12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
I direct your attention, Mr. President, to a report which appears in to-day’s issue of the Canberra Times relating to what is described as an “ angry scene “ in the Senate last evening. The opening paragraphs of the report reads -
An angry scene, in which two senators almost came to blows, took place on the floor of the Senate last night afterthe President (Senator Kingsmill) had left the chair for the dinner adjournment.
Heated exchanges passed between Senators Rae and Dunn, on one side, and Senators Lynch and Cooper, on the other, in the presence of a few senators and members of the staff, who stood in wonderment at such an unprecedented scene.
The President, powerless to intervene in his official capacity, remained in the chamber an amazed spectator.
I ask you, sir, if your attention has been drawn to the report, and, if so, whether you deem it advisable to make any statement thereon.
– I certainly do deem it desirable to make a statement concerning the matter. If the accuracy of the report itself is to be judged by that part of it which refers to myself there is, indeed, much fault to be found with it. As to my own position I can only say that whoever wrote the report, is under a grave misconception as to my authority in this chamber, whether in the chair or out of it. The dignity of the Senate is, first of all, in the hands of honorable senators, and, secondly, in my hands. Without the assistance of honorable senators it would be impossible for the dignity of the chamber to be upheld; but whether I am in the chair or out of it, I am, as President, able and willing to intervene to preserve decorum, and shall always do so. The authority vested in me to preserve good order is absolute, and I shall at all times exercise it when I deem it necessary to do so. The statement in the Canberra Times report that “ the President, powerless to intervene in his official capacity, remained in the chamber an amazed spectator,” is an absolute misstatement of fact.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
– It is a misstatement which I very greatly resent, and which, I think, the Senate itself ought to resent. Indeed, I feel so indignant about the matter at this stage that, in my present frame of mind, I consider that I should be doing myself an injustice if 1 took any action at this juncture. It is, however, my intention, during the weekend adjournment, to consider the matter very carefully, and then to take such action - in -which I hope the Senate will uphold me - as I may deem justified by the circumstances. I thank the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) for having called my attention to the report in question, and I wish to assure the Senate that in my official capacity, whether or not I am in the chair, I will not knowingly permit anything to take place in the Senate which I consider derogatory to its dignity.
Honorable SENATORS - Hear, hear!
– I regret very much the publication of the report to which the right honorable the Leader of tho Opposition has directed your attention, Mr. President, because it appears to be .a reflection upon you in the exercise of your authority, and we all know that you are at all times punctilious in the maintenance of the dignity of this chamber. We all also appreciate your sterling impartiality in the conduct of debates. I sympathize with you very much, and T regret that publicity should have been given to last night’s incident at the dinner adjournment. I regret particularly that the newspaper statement is not quite an accurate report of what occurred.
– As the report makes reference to the part which I am said to have played in the incident may I be allowed to explain my position?
– I do not think it is advisable, nt this juncture, to discuss the matter. The question has already been answered, and any discussion of the subject would be out of order, since there is nothing before the Chair.
Tt is understood that the terms of the settlement provide for the avoidance of overlapping of trades in future work, which will be carried out by the tradesmen concerned. Members of the Painters Union arc now available for work in Parliament House when required.
I should like to know if it has been agreed by you, or by Mr. Speaker, that the men who were previously employed 011 this work are to be taken off it, or are their services in that capacity still to be retained?
– In reply to the right honorable gentleman I have to state that the dispute, if what took place can be so described, was caused by the employment of permanent officers of the refreshmentroom staff on what I, and the officers concerned also, considered unskilled labour, namely, scraping and varnishing the outside woodwork of this building. There was no work available for these men in their usual avocation at the time. The scraping and varnishing of the outside woodwork of the building is finished, and they are now employed in their ordinary duties. No agreement has been arrived at with the Painters Union, so far as I know, and, as Chairman of the Joint House Committee, before any agreement could be made, I certainly would have to be consulted.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is there any hope of any keels of Commonwealth steamers for the Tasman ia trade being la id down at Cockatoo Island in the early months of 1931?
Senator DALY (through Senator
Barnes). - I am not in a position at present to make a statement on this subject, all aspects of which are still under consideration.
In view of the report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 4th December, to the effect that the financial Adviser, Mr. J.R. Collins, has been placed in charge of administrationof the High Commissioner’s Office in London, what has been decided in respect to Mr. T. Trumble, the Official Secretary?
– Finality has not yet been reached in connexion with the reorganization of Australia House and its related activities. It is hoped, however, that it will be possible shortly to make a statement in which the position of Mr. Trumble and all other officers affected will be dealt with.
asked the Minister re presenting the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the difference between the amount of taxation on property income under the first budget proposals of the Government, and that under the bill now under consideration on incomes from £200 to £ 2,000, in rests of £50?
– The information desired is shown in returns published in Hansard of the 14th and 28th November.
Importation and Price
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
The following paper was presented:-
Naval Defence Act -Regulations amended -StatutoryRules 1930, No. 137.
Bill (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 4th December (vide page 976) on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.18].- I shall not detain the Senate very long with my remarks on this bill, which has my support. It should be kept in mind that this proposed grant is like a type of meal that one sometimes encounters in boarding houses; it is a re-hash. Some time ago the Commonwealth Government announced that it was making available the sum of £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment throughout Australia. For that it received considerable kudos. This bill will appropriate from that grant of £1,000,000 the sum of £850,000, which is to be earmarked for the assistance of the finances of South Australia. That, I consider, is a remarkably effective piece of window-dressing. First of all the Government gets credit for making £1,000,000 available for the relief of unemployment throughout Australia, and then it receives further credit for making available £850,000 to South Australia. Actually it does not make available £1,850,000, as might appear to the uninitiated. The total sum involved is but the original £1,000,000. Under such a system, one could do a great deal with a comparatively small sum of money.
I have had an opportunity to peruse the remarks made by Senator Barnes when he moved the second-reading of the bill. The honorable senator said -
The Government of South Australia also claims that that State suffers serious disabilities as a result of federation, although I do not know that the Commonwealth Government admits that claim. We frequently hear complaints from the States that they have suffered by reason of federation; but, personally, I should regard as a backward step any attempt to get back to pre-federation conditions.Rather do I hope that the time will soon come when there will be a federated Australia, with one Parliament controlling it.
That is a rather peculiar statement to be made in connexion with a bill such as this. On the surface, there is nothing in the measure that indicates any trend towards unification. It seems to me to be a rather curious mingling of terms, to say the least, to speak of a federated Australia with one Parliament controlling its destinies.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Does Senator Barnes regard this bill as a step towards unification? Why has he that subject in mind when dealing with a measure of this description? Has the Government an ulterior motive in bringing forward this bill.
There is another peculiar feature about the measure to which I desire to direct attention. The State of South Australia, unfortunately, is faced with a very substantial deficit in its finances. It is not singular in that respect. The Commonwealth Government is also faced with a very heavy deficit, and we have the admission of the Minister that, notwithstanding the additional taxation that it is imposing, it will be unable to balance the budget. In other words, it will finish the financial year with a deficit. To the outside world, and as a matter of fact, the finances of Australia, Commonwealth and State, are inseparably connected. This proposal affords no relief of the prevailing financial stress, either for the States or the Commonwealth. It is merely a bookkeeping entry which will deduct £850,000 from the deficit of South Australia, and add that amount to the deficit of the Commonwealth. Neither the finances of the Commonwealth nor of the States will benefit by one penny over the transaction, when it is regarded from the aspect of unity. If the Commonwealth Government was actually balancing its budget, and by a grant such as this it could enable a necessitous State to balance its budget; then some claim could be madefor credit. But to lighten a State deficit merely by increasing that of the Commonwealth, calls for no approbation; it is but another example of reckless finance. It merely means that the Commonwealth will take over South Australia’s I.O.U. and itself give an I.O.U. for a similar amount. The money will still be owing, and the transaction will not relieve the deficits in the public finance of Australia.
With the object of the grant I have every sympathy. I commiserate with the State of South Australia in its extremely difficult position, the result of circumstances of which some were within, and others entirely beyond, its control. That State has suffered more than any other State in recent years from climatic vicissitudes. Western Australian senators, like myself, who have travelled constantly through the north of South Australia and seen the terrible results of the continuous dry seasons which it has experienced; realize only too well the serious losses that have been inflicted on the people of that State by the shortage of rain and the consequent disaster that has fallen upon its pastoral and wheatgrowing areas. I sympathize with South Australia because, also in common with Tasmania and the State that I help to represent in this chamber, it has . suffered very grave disabilities, caused, I believe, by federal action in the form of excessively high tariffs, and the obstacles imposed by the operation of the Navigation Act. I suggest that the best assistance that the Commonwealth Government could render to those States would be to remedy those disabilities.
In Australia, we have a protective system which has brought about the concentration of industry in the two great States of Victoria and New South Wales. It is claimed that protection confers some benefit, in that it causes articles to be produced within the country at a reasonable cost. Perhaps, as a result of our protective tariff, some industries in the States of Victoria and New South Wales confer such a benefit on the people of those States. But the benefit does not extend to States like Tasmania and Western Australia, which must have the commodities they need transported to them by sea carriage, because, by reason of the advantage which has been taken of the monopoly enjoyed by Australian shipping, our sea freights are so excessive that they destroy any advantages which might result from local manufacture.
The taunt may be levelled at me that I have been a member of governments which have allowed that disability to remain. I have, and I am not entitled to reveal what part I played in Cabinet with regard to such matters. I merely say that I have not changed my views; that what I express to-day, I said early in my political career. On more than one occasion I have endeavoured to relieve the States of these burdens.
Federation is not the only cause of South Australia’s present financial position. I intend to be perfectly frank, and say that some of its troubles are the result of its own legislative action, particularly in the matter of public financial policy. I do not suggest that any specific South Australian Government can be held solely responsible for that. All political parties must take their share of the blame. It has been the accepted ideal of our railway policy that we should aim at a unification of gauge. Years ago the’ various railway experts of the Commonwealth unanimously agreed on st standard railway gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. Yet, after that decision had been arrived at, and the policy of unification of the gauges prosecuted as far as finances permitted, South Australia proceeded to convert hundreds of miles of 3-ff. 6-in. gauge railway to 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. That: conversion, together with the construction of a new railway station at Adelaide and the provision “ of new rolling-stock, cost the State £11,000,000. Much of that money was spent, on railways to serve districts which were already adequately served by 3-ft. 6-in. gauge- railways. Any one who is acquainted with the district through which the railway to Moonta, Kadina, and Wallaroo passes, will admit that there was no need to spend enormous sums of money to convert that line, to a wider gauge. It was capable: of carrying all the traffic thatwould pass over it for many years. The expenditure of £11,000,000 on the rehabilitation of South Australia’s railways is one of the chief factors contributing to her present financial condition; yet, for that expenditure, the State has no asset. All that has been done has been to substitute one gauge for another. The wider railway confers no greater benefit on the people of Australia, and earns no more revenue than did the railway which it superseded. Indeed, the losses on the wider lines will probably be greater than ‘ they were on the narrow-gauge railways.” The conversion of the railway gauge”; took place, moreover, at a time when money was dear and the cost of labour at the peak. Indeed, at no time during the last 25’ years were conditions so unfavorable. In considering the bill before us, it is only fair that we should recognize that South Australia is partly responsible for her present serious financial position. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the State is financially embarrassed, despite its heroic and self.sacrificing efforts to. balance the budget. From my place in the Senate I pay public tribute to the present Labour Government in South Australia ; I believe that it is doing its utmost to balance the State budget. To that end it has placed very heavy burdens on every section of the community. I invite the Minister’s attention particularly to its action in calling upon every section of its employees to share the sacrifice.It has had the courage not merely to call upon those whohave no union behind them to make sacrifices; it has called upon every employee of the State which it can reach to bear his share of the burden.
– As a senator coming from the State whose financial position is under review, and to which it is proposed to grant financial aid, I must first express my gratitude to those States which have relinquished their share of the grant for unemployment relief in order that South Australia, which has been particularly badly hit by the present depression, may receive immediate assistance. The proposal before us embodies a certain amount of juggling with money; but the relief which it will grant to the taxpayers of South Australia is, in my opinion, justification for that juggling. The effect of diverting this £850,000 from the Treasury of the Commonwealth to that of South Australia, will be to throw a heavier burden on the taxpayers of Australia in order to lighten the burden on the taxpayers of one State. I feel sure that the taxpayers of South Australia will be grateful for the relief. The proposal before us reminds me of a man who is three parts intoxicated assisting upstairs another man who is wholly intoxicated. What the effect of this grant will be on the minds of financiers generally I do not know. The Commonwealth Government is faced with the gravest financial difficulties - it is admittedly incapable of balancing its budget this year - yet it proposes to make a grant to assist South Australia to balance her budget. The position of South Australia is, indeed, bad; but with the return to sanity which is obvious in that State’s legislative chambers, its position is better than that of the Commonwealth.
Honorable senators have spoken of the disabilities suffered by South Australia as the result of federation. It is not necessary at this stage that I should enlarge upon whathas already been said in that connexion. That South Australia has suffered by reason of federation has already been overwhelmingly proved. If, however, doubt still remains, I feel sure that the inquiry which the Public Accounts Committee is now making will remove it. Mr. Wickens and the gentlemen who were associated with him in a review of the tariff made pointed reference to the disabilities which Western Australia and South Australia suffered under federation. The conclusion is inescapable that a constitutional duty devolves upon theFederal Parliament to hold the balance fairly between the States. In this connexion I suggest that the remarks of the Acting Minister last night on the subject of unification were entirely out of place. The Constitution clearly sets out that grants may be made to necessitous States.
I admit that South Australia is somewhat to blame for her present serious financial position; but I aak whether that State is any more to blame than are the other States of the Commonwealth. In common with the rest of Australia, South Australia went developmentally mad - not mad in the sense that it did not realize what it was doing, but mad in the sense that it went ahead regardless of consequences. In all the States there are jetties, railways and harbours which are practically useless; they have been constructed largely for political reasons. All parties are equally blameworthy in this connexion.
South Australia has one or two important secondary industries, the largest of which is that of motor body building.
The firm of Holden’s Motor Body Builders Limited, is the leading motor body manufacturing firm in Australia. Having installed the latest machinery, and having until recently thousands of trained workmen in its employ, it rendered wonderful service to the motoring public of Australia. So efficient was this firm’s organization that it was able to compete successfully with manufacturers in the wealthier eastern States. But ro-day, when the demand for motor car bodies has been reduced, because of the lessened purchasing power of the people, the National Government has seen fit to enter into competition with it by installing at the ammunition factory at Maribyrnong a well-equipped plant for the purpose of producing parts of motor bodies already made by Holden’s and other South Australian firms. Moreover, in order to make possible mass production in its factory, the Government has increased the duties on imported motor car bodies. I go further, and say that not only has the Government entered into direct competition with firms already established, but, if my information is correct, it is also selling its products at a loss to the Commonwealth. The competition of the Government factory is so strong that scores of men have been thrown out of employment in South Australia, thus making more difficult the balancing of that State’s budget. No doubt, tho Government desires to keep its employees at Maribyrnong fully engaged; but its policy is short-sighted, for it spells ruin to South Australia’s most important secondary industry. I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet; but I predict that, a3 in the past, we shall find that South Australia after experiencing disastrous times - perhaps not so disastrous from the national view-point as to-day but. even more disastrous from the stand-point of its national institutions and of private individuals - will be one of the first to emerge triumphant from its difficulties. After passing through the present crisis South Australia should, if the savings bank figures of that State are any guide, be one of the first to recover her financial stability.
Although I heartily support the bill, I feel that in granting financial assistance to the State a “more scientific method of appropriation should be adopted. I appeal to this Government, as I would to any other government, to consider the advisability of appointing some independent tribunal to investigate and report upon the financial relations between the Commonwealth and States. Although South Australia is strongly and ably represented on the Public Accounts -Committee, I deprecate the view that financial assistance to any’ State should be dependent upon party or political considerations.
– Was it not intended that such work should be undertaken by an interstate commission?
– I do not know if that body should be reconstituted; but I feel that some independent authority should be established to adjust the difficulties between the Commonwealth and States. We cannot deny that in the past a good deal of money has unfortunately been thrown away. The first speech that I made in this chamber Was in connexion with tlie action of one State; which was indulging in wanton waste in. conducting an unprofitable undertaking and, at the same time, receiving financial assistance from the Commonwealth Go.vernment. The position is difficult as an interference with the sovereign rights of the States is involved.
I arn grateful to the Government for its recognition of the plucky fight that South Australia has recently put up against odds far greater than it had experienced for 30 years. The Government of South Australia is calling upon all sections of the community, including its public servants, to contribute their quota, which, in some cases, will be so heavy that the burden may be greater than some will ultimately be able to bear. I support the bill.
– I am glad that Senator McLachlau realizes the danger associated with the course which the Government is taking under this . bill; but this Parliament is in a most invidious position since it cannot see South Australia, or, in fact, any other State default ing, or in such an acute financial position, that it cannot emerge without some help from the Commonwealth. In such circumstances the Commonwealth must assist the States. A point mentioned by Senator McLachlan towards the conclusion of his speech, with respect to the sovereign rights of the States, is of the utmost importance. At present we are supporting a policy the ultimate effect of which cannot immediately be foreseen. We are by this bill definitely and clearly establishing the principle that it is the duty of the Commonwealth to accept the financial responsibilities of the States without in any way having any control of their finances. That point was mentioned by Senator McLachlan, who :said that he could not see what measure of control could be granted to the Commonwealth without in some way interfering with the sovereign rights of the States. It is certain, however, that if we continue as at present, some measure of control must sooner or later be assumed by the Commonwealth over State finances.
– Who will control the finances of the Commonwealth ?
– That is another matter. We hoped that when the Commonwealth assumed responsibility for a large proportion of the States debts they would be able to carry on their finances in a satisfactory way; but unfortunately that happy position, for which the States are not entirely responsible, does not exist. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) has said, if South Australia had not squandered £11,000,000 on its railways, it would have been able to carry on without assistance. Senator McLachlan admitted that South Australia has made great mistakes, and has been extravagant in its expenditure on public works. I am not blaming South Australia alone; practically all the other States are equally blameworthy.
– The Commonwealth has squandered more than that in Canberra alone.
– To-day we are considering a measure for the relief of South Australia, but it may not be long before it will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth to come to the assistance of some of the other States such as New South Wales. I venture to say that if assistance has to be given to that State £850,000 will not he sufficient to pull it out of the mess in which it now finds itself. With a deficit of over £6,000,000 and trouble looming ahead, largely in consequence of extravagance and maladministration, it will soon be faced with a most unfortunate financial position. Is the Commonwealth to assume responsibility without having any control over the way in which money granted is to be expended? The objection I. am. now expressing cannot be raised when money is granted by the Commonwealth to the States for the redemption of public debts, or for the payment of interest on those debts. It is a dangerous policy to hand over £850,000, £1,000,000, or in fact any amount, to any State to relieve it of its obligations. While, in the circumstances, I feel compelled to vote for the bill, I do so without any enthusiasm, because I believe that it is an extremely dangerous and doubtful procedure to adopt. It is the duty of the Government to impress upon the States, as is being impressed upon the Commonwealth, that it is their business to balance their budgets by limiting their expenditure to their income. It is easy for the States to fall back upon the Commonwealth for large sums to enable them to balance their budgets, but they should pay that regard to their finances that is expected of them. We should at any rate show that we are somewhat doubtful as to the wisdom of the action we are practically compelled to take, and should make it quite clear to South Australia or to any other State seeking similar aid that assistance is being given reluctantly, and that future grants will be governed by the conditions that obtain when a request is made. If further grants are ‘ to be made to necessitous States the Commonwealth must exercise some authority over their expenditure so that it can at least justify its action.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.57]. - I intend to support the bill, which provides for tardy justice to South Australia. Senator McLachlan suggested that there ought to 1>e some independent authority apart from this Parliament to make recommendations to the Commonwealth Government on matters of this kind. I submit that the Government of which the honorable senator was a member for a considerable time, and all other governments during the past fifteen years, have been equally responsible for the absence of such an authority. If honorable senators will refer for a moment to two practically consecutive sections of the Constitution they will see that difficulties of this kind were foreseen by the framers of the Constitution, and a means of meeting them was provided. Section 99 of the Constitution reads -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
The Commonwealth is definitely prohibited from giving preference to one State or any part thereof over another State. That is quite clear. Section 100, a comparatively unimportant section relating to riparian rights follows. Section 101 reads -
There shall be an interstate commission -
It is absolutely mandatory - with such powers of adjudication ami administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance within the Commonwealth of the provisions of this constitution relating to trade and commerce and of all laws made thereunder.
The obvious intention of the framers of the Constitution was, as stated by the late Mr. Alfred Deakin, that the Interstate Commission should be the eyes and ears and, in effect, the watch-dog of the Commonwealth Parliament. Its duties were to see that no injustice was done to any State, that effect was given both to the letter and spirit of section 99, and that, under the laws of the Commonwealth relating to trade or commerce, one State or any part thereof was not to have preference over another. That mandatory provision of the Constitution has not been complied with. An interstate commission was appointed, but during the war it was called upon ito deal with matters which, 1 submit, were entirely outside its province, and the High Court held that, as the commissioners were not appointed for life they could not exercise judicial power. The Government of the day did not ask them to perform functions which were within the province of the commission, and did not re-appoint them when the period of their appointment expired.
– What was the use of having such a ‘body unless it had judicial powers?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.There was no need whatever for an interstate commission to exercise judicial powers.
I do not know that I should have troubled to speak on this bill, having already, in the course of my speech on the financial statement, indicated that I intended to support it, had it not been for the extraordinary conclusion drawn yesterday by a senator from South Australia from a report on the Australian tariff by an informal committee set up by Mr. Bruce in 1929. It was entirely contrary to the conclusion actually arrived at by the committee and, furthermore,, the honorable senator refrained front pointing out the very ground upon which the committee reported that South Australia was in need of assistance. Thecommittee declared in Appendix W of itsreport that the tariff policy of Australia, imposed on the people of the Commonwealth a burden of £36,000,000 per annum, and by an elaborate analysis showed that, while the greater portion of the burden of providing that £36,000,000 fell upon South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, the proportion of benefit, those States derived from it was very much smaller than the proportion received by the three other States. Thus, South Australia, not quite so badly off in this respect as Western Australia and Tasmania, received only £3 14s,, instead of the £6 to which it would have been entitled on an equal distribution. Itwas thus penalized to the extent of £1,300,000 per annum in the interests of the States that derive benefit from the protective policy. This bill is now suggesting a payment of £850,000, which is far below the extent of the prejudice to which the State has been subjected annually during the whole of the period of federation. There is another quotation to which I should like to refer the honorable senator who enlarged upon what the committee said about the effect of a protective tariff upon Australia as a whole. The committee reported -
Our conclusions on effects indicate that the total burden of the tariff has probably reached the economic limits, and an increase in this burden might threaten the standard of living. It is important, therefore, that no further increases in, or extensions of, the tariff should be made without the most rigorous scrutiny Of the costs involved.
Flying in the face of this report, additional burdens have now been imposed, and they are falling severely on the States of primary production. Instead of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania being prejudiced to the extent set out in the committee’s report, the extent of the prejudice is now very much greater than it was. Furthermore, we are told that New South Wales is likely to ask for similar assistance. It is quite likely. We have now arrived at the stage when the manufacturing States, having bled white the States of primary production, have no longer any income from that source. As the committee on the tariff pointed out in its report -
The benefits and costs of the tariff do not march together. As the tariff grows,the costs overtake the benefits because the benefits have natural limits while the costs have not. Australian experience, like that of other countries, demonstrates the natural tendency of protection to increase. The most disquieting effect of the tariff has been the stimulus it has given to demands for government assistance of all kinds, with the consequent demoralizing effect Upon self-reliant efficiency throughout all forms of production.
That is the real essence of a report which Senator O’Halloran held up as demonstrating the benefits of protection. The honorable senator refrained from drawing attention to one of the main conclusions that the experts formed - that his own State has been destroyed by this policy. I arrived in South Australia nearly52 years ago. In pre-federation days it was a prosperous State with a happy and contented people.
– And its people were thrifty.
– They combined the essential qualities of thrift and enterprise. It was a great place for thrift and at the same time expenditureupon the development of the resources of the Commonwealth. The western portion of New South Wales, and the gold-fields of Western Australia were largely developed by means of South Australian money. But now we find that that great State has been reduced almost to a state of bankruptcy, and honorable senators representing it are found cast ing the blame for this upon the politicians of the State, saying that they have wasted money here and there. From the roof of this Parliament House we can see evidence of far greater waste - utter and irretrievable waste - on the part of this Commonwealth during the last few years. It is not within our province to criticize present or past State Governments. The indisputable fact is that Australian policy has prejudiced the State of South Australia, in common with Western Australia and Tasmania,to a far greater extent than this temporary accommodation in any way contemplates. For that reason I support the bill. My regret is that it does not provide for a continuous grant to South Australia.
. - I support the bill, not so much because of its particular merits, but because the expedient of approaching the Federal Government to grant aid to the three smaller States is not nearly finished. As time goes on we shall certainly have similar applications. I think it was Aristotle who said, “ Sympathy is a keenscented vision of one’s own future predicament”. I support the proposal because I can quite imagine that the State which I have the honour to represent at present, although it has been fairly well helped in the past, will soon find itself in the same predicament as South Australia. There is no difference between a citizen of South Australia and a citizen of any other State of the Commonwealth in the matter of industry, or calibre; in possession of those qualifications that go to make a deserving citizen he does not lag behind the resident of any other State of the Commonwealth. If, therefore, he finds himself to-day in greater difficulties than when a royal commission said that his State was entitled to receive £900,000, it clearly proves that the State is going from bad to worse. It is well for us to face the position squarely in an attempt to ascertain the cause of the inability of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to make ends meet. If we search diligently for the cause, we must satisfy ourselves that it is as stated by Senator Colebatch. The protection policy that has been pursued in Australia for some time past has produced no single result except to add to the population of
Sydney and Melbourne, while impoverishing the countryside. During the last 30 years the two cities I have mentioned have gained in population and opulence; they have added to their political strength in this Parliament by no less than fifteen seats at the expense of the countryside. There must be something wrong in a policy under which the countryside is getting thinned of its population and two cities arc gaining. The same rate of retrogression has only to continue for a while and these two cities, instead of being what they arc to-day, a powerful element in shaping the political destiny of this country, will be in absolute centro of its destinies. If we do not cry a halt, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania will be coming again and again to the Commonwealth Parliament for aid. We have, not only the word of a previous speaker, which cannot be contradicted, that this policy of protection has brought about a favoured condition of affairs in two cities while emptying the countryside of the best of its population. Professor Brigden and Mr. Giblin, the experts who were called in to advise the royal commission on the Constitution - men who had no axe to grind and who investigated the question merely to find out, among other things, the effect of Australia’s fiscal policy - arrived at the conclusion that this fiscal policy imposed a penalty of 14 per cent, on the output of the wheat industry. Thus, South Australia, out of its crop of 50,000,000 bushels of wheat, will pay its contribution of something like £700,000 to the maintenance of Australia’s protection policy at a time when its people are 30 desperately hard up.
– It means a contribution of 7,000,000 bushels out of the State’s scanty crop, representing almost the amount of this grant.
– Quite so; on the basis of 2s. a bushel for wheat. Senator Duncan made a fine speech. Our sympathies always go out to people in distress, but we are also charged with the responsibility of ascertaining the cause of the distress and applying ourselves to find a remedy, so that there may be no future distress or further occasions for bills of this description. We like to have big cities in Australia, but, after 30 years of rigorous protection, the value of our export of manufactured goods is not more than a miserable £2,000,000, whereas Canada exports manufactured goods to the value of £90,000,000. According to our Year-Booh, Australia’s export of manufactured goods is on the same level as it was 30 years ago. From this it is clear that the fiscal policy of this country is not only impoverishing those States with the smaller populations, hut is also crippling the export trade of the Commonwealth as a whole. Is it wise to continue with this suicidal policy which has brought, at least three of the States to a condition almost of bankruptcy? I notice, too, that it has become the habit lately to speak of these suppliant States as beggars or poor relations. They arc’ not. When they turn to the Commonwealth for financial assistance they merely ask for restitution or compensation for loss of revenue which they have suffered under the Commonwealth; for some return for the contribution which they make to Commonwealth revenue through customs and excise duties. Under federation they have been impoverished, while the three large eastern States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have been enriched.
The result of our fiscal policy is re- fleeted in the stronger representation of our capital cities in this Parliament. As J have already shown, the cities, since the inauguration of federation, have gained fifteen seats in the House of Representatives nt the expense of rural areas. The changed attitude of the people is particularly noticeable in the Senate. When I entered this chamber 24 years ago, New South Wale3 sent six freetraders to the Senate - six men who would not touch or handle, a protective duty of any kind. When the first tariff was introduced in 1907 they declared their uncompromising opposition to the system of protection for the encouragement of secondary industries. But they were in the minority, and in due course the first tariff schedule was placed upon our statute-book. As one might expect, having tasted blood, the New South Wales manufacturers, like the tiger, wanted more. Thus the business has gone on, with the result that the New
South Wales representatives in this Parliament now join in the vociferous clamour for more and still more protection.
The fruits of this policy are now before us in the form of urgent appeals from time to time from the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for financial assistance. Surely it is about time that we called a halt in this policy. Every honest man who has the welfare of this country at heart realizes the folly of continuing with this disastrous policy of high tariffs. The latest to tell us that we are on the wrong track is Sir Otto Niemeyer, the representative of the Bank of England, who was in Australia recently to advise the Government concerning its financial policy. No one who has honest thoughts about our present position can doubt that we have been on the wrong road. Three- States, which at one time were prosperous, are now sadly impoverished. But they are not alone. The eastern States, which developed rapidly following the inauguration of federation, are now up against serious- difficulties. Their troubles are due, in my opinion, almost entirely to the blighting influence of the high. tariffs that have been imposed in recent years. The Government in twelve months has introduced fourteen different tariff schedules, in which the duties have been piled higher and still higher. Certain industriGS .bil ve been, and are being, restricted almost to the point of extinction. The immediate remedy is for Parliament to be given an opportunity to consider these tariff schedules and to pull the inside out of them so as to give the people engaged in primary industries a chance to live. The country will be all right if primary producers are left alone. They will see to it that the unemployment problem is solved. But, unhappily, they have been hit so hard that not a few have become just a little fainthearted. They are turning their backs on their homesteads and are joining the jostling throng in the capital cities in the various States to become miserable seekers for the dole, instead of being strongly rooted to their homesteads in the countryside.
This is the position as I see it in Western Australia. If that State gets outside the federal union - and if the Federal Parliament does not treat it more justly, that is the road it will take - it will become a much more prosperous State than it is ever likely to be under federation. Its people have been merely hewers of wood and drawers of water for the people in the eastern States. They have purchased enormous quantities of commodities from the eastern States at high prices, but, unfortunately, have not been able to find a profitable market for their own products. Under the influence of high tariffs, imposed by successive governments, the industrial activities of the three eastern States, working on the same principle as a suction pump, create- a perfect vacuum and pull everything that is of value into the insatiable vortex. Little; if anything, remains for the three smaller States. This is one reason why I am a supporter of this bill. I shall vote for it in the hope that this Government will retrace its steps in fiscal matters and give the people in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania a chance to live.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS (South Australia) [12.32]. - In supporting this bill, I am in good company. Many other honorable senators who have preceded me, have announced their intention of voting for it. I, however, deprecate most strenuously any criticism of the domestic policy of the State Government. The Commonwealth Parliament must accept its share of the responsibility for the position of the smaller Sta.tes to-day. I have been a resident of South Australia for very many years. As a young man I landed in Adelaide in the early ‘eighties in ..company with many others who were seeking their fortunes in Australia. There were then no organizations to care for new arrivals and provide them with employment. The State Government allowed us to sleep in the old Exhibition Buildings, hut that was about the extent of its concern for our welfare. We had to shift for ourselves, and, like sensible men, we took. what jobs were offering, and were glad to get them. I had an opportunity to secure employment on the Oodnadatta railway at 5s. a day, but as I- was totally inexperienced, I did not accept it. Many of my friends at that time made their start in Australia on that work. I regret that the Interstate Commission was abolished some years ago, because that body kept closely in touch with the position of the several States as affected by federal legislation, and I am looking forward to the time when a commission with similar powers will be appointed to advise the Commonwealth Government concerning the position of the respective States under federation. Australia will turn the corner when its people realize that prosperity will come only as the result of honest work, and experience has shown that honest work will always command good wages. This, therefore, is the advice which I should give to those who are disposed to depend so largely upon relief organizations. Many, I fear, are only too ready to complain about their conditions, and to go on strike. I regret the circumstances which compel the Government of South Australia to appeal to the Commonwealth for financial aid. But the need is very great, and I feel sure that the bill will receive sympathetic consideration at the hands of honorable senators. I trust also, that, in the near future, as the result of good seasons and higher prices for our primary products, the need for Commonwealth assistance to the States will. pass.
– With other honorable senators, I regret exceedingly the circumstances which call for Commonwealth assistance to be given to the smaller States. The representatives of Tasmania in this chamber appreciate to the full the position of South Australia to-day. That State has had a succession of unfavorable seasons, with the result that its finances are atlow ebb, and, unfortunately, although seasonal prospects are good at the moment, the prices for exportable primary products are extremely low. Nearly every State is looking to the Commonwealth Government for financial aid. We are given to understand that, in the near future, even the great State of New South Wales will appeal to this Parliament for financial assistance. Unhappily, the Commonwealth itself is in financial difficulties, but it has first call on the resources of the nation. It is apparent to all, I think, that something is wrong with the policy of the country when we have the spectacle of State after State appealing to the Commonwealth for assistance. Prior to federation, South Australia, like Tasmania, was prosperous, and I think there can be no doubt that had it remained outside the union, it would have had no difficulty in financing all its undertakings and paying its way. The same may be said of Tasmania and Western Australia. Many inquiries have been made into the financial position of all the States mentioned by unbiased commissioners with no party aims to serve, and all, without exception, have come to the conclusion that the bulk of the trouble is due to our policy of high protection. Senator Lynch referred just now to the desperate plight of Western Australia, and declared that unless something were done to give relief, a movement for secession would soon take definite shape. I believe that the people in all the States wish to remain within the federal union; but, naturally, they expect reasonably equitable treatment from the Commonwealth Parliament. Each of us is concerned about the interestsof the people that he represents - of the interests of his own State. It has been suggested that those States which are the greatest sufferers under federation should unite and fight for their common cause. I am confident that it is not the desire of the representatives of Tasmania, Western Australia or South Australia that such a course of action should be followed.
We are all deeply interested in the welfare of Australia, and, as a representative of Tasmania, I refuse to countenance suggestions such as that which emanated from Senator Duncan - that the Commonwealth should exercise authority over the expenditure of money in the development of the States. This Federal Government cannot claim that it has set an example in the matter of careful financial administration. The Federal Government is responsible for the policy that has prejudicially affected the development of half of the States of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable senators that, bad as are the conditions in Tasmania and Queensland, the position is even worse, so far as unemployment is concerned, in those States which have profited by federation. That is because they can no longer draw upon the resources of their neighbouring States, and as a result trade is slack with them. A great aggregation of humanity in Melbourne and Sydney is on the verge of starvation, and almost in a state of riot, simply because the States of New South Wales and Victoria have neglected to develop adequately their primary resources. It is essential that we should concentrate on ‘ the production of commodities for export to the markets of the world.
Tasmania, the State which I represent, has suffered under federation, and has, from time to time, made appeals to this Parliament which Iia vo not fallen on deaf ears. During times of financial buoyancy Western Australia and South Australia have also received their share of assistance. To-day, the position is different. This Government has no surplus revenue to distribute to necessitous States. It also is faced with a considerable deficit, although it has an advantage over the States in that it. has first call on the resources of Australia. While I support the bill, 1 regret the necessity for it. Instead of devoting our time to the discussion of financial proposals of this description, we should be endeavouring to evolve a policy having for its object the development of our resources, which would give to our primary industries an opportunity rightly theirs, an opportunity that they enjoyed in full measure prior to federation. I did, and still do, support federation; but, I contend that we are retarding the development of the nation by perpetuating a policy which prejudices the development of the most important assets that Australia possesses.
Silting suspended from- 12.45 lo 2.15 p.m..
– The present seems to be an appropriate time for this Parliament to review Commonwealth policy generally, and that of South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia in particular.
– Why did not the late Government do so?
– I am neither charging the present Government with neglect, nor exonerating the Government .which preceded it. But the present
Government admits that since it came into office the position has gradually become worse. Indeed, Parliament has been called together because a national emergency rendered it necessary. Parliament was summoned to deal with urgent financial problems, but although it has been sitting several weeks, nothing has been accomplished. In view of the barren results of this session, it ill becomes any supporter of the Government to blame the previous Government. It is all very well to be wise after the event. Had we known two years ago what we know now all of us would have acted differently. The financial position of the Commonwealth two years ago was vastly different from what it is to-day. The question is not what previous governments should have done, but what this Parliament ought to do. Every report presented to Parliament on the disabilities suffered by individual States as a result of federation shows that we have been carrying out a policy which has sapped the moral fibre of our people. We have encouraged the establishment of secondary industries to the extent that the bulk of our population is congregated in two cities. We have developed our cities at the expense of the country. The products of our secondary industries have never been able to compete in the markets of the world. To-day they are less able to do so. There has been a gradual whittling down of the profits of those engaged in primary industries until to-day not one of our primary products can be profitably exported. Numerous inquiries have been made into the causes of the difficulties in which the less populous States find themselves, but nothing new has been revealed. The reports, which have been presented from time to time, make it abundantly clear that we have been following a wrong policy. Are we so stubborn that we shall pay no heed to those reports, and the facts on which they arc based? The case for Tasmania is also the case for South Australia and Western Australia. In the main, the people of those States believe in federation; but its effects are so apparent in the smaller States that a movement in favour of secession has developed. Hitherto New South Wales and Victoria have not suffered as a result of federation, but now its effects on the other States have become so manifest that they, too, are suffering a depression. We shall again have to turn to the country in order to restore our financial solvency. The policy we have pursued resulted in the temporary prosperity of our two biggest cities, but now they also are reaping the whirlwind. High tariffs, the Navigation Act, and the Arbitration Court - all the creation of this Parliament - are largely responsible for our present serious position. The position of Tasmania as affected by federation has been fully set out in a report by the Public Accounts Committee. Tasmania’s case is clear. The only reason given by the Commonwealth for not further’ assisting that State is that the finances of the Commonwealth will not permit it. To-day the position of South Australia is worse even than that of Tasmania ; for when Tasmania required assistance grants were made out of surplus revenue,whereas to-day the Commonwealth has no surplus revenue. Indeed, the Commonwealth itself has had to appeal to outsiders for help. The Commonwealth has been able to assist the States only because it has had the first call on the resources of the country. We may appropriate a sum of money to assist South Australia; but so long as certain States suffer disabilities because of federation, so long will they continue to apply to the Commonwealth for assistance. Instead of granting palliatives, we should remove the causes of our difficulties. Tasmania first received assistance from the Commonwealth in 1911. That assistance was continued for many years, but still that State is not in a sound financial position. The States which are suffering most to-day arc those which, prior to federation, were the most prosperous; whose people were the most contented, and whose industries were so flourishing that they could pay 20s. in the £1. In pre-federation days the present necessitous States were not only able to pay their way; they usually ended the year with a surplus. Instead of granting temporary relief to the States which are in need of assistance, we should get down to root causes and remove the difficulties from which they suffer. I support the bill wholeheartedly, while regretting the necessity for its introduction.
. - I have listened attentively to the debate on this measure in the hope that honorable senators opposite, instead of being content with criticizing the Government, would offer some suggestions as to the policy which ought to be pursued in these difficult times. In the past the Commonwealth has had to assist Tasmania; now it is faced with the necessity of assisting South Australia. Senator Duncan referred to the possibility of New South Wales, and even Victoria, being compelled to approach the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance. What is the position of the States? The only way in which they can raise money is through the Loan Council, which was appointed to determine the wisdom or otherwise of the borrowing propositions placed before it by the States. That machinery was set up by the previous Government.
– The honorable senator’s remarks cannot apply to expenditure on past works.
– Quite so. But during past years the position was not as serious as it is at present. I realize, with others, that the Government of the day had no alternative. One honorable senator said that the Bruce-Page Government was pushed to do what it did, but I do not know by whom it was pushed.
– By the people.
– The pushing of the previous Government was done by a privileged few.
– Who pushed them out?
– That is the one respect in which the people have the power. In matters of administration, I doubt whether the people have any direct voice at all. The members of this chamber are elected to serve in the interests of the people, irrespective of the States, and it is the duty of this Government, as it was of past governments, to do the right thing by the people. I am sorry to say that I cannot agree that this Government is doing right by granting to South Australia this amount when thousands of my fellow-men with their wives and children are starving. Not one shilling is to be found for them, but money can be found to finance a State. The position of South Australia is serious, and, apparently, this Government has to come to the rescue of the Government of that State to provide it with sufficient funds to carry on its administration.
– To help it to pay its way.
– In what direction? Not to feed the people, but to enable it to retain place and power. A very small amount of the money which the Commonwealth is granting to South Australia will be used to feed the people. I regret exceedingly that the Commonwealth Government was forced to amend its policy with respect to the sum of £1,000,000 which was originally set aside to relieve unemployment, and of which £850,000 is now being handed to South Australia to enable it to carry on. The onus is not upon this Government to do that, but upon those “ who participated in the “ rake off “ in past years by making huge profits on the goods they sold, and by those who derived heavy interest payments from investments and speculations. Are not these persons to make any sacrifice in order to assist us in overcoming our difficulties? Honorable senators opposite suggest that sacrifices should be made only by those in receipt of wages whose standard of living they contend should be reduced. In this category they include the public servants who, they say, occupy sheltered positions. What about the rack-renter? Why cannot there be a reduction in the cost of living? Hotelkeepers are still supplying meals at the prices they charged during prosperous times. No hand is raised to prevent the landlords from charging excessive rents. The same rate of interest is being paid on borrowed money, and no sacrifices whatever are being made by those who have money to lend. We have heard a great deal about equality of sacrifice; but are these persons making a sacrifice? Why cannot this Parliament provide that those who have benefited in the past shall contribute their share? Is it right that we should compel the poor unfortunate persons who have never received more than the basic wage, even during prosperous times, to surrender a portion of that for which they have fought so hard, while others are not contributing anything? One honorable senator said that the South Australian Government’ is earnestly setting itself to the task of re-adjusting its finances, and that all sections of its community, including the public servants, are malting a sacrifice. If the Government was prepared to stand up to its job it would see that those who were responsible for bringing about this state of affairs should foot the bill, and make a sacrifice equal to that of others. Reference has been made to the possibility of New South Wales being in financial difficulties. As the Premier of that State is handicapped by the fact that he cannot raise money through the Loan Council, ‘ what alternative ‘has he hut to appeal to the- Commonwealth Government ?
– Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that loan money should’ he used for this purpose ?
– Prom what source have previous grants been paid? The Bruce-Page Government met its expenditure largely out of loans, and that is why we are now confronted with our present trouble. If a government cannot carry on out of revenue, it must sooner or later feel the ill effects of its administration.
– What is the use of making an incorrect statement?
– The honorable senator knows that what I am saying is the truth. The honorable senator supported that Government, which was, to some extent, responsible for our position to-day. This Government has made every endeavour to meet the situation, and if the amount which is being granted to South Australia were in the Treasury, and a similar amount were available for relieving unemployment, no opposition would be raised. We all realize the seriousness of the position, and, if honorable senators opposite are sincere, as I believe they are, they should make some practical suggestions. Their criticism is about as useful as that of the man who said, “ There must he something wrong with something somewhere.” They have not submitted one concrete proposal, or made any helpful suggestions to the ‘ Government. They. merely say that the Government has fallen down on -its job because it is not levying taxation upon public servants in receipt of less than £725 a year.
– The honorable senator must not anticipate debate on that subject.
– This Government is confronted with one of the hardest propositions any government has had to face, and if honorable senators opposite cannot make helpful suggestions they should remain silent. They know that the Government is doing all in its power to overcome the difficulties of the situation. They have not said that they are opposed to the measure, but while professing to support it, have ridiculed the Government for introducing it.
– As a good deal of extraneous matter has been introduced into the debate on this motion, I ask honorable senators to confine their remarks to the subject matter of the bill.
– As I have spoken more than once in this chamber on the position pf South Australia, I do not intend to delay the Senate at any length. Owing to the tremendous fall in the price of wheat and wool, South Australia, which depends very largely on primary production, is severely handicapped, probably more than any of the other States. In addition to this disability, South Australia has also experienced three years of severe drought. I venture to say that in the past, it has been one of the proudest States of the Commonwealth. Not long ago,, when I was speaking to a member of the South Australian Government concerning the position in that State, I suggested that the Government should apply to the federal authorities for a special grant. He replied, “ “What, grovel in the dust - go on our hands and knees as a suppliant to the Federal Government? I hope that South Australia will never come to that.” I reminded him that the State had a constitutional right to make such a request. South Australia, which is now suffering disabilities brought about to a large extent by the action of politicians, is compelled to appeal to this Government for assistance. The Leader of the
Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that the South Australian Government had squandered about £11,000,000 on its railways rehabilitation scheme. That statement is hardly correct. I do not intend to defend the action of the State in that connexion; but it is only fair to say that prior to that expenditure being incurred, when the South Australian railways were controlled by three commissioners, Parliament refused to grant money for railway works. Later, the then Premier of South Australia, Sir Henry Barwell, appointed a Mr. Webb, an American, to take control of the South Australian railways. It was thought that because of his extensive knowledge of railway construction and maintenance and the advantages to be derived from the use of modern rollingstock the. State would benefit. Mr. Webb came to South Australia and was given practically a free hand. He started in South Australia on the lines followed in the United States of America, not realizing that there would not be sufficient traffic to justify them, and, unfortunately, during the last three years, when the carriage of wool and wheat has been so much reduced, the railway revenue has suffered more than ever. When portion of this money had been spent I said to Mr. Cameron, a Country party member in the State House, that it would be well if Parliament refused to authorize any further expenditure upon the railways until there had been a proper inquiry into the money already spent, and that proposed to be expended and exactly what it would return. Mr. Cameron did not move in the matter himself, but the proposal .was submitted by another member in the State House as an amendment to the budget, and I am sorry to say that the mover had the support of only six others for his proposal.
The money spent on the railways rehabilitation scheme in South Australia has not all been wasted. The Adelaide railway station is no doubt a very fine structure. Possibly, as has been claimed, it is a little before its time, but it will last for a great number of years. When Mr. Webb imported the big engines, and found that the rails would not carry them, he had to lay down heavier rails. The capital involved in this is still there. He also found that the sleepers were not sufficiently strong or close enough together, and had to put in more sleepers. That also was a permanent reconstruction, the benefit of which will continue. There was also an improvement of the rolling stock. That again is an asset still remaining with the State. I do not say that more has not been spent in South Australia than should have been spent, or that South Australia can pay interest on the tremendous expenditure involved,- but have not grievous errors also been made in other States? When the Bruce-Page Government was in office, the Commonwealth had surpluses amounting to about £11,000,000, and the money was spent in the following directions : -
In 1921-22 the war debt of the Commonwealth was £332,000,000. In 1928-29 it had been reduced by £45,000,000, but in. the same period, the works debt of the Commonwealth had increased by £55,000,000; of that works debt, £33,000,000 was incurred in postal construction, war service homes, and so forth, which, up to quite recently, were providing interest and sinking fund. From 1921-22 to 192S-29 the total debt of the Commonwealth thus, increased by £12,000,000, against which stand additional assets amounting to £33,000,000. In the same period the State debts increased by £207,000,000. The Year-Booh shows that the State debts stood in 1023 and 192S as follows: - ‘
All the States are to blame, but there are special circumstances in the case of South Australia. The Murray Mallee country and the far west coast, under normal conditions, have each produced one-fifth of the wheat yield in South Australia. These were areas which had to be developed by means of railways, roads, water supplies - the Tod river scheme reticulates water for some 300 milesschools, halls and so forth. This expenditure could easily be justified, but, unfortunately, owing to the high cost of construction, the works cannot pay interest, and there is a deficit upon them which has to be borne by the people of South Australia as a whole. In addition to these two districts, South Australia is particularly badly off for water supplies. There are no rivers in the northern area, about Gladstone and Jamestown, and reticulation schemes have had to be provided at great expense to serve some of our finest wheat areas. It is a class of expenditure no one begrudges ; it is necessary in the development of any State, but at the same time these water schemes have been working at a loss.
Senator Pearce says that grants will provide no real relief to South Australia until the cause of the existing state of affairs is removed. I thoroughly agree with him. But the position of South Australia is worse than that of any other State. South Australia is the highest taxed State in Australia at the present time. I admit that the present Government has made heroic efforts to remedy the” position.
– The position in New South Wales is equally bad.
– But South Australia has probably suffered more than any other State. It is true that mistakes have been made, but all States have made mistakes. In any event, South Australia is suffering from causes which are beyond its control. It is also suffering from the great disabilities on which Western Australia and Tasmania have based their claims for Commonwealth help. I am referring to the effect of the Navigation Act and the Commonwealth tariff. We may bolster up the finances of a State temporarily, but, unless the cancer of the high cost of production is cut out, we shall’ be called upon to bolster it up even more and more, until in the end the position will be desperate. Senator Lynch has told us that other States will be approaching the Commonwealth Parliament for aid if the costs of production are not reduced. I was farming a good many years ago ; I drove my own stripper, . and rode on my own plough, when wool was about 9d., lOd. or lid. per lb., and wheat was about 3s. 3d. or 3s. 6d. a bushel. At one time we got 4s. a bushel, and thought we were made. The farmers made their farms pay in those days, because costs were about half what they are to-day. At the opening of the present session, I said what I have since repeated, that if costs remain as they are, half the farmers of South Australia will be driven off the land. My practical knowledge of farming and banking enables me to deal with costs, and I can assure the Government that if the costs of production are not reduced, half of the farmers of South Australia will not bc able to remain on the land even with a slight increase in the price of wheat. If the farmers have to go off the land it means that the country storekeepers will fail. Some have already done so. If the storekeepers fail warehousemen in the cities are affected - one Adelaide firm has already failed - and financial men who have advanced money will be bit. That means more and more unemployment, ruination and starvation
– How does the honorable senator suggest that costs of production could bc reduced?
– The. question before the Chair is not the cost of production.
– Since the prosperity of South Australia depends upon primary production, it follows that if Commonwealth legislative action seriously affects the success of rural industries, it must be reflected in the financial position of that State. Tho economic committee consisting of Professors Brigden, Cop land, and Giblin, and Messrs. Dyason and Wickens, the Commonwealth Statistician, appointed to inquire into the effects of the Australian tariff, stated, in that portion of its report dealing with the incidence and distribution of excess costs -
It is desirable here to restate clearly the conditions which we are comparing. The excess cost is in respect only to Australian produce consumed in Australia, the price of which is raised above the cost of corresponding free imports by the amount we have estimated at £30.000,000.
– Does the honorable senator intend to connect his remarks with the bill?
– -Yes. I am quoting from the report of the economic committee to show that, unless costs of production are reduced, many farmers in South Australia must become insolvent, with the result that the State will be in still greater need of Commonwealth assistance. The report goes on to state -
Wo have estimated ut £38,000,000 the excess rust of commodities produced in Australia compared with what the cost would have been without any protective tariff.
– The honorable gentleman, is out of order in continuing the discussion on these lines.
– I must, of course, bow to your ruling, Mr. President ; but I am sorry that you will not allow nic to develop ray argument with regard to the effect of high costs of production on our primary industries. The Public Accounts Committee will, I understand, proceed to South Australia at the close of this session to inquire into the financial position of that State. I should like to put one phase of the problem before that committee.
– Is the honorable senator iu order in bringing before this chamber evidence which will come before the committee?
– I think he will be. My difficulty, up to the present time, has been to induce the honorable gentleman to confine his remarks to the subjectmatter of the .bill.
– I merely wish to bring under the notice of the Public Accounts Committee the possibility of increasing wealth production in South Australia by a sound policy of soil improvement in certain parts of the State, particularly the South-Eastern district. When I was there not so long ago I was shown country which, in its natural state, will not carry one sheep to 2 acres, but which, when cleared and grassed, will carry five sheep to the acre. I hope the Public Accounts Committee will visit that portion of the State and examine witnesses concerning the possibility of rehabilitating the State along the lines suggested.
– I shall not detain the Senate for more than two or three minutes. It is not my intention to oppose the bill; but I should like to remind Senator Chapman that South Australia is very largely responsible for its present position.
– So also is the Commonwealth.
– Yes; but, unfortunately for Senator Daly, South Australia has been far and away the biggest sinner in the matter of loan expenditure. I propose to quote figures relating to loan expenditure for the period referred to by Senator Chapman, and to indicate the position of the several States on a population basis. I admit that, in recent years, my own State has been spending loan money far too lavishly upon all sorts of schemes, which are not returning anythinglike a reasonable rate of interest, and are not likely to do so for some considerable time. But if we examine the figures on the per capita basis we find that New South Wales is not, after all, the greatest offender.For the first year of the period referred to by Senator Chapman, the per capita expenditure of loan money in New South Wales was £100 13s.11d., and for the last year it was £106 13s. 6d., or an increase of £6 per head. In Victoria, the per capita expenditure increased from £73 to £89, an increase of £16 ; in Queensland it rose from £109 to £123, ari increase of £14; in South Australia it increased from £125 to £159, or an increase of £34 per head; in Western Australia it advanced from £74 to £93, an increase of £19, and in Tasmania it increased from £111 to £117, or £6 per head, the same as in New South Wales. The average for all the States showed the per capita expenditure on loan money at £101 in 1924-25, and £114 per head in 1928-29, or an increase of £13. These figures clearly imply that, in the period mentioned, South Australia indulged in the maddest schemes for the expenditure of loan money.
– The bulk of the loan expenditure in South Australia was on account of the railways.
– I believe the honorable senator is correct. While a good deal of criticism has been levelled against my own State, the figures show that the per capita increase in the load of debt for the years mentioned was only £6, compared with £34 in South Australia. That State is now getting from the Commonwealth the most liberal treatment possible in the circumstances. While I recognize that South Australia, being a primary producing State, is suffering seriously owing to the sharp decline in the prices for primary products, it must not be forgotten that New South Wales also is in much the same position. The primary producers of the other States are to a very large extent dependent on the huge markets of Sydney and Melbourne for the sale of their products. If it were not for those markets many of their small producers would be in a precarious position. I realize that the State of South Australia has made every endeavour to balance its budget, and I am prepared, in the circumstances, to give this measure my support. At the same time I recognize that the diversion of this money will burden my State somewhat. Mr. Lang, the present Premier of New South Wales, has set out pretty enthusiastically to balance the budget of that State, and the severity of his methods may materially reduce the remuneration of wage-earners. That, however, is by the way. I merely rose to demonstrate, with the aid of the figures that I have quoted, that South Australia is principally responsible for its own difficulties. Had it not gone as far as it has in its endeavour to balance its budget, I should not be prepared to support this bill.
. - I shall not delay the Senate unduly, as it is obvious, from the tone of the remarks of honorable senators, that this bill will be carried, and that it is their desire that that should be done with the greatest expedition. I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee, which has been asked by the
Commonwealth Government to conduct an exhaustiveinvestigation into the position of South Australia, with a view to determining what can be done to bring about a permanent improvement in the condition of that State, either by local action or by assistance on the part of this Government. It would, therefore, be improper for me to traverse many of the arguments used by honorable senators, as they will be placed before me as. a member of that committee. Honorable senators are familiar with the origin of this proposal. The Commonwealth Government had provided in its budget for a grant of £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment in the different States. Then, in view of the precarious position of South Australia, it was decided at the Premiers Conference in Melbourne that the major portion of that grant should be diverted specifically for the assistance of my State. It was recognized that South Australia had increased its taxation until its incidence was much higher than that of taxation in other States, also that the severe droughts through which my State has passed in recent years have made its taxable capacity the second lowest in the Commonwealth. It is regrettable that the unemployed in other States will suffer by the diversion of this money; but I assure honorable senators that the Government of South Australia is truly grateful for the action taken by the Premiers Conference and by this Parliament. Portion of this grant will certainly be used for the relief of the unemployed in South Australia, which is at present costing £14,500 a week. It looks as if there can be no material diminution of unemployment in that State in the near future, which means that it will have to spend nearly £750,000 during this financial year in relieving the workless. It is quite likely that, had this grant not been made available, my State would have experienced extreme difficulty in continuing to issue rations to unemployed. There is no doubt that South Australia has done everything possible to meet its commitments. Its endeavours have been unsuccessful, and this money is necessary to enable it to balance its budget. I express my appreciation of the approval by honorable senators of this bill, and of their authorization of this very necessary assistance to the State which I represent.
– I am very glad that there has been unanimity on the part of honorable senators in approving of this measure. I feel that they sympathize with South Australia in the position in which it finds itself. Some adverse criticism has been levelled at the administration of that State, but I do not know that it is more open to censurethan any other government, including the Commonwealth Government. All have spent money in profligate fashion. Now that they have learned their lesson it is to be hoped that all the Governments of Australia will follow the course that has to be adopted by private individuals - keep their expenditure within their income. I appreciate the generous attitude of honorable senators in this matter, and believe that the case is deserving of their fullest sympathy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
SALES TAX BILL (No. 1a).
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Senator DALY (South Australia -
Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.25]. - I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 9th December, at 3 p.m.
As the result of a conference with the Acting Prime Minister I am able to inform the Senate that, in addition to the legislation that is at present before it, the Government may find it necessary to introduce amendments to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Notice of such a bill has been given, but the urgency or otherwise of its introduction will depend upon the reasons for the judgment given by the High Court on Monday. It is also proposed to amend the Northern Territory Administration Act and theRed Hill to Port Augusta Act, the latter depending upon legalquestions which are at present being investigated. In addition, and this will bc good news to the representatives of Western Australia, it is proposed to introduce a Gold Bounty Bill.
In order that we may, if possible, clean up the business-sheet next week, I am asking honorable senators to sit a day earlier than usual. I understand that another place will send the bills along to us with all celerity, and it may even be necessary to ask honorable senators to sit a little later every evening.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.27]. - I am sure that I speak for all on this side of the chamber when I say thatwe cordially support the motion. It is our desire that an endeavour should be made to finish the business of this session by Friday next, and I see no reason why that should not be accomplished. It certainly will not be for lack of co-operation on the part of the Opposition. We shall be brief in our speeches, as we do not desire to Labour any of the bills that have to be deal with. Parliament has been sitting for quite a considerable time this year, and many of us have had little opportunity to be in our constituencies, or homes. I, therefore, urge upon the Government the desirability of finishing the business of the session by to-day week, so that those of us who reside in distant, States may return to our homes for the Christmas season. Members of the. Opposition arewilling to help the Government by sitting later than ordinarily and, if necessary, by devoting one or two mornings next week to the business of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
. - In the absence of the Leader of the Senate I addressed a question to the Honorary Minister representing him, concerning a matter of grave importance to the secondary industries of South Australia. It referred to the position that is being created by the munition works, at Maribyrnong, manufacturing motor parts, in competition with Holdens Motor Body Limited, and other important manufacturing concerns. I hope that the Minister will have the matter investigated. If the position is not remedied I shall not allow the occasion to slip by later. I am informed, on reliable authority, that the Government is turning out these parts and selling them at a loss, to the detriment of our manufacturers, and to the absolute disorganization of the motor body industry of Australia.
There is another matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the Leader of the Senate. I understand that some very urgent amendment of the Bankruptcy Act is necessary, and, I believe, that representations have been made to the honorable senator, in his capacity as Acting Federal Attorney-General. T should like to know when the bill, which is so urgently needed, particularly by the people of Sydney, is likely to be brought before this chamber.
– In reply to the first question by Senator McLachlan, the matter will be looked into. I suggest that inquiries should be made as to whether the ruling in the Bunnerong case does not preclude the Commonwealth Government from manufacturing to sell. The attention of the Government having been drawn to the matter, I feel sure that, if the facts are as stated by the honorable senator, it will grant the relief sought.
A deputation recently waited on me, and I understand also waited on the Acting Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in another place, urging the desirability of amending the bankruptcy law. If these is nothing contentious in the proposals of the deputation, I see no reason-
– The deputation asked merely for a technical amendment of the law.
– -The Acting SolicitorGeneral proposes to visit Sydney this week-end to inquire into this matter, among others. If he discovers that the position is as set out by the deputation, and the Opposition is satisfied with the. Government’s proposals, amendments will bc introduced seeing, that, in that case, they can be dealt with in a few minutes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 December 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19301205_senate_12_127/>.