10th Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy President (Senator Plain) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate, is there any truth in the statements that have appeared in certain newspapers during the past day or two that material alterations are about to be made in the family circle; also, if it is true that Senator Pearce is to be appointed to the position of High Commissioner? If those statements are without foundation, when does the Government propose to make an announcement ?
– The Government hopes to be able to make a statement about the matter referred to by the honorable senator at a later date.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs if he is yet in a position to furnish replies to my questions concerning the importation of aniline dyes?
– I regret that the information is not yet available.
– Is it likely to be available before. Parliament rises this week ?
– I can only say that I shall furnish the reply to the honorable senator at the very earliest opportunity.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act - Report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1926.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1927, No. 23.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 24.
Proposed Rate of1s. 3d.
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Federal Capital Commission intends to place a levy of1s. 3d. in the £1 on the unimproved capital value of all land held ‘by civil servants and others at Canberra?
– I have called for a report from the Federal Capital Commission upon the subject of rates, and hope to be in a position to make a statement to the Senate in regard thereto before Parliament rises.
asked the Min ister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the agreement entered into by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited with the Commonwealth Government, will the Minister specify in detail the portions of the contract that Amalgamated Wreless (Australasia) Limited have notyet complied with?
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
The beam stations for the English and Canadian services are not yet available for commercial traffic. The feeder stations to provide communicationbetween the capital cities and the beam station are not yet in operation. They will, of course, not be needed until the beam service is opened for commercial traffic.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The honorable the Minister for Markets and Migration has supplied the following answer : -
The information sought by the honorable senator is not in the possession of the department. So far as is known, such information can only he obtained from the various exporters concerned.
“Renown’” not to Visit South Australia.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Will the Government continue to press for a visit of the Renown to South Australia, as the fraternizing of officers and men with the residents of South Australia would do much to cement the bonds of Imperial unity?
– Strong representations have been made to the British Government in favour of the Renown paying a visit to Adelaide; but advice has been received from the Renown that it is much regretted that for naval reasons, and in view of considerable difficulties caused by change of programme, it is definitely impossible for the Renown to visit Adelaide.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Crawford) read a first time.
.- I move-
That standing order No. 68 be suspended up to and including the 25th March, 1927, for the purpose of enabling new business tobe commenced after half-past ten o’clock at night.
There is a general desire which I think is shared by all honorable senators that the Senate should terminate its sittings in Melbourne this week. To enable that to be done, it is necessary to suspend the standing order referred to, so that a number of small bills which are not of great consequence may be dealt with expeditiously. In the exchange of business between the two Houses certain of those measures might reach this chamber after half-past 10 o’clock. Unless we suspend this standing order, we shall not be able to deal with them. Honorable senators would then be called upon to reassemble for the purpose of passing the final, and usually the formal, stages of bills. The course now proposed is intended to meet the convenience of honorable senators as well as of the Government.
– I realize the necessity for the motion, but I thought it as well to have an explanation from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) as to why we should be asked to sacrifice private members’ business.
– This motion will not interfere with private business.
– It is intended, as the Minister has stated, to facilitate the passage of certain Government measures so as to terminate the session this week. As I understand that many honorable senators have already made their arrangements, I do not propose to delay the motion. I presume that we shall not only end the sittings of the Commonwealth Parliament in Melbourne this week, but also that we shall give up our tenure of these premises at an early date.
– Since it is possible that the Senate may be asked to meet to-morrow morning at an early hour, I protest against any proposal to take new business after halfpast ten o’clock at night, when all respectable people should be thinking of making their way home. I do not mind an all-night sitting if the Leader of the Senate givesus ample opportunity to make the necessary arrangements. Most of us, as we grow older, are not partial to all-night sittings. It is becoming fashionable now to have theatre parties that begin close on midnight, and I understand that arrangements have been made in this city for all-night cafes; but I do not think that the example of a small section of the community, which might be called the smart set, should be followed by a seriously-minded Government such as this Administration is supposed to be. New business should not be taken after halfpast . ten o’clock at night, especially after an all-day sitting. I object to allday and all-night sittings.
– Perhaps the honorable senator objects to work in any circumstances.
– I work as hard as any member of this chamber.
-Not between meals.
– That comes very well from a gentleman who worked his passage so well as regards the Geelong woollen mills.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Plain).- Order !
– I rose to enter my protest against the Government being allowed to take new business after half-past ten o’clock at night, if, in addition, we are to have all-day sittings. There is no justification for the course proposed by the Ministry. Many honorable senators have made certain arrangements. I do not wish to upset those arrangements; but neither do I want them to upset mine. I am not quite normal when I am in an abnormal atmosphere, such as that which prevails during long and continuous sittings.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Senator Elliott and read a first time.
In Committee (Re-committal) :
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted to follow clause 6 : - “ 6a. If no agreement is made in pursuance of the last preceding section and adopted by Parliamentbefore the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight, the Treasurer shall submit to Parliament a proposal that the Commonwealth shall take over from each State an amount of its public debt equal to the respective principal sum that would be represented by the respective proposed payment (as set out inthe schedule opposite the name of the State) if such respective proposed payment were applied in respect of such debt in payment of interest at current rates and a sinking fund of one per centum.”
– I rise to order. I submit that the proposed new clause is out of order because - (1) it is outside the scope of the bill; (2) it is irrelevant; (3) it could have no effect; and (4) it is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. The effect of the proposed new clause is to give a direction to a future government that its treasurer shall submit certain proposals to Parliament. Clearly, then, it is out of order. I have had a fairly long experience in Parliament, and have had the opportunity and the occasion to study the constitutional practice of this and other legislatures. I have never seen in any act of any Parliament a provision containing a direction to a future government. Let us look for a moment at the bill itself. As its title makes clear, it is a States Grants
Bill. That is the form in which it has been passed by the committee. Is there anything in it which would justify our embodying an instruction to a future treasurer or government? The present Parliament has not, and cannot have, any control whatever over future governments or parliaments. They can act as they please, no matter what provisions we may place in this bill.. There is not in the amendment one word about grants. It is merely a direction to a future government, and, therefore, is outside the scope of the bill. I shall now deal with the second point, that the amendment is ir- relevant. I invite honorable senators to read clause6. It is as follows: -
Subject to the terms of any agreement made between the Commonwealth and all the States, and adopted by the Parliament, the Treasurer shall, during the financial year commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven, make payments to each State, in equal monthly instalments, to the amount specified in the schedule, opposite to the name of that State.
We have agreed to make certain payments to the States for one year only. The amendment does not refer to the making of grants to the States.
-In short, it would be an appropriate amendment to any proposal that might be brought down in the future.
– I do not profess to be a prophet, and cannot say what proposals are likely to be brought down in 1928 or any other year. Honorable senators are concerned only with the bill that is before them. Perhaps I had better quote the general practice with regard to amendments, according to the highest authority to which we can look. At pages 404 and 405 of the 13th Edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice, the following appears: -
An amendment must be coherent, and consistent with the context of the bill.
The amendment is not consistent with the context of the bill, because the latter proposes to make grants to the States. I shall also endeavour to prove that it is not coherent -
When a proposed amendment has been so amended as to form an incoherent question, the chairman stated that, if no further amendment were proposed, he should proceed with the question which next arose upon the clause. Amendments cannot be moved which are based on schedules or other provisions, the terms of which have not been placed before the committee, or which are otherwise incomplete.
Senator Kingsmill has based his amendment upon a schedule that the committee has not considered. Continuing, May says -
Amendments are out of order if they are irrelevant to the bill or beyond the scope of the bill, or of the clause under consideration; governed by or dependent upon amendments already negatived; inconsistent with, or contradictory to, the bill as agreed to by the committee; inconsistent with a decision to which the committee has come upon a former amendment; offered at a wrong place in the bill; or tendered to the committee in a spirit of mockery. An amendment which is equivalent to a negative of the bill, or of the clause under consideration, is out of order. Amendments have also been ruled out of order on the ground of vagueness, or because they were trifling. The chairman would decline to propose such amendments from the Chair. Amendments to a bill proposing that the address or resolution of one House of Parliament should affect the repeal of the bill have been ruled out of order as unconstitutional, while an amendment proposing that a bill relating to England alone should not come into force until a similar bill should have been passed for Scotland has been ruled to be irrelevant.
It will be seen that in that case the House of Commons took a very strong stand; it ruled out of order as irrelevant an amendment that at first glance would appear to be relevant. Another passage reads -
An amendment proposing that the provisions of a bill should be subject to a referendum has been ruled out of order. The Chairman also, in the case of an amendment offered to a bill that was limitedin scope to the repeal of a clause in a statute, ruled that the amendment was out of order, because its object was the continuance and the extension of the clause to be repealed.
I do not think that I need road any further. I shall now proceed with my nest point. The amendment could have no effect even if passed by the committee, and, therefore, it should be ruled out of order. It is obvious that no provision which we might insert in this measure would be regarded as a direction by any future treasurer or government; yet that is Senator Kingsmill’s proposal. Nobody has ever attemptedpreviously to have such a provision inserted in any bill. A futuregovernment or treasurer could entirely ignore it. They would know that a previous parliament had no right to instruct them in any measure that it had passed.
SenatorNeedham. - If that were so, would it not apply also to any bill, amendment, or resolution?
– No; because when we pass a resolution it becomes a part of the law of the land.
– If this is incorporated in the bill, it will become a part of the law of the land.
– But we cannot insert a provision controlling the policy of a future treasurer or government.
– Why not?
– Because it has never been done, and such a proposal has always been ruled out of order.
– When has it been ruled out of order?
– I have lost the reference for a moment, but I shall give it to the committee later on.
– To what effect is it?
– That an amendment which can have no effect is out of order.
– But that is not enough to show that my clause is out of order.
– It is. I can quote innumerable cases to prove that it has been the practice of the House of Commons.
– But I claim that my proposed new clause would have an effect.
– That is for the committee to say. It certainly could have no effect on a future Government. It proposes to control the policy, not the administrative acts of future Governments in regard to this matter
– That is so.
– The honorable senator might advance the same argument on clause 6, which provides for certain action, subject to any agreement made between the Commonwealth and the States.
– Clause 6 provides that, subject to any agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, the States shall be paid certain moneys for one year only. It controls the Ministry for one year on an administrative basis, but not on a matter of policy. I contend, further, that the proposed clause is entirely irrelevant. The bill does not contain a single word about State debts, whereas the whole of the clause is directed to a consideration of the attitude of the Senate towards State debts.
– But the purpose of the bill is to afford financial assistance to the States.
– It is a States Grants Bill. The proposed clause is also entirely contrary to section 105 of the Constitution, which provides -
The Parliament may take over from the States their public debts, as existing at the establishment of the Commonwealth, or a proportion thereof, according to the respective numbers of their people, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, and may convert, renew or consolidate such debts, or any part thereof; and the States shall indemnify the Commonwealth in respect of the debts taken over, and thereafter the interest payable in respect of the debts shall be deducted and retained from the portions of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth payable to the several States, or if such surplus is insufficient, or if there is no surplus, then the deficiency, or the whole amount, shall be paid by the several States.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– With a considerable portion of Senator Givens’s contentions I do not find myself in agreement. I do not think that the constitutionality of the proposed clause can be questioned. The Chair is not called upon to interpret the Constitution. Neither do I think that the proposed clause could have no effect. To my mind, the whole question hinges on the relevancy of the amendment. Is it relevant to the subject-matter of the bill? On this point, our Standing Orders are clear. If it can be shown that the proposed clause is relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill, it must be in order, but it seems to me that the question must be answered in the negative. This bill is for the purpose of making certain grants to the States consequent on the termination of the per capita payments to the States. It is true that it contains a clause which provides that certain payments shall be made to the States, subject to any agreement that may be arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States. The honorable senator bases his amendment on that clause, on the assumption that, if an agreement is arrived at, these payments need not be made, and in the event of no agreement being made, he asks the committee to direct the Commonwealth Treasurer to present to Parliament certain proposals connected with the State debts. I submit that the contingency upon which he bases his clause has nothing whatever to do with the clause itself. By passing this bill, Parliament is saying to the Government, “ You shall make these payments to the States until the 30th June, 1928, but if, in the meantime, you come to an agreement with them, you may cease making them.” How can we make the taking over of part of the State debts in any way relevant to such a direction to the Government? Clause 6 is merely a machinery provision directing the Government to make these payments to the States under the rates set out in the schedule, unless, in the meantime, it makes an agreement with the States. The whole question is whether a direction to the Treasurer as to what he shall present to Parliament, if there is no agreement, has anything to do with the specific operation of clause 6.
– Most certainly it has.
– To my mind, it is in no way relevant to it. Possibly what the honorable senator suggests may be one of the contingencies that Parliament will have to consider, but honorable senators can gather that only from the speeches delivered by Ministers, and not from the bill itself. Ministers have indicated what they propose to do. For instance, they have told honorable senators that they propose to hold a conference with the States, and that if the conference is not held, or proves a fiasco, they will tell Parliament what they propose to do. That information is gleaned, not from the provisions of the bill, but from speeches delivered by Ministers. I contend that the fact that Ministers have made an explanation of what their future policy may be, does not make Senator Kingsmill’s clause relevant to the bill, which contains no reference to the subject-matter of the clause. I contend, therefore, that we should leave out of consideration the constitutionality of the clause, and the question of whether it would have any effect, if carried, and confine ourselves to the mere matter of relevancy. It seems to me that the clause cannot be held to be relevant to anything in the bill.
– I propose now to quote the authority bearing on amendments which can have no effect. May, on page 408 of the 13th edition, says -
If it should appear in the course of discussion that an amendment which has been allowed to be moved, is out of order, the chairman directs the committee’s attention to the fact, and withdraws the amendment from the consideration of the committee. The discussion of an amendment has shown that the question raised thereby had already been decided by the committee; that it was inconsistent with a previous decision of the committee; would not have any effect; was beyond the scope of the bill; or would constitute, if agreed to, a negative of the bill.
Thus amendments of that character are distinctly out of order.
– I do not think honorable senators who have spoken to this point of order have confined themselves to it. They have brought forward certain references which might prove that my proposed clause was undesirable.
– I object to the statement made by Senator Kingsmill. Remarks which reflect on the Chair should not be allowed to pass by unchallenged. So far, Senator Duncan, you have performed your work in the Chair very well, but an honorable senator’s assertion that you have permitted other speakers to wander far and wide should not be allowed to pass by unchallenged.
– I do not think that it was the intention of Senator .Kingsmill to reflect on the Chair. I understood him merely to be expressing his opinion of the views put forward by others. In any case, the Chair can be trusted to take whatever action is necessary to protect itself.
– The point has been raised that my proposed new clause is not within the scope of the bill. This is a States grants bill, aud the provision of interest and sinking fund on debts as set out in my proposal, is merely an alternative to the course proposed in the bill. I contend, therefore, that the point that the claude is not within the scope of the bill is fully answered, and that my amendment is not out of order in that respect.” In regard to the point that it is irrelevant, if hon orable senators will be kind enough to read clause 6, with which my proposal is so intimately connected, they will see that, it provides that, subject to the terms of an agreement which has been arrived at, a certain course shall be followed.
– But the new clause does not propose that anything should be done. It merely issues an instruction to the Treasurer to propose something to be done.
– I do not like to describe as a quibble the point raised by the honorable senator who has had so much experience. Surely he must realize that instructions given by the Parliament of the Commonwealth are followed by action. That being so, if it is proposed to leave the Government entirely free to take what action it pleases in the event of an- agreement not being arrived at - an inference implicitly and not explicitly stated - surely it is most decidedly relevant to the purpose and the scope of this bill for this Parliament to say that, in the event of an agreement not being arrived at, such and such a thing must be done. The argument that has been advanced in opposition to my proposal most certainly does not prove that the taking of such a course would be out of order. Senator Givens is endeavouring to connect the proposed new clause with a proposal to which effect could not be given. The best authority in regard to the effect which the proposed new clause would have is the person most interested in this instance, and that is the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who little as he likes the proposal, admits that it could undoubtedly have effect.
– I said, however, that it had nothing to do with the subjectmatter of the bill.
– I am endeavouring to show that it has. I want honorable senators to consider this point, and particularly you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, because, in your hands, the decision rests. If the subject-matter of clause 6 is relevant to and within the scope of the bill, .this proposed new clause must also be, because if clause 6 does not operate in the way intended, my amendment will fill the hiatus at the end of that clause. That being so, I submit that the proposed new clause is entirely within the scope of, and relevant to the subject-matter of the bill. Whilst the arguments adduced have directed attention to the undesirability of the proposed new clause, they have not indicated that it is in any way out of order.
– I agree with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that the proposed new clause is irrelevant to, and outside the scope of the bill. These two grounds are closely related. The question of whether an amendment is relevant is decided partly by the title, and partly by the scope of the bill as disclosed by the clauses. If an amendment is relevant, it should be covered by the title; but it should also be relevant to the scope of the bill as disclosed by the clauses of the bill itself. It may be urged that the proposed new clause comes within the title of the bill, which is “a bill for an act to amend the Surplus Revenue Act of 1910, to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue funds for the purpose of financial assistance to the States, and for other purposes,” inasmuch as it embodies a form of granting financial assistance to the States; but it is not a form relevant to the scope of the bill as disclosed by its clauses.
– Why not?
– Because it provides a totally different form in which to grant financial assistance; to be in order, it must be relevant to the form of assistance contemplated by the bill itself. Senator Kingsmill contends that the new clause is relevant, because the bill provides that, subject to the terms of an agreement, certain things shall be done. He said, in effect, that surely if there is a provision under which, subject to an agreement being readied, certain things shall be done, we are entitled to insert a provision to the effect that, if no agreement is reached, other action may be taken. What is proposed is irrelevant to the subjectmatter of the bill, because there is in the bill nothing in regard to the Commonwealth taking over the State debts. The proposed new clause is totally irrelevant to the subject-matter of the bill as disclosed by its clauses, and is consequently beyond the scope of the bill.
– I do not admit that. Is a State grant relevant to the bill?
– Is not the payment of interest and the provision of a sinking fund on behalf of a State a State grant?
– No. The grants contemplated by the bill are in a different category, and, consequently, I think the proposal is irrelevant. It does not follow that, because the title is as I have stated, an honorable senator is entitled to move an amendment in which provision is made for granting financial assistance in other ways. The only financial assistance which can be covered by an amendment, or a new clause, must be in a form cognate to the form of financial assistance which the bill covers. Whilst Senator Kingsmill’s proposed new clause may be taken to embrace a form of financial assistance, it is not a form of assistance which is in any way relevant to the financial assistance contemplated and covered by the bill itself.
– I have already quoted from May to show an amendment which can have no effect, is out of order. It is obvious that his proposal would have no effect. There have been instances where motions passed by this House and another place, determining that a certain action should be taken, have been ignored by the Government.
– Could any Government ignore a statutory provision in an act of Parliament?
– I leave the honorary minister to answer that question himself. No Government could submit to Parliament a proposal such as that embodied in Senator Kingsmill’s proposed new clause, which is not in accordance with the Constitution under which we are working. . I quoted the Constitution to show that the State debts must be taken over in due proportion to. the population of the several States.
– Exactly. That would suit nicely.
– But the honorable senator proposes a different system. His proposed new clause reads -
If no agreement is made in pursuance of the last preceding section and adopted by Parliament before the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight, the Treasurer shall submit to Parliament a proposal that the Commonwealth shall take over from each State an amount of its public debt equal to the respective principal sum that would bc represented by the respective proposed payment (as set out in the schedule opposite the name of the State) if such respective proposed payment were applied in respect of such debt in payment of interest at current rates and a sinking fund of one (per centum.
The Parliament could not constitutionally pass such a proposal. Therefore, I say that the new clause would have no effect, and, in accordance with May, which I have quoted, should be ruled out of order.
– I am becoming somewhat tired of knocking down these men of straw which honorable senators persist in placing before me. The portion of a section in the Constitution to which Senator Givens has alluded relates to the taking over of State debt” on the basis of the population of the State. That is necessarily what would happen in this case, as the payments by the Commonwealth would be in lieu of payments to the States on a per capita basis. Therefore, there should not be much doubt concerning the relevancy of my proposal. If it is to be defeated, it should be on its merits, and not on a technicality.
– Senator Givens has submitted that the amendment moved by Senator Kingsmill is out of order on several grounds. The first point taken by him is that it is a direction to future governments, and, therefore, not allowable. There can be no objection, in my opinion, to the amendment on that ground, since all statutes are, in effect, directions to future governments. If this clause is passed and the bill becomes law, it must necessarily become a direction to future governments - a direction that must be observed until the law is amended or repealed. The second objection raised by Senator Givens is that it is not in keeping with the context of the bill. I find it somewhat difficult to arrive at a decision on that point; but feel that the amendment is not quite consistent with the context of the bill. The third objection is that the amendment, even if carried, could have no effect; that point, in my opinion, is not sustained. A fourth objection raised by Senator Givens is in regard to the constitutionality of the amendment. I agree with the VicePresident of the Executive Council (‘.Senator Pearce) that it is not for the chairman to interpret the Constitution. I do not intend to rule whether the amendment is, or is not, within the Constitution. I come now to the fifth objection, namely, that the amendment is irrelevant and beyond the scope of the bill. That is a vital objection. It has been submitted that clause 6 already provides for action somewhat similar to that contemplated by the amendment. It does so, however, only in the event of Parliament adopting a certain line of action in the future. I rule that the amendment is out of order on the ground that it is irrelevant and beyond the scope of the bill.
– I have to thank you, sir, for your ruling, which I very much regret; but I do not intend to question it.
Bill reported without amendment; reports adopted.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I hope honorable senators will now calmly think over what has been done. Even at this late hour the Government should beat a strategic retreat. There is no reason why a vote should now be taken on the third reading. That the Government has a majority does not necessarily mean that it is right. Notwithstanding the various technical points that have arisen during this debate, the question to be decided is whether the Commonwealth should deprive the States of certain sources of revenue which have been theirs for a number of years, and that only three month’s notice of its intention to do so should be given. By agreeing to the third reading of this bill the Senate will have constituted itself a court of summary jurisdiction. The authority of the Commonwealth is to be exercised, in what can only be described as a regrettable manner. The Government has stated arbitrarily that the States will receive compensation for the money taken from them; but that that will not be so has been made clear during this debate. The Government, even now, should stay its hand, and issue another invitation to the States to meet the Commonwealth in conference. The Prime Minister would then be in a position to say that although the Commonwealth Parliament desired the discontinuance of the per capita payments, it had stayed its hand pending a further conference to discuss the best means of compensating the States for the withdrawal of those payments. It has been argued that in proposing to vacate the field of taxation on the incomes of individuals the Treasurer is acting generously towards the States. That is not so, because the Commonwealth, by imposing a tax on incomes, is occupying a field of taxation which it ought not now to occupy. When direct taxation was imposed by the Commonwealth during the period of the Great War, it was distinctly stated that it was a war expediency. Nevertheless, succeeding Commonwealth governments have continued to impose it. To say now that by relinquishing its taxation on incomes to the extent of 40 per cent. the Commonwealth is compensating the States is wrong. I hope that there will be a majority of the Senate opposed to the third reading of this bill in order that the States may have a further period in which to submit alternative proposals.
.- I avail myself of this last opportunity to express my conviction that the Government is not justified in taking the action proposed in this measure. It has no authority from the people to introduce legislation of this kind. I go further, and say that had the people of Victoria, at the last election, known that such proposals would be brought forward they would have voted against the Government. In the Senate this question has been discussed in a cooler atmosphere than that which pervaded the last Federal election. At that time party feeling ran high; indeed, the atmosphere was somewhat electrical.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- That has nothing to do with the bill.
– I ask you, sir, not to be so impetuous. I intend to connect my remarks with the bill before the Senate. The last election was fought on only one issue. Although the withdrawal of the per capita payments from the States was referred to in a general way, the fact remains that the average elector paid little or no attention to any reference to the desirability of effecting a change in the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Government in this chamber have said that they made perfectly clear the Government’s intention in this connexion, and that the vote of the people was equivalent to a mandate to proceed with this legislation. Yet a few days ago the Prime Minister, when addressing a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League, said that various views, opinions, and prejudices existed in regard to this subject, and that the people were confused and did not know right from wrong. In the light of that admission, how can it be said that in the heated atmosphere prior to the last election the people were in a better state to understand this question than they are now?
– The vote of the people showed that they knew right from wrong.
– The Prime Minister’s admission that the people could not distinguish between right and wrong in relation to this question was a reflection on the Government, because had it made the issue clear the people would not now be confused about it. In effect, the Government is now saying to the people that the practice which has continued since federation is wrong in principle, that the States have been receiving money to which they are not justly entitled.Recognizing that direct taxation is unpopular, the Government proposes to evacuate certain fields of direct taxation, so that the State Governments will be blamed for having imposed additional taxation on the people. At least, five of them are Labour Governments. If there had been anti-Labour Governments in five of the States, this Government would have hesitated to introduce such a measure as the bill now before us.
– No; the difficulty would have been settled long ago.
– That is the opinion of the honorable senator. I do not share it. In Victoria there is an anti-Labour Government in a Parliament composed of different parties, every member of which is opposed to this proposal. Why are they objecting to it?
– Because it is good election material.
– The people of Victoria are as intelligent as the people of any other State. They pay close attention to all public questions of vital importance, and I am satisfied that the majority are entirely opposed to the action of this Government in taking away from them that portion of the Customs and excise revenue which they have received for 27 years.
– Victoria is not getting one penny of Customs and excise revenue; it is all required for Commonwealth needs.
– Has not Victoria been receiving the per capita payments?
– Yes; but they are not made from Customs and excise revenue. They come from other sources, including probate duties, land, and income taxation.
– The Commonwealth will receive during this financial year approximately £44,000,000 from Customs and excise duties, besides certain revenue from other sources.
– How much of its revenue is required for Commonwealth purposes ?
– That is beside the question. Why does the Government propose to abandon certain fields of taxation ? The land tax has realized nearly £32,000,000. It is obvious that the same measure of land taxation cannot be imposed by the Victorian or other State Government. The Federal land tax has had a most important effect upon the material prosperity of the Commonwealth. In Victoria particularly it has stimulated activity and increased production. Unless honorable senators have been wholly unobservant they must have noticed the rapid .progress that has been made in Melbourne during the past few years, largely owing to the fact that in 1910 a Labour Government imposed the Federal land tax to which the strongest opposition was taken by that section which now supports this Government in its proposal to abandon it.
– The progress of Melbourne is chiefly due to the Government’s protectionist policy.
– The transformation in the city of Melbourne, and, I think, the same may be said of other capital cites of the Commonwealth, is largely, if not wholly, due to the operation of the Federal land tax. Large landowners were forced to realize that if they wished to get an adequate return on money invested in city lands, they would have to erect more modern buildings that would bring them in higher rentals. Before the imposition of thetax there were in many parts of Melbourne buildings that had been erected in some cases, for half a century. They were more or less a disfigurement; but with the increase in population, leadingto the development of commercial and industrial enterprises, laud values commenced to soar to such an extent that land which was worth £600 a foot a few years ago was sold recently for about £3,000 a foot. With the rise in values owners found it imperative to erect up-to-date buildings on city allotments. Day after day for months past one has seen old tenements being demolished, four and five story buildings coming down and mighty up-to-date edifices being erected in their place. All this, I submit, is largely due to the effect of the Federal land tax.
– What a.bout the effect of the tariff?
– The same influence has been at work in connexion with large country areas, many of which have been subdivided. Considerable areas of land, which prior to the imposition of the tax had been in a more or less virgin state, carrying a certain number of stock, are now permanently occupied by contented and prosperous settlers. The tariff is wrapped up in this question. It has very much to do with the bill. If it were not for the fact that we have, not a protectionist but a revenue tariff, the probabilities are that we should’ not have seen this measure, because with a protectionist tariff the revenue from Customs and excise duties should be a declining figure. Can any honorable senator seriously contend that the present tariff, which this year will return to the Commonwealth approximately £44,000,000, is protectionist in its incidence? What guarantee is this Ministry giving to the governments of the States that the proposal now before the Senate will be a permanent settlement of the problem involved in the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States? It is true that after the passage of this bill there is to be a conference ; but even if that conference arrives at an ‘agreement it will not bind future governments. Who can forecast what the future has in store so far as the parties in this Parliament are concerned ? If, as the result of the next elections, the Labour party is returned, it is as certain as that day follows night that it will enact a truly protective policy, under which revenue from Customs and excise will decrease from year to year. It is certain, also, that it will reimpose the Federal land tax if this Government abandons it. In the circumstances, what guarantee can this Government give the States that the Commonwealth will definitely vacate the field cf direct taxation ? As a matter of fact the Ministry does not propose wholly to do that. It contemplates retaining portion of the income tax, and the whole of the Customs ar-d excise revenue, but proposes to abandon the Federal land tax. At whose behest? Did the Government get a mandate from the people to do that? It might have received a mandate from the wealthy land owners of Australia to drop the land tax, but the people did not give them any such mandate. What chance has Victoria of securing anything like the measure of land taxation which operates in the Commonwealth to-day ? It is well known that the Upper House in this State would decline to pass land tax legislation to bring in anything like the revenue that is derived in Victoria from that source by the Commonwealth. If revenue which Victoria has been receiving from the Commonwealth is to be withheld, how will the State Government make good the loss? Since it will be unable to reimpose the same measure of land taxation, the only available field will be income taxation ; and if the exemption be lowered the tax, in its incidence, will impose a heavy burden on every man, woman, and child in the
State. This course has been hinted at by the Premier, and more than hinted at by the Treasurer of this State. I say definitely, that the people of Victoria are opposed to the Government’s proposal. The people of this State desire that the bill shall be defeated and that the Commonwealth system of making per capita payments to the State, which has operated for 26 years, shall continue. During that period governments of different kinds have been in power in the Commonwealth, but not one suggested or even hinted at proposals such as those which the present occupants of the Treasury bench have advanced. Is it any wonder, then, that the States are up m arms? Every State Treasurer is seriously concerned regarding the future financial position of his State. That can be well understood. I ask any honorable senator to imagine himself. in the position of the Treasurer of a State.- Every State is carrying heavy responsibilities, and is hampered because of the financial stringency that exists. The Victorian Government, anticipating that it would continue to receive the per capita payment from the Commonwealth, mapped out its programme accordingly, and embarked upon huge undertakings. The sudden withdrawal of those payments is bound to cause anxiety and place the States in an awkward position. Senator Pearce tells them, “We shall meet you later and talk over the matter; but under no circumstances can that meeting take place until the per capita payment has been withdrawn.” Such a statement is completely at variance with one that has been made by the Federal Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). In effect, the statement of Senator Pearce is that there will not be a conference until the per capita payment has been withdrawn ; that that withdrawal is the beginning and the end of the matter. The Treasurer has said that after the passage of the bill a conference will be held, and the whole matter will be discussed; that the decisions of that conference will be submitted to this Parliament ; and that there is a possibility of the per capita payment being restored. If the statement of the Leader of the Senate is to be accepted as correct, what proposals are to be placed before the conference ? Will they embody the principle of “no per capita payment ; no further imposition by the Federal Government of a land tax ; and partial- withdrawal from the field of income taxation “ ? Why should the Government propose to retain 60 per cent, of the income tax? The Commonwealth possesses absolute powers in relation to direct taxation. Why is the Government so anxious to vacate that field? In effect, Senator Pearce said that the expenditure of the Commonwealth is mounting
Hp, and that its responsibilities are becoming greater. That is true; and, being so, 1 cannot understand the proposal to abandon the land tax. The Government has been credited with generosity in having advanced sums to the States for certain specific purposes, such as the purchase of wire netting and the construction of roads. It has also expressed the intention to expend £20,000,000 upon a housing scheme. Its desire is to divorce the financial responsibilities of the States and the Commonwealth, and to place upon* the shoulders of the States certain obligations that it is now carrying. Why not be consistent, and allow the States to carry on their businesses in their own way ? What has the Commonwealth to do with wire netting, roads, ,and housing ? They are essentially matters of State concern and responsibility. The argument of the Government is that it is perfectly all right for it to encroach upon the domain of the States in those directions, but that the principle is wrong in its application to the -per capita payment. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) maintains that the system is not right either constitutionally, legally, or morally, and that it should be brought to an end. I expect that his wish will be gratified, because the Government has for the time being made that a part of its policy. The policy speech which was made to the electors did not include the pronouncement that it was intended to discontinue the per capita payment.
I shall not occupy the time of the Senate at any greater length. My reason for rising was to enter a final protest against the measure. It is a bill for which there is no justification or warrant. Its introduction has caused financial unrest among the Treasurers of the States and irritation and hostility on the part of the Governments of the States. If there is one thing that the Commonwealth Government should do after the expiration of 26 years of federation it is to secure closer and more harmonious relations with the States, not introduce legislation that will have the opposite effect. I hope that, when the division is taken, a greater number of honorable senators will oppose the third reading of the bill than was found in opposition to its second reading.
– I desire to take advantage of this opportunity to say a final word against the passage of the bill. In the earlier portion of the debate, one would have thought that it was intended to abolish the per capita payment; but when one examined the bill closely and became aware of the intentions of honorable senators it was evident that the idea is to discontinue those payments only in the case of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. Western Australia and Tasmania will continue to enjoy a very substantial grant from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That is an entirely wrong principle to adopt. Had the Government decided to make the abolition complete it would have been on logical ground; but it ought not to expect honorable senators who represent those States from which it is proposed to withdraw the payment to lend their support to it. It has been stated that the Government is actuated by the fact that there are Labour Governments in five of the States; and, furthermore, it realizes that those governments will be able to resort to what is termed unpopular direct taxation. When these payments are discontinued it is obvious that, if those States from which the payment is to be withdrawn are to maintain their existing rate of expenditure they will have to seek other sources of revenue. I do not know whether the different State Governments are fearful of imposing direct taxation. Such a charge cannot be laid against the Treasurer of the State of New South Wales. He brought down a measure which imposed taxation directly upon the most powerful influence in his State - the newspaper influence; but it was declared to be ultra vires. That is not an indication of fear. The New South Wales Government has introduced a Child Endowment Bill, under which it is proposed to raise the necessary amount of revenue by the taxation of employers to the extent of £6,000,000, a year. Those proposals do not indicate any fear on the part of New South Wales to impose direct taxation. As a matter of fact the State Government is now seeking to levy a land value tax on estates valued at over £10,000. It may be true that other State Governments will be afraid to impose additional direct taxation because the taxpayers are already bearing a heavy burden, but time alone will show it. I have some very interesting figures relating to land taxation which ought to be placed on record. One return which was furnished to the Senate some years ago at my request shows that in 1915 the total value of the land in the various States and territories of the Commonwealth was £455,876,104. I am afraid, however, that those figures are now out of date, and that for comparative purposes they are of little value. In the Commonwealth Year-Booh the land taxation collected in the States and by the Commonwealth in 1924-5 is set out in the following table: -
If for no other reason than that the Commonwealth Government has announced its intention to retire from the field of direct taxation, more particularly that of land taxation, I oppose the bill. It is unfair to suggest that the whole of the burden of providing the revenue of the Commonwealth, except that derived from certain nominal forms of income tax, should be placed entirely on the shoulders of those least able to bear it. We have been informed by Senators Greene, Barwell, and others, and it is generally admitted, that taxation through the Customs falls most, heavily on those least able to bear it. We ae alleged to be living under a protective policy, but there has never been any intention on the part of this Commonwealth Government, or its predecessors, so to arrange Customs taxation, that the revenue from that source will be a declining one. On the contrary, it has been increasing year after year, and we are informed on very good authority that this year we may expect to receive about £44,000,000 from Customs and excise duties. It ought to be as clear as noonday that if the goods which are taxed, when they come through the Customs provide such an enormous revenue, our protectionist policy, instead of encouraging and protecting local industries, is merely encouraging the landowners of the Commonwealth, and protecting them from direct taxation. But, of course, that is always the object behind Customs taxation; and the proposal to cease collecting from the land-owners of the Commonwealth £2,500,000, as some contribution towards the cost of administering the affairs of the country, does not meet with my approval. It may be true, of course, that the States will step into the field and collect a. similar amount through their own land taxes ; but as it will take a considerable time for that to be done, I strongly resent the retirement of the Commonwealth from this field of taxation. If for no other reason than that, I would certainly object to this bill; but, in addition, I regard the measure as absolutely unfair, inasmuch as it singles out for unfair treatment the States of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland, by refusing to pay them the *par capita grant, while special grants are paid to Western Australia and Tasmania.
, - In bis address yesterday Senator Grant accused the smaller States of holding out their hands foa: doles, and of asking for some form of charity to assist them. He also said that New South Wales did not accept these doles. I should like to remind the honorable senator that the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia have been assisted by the Commonwealth to the extent of £2,500,000 to carry out their Murray River waters scheme. To this expenditure the remaining States have had to contribute. New South Wales has also benefited by the bounties on iron and power alcohol, and in other directions. The other States might reasonably ask why they should be taxed through the Customs to give these great benefits to New South Wales. The honorable senator’s remark that the smaller States are holding out their: hands for charity was quite besides the question, because New South Wales has participated to a re- .markable degree in payments from the
Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth. The direct opposition to this bill has come from State Parliaments, and State parliamentarians. There has been no direct opposition to it from the general mass of the people. I have the honour to be president of a Chamber of Commerce, and at the meetings of that chamber not one word has been uttered in opposition to the Government’s scheme. La.st week I sat among 250 delegates from various branches of the Victorian Country party, and after the leaders had spoken on the subject there was no further argument on this particular issue. Recently, I had the honour to be the guest of the Wholesale and Retail Produce Merchants’ Association in Melbourne, and although 1,900 merchants were represented, during the discussion, not a word was mentioned in opposition to the Government’s scheme. I also attended as a guest the conference of the Retail Grocers’” Association of Victoria, at Ballarat, and not one word was mentioned at that conference in opposition to this proposal. I think that this shows conclusively that the people as a whole are not opposed to the Commonwealth Government’s scheme. Furthermore, when I met one of the prominent leaders of the State Parliament he told me that he was decidedly against the per capita method* of payment, but added, “ For God’s sake give us some of the revenue you get from” your tariff.” On the whole I think that the statement so boldly made that the people are against this bill is entirely wrong. The time has arrived when we must have a more equitable arrangement of the finances of the Commonwealth and the States. Honorable senators have raised their voices against the idea of the enormous revenue derived from Customs and excise duties being solely appropriated by the Commonwealth. But they must bear in mind that the Commonwealth will need at least £51,000,000 a year to meet its obligations. The trouble with the States is that they will now be obliged to levy direct taxation, which is decidedly unpopular : that is their reason for opposing this bill. If they could continue to get £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 from the Commonwealth without having to raise the money themselves, it would lie a beautiful plum for them. But if they have to raise the money themselves by means of direct taxation, they will be more careful in their expenditure.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– The point most strongly stressed during the debate is the possibility of the States being financially crippled in consequence of the action which the Government is now taking. The Prime Minister stated in his policy speech that the. Government intended to bring before Parliament the desirability of altering the present financial arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States, and to summon a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers at which the matter could be discussed. A conference was convened, but when the Commonwealth proposals were submitted, the State representatives stated most_ emphatically that they intended to adhere to their moral right. The Government, therefore, had no option but to advise the States that it inbended to proceed with its proposal to abolish the per ca,pita payment. That is why this measure has been introduced. After the bill becomes law, the State Treasurers are to be given a further opportunity of considering the Commonwealth Government’s proposals. This Government has no desire to harass the States in any way. It feels, however that the time has arrived when the whole of the revenue derived from Customs and excise duties will be absorbed by its commitments. When the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States again meet in conference, I believe that a scheme acceptable to both parties will be adopted. Moreover, as the decisions of the conference will have to be ratified by Parliament, the interests of the States should be fully protected. It has been said” that the people of Australia generally, do not desire the proposed alterations; but one newspaper has suggested that the Commonwealth should entirely vacate the field of direct taxation, instead of abandoning land and entertainments tax, estate duties, and 40 per cent, of income taxation.
– The Government is relying upon Customs and excise revenue.
– That is what is proposed, but as our expenditure increases we may have to look for other sources of revenue.
– The Government has not definitely stated that it intends to vacate the field of direct taxation.
– I have already said that the Government intends to vacate certain fields of taxation, in which the States will be able to operate.
– That is not stated in the bill.
– That proposal was submitted to the States last year.
– And it can be submitted again.
– The Government intend to vacate the field of direct taxation to the extent I have indicated.
– The Minister has flatly denied that.
– I gather from what the Minister said that it is the intention of the Government to vacate certain fields of taxation in which the States will then be allowed to operate. I support the third reading of the ball.
– When speaking in committee I referred to the schedule in which provision is made for the amounts to be paid to the various States, and quoted figures to show that the per capita payments have consistently increased during a period of ten years. I stated that in the figures in the bill, which are an estimate, violent fluctuations occur. The Minister explained the apparent discrepancy and said that the amounts allocated in the schedule were based on a formula used in connexion with the Surplus Revenue Act. I am of the opinion that the amounts should be allocated to the States in such a way that they will not lose. The per capita payments were allocated under the formula used for ascertaining the amounts paid under the Surplus Revenue Act, and we have the assurance that these payments to the States are allocated on the same basis. I have no objection to offer to payments which are arrived at under this formula.
– The honorable senator is willing to trust the Prime Minister.
– It is not a question of trusting the Prime Minister, but of knowing that the amounts will be allocated on a proper basis.
– Although I am availing myself of my last opportunity to speak on this bill, it is not my intention to repeat the arguments I have previously adduced. We have been told that the main objective of the Government in submitting the measure was to separate Commonwealth and State finances, but although I have no desire to question the motive which prompted the Government, I believe that it is utterly impossible for that to be done. The Minister said that Tasmania and Western Australia, the States with the smallest populations, which are experiencing the greatest financial difficulty, should support these proposals. But those two States, and particularly Tasmania, have been losing population, and, therefore, the per capita system is not of great benefit to them. If these States are, as I have said, losing population, then, under the present proposals of the Government, which I understand, will require the States to impose more direct taxation, they will continue to suffer. The number of taxpayers having decreased, the burden upon those who pay the taxes will be greater. I still maintain that the smaller States will not benefit, and that if the Government vacates certain fields of taxation the States will not be able to obtain the amount the Commonwealth is now collecting.
– Tasmania could then receive a larger grant.
– If Tasmania is to be financially assisted by the Commonwealth, the finances of the Commonwealth and the States will not be separated as the Minister suggests. Why should there be any attempt to discontinue the present satisfactory financial arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States? State loans are raised through the Loan Council, on which both the Commonwealth and the States are represented - a further indication that there is still a close relation between the two authorities. The more I consider this question, the more I am convinced that it was a mistake to introduce this bill. I shall oppose the third reading.
– To explain my position will take but a few minutes, because my attitude towards the third reading of this measure was foreshadowed in my secondreading speech. I have tried my best to improve the bill in the way in which I think it should be improved. I have done what I could to prevent the Government from committing what, in my judgment, is a very foolish act. Indeed, I have tried my best to give the Government a longer lease of life than I think will be possible with this legislation on the statute-book. But my efforts have been in vain. I regret exceedingly that on an extremely technical point of order the amendment which I proposed to move was ruled out of order. Had it been accepted, it would hare made much easier the way of the Government in the direction of securing a satisfactory conference with the States. As it is, I very much doubt whether the Commonwealth will ever meet in conference with the States off this matter. Already the States have adopted the attitude of standing still and talking in a mournful tone about their moral right. They are secure for a further twelve months.
– That is all.
Senator KINGSMILL. With the States in their present frame of mind, or in that frame of mind which will be theirs after the flames of resentment caused by the alleged inequity of this bill have been fanned by honorable senators opposite, to whom this debate must have been of the greatest interest and satisfaction, any solution which the Commonwealth may offer will fall short of the agonized demands of the States. But the States will have only a short period of martyrdom, because within twelve months of the 30th June, 1928, when the existing arrangement will cease, there will be a general election. I hope that I am prophesying wrongly when I say that I look forward to that election as being the Armageddon of the Nationalist party.
– Who is now speaking with a mournful voice?
– I have not said that I am personally agitated about the future prospects. I am speaking with a mournful voice on behalf of the party to which I belong. In speaking in this manner I am showing the greatest loyalty to my party, because adherence to a party means adherence to principle, though not necessarily to persons, notwithstanding , that included among the members Of the present Government are men whom I, above all others, would be extremely sorry to see out of office. But they may be headstrong persons, and may disregard the advice given to them by peoplenot all of whomare their enemies. It is possible to be a firm friend of a man, and yet to know him well enough and to like him sufficiently to criticize his actions for his own good. That I have endeavoured to do. But the die is cast; the numbers are up.
I have no doubt that this bill will pass its third reading with what is regarded as a satisfactory majority. Butthe Senate not having repaired that incompleteness which, in my opinion, is the chief fault of the bill, and which I endeavoured to repair, I shall not form one of that majority which will pass it, because I regard its introduction at this juncture as must injudicious and tactless.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st March (vide page 701), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the undermentioned additional estimates of expenditure of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for the year ending the 30th June, 1927, be approved and passed : -
– So far as I can ascertain, the procedure adopted in connexion with this motion is of a novel character. Honorable senators will remember that last year two bills dealing with the Council for Scientific and. Industrial Research were before the Senate. One gave ordinary financial assistance to the newlyestablished council, and the other established a trust fund. The measure constituting the trust fund appropriated a certain sum of money for the purpose of enabling continuous research to.be made along certain lines. It was recognized that, in some directions, it would bo necessary for continuous effort to be made, and, in order that the council would have at its disposal sufficient funds for that purpose, a trust fund was established. That legislation also provided that no money could be taken from the trust fund for the purpose of continuous research without the authority of Parliament, which not only had to authorize the expenditure from the trust fund of the money required by the council for such continuous research, but was also to be made aware of the lines along which such research would be made. It is obvious that the money having once been appropriated under an act of this Parliament,no further appropriation would be necessary. I take it, therefore, that this motion has been introduced with the object of informing the Senate of the directions in which it is proposed that the money from the trust fund shall be spent. In another place, a similar motion has been tabled, so that both Houses of this Parliament may know the lines along which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research proposes to work. It is proposed to set aside the sum of £1,750 for investigation into stock diseases and pests, including cattle tick dips and buffalo-fly. For horticultural,citricultural and viticultural investigations the sum of £1,000 is required. Investigations into fruit preservation and cold storage will require £1,100, and for thepurpose of State committees, sundry investigations and miscellaneous expenditure it is proposed to set aside the sum of £6,302. Some objection might be offered to the last item. Perhaps the Minister will inform us how the committees will work, and whether they will travel abroad to make the investigations required of them or whether the item is intended to cover the ordinary expenditure in connexion with continuous research. I admit that the procedure is new, but having referred to the legislation passed last year, I can see the necessity for it. A new appropriation bill cannot be brought in, because, I understand, the money has already been appropriated. We are now informed that the. council requires this additional sum to carry on necessary work. I admit that it is too early yet to expect anything like complete information as to the result of its investigations. The council is, so to speak, in its swaddling clothes ; but later we may expect fairly comprehensive reports concerning the manner in which money voted by Parliament has been expended, and the results of the investigations. If the additional sum asked for were withheld no doubt the work of the council would be crippled because, to he effective, research must be continuous.
– I move -
That after the word “ That” line 1, the following words be inserted : - “ in accordance with sub-section 3 of section 17b of the Science and Industry Research Act 1920-26.”
The amendment is merely formal. Its purpose is to put the journals in proper order. As the leader of the Senate has pointed out, the procedure now being adopted is somewhat unusual. The money that was appropriated under an earlier section of the act was paid into a trust account, and it can only be released in conformity with the resolution submitted by the Leader of the Senate. Similar steps must be taken in another place, and to make quite clear what is being done, it has been suggested, and I think the suggestion should be followed, that the amendment which I have submitted should be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
– I move -
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I object to the motion. It refers to the Supply Bill, a copy of which has not yet been placed in the hands of honorable senators. Even if we had been furnished with the print of the bill we should not be asked to suspend the standing and sessional orders to pass it through all its stages without delay. This procedure has the effect of making the Senate a sort of hack for another place. The Supply Bill was exhaustively debated elsewhere, and, as far as I am aware, no motion was submitted for the suspension of the Standing Orders to pass the bill without delay.
– Yes, there was, and it was agreed to without discussion.
– I realize that, us the Ministry has the requisite numbers, my protest will be in vain; but I put it to the Minister that since the Senate is not a very discursive chamber, and as honorable senators are not in the habit of making long speeches the motion might very well be withdrawn. I feel sure that we shall be able to dispose of the Supply Bill with expedition.
– We could not pass it through its final stages to-morrow without suspending the Standing and Sessional Orders.
– I do not admit the necessity for the motion at all. This Government has dropped into the bad habit of suspending the Standing and Sessional Orders for the purpose of getting its measure through. I hope that, when we are legislating in a new atmosphere at Canberra we shall not be asked lo take this objectionable course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– I have a few observations to make before the motion for the first reading of the bill is put. Since last we had a Supply Bill before us the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) ‘has attended the Imperial Conference as a representative of Australia. I did object then, and I repeat my objection now, that whilst 1 recognized the necessity for Australia as an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations being repre sented by its Prime Minister at that important conference, it was not necessary for Parliament in the meantime to be closed down. There was any amount of work for Parliament to do in the absence of the Prime Minister. The Governor-General’s speech at the opening of Parliament shortly after the elections of 1925, indicated that a considerable amount of legislation, some of it important and some unimportant, was contemplated. If the Government had intended to keep its pledges to the people, Parliament could very well have been kept at work to give legislative effect to the Government’s pledges. Instead of that being done the shutters were put up with the result that to-day. nearly seventeen months after the elections, very little of the legislation promised by the Government is on the statute-book. Parliament was not closed down on a former occasion, when another Prime Minister attended the Imperial Conference. Both branches of the legislature continued to function, and some attempt was made to put into operation a policy that had been placed befor> the people. Could the Prime Minister ‘Mr. Bruce) not trust his partner in the Composite Ministry (Dr. Earle Page) ? That honorable gentleman toured the country as acting Prime Minister, indulging in propaganda work, when he could have utilized his time to better advantage h”7 giving effect in this Parliament to the promises that were made at the last election.
During his absence Mr. Bruce made many speeches, some of which were exceedingly interesting. He is reported to have stated in London tha: it would be a good thing if the United States of America joined with the British Commonwealth of Nations in an attempt to preserve the peace of the world. Ho was acclaimed in the press as a saviour, and given the credit of having made an original suggestion. He was not the first man to utter that wish. WheL he went to the United States of America, however, he made a speech of an entirely different character. He told ‘the Americans that they were virtually the salt of the earth. Comparing the speeches that he made in London, New York, and Chicago, with those that he made on the hustings in Australia, one cannot escape the conclusion that with him this country takes second place to the United States of America. On his departure from that country he visited Canada, where he warned the people to beware of the Americans or they would rob them of their trade. He roused the resentment of the leaders of thought in Canada because ho endeavoured to teach them their business. On one occasion the right honorable gentleman spoke also in Glasgow. I worked in close proximity to that city for a number of years, and I am fairly well acquainted with its conditions. A report of that speech appeared in the Melbourne Age of the 29th December, 1926, and it reads -
Commenting in a speech at Glasgow to-day upon a reference to Australia, like Clydeside, having labour troubles, Mr. Bruce vigorously attacked the mistaken impression that Australia had labour troubles continuously - “ Like you,” he said, “ we have our wild men going about demanding all sorts of things, but we, also like you, .have a little gang of reactionary conservatives, and I am hanged if 1 know which is more responsible for our troubles. But I believe the reactionaries are the more blameworthy, because their doctrines and actions build up and breed a spirit of discontent, which causes most of the trou’ble.”
During the last elections the same Mr. Bruce, with his colleagues, Senators Pearce, Glasgow, McLachlau, and Crawford, told the electors from every platform from which they spoke that Australia was always in the midst of industrial troubles.
– I have never made that statement.
– If the Minister did not make it himself, he supported the Prime Minister, who did. The present Government would not have been returned to power had not the electors been led to believe that red revolution was stalking through the land, :ind that if the Labour party were returned the volcano of revolution would erupt, and Australia would be no more. Tin rs, we have Mr. Bruce adopting one role in Australia and another in the United States of America. Speaking in Bristol the right honorable gentleman said -
We are putting up a plucky fight against the vested interests now dominating our country. “When he appealed to the people in 1925 he did not tell them that vested interests were dominating Australia. What he said here was that the Labour organizations were responsible for that domination, and that it would tend to red revolution. What legislation has been placed upon the statute-book to rid Australia of the dominance of vested interests? None whatever. Since its return to power the only legislation of that nature which, th’s Government has placed upon the statutebook is the Crimes Act, that has never been put into operation. The other day I asked how many men had been deported under the provisions of the Crimes Act, and how many organizations had been suppressed. The answer was “ none.” Yet the Government waa returned to power to carry out the deportation of two men ! It found that it could not deport them. I trust that Australia will not witness an industrial upheaval that will prevent the wheels of industry from revolving; but if there were such an occurrence and an attempt was made to give effect to the provisions of the Crimes Act the Government would discover that that measure is unconstitutional. It is directed solely against those workers of this country who may dare at any time to maintain their rights. No legislation has been passed to deal with the reactionary conservatives and vested interests who, according to Mr. Bruce, dominate Australia.
I come now to the important question of defence. The other day I asked the following questions with respect to the importation of munitions of war: -
The answer that I received was as follows : -
It will be noticed that there was a considerable increase in the value of the importations during the five years; yet we have been told that the Government is attempting to make Australia selfcontained in the matter of defence ! I oan imagine in what condition we should be in if, unfortunately, another war broke out, and we were isolated, or in the event of our being attacked by an invading foe. We should have to depend upon the importation of munitions, and risk their loss during transport from overseas countries. It is quite evident that the Government has not paid any attention to the recommendations which were made by the Public Accounts Committee after its investigation into the possibility of Australia manufacturing sufficient munitions to supply its own needs in time of war. Expert evidence was given before that committee which proved that we can manufacture almost every munition that is necessary for the defence of this country. I think it would be wise for the Government to peruse that document carefully to see what may be done to increase the local manufacture of munitions of war for the purpose of Australia’s defence.
When the Prime Minister was abroad he visited the shipyard ah which one of our new cruisers was being built, and he said that the day was not far distant when Australia must build her own cruisers. Yet when he was in Australia he told the people that we could not build cruisers.
– The two statements are not in conflict.
– The reason the right honorable gentleman gave us for not having the cruisers built in Australia was the probable cost of construction. We, on this side of the chamber, contended that if cruisers had to be built - which we did not admit- they should be built in Australia by Australian workmen, and as far as practicable from Australian materials. We knew that we had the material, and that Australian workmen had already built the cruiser Brisbane. It is peculiar now to hear Mr. Bruce saying that Australia must build her own cruisers at a time when the cost of building them would be no cheaper than it is at present. Recognizing the labour conditions in Australia and the rates of wages paid to Australian artisans ss compared with those paid in Great Britain, we cannot possibly build cruisers here as cheaply as they can be built in Britain.
I have mentioned these matters in order to show that the Government is not carrying out its promises. Despite the vast amount of money spent on Australian defence, I venture to say that in the event of an attack our defence forces would not be fit to meet it. Since the armistice and up to the end of the present financial year, as much as £45,000,000 will have been spent ou defence, not including the £4,500,000 set aside for the cruisers. Yet we find Sir John Monash only a few months ago saying that our defences are not as they should be. I trust that the Minister, if he replies to this debate, will explain why the Government is not attempting to make Australia selfcontained in the matter of manufacturing munitons; why Mr. Bruce has changed front and now tells the people of Great Britain that Australia must build its own cruisers, and that there are reactionary conservatives and no labour troubles here, when during the election he said quite the reverse.
I wish now to refer to the wireless station on Willis Island, that lonely Pacific outpost, about 800 miles from Cairns, which is so valuable to us foi’ meteorological purposes. One of the duties of the three men engaged on the island, who live there for six months of the year without seeing their fellows, is to notify the approach of cyclones. As a result of their work, li,ves and valuable property have been saved. Their timely warnings of the approach of cyclonic disturbances are broadcast in sufficient time to prepare not only mariners, but also people on land to avoid the havoc caused by such visitations. In 1925, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee on its voyage to Papua, I, in company with Senator Poll and others, had the opportunity of visiting the island. We were the first white people the men on the island had seen for months. Their only means of recreation was a tennis court, whch had collapsed, and their library was very small. When we returned to Melbourne Senator Foll and I saw Senator Pearce with a view to asking that something should be done to make the lives of these isolated men a little more pleasant than is now possible. About £200 would provide the officers oh the island with a small, up-to-date library, a tenuis court, and possibly a gramophone.. The. officers themselves are not asking for anything luxurious. They are ai fine, type, of Australian manhood,, and, as a matter of fact, they did not put forward any request, for these things that I am suggesting should be. provided for them; but, recognizing their loneliness,. Senator Foll and I put the matter before Senator Pearce. I believe that the right honorable gentleman did make some representations in regard to the- matter, and I should like to know if anything definite has been done. Wei wi.0 aire living in the etty of Melbourne,, with all’ the pleasures and advantages of civilization, a>nd with the’ opportunity to indulge in all kinds o-f recreation, should! have some thought for those men who are out on that lonely island, rendering valuable service to the people of Australia.
Senator GRANT. (New South Wales [3.42].. - Many years ago, as. the result of events at Warwick, in Queensland, a Commonwealth Police Force was incubated.
– Out of the Warwick
– At any rate, it made its appearance at that time, and for a while there was a force of police whose numbers were not inconsiderable. Because of the opposition raised, or at any rate for some reason or other, those numbers have diminished until, so f ar as I can ascertain, this police force has almost completely disappeared. I should like to know from the Minister representing the Attorney-General, whether it is still in existence, and, if so, what proportion of the £2,980 provided in this Supply Bill, under the heading of Commonwealth Investigation Branch, is used for this particular purpose. The force itself, in my opinion,, served no useful purpose during its existence, and if it has not completely disappeared,, the time for its. disappearance is long overdue.
I referred very briefly, the other evening, to the east- west railway. It has been said by more than one person that a large proportion of the funds spent on the construction of that line carry no interest. Being curious to find out how that desirable condition of affars was brought about, I wrote to the Secretary to the Treasury, and received the following reply : -
15th May, 1925.
I have pleasure in supplying the following information in reply to the questions asked in your letter dated 11th May : -
The amount of £3,4ja8,51’8 was provided out of profits of the Australian Note Issue. This- debt was redeemed and cancelled on the transfer of the Australian- Note- Issue to the Commonwealth Bank, in 1920’.
Acting- Secretary to the Treasury.
I direct attention to these figures, as some honorable senators are continually saying that Commonwealth money is being expended on the construction of the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway, towards the cost of which the Commonwealth, New South Wales, and Queensland contribute. The representatives of Western Australia have recently put up a vigorous fight for a subsidy from the Consolidated Revenue to enable the State to pay its way, although it had a surplus last year. For the information of honorable senators, I mention that a sum of £3,428,518, out of profits of the Australian Note Issue Fund, was expended on the construction of the east-west line, which,, of course, also benefits South Australia, and that a very substantial sum is not carrying any interest, and has not done so for the last seven years. At 5£ per cent., this sum would be returning approximately £175,000 a year, which I regard as a very substantial contribution to Western Australia. Although the Western Australian people are assured of a substantial sum such as that provided in the measure which recently passed this Chamber, they also have the use of this sum of £3,428,518 free of interest. When reference is being made to a Murray Waters Scheme, and the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway, it is very desirable that an outstanding factor such as this should not be overlooked
I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways to state what is being done in connexion with the construction of southern section of the north-south railway, which was authorized by Parliament some time ago. Has the work been commenced ?
– Then I should like to known how many men are employed, and what progress is being made. 1 have repeatedly urged that the residents of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea should be granted some form of local government; but for reasons which I cannot understand the Government have steadfastly refused to entertain the suggestions I put forward. A somewhat indefinite promise was made some years ago to the effect that the Government had some intention of bringing in a form of local government under which the local white residents would have a voice in the election of members of the advisory council, but up to the present nothing has been done. That is particularly unfair to the white population which has increased considerably since the first sale of the expropriated properties was held. As a form of local government is extended to the white residents in Papua, the men and women in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, who have the same ideals and aspirations as those in Papua, and who, I believe, are more numerous, should be considered. These persons who are carrying out important work far removed from centres of civilization, surely have’ a right to elect representatives to the Advisory Council. The residents in the Mandated Territory are very dissatisfied as the regulations and ordinances are framed by officials in Rabaul or in Melbourne. Before the next sale of expropriated properties is held legislation should be introduced giving them the right to elect representatives on the Advisory Council. They should also have direct representation in this Parliament. As the Government has repeatedly refused to give them any form of local government, I understand they have placed their position before the British Government; they rightly contend that they should have a voice in framing the laws under which they live.
It is quite evident that the Government and the Federal Capital Commission are determined to continue to prevent the settlement and progress of Canberra by steadfastly refusing to make available a sufficient number of building sites to meet local requirements. Two sales have been held, but many of those who purchased building sites at the first sale had either no intention of building or acquired blocks with a view to disposing of them to others who might wish to build. According to information supplied by the Home and Territories Department, 252 residential blocks and 104 business blocks had been allotted up to August 1926, and up to the same date twenty residential and three business blocks had been transferred by the original lessees. That information was supplied on the 15th February this year, but it gives the figures only up to the date mentioned. I am not acquainted with the subsequent transactions, but, in any case, the Government or the commission, whichever is responsible, by its refusal to make available a sufficient number of building sites, has retarded the progress of the city. Up to date, 356 building sites have been disposed of. Of these many have been transferred at high premiums, notwithstanding that no buildings had been erected on them. In one instance, I believe that a premium exceeding £1,000 was paid in respect of one block. It was never contemplated that that would be possible at Canberra. The general belief was that a sufficient number of building sites would be made available to meet requirements. Were the disposal of land in the Federal Capital City in the hands of private enterprise, leases would be made available to the highest bidder.
Moreover, the Government, by providing that reappraisement shall not take place for twenty years, has prevented fair rentals from being obtained for the land. Even in connexion with the forthcoming sale early in April, it is provided that a period of twenty years shall elapse before reappraisement takes place. In fixing an upset price for the blocks, the commission has made a mistake. The leasehold of the land should be disposed of to the highest bidder, and a sufficient number of blocks made available to meet requirements. Because of the policy adopted in connexion with building sites at the Federal Capital, greater progress has taken place in the neighbouring town of Queanbeyan than at Canberra. It is true that the commission has built a number of houses, but it should also have made better provision to enable persons desiring building sites to obtain them. I hope that the matters to which I have referred will receive the early and earnest attention of the Government.
– I bring before the .notice of the Government the . desirability of increasing the grant for the provision of airways in Western Australia. During last session a deputation, comprising Western Australian members, waited upon Sir Neville Howse, with a request that a further sum of approximately £7,000 per annum should be provided to enable the existing air service which now terminates at Derby to be extended, via Hall’s Creek, to Wyndham. The Minister informed the deputation that no money was available for the purpose. I submit that the importance of that portion of the Commonwealth warrants provision now being made along the lines I have indicated. Residents there are now dependent on a very erratic mail service by steamer; if they are fortunate, they receive a mail about once a month. The people of Western Australia are very proud of Western Australian Airways Limited. Visitors from the eastern States and other countries have stated that the air services in Western Australia tire unsurpassed in any part of the world. It is unfortunate that, for the sake of an additional expenditure of £6,000 or £7,000 per annum, the people beyond Derby should be without proper means of communication.
– I understood that the deputation requested that the service should extend to Darwin.
– No; only to Wyndham, via Hall’s Creek. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) referred to the isolation of the wireless operators at Willis Island. They ate very little more isolated than are the people north of Derby.
– With the exception that they do occasionally see a few of their fellow .men, whereas the Willis Island people do not.
– That is so. Any one who is familiar with the north-west coast of Western Australia will realize the difference which the air service has made. I trust that Senator Grant will not regard this request as a further grant to Western Australia.
– I do not mind this request.
– Seeing that the honorable senator has given his approval to it, I hope that the Government will do the same.
[4.11] . - I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) that the meteorological station at Willis Island is of great value to Australia. As honorable senators are aware, a disastrous cyclone recently caused considerable havoc along the coast of Queensland.. The indications along the coast were that conditions were normal; but, in consequence of information received from the meteorological station at Willis Island, it was possible to give 48 hours’ warning to shipping and to persons living along the coast of the approach of the disturbance. The honorable senator asked that some comforts should be provided for the officers who man that station. On the representation of some honorable - senators, this matter was considered by the Government during the period of Government control of the station, but at that time the transfer of the control to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was imminent, and the PostmasterGeneral was not prepared to authorize the expenditure. The question is now one which should be dealt with by AmalgamatedWireless (Australasia) Limited.
– Seeing that the Commonwealth holds a majority of the shares in the company, has not this Parliament some say in the matter?
– It is true that this Commonwealth is represented on the directorate, but the care of its employees is a matter for the company.
– We have a share in that responsibility.
-Senator Grant also ref erred to the advisory council for New Guinea. In answer to a recent question by the honorable senator, I informed him that the amendment of the act to give additional representation to the people of that territory would be considered when all the expropriated properies had been disposed of. That will be done.
The honorable senator urged the desirability of making available an additional number of building sites at Canberra. So far, there has been no demand for more building sites thanhave been disposed of. I remind the honorable senator that, in addition to the sites made available by sale or tender, the Federal Capital Commission hasconstructed a number of homes for public servants. Next month therewill be another sale of leases for residences and business premises. Senator Grant suggested that the Government should reconsider the period of re-appraisement, and advocated a re -appraisement of leases every year. Ican conceive of nothing that would do more to hamper development by discouraging people from building in Canberra than a proposal of that nature, because the lessees would not know from one year to the next what would be the valuation of their leases.
– Every municipality throughout theCommonwealth follows the practice I have advocated.
– The policy is tohave a re-appraisement of the leases at the end of the first twenty years, and subsequently every ten years. The question raised by Senator Carroll in connexion with the air service between Derby and Wyndham will be dealt with, together with other proposals, when the general policy of the Govern ment in regard to air services is being considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to appropriate revenue to carry on the ordinary services of the Commonwealth for the first three months of the next financial year. It is usual for a Supply Bill to be submitted just prior to the end of a financial year, or early in the new year; but owing to the transfer of Parliament to Canberra it is impossible, on this occasion, to follow ordinary procedure. Honorable senators are aware that the first meeting of the Parliament at Canberra will take place on the 9th of May, but it is anticipated that only formal business will then be conducted. The date of the further meeting of Parliament at Canberra for the resumption of ordinary business has not yet been decided. It will require some months to complete the transfer of Government departments and records to the new seat of government. That disorganization will be at its height at the end of the present month, and in the early months of the next financial year. It is highly desirable that the departments should be property settled down before Parliament resumes, and it seems quite likely that this will take three months. In the circumstances it will not be possible to prepare and submit Estimates so readily as has been the practice in recent years. It is therefore necessary that Parliament should now grant supply for three months of the new financial year, as existing appropriations of revenue for the ordinary purposes of government will lapse on the 30th of June next. The amount appropriated by this bill is £ 5, 851, 495, made up thus: - £2,212,460 for departments and services other than business undertakings and territories of the Commonwealth ; £2,566,735 for business undertakings; £72,300 for the territories of the Commonwealth; £250,000 for refunds of revenue; and £750,000 for advance to Treasurer. The items are baaed on the appropriations by Parliament for the current financial year. Mo new services are included. In the case of salaries, the amounts cover the pay-day which falls on the 7th of October. The ordinary services provided for total £4,851,49.5, which is slightly less than one-fourth of the total appropriation of £19,793,023 for these services for the current financial year. In addition, provision is made for refunds of revenue, £250,000; and advance to the Treasurer, £750,000. The advance to the Treasurer is in accord with the usual practice, and is necessary to meet unforeseen requirements; also to carry cm works in progress at the 30th of June next, which will subsequently be cowered by the Additions, New Works, and Buildings Estimates for 1927-28. It is hoped .that the budget will be brought down immediately after Parliament meets at Canberra in the next financial year. In the meantime I may say that the results for the .present financial year, to date, are satisfactory. The budget estimate of expenditure should not be exceeded in the total, and the indications are that there will be an increase in revenue beyond what was anticipated. This is due to the Customs and excise, particularly to the heavy imports of motor vehicles, and increases under apparel and textiles, and machinery.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
.- I should like to know if the Minister is in a position to make a definite statement in connexion, with the report of the Public Works Committee presented to Parliament last year with regard to the transfer of public servants to Canberra. iU.p to the present there has been no indication of the action which the government proposes to .take upon that report. As far as I can gather the Public Service Canberra Committee is also in .the dark. As Parliament will close this week, it is highly desirable that the Government should make a -statement dealing with the rentals, housing accommodation, and other subjects which so vitally affect the public servants who are about to be compulsorily transferred to Canberra.
– I suggest that the honorable senator bring this matter up when the Department for Home and Territories vt under consideration. W/3 are now considering the Prime Minister’s Department, which controls only the living allowance with regard to members of the Public Service.
– Then ca-ia the Minist&r say if a statement, satisfactory .to the Public Service, has been made with reference to the allowances to be paid. As far as I can see, those officers who will be transferred to Canberra will suffer a reduction in salary.
– The cost of living at Canberra was the subject of reference to a special committee. Considerable correspondence has passed betwen the Government and the Public Service Board on the subject. Under the Public Service Act it is the function of the board to fix allowances to members of the Public Service. Recently it issued statutory rule No. 22, which was approved by the Executive Council on the 1st March, and gazetted. That rule sets out the scale of allowances to be paid to public servants as follows : -
The factors governing the allowances include the following -
The preamble to the regulation is interesting. It reads -
Whereas the special circumstances attending the transfer of departments to a newlyestablished city will necessarily involve, at the outset, additional expense to compulsorilytransferred officers of those departments in relation to housing and living :
And whereas it is expedient that officers transferred to Canberra in these special circumstances should receive special allowances :
Now, therefore, the Board of Commissioners appointed under the Commonwealth Public Service. Act 1922-1924, in pursuance and exercise of the authority conferred upon it by the said Act, and subject to the approval of the Governor-General, hereby makes the following amendment of the regulations, such amendment to come into operation forthwith.
The preamble is to guard against this being taken as a precedent; otherwise it could be argued that when an officer was compulsorily transferred from one part of the Commonwealth to another he should be entitled to a special allowance, if he had to face a higher cost of living. Transfers of officers of the Commonwealth are frequently made, and it often happens that a higher cost of living rules in the part of the Commonwealth to which an officer is transferred. He is not entitled toan allowance because of that fact; but he has a right to show cause why he should not be transferred. In the case of the transfer to Canberra, no such right will exist, because the transfer of whole departments will be involved. Thus this transfer has been treated as a special case, and allowances have been fixed by the Public Service Board. I have not heard of any protest against them.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the proposed vote, “The Attorney-General’s Department, £36,190,” by £1.
I take this step to draw attention to the action of the Government in having caused an award of the Public Service Arbitrator to be disapproved by the Senate. The matter can properly be brought up on this vote, because it includes a provision for the office of the Public Service Arbitrator. An award of that official has been disapproved by the Senate, and its benefits are denied to those to whom it would otherwise have applied. The only excuse put forward by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), when moving for the dis allowance of the award, was that it was opposed to the policy of the Government. He did not show that the Public Service Arbitrator had broken any regulation, or contravened any section of the Public Service (Arbitration.) Act. It would be unwise to allow such a dangerous precedent to pass without challenge. It is true that the matter was determined by a vote of the Senate; but I believe that we can now make a practical and effective protest against the action of the Government in constituting Parliament an industrial court. This is the first occasion in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament that that has been done. Time and again members of this and previous Governments, as well as members of all shades of political opinion, have expressed the belief that Parliament should not be constituted an industrial court, because other machinery has been provided for the settlement of the wages and working conditions of the employees of not only the Commonwealth Government but also private employers. I refer to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, under which has been established an arbitration tribunal before which can appear representatives of the employers and the employees ; and the Public Service (Arbitration) Act, under which the Public Service Arbitrator was appointed for the purpose of hearing applications by employees of the Commonwealth Government. The decisions of both tribunals are made upon the evidence that is given before them. After the Public Service Arbitrator had made an award that vitally affected members of the Public Service this branch of the national legislature was turned into a chamber of industrial review, and summarily disapproved or disallowed that award without hearing any evidence from the people who were directly affected..
– Have we not fought out this matter previously ?
– That is quite true ; but a good cause is worth continuing to fight for. During the previous discussion, Senator Ogden pointed out that the action of the Government was tantamount to the introduction of political influence in its naked form. Now that for the moment we have the public purse in our hands, and are asked to vote a certain amount to enable the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to carry on, I suggest that we should extract the sum of £1 to register a practical protest against such action.
– A good general knows when to retreat.
– I am not concerned with the desirability or otherwise of retreating. If Senator Ogden is prepared to accept the verdict that has been given, I am not. This is the time and the place to register a more practical protest than any which has so far been made. It has been frequently stated that organizations of employees in Australia have rebelled against and refused to obey awards of the Arbitration Court. I believe there are on record isolated instances of such a revolt and disregard of awards of the Arbitration Court. But there are also on record cases of revolt by employers, who have adopted the practice of locking out their employees. Both sides, in that respect, are equally blameworthy. The Government, however, should set an example to those who are engaged privately in the carrying on of industry, and should not summarily exercise its authority to render null and void an award of an arbitrator, based on evidence submitted to him, when the parties affected have no chance to be heard. I repeat that the only excuse of the Minister (Senator Pearce) was that it was against Government policy. That policy, as enunciated by the Leader of the Government, and published broadcast throughout Australia, embodied a proposal relating to childhood endowment. Therefore, the Public Service Arbitrator did not offend against the policy of the Government, bub, on the contrary, acted in accordance with it. I emphasize the fact that a dangerous precedent has been established. The vital point upon which I lay stress is that if it is right that the Commonwealth Parliament should be constituted an industrial tribunal, it is also right that the people upon whom it proposes to pass judgment should be enabled to appear before it and state their case, just as they were given the right to appear before the Public Service Arbitrator who made the award.
Senator McLACHLAN (South Aus the matter referred to by Senator Needham was debated in this chamber only a few days ago, I do not propose to do more on this occasion than to remove any misapprehension that may be created by the honorable senator’s remarks. In the first place, under legislation passed by this chamber, any award of the Public Service Arbitrator is open to the review of which the honorable senator complains. Statutory provision is made for the disallowance of any awards, and, if an award is out of harmony with the policy of the Government, the step that was taken the other day will be taken again. If the Public Service Arbitrator had proposed to reduce to £400 the limit at which child endowment is paid, would we have heard from the honorable senator one word of protest if we moved to disallow ? Despite our violation, as the honorable senator puts it,of a settled principle, no precedent has been created. We have done no more than the law allows in our endeavour to harmonize the position in the Public Service with the policy previously laid down by us. In any case, the matter was settled in this chamber only a few days ago.
Question - That the request (Senator Needham’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I want to know if the Commonwealth Police Force is still in existence, and what it costs.
[4.53].- There is no Commonwealth Police Force, but provision is made in this bill for the salaries of certain investigatingofficers who, in various States, obtain information for the Commonwealth Departments. For instance, investigating officers are employed to obtain information in regard to invalid and old-age pensions. Of course, at Canberra, it will probably be necessary to have Federal police.
– It is true, as the Minister has said, that the men on Willis Island are employed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and that the Postmaster-General cannot recommend the expenditure of Federal funds to make their positions more comfortable; but it will surely be recognized that the Commonwealth is the major partner in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited; it holds a majority of the shares. In these circumstances, therefore, we, as a Parliament, should have some voice in regard to the conditions of the employees of the company.
– As shareholders.
– Not only as shareholders, but also through our representatives on the board of directors.
– How long is it since the honorable senator saw the conditions that exist on Willis Island ?
-I was there about twenty months ago; but, as a matter of fact, I know that the conditions prevailing then remain unchanged. I am not asking for anything luxurious. Surely the work of these men on Willis Island in connexion with the recent cyclone, when they issued a warning 48 hours ahead of any other station, entitles them to our consideration. I suggest that they should have a tennis court, a fair library and, say, a gramophone. I hope that Senator Glasgow will make representations to the board of directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited that the lot of these men should be made a little more comfortable.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Home and Territories) [4.59]. - I shall be pleased to pass on the honorable senator’s representations to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, but at the same time
I point out that this Parliament cannot vote money to improve the conditions of the employees on Willis Island. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, is responsible for the control of the wireless station, and also for the comfort of its officers. I shall, however, place the honorable senators’ representations before the general manager of the company.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [5.1]. - I direct the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) to a report of the Public Works Committee on housing conditions at Canberra, in which, after a very exhaustive inquiry, the following recommendations were made -
I should like the. Minister to state how many of those recommendations, which received the unanimous support of the committee, have been adopted. Some of the charges imposed by the commission are creating discontent in the Public Service, and appeared to be out of all proportion to the service rendered. These charges will have the effect of considerably increasing the cost of living. A reduction would be of great benefit to the Service, and would not seriously effect the financesof the commission.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Home and Territories) [5.3]. - I shall first state the committee’s recommendations, and then give the commission’s replies (a)” Encourage the building of cottages in numbers up to five by small contractors.”
Everything possible has been done to encourage small contractors to tender, but the commission’s experience is that the lowest tender has invariably been received from one of the larger contractors. (b) “Bring construction costs within 5 per cent, or 7-J per cent, of Sydney prices.” The utmost efforts are being made by the commission to reduce construction costs as far as possible, (c) “Reduce valuation placed on residential blocks of public servants.” In assessing the value of the land the market value, which is the only reasonable basis, has been followed in the case of blocks set apart for the Public Service. The late Mr. Gorman, who was a member of the commission, was an expert in land values, and gave a good deal of attention to this matter. After his death the commission sought further advice before finally fixing the value of blocks allotted to public servants. The Government does not propose to interfere with the valuations arrived at by the commission.
– Then it is making a mistake.
– The only way in which to arrive at a fair valuation is to take, as a basis, the prices received at auction. I come now to the next recommendation, (d) “ Reduce cost of fencing.” The cost in this direction has been reduced, (e) “ Extend period of rental purchase to 45. years.” The Government is not prepared to act on this recommendation, as it considers 35 years an adequate period. The depreciation on a wooden house, for instance, in 45 years, would be considerable, and, on the other hand, many public servants are not likely to reside even in brick houses for 45 years. (/) “ Arrange for Federal Capital Commission to carry its own fire insurance.” The commission has considered the question of fire insurance, but has not yet come to a definite decision, (g) “ Eliminate at option of purchaser £135’, charged for extras, leaving occupier to provide them under supervision.” That recommendation has been acted upon, (h) “ Reduce overhead and supervision charges to 2£ per cent.” The commission is npt prepared to act upon the recommendation, as it considers a charge of 4^ per cent, fair and reasonable. As a matter of fact, the original rate was 7^ per cent., which was subsequently reduced to 4$ per cent. No architect would prepare plans and specifications and supervise the construction of a building’ on less than a 6 per cent, basis, and many would charge 8 per cent. (?) “ Provide for officials receiving salary of £400 and under, brick cottages of the standard of the War Service Homes Commission.” Additional provision has been made for houses of a cheaper type to be constructed for officers in receipt of comparatively low salaries, (j) “Allow officials in receipt of £400 and under to select timber dwellings provided that not more than 5 per cent, of such dwellings are allowed in any brick group.” The Government does not propose to interfere with the commission’s policy by permitting the construction of timber houses in brick areas. (k) “ Reduce the cost of smaller types of concrete houses to at least 15 per pent, below the cost of similar brick houses.” The UtmOSt efforts are being made by the commission to reduce the cost of construction to the lowest point possible. I have briefly stated the action taken on the recommendations of the Public Works Committee referred to by Senator Reid.
.- From the answers given by the Minister (Senator Glasgow) it would appear that the Government has not realized the importance of these recommendations. For instance, it should be remembered that blocks sold in open competition often carry a fictitious value, the cost of which has to be borne by public servants, who do not purchase with the idea of making a profit, but with the sole intention of securing a home sit?. Under the present system, hovever, they are compelled to pay unduly high prices, such as are paid by persons who may be speculators. The rates paid will be based on the value of the land, which is unnecessarily high, and consequently public servants will be further penalized. These charges are equivalent to a reduction in salary. The value of the blocks should be based on the price at which tha Government acquired the land
-Which was about £9 per acre.
– Public servants should be able to acquire building blocks at the same price, plus cost of improvements, because they are compelled to live there,
– But they have a right to sell their interests.
– Public servants acquire homes with the intention of occupying them and not with a view of making a profit. The imposition of high charges is equivalent to a reduction in wages, and will naturally lead to discontent in the service. The whole question should be dealt with in a commonsense way, and public servants should not be penalized in consequence of outsiders forcing up values.
– What if the public servant wishes to sell ?
– Most of the public servants who will be transferred to Canberra will acquire homes with the intention of occupying them, and not with the object of disposing of them at a profit. The average public servant joins the service to obtain a livelihood.
– Is it not pleasing to have the capital value of one’s land continually increasing 1
– The public servants are being required to pay fictitious prices for their land. The increased capital value of their holdings will mean that they must pay increased taxes and rates. The public servants will go to Canberra, not with the object of trading in land, but because they will be compulsorily transferred there. They will remain there until they die or leave the service. We should approach this matter as sensible men. What does it matter to a man if the value of the land on which he has his house increases to £50 a foot? It is of no use to him.
– It enables him to indulge in land speculation.
– The civil servant cannot speculate with his land at Canberra. He is compelled to live on his block; he is a fixture.
– Why does he not obtain the leasehold of his block 1
– Many public servants will be unable to afford that. Again, the rental purchase terms are either 25 or 35 years, which means that the public servant must pay for his house and land in that period. The term should be not less than 45 years. That would mean a lower annual rental.
– Forty-five years is a fairly long period.
– A house built of Canberra bricks should last well over 100 years; its life should be nearer 200 years. In that case, why should the public servant have to pay for it in 35 years ? The members of the Public Service were fairly well satisfied with the committee’s recommendation that the term should be 45 years. The overhead charges of the commission are altogether too high.
– The Government has acceded to the request of the committee and reduced the rate to ii per cent.
– In the case of private architects, building houses of varying types in different localities, 4$ per cent, might be a reasonable charge, but not in the case of standard houses such as are being constructed at Canberra by the commission. Many of the commission’s houses can only be described as disgraceful. They are no credit to their designers. Throughout them all there is a great similarity of design. Moreover, seeing they are being built under what may be described as mass production methods, the overhead expenses should be a great deal less than the rate charged by the commission. Two and a half per cent, would be quite sufficient to charge.
– The charge should not exceed 2 per cent.
– I remind the Senate that the public servant who goes to Canberra does not go there as a land speculator; he is compelled to go there or to leave the Service. He should be treated fairly. The Government should have made the present dissatisfaction impossible.
– The War Service Homes Commission charges 3 per cent, for overhead expenses.
– The War Service Homes Commission builds houses of many different designs all over the Commonwealth, but that is not the case with the Federal Capital Commission. There is much more justification for the War Service Homes Commission charging 3 per cent, for overhead expenses than there is for the charge of 4j per cent, by the Federal Capital Commission for houses of similar design, built in a concentrated area. The houses built by the War Service Homes Commission in all parts of Australia are, for the most part, good.
– Some of them are bad.
– But not those which have been built in recent years.
– In the early days of its history, when houses were rushed up to meet the great demand, many of them were badly constructed, but that is not the case with the homes erected -during recent years. The commission also has prohibited the construction of timber houses in certain areas. Some honorable senators approve of the prohibition, but the time is not far distant when in Canberra there will be in operation a caste system worse than that of India. In one area w;e shall find only those officers whose salary exceeds £800 per annum, and in another those in receipt of from £500 to £800 per annum. Those officers who receive between £300 and £500 will be found elsewhere, in another area, while in yet another district will be found those whose salary is less than £300. In one section of the city we shall find the aristocrats, in another the proletariat, and between them the bourgeois. Is that what we should expect in a city controlled by a democratic Parliament? The Government has made a mistake in acceding to the request of the commission to prohibit the construction of timber houses in certain ai-eas. It will mean that the officers in receipt of small salaries will be forced to reside in some back gully. It would do no harm to permit the construction of a percentage of timber houses among those constructed of brick. The Minister knows that in Queensland there are very few brick houses, and that if properly maintained timber houses will last for 60 years or more.
– If constructed of sound Australian timber.
– My house in Queensland which is about 45 years old, is practically as good to-day as when it was erected, and that is true of hundreds of houses in the State. The climate of Canberra may be a little more severe on timber houses than that of Queensland, but a timber house at Canberra should last for many years. This prohibition in relation to timber houses will result in Canberra being divided into watertight compartments based on the salaries of the public servants who will live in them. I do not advocate the construction of inferior timber houses among brick houses of much greater value. In this matter a little discretion would overcome all the difficulties. It would be a good thing for Canberra to allow more timber houses to be erected.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I have before me a plan of the latest land subdivision at Canberra. Honorable senators will remember that about six months ago in this Senate I protested against the delay in making available further blocks, and pointed out that the few thrown open caused profiteering on the part of those who had secured leases. In answer to my protest the commission stated there was no demand for a greater number, notwithstanding that I had shown conclusively that high premiums were being paid on blocks which had been leased. However, after a period of twelve months, additional land is being made available. Honorable senators will probably be surprised to know that only twelve blocks are to be offered at the auction.
– The honorable senator refers to business sites.
– Yes; blocks for retail trading purposes. Evidently the commission thinks that only twelve persons want to secure business sites at Canberra. I invite the attention of the Senate to the upset price fixed by the commission in respect of those blocks. For blocks measuring 20 ft. by 108 ft. the upset price is £1,000.
– Blocks in the scrub!
– The upset price represents £20,000 per acre for land which cost the Government about £4 an acre.
– The whole lot of them should be dismissed. They are “ crucifying “ Canberra.
– Are those blocks at the civic centre ?
– They are in the business area in the vicinity of the civic centre. I think honorable senators will agree that in obtaining £20,000 per acre for land which cost £4 an acre the Government is making a tremendous profit. It may be said that the land has appreciated in value because of the construction of streets by the commission, but I remind the Senate that twelve months ago land in the same area was sold for £400 a block. It is difficult to see how the commission can justify its action in increasing the upset price by 150 per cent.
– That is done to prevent settlement.
– It is profiteering on a scale which I have never previously known. Such prices could not be secured had not the commission adopted the policy of doling out the land in quantities altogether insufficient to supply the demand.
– Are private owners asking £1,000 for a block of the size mentioned by the honorable senator?
– No; that is the upset price fixed by the commission. There is no private land available there; the commission does not allow a re-sale. As a matter of fact, people, in order to realize a profit, are attempting by a subterfuge to get over the commission’s interdiction. In place of a straight-out transfer a mortgage of 90 per cent. of the value of a lease is taken, on the understanding that the transfer will be completed as soon as buildings have been erected. The price placed on these new subdivisions represents a premium on former sales, and will make possible a tremendous profit for those who were fortunate enough to buy at the early auction sales. Under the conditions of sale, the purchaser of a block, say, at £1,000, does not put up that amount in cash; he pays only 5 per cent. on the capital value each year.
– Does the honorable senator suggest the terms are too easy?
– No; my contention is that the prices are outrageously high.
– If theupset price is too high, will that not be reflected at the auction sale of leases?
– Not necessarily, because a certain number of people are determined to start business in Canberra, and, if the number of business sites available is limited, they will he forced to pay exorbitant prices. They fear, judging by previous experience, that if they do not buy at the approaching auction sale, they will have to wait another twelve months before further leasesare available. The policy of the commission is worthy of the mostexperienced of land boomers in
Sydney, Melbourne, or elsewhere. Honorable senators should realize what this will mean. High prices for leases must necessarily lead to an increase in the cost of living at Canberra. Imagine a business man, such as a baker, having to pay £50 a year ground rent on blocks in their present rough state. In some cases it is necessary to excavate the overburden to a depth of 4 feet before a. brick can be laid. An investor must get 6 per cent.at least on his money. It would be unreasonable to expect any man to be content with less than that.
– It is not necessary for bakers to build in the civic centre. There are other shopping centres.
– According to the commission’s arrangements for the forthcoming auction, they will be unable to get business sites elsewhere. Does the Minister suggest that bakers and other business men must not conduct business in the civic centre? Is that particular area to be reserved for banks and insurance companies ?
– No; but it is not necessary for bakers and that class of people to set up business in the civic centre. As a matter of fact, there is a baker at Canberra now, and he is not in the civic centre.
– Possibly that was because he could not get there. The policy of the commission must inevitably mean an increase in the cost of living at Canberra; eveninsurance companies and banking institutions must conduct their operations on business lines, and, if they have to pay exorbitant prices for their leases, they naturally will put up their rates.
– Is it not a fact that certain of thebanks paid over £2,000 for land there?
– Yes. The Commonwealth Bank, ina fitof madness, paid £7,000 for a small leasehold, approximating, I think, 70 feetsquare.
-Isit not awise provision not to encourage the erection ofmore shops than arerequired for the needs of thepeople ?
– That is another matter altogether. I amcom plaining about the upset price of the blocks about to be offered, and also because only a limited number will be offered. Apparently business men are to be herded in one particular locality. Because other blocks are not to be made available, it is a case of take it or leave it. Every one knows the position of the Commonwealth Bank. A free site was reserved for that institution, but the building conditions required the erection of premises that would cost about £500,000, and the banking chamber, according to one of the officials, would be so large that, to put it in his words, the bank could not afford to warm it, so all the officials would have to freeze in the winter. To get over the difficulty, the Commonwealth Bank bid at auction against the Australian Mutual Provident Society for another lease, and the price went to £7,000.When the Australian Mutual Provident Society’s representative learned who had secured the lease he said he would have given up the contest much earlier if he had known he was up against the resources of the Commonwealth Bank.
– What is the position of the other banks?
– Some were fortunate enough to obtain leases at the upset price ; but in one case an ambitious squatter, who was anxious to get a particular site, ran the priceup to £3,000. All this competition would have been prevented if, instead of allowing only a limited number of blocks to be sold in one civic centre, more had been made available at the time. Obviously it has been the policy of the commission to stimulate competition for the limited number of leases that are offered from time to time. I should have had nothing to say if private speculators had been operating on their own account;but I protest against the Federal Capital Commission adopting the policy of the land monopolist. It has control of the entire area. Beforea man can puta pick in the groundhe mustgocap in hand to the commission for permission to build. I shall have pleasure later in introducing a bill to compel every member of Parliament to buy a. lease in Canberra. They will then begin to appreciate the pin pricks on the principle that the toad beneaththe harrow knows where every separate tooth point goes.
SenatorOgden. - I would not have a block as a gift under the conditions imposed by the commission.
– It is the duty of members of the Senate to protect the people from the unfair tactics of the Federal Capital Commission. This plan of subdivision for the next sale of leases only reached me to-day, so that I have not had time to carefully study it; but a glance at the upset prices fixed for the small number of sites to be offered convinces me that the Government would be well advised if it went carefully into the matter with a valuator from Sydney or Melbourne to ascertain if the prices fixed are fair and reasonable. It is not a fair policy that the commission should limit the number of blocks to be offered.
– The commission is doing that to inflate prices.
– Of course it is. As only a few business leases are to be auctioned, it is a case of take it or leave it.
– The commission is really crucifying Canberra.
– No doubt the commission is between the devil and the deep sea. It has a huge army of workmen, and is seeking to make the best showing possible. When I was there recently, the place reminded me of the Somme battlefield, with trenches, ditches, and holes everywhere. The commission must be incurring enormous expenditure, and to present a favorable balance-sheet it is exacting exorbitant prices from those who wish to secure building leases.
. -I have spoken several times upon this subject, and the statement just made by Senator Elliott, who has been supplied with a lithograph plan of leases proposed to be sold shortly, affords me an opportunity to make further remarks. I say, without fear of contradiction, that by acquiescence in the policy of the Federal CapitalCommission the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) and this Government are crucifying Canberra. The commission after a lapse of twelve months, is now proposing to make available only twelve sites for retail trading. Evidently thecommission, backedup by the Minister and the Government, is determined to prevent settlement at the Federal Capital. Judging by the prices to be charged for the leases, the obvious purpose is to drive into the bankruptcy court all who dare to commence business in Canberra under such conditions. The date of the sale has been fixed for the 9th April next. The upset price of the several blocks to be made available is shown on the plan. I am not objecting to that, but I do object to the action of the commission in not offering a sufficient number of leases. I am not sure what the Canberra city and suburban area is, but I understand it is about 64 square miles. In that area the Commission proposes to offer at the forthcoming auction only twelve small sites for retail trading. It makes one think that the commission is trying to repeat in Canberra the disgraceful slum conditions to be found in some of our capital cities. The commission should be definitely informed that more leases must be made available, and that the public shall have the right to fix the upset price at auction.
– So they have.
– They should be untrammelled by the limitation which has been placed upon the number of blocks by the commission. The public wishes to go to Canberra.
– The public is paying more than the upset price in every case.
– The commission, backed up by the Government and Senator Cox, is determined to prevent both business and residential settlement at Canberra.
– The commission is now making available as many blocks as can be built on.
– It is doing nothing of the kind.
– There is not a sufficient number of tradesman, or the quantity of bricks and other materials necessary, to proceed with the erection of a greater number of buildings.
– If people are prepared to build shops at Canberra, why should they be prevented from doing so? The commission is determined that a number of sites sufficient to meet public requirements shall not be made available.
– Who is to be the judge of what is sufficient? The commission is on the spot, and cognizant of the” condi tion. The honorable senator cannot know whether or not twelve blocks is a sufficient number to make available.
– That number might prove more than sufficient with the upset price so high. That price need only be fixed high enough and no one will buy. Canberra has been deliberately and persistently crucified by this Government ever since it has been in office. It is impossible for people to pay the prices that are placed upon the blocks by the commission. I have read something of the early history of South Australia when land could be bought for 10s. an acre. As soon as migrants ascertained that fact they ceased to work for others and became land-owners. What was the result ? The men who had charge of the affairs of the State said, “ This is no good to us. We want these men to remain in our employment and not to work on their own account.” The price of land was increased to £1 an acre so as to prevent men from procuring home sites and farms. That objective was successful. At Canberra a determined effort, which has succeeded most admirably, has been made to prevent settlement. Nothing was more certain to achieve that object than the limitation of the number of blocks made available and the placing upon them of a fictitious, exorbitant, outrageous, shamefully high upset price. Since the Federal Capital city has been open for settlement the advance in Queanbeyan has been ten times as great. Why ? Because the land in that town is not held out of use as it is in Canberra.
– The reason is that the land there is freehold.
– That is not the reason. The Minister is well aware of the determination of the commission to prevent settlement at Canberra. If the leases of blocks were knocked down to the highest bidder they would be bought up.
– They are being bought up now.
– Two or three thousand blocks ought to be made available.
– Speculators would secure them.
– There would be a slump in values.
– Settlement would follow immediately. Every Saturday in the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney one can see hundreds of blocks being auctioned. Yet in the Federal Capital city a good-for-nothing, useless, outofdate commission, backed up by an equally useless Minister, is determined that only a limited number of blocks shall be made available. The leases of two or three thousand blocks should be auctioned immediately, and the highest bidder should secure them.
– That is what has been done.
– Senator Cox is misrepresenting the position. So far, only 300 blocks have been made available to private enterprise. Tens of thousands are being held out of use. Senator Cox does not care where the men who are employed in Canberra are compelled to live. The rent of a lease should he, not £1 a week, but 2s. 6d., or even ls.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there is a shortage of residential blocks?
– I do.
– That is not why men are living in construction camps. The reason is that they are handy to their work.
– Hundreds of people would live in Canberra if they could secure a building site at a reasonable rental. They are not, and will not be, prepared to give the fictitious prices that have been fixed by the commission. Let the commission make available two or three thousand blocks to the highest bidders, conditional upon the payment in advance of the annual rental and the erection of a building within eighteen months or two years.
– Would the honorable senator have an upset price ?
– No; but 1 favour the re-appraisement of rentals at more frequent intervals than twenty years, which is altogether too long.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Home and Territories) [o.56]. - When considering the price that should be placed upon the blocks that were made available for public servants, the commission took the values of other blocks in the vicinity, submitted them to its Lands Department, and then had the values ascertained by a sworn valuer from Sydney. The only proper course is to take the market value, and that is what has been done.
If the Government adopted the suggestion of Senator Reid, and made the land available to public servants at the price at which it was acquired, the way would be open to those who obtained the leases to realize on them immediately.
– But it is possible to create a fictitious value.
– I agree that it is. On the other hand, the only possible way of fixing a price is to follow market values. The Public Works Committee recommended that repayments by public servants should be spread over a period of 45 years. I point out that -under the War Service Homes scheme, which is one of the most liberal housing schemes in the Commonwealth, the period allowed for repayment in the case of brick houses is 35 years. Again I inform honorable senators that originally the overhead charge was 7 per cent., and that it was reduced to 4i per cent. It was not found possible to reduce it to as low as 2$ per cent as recommended. Honorable senators must remember that interest has to be paid upon the money involved from the time a building is commenced until it is completed. Certain other charges have to be met, and the Government felt that it could not go below 4$ per cent. Even if permission were given to erect wooden houses in brick areas, that would not have the effect of reducing the cost, because they would be built in an area where the blocks were dear. Replying to Senator Elliott, I submit that the commission is justified in obtaining a reasonable price for its land.
– But not an unreasonable one.
– It has taken the best advice available as to the upset price that it should place on the blocks. However high the price may be now, it is bound to increase.
– Yes, if no more blocks are made available.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Is it suggested that £50 a foot is an unreasonable price for land in the principal centre of the capital city of the Commonwealth ?
– At the present time, yes.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.If the upset price is unreasonable, there, is bound to be a reaction.
– Not if the supply is limited to two or three blocks.
– The commission will see that sufficient blocks are made available a3 the demand grows.
– Some of the transfers recently made, showed a premium of £1,000.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Exactly, because the speculator was permitted to come in. The commission, in fixing the upset price of leases now being made available, would probably be guided by the values now placed on those original leases.
– Why does not the commission make more blocks available and thus prevent speculation?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.What the honorable senator suggests would provide an opportunity for the speculators to acquire leases and do nothing with them.
– Speculators would not want many blocks if they were required to build on them within twelve months.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.If too many blocks were made available, the purchasers would possibly not be able io comply with the building covenants, because of a shortage in the supply of bricks.
– There is any quantity of material at Canberra for making the best bricks in Australia.
– Yes, but although the capacity of the brick works has recently been doubled, the difficulty to which I have drawn attention would be accentuated if a great many blocks were made available subject to the condition that the purchasers must build within twelve months.
– I believe that a great injustice is being done to the public servants who have to remove to Canberra. In fixing the value of the blocks upon which residences are erected, the commission has been guided almost entirely- by the prices that have been paid at public auction by private individuals. That principle is wrong. The commission should differentiate between the person who is compulsorily obliged to acquire a residence at Canberra, in order that he may help in the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth, and the person who settlesthere of his own free will or acquires land merely for speculative purposes.
– I ‘ should like to know how it could discriminate.
– Does the Minister know of any instance where the War Service Homes Commission has fixed on land upon which war service homes have been built, a value equivalent to the price that the land would have brought in open competition ? At Willoughby, one of the suburbs of Sydney, there is a beautiful soldier settlement in close proximity to the city where the soldiers were charged for fair-sized building lots about £70 or £80 a block. When the buildings were erected, those blocks would have brought in open competition anything from £150 to £250.
– The commission is not selling those blocks to the soldiers at a loss?
– No, but it is taking into consideration what reasonable help can be afforded to the soldiers in getting a home. The same principle should be applied to the public servants at Canberra. No regard should be paid to values obtained for residential blocks offered to the public.
– Why single out the public servants for special treatment?
– Because we are compelling them to go to Canberra.
– The honorable senator is forgetting that the Public Service Board inquired into the difference in costs at Canberra, as compared with Melbourne, and that, as a result of the report of the board, the public servants are being given special allowances to make up the difference, lt would be unfair to supply them with blocks of land at a lower price than is paid by others.
– We shall all have to recognize that the cost of living at Canberra will be considerably higher than it is in other places in Australia except, perhaps, the Northern Territory . and other very remote parts. Every move on the part of the commission will accentuate that position. Why should £1,000 be charged for a 20-ft. frontage in the business centre when the upset price of those retail trading blocks a year or two ago was only £400 ? There should be a limit to that kind of thing. I rose to protest against the exorbitant price of blocks for public servants compulsorily transferred to Canberra. Special consideration should be given to them, so that the rent of the blocks they occupy may be as low as possible.
– I object to civil servants being singled out for special treatment by the Federal Capital Commission. It would be manifestly unfair to give the public servants homes at £4 per acre, the price at which the land was originally bought; but it would be far better to do that than to have the land lying vacant. If I were in charge of the Territory, *I would immediately release the whole of the city sites at whatever price I could get for them, always reserving the right to reappraise the rentals at fixed intervals and more frequently than every twenty years. The residents of Canberra should pay to the commission the full rental value of the land they occupy; the commission should be satisfied with a fair rental value, and more blocks should be made available. But that is precisely what it will not do. Apparently it makes residental areas or business blocks available solely with the determination to prevent businesses from being established at Canberra or prevent homes from being erected there. No progress can take place in the Territory until blocks are made available in sufficient numbers and at a reasonable price, but they are not being made available at a reasonable price when the commission asks a rental of £50 a year for a block 20 feet by 108 feet.
– That is not a heavy rental to pay for a block in the centre of a capital city.
– It is a heavy rental to pay at the present time.
– Of course it is when there are only 5,000 people in the city.
– I want to know why the Minister should back up the commissioners in their determination to secure a fictitious price for this land. If more blocks were made available, there would be more settlement. By withholding blocks the commission succeeds in preventing settlement, and I am at a loss to understand why this is done. Is it to make Canberra unpopular ? Or is it to provide an excuse for charging civil servants who are compelled to go to Canberra a higher rental than they would otherwise pay? Whether that he the objective or not, it is most certainly the result of the action taken by the commission. For instance, it is absurd, as in this instance, to make available only twelve retail trading’ sites for a city like Canberra.
– That is in one portion of the city only. “ There are four other sites set aside for industrial purposes.
– Some time ago Parliament devoted an all-night sitting to the consideration of a proposal to locate the proposed arsenal at a point on the outskirts of the territory where hundreds of blocks were to be offered for sale. There ought to be a desire on the part of Parliament to give Canberra a fair deal. We ought to compel the commission to cease withholding building blocks from the public. What would be thought if a relative of the Chief Commissioner purchased a block such as mentioned by Senator Elliott, and the commissioner refused to make further blocks available until that which his relative was holding had been sold at a high figure. I do not suggest for a moment that that has been done. This Parliament would not tolerate such action. Supposing a relative of the Minister (Senator Glasgow) was the lessee of one of the blocks mentioned by Senator Elliott, and the Minister directed that no further blocks were to be made available until the one in question had been sold for £1,000. The action of the Minister or the commissioner would not be countenanced for a moment. We ought to lay it down clearly and definitely that blocks should be made available at a reasonable rental in sufficient numbers to meet present requirements. There should be no upset price fixed by the commission; blocks should be sold by auction to the highest bidder, and subsequent reappraisements at frequent intervals should be made. If the present practice is continued for 50 years, the rental of blocks, instead of being £1 per week, will be £100 per week. We should insist upon a discontinuance of this “ dog-in- the manger “ attitude in order that Canberra may have an opportunity to develop in a proper and business-like way.
– Some days ago I asked the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) a very important question regarding Canberra to which I desired a prompt answer. As I feel that there has been ample time in which to furnish a reply, and as I am particularly anxious that the information should be available before Parliament adjourns, I am taking this opportunity to place before the Minister what appears to be the reliable information upon which I based my question. I am anxious to ascertain the actual facts. I am informed that at Acton, in the Federal Capital Territory, on an area specially reserved for university purposes, a certain privileged public servant has been allotted a building site, and that the framework of his house is at present being erected. Other public servants who have made application for land in this locality have been denied this privilege, but this specially favoured officer has been granted the concession which other public servants have been denied.
– It is a scandal.
– If the information supplied to me is correct, it is. I am anxious to obtain the facts. If the position is as stated, some one will have to suffer if the Government does its duty, which I believe it will.
– If the statement is correct it is outrageous.
– Yes; it would be a most improper thing to do. I do not see why even a highly placed public servant should be allotted a site on an area 2-eserved for university buildings, even although it may not be required for that purpose for. some years. If an area reserved for educational institutions is being frittered away by allowing certain persons special privileges it is not a proper way in which to conduct public business. If the commission is guilty, it is certainly not doing its duty to the people of Australia. I mention this matter now, because I feel that I should have received a telegraphed reply to an urgent question. If the commission desired to give the information it could have been made available the next day, but I understand a reply has not yet reached the Minister. Is the commission covering up this little bit of business that is going on ? Is it the intention of the commission to withhold thisinformation until Parliament adjourns ? If that is the intention we shall not have the opportunity to properly discuss thismatter until towards the end of this year, when this cottage will have been completed and it will be too late for decisive action to be taken. I trust the Minister will again communicate with the commission by telegraph, and urge upon it the absolute necessity of immediately despatching a telegraphic reply to my question.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Home and Territories) [6.23]. - It is true as Senator Duncan states that he submitted to me a fairly long question, which was repeated to the commission by letter. Yesterday afternoon the honorable senator spoke to me on the matter, and this morning at his request I arranged for the despatch of a telegram asking for a reply. I have not yet received a reply.
– There has been time to receive a reply to that telegram. I am not blaming the Minister.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.A telegraphic request has been sent to the commission to expedite the reply. I shall see that the information which the honorable senator desires is supplied before the Senate rises this week.
.- I regret that Senator Grant should have inferred certain actions of the Federal Capital Commission were of a questionable nature, and in doing so, misrepresented the position.
– I rise to order. I take strong exception to the statement of the honorable senator that I misrepresented the position. I usually express my views ‘with as much accuracy as Senator Foll. I made it quite clear that I had no intention of reflecting upon the commission or the Minister. I asked what would happen if a relative of the commission or the Minister-
– The honorable senator rose to a point of order. I cannot allow him to make a personal explanation at this stage.
– I did not intend to refer to the statement which Senator Grant commenced to repeat, but to- the extravagant language he used when he said that the commission or the Government were doing all they could to retard the progress of Canberra.
– I adhere to that statement.
– It is an extravagant statement. If the honorable senator believes what he says, he should, as a New South Wales representative, immediately take some action. I think it only fair to say that the Government is very fortunate in having such a capable commission. It is generally conceded that the chairman is one of the most brilliant men in Australia. The late Mr. Gorman, who was, until his death, a member of the commission, specialized in various branches of the work in which the commission is engaged, and was recognized as one of the most able authorities in New South Wales on the subject of land values. Sir John Harrison, another member of the commission, is a highly competent Sydney builder, and has rendered valuable assistance in drawing up the system under which building blocks are made available. A large number of people in Australia over-estimate the present value of Canberra as a business centre. What would be the position if those on the spot, who know the position, did not regulate the number of blocks to be made available. The possibilities are that the bulk of these business sites would be taken up, and certain, ambitious purchasers would endeavour to carry out the special conditions attached to the leases, with the result that businesses would be established everywhere. It would not be long before the persons controlling them realized that the sites were not of the value anticipated, and we would have large numbers of vacant shops, such as are seen in some portions of the metropolitan area.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Occupation by Commonwealth - Expression oe Thanks.
(by leave). - I move -
That the Parliament of the Commonwealth expresses to the Parliament, the Government, and the people of Victoria, its grateful thanks for their generous hospitality in placing the Parliament House of the State of Victoria at the disposal of the Parliament of the Commonwealth .
It is fitting that the Federal Parliament, before leaving Melbourne, should express to the Government, the Parliament, and the people of Victoria, its appreciation of their hospitality in granting to it the use of these magnificent buildings during the last 26 years. The Commonwealth has been treated generously by the Parliament of Victoria, and the relations between the two legislatures have, on the whole, been of a most cordial character. I believe that I speak for every honorable senator when I say that we deeply appreciate the public spirit that prompted the offer of these buildings to the Parliament of the Commonwealth at the inception of federation, and the maintenance of that spirit in granting us their continuous use ever since. The Government desires to make some recognition of the action of the State of Victoria. It, therefore, proposes to ask Parliament to vote the sum of £50,000 to be spent on these buildings in such a way as to constitute a permanent memorial of the fact that for the first quarter of a century in the - history of the Commonwealth, the national Parliament met in them. It is also proposed, with the consent of the Government and the Parliament of Victoria, to place in a suitable position in the buildings a tablet on which will be recorded that important historial fact. We feel that before we leave this city, which for over 26 years has been the temporary seat of the Commonwealth Government, we should invite the members of the Parliament of Victoria to meet us so that we may have the opportunity to convey to them, and thus to the people of Victoria, our appreciation of Victoria’s treatment of the Federal Parliament. To that end it is proposed to hold a banquet in Queen’s Hall, to which the members of the Victorian Parliament will be invited. There is no need for me to say more. 1 feel sure that the motion will receive the unanimous support of honorable senators, and that it will be accepted by the Parliament, the Government and the people of Victoria as a genuine expression of our appreciation of the spirit in which their generous offer was made, and in which we have accepted their hospitality during the first quarter of a century of this nation’s history.
in connexion with our occupancy of these buildings. It would have been most discourteous on our part had we vacated them without in some way placing on record our very grateful appreciation, and our thanks to the Parliament, the Government, and the people of Victoria for having made available to the Commonwealth Parliament these palatial buildings at a time when it was houseless and homeless. Without any condition other than that they were to be handed back in good order and repair, Victoria placed these buildings at the disposal of the Commonwealth. In such circumstances, it is only fitting that we should record our thanks for its most generous gift. We leave this place with mingled feelings of pleasure and regret - pleasure at the recollection of having enjoyed the hospitality of the Parliament and the people of Victoria; regret that our association with them, for the time being, will be severed. We shall carry with us the historical associations of these buildings. They have echoed not only the voices and sentiments of the men who were primarily responsible for the federation of the six States, butalso the voices of those who preceded them, and within these buildings laid the foundation of Victoria’s present prosperity. Every honorable senator on this side of the chamber heartily appreciates the generosity and hospitality of the
Parliament of Victoria. During the quarter of a century that the Commonwealth Parliament has had the use of these buildings history has been made. When we first entered them the Commonwealth was a nation in its swaddling clothes. Since then it has passed from childhood to youth, and from youth to lusty manhood, until to-day it is in the full noon of its nationhood. We leave these buildings for our own home in our own place. In the nation’s own Parliament House history will continue to be made. I hope - and I know that my hope is echoed by every member of this Parliament - that the progress which this young nation has made in the 26 years during which its Parliament has met in these buildings will continue after we gather in our new home. I heartily support the motion.
Question resolved in theaffirmative.
– By leave. - As honorable senators are aware, the office of High Commissioner in the United Kingdom will shortly become vacant. The Government has had this matter under consideration for some time, and has decided to offer the position to Major General Sir Granville Ryrie, M.P., who has consented to accept it.
In committee :
Consideration resumed (vide page 827).
.- Complaints have been made that the Federal Capital Commission has not made available a sufficient number of business sites ; but, in my opinion, it is better that an insufficient number of such sites be thrown open than that too many should be offered. Throughout the Commonwealth there are many people who are looking to Canberra with a view to establishing businesses there. The commissioners who know the existing conditions at the Federal Capital are better able to estimate its progress during the next 25 or 30 years than are the members of the general public. They are the best judges of the number of leases of business sites that should be offered for sale.
We all know how shop property at times depreciates in suburban areas because the supply has exceeded the demand. If, as Senator Grant suggested, the commission offered 1,000 business sites, the chances are that, in the course of a few years, a number of leases would revert to it, and we should have the spectacle of isolated empty, or partially constructed business premises, instead of uniformity in development, which the commission is endeavouring to ensure. The commission being on the spot is in the best position to estimate the probable requirements of the Federal Capital, and we may rest assured that when the first auction sale of leases was held the number offered was believed to be sufficient for the time being. Since then the population at Canberra has increased, and to meet the expected increase in business turnover, the commission is now offering twelve more retail business sites in the civic centre. Senator Grant was most unfair in his criticism of the commission. We all know that he has taken a personal interest in the development of the Capital; but it is a pity that he should have made a statement that the commission has deliberately done everything in its power to check the progress of the city.
– I was referring to the small number of building sites made available.
– Then the honorable senator is making an irresponsible statement, for which there is not the slightest foundation.
– I was referring particularly to the number of leases that have been offered from time to time.
– If Senator Grant were fair, he would acknowledge that the commission is faced with an extremely difficult task, and that it has carried out its work in an eminently satisfactory manner.
Senatorcox. - The three men appointed were the ablest to be found in Australia.
– It is generally admitted that the Government selected the three men most suited for the position, so it ill becomes Senator Grant to make damaging statements such as one might expect from some irresponsible person. His criticism receives the fullest publicity, and is not likely to benefit the Federal Capital, or to act as an incentive to the commissioners in the proper discharge of their duties. A few weeks ago I visited the Federal Capital, and was much impressed with the progress made since my previous visit a year or two ago. On every hand there was evidence that the commissioners were carrying out their work in a thoroughly efficient manner. As to the number of business sites to be offered shortly, the onus is on Senator Grant to show that sufficient provision is not being made. The upset price fixed is in itself not conclusive evidence that the number is below requirements. In the absence of any evidence, I do not intend to accept the statement made by Senator Grant that the commission, assisted by the Min ister is deliberately endeavouring to delay the development of the Federal Capital. Senator Grant’s criticism gives an entirely false impression of what is being done there by the commission.
– I am glad to have this opportunity to reply at once to the statement made by Senator Foll. I should like to say at the outset that my remarks earlier in the debate were directed exclusively to the action of the commission and the Government in refusing to make available a sufficient number of business and residential leases. That is the point I wish to make. I do not retract a word of what I have said on that score. The Commonwealth has had control of the Federal Capital Territory for many years. During that time the neighbouring town of Queanbeyan, and other towns in New South Wales, have made remarkable progress; whilst in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and other big cities, the population and value of property have almost doubled. What has been the trouble at Canberra ?
– The circumstances there have been entirely different.
– Undoubtedly, the trouble at Canberra is that the Federal Capital Commission, with the concurrence of the Government and the Minister for Home and Territories, has steadfastly refused to offer at auction a sufficient number of leases for business and residential purposes.
– A repetition of that statement does not prove it to be true.
– Nevertheless, what I am saying is true. Does Senator Foll know or care what is happening at Canberra ? Not so long ago the honorable senator, after a visit to the Territory, declared that the temporary Houses of Parliament were being erected on the site of one of the lakes shown on Mr. Griffin’s plan of the city; but when attention was drawn to his ridiculous and irresponsible statement, he withdrew it and apologized.
– The honorable senator is wrong. The original site was where I said.
– As far as my recollection goes, the temporary Houses of Parliament are on the original site; and from my knowledge of the Capital city, I have no hesitation in saying that there would not be very much of Canberra left if that site were covered with water. That is the kind of irresponsible statement which Senator Foll makes. He made another just now when he said that I had uttered a general condemnation of the work of the commission. This is not true. My remarks have been directed especially to the action of the commission in limiting the number of business and residential leases to be offered. Does any honorable senator seriously suggest that twelve retail business sites is a sufficient number to be made available at the forthcoming auction sale? The upset price is very much inflated. This has been brought about through the action of the commission in limiting the number offered at earlier sales. That what I am saying is correct is proved by the substantial profits made by speculative purchasers at the earlier sales. It would have been much better and in the interests of all concerned if the commission had offered a larger number of leases at a reasonable price. Had that course been followed, persons who decided, subsequent to the last sale, to go into business at Canberra, would not have been forced to pay the purchasers as much as £1,000 for the transfer of leases. The return furnished by the Minister for Home and Territories recently showed that a considerable number of leases had changed hands since the last auction sale.
– Many of those who bought leases at the first sale cheaply were able to do so because no one else would touch them.
– I am not condemning them for that, but I condemn the Government and the commission for making it possible for a person to speculate in Canberra leases.
SenatorCox. - What is the remedy?
– The remedy is a simple one - the more frequent reappraisement of the leases, and the offering of a sufficient number of blocks. Surely the honorable senator does not contend that twelve additional business sites at the civic centre will meet the requirements at Canberra, where the Federal Parliament will soon be in session.
SenatorCox. - The honorable senator knows that it is difficult to get labour, or bricks or any other building material there.
– That is not our business. If persons are prepared to pay the necessary rentals, why should not the commission allow them to lease blocks ? The other day the Commonwealth borrowed £1,000,000 for expenditure on works at Canberra, yet the commission will not make its assets productive! Its failure to do so is a proof that it is deliberately and wilfully crucifying Canberra. Every honorable senator must admit that I am stating facts. Does anybody imagine that if Canberra were in the hands of a private owner he would hang on to the land year after year ?
SenatorCox. - The lands at Canberra have been handled in a most scientific way, which is a credit to the Government.
– What experience has the Chief Commissioner had in dealing with land ?
SenatorCox. - He was not appointed to deal with it. The man who dealt with it until recently was one of the most able men in land matters in Australia.
– Can Senator Cox tell me what experience Sir John Harrison has had in dealing with land ?
SenatorCox. - He was one of the biggest and most successful builders in Australia.
– I happen to know him; and I knew his father before him . Building was their business. Can Senator Cox tell me a single landed estate with which Sir John Harrison has dealt?
SenatorCox. - The late Mr. Gorman was appointed to deal with the lands of the Federal Capital Territory, and Sir
John Harrison with its building operations. Mr. Butters was to exercise an oversight of the whole of the operations in the Territory.
– Mr. Butters has had no experience in landed estates. Neither, so far as I have heard, has Sir John Harrison. The late Mr. Gorman occupied an entirely different position ; but, even so, can Senator Cox tell me of a single estate that he handled on the leasehold system ? He and his firm for years were accustomed to dealing with lands on the freehold system. He did not handle the lands at Canberra as they should have been handled.
SenatorCox. - He did.
– That is merely an assertion, which carries no weight.
SenatorCox. - How many leasehold estates are there in New South Wales? The only one that I can call to mind is Cooper’s estate.
– If the comparison which the honorable senator has made of the Federal Capital City and Queanbeyan is correct, it is a serious reflection on State socialism.
– It is a serious reflection upon those who are administering the Federal Capital Territory. How can bricklayers, carpenters, or any other tradesmen erect a building if they cannot obtain a building site? The commission is determined that those sites shall not be made available.
– Can the honorable senator tell me why building costs in Canberra are 25 per cent. higher than in Sydney ?
– I do not admit that they are 25 per cent. greater in Canberra than in Sydney. I should like to know why the output of the Canberra brickworks has not been trebled, and why it is necessary for a commission with such unimpeachable business capacity to import bricks from Sydney at a cost of £8 per 1,000. If the commission had been equal to its responsibilities, one of its first acts would have been to treble the output of the brickworks.
– It has to secure the labour to lay the bricks when they are turned out.
– Plenty of that labour is available.
– It is not. Evidence to that effect was given before the Public Works Committee by the secretary of the Bricklayers’ Union.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
[8.37]. - Senator Grant has again complained that the commission has not been making available a sufficient number of blocks. I can assure him that it has had in mind the fact that many of those who acquired leases some time ago were not able to comply with the building covenant, and in some cases the leases became subject to forfeiture. The commission, therefore, quite rightly did not make available too great a number of blocks, because it did not want to have any thrown back on its hands.
– How many blocks in the civic centre have been thrown back on its hands.
– The commission has taken steps to try to prevent that occurring, and has granted an extension of time in which to commence building operations. It is only two years since the commission was appointed. In the interim it has had to prepare the Federal Capital city for the removal of the Commonwealth Parliament. Thus extraordinary activity has had to be displayed, and that has extended to the commercial community. Should it be found necessary to lessen that activity, would it be wise to make blocks available to business people who might expect the present rate of progress to be maintained? The commission wishes to obviate the creation of an unreal prosperity. In the building of other great cities there have been periods of prosperity and of depression. The commission has done its best to maintain a gradual rate of progress, and to prevent any reaction. I do not think that honorable senators quite realize the tremendous task which was set the commission. Work had been proceeding in Canberra for ten or fifteen years. Then the commission was informed that it must prepare the Capital for occupation by the Parliament within two years. I can assure the committee that it has done extraordinarily good. work, notwithstanding the criticism and the hostility it has encountered from certain quarters.
– That is not so.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the commission has done good work ?
– Not in this regard.
– In the building of the Capital?
– In the building of Parliament House, certainly.
– Let us deal with the upset price that has been placed on the blocks. What has the commission to guide it in arriving at that price, except the sum which has been paid for the leases of adjacent blocks? After all, who is the best judge of what the upset price should be - I, who live in Melbourne, or the commission, that is always at Canberra?
– The people who buy the leases.
– Exactly. If those who wish to lease the blocks consider that the price asked is too high they will not do business. I ask honorable senators to try to appreciate the enormous task with which the commission was faced, and the knowledge it must have gained of the value of land in the territory, and ask themselves whether it is not reasonable to suppose that it is capable of fixing a reasonable price for the blocks that are made available?
.- The Minister (Senator Glasgow) said that the commission, in fixing upset prices, has regard to the prices that have been paid for blocks in the immediate neighbourhood of those that are made available. I doubt very much whether he has gone deeply into that matter. Whilst individual blocks were run up to a very high figure, many were sold for the original upset price. One of the plans shows the upset price of a corner block to be £3,000. I know that the block on the opposite corner, which is better situated, remained in the hands of the commission for six months after the last sale, and was finally bought by a speculator at the upset price. After the lapse of six months, the price of the other corner block has been trebled.
– In the meantime, there has been increased activity in the Territory, and we are approaching the time when the Parliament will be transferred.
– That may be. The Minister cannot have it both ways. When fixing the price, the commission must either have regard to the sales which have taken place or look to the speculative value that will be ‘created when Parliament is transferred to Canberra.
– Is it not the duty of the commission, as an arm of the Government, to obtain the best prices it can?
– That may be, if we are to regard this as a huge land speculation. If it is the policy of the Government to extract the last pound it can from the unfortunate people who will be compelled to live in Canberra, let it come out into the open and say so plainly. If that is the policy of the Government I have nothing further to say, but it is idle for Ministers to declare that they are not asking exorbitant prices, and then allow the commission to limit the supply of blocks to twelve. At Blackburn or Surrey Hills, near Melbourne, an auctioneer will sell 50 blocks in an afternoon. In Canberra the supply is limited to twelve for twelve months, or ‘an average of one block a month for sale. If the commission is anxious to meet the legitimate demand of those who require blocks it will throw open at least three times that number.
– The honorable senator has already said that on the last occasion when blocks were thrown open one remained on the hands of the commission.
– Cannot the Minister see that by fixing the upset price of the corresponding corner block at £3,000 the commission is giving a profit of £2,000 to the speculator who paid £1,000 for the first block submitted for sale ?
– Yes, but the commission is retaining the unearned increment which has accrued in the intervening period and has been brought about by the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money.
– If it were a question of retaining the unearned increment I should have nothing further to say ; but why is the corner block not offered for sale to the highest bidder, and without reserve, if the commission is anxious to test the market and secure a true index to the unearned increment ? It should also submit for sale at least another 24 blocks. That is the only method of getting a fair criterion of the price that should be paid. Any child can see that by limiting the demand the commission can secure exorbitant prices.
– The honorable senator has not shown that more than twelve blocks are needed.
– ,’As every block previously sold has already changed hands it is obvious that the people who have bought blocks from the original holders would have been glad to take other blocks if they had been made available at a reasonable price. The first purchasers would not have had the opportunity to make a profit out of the second purchasers if the latter could have come in on the ground floor.
– The honorable senator evidently wants to keep down land values.
– If I were a speculator who had bought land at Canberra, the more the commission restricted the supply of blocks the better I should be pleased, but from a broad national stand-point. I say that a continuance of this policy will cripple the progress of the capital, because it will have the effect of forcing the people to pay exorbitant prices for blocks. Where does the honorable senator imagine tenants will stand in a year or two when £50 a year rental is demanded for a block of land 20 ft. by 108 ft. ? If the Government would say straight out that its policy is to squeeze the people at Canberra honorable senators would know where they stood, But the Government has not the courage to do so, although it allows the commission to follow this policy.
Senator COX (New South Wales) 8.50. - I have been at Canberra a good deal during the last three or four years, and I say that the work done by the Government and the commission is a credit to them. Canberra is provided with splendid electric lighting and sewerage systems, with a magnificent water supply and with roads second to none. Every piece of ground submitted for sale is disposed of by public auction to the highest bidder, and if the purchaser holds the land he must build on it within a certain period. There are plenty of unoccupied houses at the Capital, but I suppose they will all be filled when Parliament is removed to its new home.
– At what rent?
– At £3 a week for a five-roomed house!
– I am not a land agent. The Governments, who have had the administration of Canberra, have dealt with it in a statesmanlike manner, and it is a pity that we have honorable senators criticizing the men who are running the show. Of the three commissioners, the late Mr. C. Gorman was one of the ablest men in Australia dealing in land, and was above suspicion. The voluntary work done by Sir John Harrison, who is also above suspicion, in building homes for soldiers at Mattraville, near Sydney, is a monument to him. Mattraville is one of the prettiest settlements imaginable, and it is wrong to run down the man who designed it. Mr. Butters, the chairman of the commission, is a splendid man, and one of Australia’s cleverest engineers. He and his fellow commissioners have done their work well and honestly and ought not to be harassed by the kind of talk indulged in by some honorable senators.
– I have no desire to harass the Federal Capital Commission. I have spoken for the purpose of getting the commissioners to do the work for which they have been appointed. So far as the building of Parliament House and similar structures is concerned I make no adverse comment on their work, although I am not sure that I could not stretch my comments to cover some of the buildings which Senator Reid has criticized so unmercifully.
– Senator Reid explained that the houses he referred to were erected before the commission stepped in.
– So I understand, but at the same time I am sure a great deal of the criticism of the houses is amply justified. When challenged in regard to his statement that blocks had been thrown back on the hands of the commission, the Minister was unable to say definitely that even one block had been surrendered in that way. As a matter of fact, I do not think that he knows of one purchase that has not been completed, because in almost every case those who bought blocks at the original sale have been able to dispose of them at a premium. One has only to go to Canberra and make an offer to purchase a block to discover that such is the case.
– Senator Elliott says that one block was unsold.
– But he also told us not long ago that when he desired to invest some of his hard-earned money, and employ labour at Canberra, the commission refused to give him a building site.
– All the blocks in the particular locality where he wished to build had been taken up.
– But the blocks were vacant. They were being held, and the honorable senator had to look around to find out who owned the site he wanted. He discovered from local auctioneers that it was available if he would pay a premium of £1,500 plus the annual rent for it. The honorable senator was right in declining to pay, but offered £750, and a compromise was effected under which he agreed, owing to the manner in which the commissioners were holding the land out of use, to hand over to the original lessee £1,000 or £1,100. Notwithstanding this and other glaring instances, we are informed by honorable senators that the commission is making a sufficient number of blocks available to meet public requirements. It is not doing anything of the kind. The action of the commission in this regard is worthy of the severest possible censure that could be meted out to it. If it were handling a private estate in that way its services would not be retained for five minutes. Its work in connexion with road construction, extension of the sewerage system, and the construction of Parliament House has been satisfactory. We have, however, to remember that prior to the commission taking over control of the Federal Capital Territory, approximately 250 miles of first class road had been constructed, the sewerage system was under way, the power-house had been built, and the Cotter dam was constructed, and, I believe, in commission. Very little has been done in private building for the reasons mentioned, although in the capital cities and suburbs great activity has been displayed during recent years. When land is required, it should be sold to the highest bidder. Does it not seem ridiculous that the Government should borrow money at 5 per cent, to be spent at Canberra when it has tens of thousands of vacant blocks, most of which could be leased, possibly in many cases at a nominal sum, which would be better than allowing land to remain idle. It is deplorable to find that the present policy is to construct the city at a snail-like speed. I trust that my comments to-day will be widely circulated, and that the Government will instruct the commission , to make blocks available to the highest bidder. Speculation can be prevented by arranging for re-appraisement every year or thereabouts, so that the Commonwealth would derive the added value instead of speculators.
– People would never build there in those circumstances.
– They are building in the capital cities of the Commonwealth and in the suburbs where properties are valued every year for taxation purposes, and on which rates are paid in proportion to the value of the land or the building, as the case may be.
– That is on freehold property.
– I realize that, but values are fixed, and rates and taxes imposed accordingly.
– It is different with leasehold property.
– I do not see that it makes any difference. The value of the freehold or leasehold is fixed, and the rateable value assessed. I trust that immediate steps will be taken to impress upon the commission the necessity of making more blocks available at Canberra in order to give the city an opportunity to prosper.
On more than one occasion I have referred to what I think is a very great blunder that is being made by the Railway Council in connexion with the construction of the first section of a uniform gauge of railway between Kyogle and South Brisbane. On this line the tunnels are to be wide enough to carry only a single line of rails. I again urge upon the Government the necessity of making representations to the Commonwealth .Railways Commissioner, Mr. Bell, to have this matter reviewed. I understand that one or possibly two other Railways Commissioners are not at all opposed to these tunnels being of sufficient width to carry double sets of rails. There is a striking peculiarity in connexion with this line which is not to be found on any other railway in Australia. In carrying the line over the McPherson Ranges, it has been found necessary to follow a spiral course, and one of the longest tunnels is on a moderately steep grade. It does not require an extensive knowledge of railway engineering to realize that when a heavy train is passing through the tunnel with a following wind, the smoke and steam from the locomotive will endanger the lives of the driver, fireman, and possibly, the passengers. For that reason alone the tunnels should be of sufficient width to carry two sets of rails. Probably there is no necessity at present to lay down a double line, but the tunnel should be wide enough for that purpose. The Sydney Harbour bridge, which is 169 ft. wide, is probably one of the widest in the world. It also has a clear waterway of 170 feet, a span of 1,650 feet, and a total height from the top of the arch to the high water mark of 455 feet. The engineer who designed the bridge is undoubtedly a man of wide vision, and realizes what the traffic of Sydney will be in years to come. From Sydney to Newcastle, all the tunnels are of sufficient width to carry two sets of rails, but when the main north line is left at Maitland, the first tunnel encountered is only wide enough to carry one set of rails. That is a most serious drawback. We have now the opportunity to take a wider vision than was taken when the line from Maitland to Grafton was constructed. This line, the construction of which is now being commenced, comprises the first section of the uniform gauge of railway, which will eventually be extended through Victoria and South Australia, to Fremantle. I feel sure that before long provision will have to be made for a double line of rails, and as the tunnels cannot be widened, while the line is in use, it will be necessary to discard the single-line tunnels and build double ones, or construct another single tunnel. I am informed on very good authority, that the cost of constructing single-line tunnels is about £150 per running yard, whilst that of building a double-line tunnel is only about £200 per yard. This is a matter which I think the Minister for Works and Railways should again bring before Mr. Bell. I do not think he would offer very much opposition, as it is largely a matter of cost. Quite recently an unfortunate driver nearly lost his life in a tunnel on the New South Wales railway system, in consequence of the density and impurity of the fume6. That may occur at any time on the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway if single line tunnels are used. Scattered throughout New South Wales are several single-line tunnels which have been discarded, and which are now used for the production of mushrooms. There should be no repetition of that wilful waste of money. I ask the Minister to consult with the three commissioners with a view to having the tunnels made wide enough to carry a double line of railway.
– As I stated recently, in reply to a question by Senator Grant, a council, consisting of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and the Railways Commissioners for New South Wales and Queensland, has been created under the Act authorizing the construction of the Kyogle to South Brisbane Railway. The council has full authority to decide all questions in relation to that line. It, no doubt, took into consideration the representations which had been made on previous occasions with regard to tunnels, but it has decided that single line tunnels will be sufficient to meet the requirements of traffic. I shall bring Senator Grant’s remarks under the notice of the Minister for Works and Railways, although I do not hold out any hope of any alteration being made in the plans for this line.
– I should be glad to know what progress has been made with the proposal to construct a railway from Port Augusta to Redhill.
– Parliament has not yet authorized the construction of the line, although the surveys have been completed. When we meet again, a bill to authorize the construction of that railway will be introduced.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and sessional orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Crawford) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Dried Fruits Export Charges Act was passed in 1924, in order to provide funds to enable the Dried Fruits Control Board to carry out its functions under the Dried FruitsExport Control Act. The Dried Fruits Export Charges Act provides for the imposition of a maximum levy of one-eighth of a penny per pound on all dried currants, sultanas, and lexias, exported from the Commonwealth. In order to obtain sufficient funds to carry on during the first two years of its activities, the board recommended that the maximum levy be imposed. The total amount of levy collected on behalf of the board since the operation of the act to the end of February, 1927, is £55,881, of which £20,545 has been allotted for trade publicity in the United Kingdom, and £16,218 for general administration in Australia and Great Britain. The proposals now before the Senate emanated from the Dried Fruits Control Board.In its second report the board recommends that this amended legislation be passed to permit of the rate of levy being varied for the several varieties of fruit, especially in view of the poor prices realized for currants and lexias as compared with those obtained for sultanas. Over two years ago the board was appointed under the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924, after that act had been approved by a very large majority at a poll of producers of dried fruits throughout the Commonwealth. Four of the seven members on the board are elected by growers throughout the Commonwealth. Since the board commenced its activities, it has been recognized by the growers as their representative organization, particularly in connexion with overseas trade, on which the industry is to a great extent dependent for its existence. The members of the board, particularly the growers’ section, are unanimously of the opinion that an amendment of the Dried Fruit Export Charges Act is necessary to enable some relief to be made to the growers of currants and lexias in the form of a reduction of, or an entire exemption from, the levy on export, especially as the board has built up a substantial reserve to carry on its activities and contribute to the trade publicity campaign now in operation in the United Kingdom. The board recently decided to recommend that the rates of levy this year on currants and lexias exported be reduced by one-half, namely, one sixteenth of a penny per lb., which reduction would represent a saving of about £6,000 to the growers of such fruits, and that next year, if the circumstances warranted it, to further recommend that the levy be abolished entirely on those two classes of fruit. That would mean a total saving of about £11,000 per annum to the industry. It is further proposed, in order to inconvenience traders as little as possible, to provide for the exemption of the levy on the export of small parcels, not exceeding 1 cwt. of fruit, to destinations such as the islands in the Pacific. The levy involved in such exemption will not exceed 1s. 2d. The Senate is asked to pass this bill, which, as I have already pointed out, is intended to assist those growers whose currants and lexias, unfortunately, are not at present realizing satisfactory prices on the oversea markets.
– Will it cost the Commonwealth Government anything?
– No. The whole cost will be borne by the growers of the sultanas, lexias, and currants.
-Is it the Paterson scheme applied to dried fruits ?
– No. This levy is not made for the purpose of distributing the proceeds among the exporters, but to meet publicity and general administration expenses in connexion with the sale of the fruit overseas.
– It is difficult to grasp the purport of measures when we have only a few minutes in which to consider them. I suggest that it would have been better had those responsible for the introduction of this bill given honorable senators more time in which to consider its provisions. I have no doubt that the intention behind the bill is good. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board, no doubt, is convinced of the necessity for amending legislation, but honorable senators are placed at a disadvantage in being called upon to deal with it at such short notice. The Minister has assured us that those engaged in the industry have lost considerable sums of money.
– That is so.
– As it is thought that this amending legislation will enable the industry to be established on a more satisfactory footing, I shall not oppose the second reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Exemption from Charges).
. -I should like the Minister to explain the reason for the exemption of certain dried fruits from the charges to be imposed by the bill.
– The purpose of the clause is to permit the exemption of dried currants and dried lexias from the levy. These lexias and currants are bringing very low prices overseas. They enter into direct competition with similar dried fruits from Greece and other cheap-labour countries, and they are exported and sold at a price which does not cover the cost of production in Australia.
– I understand that certain classes of fruit which were exported last year re turned a very handsome profit, whilst others were unprofitable. I gather that the board was tied hand and foot with regard to the imposition of the export charge of id., which had to be levied on all classes of fruit, whether it was exported at a profit or otherwise. The proposal now is to give the board power, should any fruit prove to be unprofitable, to reduce or abandon the charge for the season if the funds at the disposal of the board are sufficient to meet the expenses incurred. That is a common-sense proposal.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without’ request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 1 1 a.m. to-morrow.
– I should like to know why the Senate is to meet to-morrow morning. Honorable senators should be informed of the business which they will be called upon to deal with to-morrow. I have no objection to a morning sitting if it is essential in order to finish the business of the session. Perhaps the right honorable the Minister will indicate what measures are likely to come from another place, so that we may prepare for them. This evening we were called upon unexpectedly to consider the Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill. It is possible that tomorrow or the next day we may have a number of measures brought before us at short notice for consideration. If we are to reassemble at an unusual hour tomorrow, the Government should intimate the nature of the business likely to come up for consideration.
– Already we have on the notice-paper for to-morrow the Loan Bill. Another place is dealing with two bills to constitute marketing boards in the fresh fruits and pearl shell industries. There is also a bill to authorize advances to the
States for wire netting; and a bill dealing with the bounty on wine. At the moment I cannot recollect if any other measures are on the business-paper there. It is thought that if the Senate meets tomorrow morning at 11 o’clock, it may be possible to finish in time to allow honorable senators from other States to catch their trains in the evening, thereby saving an additional dayin Melbourne. Honorable members of another place are meeting to-morrow morning at 11 o’clock with the same object in view.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I should like to mention that on Saturday last I visited the President of the Senate (Senator Newlands), who has been ill for some time, and I am glad to be able to inform honorable senators that he is making good progress. He is able to get up daily and take gentle walking exercise in his garden.From the progress he is making, Mrs. Newlands is hopeful that he will be sufficiently recovered to take part in the ceremony at the opening of Parliament at Canberra.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 March 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19270322_senate_10_115/>.