those British Indians who are already domiciled in Australia, and whose numbers must neces sarily decrease as time goes on; and that,’ consequently, the liability of the Commonwealth will also decrease. Having voted for the amendment of the electoral law to enable these natives of British India to take part in the government of this country, I cannot now raise any valid objection to granting them the privileges conferred by the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, particularly as their numbers will decrease with the passing of time. I support the second reading of the bill.
– While I have no serious objection to offer to the passing of this bill, it seems strange that we should legislate to grant ‘pensions to coloured people born in other countries, when, for technical reasons, they are refused to our own white people. I realize that these BritishIndians are now entitled to vote at Federal elections. Are they also entitled to vote at State elections ?
– In some of the States, they are entitled to exercise the franchise.
– In that case, some of these coloured people are entitled to vote at State Legislative Council elections, whereas some of our own white women are refused that privilege. A black man born in another part of the world is granted greater privileges in Australia than are white women born ia this country! It is gratifying to know that the liability of the Commonwealth under this bill will diminish from time to time, and that no more British-Indians can become domiciled in Australia. Nevertheless, I am strongly of the opinion that our first duty is to our own Australian people. Australian women whose husbands have died as the result of war service, have been denied pensions because the Medical Board has attributed the death of their husbands to causes other than disabilities arising from active service. In several instances which have come under my notice, women whose husbands died as the result of war service have to go to work because the Government will not grant them pensions, whereas it is prepared to grant them to black men born in other countries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
Debate resumed from 5th August (vide page 4940), on motion by Senator Pearce* -
That the papers be printed.
– It requires a certain amount of courage to commence a speech at this hour on a Friday afternoon, but I am anxious to make a few observations on the budget, and I hope honorable senators, will bear with me. A good deal has been said, both in the Senate and also in the press, concerning the duty that honorable senators owe to the States. I hold a brief for the States and their rights, just as other honorable senators do, but I think a mistake is being made by confusing our loyalty to the Governments of the States with loyalty to the people of the States. I venture to suggest that the budget, as submitted by the Treasurer, is calculated, to benefit the people of the States individually. It may not be viewed with very much enthusiasm by the Governments of theStates, but, on the whole, I think it will be for the benefit of them all. At any rate, I feel that I should support it, subject to certain recommendations which I intend to make as I proceed.
I have recently visited Canberra, which is looming largely in the public eye at present, and as the result of my visit have completely changed the opinion which I had erroneously formed concerning the Federal Capital. I found that the foundations were being well and truly laid for a great capital city of the future - a city worthy of the place which I hope Australia will one day take in the comity of nations. The Parliament House itself, although it is only a provisional building, is a fine structure.
– It will be used for many years.
– Yes, it will last for centuries; and, so far as I can see, it will prove extremely comfortable and convenient for the work which has to be performed within it.
– It should be, in that climate.
– Yes. I shall oppose, with all the power at my command, the holding of winter sessions at Canberra, because- during the two days that I was there it was exceedingly cold. I pay a tribute to the immortal eloquence with which Senator Cox recently described the spectacle, of Victorian senators shivering in the cold at Yass in the early hours of a winter’s morning, while waiting for motors to convey them to Canberra,, and which, he said, would be some retribution for their action in sometimes causing representatives from other States to miss ‘their trains on Friday afternoons.. I had the experience of shivering in the; cold’ on the Yass railway platform at 5 o’clock in the morning while waiting for a motor car to convey me to Canberra, and by the time I arrived at the Hotel Canberra I did not know whether I still, possessed- my hands or my feet. 1,. therefore, urge honorable senators to join with me in opposing winter sessions at Canberra. I gather from press statements-, that after the Federal Parliament has been opened by His Royal Highness the Duke of York, in May next, we are to meet in July. Let us oppose that proposal.
– Who said that we were to meet in July at Canberra ?
– I read a statement to that effect in the newspapers, which, I suppose, was inspired ; but I am glad to hear the right honorable senator suggest that such is not the case.
– It is not correct.
– I am glad of that. Possibly I was able while at Canberra to render some service to honorable senators. While, we were visiting Parliament House we had the foresight to test the electric bells which summon honorable senators to divisions, and found that they gave forth what I can only liken to the most strident screeches. Honorable senators with weak hearts, or who bad experienced a’ bad night, would, I am sure, feel for some time the effect of their discordant, ringing. Representations were made by us to the authorities, with the result that bells of more musical tones are to be installed.
We were also impressed with the modern methods that are being adopted in street construction, on which ploughs were doing good work, and saving time and labour. An inspection of the joinery works showed that the most modern appliances were being used. In. this connexion I wish to compliment those who were in charge at Canberra years ago on their perspicacity in purchasing and stacking at that time large supplies of timber, which is now well seasoned, and was obtained at prices much below those ruling to-day.
– And all Australian timber, too.
– Yes. Tasmanian blackwood is extensively used throughout Parliament House, and in the refreshment and dining rooms the still more beautiful Queensland woods are much in evidence. We also paid a visit to the cottages that are being erected for public servants and others. There has been a good deal of complaint concerning the architecture of these homes, but I must say that a good deal of attention has been given to detail, and every endeavour has been made to simplify and reduce the work of housewives. Laboursaving fitments and conveniences are in evidence everywhere. I may mention, however, that probably the greatest bugbear of all is the cost of these houses. Opinions differ very much in this respect. I obtained one authoritative opinion to the effect that building at Can- . berra costs only 10 per cent, more than in Sydney. That is quite likely; but, on the other hand, I was told that the costs in Canberra run from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, higher than in Melbourne. If that is so, that is where the shoe pinches in the case of public servants who will have to leave their homes in Melbourne and acquire new homes in the Federal Capital. The main consideration is not the difference in building costs between Sydney and Canberra, which, if it is only 10 per cent., is not unreasonable, but the difference between building costs at Canberra and Melbourne.
– Is the estimate of 25 per cent, extra correct?
– I believe it is ; but the honorable senator will have an opportunity of checking it.
– I do not think it is.
– The Public Works Committee is conducting an investigation into building costs, and will probably thresh out the whole matter. These houses are not being built for today or to-morrow, but for many years, and, therefore, as is only right and proper, are being constructed on a substantial basis. But the economic position which arises is a serious one for public servants. The commission, which consists of business men, has to charge rents which are based on the capital cost of the houses, and these rents have to be paid by public servants. In many cases they are more than they can afford to pay. Seeing that Canberra is being built, not for to-day, but for all time, exacting building conditions have to be observed. Having regard to this, with the fact that the cost of living is higher there than elsewhere, it may be said that we are creating what may be described as “ Canberra conditions,” and the only way out of an awkward position is to make an allowance to public servants transferred there. Government servants working in tropical parts of Australia receive a tropical allowance, and in order to do justice to the public servants a careful inquiry should bo made to see if what may be termed a “ Canberra allowance “ should not be paid in order to place in a more satisfactory position public servants who are transferred to the Federal Capital.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that that consideration should be extended to honorable senators.
– No. They will not be living there. Senator Grant, for instance, will continue to reside in his palatial residence at Manly and, therefore, will not be entitled to such consideration.
We also visited the brickmaking works, where bricks which compare more than favorably with those manufactured in any other part of Australia are being made. We inspected, with a great deal of pleasure and interest, the afforestation efforts, which are well in hand. The plantations seem to be doing remarkably well, although the climate is not too salubrious, and there will be, I think, plenty of scope, if the foundation is well and truly laid, for an extensive afforestation scheme. We also visited Mount Stromlo, from which one obtains a magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. I think it was Senator Guthrie who ong said that the land was so poor that it would not feed a rabbit. I differ from him as to the nature of the country. We then went to the source of the water supply, which caused me considerable surprise: At the weir a magnificent stream of water was falling over a 50-ft. wall in the form of a cataract, and it will always be worthy of a visit by tourists. I am told that the water supplied to Canberra is 96.8 per cent, pure, and that 90 per cent, of it comes from the snows of the adjacent mountains. What gratified me more than anything else was the fact that this magnificent scheme is calculated to supply the requirements of 250,000 people.
– Order! Under the sessional order I must now put the question - “ That the Senate do now adjourn.”
– I pay a tribute to the manner in which the Hotel Canberra is conducted. The place is very comfortable, and, when one considers the prices charged iri Melbourne, Sydney, and other cities for anything like equal accommodation, I do not know that the charges are out of the way. The attention given to visitors is very good indeed, and I am also under a debt of gratitude to officials of the Federal Capital Commission, who gave me much of their time whilst I was there.
I should like now to- say a few words on defence, a subject about which Senator Duncan appears to have exaggerated apprehensions. The honorable senator said that the people of the Commonwealth were aghast at the disclosures made in the annual report of the .Inspector-General (Sir Harry Chauvel). If he will examine defence reports, as I have for many years, before and after federation, he will find that there has hardly been an occasion when the commanding officer has not been dissatisfied with the amount of money made available for defence purposes.
– There is a vast difference between not being fully satisfied and with being entirely dissatisfied.
– It is the business of the head of the Defence Department to obtain as much money as possible for defence purposes. Put the line3 of defence are being well and truly laid by this Government. It places in the forefront the efficiency of the navy, and the air force, together with an adequate supply of munitions. I admit that, in the matter of land defence, it is not doing as much as my friend Sir Harry Chauvel would like it to do, but he will have to do the best with the funds at his disposal. I contend that Sir Harry Chauvel’s report is a very fine record of achievement Much good work has been done. It is hardly likely that the permanent head of a .department will suggest where economies can be effected. This matter might well be entrusted to the Public Accounts Committee. Indeed, that committee might, with advantage, be instructed’ to examine the accounts of tha different departments occasionally to see where economics are possible. I throw this out as a suggestion to the Government. Possibly, the committee has not enough to occupy its time. I believe that some of its members are about to go to Rabaul, at a time when their services are urgently required in connexion with the referendum proposals of the Government.
– It is a section of the Public Works Committee that is going to Rabaul.
– -Then I must apologize to the Public Accounts Committee. It is, in my opinion, most improper for any sectional committee, even though they be members of the Public Works Committee, to go to Rabaul at present. I understand that the committee has visited Rabaul before. I do not know whether members of the committee, on this occasion, are going there to ascertain the colour of the natives’ eyebrows, but I am surprised that they are contemplating expenditure of public money on such a trip. I am a member of a very important committee myself, but we have to put aside our wishes, and give our time to the referendum proposals. I fail to see why a section of the Public Works Committee should go away on this jaunt to Rabaul at the present juncture.
In passing, I should like to say a few words on the subject of naval defence In my opinion, we shall require’ to spend more money in that direction. I waa. very much interested in an article which I read the other day in Fair Play on this subject. For the information of honorable senators, I take the following extracts from it : -
A fine lead has been shown by the Government of the Federated Malay States in offering; £2,000,000 as a contribution towards the cost of the Singapore base, which is estimated to be £10,000,000. Now comes the question, “ What are Australia and New Zealand going to do about it?” The strengthening of the Singapore base has been undertaken by the British Government, so that the Royal Navy may be enabled to operate in Far Eastern waters for the protection of all British seaborne trade afloat from day to day in those waters, and also for the defence of Australia and New Zealand from a possible attack by a naval power from the north. But, owing to an imperfect comprehension of the naval situation, strong opposition was shown in the British House of Commons, both by the Labour and the Liberal parties, to the scheme for enlarging the Singapore base. Mr. Asquith (now the Earl of Oxford) and Mr. Ramsay Macdonald opposed it bitterly as an unnecessary extravagance, and when Mr. Ramsay Macdonald attained to office with the support of the Liberal party, he reversed the previous Government’s decision, and refused to go on with the work. On Mr. Baldwin’s return to power with an overwhelming majority, the project was re-started, on the advice of all the Admiralty experts, who agreed that a naval base in . Far Eastern waters was necessary to ensure the mobility of the British Fleet in that quarter of the world, and that the most useful site for the base was on the island of Singapore, which commands the gateway between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. The plain truth - which has been recognized by the Australian Prime Minister in his public pronouncements - is that’ the Singapore base is necessary for the security of Australia. The proposition applies with equal force to New Zealand.
As we shall have to provide further funds for the navy, I am afraid that an additional vote for our land defence will not be available for some time to come.
Aviation is allied to defence. I should very much like to see steps taken to have Charleville connected with Bourke, and an extension authorized to Port Darwin. We all know what a magnificent service is provided by Q.U.A.N.T.A.S. UP to the present there has not been a single accident. If the air route is linked up as I have suggested, we shall have a splendid aviation service for the whole of the northern and eastern coasts of Australia.
I turn now to the position of our rifle clubs. I think they should receive more encouragement, although I realize that this would mean an increase in the expenditure on land defence. For a time after the war interest in rifle shooting declined. I hope that the Government will take steps to revive it. In connexion with this matter, I may be permitted to air a local grievance. At one time the Central Queensland Rifle Association, with its head-quarters in Rockhampton, was a very flourishing institution. To-day it has only the status of a district council. It should be restored to its full association rank, and be given a full subsidy, as waa the case many years ago.
– Why should not “ pot hunters “ pay for their own pleasure? Rifle shooting has no value from the defence point of view.
– At one time no one condemned .” pot hunting “ more than I did, but we all know that rifle clubs do play an important part in any defence scheme, and I think the Government would be well advised to give them more encouragement.
Another matter which has some relation to the defence vote, and which, also, is connected with Canberra, is the war memorial. I think a mistake was made by limiting the War Memorial Act to the recent great war. If, unhappily, another war breaks out, the terms of the Australian War Memorial Act will prevent the Government from housing any trophies or records of it in the building to bc erected at Canberra. It is not too late even now to make the necessary amendment to that act to widen its scope. A promise was made by the Minister in charge of the measure- in another place that provision would be made in the war memorial building for a section for housing relics and trophies of the Boer war, but that is not being done. I have taken a good deal of interest in this matter, and I have been requested by the South African War Veterans’ Association of Queensland to bring it under the notice of the Government. Although the last war was the greatest in history, the Boer War was the greatest in men and money, in which, till then, Great Britain had been engaged. Therefore, it is only right that trophies and records of it should be preserved for the nation instead of being relegated to obscurity. Although, as I have said, the last war was the greatest in history, it was not the greatest in its political significance. The Peninsular War undoubtedly was the greatest political war in history, because Napoleon had over-run Europe, and controlled the destinies of practically all European peoples except the people of Great Britain, whereas in the last great war Germany was just setting out to make a bid for the domination of the world, and, fortunately was definitely checked. In view of the importance of the Boer War, it is only right that its records and trophies should be housed in the Australian War Memorial at Canberra. On this subject I make the following extract from a letter which I have received from the secretary of the South African War Veterans’ Association of Queensland: -
It would appear that the Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to blot out all memories of the Boer War, notwithstanding it was the men who served in that war that laid the foundation of the Australia. Imperial Force army. Take all our leading military officers to-day. It was in South Africa that they received their training, yet the African soldier is quite forgotten from the Government’s point of view. Referring to relics, we received from the Brisbane City Council 47 Boer rifles, and now that your efforts have failed we are at a loss to know what to do with them. We also had in view some field pieces, which we were just about to negotiate for. . . .
I hope that the Minister will give thi3 matter his early attention, and see if it is possible to comply with the request of the association referred to.
Coal for naval purposes is linked up with defence. During the recent strike of British seamen in Australia the Government placed a considerable quantity of coal, which it had been holding m reserve, at the disposal of the various State Governments. I understand that as the result of exposure to air it had depreciated in quality. I should like to know whether it was Welsh or Australian coal. If it was Welsh it is a great pity, because that coal costs £4 5s. a ton to land in Australia. Central Queensland possesses coal that approaches more nearly to the Welsh coal than any other which is to be found outside Wales. I hope that, in future, the Navy will Obtain its requirements much nearer home. If it did so, it would not need to carry such large stocks, and the risk of deterioration would not be so great.
I desire to say a few words in regard to the financial proposals of the Government. I have really burnt my boats in this matter, because, at the conference of Chambers of Commerce of - Australia, which was held in Sydney last March, I advocated the abolition of the per capita payments. The discussion arose out of a motion by Mr. A. M. Hertzberg. representing the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, who proposed that the Federal Government should not only continue the
Senator Thompson . per capita payments, but also vacate the field of income tax. That gentleman is the leader of commercial opinion in Queensland at the present time. He has Converted the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce to his view, and its resolutions have been broadcast- throughout Queensland, with the result that I have received from different chambers of commerce quite a number of resolutions endorsing the Brisbane recommendations. Fortunately, the Rockhampton Chamber of Commerce thinks for itself, and it has accepted the financial proposals of the Treasurer. I should like to see the Commonwealth Government vacate every field of direct taxation. These proposals go a long way in that direction. As a business man, I realize that it is not possible for the Commonwealth to give up at once every form of . direct taxation. It has been said that these proposals will lead to unification and interference with the functions of the States. I believe that, on the contrary, they will clear the air to a greater extent than would be possible under any other scheme. It is argued that great difficulty will be experienced by the States in assimilating the taxes. I am unable to apprehend any such difficulty. Legislation will, of course, be necessary; but it is by no means an insuperable task. The individual taxpayer will not be called upon to make any greater payment than he is making at the present time. It is urged that the Legislative Councils of the States will not endorse proposals for fresh taxation. I cannot imagine any legislative council preventing revenue from being secured when the transaction amounts merely to a transfer from one pocket of an individual to another. I advocate these financial proposals with the full knowledge that at present Queensland is worse off than any other State. On the Treasurer’s figures, it is behind to the extent of £238,000. That sum, and a further £50,000, are to be granted to it in the first year. Whilst I strongly advocate the adoption of these financial proposals in the interests of the Federal Government as well as of the States, I should like to receive the assurance that, for three years at least, the States will not be made to suffer. I believe that the Treasurer has intimated that the proposals will be reviewed. That does not quite satisfy me. I should like to have a definite promise. Queensland will be in an even worse position next year, because the central west, and north-western portions of the State are suffering from, an unprecedentedly severe drought, and the pastoralists, who provide the great bulk of the income tax that is raised, have been badly hit. It is, however, a wonderfully recuperative State, and there may be compensating advantages; but we have to realize that for two years following this financial year the position of the States must be safeguarded. I hope that I shall be given the assurance that the revenue will be maintained at the figure at which it stood when the change was made.
– The Government will not give any guarantee of that.
– I cannot ask it to adjust any deficiency, because the governments of the States may play ducks and drakes with their revenues. But it is reasonable to ask the Treasurer to see that for at least three years the revenues which the States receive shall not be less than what they were when the partition was . made. I believe that the adoption of these proposals will, in time, compel both the Commonwealth Government and the governments of the States to economize. In a year or two, when our protective duties are having their full effect, the amounts of duty should not be as great as they are to-day. I am afraid that Federal revenue will drop, and the Government will be hard putto it to make ends meet. It will, therefore, have to exercise economy in a way that it is not called upon to do to-day. The governments of the States also will have tn live within their income. Queensland has had bounding revenues ever since the Labour Government came into power, but the expenditure has always been greater. Last year the loss on the railways amounted to £1,700,000, and the financial year closed with a deficit of £536,000. If these proposals check that mad rush to ruin they will have a beneficial effect. Whatever may be the view of the Government of Queensland, I consider it my duty,, in the interest of the State, to support these proposals. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 10th August.
.- The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has not given us a reason for departing from the established custom of meeting at 3 o’clock on Wednesday in each week. The business that awaits our consideration at the present time is confined to the Estimates and budget-papers and one other measure.
– It would not be necessary for the Senate to meet on Tuesday if the honorable senator did not talk so much.
– I can assure the Leader of the Senate -that if it is decided to meet on Tuesday next, I shall in the meantime prepare a speech-
– And I shall move that the honorable senator be no longer heard.
– The honorable senator will not be able to do that. I shall prepare a speech dealing with the petrol duties, lt is unreasonable for the Leader of the Senate to ask us to meet on Tuesday. In the absence of any indicationof the business that he expects us to consider, I shall vote against the motion.
– I also desire to ask the Minister what are the intentions of the Government?
– We hope to complete the business, and rise by Wednesday or Thursday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
boards and commissions– kyogle to
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– In view of the early termination of the present sittings I make a last request to the Leader of the Senate, to obtain the information that I have been seeking for a considerable time as to the number arid coat of the various boards and commissions that the Government has appointed. When I last asked this question on the Sth July, the answer was given that the information would be supplied “to-morrow.”
– I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways will supply, before the session closes, the information I have asked for regarding the tunnels on the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway. Since my last question was asked on this subject one railway employee has lost bis life, and another was almost suffocated in the Ardglen tunnel. I intend to pursue this matter until I am satisfied that adequate steps will be taken to make the tunnels on the proposed line safe.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260806_senate_10_114/>.