10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Report of the Tariff Board for the year 1926-27, together with annexures. Ordered that the report only be printed.
Air Force Act and Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 108.
British Phosphate Commission - Report and Accounts for the year ended 30 June, 1928.
Cotton Bounty Act - Statement setting forth the reasons why the Minister for Trade and Customs has authorized the use of less than 50 per cent. of Australian grown cotton in the manufacture of certain counts of cotton yarn on which bounty has been paid.
Edie Creek (New Guinea) Leases - Report, dated 30th August, 1927, of the Royal Commission on the Edie Creek (New Guinea) eases, together with Summary of Exhibits.
Papuan Oilfields - Reports for the months of January, February, March, and May, 1927. Drilling Report to 30th June, 1927.
Report of Debates of Commonwealth and State Ministers’ Conference, held at Melbourne, June, 1927, and at Sydney, July, 1927, to consider -
Child Endowment. 3.Financial Relations between the States and the Commonwealth.
International Labour Conference.
Soldier Land Settlement.
Will the Minister give the number of accidents that have occurred to members of the Air Force, whilst flying, each year from 1920, also the number that were fatal?
The answers to the honorable questions questions are as follow : -
I might point out that in 1926 the number of pupils undergoing flying training was four times the number in any previous year.
– Will the Minister for Defence lay on the table of the Senate the evidence taken by, and the finding of, the board which inquired into the accident when members of the Air Force were killed on the day of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York to Melbourne?
– I propose to ask the Air Accidents Investigation Committee to make a report on all the accidents up to date, and I shall make it available to honorable senators.
Sale of Leases: Commission Paid to Agents - Building Sites - Shareholders inlocalinvestment and Trading Concerns - Residences - Pastoral and Farming Leases - Swimming Baths - Consolidationof Ordinances - Sale of Intoxicating Liquors.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The information required by the honorable senator is being obtained, and he will be advised as soon as it is received.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable senator is being obtained, and willbe made available as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable senator is being obtained and will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– This matter will be taken up with the Federal Capital Commission, and as soon as a decision has been reached in regard thereto, it will be communicated to the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the multiplicity of additions and amendments made to the ordinances and regulations in reference to Canberra and the Federal Capital Territory, will he have prepared for the use of senators a consolidation up to date of all such ordinances and regulations.
– In view of the expense involved, it is not thought that a consolidation of the ordinances and the regulations thereunder could, at this stage, be justified. Steps, will, however, be taken to have any ordinance which has been frequently amended consolidated. The honorable senator’s difficulty could probably be overcome by the publication of an index to the ordinances and regulations. Instructions have been given for the preparation of such an index.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
State Ball and Garden Party
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Was the cost of the State ball and State garden party given by the Governor-General in Melbourne, in connexion with the visit of their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of York, paid by the Commonwealth Government; if so, what was the total amount?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The cost of the functions referred to was paid by the Governor-General, to whom a grant of £2,000 was made towards expenses in connexion with theRoyal visit.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Medical Services. - Local Government
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the disposal to private enterprise of nearly all of the plantation and trading stations in the Mandated Territories of New Guinea, is it the intention of the Government to introduce a bill conferring upon the white residents some measure of local government?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The question of establishing a Legislative Council or some other form of local government for the Territory of New Guinea is receiving consideration, and an announcement in regard thereto will be made in due course.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.A number of recommendations have already been received from the commission, and particulars of these recommendations will shortly be made available to honourable senators in the form of the annual report of the commission.
Tasmania - Repayments
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
-Theanswer to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. 1921 - Number of migrants, 615; declared capital, £12,218. 1922 - Number of migrants, 411; declared capital, £16,590. 1923 - Number of migrants, 394; declared capital, £9,650. 1924 - Number of migrants, 226; declared capital, £7,880. 1925- Number of migrants, 139; declared capital, £2,815. 1926 - Number of migrants, 152; declared capital, £2,140.
asked the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. This matter has been receiving the attention of the Commonwealth Government. The Attorney-General has written many letters explaining the legal position, which is briefly as follows: - “No owner of a hall incurs any liability under the law of copyright merely because he is the owner of a hall in which a copyright piece of music has been performed. He would bc liable only if he authorized the performance of copyright music without the consent of the owner, i.e., if he arranged or controlled the programme ; or if he, for his private profit, permitted the hall to be used for the performance of a particular piece of music without the consent ot the owner of the copyright. The ordinary letting of a hall for a concert or dance, without any knowledge, supervision or control of the programme, does not involve the owner in any liability. Of course, in all cases, the actual performer of a piece of music is liable for infringement of copyright committed by him.”
An international conference for the reconstitution and revision of the International Copyright Convention will be held at Rome early next year. It is expected that the Commonwealth will be represented at the conference by
Sir Harrison Moore. The question of performing rights will be open for discussion at the conference, and, when its report is available, the question of amending the Copyright Act will receive consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade arid Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister make available to senators the Tariff Board’s report on the proposed increase of duty on potatoes?
– The report is only recently to hand, and has not yet been considered by the Government. When full consideration has been given the report it will be laid on the table of the House.
[3.17].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time
It will be remembered that a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament was appointed early last year to enquire into the electoral law and procedure in relation to enrolment, postal voting, signed articles, polling facilities, and donations or gifts by members or candidates, and to report upon any additional safeguards necessary to prevent impersonation and duplicate voting. Later, the reference to the committee was extended to include informal voting, absent voting, joint rolls, and the administration of the compulsory sections of the Electoral Act. The committee is to be congratulated upon the very thorough investigation which it made and the completeness of its report and recommendations upon the subjects referred to it. It took evidence in all the States and examined many witnesses, including Members of Parliament, Commonwealth and State, electoral officials, representatives of political organisations of all parties, professional men, journalists, govern1 ment printers, postal and police officials, and individual members of the public who gave evidence voluntarily or by request. The report of the committee was presented to the Senate on the 3rd March, 1927, and this measure to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act is now introduced to give effect to certain of the committee’s recommendations. In addition to the amendments arising out of the recommendations of the committee the bill contains some further proposed amendments suggested by the Chief Electoral Officer. I shall deal first of all. with the committee’s recommendations in the order appearing in the report, and in so far as legislative action is necessary. With reference to enrolment, the committee recommended that the qualifying period of residence for enrolment in a sub-division should be three months instead of one month, and that the disqualifying period of three months should be permitted to elapse, after the removal of an elector from a sub-division, before an objection might be made to the retention of his name on the roll. If this recommendation were adopted the rolls used at an election “would be very much out of date. Under the present law, having regard to the period which elapses between the issue of a writ, when the rolls are closed, and the polling, together with the qualifying residential period of one month, it is not possible for a person who changes his place of living within ten weeks of polling day, to make a corresponding change in his enrolment. To further extend this period by an additional two months would not be desirable. Further, the Commonwealth has already entered into agreements for a joint roll with three States - Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania - and hopes, in the near future, to effect a similar agreement with Western Australia, upon the basis of a qualifying period of one month for enrolment, and a disqualifying period of similar duration for objection to retention of enrolment. It would be impracticable to maintain efficient joint rolls with the divergent qualifications which the committee’s recommendation in this respect would introduce. For these reasons the recommendations has not been accepted. A further suggestion by the committee deals with the adoption of a claim card providing for all information to be furnished by the elector being on one side and recuiring one signature only. This will be effected by regulation, and therefore does not require legislative action. Under the head ing,, postal voting, the bill provides for a “reduction of the distance from a polling booth, from ten to five miles, as a ground upon which an elector may obtain a postal vote, and also that an application for a postal vote may be witnessed by any elector. Further, it enlarges the list of persons who may act as authorized witnesses. These amendments are desirable in view of the introduction of compulsory voting. Provision is also made for the im- - position of a penalty on a person who, being entrusted with an application for a postal vote, fails to post it.
With reference to the signing of political articles the bill provides that the leading articles in the columns, of a newspaper and reports of meetings which do not contain comment shall not be required to be signed by the writer; otherwise the existing law will remain unaltered. It is generally recognized that the leading articles in a newspaper set forth the policy of the journal, and there does not seem to be any need to require such articles to bear a signature. The bill s makes provision for several alterations of the existing law with regard to polling facilities. .It adopts 7 o’clock as the hour for closing the poll. In Queensland the poll at State elections closes at 6 o’clock, and in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, at 7 o’clock. It is con- sidered that every elector who desires to vote will have ample opportunity to do so between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. The new provision will enable blind persons and persons so physically incapacitated as to be unable personally to mark their ballotpapers to be accompanied into the voting compartments by a person selected by themselves to mark their papers for them. It will also permit votes recorded under the provisions of section 121 of the act under a misapprehension on the part of the presiding officer or the elector, to be admitted to the scrutiny, in cases where the elector is fully entitled to vote. Certain recommendations made by the committee regarding “ How to Vote “ cards, canvassing, and the hiring (.f motor cars, are not included in the bill. N The committee’s re- . commendation upon the subject of donations bv members of Parliament has been adopted with slight modifications. The bill provides in clause 23 - (1.) No member of Parliament shall offer promise or give directly or indirectly any gift, donation or prize to or for any club or other association or institution:
Provided that it shall not be a contravention of this section for a member of Parliament to contribute, or to offer or promise to contribute, to the funds of a hospital, a charitable body, an educational institution, a pastoral, agricultural or horticultural society, a memorial, or a church of which he is a member, or to contribute to church collections.
Penalty: Ten pounds, (2.) No proceedings shall be taken for a contravention of this section except within three months after the act complained of.
With a view to minimizing informal voting the committee recommended that the name of the party to which a candidate belongs should be shown on the ballotpaper. This suggestion has not been adopted. It will be remembered that, as far as the Senate is concerned, the names of candidates are shown in groups in accordance with an arrangement agreed to by the severalcandidates offering themselves for election. The committee’s report relating to absent voting and joint rolls does not contain anything requiring legislative action. Joint rolls are at present maintained in Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. In Western Australia the Parliament has now a bill before it which, when passed, will enable a joint roll to be established in that State. Further representations will be made upon this subject to the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland. The only recommendation under the heading, “ Administration of the Compulsory Sections of the Act,” is that an amendment should be made to provide for a minimum fine of 10s. for failure to vote. This is included in the bill, it having been ascertained that in some cases fines as low as 1s. have been imposed. It is thought that this leniency encourages a disregard of the compulsory voting law.
The committee suggested that the forms relating to “declaration” votes should be simplified. It was considered that there were too many of these forms and that they were too complicated. In this connexion the Chief Electoral Officer suggested a re-casting and simplification of the questions put to electors at the polling. Provision is made in the bill to give effect to this suggestion, and, incidentally, to reducethe number of forms of declaration and to simplify them. These proposed amendments are contained in clauses 2 and14 of the bill. Clause 2 provides that an elector, who on polling day does not live in the division for which he is enrolled, may vote in respect of that division if his real place of living was in that division at any time within the preceding three months. It also defines “ real place of living “ to include the place of living to which an elector temporarily absent intends to return for the purpose of continuing to live thereat. Without materially alteringthe present law, the clause puts the position more clearly. Clause 14 simplifies the questions regarding an elector’s place of living which may be put to an elector at the polling. In the first place it eliminates the question regarding temporary residence by providing a definition of the meaning of the words “ real place of living”; and secondly, it prescribes a simple question that the elector can readily understand as to whether, if he is not living in the division in which he is enrolled, he has lived therein at any time within the preceding three months. It further provides that the answers “ Yes “ or “ No “ to the prescribed questions shall govern the question of the elector’s right to vote, and thus avoid the necessity of providing for a “ declaration “ form of voting. Additional amendments suggested by the Chief Electoral Officer havebeen included in the bill, and will be explained in the committee stage.
In bringing forward this bill, I should like to say that we are indebted to the joint electoral committee for the very valuable services it has rendered, and that when legislative effect is given to its recommendations the electoral system, in which we are all deeply interested and upon which so much depends, will be vastly improved.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29th September (vide page 74), on motion by Senator Sir William Glasgow -
That the papers be printed.
– After a parliamentary close season of a little over twelve months, the budget has been presented to us at a time when three months of the financial year have expired. A considerable amount of the money provided for in the budget has’ already been expended. The answer of the Government to such a charge is that the delay has been due to the transfer of the departments from Melbourne to Canberra. I do not consider that to be a valid excuse for a delay of three months. There was no necessity for the Parliament to function in Canberra until everything here was in / readiness for it. In the meantime it could ‘have carried on its legislative work in Melbourne possibly for a further twelve months. During the last twelve months the people of Australia have not been governed along democratic lines. The doors of Parliament have been closed, and they have been ruled by the handful of men who comprise the Government. Ministers have been peregrinating from one end of Australia to the other, delivering speeches on all sorts of subjects, and doing acts that have not received the sanction of Parliament. That is not right or proper, and I sincerely hope that the practice will not be continued. The most inveterate traveller in the Ministry is unquestionably the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). He has made very many speeches during the close season to which. I have referred.
– Does the honorable senator desire that there shall be a close season for speechmaking?
– I do not want the doors of Parliament to be closed. On the contrary, I contend that Parliament should do its work thoroughly, and that Ministers should be in their places in this and the other chamber, so that we can keep our eyes upon them. Included in the charming phrases that have fallen from the lips of the Treasurer and other Ministers are: “Maximum production,” “ Plans for the elimination of waste,” “National efficiency,” “Cultivation of oversea markets,” “ Great need for better transport facilities.” Those are fine, high-sounding phrases; but what action has been taken by the Government during the last twelve months to bring about such a delightful, and, may I add, necessary state Df affairs? None at all. As a matter of fact it has been in office for a period of 21 months since the last election.
– Twenty-one months too long.
– I echo that sentiment. The Government cannot point to one piece of legislation which will help in any way towards bringing about the desideratum expressed in the phrases which its members have been bandying about so frequently and readily. One looks in vain to the statute-book to furnish evidence of the policy propounded by the Government at the 1925 elections having been put in operation. During the recess the Treasurer delivered in Sydney, before members of the Australian Country Party Association, an address, in the course of which he said : -
Let us now proceed to determine a policy for Australia. The first step is by the initiation of a national plan of efficiency in production and marketing that will ensure wellbalanced development.
Dr. Page has. been Federal Treasurer for a period of five years. One would have thought that he, and the Government of which he is a member, would in the time have given effect to the policy he there enunciated; but nothing has been done. The Country Party is supposed to be an active organization. What has it done, or insisted upon the Government doing,’ to bring about national efficiency and the better marketing of our products ?
I shall deal now with the question of finance. Since Dr. Page became Federal Treasurer the people of Australia have been hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. In the latter respect they have not been disappointed. Practically every budget has been a splendid example of manipulation from end to end. The Government claims to be out for economy, but no evidence can be gleaned from the last budget of any intention on its part to practice economy in the future; nor can I find any record of economy in the past.
– “ There is none so blind as they that won’t see.”
– Before I sit down I shall prove that there is ample evidence of the lack of the economy which has been preached so loudly and constantly by the Treasurer. Prior to his association with the Government as Treasurer he was an ardent disciple of economy; but since he has been in charge of the Treasury he has recklessly squandered the funds of the nation. A brief glance at the budget might lead one to believe that the finances of Australia are in a sound condition; but a close analysis will prove the contrary to be the case. It is true that last year there was a surplus of £2,635,597, and that the estimated surplus for this financial year is £149,381. The Treasurer has always been guilty of estimating a low surplus. Every presentation of the budget so far has shown him to have been very far out in his estimates. Surpluses recur every year; but how are they brought about? The expenditure out of loan money on works during 1921-22 was approximately £5,000,000. In 1926-27 the expenditure out of loan for works was £7,000,000, an increase of £2,000,000 since Dr. Page became Treasurer. If honorable senators will turn to page 6 of the budget for 1922-23 they -will find that during 1921-22 the sum of £2,572,000 was spent out of revenue oh additions, new works and buildings. In the following year, however, when Dr. Page became Treasurer, only £720,000 was spent out of revenue for the same purpose, while in 1926-27 the amount so expended was only £215,000. It will, therefore, be seen that during the term of office of the present Treasurer, the Government has spent more than £2,000,000 additional loan money, and a correspondingly less amount out of revenue, on additions, new works, and buildings.
– During the period the Government has paid £36,000,000 off the war loans.
– I shall show presently that that does not improve the position. In 1922 Dr. Page; who was then a private member, said : -
There appears to be some manipulation of the loan and revenue expenditure in order to make the budget look as favourable as possible.
That which Dr. Page as a private member condemned, he has practised as Treasurer.
I shall now deal with the Government’s policy of borrowing from overseas. The amount is increasing every year. In 1913 the Commonwealth debt in London amounted to £3,646,000; by 1919 it had increased to £106,000,000 and in 1921 it was £117,000,000. In 1926 it amounted to £155,000,000, in addition to which £15,000,000 was borrowed in the United States of America. Since 1922, the sum of £170,000,000 has been borrowed overseas by the ‘present Treasurer.
– A considerable portion of the amount was borrowed for the States.
– I am referring to our borrowing overseas. Not many years ago the then Treasurer of Queensland, Mr. Theodore, borrowed money in the United States of America for State purposes. He was a labour Premier, and because he dared to borrow money outside the Empire, he was charged with disloyalty to Australia and to the Empire. But there, was no charge of disloyalty when Dr. Page borrowed money in the United States of America.
– The conditions were vastly different
– Yes ; Dr. Page was not a labour Treasurer, and therefore could do with impunity what a labour Treasurer could not’ do.
– It was an act of disloyalty to borrow money there at 7 per cent.
– It was not so much the conditions of the loan that caused the criticism as that Mr. Theodore did not borrow in London. Since the termination of the war, we have borrowed £64,000,000 overseas. Of that amount the present Treasurer has borrowed £50,000,000.
– How much of it was borrowed for the States?
– When in London recently the Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. Pratten, in a statement to the London Financial Times, as reported in the Melbourne Herald of the 24th June last, said : -
The excess in the importation of manufactured goods, coupled with the increasing burden of interest upon overseas debts, was wholly brought about by extravagant borrowing, which, in his opinion, could not continue indefinitely.
Mr. Pratten put his finger on the weak spot in the policy of his Government. He should see that the position is altered or retire from the Ministry.
– Much of the money borrowed was obtained for the States.
– Mr. Pratten made no reference to moneys borrowed for the States. He referred to extravagant borrowing. That is the charge I make against the Government.
– His remarks applied to Australian borrowing as a whole.
– In 1922 our gross public debt amounted to £416,000,000; to-day it is £461,000,000. The Treasurer makes much of the reduction of the war debt by several millions of pounds; but if we analyze the figures carefully we shall find that that reduction is mythical. In 1922 our war debt amounted to £333,000,000; to-day it is £297,000,000- a reduction of £36,000,000 But, on the other hand, “ other debts “ amounted to £31,700,000 in 1922, as compared with £70,000,000 to-day. Thus, although we have a reduction of £36,000,000 in connexion with our war debts, we have an increase of £38,000,000 in “ other debts.”
– The honorable senator has included moneys borrowed by the Commonwealth for the States.
– Our net debt in 1922 amounted to £339,000,000; it is now £341,000,000, clearly showing that we are increasing instead of reducing our debt.
A great deal has been said about the proposed reduction of our income tax and our land tax by 10, per cent. As a private member, Dr. Page ridiculed the idea of a reduction in taxation. In 1920, when our taxation had reached its peak, he said: -
I make no complaint of the incidence of taxation….. I do not complain of its ‘being* high, because, in my view, now is the time when we should tax ourselves, with the object of reducing our public debt. ,
In 1921 he went further, and said : -
The electors most know, and will know, as far as it lies in the power of the Country Party to inform them that the proposed reduction in taxation cannot continue unless there is a permanent reduction in the cost of government.
Where is that reduction in the cost of government? What has the Country Party done to bring it about? Dr. Page has clearly spoken with two voices. It is amazing how one’s ideas change when one ceases to be a private member and assumes the responsibilities of office. While the Treasurer proposes to reduce the income tax and the land tax by 30 per cent., he is piling up the general taxation, which directly affects the workers. For the year 1924-25 we find 3,638 persons receiving incomes of over £1,000, and companies contributing £9,278,000 out of a total £10,296,000 income tax assessed. It will be seen, therefore, that the great mass of the people will reap very little benefit from the proposed 10 per cent, reduction. During the last five years the general taxation of the Commonwealth has increased This is indicated by the following table: -
It is evident that since Dr. Page has been Treasurer the general taxation of the Commonwealth has increased oy nearly £10,000,000 a year. In 1922 the taxation per head of the population was £9 0s. 4d. In 1926 it was £9 ls. 6d., an increase of ls. 2d. per head. To-day it is 8 per cent, higher than it was during the period of the war.
The surplus earnings of the department of the Postmaster-General for the year 1926 amounted to £362,739. When Mr. Bruce was in Perth during the recess he said that the surplus earned by the department of the Postmaster-General would be used as a set-off against the loss on the Commonwealth railways, but when Dr. Page was a private member he strongly condemned the policy of absorbing the surplus of the Postal Department into the general revenue. He said that the department should be self-contained, and that whatever profits it earned should be’ devoted to extension and development of postal facilities. Nevertheless, we still find that the profits of the department are devoted to purposes entirely foreign to that section of Commonwealth activities which has earned them. To make matters worse, we are borrowing for postal extensions. Let us see how this policy operates. For the years from 1901 to 1921 the expenditure on new works, buildings, and sites for the Department of the Postmaster-General was £10,541,000 from revenue, and £1,696,000 from loan. In 1921-22, the expenditure from revenue was £990,000, and that from loan was £848,000. In 1922-23 only £221,000 was spent from revenue, while £2,288,000 was spent from loan. Since then the whole of the expenditure on new works, buildings, and sites has been provided out of loan funds.
– Does the honorable senator disagree with that policy ?
– It is not a sound policy to keep on borrowing.
– Is not the honorable senator aware that a sinking fund has been provided to liquidate that loan expenditure?
– I am aware that a sinking fund has been established in connexion with these postal works; but I do not believe in a policy of applying the profits earned by one department to meet losses incurred by other departments, while at the same time we borrow for the extension of the activities of the department that has earned the profit. In 1925-26, Dr. Page, in delivering his budget, said that the Government had approved of charging to loan a portion of the salaries and wages of permanent employees who were engaged upon capital construction. To my mind it is not sound policy to charge salaries to loan fund, and if this practice is pursued to any extent it should cease. It seems to me to be simply an excuse to pay as little as possible out of revenue. A careful study of the budget papers indicates that we should call a halt in our present financial policy, and that the sooner the economy so often spoken of by the Treasurer is put into operation the better it will be for all concerned.
I said at the outset of my remarks that the phrase -i elimination of waste “ had been used frequently by the twin heads of the present Government. Let us look at the expenditure on defence. From the signing of the armistice to the 30th June, 1927, various National Governments have expended £49,000,000 on defence, including the special allocations set out in the budget. Apart from a couple of cruisers not yet completed, and a seaplane carrier in course of construction at Cockatoo Island, we have scarcely anything to show for that vast expenditure. We were told that the war in which we were engaged was a war to end all wars, and that afterwards Australia would not require to spend as much money on defence as it did before. But when we look at the expenditure we have incurred since the war, we see that there was very little in that promise. While Judge Drake-Brockman was a member of this Senate he said that we were not getting full value for the money spent on defence. I take it that he was an authority on defence matters. He had had considerable experience during the war, and we were entitled to pay heed to a statement from a_gentleman who was then Government Whip. In this regard also I put in the witness-box another gentleman whom Australia honours. I refer to Sir John Monash, stated to be one of the Empire’s foremost generals. I am sure that he knows what he is talking about. Speaking last year,’ he reiterated the statement he made in 1924 when he said that the position of Australia as regards defence was not as favourable as it was in 1914. Another witness in condemnation of the present system of defence is Sir Harry Chauvel. The Prime Minister has endeavoured unsuccessfully to disprove the charges made by Sir Harry Chauvel against our present defence system. It is true, as the Prime Minister stated, that we are spending more money on. defence than we have ever done before; but I should like to know what we are getting in return. According to military experts, our defence forces would not be able to defend Australia for more than 24 hours.
– There is very little likelihood of war, for a time, at any rate.
– I trust that such is the case; but a close study of the international situation does not give one any such hope.
I now come to the question of munition supplies. It is remarkable that we are dependent upon other countries for munition supplies, despite the fact that we have in Australia, with perhaps one exception, sufficient material to manufacture all our requirements. I shall not mention particular exceptions, but the matter was discussed before the Public Accounts Committee when it was inquiring into munition supplies. During the four years 1922-23 to 1925-26, we imported over £1,100,000 worth of munitions. That is an unfortunate position in which to place an isolated country such as Australia. The attitude of the Government might be excused to some extent if the necessary materials were not available; but according to expert evidence, most of which was obtained from the Munitions Supply Department, the necessary materials to make Australia self-contained in the matter of munition supplies are available.
– We are undertaking that Work now.
– The Government cannot be doing all that is necessary when it is importing supplies to the value I have mentioned. *
– The necessary factories cannot all be erected at once.
– Perhaps not; “but the Government should manufacture a larger quantity of munitions than it is doing at present, and thus reduce the importations.
When it was proposed to construct abroad two cruisers for use in Australian waters, honorable senators on this side of the chamber said that, they were opposed to their construction, but that if Parliament decided that they should be built the work should be done in Australia. The Prime Minister supported by honorable senators opposite, said that they could not be built in Australia.
– Owing to the cost.
– The Prime Minister did not qualify his statement in that way, and clearly stated in some of his speeches that many of the parts required would have to be imported. I notice, however, that when the right honorable gentleman was last in Great Britain he said that the next cruisers required for the Australian Navy would be built here. I have contended all along that as we have the necessary skilled workmen and material we could and should build such vessels in the Commonwealth.
I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence to our Air Force, which is a very important arm of defence. Two or three years ago Sir John Monash said that our Air Force was a sham, and I, too, believe, that as m effective arm of defence, it is of little us?. According to published reports, of the twenty machines which flew from Melbourne to Canberra at the opening of the Commonwealth Parliament, a distance of 200 miles, five crashed, which is not a good advertisement for our Air Force. At times we have been’ shocked by the crashes which have occurred - particularly so by the deplorable accident in Melbourne on the day the Duke and Duchess of York arrived in that city. The Government, shortly after, appointed a committee to inquire into the cause of aviation accidents; but, unfortunately, the meetings were held in camera, and the members of the committee were officers of the department.
– The chairman was an independent person.
– The inquiry should have been held in public, and there should have been other than officials on the committee. Aviation plays a very important part in defence. Although it was really in its infancy during the Great War, it rendered wonderful service. It is almost impossible to visualize the importance of aviation in the event of another great international conflict. I notice from the budget figures that £2,000,000 of the surplus is to be spent on naval construction and a reserve for defence purposes, and £200,000 on civil aviation. The Air Force is of such importance for defence purposes that a much larger sum than £200,000 should be set aside for aviation purposes; I do not think that half the amount to be spent on naval construction would be too much.
– Does not the honorable senator consider that civil aviation will assist defence?
– I am speaking of aviation generally, and its usefulness in any country. I suggest that the Government should inaugurate its own air services throughout Australia. They could be used for the benefit of the people, particularly those in the more remote parts of the Commonwealth, and in. assisting in the carriage of mails for the Postmaster-General’s Department, and also passengers. As the governments of Australia, both Federal and State, practically control land transport, they should take charge of air transport. Depots could be established all over the country, and the services linked up in such a way as to benefit our commercial and military activities. While we are handling our air services in the present haphazard manner, other countries are making marked progress. The Government should pay more attention to this important service than it is doing at present. During the past year nearly £600,000 was spent on the Air Force; but in common with many other branches of defence we have not received value for the money expended. Speaking on defence matters in 1921, the present Treasurer said, “A further study of the defence Estimates shows an increase in general contingencies and fat salaries.” During the five years the Treasurer has been in office there has not been any reduction in what he terms “ fat salaries.” In this year’s Estimates provision is made for the payment of £8,500 to1 seven colonels, lieutenants-generals, &c, and £123,000 for the payment of the salaries of lieutenants-colonel, colonels, majors, &c. It would appear that our Defence Forces consist of all officers and no privates.
As honorable senators are aware, Mr. Trumble, who occupied the position of Secretary of Defence, and who carried out his duties with great ability, has been transferred to the High Commissioner’s office in London, and Mr. Shepherd, who was secretary to the High Commissioner in London, has been appointed Secretary for Defence. During the last two years Mr. Trumble was paid £1,350 per annum, but prior to that he was receiving only £1,150. As Mr. Shepherd is now receiving £2,000 par annum, as against £1,350 paid to Mr. Trumble, I should like to know if the increase in the salary of the office is to be permanent. If that is the case I venture to say there are other officers in the Commonwealth Service holding equally responsible positions who are entitled to equal recognition.
Reference is made in the budget speech to the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and we have been informed that an agreement has been entered into between the Commonwealth and the States under which certain moneys are to be paid to the States in lieu of the per capita payment. Prior to the introduction of legislation for the abolition of the per capita payment, the Prime Minister and Treasurer stated that it was a pernicious system for one government to borrow money and another government to spend it. If the proposals are ratified by the Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliaments, this “ pernicious “ system will continue. For a period of 58 years it is proposed to pay certain sums of money to the States, so the pernicious system referred to by the Treasurer, of one Government raising money for another Government to spend, is to be continued. It is true that, during the period mentioned, the Commonwealth Government has undertaken to pay interest on State debts; but my objection is that the new agreement will not be as beneficial to the States - certainly it will not be as beneficial to Western Australia - as the per capita payments were. Western Australia is the largest State in the Commonwealth, and under the developmental schemes now in - operation its population will increase steadily. The per capita payments, if they were continued, would correspondingly increase. Perhaps the same may be said of Queensland. That State and Western Australia offer the greatest scope for land settlement, and under the per capita system both States would benefit more than they will under the new arrangement.
– And yet population is increasing more rapidly in New South Wales and Victoria.
– That does not dispose of my argument that the per capita payments would not be a better arrangement for the States.
– Why did not the honorable senator support the payments ?
– I opposed their abolition, as reference to the Hansard debates will prove. I agree that the Premiers of the States made the best arrangements possible in the circumstances.’ They were in .a corner, so to speak, since this Parliament had signed the death warrant of the per capita payments. The new financial agreement has yet to be ratified by the Parliaments of the States, and by this Parliament also, and must then be submitted to the people in order to obtain their approval for an amendment of the Constitution in the direction indicated. Previous appeals to the people have demonstrated that they are not disposed, too readily, to agree to any vital amendment of the Constitution, and I am not confident that the proposed referendum for an alteration of the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States will be agreed to.
In his reference to Commonwealth finance, Senator Crawford said that £70,000,000 -represented borrowings for the States. If the Minister will look at page 2 of the Budget papers he will find that it is not so.
I come now to the Customs tariff. The actual revenue receipts were approximately £65,000,000. Of this amount £43,552,000 were derived from Customs and excise ; this indicates clearly on what, source the Government relies for its revenue. If by any chance the Customs revenue fails, the Government will be in difficulties. It is evident, however, that the Ministry is determined that the Customs revenue shall not decline. My view is that he tariff, is more revenue-producing than protective in its incidence. The interests of the man on the land are being overlooked. This Government is charging everything possible to loan. It is imposing high tariffs on every conceivable article that is used by farmers and roads boards in the different States.
– “Would the honorable senator prefer to have freetrade in agricultural implements ?
– I do not wish to enter into a controversy concerning the tariff at this juncture. I endeavoured to secure a reduction in the duties on farming “ implements and road-making machinery, but without success ; and again
I plead for more consideration for tho man on the land. “Western Australia, which is a purely primary producing State, is launching out on a large scale to open up new agricultural areas. Land is being taken up as quickly as it is being surveyed. A great deal of agricultural machinery will be necessary for its proper development. Therefore, I say without hesitation, that high protective duties on farm implements and road-making machinery will not help the new settlers in Western Australia. They will assist industry in other States, bat that should not be done to the injury of an industry, such as I have mentioned, in Western Australia.
– We cannot discriminate between the States.
– I admit that, but by the imposition of lower duties on the implements so necessary for the development of land in the various States, we can help our primary producers. We all know what hardships they have to endure, and what difficulties confront them : it therefore should be our duty, when framing the tariff, to ease the burden as much as possible. It has always been a source of amazement to me that representatives of the Country Party allow their confreres in the Ministry to impose high duties on farm implements and machinery. Before that party became associated with the Nationalist Party, through their leader, Dr. Page, it was entirely opposed to such duties, but now it allows them to be levied without protest.
– We are always voicing our protests against high duties on agricultural machinery and implements, but honorable senators opposite vote for them.
– I am afraid the honorable senator will have to protest more vigorously in future if he wishes to persuade the Government to ease the burden on our primary producers. [Extension of time granted.]
For the edification of Senator Crawford I should like to read the following statement, concerning our public debt, from the budget speech delivered by the Treasurer last week : -
The balance of our public debt has been contracted on account of Commonwealth works and loans raised for the States and Federal Capital Commission.
The amount of this debt at 30th
– Now read the next half-dozen lines; they disclose the true position. The honorable senator said that the public debt was £461,000,000 and did not allow for a deduction on account of State debts of £120,000,000, making the nett Commonwealth debt £340,928,000. He quoted the gross instead of the nett debt.
– I thank honorable senators for their courteous hearing, and shall close by saying that the federal budget reminds me of the reply made by the beadle of a certain Scottish town when asked by a young Scotch clergyman what he thought of the sermon. “ Weel, he said, it was read; it was badly read, and was no’ worth reading.” That is what I think of the Treasurer’s budget.
– I congratulate the Treasurer on the clearness of his budget statement. It contains many things that call for more than passing comment. The outstanding feature is the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the State Governments. For many years the problem has engaged public attention throughout the Commonwealth. It would be difficult to find two people with exactly the same opinion as to the best means for its solution ; but by his tactand courage the Treasurer has been able to settle it once and for all. If the several
State Parliaments agree to the arrangement and if this Parliament ratifies it, the difficulties in connexion with the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States will be a closed book which need never be reopened. If this Government had achieved nothing more than the completion of this financial agreement satisfactory to the Commonwealth and the States it would have done good work.
SenatorFoll. - And yet the Leader of the Opposition made no reference to the agreement.
– That is not so. He said he preferred the per capita payments.
– That is worse than saying nothing at all about it.
The next feature of the budget which strikes one is the surplus of over £2,000,000. This was criticized by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham). I admit that surpluses are a potential source of danger; yet we all look for them, and hope that they will continue. I trust that our good fortune in that respectwill not turn our heads and cloud our judgment in relation to future works. There is a great deal too much extravagance, both public and private, in Australia. We have no control over private extravagance, but we have over national expenditure. The expenditure of loan moneys especially would, I think, bear keen criticism. Senator Needham took the Government to task because loan expenditure had been increased by something like £100,000,000. He altogether ignored the fact that during the period covered by those figures Australia was engaged in war, and it was absolutely necessary to borrow money overseas. The honorable senator further criticized the Government for having borrowed £64,000,000 overseas since the termination of the war. My complaint against the Government is that it borrowed too much locally.What would have been Australia’s position had the £64,000,000, to which the honorable senator referred, been taken out of local industry ? The expenditure was ear-marked, and it was the duty of the Government to decidewhere the money should be borrowed. Very great care should be exercised in exploiting the local market for loan moneys, because of the scarcity which confronts private enterprise to-day. Many industries would have been obliged to shut down had the bulk of our loan money been drawn from local sources. A man would be devoid of common sense if he failed to realize that there is on every hand a leaning towards unwarranted expenditure at the present time. Australia barely escaped a devastating drought. If the splendid rains that we have had in the last week or two had been deferred for another month a crisis might easily have occurred.
– In portions of Queensland drought conditions have prevailed for the last two years.
– Fortunately the climatic conditions differ so greatly in various parts of Australia, and the resources are so tremendous, that adverse conditions in one portion do not seriously handicap the remainder. It is extremely unfortunate that some Queensland people have had to suffer such hardships. Doubtless their misfortune has been reflected to a certain extent in other portions of the continent; but general drought which was so close to our doors would have made the suffering much more widespread, and might easily have brought disaster.
There are two or three features of the budget which are exceedingly welcome, One of the first is the proposal to reduce income tax, and alter the incidence of the tax so as to relieve a section of the community which does not always get as much consideration as it deserves. I refer to the primary producers. They will be allowed to deduct from their taxable income the amount spent on improvements in the direction of fencing, clearing, and similar items. That reform is long overdue, and will be very acceptable. I should like to see the Commonwealth retire wholly from the field of income taxation, because I believe that it is solely the function of the States to levy such a tax. A gratifying feature is the gradually diminishing field in which the Commonwealth is operating. The budget figures show that the amount now being collected is little more than one-half of what it was six or. seven years ago. That is, evidence that great care has been exercised in the handling of the finances. The Leader of the Opposition admitted that in the last five years the war debt had been reduced by £36,000,000, by the creation of sinking funds. That is a fact which ought to be more widely advertised. It is an achievement of which the Government and Parliament should be proud. I cannot follow the argument of the honorable senator that we are just as badly off because an additional £38,000,000 has been spent out of loan money in that period. The expenditure has been upon developmental works.
– It is giving a good return.
– If a business man could extend his business and increase his assets, whilst at the same time keeping his overdraft at the same amount, he would consider that he was placing himself in a very sound financial position. I attach no importance to the borrowing of that £38,000,000, provided it has been wisely spent on reproductive works.
– The expenditure on postal works is returning sufficient to meet both interest and sinking fund payments.
– Money has also been expended on railways that will return revenue.
The government further proposes to reduce the land tax by 10 per cent, and improve the incidence of the tax. I should like to see it, too, wiped out. I have never believed that it is a fair tax. The land is the machinery by the use of which a farmer makes his living. He is the only producer whose machinery is taxed. A manufacturer may have a much larger sum invested in machinery in his factory, but no one would dream of taxing it.
– Is the farmer the only person who pays land tax?
– He pays the bulk of it.
– Oh, no!
– Apart altogether from that aspect of the matter, it is a double tax and should not be collected.
– Who introduced it?
– I understand that it was introduced by a Labour Government in 1913 with the object of breaking up big estates. It did not have that effect. Frequently men are taxed even though they have only an equitable interest in their land; they are not entitled to claim a remission on account of mortgages. That is unfair. Admittedly land tax returns a considerable amount of revenue, and, consequently, the government cannot agree to remit it wholly ; but I hope the time will soon come when that will occur.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the increase in the amount spent under the Rural Credits Act, which was passed three or four years ago. The benefit which that act: has conferred upon the primary producer is shown by the fact that last year rural credits to the extent of £8,000 were made available to assist in the export of produce.
– What did it cost the farmers to get it?
Sentaor J. B. HAYES.- I do not know ; presumably 6 per cent. When the act was before this Chamber, I suggested that it should apply to not only exportable ‘produce, but also produce for sale on the local market. It may have been impossible to give effect immediately to that suggestion. Probably the majority of the farmers in Australia grow exportable produce, such as wheat, wool and butter; but there is a large number who do not, on account of the geographical and physical features of the country they are farming. I refer to those who hold land in heavily timbered country such as Gippsland, and Tasmania chiefly. The credits made available through the Rural Credits department of the Commonwealth Bank are not of as much assistance to them as they should be. The government has endeavoured, and is endeavouring, to assist farmers in Tasmania. Through the Development and Migration Commission. One of the best methods is to provide for the orderly marketing of their produce. A scheme along those lines could easily bs devised. After each harvest produce is quoted at a very low price. The reason is obvious; as soon as tho average man gathers his crops he has to sell. The stores become filled, and there is no readiness to buy. Later in the season prices rise. I am quite aware that the present is an exceptional year. I have seen good, bright oaten chaff sold for £4 a ton. The price has since risen to £8 10s. or £9 a ton in the same market. And so with other crops. Men who obtained advances by which they were able to hold their crops, realized good prices. That position arises to a greater or less extent every year. I hope that the Government will take this matter into consideration and give some assistance to those farmers who do not grow exportable produce.
– Is the honorable senator asking that the Federal Government should do so?
– Yes. The machinery is already in existence. Last year the Commonwealth Government advanced £8,000,000 to assist in the export of Australian produce. By extending the machinery a little, other farmers could also be assisted. I suggest that a farmer should be able to take his produce to a reputable merchant, have it examined and branded, and a sample taken, and receive from the merchant a storage warrant marked with the value of the produce on the day it was delivered. By taking that storage warrant to the Commonwealth Bank he should be entitled to draw up to 75 per cent, of the value marked thereon. Later, when the market was no longer glutted, he could instruct the merchant to sell his produce, when he would repay the money advanced to him and receive any balance due to him. By that means he would be able to take advantage of the higher prices offering.
– Who would pay the storage charges?
– They would not be great. Some merchants would be willing to store the produce for the right to handle it; merchants will often give free storage for three months. My suggestion, if carried out, would only mean the extension of a principle already in operation. It would apply to farmers operating in districts such as are found in Tasmania and parts of Victoria. A good deal has been said of the desirability of making provision for times of drought. The system I have suggested would enable farmers in productive districts to make provision for the lean years. I commend the suggestion to the Government.
I understand that the Government intends to set in motion, at an early date, the housing scheme promised in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. The scheme is a good one ; but the greatest care will have to be taken in its administration, or we shall have a recurrence of the troubles connected with soldier settlement. Land in Melbourne and Sydney, and, indeed, in all our cities, is very much over-valued today. A period of lower values is inevitable soon. Should land be purchased at high prices, and a slump follow, trouble will be experienced with some of the people who have obtained homes on a deposit of 10 per cent. I have no doubt that with the experience of the past to guide them, the Government and its officers will avoid many of the mistakes made in the past. The scheme should be extended to include the purchase of farms. If it is right to advance money to pay off an existing liability on a house, it is right to make advances to discharge mortgages on farms. I do not advocate that money should be lent on bad securities, but many farms offer good security for loans of £1,500 or £2,000, which amount would be of great assistance to farmers. The amounts now spent by many farmers in the extra payment of interest on borrowed money and expenses for renewals of mortgages from time to time would more than meet th» requirements of an adequate sinking fund. The scheme I advocate is similar to the Credit Foncier system now operated by the State Savings Bank of Victoria, under which money is advanced on long terms, with a sinking fund provision of 1£ or 2 per cent. Instead of a farmer getting deeper into debt every year, such a scheme would enable him to reduce his liability from time to time.
– Is not that which the honorable senator suggests a State function?
– It is sometimes difficult to say where a State function ends and a Commonwealth function begins. The several States already have housing schemes in operation; now the Commonwealth Government is embarking on a similar enterprise.
– Only to help the States.
– Does any honorable senator suggest that, should the Commonwealth with its greater fin- ,ancial resources engage in a housing scheme, it would be usurping a State function ?
– I do. The Commonwealth should confine its activities to its proper sphere.
– In the financial statement before us reference is made to a conference which took place between the Commonwealth and the States with reference to losses on soldier settlement, and to the undertaking of the Commonwealth Government to review the matter of losses when, the revaluations were completed. No final agreement has yet been reached. I was a member of the second and subsequent conferences in 1916 when soldier settlement was initiated, and it was recognized by all present that the war’ and its attendant liabilities was a Commonwealth liability. The States undertook soldier’ settlement only because they had in existence all the necessary machinery to do so. Apart from that, there is no more reason why soldier land settlement should be a State responsibility than that liability in respect of war service homes or war pensions should be accepted by the States.
– The Commonwealth found the money for soldier settlement.
– In some cases, but not all. I know that, in the first instance, the Tasmanian Government purchased some estates ; but, later, money for that purpose was found by the Commonwealth.
– Some of the States in making purchases exhibited carelessness.
– The States were not so careless as some people would have us believe. Honorable senators should remember that the various State Governments were urged by an intensely loyal and sympathetic, but irresponsible public to purchase estates on which returned soldiers could be settled. In consequence of the demand for land, prices rose. Produce at that time was also extremely dear. Wheat brought as much as 10s. a bushel, and oats 6s. or 7s. a bushel; milking cows cost from £14 to £20, and calves which would not bring more than 25s. to-day, were sold for £5. All this had the inevitable effect of increasing land values. The States certainly made mistakes, but many keen private business men also made mistakes in buying estates and stock. While many men made fortunes, others lost thousands of pounds. I am convinced that had the Commonwealth Government controlled soldier land settlement, more money would have been lost than actually was lost by the States. Now that we have returned to normal times I trust that our returned soldiers will be given a chance to make good, and that thereafter businesslike methods will prevail in all transactions with them. All is not well with our soldier farmers. I hope that whatever remissions are made to them will not be in the nature of deferred payments. Any concessions made should be regarded as a further war liability. Let us give the soldiers a fair start. Let us value their land afresh, give them a fair start in that way and then treat them as ordinary civilians.
SenatorFoll. - What would the honorable senator do in cases where poor land has been sold to the soldiers?
– I can speak only of instances that have come under my direct notice. It is so long since land of this class was selected or taken up by soldiers, and subsequently abandoned by them, that much of it has gone completely out of occupation.
– But the Commonwealth has not been paid.
– The Commonwealth must bear the loss if certain land has gone out of cultivation. In Tasmania, and also in parts of Gippsland, Victoria, and, I have no doubt, in other States also, second-class land was cultivated when everything was on a lower basis, and labour was cheaper. That land was producing quite a lot of butter, and root crops. But when the boys went to the war there was no one to work it. The bracken grew up, and the rabbits came in, with the result that it went absolutely out of use. Two or three weeks ago I looked at some land in Victoria upon which financial men, in good faith, had advanced a large amount of money. That land has gone out of use. No doubt, schemes will be evolved to bring it back into use, but it is a big problem to say what should be done with land abandoned by the soldiers and now out of cultivation. I think that the Commonwealth will have to bear the loss. In any case, the percentage of losses on this score will not be any greater than has been the percentage of losses incurred by private individuals.
SenatorFoll. - What are the prospects of the same thing occurring under our scheme of settling immigrants?
– I do not know. I take it that in the process of getting back to normal conditions we are likely to exercise more care and to buy land that will stand present-day high costs. It all depends upon the physical features of the land. Wheat land bought at a comparatively low price can lie abandoned for twenty years and yet be cultivated again with little expense; but some land in Gippsland and Tasmania is covered with ferns after a year, and might as well be let go altogether after being left unoccupied for two or three years. I hope that under the overseas settlement scheme people will be placed on some of our rich chocolate soil or on land that will stand heavy farming costs. They should certainly be placed on land that will pay to keep in good order, or land on which large implements can be utilized . with a consequent minimum expenditure on labour.
I am somewhat diffident about referring to the request for duties on timber and potatoes, because the matter is subjudice. The Tariff Board has had the position of the timber-cutters and potatogrowers under consideration. When we were sitting in Melbourne, I understood that the board was just about to furnish reports on a request for higher duties on timber and potatoes, and I think the Government should by now have had time to consider those reports and give’ effect to them. I hope that in both cases there will be an increased duty. The timber industry in Tasmania is now at a very low ebb. The machinery in many mills is rusting, and the timber is rotting in the bush. There is plenty of it available, but it cannot be cut at the present cost of production. We certainly have an embargo against the importation of potatoes from one country, but embargoes do not last for ever, and the growers would know better where they stood if an increased duty were imposed. I should not advocate import duties on timber or farm produce if it were not for the fact that the extraordinarily high duties on other articles have so increased the cost of production that the primary producer is seriously handicapped. First we have the tariff, bringing in its train a high cost of living. A high cost of living leads to high wages, and these in turn call again for a higher tariff. And so the whole thing goes round in a vicious circle. But the farmer does not come into that circle. He has to take whatever he can get for his produce. The miller, likewise, has to take whatever he can get for his timber. It is disheartening to the timber-millers to have to shut down their mills. There are more mills shut down in Tasmania to-day than there are working.
– That applies to all the States.
– I have not the slightest doubt it does. There seems to be no reasonable hope of reducing the cost of production. The timber areas in Tasmania do not lend themselves to large operations. Several large companies have established mills, but they have not proved very successful, because the timber, although plentiful, is scattered. The small mills seem to do best ; but even they have been compelled to close down because they cannot make ends meet. Apparently there is no immediate prospect of reopening them. I hope the Government will see its way to give the timber industry, and also the potatogrowing industry, a little more help. Even if the assistance given does not serve to increase the price of the products, it will at least keep the mills going, and enable the capital invested in them to earn some little return.
The Treasurer proposes to spend a large sum of money on the exceedingly laudable object of developing our air services. No one will complain of expenditure to increase the usefulness and popularity of air travel, but I was somewhat disappointed when I read in this connexion the words, “probably to Tasmania.” If there is one State more than another that should be connected by air with the other States it is Tasmania. We already have air services between places on the mainland that have a splendid rail service, whereas Tasmania sometimes is cut off from the mainland, and the mail service is hung up by strikes. It would be only fair for the Commonwealth Government to say that as Tasmania is separated from the mainland, and has not a reliable sea service, it should be the first to be served by an air service. I know that it is an expensive matter to provide an air service over water, because better engines must be provided than are necessary for an air service on land, but on no part of a trip from Victoria to Tasmania would an -aeroplane be more than 25 or 30 miles from land, and that at only one spot. In most cases no aeroplane would be more than fifteen miles from land. I hope that the Government will decide that Tasmania shall be served by air. Several companies are willing to provide the service if they have a suitable Government subsidy.
– Notwithstanding surplus after surplus, nothing has been done to relieve the people who have made Australia a fit place for us to live in. In my opinion some of the surplus revenue should have been given towards the relief of old age pensioners.
Although two commissions which have inquired into the disabilities of West Australia, and more particularly the position of the mining industry of the State, have tendered their reports, the Government has done nothing to give assistance to that industry. If a bonus on gold were given it would mean an influx of population and the further development of an industy which has made West Australia the wonderful State it is. A number of the mines would be working, and the revenue from mining, upon which Western Australia largely depends, would consequently increase. In effect, the Commonwealth Government has taken approximately £3,000,000 from Western Australia owing to the higher price it received for the gold it commandeered during the war period, and for which the State has received nothing in return. Although the Western Australian Disabilities Royal Commission recommended that assistance should be given to the mining industry, nothing has been done. The Development and Migration Commission also conducted an investigation into the Western Australian mining industry, and recommended that three or four companies operating adjacent to one another should amalgamate, and that the Commonwealth Government should advance £300,000 to enable a newly-formed company to purchase modern machinery. The commission further recommended that the suggested advance of £300,000 should not be paid until the company had made every possible endeavour to raise the money. Notwithstanding these definite recommendations made by two responsible bodies, nothing has been done. Many other industries have received financial assistance in the form of bounties; but the goldmining industry in Western Aus- tralia which has been severely handicapped owing to the action of the Government during the war period, has been entirely neglected. Commissions and boards are appointed at considerable cost, but their recommendations are ignored. It would be better if the Government definitely told the people that it did not intend to do anything than for it to say again and again ° that the recommendations are receiving consideration. Even if the recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission that three of the companies should amalgamate were adopted, it is questionable if a larger number of men would be employed; but if £300,000 were spent in purchasing modern equipment, possibly large quantities of low-grade ore could be profitably marketed. At present the companies are raising only the highergrade ores in order to . keep the mines going ; but that cannot be continued indefinitely. The payment of a comparatively small sum would enable many of the shows, which, prior to 1914, were working profitably to successfully market their low-grade ores.
– Why do not the companies endeavour to do something?
– They have been doing all that is possible, and the Western Australian Government has assisted one big company to the extent of £50,000. Senator Verran, who has had many years’ experience in the mining industry, will admit that such an amount is barely sufficient to keep a mine going for a couple of months. The Government is willing to assist other industries, but has declined to help the mining industry.
– What is the assay value of the ore?
– Between 6 and 7 dwt. Increased mining activities in Western Australia would result in a larger population, an increase in trade, a higher revenue, and general prosperity.
– The cost of production should be reduced.
– Does Senator Thompson suggest a reduction in wages? With financial assistance, which the companies would not want every year, and which would be repaid, many of them would be able to meet their obligations. Such assistance would be an incentive to mining men to work many of the shows on the eastern side of the gold-fields belt ; the shafts have aleady been sunk, and the miners would be assured of receiving wages from the outset.
– With the assistance of up-to-date plants would these mines be paying popositions?
– I will not say that. It is impossible to say what may be discovered.
– To what mines is the honorable senator referring?
– More particularly to the Great Boulder, Ivanhoe, Horseshoe, Lake View, Perseverance, and also various other mines, all of which could be worked with the assistance of modern plant.
– Would it not be better to spend the money on other industries where a return is assured?
– Senator Reid and other honorable senators representing States in which industries such as the sugar industry in .Queensland have received assistance, do not seem willing to support the industries of other States. Mining is always uncertain; but when valuable mineral deposits are discovered, the population immediately increases, and the revenue of the State materially benefits. I am sorry that provision is not made in the budget for immediate financial assistance to the gold mining industry.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of mining machinery being admitted free of duty?
– I believe in goods which cannot be manufactured in Australia being admitted free of duty; but, in order to provide employment for our own people, we should manufacture all we can. In certain industries in Australia, the wages paid and the conditions that obtain are a pattern to similar industries in other parts of the world. This is due to the protection given them. Australian manufacturers are getting the maximum return from their employees; the conditions under which they work practically make it “impossible for them to do otherwise.
As honorable senators are aware, a good deal has been said during recent months concerning the influx of Southern Europeans into Australia. The Prime Minister’s explanation of the position is altogether unsatisfactory. I believe in Australia for the Australians, and will always endeavour to assist in improving the conditions of Australian workmen ;. but, whilst we are advocating a White Australia, and an Australian sentiment, thousands of Southern Europeans, who do not know the English language, are entering the Commonwealth. This1 is due to the fact that there are on committees in the capital cities influential Greeks and Italians who nominate their own countrymen. These migrants do not have to pass the language test.
– They do.
– No, they are nominated. There are large numbers of these Southern Europeans on the canefields in Queensland, and if the present influx continues it will not be long before we shall have in Australia a mixed population, such as is to be found in the United States of America. On the Kalgoorlie gold-fields these Southern Europeans are let loose like fowls from a crate. The Melbourne Herald of the 30th September, states -
Alien migrants in Victoria in many cases accept low wages in order to secure employment, according to statements made by several of the European consulates to-day.
These people are being brought out at the expense of the rank and file of Australian citizens, because they are ever ready to work for reduced wages. Unless prompt action is taken it will be difficult later-, to stem the on-coming tide of Southern European migrants. According to figures furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician, the Commonwealth has paid up to’3&th June, 1926, over £5,750,000 in bounties for the encouragement of Australian industries. The principal payments have been - Sugar, £3,899,542; frozen beef, £244,352; wire netting, £284,991; fencing wire, £243,619; galvanized sheet or plate, £147,376 ; pig iron, £186,699 ; shale oil, £125,492, and I have nothing to say against the legitimate encouragement of Australian industries, because I realize that, in their earlier stages, many business ventures require assistance. Nor have I anything to say against the large sum paid in connexion with the Queensland sugar industry; but I think that all those industries that have benefited in this way should have some consideration for the people of Western Australia.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) during the last election campaign, had a good deal to say about a scheme of child endowment. The Government, he said, intended to protect the motherhood of Australia. Up to the present, however, nothing has been done by the Commonwealth Government. The Prime Minister now offers the excuse that it is ,a State matter. It may be, but how is it possible for the States, in their present financial position - many of them have to come cap in hand to the Commonwealth for financial help - to carry out such a scheme? The Prime Minister has admitted that th;’ child is Australia’s best asset. Therefore child endowment is a national matter and the scheme should be launched by the Commonwealth Government.
– Did the honorable senator say that the Prime Minister had promised to bring in a scheme of child endowment ?
– Where ?
– In Perth, I am given to understand.
– I am told that the Prime Minister was not in Perth during the last election campaign.
– In the Commonwealth there are approximately 1,630,000 children under the age of fourteen years. The parents of approximately 90 per cent, of that number are in receipt of less than £300 a year. We must look to the present generation of boys to take their part in the defence of Australia, if war should come again, and we may be sure that whilst the present capitalistic system continues, there will be war in the future, though it may not come in our time. Child endowment is plainly the duty of the National Government. I have only to say, in closing, that it is high time the Government took steps to prevent the influx of Southern Europeans into Australia.
– In the few observations which I propose to make on the budget I shall touch on departmental matters in which I am deeply interested, and I shall be obliged if the Minister concerned will make a note of them and give me replies, so that it will be unnecessary for me to ask for the information on other occasions.
I should like, at the outset, to express my appreciation of the very satisfactory financial statement which the honorable the Treasurer (Dr. Page) submitted last week. The income tax changes will be welcomed- by the whole of the people, and especially by the mercantile community, as several very obnoxious regulations in connexion with assessments will now be done away with. Of course the greatest measure of satisfaction is in respect of the promised reduction of 10 per cent. A similar reduction in land taxation is also very welcome; but with Senator Hayes, I should like the Federal Treasurer to evacuate both these fields of taxation. I daresay this may come in time. At present it would not be wise for the Treasurer to withdraw wholly from these two avenues of taxation, as the receipts from them are necessary to enable him to balance the ledger; but I hope he will keep in mind the desirability of giving the people the relief suggested in the not distant future.
I also congratulate the Treasurer on the provision that has been made for many useful government activities. Amongst these may be mentioned the pro,posal to set aside £100,000 for the purchase of radium to be used in connexion with the treatment of cancer. I feel sure that this will be a very useful provision. Many people, private as well as professional, are endeavouring to find a cure for this dread scourge. In my own division a man is experimenting in a humble way, and, I believe, with a large measure of success. Although he is not a professional man, it is due to him, and the public generally, that the Department of Health should take notice of his experiments, because, as we know, the professional men sometimes overlook certain phases of research work upon which nonprofessional experimenters concentrate their attention sometimes with the most satisfactory results. It is reasonable, therefore, that all such research workers should receive every encouragement.
It is a matter for congratulation that the Government is making further substantial provision for scientific and industrial research. I should like to know what is being done with regard to the extraction of petrol from coal. On former occasions I have expressed the view that we have a better chance in Australia of securing an adequate supply of petrol from the liquefaction of coal than from the discovery of flow oil. I hope that I am wrong. But even if we, are successful in the search for natural oil fields, we have a vast reserve supply of coal from which oil may be extracted, and it should be the business of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to find the means to extract it on a commercial scale. I have in mind an immense coal deposit at Blair Athol, in Queensland, where there is a seam of black coal 90 feet in thickness, with an overburden of from 40 feet to 100 feet only. It is quite an easy proposition to remove the overburden and mine the coal, and if the liquefaction of coal for the extraction of petrol were an accomplished fact, that deposit would be an asset of incalculable value to the Commonwealth.
– Has the company done anything with it?
– It spent about £15,000 on the removal of the overburden, but its funds became exhausted and it had to cease operations. German scientists have already solved the problem of extracting oil from coal, with the result that Germany is now producing 125,000 tons of oil per annum from this source, and I understand that the output will be largely increased in the near future. I believe also that satisfactory progress is being made in England, so that it should be possible to carry out the same work in Australia. It is of immense importance to the Commonwealth, and we should be in the van of progress.
– What does Mr. Gepp say about it?
– It has been referred to him. I hope that he will in- quire thoroughly into the subject and not answer in platitudes, as he seems inclined to do in respect of many big propositions that have been placed before him already. A further suggestion which I have to make for that august body to consider, is in regard to another Central Queensland coal deposit which we consider, on analysis, to be equal to the best Welsh coal for naval purposes. I am anxious to capture that trade for Australia. At present we are not producing coal in Australia to compete with Welsh coal. The Newcastle product is excellent, but does not come up to the standard of Welsh coal. I think we have it in Central Queensland, and I suggest that the Navy authorities, instead of spending thousands of pounds every year in importing Welsh coal, should obtain supplies from Queensland.
– Has it been tested?
– Yes. Within the last month, 1,300 tons have been taken away. The Australian Navy are now awaiting a definite decision as to whether that coal is equal in quality to the Welsh product.
– The Electricity Commission in Victoria is carrying out a good deal of research work with- the object of proving whether oil can be obtained from coal.
– That gives me considerable pleasure. It is a step in the right direction. I should like the stacks of Welsh coal that are kept, in Australia for naval purposes replaced by thai from Central Queensland. The Department of Markets and Migration might also ascertain from the authorities in Singapore the prospects of opening up an export trade with it. The other day I had a conversation with a man who had just returned from Singapore. He informed me’ that enormous quantities of Welsh coal are kept in stock there. Rockhampton is much nearer than Wales is to Singapore; and if we possess coal of the right quality, we should be able to supply all their requirements, thus building up a valuable asset for Australia.
There should be no disagreement with the proposal of the Treasurer to increase war pensions, so as to give further relief to returned soldiers. Such an increase is both estimable and desirable. During the last twelve months I have brought to the notice of the Minister several cases of hardship, and have been instrumental in having relief granted. There is an aspect of this matter which indirectly is a reflection on the Government. Maimed returned soldiers, in uniform are to be seen begging in the streets of Sydney. Either the pension given to those men is not sufficient, or they are degrading the uniform that they wear. It is the duty of the R.S.S.I.L.A. to investigate such cases, and if it is found that those men are acting improperly they should be sternly dealt with. Whilst we are doing everything possible for the returned soldiers, we have a right to ask that they act decently.
I am gratified at the action of the Government in proposing to finance those who desire to purchase homes, thus giving effect to a promise which was made at the last elections. I trust, however, that the mistakes which were made at _the initiation of the War Service Homes scheme will not be repeated. J have had placed before me perfectly bona fide applications which have been delayed for as long as nine months. The inspection and legal fees, also, are altogther out of proportion to the amount involved.
– If there were an undue speeding up might there not be a possibility of higher costs ?
– I do not think so. Surely it is- not necessary to wait for nine months before completing arrangements for a man to obtain a cottage costing £800. Two or three months ought to be quite sufficient. I hope that the procedure relating to the charging of legal fees will be simplified, and that the cost will be cheapened. It cannot be denied that the fees are a big handicap to the man who desires to procure a home costing say, £800.
– The War Service Homes department has a distinct branch which handles all legal matters.
– The fact was. elicited recently that heavy fees are charged in connexion with transfers.
– What about the stamp duty?
– I have no excuses to offer on that score. The stamp duty charged by the Queensland Government is beyond all reason.
– Solicitors cannot be blamed for those.
– They are not being blamed. My contention is that other costs should be kept down.
I wish to express satisfaction with the statement of accounts submitted by the Commonwealth Bank. The profit last year was substantially greater than that of the previous year, which is a pleasing feature. Nevertheless, the methods adopted in dealing with the public ought to be liberalized. The authorities decline to countenance proposals that they might very well accept, especially those that are put forward by men on the land. I understand that there is a tendency for the bank to retire from ordinary business, and to concentrate to a greater extent on the legitimate business of a bank of reserve. I am unable to say whether that policy is dictated by the Treasurer or high officials in the service of the bank. The institution must, and to a certain extent does, function as a reserve bank, but it ought not to sacrifice the very fine business which it has built and is building up. If possible the business ought to be expanded and, within banking prudence, the bank should accept much that it is now turning down.
The Government is not in a position to place at the disposal of the InspectorGeneral of the Military Farces as large a sum as we would wish. Doubtless, the Air Force and the Navy are being very well looked after - and properly so. I should like to have the assurance of the Minister for Defence (Sir William Glasgow), that proper attention is being paid to the mechanization of the army. In the Imperial Army that has been made one of . the great departments, and has been placed in the charge of an officer of very high attainments. Mechanization is to-day very different from what it was a few years ago. In addition to the tanks, the cavalry, the artillery, and even the infantry, have been considerably mechanized. Our military heads in Australia are excellent men, but the fact that we are situated in an out-of-the-way corner of the world may perhaps lead to our falling behind the times. Military men are sent to England and placed on the staff of the High Commissioner, where possibly their duties may be confined largely to social activities rather than to military science and investigation. Arrangements ought to be made for occasional visits by Imperial officers of high attainments, who could advise us of our shortcomings and indicate the directions in which progress might be made.
The Minister for Defence is aware that Rockhampton and Townsville are anxious to secure the establishment of aerodromes. Lately, there has been a movement to establish a large company to engage in civil aviation. The desirability of co-operating and coordinating with civil aviation should convince the department of the wisdom of giving approval to the sites suggested and having aerodromes erected upon them.
The Treasurer has expressed satisfaction at the fine surplus which was realized from- the sale of expropriated properties in New Guinea. As a result of observations which I made on a recent visit to the Mandated Territory, I suggest that the Treasurer ought to exercise care in the use of the word “ realization.” There appears to have been a degree of inflation. Without wishing to be a pessimist, I say that, if a slump takes place in the price of copra, failure to meet the commitments entered into upon the sale of expropriated properties will not be uncommon. The inflation was brought about as a result of the very proper desire of either the Government or the Minister to give good terms to returned soldiers, of whom there are quite a number.. Tenders were invited on the basis of 15 per cent, cash and the balance over a long period. Consequently” high bids were made, the initial cash outlay being the consideration uppermost at the moment, and prices were paid which it will be difficult to realize. If the present price of copra is maintained, or there is an appreciation, all will be well ; but, if there is a slump, there may not be any possibility of realization. The complaint is general that returned soldiers are being used as dummies by big firms. The party with which I travelled promised to make to the Minister the request that there be a thorough investigation. One member of the party has a list of the names of returned soldiers who are, ostensibly, the owners of plantations, but are, in reality, dummying for mercantile firms. If that is the case the desire of the Government to advance the interests of the returned soldiers is being exploited by outsiders. The matter is worthy of investigation. I am confident that the cases which were brought under our notice were not all bogus ones.
– It is said that some of them are “ dummying “ for Germans.
– It is not a question of “ dummying “ for Germans. The proposal to spend money in geophysical research has my hearty approval. It may result in fresh mining fields being found. I have a great deal of sympathy with Senator Graham’s remarks about the- decadence of gold-mining in “Western Australia, because the position in Queensland is much the same. The renowned Mr Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited, from whose mine gold to the value of over £20,000,000 has been obtained, is in liquidation. The assistance of the Development and Migration Commission was unsuccessfully sought with a view to the continuance of operations at Mr Morgan. Its inability to overcome the difficulties was, in my opinion, a foregone conclusion, because if, with a highly skilled technical staff and the best brains of the world to advise them, the. directors could not make the mine pay, the Development and Migration Commission could do little.
– “Would a bounty on gold make the mine pay?
– Yes, if sufficiently large, but the payment of a bounty on gold mining, which is a wasting asset, cannot be justified. The only way to make gold-mining pay is to reduce the cost of production. Everything possible has been tried at Mr Morgan; yet the mine cannot be made to pay. It seems inevitable that that great mine will have to close down permanently.
The financial agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth, and the States is the greatest achievement which any Government of recent years can claim. Although many people considered such an agreement to be impossible 1 always contended that the States would not fail to receive a quid pro quo from the Commonwealth for the abolition of the per capita payments. So effectively has that been done that former opponents of the Government’s proposals, including many of the leading Queensland newspapers, are now acclaiming the financial agreement as a wonderful achievement.
– They take the credit for it.
– But they were not responsible for it. On the contrary those honorable senators from Queensland who supported the States Grants Bill were subjected to severe criticism by most of the leading newspapers of that State. .Such, fortunately, was not my experience, because my support of that measure was approved by the leading newspapers in my home town, Rockhampton, as well as by public opinion there. The financial arrangement with the States will stand to’ the credit of the Bruce-Page Government for all time.
, - The financial statement before us gives prominence to certain facts to which, in my opinion, still greater publicity should be given. The revenue derived from Customs duties for the year 1926-27 amounted to £31,832,000, and for the same period Excise duties represented £11,719,878. Those figures make it clear that the so-called protective policy of this country is not effectively protecting Australian industries. In the public press a few days ago there appeared a statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. Pratten, in which he stated that, as a result of his recent visit to Great Britain, a considerable sum of British money would probably be invested in Australia. The Commonwealth Government continues to indulge in heavy borrowings overseas, not only in Great Britain, but also in the United States of America. Senator Needham rightly pointed out that when a former labour Premier of Queensland sought to obtain a loan in the United States of America he was condemned by the press of Australia for what was termed his disloyalty to Great Britain. But when the Commonwealth Treasurer (Dr. Page), refusing to accede to the demands of the London financiers, floated a loan in the United States of America, he was commended for his action.
– The financial authorities in London suggested that that loan should be floated in the United States of America.
– The fact remains that, whereas Mr. Theodore was scathingly condemned ‘for borrowing money in New York, there was a discreet silence on the part of the press when Dr. Page did the same thing. Honorable senators apparently fail to realize that when a loan is floated overseas - either in London or New York - Australia is not supplied with a bundle of Bank of England notes or American dollars. What happens is that a wireless message arrives announcing the flotation of the loan, whereupon the Commonwealth Bank advances its own notes to the amount of the loan, less certain expenses. In the case of a loan floated in New York, Australia receives, not dollars, but a quantity of foreignmade goods. Yet the Government, which professes’ to encourage and support Australian industries, continues to pursue s policy which it knows will result in large quantities of goods of foreign manufacture being imported into this country. That point cannot be too strongly emphasized. Not only does that policy result in large quantities of foreign goods entering Australia, but upon their arrival heavy duties - yet not so heavy as to prevent their entry - are imposed on them. The last thing that Mr. Pratten would contemplate would be their entire prohibition. No man in Australia has a greater regard for the interests of the class he represents so efficiently than has the present Minister for Trade and Customs. It would appear that his chief object is to ensure that the great bulk of the taxation of this country shall be levied upon those least able to bear it. He knows that so long as the public Treasury is full there is not only no chance of increasing direct taxation, but also a probability that it will be decreased. It will be admitted by all fair-minded men that a tax upon incomes is a fairer system of taxation than is the imposition of Customs duties. Nevertheless, the Government year by year takes care that the Customs revenue will increase. Ever since the Commonwealth assumed the sole right to impose Customs taxation, the revenue from the Customs House has, with certain slight fluctuations, increased. Last year the revenue received from that source amounted to the enormous sum of £31,832,600, while for the current financial year the Treasurer estimates that the Customs House will collect £33,150,000. Surely honorable senators will see that for Australia to continue to borrow money abroad, and for that money to come here in the form of goods, is to deal the most deadly blow that could possibly be aimed at Australian industries. To the extent to which these foreign-made goods - whether stimulants, narcotics, or otherwise - are permitted to enter the Commonwealth, they are not manufactured here.
The Government, which professes to be a protectionist government, is nothing but a lot of arrant cowards.
– The honorable senator’s party is asking for more protection.
– It is peculiar that, although we fight Mr. Pratten to the best of our ability at the general elections, when it comes to the collection of our national revenue many of us - not all of us - ask Mr. Pratten to put on higher and higher duties.. I congratulate the Minister upon his sagacity, upon the intelligence he displays, and upon the way in which he takes down those who support him. I congratulate him, also, upon the effective manner in which he succeeds in placing the taxation of this country on the shoulders of those least able to bear it, as well as upon the excellent way in which he protects the really wealthy people from taxation. During the last financial year, the amount of land tax paid by the land-owners of Australia to the Commonwealth revenue was £2,615,900. It is a totally inadequate amount and ought to be substantially increased. In the same year the landowners of New South Wales paid to the State revenue the miscroscopic sum of £3,500. Under the present system of taxation we collect the great bulk of our revenue by means of Customs and excise duties. Nothing better could be devised for the protection of the wealthy people. From a protectionist stand-point, I could understand Customs duties being made sufficiently heavy to exclude foreign-made goods; but it is the very last thing Mr. Pratten would think of doing. Not satisfied with the large amount of revenue he is now deriving from the taxation of foreign-made goods which arrive here from low-wage countries, I notice with some degree of dismay that he has discovered that a large quantity of goods is coming here without paying any taxation. Unless I am very much mistaken, he will, as soon as the occasion presents itself, ask that these foreign-made goods should also be subjected to some form of taxation to produce more andmore revenue. I should not be at all surprised if the Federal land tax were wiped- out, and also the State income taxes, the deficiency being made up by the imposition of more Customs and excise duties. It is just about time the people realized that neither Mr. Pratten, nor the Government of which he is a member, is prepared to impose taxation sufficiently heavy to exclude foreign-made goods. The sole object of the Government has been to make our so-called protectionist policy a high revenue tariff policy. That is the policy adopted in Great Britain. The total revenue of Great Britain is £900,000,000. The great bulk of it comes from the people who work and from income tax payers, and not from the land-owners. It is astounding to see the amount of Customs revenue collected every year in so-called freetrade England. What is more astounding is the amount of revenue collected under our own so-called protectionist policy from Customs taxation. Those people who vote for protection in the belief that the Government will exclude foreign-made goods have been deceived year after year. I have no hesitation in saying that, so long as it remains’ in office, the Government will continue to deceive them, and will continue to admit ; foreign-made goods for the sake of the taxation to be obtained through the Customs House. Could anything be more absurd than to buy goods in Great Britain, as we do when we borrow money there, and when those goods come to Australia to place an import duty on them? No bettermethod could be devised of imposing on the poor people and the workers of Australia the task of paying the great bulk of the country’s revenue.
I have been looking into the position of the Commonwealth Bank. This bank was established by the Labour Government in the teeth of very strong opposition, and it was the belief of those who advocated its establishment that, after some time it would gradually control and transact the financial business of the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Perhaps one of the most important events since the inception of federation was the establishment in 1911 of the Commonwealth Bank for which the Labour Government at that time was responsible. Despite all the opposition shown to the venture, the bank was established without capital, but with the credit of the Commonwealth as a security. The public had no doubt whatever as to its stability, and it gradually increased in importance from the moment its doors were opened. The latest balance sheet is indeed a very illuminating document, and disclosing, as it does, the enormous sums which have been placed in the bank’s care, shows that the people of Australia have every confidence in the bank. I do not think, however, that the management is acting in the best interests of the people, as although it has been established for seventeen years its business has not extended to the extent which it was fully believed it would. Those who advocated the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank believed that as years went on its operations would gradually extend to the general business of banking in such a way that it would be the only banking institution in the Commonwealth. Nothing of the kind has happened because it has not been administered in a sympathetic manner. AntiLabour Governments have not favored an extension of its operations and almost everything, apart from actually closing its doors, has been done to prevent its business increasing. It is surprising to find to-day that in New South Wales there is only a very limited number of branches of the Commonwealth Bank, » while the other banking establishments have branches in almost every town of any consequence. Apart from savings bank branches, the Commonwealth Bank has in New South Wales only eighteen branches, in Victoria twelve, Queensland thirteen, South Australia five, Western Australia five, Tasmania four, New Guinea one, and Great Britain two. At all of these branches savings bank business is transacted, and in addition there are in New South Wales three savings bank branches, hi Victoria four, in Western Australia two, or a total of nine. Apart from these activities the Commonwealth Bank has 3/179 agencies in the Commonwealth, “Papua, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and in addition has throughout Australasia, Great Britain, Europe, Asia, Africa, North, South and Central America, and the West Indies, an army of agents and correspondents. Although these connexions have been established, the management of the bank has steadfastly refused to open branches in the various large towns throughout the Commonwealth where, in the best interests of the bank they should be established. Although the management is supposed to be free from political control, it has neglected, in conformity I suppose with an undisclosed wish, to increase the number of branches. That is unfair to the bank and its customers. There is no doubt as to its stability and no reason why it should not give to depositors and lenders better te’-ms than do other banks ; but that is impracticable, unless it establishes branches throughout the Commonwealth. Pressure should be brought upon the management in this direction. Officers of. the bank, who have been in its service for many years, find i that there are no opportunities of pro motion, and seek other avenues of employment where the remuneration is more attractive. I am looking forward to the day, which I know is not far distant, when we shall have a Labour Government on the Treasury bench and when the most conservative members of the board will find that they will be unable to hold their positions unless the operations of the bank are extended in the direction originally intended. According to the document which I hold in my hand - the accuracy of which I do not question because it is signed by Mr. C. J. Cerrutty, the Auditor-General - the amount of deposits and interest in the Commonwealth Savings Bank up to the 30th June, 1927, amounted to the substantial sum of £46,479,020 16s. 5d. The State Savings Bank of New South Wales - I cannot speak for the moment of the other State Savings Banks - pays its depositors 4 per cent., but the Commonwealth pays only 3£ per cent. I do not think it gives better terms to the borrowers than do the State Savings. . Banks, and, in effect, it is deliberately refusing depositors’ money by paying them only 3^ per cent. That is an important direction in which the Commonwealth Bank is turning away business, and the sooner a Government is in office which will indicate to the board that it should pay small depositors at least as high .a rate of interest as is paid to the depositors in the State Savings Banks, the sooner will the bank function in the direction intended by its sponsors. I believe that the deposits in the Commonwealth Bank, excluding interest added during the past twelve months, suffered in some States at all events, a substantial reduction. That is a clear indication that, notwithstanding the undoubted prosperity which is to be found in States such as New South Wales and Queensland, where Labour Governments are in office, the depositors in the savings bank branches of the Commonwealth Bank are not increasing. We have also to consider the manner in which the money on deposit is being used. No attempt is made to assist housing or land settlement schemes, and what is being done with the money is a conundrum to me. Money is invested in London in British, Colonial and Government securities at short call, and Commonwealth Government securities on fixed deposit, amounting to £2,149,000, are deposited in other banks. Does it not seem extraordinary that money placed in the Commonwealth Savings
Banks should be loaned to other financial institutions which, no doubt, loan .it at substantially increased rates of interest? “Why does not the Commonwealth Bank, with all the resources at its disposal, carry on that branch of the business instead of operating through other banks ? The enormous sum of £3,000,000 is invested in bills receivable in London, and £16,000,000 in bills discounted, and loans and discounts to customers. Business of that kind will not assist the advancement of Australia’s primary or secondary industries. Unfortunately the balance sheet does not give details showing where the deposits of the Commonwealth Bank are placed. The Government is opposed to the functions of the bank being extended. An attempt was made some time ago to make the Commonwealth Bank a central reserve bank. Last year the bank made a profit, exclusive of the note issue of £580,978. Portion of that amount should have been used to extend its operations. The Note Issue Department is another profitable phase of the bank’s business. Last year it returned fi,l 36,476; the total profit from these two sources was £1,717,454.
– A very fine result.
– I am satisfied that any banking ‘institution conducted on commercial lines would use some portion of its profits to extend its operations. That, however, has not been done in the case’ of the Commonwealth Bank. The Government takes good care that the operations of the bank will not be extended, because £580,97S of the bank’s profits has been placed to the credit of the debt redemption fund. What I am concerned about is the failure of the Government to insist on the functions of the bank being extended,’ so that its profits may be even greater. The sooner that policy is adopted the better. The Labour Party is frequently charged by ill-informed persons with having no financial ability. I remind honorable senators that it was responsible for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, and that all members of the party are keenly interested ‘ in its success. The interest paid to small depositors might very well be increased by one-half per cent., and possibly some portion of the profits might be used to increase the salaries of the officers. Instead of doing that, the management of the bank, probably under the directon of the Government, pays one-half of its profits into the consolidated revenue. Why should the Commonwealth Bank be used for the purpose of finding money for that purpose? In addition, £284,119 was added last year to the capital of the rural credits department of the bank. I am at a loss to understand the need for the establishment of that branch. I suppose that if the suggested housing scheme is put into operation, we shall have a housing branch of the bank established. The private banks do not find such a course necessary; they transact all phases of their business under one system of management. . I am disappointed with the management of and the progress made by the bank, and I hope that the Government will bring in legislation to permit the management to use the bank’s profits for the purpose of extending its operations until there is a branch in every township throughout the Commonwealth, where there is a branch of any other bank operating. If this were done the bank would perform the services for which it “was designed. At present it is conducting its business on the same lines as other banks, and is charging the same rate of interest on overdrafts.
– The Commonwealth Bank is charging a lower rate of interest on overdrafts than other banks.
– The honorable senator is misinformed. It is charging just as much as the other banks, and it does not offer any better terms than can be obtained elsewhere by any individual requiring an overdraft. The honorable senator knows quite well that it pays only 3£ per cent, to its depositors.
– That is the Savings Bank branch of its business.
– The bank’s terms, I repeat, are just the same as the terms of private’ banks. Senator Thompson knows this. He knows also that if the Commonwealth Bank increased the interest paid to small depositors by one half per cent., tens of thousands of people who at present have deposits in the State savings banks, would transfer their accounts to the Commonwealth Bank. I protest strongly against the crucifixion of the bank by the present administration.
I turn now to the housing proposals of the Government. We have been informed through the press and in the budget that the Government proposes to make available the substantial sum of £20,000,000 for the purpose of giving effect to its declared policy to assist citizens to own their own homes. The Ministry does not mean this. The proposals have been outlined merely for the purpose of misleading the people of Australia. The Government will do nothing. . Does the Ministry propose to erect homes? . .Nothing of the kind. All that it intends to do is to make available a certain proportion of the increased deposits of the Commonwealth Savings Bank - I doubt if there will be an increase if the present policy is continued - and of maturing investments of savings bank funds, for this purpose. We are told,’ further, that loans will be raised by the Government from time to time, and that eventually the total provision for housing will be £20,000,000. The Treasurer then goes on to say: -
It ib not proposed to enter into competition with authorities which at present provide assistance to persons to acquire their own homes, hut moneys provided by the Commonwealth will be made available through existing authorities fmd supplement their funds. Advances will be made to the agencies of State or Territorial administrations, State savings banks, or municipalities, for assistance in the purchasing and building of homes, provided that the amount of the advance does not exceed £1,800, and does not exceed 90 per cent, of the valuation of the property.
When first I heard of the Government’s proposal to engage in the business of home building for the people, I thought that perhaps, after all, a genuine effort would be made to do so, and I have no doubt that many thousands of votes were secured by Nationalist candidates at the last election on account of that declaration of policy. We find now that it was an empty promise, because all that the Government intends to do is to advance money to existing agencies for the purpose of building homes. That is of no value.. The scheme does not. touch the real difficulty which confronts home-seekers to-day. Notwithstand ing the activities of the different State departments and of innumerable building societies and other agencies, I am confident that throughout the Commonwealth rents were never so high and overcrowding never so prevalent as is the case to-day. Under this proposal the Government will not in any way bring about an alleviation of the position. What are the difficulties that confront a man who wishes to make a home for himself? The first requisite of every person is a home site. Although Australian bricklayers, carpenters, stonemasons, and other workmen are exceptionally good tradesmen, they have not, and cannot acquire, the ability to build a house without a site. They are unable to build it in the air - the law of gravity would come into operation. Any one who endeavours to procure a home site is confronted with very grave difficulties. Within reasonable distance of the General Post Office, Melbourne, Sydney, and other large centres of population, no man can buy a home site unless he is prepared to pay £4 or £5 a foot for it, or perhaps more. He may have to pay between £200 and £300 for it. Does the Commonwealth Government propose to interfere with that system? No. It intends to make available a greater sum than is at present offering, so that competition for home sites will be accentuated, and as a consequence prices will be increased. I have no doubt of that, because it is the natural tendency when money is plentiful: The construction of a railway, a tramway, or a concrete road increases the value of home sites. The Government will be merely giving a donation, not to home-seekers, but to those who are speculating in land values in the vicinity of every large city. If honorable senators carefully study the newspapers, they will find page after page devoted exclusively to advertising, not the leases at Canberra - they are all locked up - but vacant blocks of land in the suburbs of our large cities. The Government does not intend to take any action to relieve that pressing difficulty. I suggest that if it wishes to make housing cheaper it should first put forth an effort to secure cheap building sites. There is only one way in which that can be done, and it is by the imposition of a tax at a flat rate per pound on every available building site. That rate should be sufficiently heavy to make it unprofitable for any person to keep out of use a block of land which is suitable for a home site. So long as land is allowed to remain in the hands of monopolists, rents cannot be reduced, and houses cannot be made plentiful and cheap.
– Would that reduce the cost of building?
– Certainly. Taken on an average, alluvial gold mining is not as profitable as speculation in vacant blocks of land. If a person discovers an alluvial goldfield he is entitled to peg out a claim ; but if he does not work it within a certain number of days the warden can dispossess him, and permit it to be worked by any person who is prepared to comply with the requirements of the law. If, however, a person acquires a vacant building site he can retain possession of it for as long as he is prepared to pay the nominal tax that is imposed by the local authority. [Extension of time granted.! I was employed for many years in the building trade, and understood the business fairly well. I am always anxious to see taken every step that will enable a person to make a comfortable home for himself. If that is the desire of the Government its proper course is to make it unprofitable for any one to hold out of use blocks that are suitable for building purposes. Many years ago an effort was made to cheapen the cost of transfer. Torrens was responsible for eliminating many of the costs which at that time attached to the transfer of land. He put through an act under which any person could transfer a piece of land upon payment of a nominal sum. He had very keen opposition from his legal friends, and ever since then strenuous efforts have been made to render it more and more difficult for persons to secure the transfer of a piece of land on which to build a home. Whenone has paid a deposit for a block in New South Wales, one is confronted with a demand’ by the State Government for the payment of 15 shillings per cent, on the value of one’s purchase.
– That is one of the advantages of having a labour Government.
– The Labour Government in New South Wales ought to have abolished that provision immediately it took office. It certainly made it inapplicable to returned soldiers ; and if it receives the endorsement of the electors on Saturday next I have no doubt that it will remove this provision from the statute-book. It is wrong to compel a man to pay stamp duty when he makes an effort to escape from his rent lord. I believe that that is the law not only in New South Wales, but also in the other States of the Commonwealth. The fees payable on mortgages are prohibitive. On a sum of £800 or £900 the exactions in various directions total from £30 to £40, and a respectable firm of solicitors will charge as much as £50. There is nothing in the proposals now before us which will overcome, these difficulties. It appears that the Government will not be convinced except by an unequivocal demonstration of their inutility. I should not care to offer opposition to them, although I know - and the Government and its supporters also know - that the workers are merely being humbugged and bamboolzed by the suggestion that such ridiculous proposals will provide a way of escape from the rent lords. Vacant sites suitable for building purposes should be dealt with as a warden deals with alluvial gold mines. Until action is taken along those lines the workers* will not have an opportunity vo possess homes of their own. Any Government worthy of the name would realize that nothing was more conducive to the welfare of a country than for its people to live in their own homes, on a fair area of land. What do we find to-day? It is no uncommon thing to find two, or even three families, living in one home on a block of land about 20 feet by 80 feet. In a country comprising approximately 3,000,000 square miles of land such things should not be permitted. This Parliament should see that every family has a reasonable area of land on which to live. -The reason for these small allotments and for the increasing number of flats is that the price of land is too high. I hope to see the day when those who hold blocks of land in this country will either use them or be forced to sell them. Under existing conditions the proposals of the Government are worthless.
I should like to know what the Development and Migration Commission is doing. I understand that its chairman, when in England, contemplated the purchase of a number of tanks for the purpose of rolling down mallee scrub. Such a proposal is ridiculous. The commission is not likely to accomplish much if it continues as it has begun. We read in the press the other day that, despite adverse reports as to climatic and other conditions, numbers of men went to New Guinea because it was reportedthat gold was obtainable there. In the early days thousands of people came to Australia for the same reason. The discovery of gold at Ballarat and Bendigo was sufficient attraction. If the people of Great Britain were given clearly to understand that land would be available for them on arrival, they would come here of their own volition. Unfortunately, such inducements have never yet been offered, and, probably, never will be.
– Land is made available for them in Western Australia.
– If it were generally known throughout Great Britain that land in the Esperance district of Western Australia, where there is a fair rainfall, could be obtained for about 15s. an acre, there would be a flood of migrants to that State. Under existing conditions, migrants arriving in Australia with the object of purchasing farms, stations, or home sites, are confronted with innumerable, and, to many of them, insuperable, difficulties. Nothing is being done by the Development and Migration Commission to remedy that state of affairs. The population of Australia can be increased by making land available on reasonable terms. There are thousands of nativeborn Australians desirous of settling on the land, yet nothing is being done to make land available for them. The Government will appoint commissions, and do almost anything except make land available to the people who want it. There is too much regulation, and too little freedom.
– The Commonwealth Government has no land to make available to settlers; the land in Australia is in the control of the States.
– The Commonwealth Government has the power to impose a flat rate of 3d. in the £1 on all land values in the Commonwealth. The imposition of such a tax would open up sufficient land to settle thousands of people on it. Instead of doing something practical, the Government continues to humbug the people by the imposition of Customs duties. The population of Australia is about two persons to the square mile, whereas in Great Britain there are about 700 persons to the square mile.
I desire now to refer to the shortsighted policy of the Commonwealth Government and of the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland in failing to construct, on the railway from Kyogle to South Brisbane, tunnels sufficiently wide to carry two lines of rails. The designers of the Sydney Harbour Bridge were men of vision, with the result that that bridge will be the widest in the world. All the tunnels between Sydney and Maitland carry a double line of rails. The north coast district of New South Wales, from Newcastle to the Tweed River, is unsurpassed. It is a well watered, fertile country, capable of supporting an immense population; but the short-sighted policy of the several governments concerned in building railways capable of carrying only one line of rails will retard the progress of that district. At first it was in tended that the Hume Reservoir should be capable of impounding 1,000,000 acre feet of water, but because of representations made, it was ultimately decided to increase its capacity to 2,000,000 acre feet of water. Similarly a wider vision should be displayed in connexion with the railway to which reference has been made. I repeat my former protest against the waste of thousands of pounds in building tunnels only wide enough for one set of rails.
I desire also toenter my emphatic protest against the action of the Government in proposing to borrow £2,000,000 for the Federal Capital Commission, when that body could itself raise far more money by releasing vacant blocks of land in the Territory and making them available to leaseholders. Although I have so far been unable to obtain the number of building sites which have already been made available in the Territory, I have no hesitation in saying that if the commission would make available to the highest bidders a sufficient number of building sites subject to certain building conditions, thousands of sites would immediately be applied for. . Moreover, instead of the sites being reappraized after twenty years, they should be reappraized- every twelve months. The principles of Henry George, as set out in his Progress and Poverty, should be applied to the Federal Capital Territory. The foolish policy adopted by the Federal Capital Commission has resulted in enormous premiums having to be paid to obtain possession of blocks leased from the commission at comparatively low rentals. Honorable members will remember Senator Elliott’s protest at having to pay a premium of over £1,000 to obtain possession of a block of land in Canberra. The action of the lady who held the lease of that block was perfectly legal ; but what would honorable senators say if she had been a sister of Sir John Butters, the Chairman of the Commission, or if he himself had held the lease of the land! Yet the principle would be the same, whether Sir John Butters or some one else held the lease. The commission should be instructed to mak°. more building sites available. Moreover, provision should be made for reappraizement every twelve months, instead of the present long term. The present policy was probably adopted to prevent settlement in Canberra. Bricklayers cannot build homes for themselves in Canberra, because they cannot obtain building sites. To borrow £2,000,000 at 5 per cent. or. per cent., is to place an unfair burden on the city. The income of the commission from the sale of leases in the Federal Capital Territory is about £550,000. If the Government had the courage to retreat from the position it has taken up, and to. instruct the commission to make building sites available on the conditions I have mentioned, there would be no need to borrow £2,000,000 to carry out necessary work in the Federal Capital. This city should be self supporting.
In the hands of a capable, competent commission, instructed by a Government knowing its business, the money would be paid off as soon as possible, and Canberra would grow and prosper. It is an outrage that thousands of acres of vacant land should be held for a rise, the commission doing exactly that which is regarded as objectionable when done by private speculators. The Government should see the error of its ways. It should cease this borrowing abroad, paying £100,000 a year for money that, if the land were made available, would be easily obtained in rentals. If the land in the Territory were made available, the revenue of the commission would probably be £2,000,000 a year for a start. I hope that in the near future we shall have a Government that will realize the importance of dealing with this question in a proper way. By making the leases available to the highest bidders, subject to a building covenant and a reappraizement every twelve months, the Government would get the full rental value of the land, and the tenant would pay only the full rental value of his lease.
I am not at all satisfied with the Government’s proposal to take over the debts of the various States and pay interest on them. Where will the Treasurer get the money ? He is reducing the land tax and the income tax, and I suppose he proposes to use the Customs House to get the money with which to pay this interest. I hope that method of financing the State debts will soon come to an end.
We are paying enormous sums for the construction of the Hume weir and locks along the River Murray, and I should like to get some definite information as to what is being done in New South Wales to utilize the waters that are to be stored. So far as I know nothing is being done. . I should also like to know what is being done at the mouth of the river to allow navigation from the river to the sea. So far as I know nothing has been done in that direction either. . It appears to me that the influence of Adelaide and Melbourne is such as to prevent the settlers on the Murray from getting a fair deal. .1 hope that the Government will take steps to arrange an expedition of the members of Parliament to view what is the finest river in the Commonwealth, draining as it does 500,000 square miles of country. It is only right that members of Parliament should have an opportunity to realize its immense potentialities. In particular they should acquaint themselves with the fact that so far no steps have been taken to see that the mouth of the river is opened up. Until that work is carried out, we shall not get the full fruits of the work involved in the construction of the Hume weir and the locking of the River Darling and the River Murray.
There are many more matters in the budget of great and absorbing interest, but time will not permit me to deal with them.
Debate (on motion by Senator Duncan) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
[9.6].- 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 submit this notice because it will be necessary to get the bill through by tomorrow night. I have no desire to curtail debate, but honorable senators will see that it is necessary to suspend the Standing and Sessional Orders in order that the bill may pass in time to enable payments- to be made on Friday.
– I thought that when we assembled in this 0re spacious building, far from the madding crowd, under new conditions, and in new surroundings, the Government would abandon the bad old practice of moving the suspension of the stanling orders on the slightest pretext in order to rush a measure through the Senate. After a close season of over twelve months with the budget delivered three months late, we are asked to suspend the standing orders in order to rush a Supply Bill through in a few minutes. No matter how honorable senators on this side may protest, or divide the Senate, we can achieve nothing, but I ask the acting Leader of the Senate to try to get away from this very bad practice of asking that the Standing Orders be suspended on the slightest pretext. The Senate has not beer treated as it should have been. Another place has had this Supply Bill” before it for nearly four full sittings, but we are told that supply must be granted by to-morrow so that the various public services may be continued. The time is altogether too short to enable us to handle such an important measure. I hope that in future arrangements will be made whereby this branch of the legislature will have more time to consider a bill of this importance, and that it will be unnecessary to suspend the Standing Orders. I object to the Minister’s proposal.
– So do I. I have not seen a copy of the Supply Bill, and I have no idea how much money is required. I think that before we are asked to vote on a measure of this kind we should have at least a few hours in- which to peruse it. In any ruse there is no need to rush the bli I through this evening. We shall meet to-morrow in the ordinary course of events, and I am sure there will be no obstruction from this side of the chamber to the passing of the bill in the shortest possible space of time. It is unreasonable for tb.f Loader of the Senate to ask for the suspension of the standing orders. Why cannot he agree to’ the reading of the bill a 4rat time and to the postponement of the second reading until to-morrow,, by which time we shall have had an opportunity to look through the document, and to make ourselves acquainted with its contents.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [9.12]. - ‘Honorable e senators must be aware that it is necessary that the bill be passed to-morrow in order to enable public servants to be paid on Friday. Owing to the unfortunate death of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, both houses adjourned on Friday afternoon last; otherwise we could have had the- bill earlier. As I have already said, I have no desire to curtail debate, but if we allowed the consideration of the measure to stand over until to-morrow, I should still have to ask for the suspension of the Standing Orders in order to get ‘ it through by tomorrow night. I think it meets tha convenience of honorable senators to bring it before thom now. The objection that honorable senators have not seen the bill is easily overcome, because it will be made available to-night and Senator Grant will then be prepared to discuss it to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) proposed -
That the bill oe now read a first time.
– I desire to refer briefly to the menace of foreign migration, which is causing considerable alarm throughout Australia, and has already been mentioned by Senator Graham. It appears to me that, notwithstanding the strong protests made against this rapidly growing and evil system, we cannot get any satisfaction from the Government. Southern Europeans in large numbers are permitted te land in Australia apparently without restriction; if there are any regulations governing foreign immigration, they are not being enforced. A firm protest is being voiced in nearly every State of the Commonwealth, particularly in Western Australia and South Australia, where the position is very acute. The large influx of foreign migrants is not only a menace to Australian industrial conditions, but their .presence in one State was nearly the cause of civil war on a small scale. Many of these people come from countries where the social conditions are vastly different from those obtaining in the Commonwealth. They form little communities, of their own; they have nothing in common with the ideals, social or otherwise, of the people of the Commonwealth, and their standard of living is much lower than that to which we are accustomed.
– That is not so of all of them.
– I am speaking particularly of Southern Europeans, and am not making a comprehensive charge. I submit, however, that most of those in our midst are willing to accept social conditions that Australians will not tolerate. The party to which I have the honor to belong has been the means of improving the industrial conditions of the workers, and naturally does not wish the standard of living to be lowered by these people.
– The Southern Europeans in northern Queensland live up to our standard.
– Despite the assurance of the Minister, I maintain that unless a greater check is placed upon foreign migration, the social conditions Which we now enjoy will be seriously endangered.
– There are as many Italians in Western Australia as there are in Queensland.
– I have said that the menace is prevalent throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in Western Australia and South Australia.
– There have been no protests by Queensland.
– Neither have there been by South Australia.
– There have been protests by Western Australia and South Australia.
– By certain members of the Labour party in South Australia.
– And by supporters of the present Government in that State. It is easy for honorable senators opposite to say that these men must be paid the award rates, but in many instances the award rates are not being paid.
– The award provides for penalties in such cases.
– If necessary the law should be amended to enable a proper check to be placed upon them. A case was brought under my notice by the secretary of the Jewellers’ Union in Melbourne, who mentioned a foreigner - I think he was an Italian - who complained that he had been paid less than the minimum wage. He was employed, in the first instance, by a certain firm for three weeks at the award rate of £5, but after three weeks’ service was told that he could be paid only £4 per week. His services were retained for another fifteen weeks at the lower rate, and then, owing to slackness of work, he was put off. He interviewed the secretary of the union, and endeavoured to get the extra £1 per week to which he was entitled under the award, and without which he was prepared to work so long as he was employed. He could not speak a word of English, and had to bring an interpreter with him. I quote also the case of another foreigner who could not speak English, and who visited jewellers’ shops in an endeavour to get work in repairing watches. There are different prices for repairing different parts of watches; the turning of a staff of a watch, I understand, costs about 7s. 6d., and cleaning about 3s. 6d. This man visited the shops, and used the word. “ clean,” which was all the English he could speak, and did the work of turning the staff and cleaning for 3s. 6d., which was considerably less than the ruling rate. The agent of an Italian employment bureau inWest Melbourne stated recently that nearly all the Italians in Victoria were at present in work - I wish we could say the same of all Australians - and that some were working for a good deal less than the living wage. It will, therefore, be seen that industrial conditions in Victoria are . endangered by foreign migrants of this class. He went on to say: “Their aim, in the first place, is to get work where they are paid the maximum rate. If that is not available they will work for less.” . That shows that they will work for less than the minimum wage. He further said, “If the worst comes to the worst, they will work for their keep until something better turns up.” The Italian Consul in Sydney, in an article sent to the Italian Bulletin of Australia, said : -
The new publication should make it clear to all Italians in Australia, especially those who have long resided here, that it is absolutely necessary to use Italian products, because they are as good as the others when they are not actually far superior, and because true patriotism to-day cannot consist only in easy participation in balls and banquets on the occasion of the national celebrations.
What does that mean? By working for lower wages they prevent Australians from obtaining employment, and are then told not to buy Australian goods. According to the Chief Secretary of Western Australia, the Honorable J. M. Drew, there are 132 insane aliens in the Western Australian Hospitals for the Insane. Who is to meet the cost of maintaining these patients? It shows that the selection is indifferent.
– There is no system of selection.
– Then the system is wrong.
– The Commonwealth does not assist those people to come here.
– Why should any State be called upon to meet the cost of maintaining 132 foreign patients in a hospital for the insane? I could quote cases from different newspapers in the Commonwealth showing that these migrants have used knives, and shot at each other. In two instances they have shot at Australians, one of whom was a policeman. In reply to the Prime Minister’s statement that there is no occasion for alarm concerning the influx of foreigners, I quote the following figures, showing the excess of arrivals over departures of migrants - from foreign countries : - 1919, 1,274; 1920, 1,756; 1921, 530; 1922, 4,191; 1923, 3,933; 1924, 10,684; 1925, 8,192, and 1926, 6,795, or a total of 37,356 in eight years.
– Where did the honorable senator obtain those figures ?
– From the Commonwealth Year-book.
– They are not all Southern Europeans?
– What percentage of the total consisted of Southern Europeans ?
– These figures, I repeat, do not relate solely to Southern Europeans. They cover migrants from foreign countries, and the total in eight years was 37,356. It will be noted that, since the formation of the Bruce-Page Government, the number of foreign migrants has increased. If we examine the position more closely, we find that the majority came from Italy. The figures relating to net Italian migrants during the same period are: - 1919, minus 581; 1920, 25; 1921, 1,192; 1922, 3,312; 1923, 1,633; 1924, 4,971; 1925, 5,762; 1926, 3,921. In 1919 the excess of departures over arrivals was 581, but for the three years 1924-26 inclusive, the excess of arrivals over departures averaged 4,885 per annum. This requires the serious attention of the Government. Prompt measures should be taken to lessen the number of migrants from Italy. The Prime Minister has suggested that any interference from this end might cause serious international complications. I fail to see where the danger lies. The Prime Minister of Italy does not give much thought to the possibility of international’ complications when he is dealing with legislation affecting his own people. I mention, this matter in the hope that the Government will at once take . steps to lessen the number of foreign migrants that are coming to Australia.
– On the motion for the first reading of a Supply Bill one may, if so disposed, deal with matters that are.not relevant to the bill itself. There is a very wide field for debate, if an honorable senator wishes to speak on matters of moment to the people. I propose to confine my remarks to the subject raised by Senator Needham. I know, of course, that the Government and its supporters never tire of declaring that Australia’s greatest need is population, and still more population. They entertain a hazy idea - at least some of them do - that population is synonymous with prosperity, and appear to think that, if Australia had a much larger population there would be fewer unemployed and much greater prosperity than the Commonwealth’ has enjoyed to the present. If that were true, all the older countries, with their teeming millions, should have few, if any, unemployed, and there should be general prosperity, happiness, and contentment. But, so. far from that being the case, we find that those old-world countries, with large populations, are extremely anxious to get rid of. what they call - it is an offence to me - their surplus population. They .speak of a surplus of human beings as they would talk about a surplus of commodities. To assist overseas countries to send some of their unemployed to Australia, this Government some time ago appointed certain gentlemen as a commismon to act the part of a super Parliament. It was implied that the Development and Migration Commission would, by the waving of its magic, wand, solve the unemployed problem, establish industries, primary ‘ and secondary, and
So organize the migration activities of the Government that both Britain and Australia would be helped by the arrangements that had been entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial authorities. But no provision has been made by the commission, as far as I know, to find employment for a solitary man or woman in the Commonwealth. Can it be said that the work of the commission has stimulated primary production or been responsible for the establishment of one new industry? The chairman and members of. that body have toured continuously and talked incessantly; they have incurred enormous expenditure which must be met by the taxpayers of this country. Even in this Supply Bill, covering a period of two months, there is provision for £14,500 to cover the Australian and London organizations, as well as the Fairbridge farm school. At this rate of expenditure the cost of the commission to the taxpayers of Australia will probably be *£100,000 a year.
– It is outrageous.
– It would be if that expenditure were incurred. The commission is superfluous. I strongly opposed its appointment. According to the supporters of the bill the commission was to do work which no State authority, and not even the Commonwealth Parliament itself proposed to do. At the time; I pointed out that there were, in the various States of the Commonwealth, certain responsible bodies whose duty it was to advise their respective Governments of certain necessary works and how those works should be proceded with. Members of this commission came into the field, so far as primary and secondary industries were concerned, as apprentices, compared with those journeymen authorities in the respective States.
– According to press reports, they propose now to prevent frosts.
– I noticed in the press the other day a statement that the chairman of the commission and Mr. Gunn, one of its members, had paid a visit to the dried fruits areas of Mildura and Redcliffs, in Victoria, to enquire into the position of the growers there - many of them are returned soldiers - who are extremely anxious about next season’s crop. As honorable senators are no doubt aware, the northern districts of Victoria have been passing through a very dry season. Recently, after highly beneficial rains, the settlers became optimistic, and were hoping that all their difficulties were overcome. Unfortunately, a severe frost did immense damage to the growing crops. The chairman of the commission and Mr. Gunn promptly visited the frostbitten areas, and according to press reports, intimated that they proposed to recommend the convening of a conference of the Premiers of the several States, to consider the position.
– Nothing of the sort.
– Well, that is what I read in the newspapers. It was stated also that the commission considered that steps should be taken to obtain the services of a scientist from abroad to advise the respective Governments and the commission as to the best methods of dealing with crops affected by frost. Can it be argued that this is part of the work which the commission is expected to perform? And has any report been presented by that body ? So far as I know, the appointment of the commission has not led to the introduction to Australia of one migrant, nor has it been responsible for the cultivation of a single peanut in this country. I await with a great deal of interest a report from these gentlemen. We can hardly pick up a newspaper any day without reading that they have been to some place in Australia and have taken advantage of the opportunity’ to air their views with regard to many questions that affect the people of Australia. Apparently they have no fixed place of abode. If they intend to do serious work, why do they not settle down in some place, at least for a time, where they can do the work that is expected of them?
– They have to travel all over Australia to examine the various schemes that have been put forward.
– Certainly they are travelling all over Australia. If they continue to travel over Australia at the same rate in future, their travelling expenses, quite apart from their salaries, will cost the people of this country a tidy sum.
– They arc doing good work in South Australia.
– What work have they done that had not been done previously by the Government of South Australia or its responsible officers? Does the honorable senator suggest that the present or previous governments of South Australia, or their responsible officers, are not or have not been competent to do that which is being done by the commission? If he does, it is a reflection upon the responsible officers.
– They may not have had the necessary funds.
– Is the South Australian Government going to foot the bill for the expenditure of ?14,500?
– It could not proceed with the west coast scheme.
– The- Commonwealth Parliament has made available this sum of money, and it is not all to be spent in South Australia. The work to which the honorable senator has referred represents a very small percentage of the whole. It is foolish and absurd to infer that the Government of South Australia is so financially embarrassed as to be unable to make provision for such a paltry sum.
I shall now touch upon another aspect of migration. From time to lime members are supplied with copies of “ The Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire.” Malta, as honorable senators are aware, has responsible government. Under the heading “ Migration “ this journal refers to the migration scheme-, of the Maltese Government in the following terms : -
On 30th December, 1920, in the Legislative Assembly,
Mr. W. Salomone asked the Head of the Ministry how much of the ?0,000 voted in the previous month for assisted passages to emigrants had been expended; what was the criterion followed in selection of candidates for the grants; and how much was being apportioned to each emigrant and under what contions ?
The Head of the Ministry (Dr. the Honorable U. P. Mifsud) laid on the Table a paper relative to a scheme which, he said, when it came into operation, would, it was hoped, allay partially the distress consequent, principally on the discharges then in course from the RoYal Dockyard and indirectly on grounds coincident therewith.
The honorable gentleman made a fairly lengthy statement, in the course of which he said -
There were two large immigrating countries, at least, which had enacted laws against the admission of assisted emigrants (Canada and the United States). It was known that the Argentine did not look with any favour on the advent of such emigrants. In regard to other countries, it was undesirable that it should be publicly manifest that Maltese emigrants were being financially assisted for the specific purpose of going there, for their doors would be immediately closed against all emigration from Malta. Whilst, therefore, the Government was prepared to assist unemployed deserving persons to the best of its ability, it was most undesirable that it should be thought that there was any intention of dumping. For that reason it had been considered advisable to make the scheme entirely independent of the Emigration Department.
The report continues as follows: -
Referring to paragraph II. of the scheme which dealt with the question of sending to Australia and South America two gentlemen to study local conditions and make some preparation, Dr. Mifsud said that the directors of the Orient and Royal Mail Lines had offered to the Government first-class complimentary return passages to Australia and South America for the two gentlemen deputed to proceed to those countries. That would mean a clear saving to the Government of well over £300.
It would appear from that official publication that the Maltese Government is assisting its unemployed people to come to Australia, and that there are two gentlemen who propose to visit this country to study local conditions. Has the Government any information to convey to honorable senators in relation to that scheme? Have representatives of the Government yet arrived in Australia ; and, if they have, have they, been in touch with the administration here ? It cannot be denied that Maltese are arriving in Australia, and that many of them have found employment. It seems strange that Australians, who are competent and anxious to work in the land of their birth, are not able to obtain employment whilst new arrivals, who were unemployed when they left their own country, are not long in Australia before permanent employment is found for them, despite their inability to speak the English language. I have no animus against any human being, no matter where he may have been born; neither has any other Labour “ representative. We are sent to this Parliament to represent the
Australian people. We are bound to do the utmost that lies in our power to advance the welfare of Australia and further the interests of the working class, which comprises the majority of the total population. I shall await with interest the reply, of the Minister.
– I invite the attention of honorable senators to the peculiar manner in which the Repatriation Act and the Oldage Pensions Act are being administered by the officials of those departments. Some time ago the son of a widowed mother enlisted and made the supreme sacrifice at the front. At that time the widowed mother was not aware that any payment was due to her from the Repatriation Department. She was in receipt of an old-age pension. Subsequently the Repatriation Department informed her that certain payments were due to her on account of the death of her son. For a period of eight years they paid her a pension computed on the assumption that the son was a private at the time of his death, whereas he was a corporal, and she was entitled to receive a higher allowance. At the expiration of that eight years the department informed her of the correct position, and placed to her credit in the bank a sum of about £120. It cannot be said that she had saved that amount. She had not even placed it in the bank. In accordance with his usual custom, the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions issued a circular, inviting pensioners to set out their financial position. This woman, having received a copy of the circular, carefully set down full particulars of her income, and included the sum which had wrongfully been retained by the Repatriation Department, but subsequently placed to her credit. On receipt of that information the department decided to reduce the amount of her old-age pension. That would have been a wrong action even if the woman had saved the money from her slender income, although it might have been perfectly legal; she did not save it, yet her pension was reduced. The amount of which she ‘has been deprived should be paid to her by one of the departments, or both of them, together with interest for the term for which it was withheld. A Government which pays the Chairman of the Develop- ment and Migration Commission £5,000 a year for meandering round the country and inspecting tanks for rolling down scrub should not treat in this contemptible manner a woman who lost her son at the war. The Commonwealth’s liability in respect of old-age pensions is about £8,000,000 per annum, and for war pensions a similar sum.
– War pensions are increasing every year.
– That is inevitable, because as time goes on the injuries received in the war, especially in the case of men who were gassed, will more and more be revealed.
– The Government recognizes that.
– For some years the amount of war pensions must increase; but that is no reason why this woman should be robbed of £11 or £12. From the point of. view of the department the sum is not large, but to the widowed mother it means a good deal. I understand that this woman was unaware of her right to a pension until so informed by the department. Probably thousands of other widows in Australia were, and still may be, in a similar position. I am not concerned which department pays her the money, so long as it is paid.
– Has the honorable senator made representations in this matter to the Minister for Repatriation ?
– I am not sure about that; if I have done so, I have received no reply from the Minister. I made representations to the Deputy Commissioner of Old-age Pensions in New South Wales, but without result. I trust that the Minister will look into this matter.
– I shall see what can be done.
-I shall supply the Minister with the particulars to enable him to do so.
Some time ago a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the question of national insurance. Various reports have been presented by that commission, and I understand that the Government intends to bring forward legislation to give effect to some of its recommendations. Whether it is intended to introduce one comprehensive bill, I do not know, but something should be done without delay to give relief to those who are not qualified, on account of age, to receive an old age pension, and also to those who, because hot permanently incapacitated, are ineligible to receive an invalid pension. At present, unless a person is totally and permanently incapacitated, he cannot get an invalid penson. I do not blame the officers who are administering the act; I blame the Government for not acting upon the report of the Commission on National Insurance, and bringing in a bill to give the relief sought. Thousands of people are suffering keenly because, under the pro visions of the Invalid and Old Age Pensions Act, those who are temporarily incapacitated cannot obtain financial assistance. A bill of the , kind would meet with almost unanimous approval.
Another aspect of this question is the proposal to make provision for those who are unemployed. It would be a new departure for the Commonwealth. Some people might fear that it would encourage malingerers - that men would receive payment to which they were not properly entitled ; but when we consider the matter impartially we find a very peculiar situation. A substantial proportion of the people of Australia are employed by the Federal or State Governments, municipalities, semi-public bodies, and large firms. They receive their wages regularly, are paid for holidays, and have other concessions. Contrasted with these, are men who receive intermittent wages, for instance men in the building trade. They render a service to the community quite equal and, in the opinion of some people, even superior to that which is rendered by many of those who are in permanent positions, but they lose employment frequently through slackness of trade, short supplies of material, inclemency of the weather, or strikes in other branches of trade. When they lose their work their remuneration ceases, but the home expenses continue just the same, and in fact are sometimes even greater than when they are working. In one family two boys may be employed in the service of the Government, and two may be working for private employers. The wages of the boys employed by the Government go on continuously, but the wages of those employed by private enterprise are so frequently interrupted that their average daily earnings for the year are very much less than their daily earning capacity. The time has arrived when the Commonwealth should recognize that those who are able and willing to work if they cannot get employment privately are just as much entitled to payment as those employed by the Government. The Royal Commission on National Insurance examined legislation in other countries, which appears to be working fairly well. The time is opportune for bringing in a bill to cover unemployment in Australia. The Government could introduce the measure in the Senate, and thus give honorable senators a chance to deal with it in a competent way instead of compelling them to discuss it hurriedly after it has been worn threadbare by weeks of discussion in another place: The Royal Commission on National Insurance has done better work than any commission ever appointed in the Commonwealth, and I ask the Government to bring in measures at the earliest possible moment to provide for temporary invalidity and involuntary unemployment.
[10.19]. - A great deal of undue publicity has been given to the migration of aliens to Australia, a subject which has been referred to by Senator Needham. It is true that in recent years alien migration has increased, but even at the present rate it will take years to affect the proportion of Britishers in Australia, which to-day stands at 98 per cent. Further statistics show that 98 per cent. of the children born in Australia are of British parentage. Our racial purity is certainly not being affected by alien migration. Senator Findley referred to the influx of Maltese. The honorable senator must be aware that the Maltese are as much British citizens as we are, but I agree with him that they should not be admitted in such numbers as to render it probable that they will become a burden upon the State. An arrangement has been made, however, that not more than twenty Maltese may enter any principal port of a State in any one month, and that will limit the number of these people to be admitted into the country. Moreover, the arrivals must have relatives or friends in the country who will be responsible for their welfare, or must possess sufficient landing money to prevent their becoming a charge upon the State. Nominated migration is controlled by the State Governments. The Commonwealth does not bring into the country any migrants under the nomination system unless with the approval of the State authorities.
-Have the Commonwealth and Maltese Governments entered into a migration agreement?
– I cannot say that there is any agreement other than that, in the interests of the Maltese themselves, the number of arrivals from Malta is restricted to twenty at each State principal port monthly. I know nothing of the representatives to whom the honorable senator referred earlier this evening.
The Development and Migration Commission has done a considerable amount of work. It has examined schemes submitted by the. States and estimated to cost over £11,000,000, and has approved of works which will cost £4,000,000.I ask the honorable senator to withhold judgment of the commission until he sees its report, which will be available within a few days. Honorable gentlemen opposite should approve of this commission because its duty is to recommend schemes which will provide employment before migrants are brought into the country. Surely it is necessary that we should set about the peopling of the vast spaces of this continent. The idea of the Government in constituting the commission was that development and the provision of employment should precede immigration. That is a policy with which every honorable senator will agree.
– The commission is not devising schemes.
– The honorable senator questioned whether the commission had been responsible for bringing one migrant to the country. Judging by his utterances, I should think he would approve of that state of affairs if it were true. He objects to this means of developing the country and to the influx of migrants, and in the next breath complains of the incapacity of the commission to introduce a sufficient number of new people.
– The commission was to stimulate primary production and start new industries.
– The object of the commission is to stimulate any production that will provide work for an increased population.
– Is it not part of the commission’s duty to induce migrants to come here?
– Of course, but it must provide schemes that will absorb migrants in employment when they arrive.
– The States provide the schemes.
– For how many migrants is the commission responsible?
– 1 cannot say. It has certainly investigated many developmental schemes submitted by the States, and has recommended several of them.
Senator Grant complained that a soldier’s widowed mother who had acquired a sum of £120 from the Repatriation Department had suffered a reduction of her old-age pension.. Such reduction is in accordance withthe law, which provides that any pensioner who possesses capital in excess of £50 shall suffer a reduction of pension at the rate of £1 for every £10 of such excess.
– The money was wrongfully withheld by the Repatriation Department in the first instance.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOWThe honorable senator’s complaint should be directed against that department. The Pensions Commissioner cannot he blamed for administering the law. If the honorable senator will draw the attention of the Minister for Repatriation to this case it will doubtless be investigated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW ( Queensland - Minister for Defence) [10.29].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Provision is made in thebill for an appropriation of £4,069,925 to cover the expenditure from revenue on Commonwealth services for two months pending the passing of the Appropriation Act for the year 1927-28. The amount to he appropriated by the bill may be summarized as follows : - For Departments and Services other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth, £1,486,500 ; for Business Undertakings, £1,822,720; for Territories of the Commonwealth, £60,705; for Refunds of Revenue, £200,000; for Advance to Treasurer, £500,000; total, £4,069,935. Although this bill is based on the Estimates of expenditure for the financial year 1927-28 ; no new services have been included pending the passing of the Appropriation Act. Provision is made to cover the pay day which falls on 2nd December. The total amount provided in the Estimates for 1927-28 to meet the ordinary services of departments is £20,202,698. The sum provided for these services is £3,369,925, which is less than one-sixth of the total Estimates referred to above. The total amounts provided under Supply Bills Nos. 1 and 2 for these services is £8,221,420, which is also less than fivetwelfths of the total estimated expenditure for 1927-28. In addition to the amount of £3,369,925 referred to above, provision is made for Refunds of Revenue -£200,000, and Advance to the Treasurer - £500,000. Honorable senators will remember that it is necessary to provide this advance to the Treasurer to meet unforeseen requirements, and also to continue works in progress at the 30th June last, which will subsequently be covered by appropriations for additions, new works and buildings for 1927-28. It is proposed to place these appropriations for works before the Senate at an early date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Acoustic Properties of the Senate Chamber.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
. -When speaking this afternoon I found it most difficult to hear the interjections of honorable senators opposite. I do not know whether it was due to the acoustic properties of the Chamber or to a possible defect in my hearing. So far as I am concerned - and I think I can speak for other honorable senators on this side of the Chamber - I find it most difficult to follow the speeches from the Ministerial bench. The Government ought to recognise this fact, and institute inquiries to see if the acoustic properties of the building can be improved.
– No difficulty will be experienced if honorable senators do not speak too loudly.
– That may be so; but I found it almost impossible to hear honorable senators opposite. I direct the attention of the Senate to this important * fact, in the hope that the Government will see if an improvement cannot be effected, so that we shall be able to correctly hear what is said.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [10.36]. - I agree with what Senator Grant has said. I do not know whether the fault is due to the fact that the building is new to us, or to defective acoustic properties; but it seems to be more difficult to hear in this Chamber than it was in the building we recently vacated in Melbourne. Similar complaints have also been made concerning another place, where, I believe, it is even more difficult to bear what is said. I shall see if something can be done to effect an improvement.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - For the information of the Senate, I may say that this matter has already been raised in another place, and that Mr. Speaker and I are taking the necessary steps to see if an improvement can be effected. The cause of the echo will be ascertained, and an attempt made to correct any defect in the acoustic properties of the Chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 October 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19271005_senate_10_116/>.