10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President ‘ (Senator theHon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether he has yet received the reply to the question I asked about ‘a fortnight ago, relating to the profits of the beam wireless service?
– I regret that the information is not yet available.
– Can the Minister give me any reason why the information has not yet been furnished to him?
– I can only presume that the information is not available in the department of the PostmasterGeneral, and has to be sought for elsewhere.
– In view of the time that has elapsed since I first asked for the information relating to the profits of the beam wireless service, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral ask the honorable gentleman to communicate with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd. and see if he cannot secure a reply to my question ?
– As the PostmasterGeneral has already been informed of the nature of the honorable senator’s question, and as there is no reason for doubting that steps have been taken to obtain the information required as early as possible, I see no need for making the further request to the Postmaster-General suggested by the honorable senator.
Bill presented by Senator Gardiner and read a first time.
– I should like to know if the Leader of the Senate has yet obtained the information for which I have asked in connexion with the Development and Migration Commission?
– Is the Leader of the Senate yet supplied with an answer to the question I asked some time ago relating to the expenditure of the Development and Migration Commission!
– No. I may inform honorable senators that, as soon as the answers are forwarded to me, I shall let them know.
– In view of the many statements that have been made with regard to the amount of unemployment in Australia, I should like to ask the Leader of the Senate if his attention has been directed to a statement published in the Sydney press, and reported to have been made by Mr, Farrar, Minister for Labour and Industry, in New South Wales. . According to this statement, Mr. Farrar is convinced that many people have discovered that they can live comfortably without working, because they are getting food relief and child endowment from the Government ; that, in fact, they are imposing on charitable institutions and the Government. Mr. Farrar has also shown that during the week before last, out of 2,250 men called for by the Labour Bureau, only 145 men responded, and of these 56 refused the work offered. In these circumstances, I should like to know if the right honorable gentleman will have inquiries made so that the public may know what is the actual extent of the bona fide unemployment in Australia ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The honorable senator has drawn my attention to the statement made by Mr. Farrar. In regard to the question of unemployment, two inquiries have already been made - one by the Royal Commission -on National Insurance and the other by the Development and Migration Commission. Both bodies have drawn attention to the unsatisfactory nature of the data upon which our unemployment statistics are founded. The Government is giving consideration to the question of extending the Statistical Bureau, with a view to getting more complete and more accurate data as to the extent of unemployment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will take the necessary action to place Tasmania in the same position as the other States in regard to the establishment of a sugar depot in the capital or some other city in Tasmania?
– This matter rests with the Queensland Sugar Board, and that bodyis not prepared to establish a sugar depot in Tasmania. It has, however, arranged that Tasmanian customers, at the beginning of each summer, could order a reserve of, say, four to six weeks’ requirements to go into their stores, and then continue ordering each week in accordance with their current requirements; payment to be made only on the quantity of the reserve stocks actually used each week; the current weekly orders to be paid for in the usual manner.
Representation of Citizens
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I refer the honorable senator to a statement made by the Prime Minister in another place on the 30th August, indicating that it is proposed to take action in this direction during the present session of Parliament.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What was the value of munitions imported during the years 1926-27 and 1927-28?
The information will be obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-‘
Will the Minister state the amount of bounty paid to each industry in the Commonwealth for the year 1927-28?
– The information sought is as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies are: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The replies are -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– I have not seen the statement referred to.
Call of the Senate - Suspension of Standing Order.
Motions (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That Standing Order -No. 283 be suspended so as to enable a call of the Senate to be made, without the usual twenty-one days’ notice, in connexion with the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Bill 1928.
That there be a call of the Senate on Friday, the 14th day of September, 1928, at 11.30 o’clock a.m., for the purpose of considering the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Bill 1928.
Debate resumed from 5th September (vide page 6374) on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the papers be printed.
– I wish to make a few remarks relating more particularly to what is not in the budget rather than to that which it actually contains. The criticism of a budget is a very difficult task for one who is inexperienced in finance or who is not fully acquainted with the financial activities of the Commonwealth. I appreciate the efforts of Senator Thomas to induce the Government to introduce a system of cheap wireless communications. We have to realize that our environment is changing, and that if we are to progress we must take advantage of the development in wireless telegraphy and other scientific discoveries. The telegraph system which has been in operation for many years has been of wonderful service to the community, but there appears every reason to believe that the adoption of a system of cheap wireless communications would be of inestimable benefit to the whole community. Senator Thomas is to be congratulated upon his effort to induce the Government to establish such a system, and I trust that it will not be long before the rates are reduced in the direction he suggests.
The construction of the north-south railway has been agitating the minds of the people of South Australia for a considerable time. Many of them are still wondering whether the promise given by the Commonwealth Government concerning the construction of that line will be honoured. From what has appeared in certain newspapers there seems to be a strong desire on the part of some persons to take the line into Queensland. “ He that entereth not by the door into the sheep-fold but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”
– Queensland does not want South Australia’s line, but her own.
– The honorable senator and others from Queensland want the north-south line to be diverted from South Australia to Queensland. I had a part in the handing over of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, and have no reason to be ashamed of my action; but I want the promise contained in the agreement to be honored to the letter. The line must be constructed from north to south. Queensland is the most richly endowed of -the States; but it does not necessarily follow that the north-south line should be diverted from the route agreed upon in order to serve that State. The agreement for the transfer of the Northern Territory was signed by the late Honorable Thomas Price on behalf of South Australia, and by the late Honorable Alfred Deakin on behalf of the Commonwealth - men whose honesty and integrity no one will question. One of the members of the North Australian Commission, Mr. Hobler, who, I understand, is a Queenslander, has urged that the northsouth line should pass through the western district of Queensland. I do not blame Mr. Hobler for advocating the interests of Queensland generally; but he should not endeavour to influence any one to break a solemn promise. I hope that the Government will . honour its agreement with South Australia in this connexion.
Some time ago the duty on galvanized iron pipes was increased, with the result that the pastoralists of Australia were adversely affected. In order to make it unnecessary for sheep to travel eight or nine miles to obtain water, many pastoralists have laid down lines of pipes - some of them six or eight miles in length - to convey water for their stock. Others would follow their example, but the high price of pipes since the imposition of the increased duty has prevented them from doing so. All honorable senators recognize the value of our pastoral industries; and while the squatter is at times envied because of his wealth, we must remember that to all of us is given the opportunity to engage in pastoral pursuits.
– They are not all making large incomes.
– That is true. Even if they were, I should not complain. Wool and wheat are our two great staple products. I should like to see the duty on galvanized iron pipes reduced.
– There is not a ghost of a chance of that being done.
– I do not want a ghost of a chance; I want a reality. I ask the right honorable the Leader of the Senate, who knows Australia from one end to the other and is acquainted with the difficulties encountered by these men in the outback regions, who at times are wealthy and at other times are poor, to give this matter his serious consideration. It is cruel to expect dumb animals to travel long distances to obtain water when we have it in our power to render it unnecessary.
A good deal has been said during this debate regarding the financial agreement with the States. Now that it has been signed by all the States we have no option but to endorse it. At the same time, I direct the attention of the Government to the unfortunate position of South Australia. Unemployment is rampant there, and nothing but an excellent season can rectify matters. A 50,000,000 bushel wheat harvest is anticipated, but of course that is merely supposition. Much depends upon the rainfall during the next few weeks. I hope that the Development and Migration Committee, which is investigating the position of South Australia, will recommend to the Commonwealth Government that additional financial assistance be granted to that State. I did not vote for federation, as I did not believe in it, but now that it is established I realize that it is my duty to co-operate and endeavour to make it a success. That is why I urge the Government to recognize its responsibilities to the States.
I listened yesterday to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) condemning the Government. The honorable senator would not admit that the Government possessed one good quality, and characterized it as the worst that he could conceive. I cannot, as a result of my observation of the activities of this Government, endorse the opinion of Senator Needham. Long before I entered this chamber I believed that Australia had in office a sound constitutional Government, one that proved its worth during the dark days of financial stress that followed the war. After all, a government is akin to a gypsy’s tent, which is supported by long ropes and weak stakes, and it does not take much to blow it down. The man who is out wants to get into office, but he is not prepared to explain how he would better conduct the business of the country. In thinking of the Leader of the Opposition, I am reminded of a wheel barrow in one’s back yard. It is a very handy contrivance if controlled, but otherwise is of little use. I gathered from the arguments of Senator Needham that if he were in office he would need a lot of control.
What a howl went up from honorable senators opposite and their supporters when this Government sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
– The ships were not sold; they were simply thrown away.
– -If I have an old coat that is of no further use to me, I discard it, and do not care if I receive no compensation for it. In my opinion those ships were of no further use after the expiration of the war.
– They cost the taxpayers of Australia over £15,000,000.
– That is so, and in addition they had become the plaything of a certain class of individuals, who, through their medium, were holding up the progress of Australia.
– Who provoked these men?
– The least said about that the better. One could paint a very extraordinary picture of the action of those men when the Government owned these ships. The unfortunate producer was compelled to stand by and see his produce rot, when it should have been en route to the various markets of the world. This Government proved its wisdom and demonstrated its backbone when it sold those ships to the highest bidder. Thank God they have gone.
– The Government did as its master, the shipping combine, dictated.
– Does the honorable senator recollect the formidable combine that was controlling and holding up those ships? Could one conceive a more dangerous body of men, who were always eager to engender ill-will and anger?
– Who was behind them?
– The devil and his crew.
– Yes, the shipping combine.
– The wise action of the Government in selling the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers evoked world-wide admiration. It also proved its worth when it introduced the bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Employer and employee had lost confidence one with the other and the problem was how to restore that confidence. With broad vision, and high ideals, the Commonwealth Government initiated that amending bill, which was strongly in favour of the interests of the workers of this country. I have been associated with the industrial movement in Australia all my life, ever since its inception here, and I left it only because I had an opinion of my own. 1 hold that the Commonwealth Government has been legislating in the best interests of the home life and for the general welfare of the workers. It has proved its good will towards the people by providing security for the rank and file of the trade unions. It is prepared to make the best out of the financial position without asking the people to pay more taxes. What better administration could we have in Australia than our present National Government? We have at our service the ‘brains of Australia. Since the federation was established we have had a series of brilliant men in charge of the administration of our affairs. Among others I could mention Sir Edmond Barton, Mr. Christopher Watson, Mr. Andrew Fisher, Mr. George Reid, Mr. Alfred Deakin and Mr. W. M. Hughes. To-day we are blessed by having as the Leader of the Government a man of high intellect with a brilliant analytical mind. I should like to see the day come about when parties will disappear and Parliament will consist of men who are at liberty to vote according to their individual opinions - men who are not chained like a lot of prisoners. I have never felt so free in my life as I do to-day.
– The honorable senator is chained.
– I am not chained. I belong to a party which stands for liberty, freedom and individuality.
– The honorable senator has to obey the dictates of his leaders.
– I follow no one to-day so long as I abide by the fundamental principles of the platform to which I give my adherence. Australia, with its vast, wealth and potentialities, ought to be able to make progress, but it is held back by a small minority, a few men full of political microbes. In a country like this Ave ought never to have unemployed.
– It is the capitalistic system which is at fault.
– What can we do if we abolish the capitalists ? Who would pay the wages, grow the wheat or breed the sheep?
– They are not capitalists.
– But the minority wants no one to work. It wants everybody to be the boss. I have read all the doctrines of the minority.
– And have advocated them many a time.
– No doubt I have advocated a lot of foolish things but as I get older I am undergoing a change. Revelations have shown me the insufficiency and the worthlessness of many of the doctrines to which I formerly gave my support.
– The honorable senator has joined the exodus.
– I am a believer in revelation and not revolution.
– Why does not the honorable senator go back to the Book of Genesis?
– I am not prepared to go back as far as that, but if the honorable senator denies it I can quote from Genesis what the Lord God said: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” If the Leader of the Opposition had set out to makea scurrilous attack on the Government he could not have done better than he did yesterday; but in the course of his attack he proved nothing; neither did he advance anything that he and his party would be prepared to do if returned to power. In Australia we cannot keep up our high standard of wages and improve our efficiency, unless we have greater production. The more a country produces the higher are the wages in that country. The less a country produces the more unemployment there is in it. Capital must always remain with us; and likewise, labour, but the tragedy of our social scheme of to-day is that the employer and employee cannot come together. They must come together to work for the common good of the country and so that we as a people may become more efficient. We are now suffering from inefficiency. We cannot raise our production unless we become more -efficient. Take the Mount Morgan mine. Would it not have been better if the workers had worked in co-operation with the employers to find a solution for the trouble at Mount Morgan and thus have enabled the wealth that still lies in that mine to be taken out of it? A reduced wage does not necessarily mean that there will be less in the home. If we are prepared to accept a lower wage and become more efficient we can produce more. Had that policy been adopted at Mount Morgan the mine would have been working to-day.
– What about the price of commodities ?
– The price of commodities would fall in ratio to the reduction in wages. What is the advantage of getting higher wages to-day? If a man gets an increase of 2s. per week, or1s. a day, the storekeeper immediately adds to the price of his commodities and the man is no better off. The working man must have a good living wage, a decent home and not a hovel, and the best conditions he can secure, and no section of workers ought to be better paid than’ miners. I was a miner for 40 years. I struggled underground away from the sunlight and fresh air at eighteen years of age, and was earning 15s. a week; I was a slave to my work. We have a Commonwealth to develop. We are responsible for its success or failure. We have mines at Broken Hill, but the wealth that is in them cannot be taken out, because the cost of production is too high. Wages are too high to enable a profit to be made. I was leading the miners at the Moonta. The mines there could have been worked for five years longer, if the men had been willing to accept the sliding scale of wage, but the men said they must have a standard wage although the industry could not pay it.
The position to-day in Australia is that there are a number of industries that cannot pay a standard wage. It is unreasonable to expect men 60 years of age to do as much as men 30 years of age can do. But under the present system all must receive the same wage. This Government, which is attempting to make the great Australian Commonwealth a progressive country, is not responsible for the present industrial position. The Leader of the Opposition may laugh and try to show that taxation has not been reduced as claimed by the Treasurer. Australia is the greatest country in the world, and we should not complain at the taxation now imposed when we consider the conditions we enjoy, and the honest effort that is being made to keep Australia a white man’s country. No people in the world are more independent than we are.
– Not oven the people of Russia!
– A few people have been thrown out of this country.
– And rightly so, too. Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden because he disregarded the command given unto him. There are a lot of fellows who, because of their disregard of the law, have been compelled to leave this country, and Australia has not lost by their departure. There is a certain type of man in Australia who should be deported.
– I suppose Tom Walsh will not be put out now.
– The honorable senator is, I suppose, prepared to say unkind things concerning that gentleman because he has seen the error of his political ways.
– The honorable senator and I have been put out.
– We have been kicked out of the Labour party. There was a time when I was not much better than Tom Walsh of old, and the people of Australia know it.
– The honorable senator is now in a Garden of Eden.
– I came out of the garden and am now in a city. It is unfair to attempt to ridicule Tom Walsh because he has changed his convictions.
– Are we in a Sunday School?
– I have been a member of the Church of God for 5S years, and I stand or fall by the word of God. The tragedy of this age is that the workers of this country do not know God. If they prayed as much as they swore we should not have any industrial trouble. Tom Walsh has as much right to change his opinions as any other man. Intelligent readers and thinkers must change their opinions as they grow in wisdom. The difficulty of to-day is that too many people want others to think for them. The average man can only think clearly for himself. If Mr. Walsh has seenthe error of his ways I shall be one of the first to give him a helping hand to become a bigger and better citizen.
– Does the honorable senator think he can convert Jock Garden ?
– I do not know much about him. I know that he was a parson in the Church of Christ, and it is a pity that he ever left the church.
Australia is a great producing country, and if we wish to maintain our present standards of living we. must put forth greater effort to bring about increased production. As intelligent citizens, we should ask ourselves what we should do. This is an age in which efficiency is imperative. Most men want to take more wealth out of the country than they put into it. What would happen to a man if he sought to adopt that policy in connexion with his banking account? I remember a conversation I had years ago with a mate of mine with whom I had a settlement every eight weeks. On every settling day he put £4 behind the lining of his hat, and I asked him what it was for. He replied, “ That is beer money.” How could a man with eight children afford to spend £4 every eight weeks on beer? There are very few men to-day with wives and families to support who can afford to waste their money in that or any other way. It is our duty to assist in building up this great Commonwealth, and in doing so to exercise all the intelligence and energy at our command.
. - I have been wondering how I should commence to address myself to the question that the budget papers be printed, in view of the fact that they have already been printed and are actually in circulation. I appreciate, however, the courtesy of the Leader of the Government in the Senate in submitting this motion which gives us an opportunity to speak on not only what is included in the budget papers, but also what is not. In the remarks I have to make, I shall devote my attention principally to matters that are not mentioned in those papers. I do not know that my observations will be few ; rather do I think they will be limited only by the time allowed me under the Standing Orders, because in making the last speech on important questions that I shall have the opportunity to make in the Senate for some time, I shall he disposed to dwell on several that are of outstanding interest. With the instinct of a party fighter, I feel a strong desire in joining in the debate, to attack this Government for its failure during the six years it has been in office, to place the Australian Commonwealth in the position it should rightly occupy. I am, however, wondering if it would be worth while to do so because all my predictions before the last general election were falsified, and the Government secured the support of the great body of the community. On the eve of the last election, I fiercely and savagely attacked this Government for the way in which it was attempting to break down one of the first principles of British law in this country by appealing to the people for the right to deport men from Australia without a trial by jury. I was convinced that the people of Australia would agree with me, but to my sorrow they did not. They returned the Government to power, but the High Court agreed with my view and in its judgment discredited this Government in its attempt to deport innocent citizens under laws specially devised by it for the purpose.- I was defeated at the election. The decision of the High Court had not been given when the result of the poll was declared, and in thanking the electors for the support they had given me, I said that perhaps even while I was speaking, the High Court was giving a decision supporting my contention that free citizens of this country should not be dragged away from their homes by a Government which appointed its own tribunal to try them with a view to their deportation. When I received the first edition of the afternoon paper, I found that my prediction had been verified. The court had decided as I said it would, and one journal was good enough to say that I must have been “in the know “. I was “ in the know “ so far as the rights and privileges and liberties of our people are concerned, and I still maintain that no other judgment could have been given by the High Court. I submitted at the last election that the attempt of the Bruce-Page Government to deport Australian citizens without trial by jury - to treat them as they might have been 600 or 700 years ago - was ultra vires of the Constitution. But my appeal to the people was unsuccessful. That, however, is a thing of the past, and I have taken my defeat, as I take all defeats, philosophically. I have, however, suffered a worse defeat since then. Notwithstanding that I have served my party loyally for very many years, the only use it now has for me is that of a doormat. I am not going to ventilate my personal troubles in the Senate, but I find it difficult to address myself to a question such as this which gives one the fullest scope for discussion, without bubbling and boiling with indignation at the thought that a private letter, written by me to a private citizen, was responsible for my being driven out of the Labour movement with which I had been associated for 37 years, and during the greater part of that time in public life. I shall, however, leave that to the electors.
What can I say that will be of advantage to the people of this country? If I cannot say anything that will be of benefit to them, I have no right to take up the time of the Senate. I would ask the Government, even at this late hour, to remove the restrictions that they have placed upon the trade of this country with the rest of the British Empire and the outside world, and to break down those trade barriers which, year after year, have been made higher and higher. What has been the result of these increasing barriers? Reduced trade, uncertainty, increased debts, and more unemployment. When will this Government recognize the disastrous trend of the policy it is following by restricting the trade of this country in the hope of benefiting secondary industries? I am not an enemy of our secondary industries. Ear from it. I am an Australian, and I want Australia to do everything that she can do as well and efficiently as other nations. But is the policy of high protection that we are following taking us in that direction ? Does the so-called protection really protect our secondary industries? I could show not only that it does not do all that its supporters claim for it, but that it actually does the reverse. A high tariff induces other countries to send their products to this country. If that was its only effect, I should not complain, for it would increase our trade, but a high tariff does more than that. It so increases the cost of the protected article that local manufacturers are able to set up in business and if one man or one industry can be protected the article produced is made so valuable that other nations send their goods here to obtain the high price obtainable. Who pays the tariff? It certainly is not paid by the foreign manufacturer; it is paid by the man here who buys the article or the commodity for his own use. There can be no escape from that reasoning.
I can, perhaps, best illustrate my point by referring to the sugar duties, and I shall do so by using figures supplied to me by an honorable senator now sitting on the Ministerial bench, in reply to questions 1 asked him when I was previously a member of the Senate. I am bringing this matter forward now in an endeavour to show that a high tariff does not protect Australian manufacturers, but that, on the contrary, it leads to further imports, and, what is most disastrous of all, makes the cost of production so high that our local manufacturers cannot pay the wages necessary and thus are unable to compete with manufacturers in other countries.
– And still they ask for higher duties.
– I could quote dozens of instances to the same effect, but shall confine my arguments to one item to show that a high tariff means more imports until the limit of the purchasing power of the people is reached. A high tariff means less consumption, because it reduces the purchasing power of the people. In 1921 I asked the following questions -
What was the amount of sugar imported into Australia during the years 1918, 1910, and 1920?
What amount of sugar was exported from Australia during the same periods?
I asked those questions because the influence of the Labour party had resulted in coloured labour being removed ‘from the Queensland sugar fields. At that time the sugar industry of Queensland was handicapped because employers of coloured labour had to pay excise duties whereas employers of white labour did not. Years passed, and a Labour Government in 1913 wiped out that impost. In 1915, when the country was at war, the sugar industry needed assistance. An agreement was entered into between the Queensland Government, the Commonwealth Government and the growers and refiners of sugar. That agreement pro- ‘ vided that the growers of sugar should be paid an additional £5 a ton for their sugar. It takes about 81/2 tons of cane to produce a ton of sugar. The agreement meant that sugar-growers were paid an extra £5 for every 81/2 tons of cane they produced. The conditions were so satisfactory that the people of Australia were able to obtain sugar for 3d. or 31/2d. per lb. retail. That agreement remained in force for three years, with the result that both the area placed under sugar and the production of sugar were increased. I do not overlook the fact that had the producers of -sugar been allowed to export their product they could have sold it for1s. a lb. My point at the moment is that while the agreement was in force the sugar industry flourished. At the end of the three years’ period the acreage under sugar cane was the greatest on record and, thanks to a good season, there was also a record production. In the public interest - I hope that my manner will never suggest a sneer - the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the then Premier of Queensland (Mr. Theodore), not satisfied with the splendid success of the agreement, wanted to benefit the industry still further, and therefore agreed to put an additional1/2d. per lb. on sugar. The result of the alteration was that whereas in 1918 we imported 128,729 cwt. of sugar the £5 a ton duty made sugar so valuable that during the next year Australia imported 1,966,736 cwt. of sugar, and in 1920 1,991,341 cwt.
– They were not allowed to bring in one ounce of sugar. There was an embargo on its importation. All the sugar imported was required by the Government.
– When Mr. Hughes and Mr. Theodore found that, instead of protecting the sugar industry, their action had resulted in a flood of imports, they met the situation by prohibiting the importation of sugar. That was done in order that the sugar interests in Australia should he able to get the price they wanted for their products. Honorable senators have only to see this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald to realize the effect of the embargo on the importation of sugar. Those who benefit from it are not the Queensland sugar growers, but the shareholders of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Shares in that company, of a nominal value of £20, are selling to-day for £60, because the Government has continued the agreement compelling the people of Australia to pay £4,500,000 a year more than they would pay for their sugar if there was no legislation prohibiting its importation.
I do not wish it to be thought that I have no interest in the sugar industry; I am as careful of that industry as of any other industry.
– That is not saying much.
– It would pay this country to grant to every man engaged in the sugar industry £750 a year for life rather than to continue under existing conditions. No industry in this country is worth such a price.
– What about the White Australia policy?
– If the White Australia policy means that Australia is not to trade with any nation whose people are not of the same colour as we are, then I say emphatically that I do not stand for that policy. I understand the White Australia policy to mean that we shall keep these shores inviolate against an influx of those races which cannot mingle with our own. I repudiate the suggestion that the White Australia policy means that we shall not trade with countries such as India, China, and Japan. No public man in Australia is prepared to stand on a public platform and urge that Australia should not trade with any nation other than those belonging to the white race. What did Mr. Bruce say at Moree when he was asked a question about the influx of Italians into this country? His reply is enough to cause one to shudder. He said that he could not stop the migration of Italians to this country, that Australia was already condemned in the eyes of the world because of its white Australia policy, and that even the Labour party of England was opposed to that policy. What a miserable attitude for the Prime Minister to adopt ! To think that people belonging to the great Italian nation, which has watched the infancy, childhood, youth and development of civilization, and has nursed the arts and sciences of civilization, are not fit to enter this country as our equals, is repugnant to me. The right honorable W. M. Hughes felt so strongly on this question that at a recent Nationalist conference in Sydney he saw fit to attack the Italian people in this country. Surely the mere fact of 8,000 Italians entering Australia in two years should not have affected the country’s progress with such a Government in office! A good deal is said concerning the hundreds of thousands of southern Europeans who are supposed to enter this country each year. If those who make those wild statements would only acquaint themselves with the official figures, they would find that during the last two years for which statistics are available, about 12,000 Italians came to this country, while over 3,000 of them left it during the same period.
Does that affect the industries that have been built up by protection in Australia. If it does, I urge that we wipe out the barriers of protection and allow our industries to grow naturally and strongly. Let the Australian manufacturers say “ We can compete with the world. We want no barriers to protect a superior race from an inferior race.” I shall contrast Mr. Bruce, an Australianborn Prime Minister with another true Australian who was Britishborn, to the great disadvantage of the former. Mr. Bruce said that he was afraid to do anything drastic against the Italians, as it might incur their enmity. Against that I cite the attitude of that grand Australian, Sir Henry Parkes, on the occasion of the influx of Chinese into Australia, in 1884. At that time Parkes was Premier of New South Wales, which had not, as Australia has to-day, a population of 6,000,000 people, which was not a nation whose success on the battlefield had proved its worth, but was only a small State of under 1,000,000 people. When threatened by Baron Knutsford, Secretary of State for the Colonies, by the Governor and the daily press, supported by the guns of Her Majesty’s ships of war, that, if he refused the Chinese a landing that landing would be enforced, Sir Henry Parkes manfully stated “ Not for Her Majesty’s ships of war; not for the Secretary of State for the Colonies, nor Her Majesty’s representative on the spot, will the Government be turned from its purpose !” And it was not. Compare that with Mr. Bruce’s cowardly, trembling answer that we have to be very careful because we might incur the enmity of the world. I join neither with Mr. W. M. Hughes nor with any section in condemning a race which stands as high in the social order as the Italians, but I tell the workers of Australia that we need a policy that will not throw people out of work when a few foreigners are imported. The protectionist policy of Australia has made employment so difficult that if a few thousand people come here from Great Britain or any other country our unfortunate workers are compelled to tramp the streets, unemployed.
Recently Mr. Scullin when speaking in Melbourne said that unemployment in Australia was now at a worse stage than it had ever previously been within his recollection. Mr. Fenton - and, by the way, had I been able to dictate who should be Leader of the Labour party I would have selected Mr. Fenton - when speaking in another place a couple of days ago, said that there were at least 100,000 unemployed in Australia. The last census disclosed that 159,000 men and women usually accustomed to work were out of work. Just realize what a tremendous failure our protectionist policy has been. If it will not afford employment to the community, why pay £40,000,000 a year to maintain it?
Some may answer that Great Britain under its freetrade policy suffers from stupendous unemployment. Undoubtedly Great Britain has its unemployed, but it does not pay £40,000,000 a year to maintain its policy of freetrade. Under that policy, and in competition with the ‘ world, Great Britain has established its industries and brought them to the highest pitch of efficiency. One has only to read the record of that country under protection to realize that its experience was one of the most pitiful in the annals of history. Starvation was rampant, and forced child labour of the most cruel kind universal. Adam Smith, in my opinion one of the greatest economists, lamented in 1770 that the shackles of protection were so firmly placed on the people of Great Britain that he feared they would never be removed. It was another 70 years before those shackles were removed, 70 tragic years of dreadful toil and unrequited labour, during which thousands were starving. I shall quote a number of questions and answers given before a select committee which was held into the matter in 1832, about thirteen years before the shackles of protection were finally struck from the people of Great Britain. The following is taken from the examination of a ‘Mr. Samuel Coulsen before a Parliamentary Committee in England in 1832. Coulsen had children in the mills -
If we continue the policy of protection in Australia our children’s children will suffer the same misery and starvation. Make no mistake about it. You cannot crush the people, you cannot destroy trade, you cannot destroy a nation and expect the workers ‘ at the same time to live under decent conditions. And we are now endeavouring to destroy a nation.
I shall quote from the remarks of a modern man of business on the effect of a protectionist tariff, a man who, in my opinion, is the greatest business man and manufacturer in modern times. I refer to Henry Ford. He said -
But it is a noteworthy fact that none of the really great businesses of this country - those who strive to their utmost to render service - have arisen because of the tariff or stand in the slightest need of its protection. Those businesses which claim that they need tariff protection will usually be found to bc buckward in method, producing poor stuff with ill-paid men ; and this is inevitable, because they have not had on them the pressure to do better, and instead of creating markets for their products among their own employees, they have been satisfied to sell to limited markets or to take advantage of the artificial tariff-created, high-priced market at home to sell at lower prices in foreign countries. One of the great steps which the United States of America might take would be to wipe out all tariffs on imports. That would be a real contribution to American industry.
The same man also said -
The tariff began in an effort to protect jobs of working-men and render the country selfdependent; it ended in the disgraceful spectacle of non-competitive trusts. From a fence to keep out harm the tariff became a stockade which kept out the benefits of fair competition.
I think Mr. Ford’s opinions worthy of consideration. Some one may-say, “ Look what a big concern his is. Tariffs cannot affect him.” But he carved his success from his own genius, and from a small beginning.
Does our tariff enable manufacturers to produce and send their products to the markets of the world on a competitive basis ? The following extract relating to sugar production in Australia is interesting on that point. It is taken from a statement made by Sir Sydney Henn, a member of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation, during his visit to Australia, and reads -
I found that last year, with a production amounting to 300,000 tons, the producers had been paid at the rate of £26 per ton for 300,000 tons consumed in this country, and at the rate of £11 10s. for the 200,000 tons which hud to bc exported.
I recognize that we are a great and a generous people. But, personally, I am a bit too selfish to let our own people buy sugar wholesale at £26 a ton and the foreigner buy it at £11 10s. a ton.
– Those prices are not correct.
– I am sorry that the Minister contradicts my figures, as it will force me to go to the trouble when I have the opportunity of producing the price at which the British Government purchased 3,000,000 tons of sugar from another country at a much lower figure. I do not wish to say anything offensive to the honorable senator, but he is really the Minister representing the sugar interests of Australia, and, naturally, is bound to contradict anything adverse to those interests. If my figures for the sale of that 200,000 tons of sugar are not correct, I ask the honorable senator to supply the correct figures. I have already asked him for figures in regard to the employment in the sugar industry, but have not yet received them. I particularly wanted them for this debate, but was forced to rely upon statistics which are recorded for 1921. Those figures indicate that 6,000 people were then employed in the sugar industry. It is interesting to recollect that certain New South Wales newspapers quoted the figure as 100,000 employed in the industry.
During the last three years this Government has made an attack on the working people of Australia through our food supplies. I cite specifically the items, butter, sugar, and fruit. Can any one deny that the Government has made the price of those three commodities so high that the worker, the poorest paid unit in our community, is compelled to regard them as luxuries, and deprive himself of their use. Butter, the greatest body-building food and substance we use, has had its price increased by what I call the curse of the Paterson scheme. There is a weed where I live which we call “ Paterson’s curse.” The Paterson scheme is to impose a levy on butter for the benefit of the dairying industry, and its effect is to make butter dear all the year round. If the Government could only realize it, we could develop in Australia double the market for sugar, butter and fruit by bringing the purchasing power of the people to such a mark that they could buy all they required of these commodities. To-day we have Queensland with its great production of sugar, and Tasmania with its great fruit industry. But why are the people of Tasmania compelled to pay such a high price for sugar? If there were no embargo on its importation and the people of Tasmania were free to buy their sugar requirements free of duty, I venture to say that double the amount of the fruit they produce could be sold in Australia. What home is there where a good housewife does not wish to make her own jam? But what home is there where to-day it will pay to make jam in large quantities? The trouble is that, for the sake of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Commonwealth Government has prohibited people from trading freely in sugar. Some people will say that all this leads to the argument that we must have cheap labour. But I stand by Henry Ford’s declaration that the way to bring prosperity to a country is to pay high wages and cheapen commodities. We increase the purchasing power of the people by cheapening the commodities they use and by paying them high wages. Yet here in Australia we have governments taking the bread and butter and fruit from the mouths of Australian children. I think we want something better than that.
My investigations at one time led me to inquire closely into the consumption of potatoes. If there is one Australian State supreme in the production of potatoes it is Tasmania. But I found this remarkable result, that twenty years after the founding of the Commonwealth, our consumption of potatoes was less than it was at the beginning of federation, although in the meantime the population had increased by 2,000,000. I know that protectionists can bring forward splendid arguments to explain this away; but the one explanation that occurs to me is that the purchasing power of the people of Australia has been reduced, and that potatoes are one of the commodities the consumption of which has had necessarily to be reduced. It is an old story that, whenever the purchasing power of the people is reduced, the first people compelled to cut down the consumption of commodities are the poor. I venture to say that, in building a nation, it is a statesmanlike action to see that the poorest child in the community is assured of sufficient sustenance so that it may grow to maturity physically fit. Henry Ford says that a strong, healthy man is a capitalist, who, if he uses his health and strength well, will soon become a boss, and, if he uses his position as a boss well, will soon become a boss of bosses or a leader of industry.
If we could make capitalists of all Australians: if, by giving them the essentials that they require, we could double the consumption of these commodities, the fruit-growers, the sugar-growers, and the butter-producers would benefit and the future development of Australia would be assured. But we are told that we cannot build up industry without a protectionist tariff. In 1870, the State of Victoria, which had been protectionist for five years, had a population about half as large again as New South Wales, which was freetrade. In those days Victoria did not have a scientific tariff, and when the years showed that what was regarded as a scientific tariff did not cure the evils that it was thought it would cure, the people of the State set out, just as we have done in the Commonwealth, to try to get a properly scientific tariff that would do so. But the simple fact is that every increase in tariff has led not only to an increased cost to the consumer, but also to a huge increase in unemployment. Every thoughtful man will admit that an increase in a tariff does exactly what the protectionist expects it to do - it increases the cost of production. The protectionist hopes that it will increase the price of the article sufficiently to enable the local manufacturer to compete against the foreigner, but the actual result is that it leads to an increased cost of production and to such a consequent decrease in the purchasing power of the community that the people leave off purchasing. When people leave off purchasing the employers leave off employing the men who have been making the goods that the people have been purchasing. That is the process which is going on year after year. On one occasion I asked a worldly wise friend of mine how he accounted for the manufacturers wanting a protectionist tariff that injured them more than anything else by preventing the growth of their industries. He explained that their case was parallel to that of the man who was duped by the confidence man who has a rich uncle in Fiji. He explained that some of the shrewdest men in every walk of life fall victims to the wiles of confidence mcn, and likewise these manufacturers, in the belief that the tariff would improve their position and enable them to compete with outsiders and sell their goods, had asked for increased protection.
I propose to give honorable senators some examples of the way in which the tariff has affected manufacturers in Australia. One man in a small way of business in the iron trade was anxious to import a shearing and punching machine, a recent wonderful German invention. He realized that the man who installed such a machine could do the work cheaper than any one else. He could land it from Switzerland at £200, but found that he had to pay 45 per cent, duty.
– Most of the machinery of that type comes in free or at a duty of 10 per cent.
– If the Honorary Minister will return to this manufacturer all the duty he paid above 10 per cent, he will be the most grateful man in Australia. In another case a circular saw landed at a cost of £180 had to pay duty at the rate of 45 per cent. It was a magnificent piece of machinery. It would be useless to talk about producing it in Australia. We could not do it. It was the very latest thing in circular saws.
– Why could it not he produced in Australia?
– First, because it is protected by patent rights, and secondly because no manufacturer in Australia would be stupid enough to set up a plant to produce a machine of which he could not sell more than ten a year. I am trying to point out that the biggest sufferer from our tariff is the manufacturer who is progressive. Is there any progressive secondary industry in Australia that is not anxious to replace its plant every ten years? The industry that does not do so is out of date. In every factory to-day we find that the old steam process is being replaced by electrical machinery, on which a duty of 45 per cent, has to be paid. That is how we are helping the manufacturers of Australia. I do not blame the Government, because the manufacturers are asking for these heavy duties. Henry Ford has told us that twelve years ago he installed machinery which he regarded as perfect but which to-day has all been scrapped.
Some will say “ But that is a big concern.” It may be a big concern to-day, but it grew from a small concern; it grew from the brain of a genius; it grew by the individual efforts of one man who has the courage to say now to the great protectionist country of the United States of America that the tariff has never done anything to help any industry. Henry Ford declares that he needs no tariff to protect him from outside labour, But here in Australia we have a set of men who declare that Australians need such protection. I am a lone voice crying in the wilderness that the Australian working man is the equal of any other working man in the world, that if he is given decent conditions he cannot be ground down to the low level of low-wage countries. Superior men and superior intellects will be needed to conquer Australians if we take from our workers the shackles that now prevent them from increasing production and developing industries. From whom do we want protection? From people who have never had the chances of development that we have had? From people who have never had the national and intellectual advantages that every man and woman in Australia enjoys to-day? From people who have free food and untaxed clothing?
– It is not that our workers are not superior to those to whom the honorable senator refers; the trouble is that the others work longer hours for very much smaller wages.
– I can only answer that by quoting again the experience of my hero, Henry Ford, who says that the way to get the best out of men is to pay them high wages and work them short hours. He works his men eight hours a day for five days a week. During the last fifteen years he has more than doubled the rate of wages paid to them. Commencing with a minimum of 2.40 dollars, he is now paying a minimum of 6 dollars a day. Success lies along the route of short hours and high wages.
– I believe in that, because it is piece-work. That is what we ought to have here - a system of payment by results.
– There is no piece-work in the Ford factories.
– Ford’s works are merely assembling shops.
– I agree that in a sense they are assembling shops. What is any manufacturing establishment but an assembling shop? The employees of the Ford Company go into the coal mines to win the coal, into the iron mines for the iron which is brought to the furnaces, and then, after it passes through different processes of manufacture, it is eventually assembled. Every article manufactured in the Ford works is produced under the control of the company. I am referring to the achievements of this company, because I want Labour to give up the old idea that we can make ourselves rich under a system of protection. The masters of industry should adopt the latest methods of manufacture. The manufacturers can become rich and the workers can also live well and under comfortable conditions if those in control of industry will produce by the most up-to-date methods. The installation of improved appliances, the working of short hours and hard work will give the best results. That is shown by the achievements of the Ford Company. Mr. Ford might have been a success under any conditions because a genius can do what other men cannot. He has, however, shown the way. Unionists, with the exception of a small number who endeavour to restrict output by adopting the go-slow policy, do their share. There are extremists amongst the unionists, just as there is still a tory section in the Nationalist party who would like us to go back to the’ old days when men worked for a mere pittance. We are living in a new age and we are thinking and acting in a different way.
Recently I read a pamphlet entitled Conditions of England under Protection, which contained some very interesting facts from which I would quote if time permitted. A committee under the chairmanship of the late Mr. Alfred Deakin, inquired into the conditions of labour in Melbourne factories in 3S84, when it was found that some females were working sixteen hours a day. This deplorable state of affairs prevailed after 25 years of protection in Victoria, but it is only fair to say that the conditions of labour which then prevailed in that State compared very favorably with those ruling in Great Britain where children were working eighteen and nineteen hours a day when Britain had a protective policy. I am not altogether blaming the employers for those harsh conditions, as many of the children engaged in weaving were working under the supervision of their parents on the piecework system in their own homes. The conditions imposed were even worse than those for which some harsh capitalistic employers were responsible. England, however, passed through that period and was eventually forced to adopt a different policy. Honorable senators will recall the incidents of starving farm labourers in England setting fire to the hay ricks, and when Sir Robert Peel changed the conditions which had existed for so many years by giving manufacturing industries of Great Britain an opportunity to prosper. We recall the great political struggle in England with which Cobden and John Bright were prominently associated. The Reform Bill gave an impetus to the new movement, trade restrictions were removed; and Britain blossomed forth into the greatest manufacturing nation in the world. About 1838, before the final crash came, and when Britain was prohibiting the importation of silk goods from France, a member of the House of Commons flourished a French silk kerchief in the chamber and said he had no doubt that every other member had one in his pocket. Great Britain soon afterwards removed the prohibition on the importation of French silk goods, and during the first year the new policy was in operation Britain sent £60,000 worth of silk to France. That is an historical fact, and from 1845 to 1914 the development of industrial Britain was such that in 1914 Britain was the master of the world. Financially strong, and industrially organized, Britain most substantially helped the other nation to win the greatest conflict the world has ever seen. If its protective restrictions had been continued from 1845 to 1914, we would not be standing here to-day as free subjects of a mighty Empire, but rather as helpless persons under the control of a dominant foreign power.
We must have up-to-date machinery in our industries, and if my voice could reach the manufacturers I would ask them to cut themselves free from something that gives them nothing. I have to thank Senator Thomas for some charming reading matter. He has reminded me of the fable in one of Macaulay’s essays of the Brahmin who proposed to sacrifice a sheep to his god. On his way to the place of sacrifice he met a man who, pointing to a dog, said, “ This is a sheep.” The Brahmin replied, ” Not at all. That is a dog - an unclean cur.” The man, however, repeated his assertion, and was supported by a third scoundrel, who also declared that the “unclean cur” was a sheep. The Brahmin, thus disregarding the testimony of his own eyes, took the unclean cur, believing it to be a sheep, and offered it as a sacrifice to his god, who punished him by inflicting upon him a dreadful disease. The protectionists have been telling the manufacturers of this country that protection is a sheep, so to speak, but it is an unclean cur, and the gods to whom we offer this sacrifice are infecting us with the dreadful disease of partial industrial paralysis, which results in men, women and children not getting even the food to which they are entitled.
I do not wish to continue too long in this strain, because honorable senators know very well the views I hold on protection. [Extension of time gr anted . ] It may be said that under a protectionist tariff the Government has been able to reduce the taxation on the income of the rich man, and to place the burden upon the worker. Of the £60,000,000 of revenue now collected, no less than £40,000,000 is paid by the toilers of this country. This is not a wild statement. Those who advocate wiping out customs duties have to face the fact that revenue has to come from some source. It gives me a certain amount of pleasure to endeavour to suggest a means of raising revenue. In the Senate this session. I am filling the position of the late Senator Grant who, if he were here, would have something to say on the subject upon which I now intend to speak. I shall follow the example he set for many years by showing how additional revenue could be raised if we dispensed with customs duties. I do not know whether, by means of a tax on unimproved land values, we could raise at the outset the whole £40,000,000 that we should require to replace the customs revenue, but there is this to be said for such a tax that the unimproved value of land is created by the presence and needs of the community. Some will say that we could not obtain sufficient revenue by a tax on the unimproved value of land, but I shall quote the enormous increase in unimproved land values in Sydney, which indicates the extent to which the unimproved value of land generally has increased. In Nev/ South Wales we have a Valuer-General. That officer does not value the land in the city of Sydney; that is done by the City Council’s Assessor. But he and his staff have assessed the unimproved value of land in one-half of the shires and municipalities of the State, excluding Sydney, and have shown that the unimproved value of land under the control of those municipalities and shires is £149,000,000. Realizing the value of land in the city of Sydney, I went to the Assessor’s office and asked him if he could supply me with figures for public use concerning land values there. It is interesting to note that for many years the City Council has been under the control of the Labour party. It was the Labour party that was responsible for the introduction of rating of unimproved land values, and if honorable senators wish to see the result they should inspect some of the buildings in Sydney which are now restricted to a height of 150 feet, because land owners found it cheaper to build up than to pay high taxes on large areas. The figures are -
In 1921 unimproved rateable land values were £35,887,412;
In1924 unimproved rateable land values were £44,663,151;
In 1927 unimproved rateable land values were £61,352,508.
In that small area bordered by the Glebe Municipality, Redfern and Paddington, the unimproved land values have increased during a period of six years, by £26,000,000. A very small tax on the whole of the unimproved land values of Australia would readily enable the Treasurer to balance the ledger, and to withstand the sudden loss of customs revenue which the removal of the high tariff would involve.
A friend said to me some time ago that it was unjust to tax unimproved values. He instanced the case of a man who had purchased a farm for £10 an acre unimproved value, and had only just paid for it when he was called upon to pay a tax on it. In that case, he said, the man who reaped the benefit was the first seller of the land. The way to meet such a situation is to tell the man who purchased the land that if he paid its unimproved value to the first owner we will not treat him as we should treat a man found with stolen property in his possession. A land-holder cannot be accused of having stolen his land ; but unfortunately, the community has permitted the land-holder not only to take the unimproved land values, but also, in some cases to farm them out. I know of a man who bought land in a Sydney suburb for £3 a foot. The laud had a frontage of 240 feet to two streets, but he paid for only one frontage. After he had held it for some years he leased one-eighth of it to another man for the erection of a factory, and received as rent £2 a week. Honorable senators may say that he was entitled to whatever profits he received, that they were a reward for his enterprise. Values of land are increasing so rapidly that the time has arrived for the Government to say that in cases where human effort has not increased its value, the Government will retain to itself the value created by the people generally. In the case of the man with a farm I do not suggest that the Government should confiscate the money he paid for its unearned value. Let us suppose that a man paid £10 an acre for his farm, and that the tax is 3d. an acre. I should tell him that he would be called upon to pay no further taxes until at the rate of 3d. an acre the £10 had been wiped out, and that thereafter he would be called upon to pay only a small amount as tax on the value added to his land by the industry of other people.
– “Would the honorable senator impose revenue duties?
– Certainly not ; revenue duties restrict trade. I believe in trade being free and unrestricted. What has been the result of the high duty on boots? If the whole of the boot factories in Australia worked full time they could more than supply Australia’s footwear requirements in a few months. At present they are forced to limit their output. So soon as the policy of protection shows people the way to make profits they will go after those profits, with the result that, before long, saturation point is reached, and production must either slacken or cease with the result that unemployment is created.
If we set ourselves to develop our primary industries, no other country in the world could compete with us. Canada, United States of America, and Scandinavia have not the genial climate that we have for the production of butter. In Australia, cows have not to be sheltered at night: all the year round they can graze in the open fields. Yet butter can be produced only with the aid of an artificial system known as the Paterson stabilization scheme. Surely the time that the Government has been playing with this “ unclean cur “ should be sufficient to convince the people that protection does not provide employment. Our wool and other primary products have kept this country going. High tariffs have killed the mining industry, and they are threatening our agricultural industry as well. I do not object to the payment of high wages. Labour is so entrenched in this country that men must be paid a fair wage. Australia is not like England, where the working man can be starved into subjection. Here we have a highspirited, well-informed and highlyorganized working class, to whom high wages must be paid or they will not buy the goods the sale of which makes high wages possible. Australians will not submit to the conditions which obtained in England 100 years ago, or in Melbourne 40 years ago. There are 50,000 fewer workers in our primary industries today than there were ten years ago, but the responsibility for that state of affairs does not rest with the Arbitration Act, or with the migration authorities, who have admitted into this country some of our kinsmen from Great Britain and a number of Italians.
– Work which previously was done by man is now being done by machinery.
– That our mines are not working to-day is not because they are worked out, but because it does not pay to work them. I do not want men to work for low wages. I believe in the highest wage possible - a wage which is truly effective. When I was an apprentice, ls. would buy 4 lb. of steak. That was a higher wage than the 2s. which now purchases only 2 lb. of steak. In those days ls. would purchase five loaves of bread ; to-day it takes 2s. to buy four loaves. Wages must be measured by their purchasing power.
There are those in the community who taunt us with the statement that all the efforts of Labour are futile. They are wrong. Labour faces its opponents squarely; it looks the employing class in the face, and demands for the workers a share of the profits of industry and a chance to enjoy the reasonable comforts of life. Labour may be kept back for a while, but eventually the tide will turn. The trade unionists cannot be driven out of the unions, and no one should attempt to do so. When the history of Australia is written, the work done by the trade unions will stand out prominently.
In another place a discussion has taken place during the last few days in connexion with old-age pensions. Some honorable members there have claimed that the Labour party was not responsible for the granting of such pensions. I have a clear recollection of the early struggles for old-age pensions by organized labour. A number of Labour members waited on the then Premier of New South Wales, the late Sir George Reid. and asked for legislation providing for old-age pensions and early closing. The Premier replied that his government had done more for the workers in four years than any previous government had done in twenty years. He was, however, prepared to grant the request if those who made it would, in return, agree to the imposition of 3d. per lb. on tea. The deputationists then approached the late Sir William Lyne, and told him that if he would grant old-age pensions and early closing they would assist him to throw the Reid Government out of office. Sir William Lyne accepted the offer, with the result that the Reid Government was defeated. Sir George Reid was indeed defeated on an issue closely connected with old-age pensions. A statesman who once held a seat in this Senate - I refer to the late John Cash Neild - had returned from Europe with a mass of information he had collected, at his own expense, in relation to old-age pensions. Sir George Reid valued his report so highly that, without consulting Parliament, he paid £500 for it. The Labour movement, determined to put into office a government willing to grant old-age pensions, supported a vote of censure on the Reid Government for spending that money without having first obtained parliamentary sanction. The motion was successful and the Reid Government was defeated. Soon afterwards a law providing for old-age pensions was placed on the statute-book of New South Wales. The credit for that legislation belongs, not to the National or Liberal party, but to organized Labour. The history of old-age pensions in the Federal sphere is somewhat similar. A government with a party of seventeen members was kept in office by 27 or 28 members of the Labour party until . old-age pensions became the law of the land. Among those Labour members were some whose names will long be remembered in this country. Two of them are present with us to-day in the persons of Senator Pearce and Senator Findley. Mr. Andrew Fisher was another of them. During the forthcoming election campaign I shall probably adopt as my slogan, “ Back to the ideals of Andrew Fisher and John McGowan.” When we get back to the ideals of the Labour party there will be hope for this country. Almost the last public utterance of Andrew Fisher in my presence was to the effect that he feared that the Labour movement had lost its soul. There are many to-day who share his fear. I urge the Government to give this country a chance to develop. Honorable senators probably remember well the promises of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to wipe out the sugar agreement when the opportunity arrived. But when the time came for him to do so, he bowed the knee to the sugar interests, and renewed the agreement. It will probably be renewed from time to time, notwithstanding that its renewal will mean the crippling of the jam and the fruit-canning industries.
The dried fruits industry of Australia is subsidized in order that other nations may be supplied with fruit cheaper than we can obtain it in Australia, and the Australian butter industry is subsidized by a tax upon producers so that Australians may eat the same butter at a higher cost than is paid for it by those in other countries. That is not the way to progress. It is simply monopoly striving to hold its head up and make the Australian people pay to the last penny for its pampered industries. If only the tariff barriers were taken away our industries would rapidly develop - as did the industries in Great Britain - into strong and powerful concerns able to resist the attacks of outside interests.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
[5.27]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill to provide for the more efficient working of the Bankruptcy Act 1924-1927. As honorable senators know, that act was brought into force on the 1st August of this year, and is now in operation. This bill does not affect the main principles of the principal act, but proposes to remedy a few slight defects in it.
Section 8 of the principal act provides that the Governor-General may declare that the act shall extend to any territory. It is probable, however, that this section would be construed as relating only to territories within the Commonwealth, and it is proposed to make it clear that the act may be extended to territories outside the Commonwealth.
Section 18 of the principal act provides that bankruptcy jurisdiction may be exercised by such State courts or courts of a territory as are specially authorized by the Governor-General by proclamation to exercise that jurisdiction. The power to issue such a proclamation implies a power to revoke, and it is quite possible that it may be necessary from time to time to revoke these proclamations in order to take away jurisdiction from one court and confer it on another. The bill provides that in such circumstances matters pending may be determined by the court originally authorized to exercise the jurisdiction or transferred to the court to which the jurisdiction has been transferred.
The bill also proposes to amend section 18 by providing that where bankruptcy jurisdiction is conferred on a State court, that jurisdiction may be exercised by any judge of a State court. The principal act provides that one or more judges may be appointed to exercise bankruptcy jurisdiction. The amendment will make the system more flexible, as more judges will be available to deal with bankruptcy matters. It is also probable that the proposed alteration of the system will be more convenient to the judges of thp State courts exercising this jurisdiction.
Section 91a of the principal act exempts from bankruptcy proceedings electric lines, meters, accumulators, fittings or appliances let on hire by or belonging to any local authority. It is proposed by the bill to extend this section to similar appliances and fixtures ‘ used in connexion with the supply of gas. Provision is also made for the protection of water pipes and meters.
The remaining clauses of the bill are purely drafting amendments.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
[5.30]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill relates to one matter only - a proposed new section in the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth to deal effectively with State debts. The Constitution has always contained a section authorizing the Commonwealth to take over State debts, and originally that section gave authority for taking over the debts existing at the establishment of federation. It was inserted because the founders of the Constitution believed that substantial sa.vings in interest could be secured by the Commonwealth arranging for the consolidation and conversion of the debts of the States.
In 1910 the electors approved a referendum for widening that authority and authorizing the taking over of all the State debts, including those incurred since federation. This extension of the Commonwealth power shows that the electors strongly favoured the idea of the Commonwealth taking over the State debts, but that power to take over State debts has lain dormant for 28 years because no acceptable scheme for dealing with the debts could be framed. The difficulty in the way of framing a suitable scheme has always been that the power contained in section 105 is incomplete, as the section merely authorizes the taking over of the debts. That step in itself confers no benefits. It must be accompanied by a sound debt redemption plan, and a scheme for the management of debt and future borrowings. These two things are essentials. Section 105 gives no authority for the establishment of a sinking fund for the redemption of State debts, neither does it provide any means by which debt and borrowing can be managed. These are the reasons why the long-standing desire for taking over the State debts has never been realized.
The position now is that because of the lack of adequate authority in the Constitution, there is no means by which any plan for dealing with State debts can be put into operation. The first thing to be considered by the people of Australia is whether it would be advantageous to mobilize the credit of Australia by securing cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States in the flotation of loans and the establishment of sound sinking funds. If the benefits of such a scheme are established, we can then consider the means by which it can be brought into operation. The Commonwealth and the States to-day have debts totalling over £1,000,000,000. It will be necessary foc them to borrow further for the development of Australia, and any action which will enhance the credit of Australia will thus result in substantial savings.
In the past the general plan has been for each State and the Commonwealth to act independently in the flotation of loans, the result being that they competed against one another for the available money, which undoubtedly led to the payment of higher rates of interest. There is definite experience to illustrate this. In the third quarter of 1923, the Commonwealth carried out a large war conversion operation in Australia at 5 per cent., at 98 - the effective rate of interest being £5 9s. 3d. per cent., subject to Commonwealth, but free of State income tax. Almost immediately afterwards, the States endeavoured to raise money in Australia, and soon began to compete against one another. Within four months one of the States paid 6 per cent, for a loan free of both Commonwealth and State income tax. Soon afterwards the voluntary Loan Council was formed. For a period adverse financial conditions prevented an improvement in the rate of interest, but by the middle of 1925 the rate fell to 51/2, and early in 1926 a further fall brought the rate down to 51/4 The Loan Council, of course, was not the only factor in these falls, but it is acknowledged by all financial authorities that it was a most important factor. The withdrawal of New South Wales from that council provides another illustration of the evils of competition between governments for loan money. In 1927, New South Wales increased the rate of interest in Australia from 51/4 to 51/2 per cent., and seriously prejudiced the £36,000,000 Commonwealth war loan by delaying our approach to the market. New South Wales, when outside the Loan Council, was unable to obtain in the oversea market terms nearly as good as those obtained by South Australia as a member of the Loan Council.
If we do not amend the Constitution to provide for the proper mobilization of our credit, the alternative is a return to open competition between State and State, and between the States and the Commonwealth. It is not enough to have a voluntary Loan Council from which any State or the Commonwealth can withdraw at any moment, and jeopardize the interests of the whole of Australia by paying unduly high rates of interest, and for these reasons it is almost universally agreed that we should have a comprehensive loan management and debt redemption p’an, which raises the question as to the method by which such a plan could be put. into operation. As I have already stated, it could not be made effectual under the Constitution as it stands to-day. There are three methods by which action could be taken: -
The third method is the only practicable one and is the one already approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth and all the States. The first method would be too rigid. It would be unworkable, and its provisions would swamp the Constitution. They could not be adapted in the least degree to meet changing conditions, except by referendum. It is not the purpose of a constitution to set out powers in full detail but rather to define in broad outline, leaving it to Parliament to enact laws covering the subject. The second method is most undesirable as it would involve interference in the financial powers of the States, and such a plan could not be contemplated for a moment.
The third plan is the one now proposed. It provides that the Commonwealth may enter into agreements with the States in regard to State debts and afterwards may make laws for carrying out such agreements. Under this plan the States are amply safeguarded, as the Commonwealth cannot act unless the States first agree. It is necessary to remember that the extended power now sought relates only to State debts,as the Commonwealth Parliament already has full power to deal with payments of Commonwealth revenue to the States. The referendum, therefore, does not directly deal with the financial agreement already entered into, except in so far as it gives Parliament power to validate that agreement and to make laws for carrying it into effect.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
[5.37]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill that usually accompanies the budget, and the customary practice is for both Houses to put it through almost simultaneously, because it provides the money for works in the Commonwealth, and as many of those works are in the early stages of development there is good reason why there should be no delay in putting the bill through. I do not press that action, but unless honorable senators consider that strong reason exists for adjourning the debate I ask that the bill be disposed of immediately. Its purpose is to provide out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £383,785 for additions, new works, buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1929. The amount which Parliament provided last year for similar services was £317,649, and the actual expenditure that year amounted to £229,626. The amount which Parliament is now asked to provide is, therefore, £66,136 more than the amount voted for 1927-28, and £154,159 more than the actual expenditure for that year.
The total of the bill is made up as follows : -
Under Part I., the principal items contained in the bill are -
The balance is made up of sundry items for various departments, mainly Trade and Customs and Health. Reference to the schedule will show that all the items are a repetition of those contained in the Appropriation Act for last year, with one exception, the erection of the Australian War Memorial at Canberra. With regard to Part III., Territories of the Commonwealth, the total amount contained in the bill, £139,750, is made up as follows: -
Ministers will be glad to furnish further information on any of the items when the bill reaches the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing Orders suspended and bill read a third time.
[5.45]. - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to extend the benefits conferred under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In the first place it is proposed to extend a concession to incapacitated ex-soldiers who are in receipt of war pensions by providing that in future these war pensions shall not constitute income for the purposes of a claim for an old-age pension by an incapacitated soldier or his wife. In the second place it is proposed to increase from 4s. to 5s. 6d. a week, ‘the amount of pension payable to pensioner inmates of benevolent asylums and hospitals.
With regard to the first proposal, honorable senators may remember that in 1917 the act was amended to provide that war pensions payable to dependants of deceased or incapacitated soldiers should be exempted from computation as income in dealing with claims for invalid or old-age pensions. This concession was, however, not extended to incapacitated soldiers themselves, who werein receipt of war pensions, and up to the present war pensions payable to ex-members of the forces have been treated as income. Hitherto this limitation has not affected the soldiers to any appreciable extent, because very few of them have yet attained the qualifying age for old-age pensions. The time is approaching, however, when old-age pension claims will be received from incapacitated soldiers, and it seems desirable, therefore, to remove the present apparent anomaly. The effect of the amendment will be that war pensions will not be treated as income in any case where a soldier or a soldier’s wife applies for an old-age pension. It is not proposed to extend this amendment to claims for invalid pensions. If a soldier is in receipt of a war pension, he is already being compensated for his war injury, and it is not necessary to provide for the payment of an invalid pension in respect of the same incapacity.
Coming to that portion of the bill dealing with the proposed increase of pensions to inmates of charitable institutions, honorable senators may be aware that under the original act, pensioners who become inmates of charitable institutious received no payment during the period of their stay in the institutions. In 1916 the law was amended to provide for payment of pensions of 2s. a week to pensioners who became permanent inmates of benevolent asylums. No provision was, however, made for payment to pensioners in hospitals. In 1923 the rate of these pensions was increased from 2s. to 3s. a week, and, at the same time, provision was made for the payment of 3s. a week to all inmates of charitable institutions, including hospitals, who would have been eligible for pensions if resident elsewhere. In 1925, as the result of legislation introduced by the present Government, this payment was increased to 4s. a week, at which rate payment is now being made. The present bill provides for a further increase in the rate of pensions to inmates of charitable institutions from 4s. to 5s. 6d. a week. In addition to increasing the rate of pension to inmates of ‘ charitable institutions, further consideration has been given to the payments to hospitals and benevolent asylums for the maintenance of pensioner inmates.
In the early days of pensions administration the Commonwealth agreed to make payments to charitable institutions. The actual rate of payment differed in the various States, but in 1912 a uniform rate of 7s. 6d. a week was adopted throughout the Commonwealth, and later in the same year this rate was increased to 8s. a week. In 1916 the rate was still further increased, when 10s. 6d. a week was paid, and this rate has been paid ever since. Under the present system, therefore, the Commonwealth pays only a total of 14s. 6d. a week in respect of pensioner inmates of institutions, although those persons, if resident outside, would, generally speaking, be receiving pensions of £1 a week. This anomaly is due to the fact that successive increases in the rate of pension have not been accompanied by corresponding increases in the rate of payment for maintenance. In 1916, when the rates of asylum pension and maintenance were fixed at 2s. and 10s. 6d. a week respectively, the maximum rate of ordinary pension was 12s. 6d. a week. Pensions have since been raised by successive amendments of the law to £1 a week, but, although the rate payable to pensioners in charitable institutions has been raised to 4s. a week, payment for maintenance has remained at 10s. 6d. a week. The matter has been discussed with the State Treasurers and others interested, and the Government has decided to increase the rate of payment made by the Commonwealth to the institutions for the maintenance of pensioner inmates from 10s. 6d. to 14s. 6d. a week. If this bill is passed, therefore, the total payments made by the Commonwealth in respect of pensioner inmates of institutions will amount to £1 a week, made up of 5s. 6d. a week paid to the pensioner for his own persona] use and 14s. 6d. a week paid to the institution for the pensioner’s maintenance. Thus the total liability of the Commonwealth in respect of pensioner inmates of charitable institutions will be equal to the maximum rate of pension payable to pensioners resident elsewhere, namely, £1 a week. The total cost of this concession is estimated at £56,000 per annum.
It will be noticed that it is proposed that the amendment of the law shall be brought into operation on a date to be proclaimed. This practice has generally been followed in connexion with amendments of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, the object being to enable the amendments to become operative as from a pensions pay-day, thus obviating the necessity for calculations over broken periods of a fortnight. The Treasurer has informed me that he desires to have an amendment inserted in committee to authorize payments to pensioners in institutions during the first four weeks. At present no payments are made during this period, but the amendment will enable some payment to be made so that pensioners may be in a position to buy tobacco or anything else they need during their first four weeks in an institution.
– I welcome this measure. It will fill a long-felt want. Time and again in the Senate I have advocated that income from war pensions should not be set off against old-age pensions. Men who are drawing war pensions earned them on the field of strife. Again, I have always contended that income from oldage pensions should not be a set-off against war pensions. It is a step forward that one part of this principle has now been recognized. The re-allocation of the amount payable to pensioners in institutions is also something that I have been advocating for a long time. I have frequently pointed out that the Treasury was retaining money which should not have been retained. The allocation of recent years has been 10s. 6d. to the institution and 4s. to the pensioner, the balance of the 20s. being retained by the Treasury. The institution in which the pensioner is resident has been unfairly handicapped by the small amount paid for his maintenance. There has been considerable comment by honorable senators and honorable members of another place on this phase of our pension system? and I am pleased to see that an alteration has now been made. It would, perhaps, have been better to allow a little more than 5s. 6d. per week to the pensioner, and a little less to the institution; but I welcome this measure, as the extra1s. 6d. a week will enable a pensioner to receive some small comforts which the institution does not provide. On the other hand the increased amount to be paid to the institutions will enable them to provide the inmates with a little more than is possible under the present rate. For these reasons I support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Debate resumed from 31st August (vide page 6257), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce - ‘
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The object of the bill is to extend the long arm of the law in the matter of the attachment of salaries of public officers. I understand that the Government was under the impression that the, present law was applicable to all public servants, including temporary officers; but it has since discovered that it applies only to permanent public servants. The garnishee system is not now, and operates in all avenues of employment. As every man should pay his legal debts, I do not offer any objection to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 31st August (vide page 6258), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is to amend the New Guinea Act 1920-1926. The main features of the bill are contained in proposed new sections 11a and 11b in clause 3. Proposed section 11a reads - 11a. - (1.) There shall be an Executive
Council for the Territory, to advise and assist the Administrator. . . (2.) The Executive Council shall consist of nine members who shall be appointed by the Governor-General and shall hold their places in the Council during his pleasure.
Proposed section 11b refers to the appointment of a Legislative Council, consisting of a similar membership, and appointed in a similar manner. I am glad to see that so much progress has been made under the mandate that the Government realizes the necessity of changing the form of administration from that of a sole administrator to a system whereby the administrator will be assisted in the direction provided in the bill. While I welcome that degree of progress, I am not enamoured of the system of appoint ment. A new system would probably result in a greater development of the territory. The right to nominate men to assist the Administrator in its government should not be confined to the Governor-General, but should be shared by the white residents of the territory. In the early stages of the mandate an elective system of government would probably not have been practicable, but that stage of development has passed. The white population has increased considerably during recent years - it now numbers nearly 2,000 adults - and the time is opportune for them to be given at least an instalment of local government. The white residents of the territory are not illiterate people, but men and women of good education, acquainted with various phases of governmental activities. If they had a voice in the Government of the territory in which they reside the task of the Administrator would be made easier. It might be said that an elective system of government is unwise in a mandated territory; but I cannot agree that there is any reason why a democratic system of government should not be put into operation there. I feel certain that a plebiscite of the white residents would indicate unmistakably their desire for somebetter form of government. These pioneers in an outpost of the Empire resent being forced to pay taxation while having no representation. On the 15th May, 1924, the late Senator Grant moved the following motion : -
That, in the opinion of the Senate it is desirable in the best interests of the progress of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, that immediate steps be taken by the Government to make provision for the election by the local adult residents of a committee of nine of their number, for the purpose of considering and advising the Administrator on all matters affecting the territory.
The right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) moved an amendment which, if carried, would have made the motion read -
That, in the opinion of the Senate it is desirable in the best interests of the progress of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea that when the numbers of the non-official population justify it, action be taken by the Government to make provision for an Advisory or Legislative Council, consisting of nominated or elected representatives for the purpose of considering and advising the Administrator on all matters affecting the territory.
That amendment is an indication of what was in the mind of Senator Pearce at that time. It is true that he did not say definitely that there should be an elective form of government in the territory ; he advocated either an elective or a nominative system when conditions justified it. Whether a population of some 2,000 white residents is sufficient to justify an elective system of government may be debatable, but, at least, that system could be given a trial. In committee I propose to test the opinion of honorable senators in this matter, because I feel that if the white residents were given some voice in the government of the territory its progress would be more rapid than has been the case under the system which has operated so far.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8. p.m.
Private business taking precedence after 8 p.m.,
Debate resumed from 17th November, 1927 (vide page 1,548), on motion by Senator Foll -
Wales and Queensland with the Barkly Tableland and other portions of Northern Australia.
– I rise to say a few words on this motion because I believe that it is of great importance that the problem which it raises should be tackled without delay. Every one will agree that we have reached a time in the history of this country when we should manifest extreme caution before beginning any large financial undertaking such as railway construction, and other works of national development, involving the expenditure of large sums of money. We should make quite sure that such schemes are economically sound and will make for the development of Australia in a way that will bring an immediate return one way or another. There are quite a large number of works in which the Commonwealth Government is at present interested, and we should ask ourselves seriously if they are in the category that I have mentioned. I instance the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. No one, in his wildest imagination, believes that that railway will give an economic return on the outlay for many years to come. I doubt very much whether it will be of any material benefit even to the State that has pressed for it so long and so strenuously - South Australia. It taps an area which at its best can never be more than the lightest stock carrying country, and our only hope of an adequate return for the money invested is that the line will develop the mineral resources of the territory that it traverses. Even that is extremely problematical.
We are also involved in very large expenditure on irrigation. Personally, I am very doubtful whether that is at present an economical proposition. We have only to regard the existing irrigation settlements of Australia to realize the tremendous difficulties that are experienced by the people pursuing agricultural activities in those areas. I believe that the real development of irrigable areas of Australia can take place economically and soundly only as our population grows.
But here is a proposition of an entirely different nature. I shall not concern myself to-night with the route that the line should take. Upon that there has been a great diversity of opinion. I am inclined to the belief that it should be from Bourke to Cunnamulla, thence north to Charleville, Blackall, Longreach, “Winton, and so north and west. That would link up the country in the best way, and do the greatest amount of good. But it is a matter for full inquiry by the investigating body, which will be charged with the responsibility of recommending to this Parliament the route to be followed. No one who has had any knowledge in the past, and particularly - recently, of the tremendous losses that have been sustained in the area through which this line would run can fail to realize that every season Australia is subjected to the loss of millions of pounds because of the climatic vagaries of that area. As a result its over-productivity is reduced very materially. It is a progressive loss that is, more or less, always with us. It will be admitted by those who have made any study of the climatic conditions of Australia that the area which this line would serve is always, in some place or another, more or less subject to drought conditions. The monsoonal influences upon which the area, is entirely dependent for its annual rainfall, come from quite a number of directions. The monsoon which gives abundant rain in one portion of the territory, might never affect other portions of it, and it is only when there is a combination of more than one monsoon working across Australia at one time that that great territory gets general rain. The consequence is that there is practically always a shortage of feed in one or another portion of the territory, which stretches pretty well from central New South Wales to the gulf country of North Queensland.
The primary object of this motion is to serve the Northern Territory. One feels so hopeless at times about that Territory as to wonder whether anything can effectively give it relief. Its tremendous distance from the centres of population and the extraordinary difficulties that are encountered when taking stock out of it, make it almost hopeless to conduct any industry there. Yet I do not think that a railway line in ‘the Territory at this moment would be of any benefit. What is needed is a means whereby stock could be taken from the Territory direct to the southern markets. It is our experience that the vast majority of our people for many years to come will be settled along the eastern littoral of Australia, stretching from Adelaide around the southern corner, and right up the eastern side. It is, therefore, clear that it is to that part of Australia that we must look in the future for a market for the whole of the cattle from the Northern Territory. It is equally clear that the great bulk of our population will be east of Adelaide, and that South Australia will be a comparatively small market. The great markets run from Melbourne around the southern corner of Australia, and north along our eastern littoral. For that reason we should devote our energies to making the market available by the shortest route. I am setting aside for the time being the development of the sheep industry in the Territory, although I believe that will be possible later, and am surveying the problem solely as a cattle proposition. We are rapidly approaching the time when the export of beef will be a more or less negligible factor. Our beef export trade is diminishing year by year, and that will continue as our population increases. The tendency will be to rush young stock from the Northern Territory to the southern pastures, and there fatten them. Therefore, it is of the greatest importance that a rapid route should be found, along which that stock will be brought to the southern markets. Owing to the uncertain climatic conditions of the Northern Territory, it is difficult to drive stock direct to the southern market, and at times they have to be taken by an extremely circuitous route. For instance, I know of an instance this year where stock had to be taken right up into the Gulf, then south out of the Northern Territory, and on to a line hundreds of miles out of their proper route. That condition of affairs has been going on for many years, and has always presented grave difficulties to stock raisers. We should, as soon as possible make available a railway route from the Queensland border abutting on the Northern Territory so that the progress of cattle to the southern market may be facilitated. This proposition which Senator Foll has, I think, with great wisdom, brought before the Senate, is, in my judgment, one of those which deserve the most serious consideration of the Government and Parliament; it is one of those means we have ready at our hand to improve very materially the condition of a great territory, and which, while doing great service to a vast area of pastoral country would, I believe, save the lives of millions of sheep in the course of years to come along the course of the line. I suppose that the average rainfall in the Winton district of Queensland during the last eighteen months has not been more than 5-J inches a year, and what has fallen has come in such dribs and drabs that it has afforded very little relief. The whole of the Winton district is, to all intents and purposes, denuded of stock. Some stockowners had the money and the temerity to shift their sheep in the early stages of the drought, and a glance at the map showing the route they had to take - from Winton to the coast, thence down to Brisbane and out to Warwick, and thence to the south-west districts of Queensland - clearly demonstrates that only a few men with big resources could undertake the task. The risks were enormous. The chances of losing a vast number of stock on a long trek of that kind are well known to stockmen, and it is a marvellous tribute to the manner in which the undertaking was handled by the people responsible and the Queensland railway officials that some succeeded in doing it. But to the great majority the expense was an impossible bar to their undertaking such a trek. A few stock-owners tried to save their sheep by feeding them on the stations. A great number of them lost their all in doing so.
The proposal put forward by Senator Foll is one of the few matters outstanding at the present time which Australia could well afford, even in the present stringent financial position, to seriously tackle. I believe it would repay the Commonwealth a thousandfold to have this railway built. It would increase the material wealth of the country. It would make possible, from time to time, the utilization of vast areas of pastoral country which now, owing to their inaccessibility to stock starving in other places, it is impossible to use. This motion apparently contemplates extending the railway into the Northern Territory, but I believe that the right policy to adopt in regard to the development of the Northern Territory at the present moment is to open a port at the Pellew Islands, at the mouth of the McArthur River. Comparatively little expenditure there would make a deepsea port available that would not require many facilities for many years to come; and, given a reasonable dry road - not a wet weather road, because no one can move about that country during the wet weather - and petrol supplies at the mouth of the McArthur, I believe the Barkly Tablelands could be opened up for sheer) more rapidly than in any other way.
I ask the Government to give this matter its most serious and earnest consideration and to lose no time in following the course of action which Senator Foll has suggested : that of getting the various States concerned and the Development and Migration Commission busy in obtaining a full report on the services which I believe this proposed railway would be capable of rendering. When that report is presented I believe this Parliament will not have the slightest difficulty in making up its mind that it would be a judicious undertaking even at the present juncture.
.- I do not wish to traverse the ground already covered by other honorable senators who, in the main, have supported my motion, but I should like to make some reply to the criticism offered by Sir Henry Barwell, when he was a member of the Senate, and I think one other honorable senator representing South Australia. I can assure those honorable gentlemen that I do not regard this as being in any way a competitive railway with the line which they are continually advocating, that running north and south between Oodnadatta and Darwin. The line I propose would have a reasonable chance of conferring some material benefit on Australia, whereas all the reports that have hitherto been obtained in regard to the Oodnadatta-Darwin line indicate that there is very little prospect of that railway being an asset to the Commonwealth. The reason for that is that the north-south telegraph line runs through very light stock country, and a railway following that route would not connect with the main cattle markets of Australia.
I am pleased to note that since I submitted my motion, a considerable time ago, the Federal Pastoral Advisory Committee, appointed by the Government for the purpose of investigating means whereby some of the appalling losses that occur in drought time may be avoided, has submitted a comprehensive report.
– Who were the members of that committee?
– The report was signed by Mr. N. W. Cater, Mr. Peter Tait, Mr. Ben Chaffey, Mr. K. N. Mall, and Mr. Anthony Brunskill, all well-known men in the pastoral industry who have firsthand knowledge of the country through which the railway I propose would pass. In the earlier part of their report, they speak of the difficulty experienced in removing starving stock in drought time in Queensland and New South Wales, and they ascribe much of the difficulty to the shortage of rolling stock. They report that many complaints were made to them that it was impossible for the existing railways to provide people with facilities to shift their stock, but their main recommendation is that a railway should be built somewhat on the lines of the route advocated by Senator Greene, a route which would run from a point near the end of the New South Wales railway system at Bourke, and run northwards through the north-west portion of New South Wales and along the western portion of Queensland, entering the Northern Territory in the neighbourhood of Camooweal. They suggest an alternative route running from Bourke through Hungerford, Thargomindah, Eromanga, and Boulia to Camooweal; but they prefer what they describe as the easterly route, beginning at Bourke and passing through Barringun to Cunnamulla, to form part of the scheme to link up the existing railways by connecting Charleville with Blackall. The reasons advanced by them for their recommendation of the easterly route are as follows : -
If a railway were built as suggested enabling stock to be removed to better class country, the cost of the line would probably be saved in one drought period. Some years ago it was my privilege to traverse the Barkly Tableland. The visit was paid in a normal year a few months after the monsoonal season had passed. As Senator Greene has pointed out, drought is practically unknown on these tablelands. Times out of number when the far western Queensland country has been in the grip of drought, the appearance of the Barkly Tableland has been that of a wheat field under favorable climatic conditions, but because of lack of transport facilities, starving stock could not be taken to the agistment country available for them there. The proposal I have made is not an original one.
– The line should have been built years ago.
– The construction of a line on the route I have suggested has been before the public of Australia for the last 40 or 50 years. Other parts have been served by railways, but the area in the west of Queensland has been sadly neglected. Prior to his departure this evening, Senator Guthrie told me that there were 70,000 merino sheep on the Avon Downs station when he was managingdirector of the company that owned that property. He also informed me that on one occasion the wool from that locality topped the London market, and that wethers. from Avon Downs station had brought the highest price in the Adelaide market. I mention that fact to show that those who have said that sheep will not thrive there have yet a good deal to learn concerning the possibilities of the Barkly Tableland. The country is not carrying sheep in any number at present owing to the absence of transport facilities. When Senator Guthrie had an interest in that territory, he informed me that the whole of the transport had to be conducted through Burke town, and that, in consequence, a vast tract of territory which is vitally important to Australia was not being developed.
Senator Gardiner said this afternoon that we are riding to prosperity on the back of the sheep. The wool industry is one of our greatest primary industries.
– I thought the sugar industry was the most important.
– I do not wish the honorable senator to think that I am suggesting that the sugar industry is not a great asset to Australia. It is a highly important industry, and deserves the support of every Australian. The latest statistics show that the wool producers of Australia are providing 40 per cent, of the taxation collected. The wool industry is one in which there is no overproduction, and there is not likely to be in the future. That being so, we should do everything possible to facilitate its development. The construction of a railway in the direction I have suggested would be one way of increasing our wool production, and thus assisting the general prosperity of Australia. A reference to statistics will show that, instead of our flocks increasing by millions during recent years, there has actually been a decrease owing to the ravages of drought at different periods. Senator Greene referred to the position in certain parts of Western Queensland. There are portions of Queensland which in normal years are eminently suitable for fattening stock, but on which there has not been a good fall of rain for four years. The serious climatic conditions ‘ which have prevailed have had a very serious effect upon many pastoralists, and have indirectly been responsible for a good deal of the unemployment that exists in Queensland.
– If the conditions are as bad as the honorable senator suggests, there would not be any traffic for a railway.
– Surely the honorable senator realizes that if a railway service were available, instead of stock being allowed to die during drought periods, it could be removed to the Barkly Tableland, where there is usually feed in abundance.
– How does the honorable senator suggest that the pastoralists could overcome the menace of wild dogs?
– If a railway were available, they would be able to obtain supplies of vermin-proof netting at much more reasonable prices than prevail at present. Moreover, the wild dog problem is not as serious on the Barkly Tableland as it is in other parts of Australia, as there is very little scrub to provide shelter for dogs. When I was in Camooweal a few years ago, station owners out west told me that it cost between £40 and £50 a ton to obtain netting from Cloncurry.
– This line would be the best to help the Northern Territory to make good.
– Yes, because it would tap that portion of the Territory which is awaiting development. It seems ridiculous to undertake the construction of a railway to develop a portion of the Northern Territory that is capable of only light stocking. If the Northern Territory is to be properly settled, the Government should concentrate its activities on that portion which shows the possibility of an immediate return, instead of spending millions of pounds in constructing a railway through comparatively poor country.
– To which railway is the honorable senator referring ?
– At present I am referring to the North-South line, which, in my opinion, will never pay the cost of axle grease.
– That is what was said about the east-west line.
– If the Leader of the Opposition were to visit the country north of Alice Springs he, too, would object to the construction of a direct north-south railway. I do not think that a railway over the route I have suggested could be regarded as a competitor with the northsouth line, because the two routes are hundreds of miles apart, and each would serve an entirely different class of country. The North Australia Commission, which has travelled extensively in North Australia in order to become fully acquainted with its possibilities, has submitted to Parliament a report advocating a railway - not following the route I am suggesting - in an easterly direction. The Federal Pastoral Advisory Committee has also taken evidence from nearly a hundred witnesses, many of whom have had practical experience in Western Queensland and in the Northern Territory for many years. This commission has submitted a unanimous report in favour of the construction of a line in the direction I am advocating.
– But the members of that commission are interested parties.
– The report is based on the evidence of many witnesses who gave impartial evidence. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), who is regarded as one of the best judges of land in Australia, went over the country to be served by the north-south line, and said that had he known the nature of the country which the proposed line is to serve he would not have supported the authorizing bill.
– There are a lot of persons who know the country much better than the honorable member for Riverina, and who strongly advocate the construction of the line.
– Senator Greene, who has a first-hand knowledge of the country in Western Queensland, and knows the difficulties which exist during periods of drought, will agree that the construction of a line such as I suggest is one of the most urgent public works which could be undertaken. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was in Brisbane some months ago, I introduced to him a most influential deputation consisting of pastoralists, graziers, and members of the Chamber of Commerce, all of whom were acquainted with the country. Although these gentlemen would have to contribute somewhat heavily towards the cost of constructing a railway, they strongly advocated the Commonwealth Government taking some interest in the matter. The Prime Minister pointed out that, generally speaking, it was a matter for the State. The members of the deputation, however, referred to the Beaudesert-Kyogle railway in which the Commonwealth was interested. The Prime Minister pointed out that the Federal Government was associated with that line, and also the construction of the east-west line, because they were regarded as part of a general scheme of unification, and were also valuable for strategic purposes. He further said that if the proposed railway could’ be placed in the same category, or would assist in the development of the Northern Territory, it was another matter. He said that it was not the responsibility of the Federal authorities to construct railways in a State; but that if such a line would assist in the development of the Northern Territory, it was a proposal which should come under the purview of the Federal Government. This line would benefit not only New South Wales and Queensland; it would be an advantage to the whole of Australia. During the last two or three years the losses in stock in the district it would serve are estimated at £15,000,000. That loss has necessitated additional taxation being paid by the people of Australia.
– I cannot see that that is so.
– Were it not for the drought which caused the loss -of many hundreds of thousands of sheep, their owners would have contributed considerable sums to the public revenue as taxation on their incomes. That deficiency had to be made up from other sources.
I was glad to hear the Leader of the Senate say, when this motion was previously under discussion, that the Government realized the importance of railway communication in the area which this railway would serve, and that when the financial position improved, it would give the matter its serious consideration. It is useless to expect the States of Queensland and New South Wales to construct this line ; their finances will not permit it. I maintain that this is a matter for the nation as a whole, because of its important bearing on the pastoral industry. Although the works now being undertaken along the Murray river will benefit directly only South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, it cannot be said that the other States have no interest in them. The completion of these works will benefit the whole of the Commonwealth. Similarly, the construction of this line of railway would be of advantage to Australia as a whole. I therefore urge honorable senators to view this proposal from a broad national standpoint. It is one which might well be investigated by the Development and Migration Commission.
– It is too far away from home.
– The chairman of that commission, Mr.- Gepp, has already travelled extensively in different parts of Australia, and I understand that he favours the development of this part of our territory.
– The commission might not favour the proposal.
– I am prepared to take that risk.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– As the Government has promised to give this matter consideration when the finances of the country are in a better condition, I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion,” by leave, withdrawn.
Order of the day for resumption from 24th November, 1927 (vide page 1835), of the debate on motion by the late Senator Grant, called on and (on motion by Senator Needham) discharged.
Debate resumed from 22nd March (vide page 4041) on motion by Senator Thomas -
That in the opinion of the Senate the rate paid to the Amalgamated Wireless Company for messages from Australia to England in plain language, and not marked “urgent”, should not exceed a penny a word.
.- Senator Thomas is to be congratulated on having brought forward a proposal to cheapen communications with other parts of the world by means, of the Beam wireless. But, although the honorable senator has submitted a mass of figures in an endeavour to show that his proposal would be a good business proposition, I am unable, at this stage, to support his motion. The Beam wireless system has not long been in operation. A good deal of inquiry and investigation was necessary before it was eventually decided to build the existing station. I am gratified at the success which has attended the company’s efforts. The reduced rates charged by it have attracted a large proportion of the business, but at this stage of wireless development I am not prepared to agree to those rates being reduced to Id. a word. Many thousands of pounds of the people’s money have been invested in this company, -and a reduction in the charges, to the extent advocated by the honorable senator, might have serious results.
– Reduced charges would increase the business.
– I admit that that would be so; but I consider that it would be unwise to reduce the charge to Id. a word forthwith. Some of the figures supplied by Senator Thomas could not have been supplied by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and I feel certain that the manager of that company would not be prepared to accept them. While I am always prepared to give the people the benefit of public utilities at the lowest possible rate, I feel that in a matter1 ‘of such importance we4’ should rely largely on the advice of those who are responsible for the administration of the department. It would be easy for any honorable senator at this juncture, when a Federal election is about to be held, to advocate a reduction of postal, telegraphic and telephonic charges. I do not infer that Senator Thomas is actuated by any electioneering desire. I am aware that his motion has been on the notice-paper for some considerable time. As representatives of the people we should give careful consideration to the subject before registering our vote in favour of a motion of thisnature. It would not be wise for the Senate to carry such a motion until we had an assurance from those responsible that it would be possible to carry out the scheme without involving the country in heavy financial loss. I should be just as pleased as Senator Thomas to see wireless communications between Great Britain and Australia made possible at1d., or even 1/2d. per word - provided it was economically sound to do so. Wireless has revolutionized long distance communication, and it is even yet in its infancy, so that we may expect much from it in the future. This Government has a controlling interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and is represented on its directorate, but it would be a drastic step for Parliament to instruct those directors to reduce the cost of wireless messages between Australia and Great Britain to1d. a word.
– This proposal might bring in an increased revenue to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
– Would Senator Herbert Hays advocate that our postage should be reduced to1/2d., and that the charge for interstate telegrams should be 8d. instead of1s. 4d. for sixteen words ?
– Those charges are proportionately cheaper than the existing cable charges.
– I should have no hesitation in supporting the motion if I thought that, it would be economically sound to effect the innovation ; but we have not had sufficient evidence to justify the conclusion that the cost of wireless messages should be reduced to1d. a word. I believe that Senator Thomas introduced his motion in good faith; but until more satisfactory evidence is forthcoming I do not feel disposed to support his motion.
– The ideal of one penny a word wireless messages between Australia and Great Britain is one which we should all like to see realized. But this is a matter of business, and we must recognize the practical difficulties in the way. We should provide ourselves with a very poor testimonial to our qualifications to deal seriously with the business affairs of the country if we supported Senator Thomas’s motion. At present the charges for telegraphic communication between Australia and Great Britain is very much less than it was a few years ago. One can now send a message from Australia to Great Britain in the form of a lettergram for 9d. a word, or a week-end message for 7d. a word.
– Lettergrams cost only 5d. a word. I have sent one to Great Britain to-night for 6d. a word.
– That indicates that the tendency is continually downwards. But 5d. a word is a long way above1d. a word. It must be realized that even these reasonable charges are far above the means of a great many people, and it is doubtful whether they can be substantially reduced. One must also remember that it may not be the desire of the average individual to indulge in friendly communication per medium of wireless. That method lacks the personal touch afforded by letters.
– Which take five weeks to reach us.
– I do not think that makes a letter the less acceptable. It must be recognized, even by those possessing the most superficial knowledge of wireless, that there are a great many expenses in addition to those incurred by the bare operation of the system. There is interest on the cost of installation, depreciation on the plant and maintenance, and the cost of receiving and delivering messages. I am informed that even in the centre of any of our big cities the costs of delivery amounts to no less than 3d. a message. There are two parties interested in the fixation of rates. It is not for Amalgamated Wireless alone to say what shall be charged for transmission. A reciprocal arrangement is in force between the receiving and transmitting stations, and the fixation of rates must necessarily be the result of negotiation between the two parties.
When discussing wireless we cannot altogether disregard the cable services between this and other countries. As we are aware, the Imperial Government is at present engaged in negotiations to co-ordinate the cable and wireless services. Those who have given the matter thought must agree that we cannot dispense with our cable services, as on numerous occasions it is impossible to communicate by wireless between Great Britain and Australia, and many messages received for transmission by wireless have at such times to be sent by cable.
The Government has given a great deal of attention to the cheapening of telegraphic communication between Australia and Great Britain. Five years ago the charge for ordinary messages by cable was 3s. a word. In 1924 that was reduced to 2s. 6d., and before the Beam station began to operate it was further reduced to 2s. a word. Now the wireless rate is ls. 8d. a word for ordinary messages. I trust that honorable senators will not support this motion, as Senator Thomas has not justified his plea for such a reduction in the charges. Honorable senators may rest assured that, whether the motion’ is carried or lost, the Government will continue to pay the closest attention to this problem with a view to having telegraphic rates reduced as low and as soon as possible.
– This motion has afforded honorable senators a chance to glean a great deal of information in connexion with telegraphic communication. It has ventilated the matter thoroughly, and has given a great many people outside the chamber some opportunity to learn what wireless really means to the Commonwealth, so that even if the motion is not carried the efforts of Senator Thoma’s will not have been in vain. After listening to the remarks of Senator Thomas, who has undoubtedly devoted a great deal of time and given a great deal of thought to the subject, it occurs to me that there is something in his contention that it should be possible to make very substantial reductions in the charges for wireless messages between Australia and Great Britain. Senator Crawford has referred to the cost of delivering messages at either end, presumably in Great Britain and Australia, but the same costs are involved in the delivery of telegrams. If it costs 3d. to deliver a wireless message, it must cost the same to deliver a telegram. I was hoping that the Minister would promise that the matter would be looked into seriously to see if some reduction in the rates could be made. I am not in a position to say that the drastic reductions proposed by Senator Thomas could be made; as a matter of fact, I should hesitate before supporting the honorable senator in such a proposal; but I should be interested to learn the views of the directors of Amalgamated Wireless upon the point. It seems to me that the Government should seriously consider the possibility of utilizing wireless for telephonic communication with Tasmania. We know that owing to frequent shipping troubles the delivery of mails between Tasmania and the mainland is often interrupted. A lot of our difficulties in this respect would be avoided if we had the same facilities for telephonic communication as are now available between the mainland States. The earnestness with which Senator Thomas has taken up this matter justifies some inquiry to see if substantial reductions cannot be made in the wireless rates, and I should be interested to learn the views of the directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited upon the honorable senator’s proposal.
– As honorable senators know, when I moved my motion two or three months ago in favour of Id. a word wireless messages between here and Great Britain, Senator McLachlan, who was then representing the Postmaster-General, was good enough to reply to my remarks. He made no attempt to reply to my arguments or to refute my figures - they may not have been worthy of a reply - but he paid me the compliment of delivering a prepared speech, although very little of it referred definitely to what I had said. It is a greater compliment to pie that to-night Senator Crawford, another Minister, has spoken against my motion. Ministers are evidently afraid that Senator McLachlan did not put the case properly.
– The honorable senator should feel flattered.
– I do, and it was a still greater compliment when the Government Whip (Senator Poll) was put up to make an intelligent speech on the subject. Senator McLachlan’s statement, which was more elaborate than that just made by Senator Crawford, referred to the good work that had been done by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I agree with all that the Minister said as to the good effect of wireless in Australia, and I have not an unkind word to litter against the operations of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in Australia, but the Minister simply told, us that we should leave the matter to the goodness of the company, and trust the directors who represent the Commonwealth. He made no attempt to, analyse or refute the figures I had quoted, which, realizing that this was not a matter of sentiment, and that in this chamber I had to deal with business men, I had taken considerable trouble to compile. The issue can be stated very clearly. We can send a telegram from Broome to Cape York, a distance of 7,500 miles, at a cost of Id. a word. That telegram has to be handled several times - from Broome to Perth, from Perth to Sydney, from Sydney to Brisbane and from Brisbane to Cape York. Senator Crawford has referred to the cost of handling wireless messages. I am asking for one handling only, from Australia to London, at a cost of Id. a word. The distance is considerable, I admit, but has not wireless annihilated not only space but also time? A wireless message goes from here to England in onefifteenth of a second and there are no relay stations. If there were it would be another matter altogether. When Senator McLachlan was replying to me he said -
I take it that men of that type are sufficiently alert to their own interests to take every advantage of the cheaper rates imposed for week-end messages, or the daily letter telegrams.
I had been referring to immigrants who have come here to help us to build up a great continent. Those people have no money to waste, but of course the Minister would have us believe that they could make use of these week-end messages or daily letter telegrams at a cost of 8s. 4d. or 10s. I should like to know what telegraphic traffic we should get in Australia if the minimum charge for a telegram was 8s. 4d. We must remember that it is far more costly to transmit telegrams than to send wireless messages.
– There is a limit to the volume of business which a station can handle.
– Certainly. I made the statement in my original speech, and it has not since been refuted, that the Beam service could easily send 86,000,000 words a year from here to Great Britain. I admitted that it would be difficult to send 100,000,000 a year, but claimed that 86,000,000 a year could be sent with ease. The people who represent Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited have not claimed that I was exaggerating. My statement was that 25,000,000 words a year would pay and 25,000,000 words a year at Id. a word, would mean a revenue of £104,000. Senator McLachlan ridiculed the idea that 25,000,000 words would be despatched and he laughed me to scorn when I said that very soon the number would increase to 50,000,000. Last night I quoted Sir Godfrey Clarke’s opinion that if the cost of cable messages was reduced to 10s. for 100 words, which means about lid. a word, the volume of business that the cables and the Beam service would have to undertake would be such that all existing services would not be able to cope with it. As a matter of fact Senator McLachlan did not know what he was talking about. To-night Senator Crawford says that he does not know if there is any likelihood of social telegrams being despatched. There was a time in London when the charge for a telegram was 6s. When the charge was reduced to 6d. the volume of traffic immediately increased by thirteen times. Senator Crawford says that there is a personal touch about a letter which is lacking in the case of a cablegram or wireless message. Some time ago one of the leading officers of the National Association visited England with his wife, and now and then it was necessary to send him official cablegrams. Whenever an official cablegram was despatched a brief message was included concerning the children. When the official’s wife returned she told her friends how delighted she was to receive brief messages by cable, as they were infinitely better than a letter for which she had to wait many weeks. A good deal could happen during the period in which it takes a letter to reach England; and as a cablegram was received within four or five hours of its despatch she was kept in close touch with her home. That is a striking illustration of one of the advantages of quick communication. As I have said on previous occasions, cheap cablegrams would assist to consolidate the Empire. A young migrant to Australia was asked what he thought of a Id. a word cable messages, and he replied, “ Penny a word cablegrams to England would be the most wonderful thing that ever happened. I should feel near to my dear mother and father, and I am sure it would assist migration, as to be away from the loved ones is all that holds many satisfactory migrants away.” In the June number of the journal issued by the Royal Colonial Institute, in commemoration of the 60th birthday of the institute, I noticed a very interesting article written by Hugh Gunn, entitled “ Then and Now,” from which I quote the following : -
Possibly the most potent factor that lias built up the British Empire is the tie of kinship between the working classes and their relatives overseas.
What are we doing to maintain that tie? Can we maintain kinship within the Empire when 8s. 4d. is charged for a wireless message? When speaking on this subject some time ago, I said that the wireless plant in operation in Australia, which cost £120,000, could send 86,000,000 words to Great Britain, and the Honorary Minister (Senator McLachlan) in the course of a very carefully prepared and elaborate reply gave the cost of such a plant as £300,000. It is interesting to note the discrepancy in the figures.
The balance-sheet of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited gives the cost as £119,000, and the Postmaster-General in another place gave it as £120,000. According to Hansard of the 8th December, 1927, the PostmasterGeneral said -
We have a cable system which operates between different places, and if we take the value only of those cables operating to Australia we find that it amounts to £12,000,000. Who is going to operate a £12,000,000 machine when we can get a £120,000 machine which will give the same service?
The Honorary Minister in this chamber said it cost £300,000, and the PostmasterGeneral gave the figures as £120,000. On one occasion Lord Melbourne said to his colleagues at the close of a cabinet meeting when the question of freetrade and protection was under consideration, “We are either going out of this place all freetraders or all protectionists. I don’t care which it is, but we have all to tell the same story when we go before the public.” In this instance I think it would be well for Ministers to also tell the same story. In the report of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the costs of the company are given as £214,000, a substantial part of which, Mr. Fisk said, represents the cost of the research and experimental investigations which have been carried out here. That experimental work will not be carried on indefinitely, and when I made reference to this aspect of the question on previous occasions, I was alluding to the actual cost of the plant. From the Financial News, of 17th January, I quote the following: -
There exists an immense potentiality of traffic awaiting to be nursed into actuality by facilities and rates.
It costs £80,000 a year to conduct our Beam wireless system; with a charge of Id. a word the revenue would be £104,000. We have been informed that with a low rate the service would have to be extended, which would involve a great deal of additional expense. A reference to the annual report of the Postmaster-General shows that the department is now transmitting 10,000,000 words for £30,000. Although it costs Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited £80,000 to handle 10,000,000 words, we are safe in assuming that the traffic could be. handled for £30,000. There must be a mistake somewhere, or the authorities do not know how to handle their business. The Minister said to-day that it cost something for the delivery of telegrams - perhaps 3d. a message. We are informed that 75,000,000 words are being despatched and delivered throughout the Commonwealth at a cost of1d. a word.
SenatorHerbert Hays. - Telegrams are delivered only in the metropolitan area.
– An overwhelming majority are delivered.
– Some cost 2d. a word.
– Yes, but 30,000,000 words are despatched at the rate of1/2d. a word. If the honorable senator studied this question he would know that lettergrams are despatched and delivered for1/2d. a word.
SenatorCrawford. - But there is a loss.
– Yes, of £250,000, because we are delivering a tremendous number at1/2d. a word. If we handled all the traffic at1d. a word we would not be losing anything.
– Does the honorable senator advocate that?
– I do. A charge of1d. a word would, I think, be a payable rate. On several occasions Senator Herbert Hays has displayed a keen interest in the installation of a wireless telephonic system between Tasmania and the mainland. I think he is on the right track, and that sooner or later the Government must comply with his request. To-day I telephoned to my wife in Sydney, and other honorable senators enjoyed the privilege of speaking to friends in some of the other mainland capitals. The Tasmanian senators, however, were denied that right.
SenatorCrawford. - It is reasonable to assume that full use would be made of such a service.
– Yes. What is the difference between despatching a wireless message to Tasmania and to London ? A wireless message goes to London in 1-15 th of a second.
SenatorCrawford. - It would require a more powerful plant to send messages to England than to Tasmania.
– The Government would not dare to charge more than a1d. a word for a wireless message between the mainland and Tasmania, and the same rate should apply to messages sent to England. On 8th March, 1899, Marconi wrote to the late Sir Henniker Heaton in these terms: “I sincerely hope that the good work to which you are now devoting your efforts - he was referring to a1d. a word cables and telegrams - may be crowned with complete success, and that before long your desire for a service of1d. telegrams to New Zealand may be realized by means of wireless telegraphy.” I am not speaking in the interests of the cable companies, or even of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I plead, not for vested interests, but for the welfare of the people. In conclusion, I desire to quote the words of Lord Rosebery -
If you want to bind the Empire closer together your first and main means must be by the cheapest means of communication.
I submit my resolution to a Senate, elected not as the mere echo of a party, nor as the representative of a class, but composed of men sent here to guard the interests of the nation.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided -
Question so resolved in the negative.
Consideration of Government business being resumed.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
After section 11 of the principal act the following sections are inserted: -
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia [9.54] . - During my second-reading speech I said that while I did not oppose the bill I would, in committee, move an amendment to substitute an elective system of government for the nominative system proposed in it. I have since obtained the latest figures available as to the white population of New Guinea, and find that in 1926 the number was 1,550. During the last two years that number has probably increased, but, in any case, there are 1,550 intelligent white residents there, most of whom are dissatisfied with the present system of government. I propose to test the feeling of the committee on the system of government to be adopted. The amendment I propose to move will give the Leader of the Senate an opportunity to show whether he still holds the opinion he held some time ago when he moved an amendment to a motion submitted by Senator Grant for a different system of government in New Guinea. It is true that on that occasion the right honorable gentleman did not commit himself to support an elective form of government. He said that, when circumstances warranted it, there should be either an elective or a nominative form of government. The proposed new section 11a provides that there shall be an Executive Council consisting of nine members appointed by the Governor-General to hold office during his pleasure, and to assist the Administrator; while proposed new section 11h provides -
There shall be a Legislative Council for the Territory.
The Legislative Council shall consist of - (a) The Administrator;
The official members of the Executive Council ; and
Five non-official members who shall be nominated by the Administrator and appointed by the GovernorGeneral. . . .
The system of government proposed in this measure is not in accord with the democratic spirit which exists throughout Australia. It continues a system whereby taxpayers are left without representation - a system which, surely, finds no support in this chamber. I therefore move -
That all the words after “ members “, proposed new section 11-a (2), be loft out.
If my amendment is agreed to, I shall then move that five of the nine members of the Executive Council now proposed to be appointed by the GovernorGeneral shall, instead, be elected by the white residents of the Territory on an adult franchise. I should prefer the whole of the nine members be elected by the residents, but if I were to move, to that effect, I should probably be unsuccessful. I am content to take one step at a time. If that further amendment is agreed to, I shall ask the committee to accept a consequential amendment in proposed new section 11h, affecting the composition of the Legislative Council. On the second reading of the bill I explained my aversion to the imposition of the nominative system of government in the Mandated Territory. We have been administering that territory since the treaty was signed, and it is time that residents were given a voice in the conduct of their own affairs, in the form of an instalment of the elective system of government.
Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the
Senator Needham, in moving his amendment, is going further than he intends. He is certainly suggesting a revolutionary departure from custom. Not only is he asking the Government to agree to an elected legislature for the Mandated Territory, but to an elected government. The intention of. the Government is that, instead of having only an Administrator, there shall be a legislative chamber, to be known as the Legislative Council. The Government will consist of members of the Executive Council. I do not think that Senator Needham intends that the Government should be elected by the people, but merely that the Legislative Council should be elected. If that is so, I suggest that he moves his amendment when we deal with proposed new section11H.
– I shall accept the advice of the Leader of the Government and withdraw my amendment, with the intention of moving it when we reach proposed new section 11h. It might, perhaps, be too much to ask for an executive council elected by the people; but there is some reason in my contention. Senator Pearce says that the Executive Council of the Mandated Territory will be similar to the Government which he is a member, but I remind him that he could not become a member of any government in Australia without first being elected by the people.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[10.6]. - Proposed new section 11d reads - (1.) The Administrator shall preside at all meetings of the Executive Council at which he is present. (2.) In his absence, such member as he appoints, or, in default of such appointment or in the absence of that member, the senior member of the Council who is present, shall preside.
I move - .
That after the word “ senior “, proposed new section11D (2), the word “official” be inserted.
That is merely a drafting amendment, and provides that the senior official member of the Council present shall preside in the absence of the Administrator.
– What constitutes seniority in this instance?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE The officials are public servants and their seniority is set out in the Public Service list.
Amendment agreed to.
– Sub-clause 11h reads - (1.) There shall be a Legislative Council for the Territory. (2.) The Legislative Council shall consist of -
I move -
That all words after the word “ members “, proposed new section11H (2) (c), be left out.
I dealt with this matter previously.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.8]. - I ask the committee not to accept this amendment. The Government is merely amplifying the governmental machinery that has been set up in Papua and that has worked so well, and it is following the precedent adopted in every other British community outside of the British Isles. First of all a nominative form of government is established and, as settlement progresses, a semi-elective and then a fully elective system is established. At present the population of the Mandated Territory is small and of a transitory nature, a large proportion being officials. The stage has not been reached when it is advisable to grant a fully elective legislature, but this bill is an initial step in that direction. Provision is made for five nonofficial members in the Legislative Council. The Governor-General, when selecting such representatives, consults the people and is in the most favorable position to select satisfactory representatives. He selects a representative of the plan- . ters, another for the mining interests, one for the commercial interests and also one to represent the missions. I suggest to Senator Needham that his proposal savours of using a steam hammer to crack a nut. I hope that before long the Territory will evolve into a fully elective system, but the time is not yet ripe for that. Senator Needham said that it might be thought that the Government opposed the granting of an elective legislature to the Territory merely because it is a Mandated Territory. The Government has no reservations of that kind, and is quite willing, when an opportune time arrives to give elective representation to both Papua and New Guinea. I ask the honorable senator not to press his amendment.
– Having had a trip to New Guinea recently, I should have liked to see the Government go further than it has done in this matter. I am aware that it is necessary that some form of government control should .operate,, but there are in the Territory a number of intelligent returned men, the backbone of New Guinea. They produce the whole of its copra, which represents 90 per cent, of the export trade of that country, and I consider that they are entitled to have an elected representative, as are the missions, also the traders, business men and others who have a vital interest in the Territory. Although I do not think at this stage I should go as far as Senator Needham proposes, I consider that there should be some direct representatives elected by the people themselves.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia [10.15]. - The position outlined by Senator Pearce as to early settlement is not analogous to the position in the Mandated Territory to-day. A hundred years ago, when people were pioneering a new country, they were not as fitted for the task of self-government as are people today. They were not as highly educated as are the white residents of New Guinea to-day, and had not the experience of selfgovernment possessed by those Australians who have settled in the Mandated Territory. Surely the returned soldiers mentioned by Senator Chapman who are struggling to develop the Territory, and are not living under the mo3t congenial conditions, should have some voice in the administration of their affairs and in the expenditure of the revenue to which they contribute. In 1914, when they enlisted, they were told they were going to fight for the preservation of the liberties they enjoyed in Australia, but the liberties for which they fought and the rights that were preserved by the shedding of the blood of our soldiers are now denied to them under the British flag in the Mandated Territory. I am not asking too much when I urge that these men should have a voice in the system of government under which they are living. I hope the committee will support my amendment and take the first step towards establishing a system of selfgovernment in New Guinea.
– I cannot see my way to support the amendment, because the course provided for in the bill is the natural course which has been followed through the centuries by Great Britain in the government of its Crown colonies. The territories of Papua and New Guinea occupy in relation to Australia very much the same position as Crown colonies do to the Motherland. The stage of selfgovernment which the bill proposes is an apprenticeship period before the selfgovernment proposed by Senator Needham can come into being. Papua, which is in an advanced stage of development compared with the Mandated Territory, and the Solomon Islands, which are a Crown colony administered from Fiji, will convince honorable senators who have visited them, as I have done, that the form of government they have is a very fit and proper form of government during the apprenticeship period of the Mandated Territory. If we take the experience of Papua, where the administration is most excellent, I think we shall agree that the system proposed in the bill is a very good start for New Guinea. The pity of it is that Papua, which has always been Australian New Guinea, is not nearly as fine a country to develop as the Mandated Territory, but that, of course, is just a mischance. To plunge at the first stage into a form of government for New Guinea which Papua has not yet achieved would be too venturesome a step, and I am quite behind the Government in its proposal to give the Mandated Territory the system of administration indicated in the clause with which we are dealing.
; - I have a prior amendment that I should like to submit, if Senator Needham would temporarily withdraw that moved by him.
Amendment, by leave, temporarily withdrawn.
, - I should like to see three members of the Legislative Council of New Guinea elected by the missions, the planters, the traders and others. I move -
That the word “ five “, proposed new section 11 H (2) (c), be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three “.
– It is hard for us to know how to legislate for the people of New Guinea. In a brief visit I paid to the Mandated Territory, I found that it was almost impossible to gather sufficient information as to what should be done for the people there. Senator Kingsmill has advised us to follow the precedent set up in the government of British Crown Colonies, but it does not follow that a precedent is always right. Time brings many changes. I am inclined to lean towards the democratic principle of trusting the white population of the Territory to elect at least a portion of the body that has to govern them. In Australia we elect the whole of our governing bodies, and I should be inclined to bestow the same privilege upon the white residents of New Guinea ; but if they are permitted to elect at least, five members of the Legislative Council it should bring about the result desired by Senator Chapman. When I was atRabaul I suggested that the governing body should be elected by the white residents, but a Government official pointed out that if that were done the whole of the representation would probably go to the planters who are in the majority, and they would legislate for themselves. I readily realized the danger feared because the planters would seek to gain full control of the native labour. The same danger might exist if we adopted Senator Needham’s amendment.
– The Executive Council would block it.
– If the Executive Council would prevent the planters from using their majority to serve their own interests there should be no danger in accepting the honorable senator’s amendment. It may not be deemed wise at present to give the residents of the Territory the right to elect the whole of their governing body, but I certainly think that if there is no danger in the direction I have suggested they should at least be given the opportunity to elect five members of the Executive Council. We could even follow the advice of Senator Kingsmill and follow precedent. The people of Great Britain and the various selfgoverning dominions have the right to elect their self-governing bodies, and I think’ we should give to the people who are living in New Guinea the right to elect at least a portion of their selfgoverning body.
SenatorSir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.29].- The bill provides for a Legislative Council of fourteen members, consisting of the administrator, eight officials, and five non-official members. The effect of carrying Senator Chapman’s amendment would be . to limit the number of non-official members to three and make the Legislative Council a body of eleven members, eight of whom would be officials. The preponderance of officials would thus be greater than is proposed in the clause. Apart altogether from the principle of whether the non-official members of the Council should be elected or nominated, Senator Chapman’s amendment is inconsistent with the remarks he has made on the clause. I ask the committee to reject the amendment.
– I wish to remove a doubt which exists in the mind of Senator Hoare concerning the danger of any particular section in the Mandated Territory assuming control if the amendment of which I have given notice is carried. According to the bill the proposed Legislative Council will consist of nine members one of whom will be a nonofficial member. As there will be nine against five there will not be the risk which the honorable senator suggests. I move -
That all the words after “ members “, proposed new section 11H (2) (c), be left out.
Question -That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The committee divided -
Ayes . . . . 6
Noes . . . . . . 13
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
[10.35] . - I move -
That the word “ and “, proposed new section 11 w, paragraph ; ‘, be left out and the following new paragraph added - “ Any ordinance relating to any matter specified in section15 of this act.”
The object of this amendment is to en- sure that any ordinance relating to any matter in respect of which the Commonwealth has given a guarantee under the terms of the mandate shall not come into operation until submitted to the Governor-General for his assent. It is the Commonwealth Government that is responsible for carrying out the terms of the mandate and not the government of the Mandated Territory. The amendment provides that matters for which the Commonwealth Government is responsible to the Mandates Commission shall be reserved for the assent of the GovernorGeneral.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Senate adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 September 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280906_senate_10_119/>.