5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to statements in the newspapers in regard . to the result of the New South Wales State elections ? If so, has he any statement to make, or does he think that the matter has nothing to do with Federal politics?
– I would suggest to my honorable friend that, as he thinks he is strong, he might be generous.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Wimmera, who declared that I was confusing fruit-growers with ‘farmers in stating that a conference of Inter-State farmers had objected to the establishment of aFederal Bureau of Agriculture. I desire now. to explain that at this InterState. Conference of farmers and settlers held at Brisbane, at which all the States save Tasmania were represented, it is reported that -
Mr. Nielsen, in the absence of Mr. Swane, moved - “ That the time has not yet arrived when the establishment by the Commonwealth Government of a Department or Bureau of Agriculture is necessary.”
Mr. Brown moved an amendment to the effect that the establishment, by the Commonwealth Government of a Bureau should be opposed ‘in the interests of the producers of all the States, whose interests were manifestly so manifold and various.
The amendment was defeated, and after the word “yet” had been deleted, the original motion was carried.
The original motion was, that the time had not arrived for the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture.
– I, too, desire to make a personal explanation. I have been grossly misrepresented in both the metropolitan morning newspapers regarding a remark I made, on Friday last whilst the Estimates were under consideration. I admit that it does not matter very much, but as misrepresentations of a man’s views are constantly made by the press, I think one is entitled to make an explanation, and to put those views correctly. It is- fortunate, for honorable members that we have Hansard to show what we do say in this Parliament. The Age, in its issue of Saturday last, accuses me of having brought forward on Friday a proposal for old-age pensions for members of Parliament. The Argus of the same date makes . a similar accusation against me. It says that I - brought forward another suggestion which was greeted with approving cheers from members on both sides. It was ‘for the establishment of a system of pensions for members.
– Not old-age pensions, but retiring pensions.
– The Argus speaks of oldage pensions for members, and in a leading article this morning it criticises what it alleges to be my view with regard to’ this matter. It says-
That the proposition should have been made by Mr. Boyd, of all members, will fill Liberals, and especially Henty Liberals, with disgust.
If a statement of that kind were permitted to go forth uncontradicted - a statement that I advocated something which I did not advocate - then I should be grossly misrepresented.- , Evidently the newspaper reporters did not hear what . I said.
– They heard it. all right.
– I shall not say that. They could not have heard, what I said. It seems to me that . they must have heard the word “pensions” used, and took it- that I was advocating old-age pensions for members of Parliament. I never advocated anything of the kind, nor had I such an idea in my mind. I never thought of, much less gave expression to, such an idea. What I did say was that I indorsed the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy, who had preceded me, and - who had advocated that this House should sit three days a week instead of four. I. said that I indorsed that suggestion, and pointed out that, if adopted, it would give us an opportunity to attend functions in our constituencies, as well as to discharge various other duties which we’ had to perform. It would also, I said, give honorable members some time to attend to their private businesses. Then I added -
If we go on as we are doing, it seems to me that there will be a pension suggested for members of Parliament.
That was said in a satirical vein. Because of those remarks, the press now declare that I advocated old-age pensions for members. I am quite certain that they will take notice of this correction, and I trust that they will give to it as much publicity as Chey did to the statement that I had advocated pensions for members of Parliament.
– I immediately followed the honorable member for Henty on the occasion to which he refers, and I said that I thoroughly supported the honorable member’s proposition.
– Does the honorable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– I wish to explain that I adopted that view, and still hold it.
– The honorable member is not in order in making a statement of that kind under cover of a personal explanation. He does not say he was misreported ..
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a telegram published in to-day’s Argus, headed “ Ministries differ,” “ Liberal and Labour,” and which reads, “ Perth, Sunday.”-
– The honorable member will not be in order in reading the extract.
– Very well, sir. The newspaper paragraph is to the effect that the Federal Ministry have “refused to renew bills to the Western Australian Government to the extent of £200,000. I desire to ask whether that statement is correct ; and, if so, whether the fact that the two Ministries concerned happen to be of a different political colour has anything to do with the refusal?
– I saw the statement in the newspaper this morning. It is in no sense true that the political colour of the Ministry has anything to do with the decision.. The same intimation has been sent to the rest of the States. The whole point is that we want the money for our own requirements. Western Australia is being treated in the same way as is every other State to which we have loaned money.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to announce the decision of the Government in regard to the erection of a testing station for explosives, and, if so, will he treat the matter as urgent ?
– I am sorry to say that I am not in a position to make a statement at the present time. I am having inquiries made as to the cost of operating the station. We know pretty well what will be the cost of erecting it, and I wish for further information as to the cost of conducting it after it has been erected. As soon as I get the information I am seeking I shall be in a position to decide whether it will pay us in the circumstances to erect the station. I hope it may turn out that it will pay us to do so.
– Is the Prime Minister able to say whether arrangements have been made which will allow of the use of cross-headings, such as were previously permitted in Hansard reprints?
– I have done nothing further in the- matter, and my own inclination is to ask the Printing Committee to deal with it, in order to see whether they can suggest some form of censorship over headlines.
– The old form is good enough.
– I should like to tell my right honorable friend that I would not consent to the old form.
– The Treasurer has been using the old form of head-lines.
– If so, the Treasurer has not abused the privilege, as the honorable member for Gwydir, for one, did.
– Never !
– The sample headings put in by the honorable member are there to be seen, at any rate. If the matter is to be revived at all, it will have to be under such conditions as will prevent a recurrence of that kind oi thing.
– It was deadly, was it not?
– Honorable members opposite have thrown away nearly all their privileges by abusing them, and that is the trouble.
– The Prime Minister seems anxious to keep all the privileges for one side.
– I have taken no privileges away - I have done nothing at all.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he has any report to make to the House as a result of his recent visit to New South Wales in connexion with the State elections?
– I had not expected that that question would be repeated. A similar question has already been asked, and it was entirely out of order; but I let it pass. Such questions have nothing to do with Federal matters.
– I desire to ask the AttorneyGeneral whether that clause in the Public Works Committee Bill which provides that the members of that body shall receive remuneration for their services, is in accordance with the Commonwealth Constitution?
– It- will be more convenient to deal with that matter when the Bill comes before us.
– Is it a fact that there is certain friction in connexion with the contract between the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government for the supply of sleepers for the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway, as would appear to be the case from reports in both Melbourne daily papers this morning?
– There is no friction that I am aware of. There does, however,- seem to be abundant reason to believe that the contract will not be carried out by the Western Australian Government as to the time of commencement, and, indeed, afterwards. In the case of a contract of this kind, which is, perhaps, one of the most important that any Government could enter into,- an obligation exists to- provide some guarantee that it will be- car ried out as to time, for- time is the very essence of the contract. May I remind the’ honorable member that we did not initiate this correspondencethat it was initiated from the other end ? We were informed that the Western Australian Government did not think they would be able to fulfil the contract at the time specified.
– Has the Honorary Minister any information to give the House as to when the railway from Queanbeyan to the Federal Territory will be taken over by the Federal Government ?
– I am sorry that there has been a little delay in the construction. The work is being carried out by the State Public Works Department, and we may, I hope, find the honorable member sympathetically inclined in regard- to that delay. I had hoped that the line would, be opened before the House rose for the recess, but at present there is no indication of such a thing.
– In view of the fact that the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia has carried a Constitution Amending Bill, incorporating the Referendum and Initiative for the State, will the Government, during the recess, take into consideration the necessity of meeting the wishes of Australia by introducing next session a similar Bill for the Commonwealth?
– If we are permitted to get into recess, we shall consider this “and other matters, which, we hope, will give a good Democratic Government a good Democratic platform.
– In view of the experience gained in the epidemic that is not yet over in Sydney, is it the intention of the Government, in order to provide guidance for the future, to have a thorough investigation made, and thus obtain information as to the facts underlying the outbreak ?
– Matters are being investigated, and will continue to be investigated. If, however, the honorable member means a special form of investigation, it appearsto me that we can avoid that trouble and expense at the present time. There are so many other inquiries in connexion with important matters going on that I am afraid I cannot promise the special inquiry suggested.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs, before the ‘recess, furnish the House with full information as to the work done by the Inter-State Commission up to date?
– The first duty of the Inter-State Commission after its appointment was to visit the several States, and the members have only this week returned from Brisbane. In the meantime, something like , eighty applications, dealing with about 112 items in the Tariff,. have been received.
– Is. that all ?
– Yes, and many of them have just recently been received. In regard to the applications that came before the late Minister of Trade and Customs, the persons interested have been communicated with, in order to ascertain whether they desire to have the various matters investigated. . Some of those persons have replied consenting, but many have not replied at all. In the meantime, the Inter-State Commission officers are getting everything in readiness, and there is no delay of any description on the part of the Commission getting to work as speedily as possible.
– Does this mean a Tariff Bill next session?
– It means that the InterState Commission will get to work immediately to deal with the Tariff matters submitted to them.
– When will they finish their task?
– It is impossible for me to say when they will terminate their duties. I have every confidence they will get to their work as speedily as possible, At the beginning a request was made to them by this Government that they should deal with those matters that were of an urgent character.
– Can the Minister give any idea as to whether we shall have a Tariff session when the House resumes after the recess?
– I can assure the honorable memberthat every matter that’ is brought under the notice of the. Inter state Commission and considered by them will be treated by the Government with the utmost despatch.
– Is it the intention of the Government always to wait for a recommendation from the Inter-State Commission before they will touch the Tariff? Are the Government not likely to make Tariff alterations without reference to the Inter-State Commission ?
– It is the intention of the Government to submit any request that comes to the Department of Trade and Customs for a Tariff alteration to consideration and report by the InterState Commission.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence cause inquiries to be made into the very long delay - in some cases, I understand, amounting to six months - in granting refunds to cadets in respect to money expended on uniforms? I understand there are a large number of complaints about this delay.
– This complaint reached me some time ago from South Australia through one of the honorable member’s colleagues. I can promise him that I shall have immediate inquiries made in order to ascertain the cause of the delay.
– It is stated in today’s Age by the London correspondent of that newspaper that there is -no real control of immigration agents. It is further stated that each agent receives £1 and 5 per cent, commission for all passages taken. That these statements are true, I can verify, because I heard many lying assertions made in London and Glasgow when I was there. Can the Minister of External Affairs inform us, before to-day’s sitting is concluded, what States of Australia allow agents this£1 and 5 per cent, commission ?
– I am not sure what States make these payments, though I know that some of them do, but if the honorable member desires it, I shall get the information for him. At present, administration in regard to immigration is divided, the’ Commonwealth undertaking the advertising, and the States making arrangements for the passages, but the matter of co-ordinating immigration affairs is receiving attention.
– Complaints have been made by men working in the Federal Territory about the lack of accommodation if they should desire to take their wives and families there. Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs tell me what steps have been taken to erect cottages in the Territory ?
– We are following the practice established by our predecessors in regard to housing our workmen in tents, and so forth. I did think that the arrangement made by my distinguished predecessor would receive the cordial and sympathetic support of my friends.
– That was only a temporary arrangement.
– In view of the oftdeclared statement of the Government that the embargo would not be lifted until the last case reported was twentyeight days old, is it a fact that the primary reason for lifting the embargo was to save the High Commissioner from incurring vaccination ?
– I am surprised at a question of that nature containing an insinuation being submitted by the honorable member. Neither I nor any one in the Department has ever said that the embargo would not be lifted until a certain defined time had expired.
– I think I can show it to you inHansard.
– I think I repeatedly said that the embargo would not be lifted until the adyisers to the Government were of the opinion that arrangements could be made for it to be done with safety. The question was asked me in the House on several occasions as to what I considered a safe time, and I think my answer always was that we would be guided by the expert officers of the Department. When representations were made by the State Government, I think I said that, as soon . as the State authorities could recommend a system which would be regarded as sufficiently adequate, the embargo would be lifted. Irrespective of what the honorable member has said, the action taken had nothing to do with the High Commissioner. I did not even know whether he was vaccinated or not.
– A disorderly practice is growing up, to which I have very frequently called attention, of interjecting while a Minister is replying to a question. I ask honorable “member s not to continue it. It is also disorderly to interject another question while a Minister is answering, in order to elicit further information.
– Since my report was presented last week, it has been discovered that a summary of the working expenses of the telephone exchanges which has been prepared has been inadvertently omitted from the financial tables. If honorable members approve, this summary will be inserted in the report when it is being printed.
Ordered that the document be printed and included in the general report.
MINISTERS laid on the table the following papers : -
Old-age and Invalid Pension - Report on extent of the granting of, in Australia, by G. H. Knibbs, Commonwealth Statistician.
Ordered to be printed.
Naval Defence Act - Naval College Regulations (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 308.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of messages from the GovernorGeneral transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1913, and Supplementary Estimates for Additions, New Works, and Buildings, &c, for the year ended 30th June, 1913, and recommending appropriations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund accordingly.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 12th December, vide page 4270) :
Department oe the Treasury.
Division 15 (The Treasury), £22,926
Does the Treasurer propose to make a statement regarding, his ‘ Department ? There are considerable alterations in it.
– I do not know of anything in particular.
– I think the Treasurer is in error, because he will see, for instance, that the expenditure on the maternity allowance has ‘ increased considerably.
– It is for the whole of the year instead of for part of a year.
– It is proportionately much greater. In 1912-13 the amount was £5,992; for 1913-14 it is £9,675. I think the work of the Treasury is about as economically conducted as possible. The same may be said of the various Departments with which I am acquainted. While I was at the Treasury I always set my face against) establishing new Departments or sub-Departments for new services. It is more economical to keep the work entirely under the responsible heads, and this practice has worked out very well. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department has been carried out by the Secretary and Assistant Secretary on the most economical and efficient lines possible. When the Old-age Pensions Act was first passed it was provided that there should be a separate Department to work it, but during my term of. office I took the opportunity to depart from the principle laid down in the Act. It was a departure which was justified, because we had power under the Act to appoint the Secretary of the Treasury to act as the Chief Commissioner of Old-age Pensions, and his salary was only increased by a nominal amount owing to the new duties imposed upon him. The Assistant Secretary of the Treasury was made Assistant Commissioner, and the whole expenditure amounted to about £250 a year. I venture to say that if we had established a Department or sub-Department to carry out these services the cost would have run into many thousands of pounds. The Treasury is undoubtedly the proper Department to carry out the financial schemes of the Commonwealth Parliament, such as old-age pensions and maternity allowances. I am not going to cavil at the maternity allowance expenditure if the Treasurer tells me that it is absolutely necessary for the protection of the public interest, and for the safe administration of the Act; but, apart’ altogether from the increased expendi ture, it is incumbent upon the Treasurer to say on behalf of the Government what their policy is on that question, because we were told during the elections that the party who are now on the Government benches had a policy different, from that provided for in our Act.
– We have told you half-a-dozen times what our policy is.
– What is it?
– It is clearly set forth in the Ministerial statement.
– This is the time when the Treasurer ought to make a statement on the question.
– We made it when we met the House.
– There has been no statement beyond vague general assertions to satisfy any person outside as to what the policy of the Government really is. The Treasurer can have no objection to state it now. Here is an increase of expenditure to provide for a larger staff on account of the increase in the number of applications. The Treasurer ought in justice to himself and the Government to make a statement as to their position in the matter. Is it intended by the Government to alter or annul this legislation?
– I made the matter clear in my Budget speech;
– What is the policy of the Government ? Either they are in favour of this legislation, or they are not, and the Treasurer is the person who is in duty bound to say what their policy is when he is proposing to increase . his expenditure by 50 per cent.
– The Budget debate is the proper time to raise these questions.
– The Budget is the time to discuss, the general policy of the Government. Now is the time to deal with the particular items of policy which come under the controlof the Treasury. The right honorable gentleman holds a very important portfolio, but it does not embrace all matters of Government policy, because each Department has its policy, and each Minister is called upon to explain its details. It is the duty of any one occupying my position to ask the right honorable gentleman to make a statement now as to the views of the Government on this particular question. I do not care to read back numbers of Hansard regarding the policy of this Government. At the beginning of the session, Ministers had a clear and definite policy, which was, to go to the country. There was nothing but that. Now, a regiment of soldiers could not drive them to the country. Some of the Ministerialists have been - to - the country, and have returned with wry faces. Nothing that has happened justifies undue optimism or depression, but there is not now among those opposite that boastf ulness about the mandate that they have received which recently characterized their utterances. They are not now so sure about the policy of club rule, nor are they certain that the trusts, combines, and monopolies are to continue to govern the country as in the past.
– That has nothing to do with the Estimates.
– I wish to express my astonishment at the right honorable gentleman’s action in claiming for himself a privilege that is not enjoyed by any other member.
– I do not claim, and I do not want, any privileges. The honorable member is making a mountain out of a mole-hill, just to suit himself. He wants, to have his own speeches printed with head-lines. So far as I am concerned, I shall never do this again, if so much is to be made of it. There is a limit to human endurance.
– Yes, and there is a limit to the privileges of particular individuals in- a democratic assembly.
– The right honorable gentleman enjoyed more privileges than I have enjoyed.
– Then I ask the Treasurer to expose them.
– I do not. wish to expose them ; but the right honorable gentleman had more than I have. I have not had any, and I do not’ want any.
– The Treasurer has made a suggestive statement. I demand that he make a full disclosure of his meaning.
– The right honorable member has drawn travelling expenses. That I never did.
– What amount have I drawn ?
– I do not know. Mr. FISHER. - As much as £100?
– Hundreds of pounds, I should think.
– The discussion is out of order.
Mr.FISHER. - The total sum drawn by me in travelling expenses is not asmuch as £100.
– I have not drawna penny.
– These are the slanderous statements made by the men in office.
– The right honorable member spoke of my privileges! and I retorted.
– The Treasurer does not know the facts. He should make a fair statement to the public.
– All the information regarding the travellingexpensesof the last Ministry has been laid on the table in the form of a parliamentarypaper.
– Half the time I paid my own travelling expenses, and I think that I drew less than £100 altogether. .
– During three years ?
– No. The first sessionwas half through before it was determined that Ministers should, be paid ex- . penses while travelling on purely public business. It has been said that I drew £1,700 in connexion with my visit to England and £1,100 when I went to Africa; but both statements are. untrue. My wife and I were invited by the British Government to attend the Coronation,, and I drew £1,050 to cover the expenses, of my trip, paying for my young son out of my own pocket. For the South African trip I drew £400, which is not a penny more than I expended in the public interest.
– The public are satisfied about that. .
– Now we have this suggestive statement that I drew. ‘ hundreds of pounds for expenses.
– The honorable member spoke of my privileges. I have no privileges.
– Travelling expenses are not privileges. I am speaking of the rights of the members of this House.
-I have no particular rights and no privileges, nor do I want any.
– the right honorablegentleman controls the Printing Office,, whose administration is within his Department. He thought it advisable to reprint. his speech on the Loan Bill with headlines - quite proper head-lines. I asked at the time whether other members who ihad their speeches reprinted would be allowed to insert head-lines, availing themselves of the privilege that the Treasurer had taken, but the Government persist in refusing that privilege to other members.
– Quite right, too. It is a matter for the House to deal with.
– The House determined that head-lines should not be used, but the Treasurer has claimed the. right to go behind the decision of the House. The Printing Office must accept his directions. His speech on the Loan Bill was in no different position from any speech of any other honorable member.
– Its reprinting was not paid for by Parliament.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– The honorable member wants to use head-lines in the reprints of his speeches, buthe cannot do it without the permission of the House.
– The Leader of the Opposition has possession of the floor, but for some time there has been more speechmaking by the Treasurer than by the right honorable member for Wide Bay. I must ask the Treasurer to cease these interjections.
– I shall not say another word.
– The question I am raising may seem comparatively small, but it is certainly an important one if Ministers are to be allowed greater privileges than are extended to the last man to enter this House. The rights of honorable members are equal.
– The introduction of cross-headings like the paragraphing of speeches would be a great improvement.
– Quite so. But for some reason or other the Government have got into their heads the idea that there is in this proposal a kind of political bombshell.
– Not at all.
– That, at least, seems to be the view which they take up. Even assuming that we . were asking for this -concession for political purposes, would that justify the Government in refusing it ? Are they afraid of open criticism ? Do they fear to have their political statements replied to in the form in which they are published ? I brought forward this* proposition in the hope that the Treasurer would agree to its reasonableness, and would say at once that the old rule would be reverted to. It should not have been departed from.
– I shall never put headings into a speech in the same way again.
– That is not the point. I am in favour of the system adopted by the Treasurer, but believe that it should be extended to honorable members generally.
– Let the Printing Committee consider the matter.
– I am afraid that they would go on considering it until it was too late for all practical purposes. I wish now to point out the increase in the proposed vote for administering the maternity allowance. The vote last year was £5,992; whereas this year we are asked to vote £9,675.
– The vote for 1912-13 did not cover a full year. ‘
– That is so, but the Treasurer must not forget that a scheme always costs more -to administer when in its initiatory stages than it does when it is well established. The machinery for the maternity allowance came into force in September of last year, so that last year’s vote covered, ten months. After a certain point has been’ passed, it does not cost so much per head to pay the oldage pensions as it does before, and that must also apply to the maternity allowance. Will the Treasurer explain the reason for this increase in the cost of the administration, and state what is the policy of the Government in regard to the maternity allowance?
– I can only say that I have not altered the procedure that I found in force when I entered the Treasury, and that I think that the maternity allowance is being administered very economically. The officers administering the old-age pensions system attend also to the payment of the maternity allowance. The Secretary and the Assistant-Secretary to the Treasurer administer both services. I have not, so far as ‘I am aware, authorized any new expenditure in connexion with the system.
– Provision is made “for the appointment of an inspector at £300 a year.
– I do not think the position has yet been filled. I have no desire to exaggerate, but there can be no doubt that a good deal of fraud has taken place in connexion with this maternity allowance.
– How many cases have
– I should say at least 100. There were thirty cases in South Australia, but we have not yet been able to deal with the offenders. There has been some fraud, and we must take steps to guard against it. One is guided a good deal in these matters by those who have the conduct of the system.
– According to the Treasurer, there has ‘been about one case of fraud to every 1,000 cases dealt with.
– The number of -such cases is hot considerable, but there has been some fraud. I think that the Leader of the Opposition is to be commended for his desire that the payment of this allowance shall be attended with as little inquisitorial action as possible, but if the door is left open to fraud there are some people who will take advantage of it. Those in authority think that we ought to have an inspector to guard against fraud, but the office has not yet been filled. So far as I am aware, there has been no additional expense in administering the system. There can be no doubt that the number of applicants for the maternity allowance is increasing, and that it will continue to increase. Many people at first had some little diffidence about making application for the allowance, but later on they thought that they might as well obtain it, and a great many others have come to the same conclusion. The position is the same in regard to the old-age pension system. Far more persons now take the pension than were prepared to accept it at the beginning. The number will probably go on increasing until, ultimately, every eligible person will draw the. pension. T think that, in introducing the Maternity Allowance Bill, the present Leader of the Opposition said that he thought many people would not avail themselves of it.
– The right honorable gentleman said he did not expect that all would avail themselves of it, and, indeed, I may say that I am opposed to the allowance being received by any one who is not in need of it. The policy of the Government in this matter was clearly laid down, not only in the Budget statement, but also in the following paragraph in our policy statement -
The maternity allowance is being claimed in a, very large proportion of the total cases of birth, and the expenditure is likely to amount this yeas to about£650,000. Ministers feel that the obligation of the public should be limited to , proper provision for necessitous cases, and that all other, cases would be better and more economically provided for by the scheme of national insurance,, referred to in previous paragraph.
That is the policy of the Government, and it could not be made more clear. We do not believe in giving the public revenue to those who do not require it, ‘and, inmy opinion, have no right to it. We donot provide old-age pensions for everybody. That is a policy to which I should be opposed, though I know there are honorable members who advocate pensions for every man and woman, whether they require it or not. We need all our revenue for making roads, bridges, railways, and otherwise developing this great country.
.- I do not think ‘that, since old-age pensions were established, I have ever brought an individual case under the notice of this Chamber, always realizing that the best course was to interview the Minister or the officers of the Department. The Act has, I think, always been administered very sympathetically, whoever has beenTreasurer or whoever has been the officer in charge. There are, of course, anomalies under the present system, and it is necessary that the officers should carry out the law. To-day I desire to bring a case under the notice of the Treasurer, not because of the individual concerned, but because there is a principle involved. I was rather sorry to hear the Treasurer say just now that he is not in favour of universal old-age pensions, because I am one who believes that old-age pensions should be available to every person, rich.’ or poor.
– The , honorable member would require Fortunatus’ purse to carry out his idea.’
– Not at all.
– How much would it cost?
– Suppose it cost £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 more than at present, it is a national insurance.
– People who are well off do not desire the pension.
– Then they need not take it.
– I would not give them the chance.
– We shall never do away with anomalies in old-age pension administration until the system is applied universally. Of course, I am not now asking the Treasurer to enter upon a scheme of universal pensions. The idea, however, may spread gradually, and we may go step by step, having always in view the fact that the time will come when everybody, rich and poor, will have the right to the pension, simply because they have arrived at the age of sixty-five, and, having lived so many years in Australia, have earned the right to it.
– Has the honorable member calculated what the cost will be?
– As I say, even, if it cost £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 more than
At present, I think this country could stand it.
– Where should we get the money from?
– From the people of Australia.
– Tax them?
– Of course; we know that revenue does not fall from the clouds. We know that there are people very much opposed to old-age pensions even under the present system, on the ground that it weakens “ the moral fibre “ of the community. We have only to go back a few years, however, in order to find people who opposed free education - who were quite willing to pauperize certain sections of the community with free . education, but who would compel those who could afford to do so to pay for it.
– The same rule applies as in travelling on steamers.
– Quite so; and on the railways. And here I may say that this evening I hope to address a gathering of intelligent citizens of Australia in advocacy of free railways. No one to-day would dream of abandoning the policy of free education for all; and my opinion is that the more money we spend, within reason, on the education of the people, the better for the community.
– Would the honorable member tax the man who was going to receive the pension ?
-Why not? Every man has to pay his fair share of taxation, and he receives the benefits. However, last session the old-age pension system was extended so far that if an applicant owned a house, and resided in it, it did not bring about any reduction in the pension he received. This was certainly a step in the right direction. A friend of mine, who has been applying for an old-age pension, has a house, or, at any rate, he is regarded as owning the house, although I am inclined to think from what he has said, that he has given it to his daughter. Under the circumstances, we will take it that he is the owner of the house, though really he lives elsewhere with a son-in-law. In reply to -his application, the Department has told him that the house is worth £225, and they estimate that from that house he is able to receive as rent £33 a year. I happen to know the country place in which the house “is situated, and if such a rent can be obtained for such a house it is very good interest indeed. ‘ However, that is not the point I desire to bring before the Committee, but one which I shall afterwards place before the Treasurer and the Commissioner at the Department. Let us admit that it is a fair thing that £33 should be taken as the rental; but the departmental officers go further. They deduct under the Statute £50, but add £15 which the applicant had in the bank, thus making £190, the valuation of his property for the purposes of the Act. If a person earns £52 a year, he cannot obtain a pension - that is, £52 apart from any pension.
– I think he gets something, but it is a reduced amount.
– Not according to the communication from the Department. Under the old Act, an applicant is entitled to a house worth £50, without there being an interference with the amount of the pension, and, therefore, I say that this applicant’s house is regarded as worth £190, and departmental officers deduct from the pension £1 for every £10 of the last valuation; and as £19 plus £33 happens to be £52, he gets no pension at all. Having passed an Act providing that the possession of a home is not to interfere with the receipt of a pension, so long as no revenue is received from the property, it seems to me that the £19 per year ought to be deducted.
– If a man does not live in a house, it is not his home.
– If this man lived in the house, and took his daughter to live with him, there would be no deduction.
-Quite right; he would then get his10s. a week. I am not complaining about the deduction of £33, although I think it is an excessive amount- it is the principle of which I am complaining. When the Act was passed last year, the late Government had in their mind persons who received revenue from their property ; but it seems to me that if the £33 be deducted, and also £1 for every £10 of the value of the house, there is double-banking.
– I think we propose to do something in the Bill now before the Howse. If a man does not live in his own house he cannot claim that as his home.
– Under the Act, any revenue derived from the home must be deducted from the pension, but it seems to rare that, in this instance, not only are we doing that, but we are also taking into consideration the home itself, and that has the effect of preventing the pension.
– I shall look into the matter.
– It is quite possible for us to pass a measure through the House, and afterwards find, when the Act is in ‘operation, that it is not what we exactly desired. An Act must be administered, not in ‘accordance with what was intended, but in accordance with the letter of the law. I shall be glad if the Treasurer “will look into this matter, and see if ‘something cannot be done.
– The Bill now before ‘the House is to alter an anomaly in the present Act.
– Another matter in which there is hardship is when a person is suddenly deprived of his income. If a person -applies for an old-age pension he has to set out his income during the previous twelve months, and the pension is based accordingly.
– If an income ceases it is taken into consideration., The Commissioner can consider a case on the basis of. the existing income.
– If the Act does provide for that, I shall be pleased to learn of it. If a widow has an income ‘from a boarder, and that boarder dies or leaves her house, the income she has been deriving absolutely ceases. Has she to wait twelve months before she can get the matter adjusted?
– If the incomeceases, and there seems to be no likelihood of its recurrence, the former income is entirely ignored by the Commissioner.
– I am glad to knowthat. I think the time has arrived in Australia when we ought to ask, as a community, that the blind should not bebegging in our streets. To see the blind’ in our streets is a travesty on our civilization, but if we lay it down that they~ shall not beg in our streets, then we mustmake proper provision for them.
– So we do now, but. what they earn - and they can earn something - is deducted. We do not pay pensions if they beg.
Mr.THOMAS . - Next to losing one’sreason, I think blindness is the greatestcalamity from which, any person can stiffer. I realize we cannot remove theblind from our streets without the assistance of the States. We can only ‘say,, as a Commonwealth, that if any person begs we shall refuse to pay him an oldage pension, but that does not* cover theground.
– We should give them enough to prevent them doing it.
– That is the point. Wecan only bring about what we desirein this regard with the ‘co-operation of the States, and I shall he glad if the Treasurer, during the recess, will get intocommunication with the States with a view to providing that in the future noblind person shall be seen begging in thestreets. Of course, the Commonwealth Parliament will then need to make adequate provision for them.
– They are not allowed to beg in the streets; they isell’ matches.
– It is a sad sight tosee these poor men sitting hour after hour in the streets begging or selling matches. The Commonwealth should not be backward in providing the money necessary to bring about their removal from thee streets. We must provide an adequatepension.
– We pay what you-, provided under your Act.
– For the sake of our civilization and common humanity, will’ the Treasurer communicate with the-
State Parliaments to see whether something cannot be done?
– Why did you not do it during your three years of office 1
– The late Treasurer took on himself the responsibility of paying invalid pensions to the blind, though the Act did not permit him to do so, and he afterwards came down to Parliament and asked us to ratify his action. He felt sure that he would receive the full concurrence of every honorable member - which he did. I admit that we passed the law which did not include these people, but afterwards we passed another law, by which the blind could get invalid pensions. I am only asking that we should go a little further on the lines on which we have at present gone. I do not think that the treatment of the blind should be made a party question. Our civilization should demand that no one should beg in Ihe streets, and that we should make adequate . provision for those who need . it ; but we might start with the blind. There are, perhaps, some blind persons who would object to receive pensions, because some of them make £3 or £4 a week. At the same time, this is a duty that we owe to our citizenship and to Australia, and I shall be glad if the Treasurer can see his way clear to deal with the matter in the recess, which ought to be fairly long. I am sure that honorable members on both sides of the House will unanimously support him in any proposal he makes in the matter.
– Last year a Bill was introduced giving privileges to the blind, but I do not think they were included in the original Act. The practice is for the Department to refuse to give pensions to the blind who beg; but a blind man can enter into an institution and may earn something, and the difference between -what he earns in the institution and the old-age pension is given to him by the Old-age Pensions Department, so as to make the amount 10s. per week.
– That is scandalous! Why -do you not improve the Act?
– I am telling honorable members the practice, and it is for them to say whether it is right, or if it should be amended. The blind institutions in Sydney and Melbourne give a blind man 16s. a week for his services’. He can get that without previous experi ence. The Old-age Pensions Department then increases his income up to £1 - thus paying 4s. a week pension. Tf he is ill, or for some reason unable to work in the institution, the Department pay the full pension, but they stop the pension if they find the pensioner is begging. That is the practice. If it is a good one, all right ; if it is not, I shall be glad to hear ‘ what.honorable members have to sa-y of it. I assure .the honorable member for Barrier I shall look into the matter.
.- The practice, of which the Treasurer “has just been speaking with reference to the blind is very unsatisfactory. He said there was no reason why a blind person could not enter an institution when he was given the full pension. That is hardly correct. There are cases in different parts of the country where it is unfair to .ask an applicant to enter a blind institution, and yet the Department, for some reason or other, refuse to grant a pension. The right honorable member will remember a case that I brought under his notice .two or three months ago, when we were dealing with Supply. He promised to give it consideration, and did so. I received a reply to the effect that the individual in question could enter the blind institution in Sydney, and there earn 16s. per Week, and that, in consequence, he was’ only entitled to receive 4s. per week pension. Is it fair to ask a blind person who make’s application for the invalidity pension to go into an institution and receive 16s, per week, when he has no friend anywhere in the neighbourhood, and no one to lead him about? He is placed at the greatest disadvantage, and it is not likely that his friends or relatives would permit him- to go into an institution in those circumstances. I do not say that the blind person should not be given some useful work, but, if circumstances do not warrant his going alone and friendless to an institution, it is not fair that he should be. prevented from getting a pension. A blind person may reside 300 or 400. miles -from Sydney, and may not know a soul in Sydney, but he is practically ordered, when he makes an application, to go into an institution there. Four shillings per week is a mere pittance to give any ‘ person in the way of pension. I understand the practice is different in Victoria, and that there are. many cases in ‘country districts where blind persons receive the full pension of 10s. per week, because those who administer the Act here realize that it is unfair in some cases to ask a blind person to go into an institution. The Act should be administered in the same way in the other States. Where a blind man can go into an institution and be of some service to himself and the community, it is all right, but where there is no one to look after him or protect him, he should not be deprived of the pension to the extent of 6s. per week.
– Is that a country case or a city case?
– A country case.
– In Melbourne, they draw a distinction between cases in the city, where ‘ the blind can come and go to their homes, and cases far removed, where they have no friends.
– In Sydney they make no distinction.
– Did you appeal to the Central Office?
– Yes’, I appealed to the right honorable gentleman himself. He took the case in hand personally, and the Department sent me a letter stating that he could go into the Blind Institution. He lives 138 miles by rail from Sydney, and his mother, although it is a difficult matter to provide for him, states that she would rather that he should stay at home and share the last crust than go into an institution. Where a person can conveniently go into an institution, he should do so; but there are cases where there is nobody to look after him, and where it is not to his interests to go there. In such a case, he should be entitled to the pension, and if the Treasurer has not sufficient administrative power in this matter, I ‘urge him to take it into consideration in connexion with an amending Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, and include a provision giving him discretion to deal with these cases himself on the lines I have indicated. The Treasurer said, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, that he did not think there was any increase in the Estimates for the administration of the Oldage Pensions Act and the Maternity Act. I must admit that the Old-age Pensions Act has been very satisfactorily administered, and that every regard has been paid to economy in the past. I do not say that there is no necessity to increase the cost of the administration, but I do say that the additional cost on the Esti mates seems to be very large. During 1912-13, the administrative expenditure on old-age pensions was £42,500, and on the Maternity Allowance Act £5,992,a total of £48,492. For the year 1913-14, the expenditure on the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act is £45,775, and on the Maternity Allowance Act £9,675, a total of £55,450. This shows a total increase of £6,950, or approximately 11 per cent. That seems a very large amount to pay in one year as an additional expense for administrative purposes; only. It is not a question of the increase of applicants, but a question of the administration itself. The Treasurer said he knew of no increase, and put the further expenditure down to the fact that the Maternity Allowance Act was in operation for only nine months of the previous year. I find that, in proportion to the expenditure, a sum of £1,899 should be allowed for the extra three months. That still leaves an increase of £5,051, which is a big sum. If the Treasurer can show that this additional cost is necessary, I shall be prepared to vote it, because I believe we should employ all the clerical staff necessary, and that every civil servant should be paid an adequate salary for the work he does. Iri face of the Treasurer’s statement that there is no increase, I should like him to explain why there is a net increase of £5,051 for this year. Has any additional work been created, or have additional employes been engaged to absorb that amount? We must keep the cost of the administration of our big Departments down to what is a fair thing, and the Treasurer should give a more adequate explanation than he ‘ has ‘ given so farIf there is warrant for this expenditure, no one will complain, but we should know the reason for the increase. The Treasurer stated that the expenditure this year will be greater than it was last year, because last year the maternity allowance was payable only for nine months.
– And we have had to pay this year some accounts of last year.
– The proposed expenditure for this year is £9,675, and the amount expended last year was £5,992, so that, making allowance for the fact that last year the allowance was payable during nine months only, there is an increase this year of fully £2,000. In the past the administration has been economical, and it should continue so.
– There are over 80,000 cases to be dealt with; and the investigations and other work connected with them cannot be done for nothing. We are doing it very cheaply.
– The Treasurer said that there is no additional cost.
– Except by reason of the additional number of cases.
– Is not the increase in the expenditure proportionate to the increase in the number of cases?
– No; it is considerably greater.
– If the honorable member will let the matter drop now, I shall supply him with full details tomorrow morning.
-I am prepared to accept that assurance.
.- In reply to the honorable member for Barrier, the Treasurer said that he would be pleased to have brought under his notice any anomalies under the existing law. I have been in communication with his Department in connexion with a case arising under section 22 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. It is the law that if a child is brought here who is two years eleven months and twentyseven days’ old, that child may become eligible for an invalid pension, but that a child br ought here at the age of three years may not. In the case to which I refer, a young woman, who is now thirtyfour or thirty-five years of age, was brought here by her parents in 1883, at the age of four years. Her father was an artisan, who was imported for the work of one of our factories, and subsequently lost his life in that employment. To-day the young woman herself is an invalid, unable to earn her own living, and practically a charge on her married sister and brother-in-law. I recognise that in passing the Act, Parliament had to protect the community against the possibility of children being brought here to obtain the benefits of our legislation. While it was right to protect the community against the future introduction of children who might become a burden on the State, injustice has been done to persons who were brought here as children long before the Act was thought of, and, therefore, without any intention on the part of their parents to obtain its benefits.
– The case has been brought under my notice, but we cannot break the law to deal with it.
– The officers of the Department have investigated the case most sympathetically, but they say that under the Act they can do nothing. 1 bring the matter forward now, because I understand that the Government intends to introduce a Bill to amend the Act, and I cannot think that it was intended to deprive of its benefits an invalid whose people have for thirty years been taxpayers, and who was brought here as a young child without any intention of getting the benefits of the Act.
– The same plea could be made in the case of an invalid who had been brought here when ten years of age.
– If a person, brought here at the age of ten, had resided hero for thirty years, and was a permanent invalid, he or she should not be deprived of the benefits of the Act. There is another case to which I wish to draw attention. Many of us thought that this legislation would prove a blessing in the homes of many working men. The other day there was brought under my notice the case of a working man in South Melbourne, whose wife is a total invalid. According to the information filed in the Department, the man’s earnings do not average more than £2 6s. per week, and he has to provide attendance for his wife. I think that the Act should be so. framed that where the earnings of a home are less than £3 10s. a week, the pensions should be payable to mother or father, should either become a permanent invalid. In this case there is a family of three - mother, father, and daughter. The mother suffered a stroke, and her daughter, who was earning 15s. or 17s. a week, had then to be taken from her employment in order to look after her. The father was not earning £2 5s. per week. Not only were the girl’s earnings lost to the family, but considerable expense was incurred for medical and other attendances on the mother. I, and many other people, believed that the Act would apply to such a case, but we found that it would not. The great majority of the people would not object to the expenditure which, would be involved in helping people so circumstanced. I believe that we are to have an amending Bill-
– Not this session.
– It will come on this session if honorable members will take it as I give it to them. Let them trust me, and I will give them a good Bill.
– Unless the Bill will remedy cases of the kind to which I have referred, it will not be of much value. The late Government rectified many anomalies that arose in connexion with the original Act, and I trust that when this Bill comes before us honorable members will consider it in the light of their experience as - representatives of the people. During my short service as a member of this House, many cases of hardship have been brought before me, and I am confident that if there is one item of expenditure that the people do not begrude, it is that which the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act involves. Anything that we may do to make easier the lot of those who are dependent on the assistance they receive under this legislation will meet with the hearty support of the great majority of the people, and I hope that when the amending Bill is before us honorable members will insist upon amendments in the direction mentioned to-day.
.- I wish to refer briefly - to the matter brought before the Committee a few moments ago by the honorable member for Barrier, the purport of whose remarks, I am afraid, was. somewhat misunderstood by the Treasurer. I have already mentioned this question on previous occasions, and trust that I shall be permitted to emphasize what the honorable member has said. I refer to the unfortunate spectacle of blind people begging in our streets. Such a thing ought not to exist in a country, like Australia, and we should at once, establish such a condition of affairs as -will make it absolutely unnecessary.. No doubt some of these people would prefer to forego the pension and continue begging; but my point is that we ought to give them no excuse for begging. Let us give them sufficient to enable the State authorities to say to them, “ You shall not beg ou these streets.” A good many years ago I lived in this city, not far from a house occupied by a blind man, who got his living by begging on the streets.
– He must have been living in a rather ‘aristocratic neighbourhood .
– The house in which he lived was commodious, and he had a fat, lazy wife, who kept -a servant. I could not help* thinking that he was not doing too badly, and I have been told since that there are several of ‘ these people who prefer to make the pretence of selling matches and other things on the streets because they make a very handsome income out of the sympathies of passers-by. An objectionable phase of this matter is that these blind people are frequently accompanied by a child. What a demoralizing life for a child. People visiting Australia, and seeing these people about our towns, must get a false impression of our country, and the state of our charities.
– There are not very many of them.
– No, but there are cities in Australia where there are more than there ought to be. There ought to be none of these people in our streets.
– I do not think there is one in Perth.
– I do not think there is, because in that State ample provision has been made for them without the assistance of the Federal authorities. I understand that the maximum pension that a blind person can obtain is 10s. per week. That is far too little. We ought to err, if at all, upon the right side, and give these people enough to keep them in a reasonable degree of com- , fort and to provide for their families.
– They can earn something.
– And if they earn that something at what I might call a legitimate industry, let them have it. I insist that we ought to make such provision as would enable the State authorities to tell these people that they have no” justification for begging in the streets, and that they must cease te do so. The Federal authorities have it in their power, I believe, to put an end to this regrettable state of affairs, and I trust that the Treasurer will take the necessary steps, at least so far .as lies in his power, to see that that is done. The cost will be quite inconsiderable, and the result is something that Parliament, as a whole, may, reasonably hope to be achieved.
– I agree with the honorable member for Barrier and the honorable member for Perth that we should do something for the blind.
– Why did not the late Government do something for them ?
– By providing for invalid pensions, we did something which had never been attempted by any previous Government, notwithstanding thatthe Fusion party opposed the bringing into operation of invalid pensions.
– That is not so.
– I do not wish, at this late stage of the . session, to go into the matter fully, but I can, if necessary, produce the division lists showing how . the Fusion party voted to prevent invalid pensions coming into operation,
– It was only a trick.
– The honorable member voted against it himself.
– I did not.
– Why did the Labour party vote against Mr. Wilks’ amendment to provide at once for old-age pensions?
– If honorable members opposite want the information, then, I shall give them full particulars as soon as I have dealt with the question of the blind. The honorable member for Wimmera and Mr. Wilks, who then represented Dalley, were the only members of the Fusion party who voted for the Surplus Revenue Bill, which led up . to the introduction of the pension system. The time has arrived when something more should be done for the blind. I am not sure that it is within our power to discriminate between the blind and others; but under the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act we have discriminated, to a certain extent, between the blind and invalids by assuming that the former may be capable of earning something, and declaring that if they do not earn more than a certain amount thev shall be eligible for an invalid pension. The blind, therefore, are eligible for a pension if they do earn a few pounds, whereas other invalids must be totally incapacitated. But something further should be done. The spectacle of blind persons begging in our streets is a disgrace to our civilization, but we cannot expect these people to go off the streets for the sake of a pension of 10s. a week.
– Ten shillings a week will not keep them.
– Quite so. The blind, I think, are, owing to their affliction, the poorest section of the community. I am fairly well acquainted, as the result of action that I was able to take in this Parliament, with quite a number of people so afflicted. I desired to secure free postage for - the blind. The Commonwealth Parliament was the first Parliament in the world to grant that concession, and I believe that the PostmasterGeneral intends to make representations at the Postal Conference at Madrid with the object of extending free postage to the blind all over the world. The States, in consequence of Commonwealth invalid and old-age pensions and the maternity grant, have been relieved of a great deal of expenditure; indeed, I am informed that many of the benevolent societies, who did excellent work, have practically found their occupation gone. Under the circumstances, I urge upon the Treasurer the desirability of making representations to the States in order to ascertain whether they will take over the care of the blind. For instance, the Commonwealth might co-operate with the States, and subsidize some of the institutions for the training of the blind to enable them to help themselves.
– I think we do so.
– We do not give any aid whatever to those institutions.
– Is it not a State matter ?
– Quite possibly; but I am suggesting that some representations might be made to the States with the object of getting them to give more aid to the blind in view of the fact that they have been relieved of much expenditure owing to Commonwealth legislation.
– In New South Wales, the State Government look after the blind.
– So much the more to their credit. Some of the blind persons have fairly large families depending on them, and I am sure the ‘ Treasurer will give the matter his earnest consideration. The honorable member for Perth states that there are no blind people begging in the streets of Western Australia.
– Such begging is prohibited here, I believe.
– As far as I know, it is not prohibited here, and I do not think we have any right to prohibit it. What can the blind people do? They cannot live on a pension of 10s. a week; and their begging in the streets is degrading to their manhood and womanhood.
– I notice that the vote for the Australian Notes Branch is some £600 more than last year, and I suggest that the Treasurer should present a return showing the notes issued, the number recalled and destroyed, and the cost of printing per thousand. There are twenty -six persons employed, or nine more than last year, and the vote for this year is £4,838. The particulars of expenditure are necessary in view of the fact that the Government propose to keep a £1 for £1 gold reserve, without investment, on all notes issued over £7,000,000. I see that the Commissioner for Invalid and Old-age Pensions is voted £150, and the Assistant Commissioner £100. These make a very small sum for the . management of this office.
– Those officers also receive salaries as Secretary and Assistant Secretary to the Treasury.
– Then this £150 and £100 are in addition to their Treasury salaries? I should like to complain about the delay there is in dealing with applications for pensions. A single woman, over thirty years of age, who lost her leg, applied for an invalid pension, and I brought the case under the notice of the Department as far back as the election time; but it was not until about six weeks ago that a reply was received to the effect that she is not eligible. I suppose the delay has taken place on the medical side; but I think it is extremely hard that this woman, who cannot earn her own living, should be denied assistance.
– She can do clerical work with one leg just as well as she can with two.
– She may not be qualified to do clerical work, and, in any case, people might not care to have about the office a person with crutches. The honorable member for Hunter referred to blind people who were compelled to come in from the country; but I should like to call attention to the case of those unfortunates in the cities who are compelled to enter institutions in order to earn their living, and have to run all the dangers of the crowded city streets in going to and fro.
– May I interrupt the honorable member to say that the Government are now printing their own bank notes, whereas until a few months ago they used the private bank notes with an indorsement.
– The sum for the printer this year is the same as last year, namely, £800; and yet the expenditure in the total has increased by £600. However, I was referring to invalid and oldage pensions. In New SouthWales a blind person, in order to obtain a pension, must work in one of the institutions ; and to return to their homes at night they have either to get friends to assist them or pay people to guide them through the streets. This, I think, is a cruel condition on the earning of some 16s. a week.
– It is in accordance with the Act.
– Then the Treasurer might make his name famous by amending the Act. I did not agree with the late Treasurer in this regard, and complained bitterly about the administration of the Act under the Labour Government. There is no vote I give with more pleasure than that for invalid and old-age pensions; and we ought not to be mean, but generous, in our treatment of those who have been disabled in the battle of life. Cannot the Treasurer so amend the Act as to give pensions to blind people without compelling them to go into institutions?
– It is impossible to do anything additional at this stage of the session.
– If the Treasurer will promise to introduce such an amendment I am sure honorable members will permit the Estimates to go right through tonight. Otherwise there are many items that we can criticise, and we are very anxious to assist the blind.
– We shall Shave to consider the whole matter.
– Will the Treasurer promise to amend the Act next session?
– I am going to add £140,000 a year to the expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions.’
– That is nothing. The country is wealthy enough; Will the Treasurer promise early next session to introduce a Bill to place the blind people on a better footing?
– I shall look into the matter, and see what I can do.
– That is not very encouraging. The honorable member for Barrier, it seems to me, struck the keynote. We ought to keep our blind men and women off the streets.
– The Labour Government were three years in- office, and why did they not carry out all these suggested reforms when they had the chance ?
– If the Government will resign and allow the Labour party to resume office, I can assure the Treasurer the Act will be amended. On a motion by a private member, many honorable members advocated an increase in the amount of the old-age pension, and the Treasurer said he would consider the matter. Has the Treasurer done so, in view of the fact that rents, and the cost of living generally, are higher?
– I am not able tobring in a -Bill for that purpose this session.
– I should like to vote against this expenditure as a protest against the callous attitude of the Government. This is a non-contentious matter; and I am sure that the country generally would agree with the amendments that I have suggested.
– The increase in the expenditure on the Australian Notes Branch is due to the fact that we have, been put to more expense this year than before. Up to about the beginning of the financial year we did not print, our own notes, but obtained them from the banks, whereas now we print them ourselves. For this work there is a very large establishment, with strong-rooms and appliances to insure that all the notes will be accounted for. The notes are beautiful specimens of steel printing, thousands of them are being turned out every week, and altogether the process is so interesting that I hope honorable members will visit the works.
– What are the Government doing in regard to the 10s. note ?
– We have a lot of 10s. notes in hand, but people do not seem to care for them. It was thought by the Treasury that the note would be very much in demand, but the result has not been what was anticipated. In regard to the Australian Notes Branch, only salaries are provided for in these Estimates; other expenses are paid out of profits. Last year 82,556 persons applied for the . maternity allowance, but this year the number of applications is 130,000, an increase of 57 per cent. The expenditure in administering the allowance last year was £5,992, but this year it has increased to £9,675, the increase being greatly due to the fact that registrars, strange to say, did not put in their claims promptly. I should like to make a personal explanation with regard to the contretemps which took place between myself and the Leader of the Op- ‘ position. I thought the right honorable gentleman had referred to my taking privileges which were denied to other people, and, as it rather rubbed me- up the wrong way, I said I had not taken the same privileges as the right honorable gentleman had, and when he pressed me to name them, I said that I had never taken any travelling expenses while I was Minister, and that he had. I regret referring to the fact. . It is true that the right honorable gentleman did draw travelling expenses, but still there was no occasion for me to mention it. I have no intention of reflecting on the Leader of the Opposition, and- if I have said anything that he thinks reflected on him, I very much regret it. It was merely in the heat of the moment that I said it. I do not ask for privileges that others cannot have. I am rather jealous on that point. I do not wish it to be thought that I would take any privileges that I would not grant to honorable members. If necessary, I can show honorable members that one thing I do not like doing is taking advantage of privileges, if I can avoid doing so. I am not one to take privileges and- not give them to others. However, my object now is to assure the Leader of the Opposition that I had no intention whatever of saying anything to reflect upon him in any way.
.- I admit it is a graceful act on the part of the Treasurer to withdraw the remarks he made; at the same time, I can assure him that he went a great deal further than he has said. He said deliberately, and repeated it twice, that the Leader of the Opposition had taken hundreds of pounds in the way of travelling expenses.
– I suppose he has.
– The right honorable gentleman repeats the offence. I can assure him that the -Leader of the Opposition showed me the note he sent to the right honorable gentleman. According to that note, the expenses he drew did not amount to anything like what has been mentioned.
– If I was wrong I withdraw the statement.
– Is it not a fact that the late Prime Minister drew travelling expenses ?
– Of course, he did, and he was quite right in doing so.
– The amount was less than £40.
– In three years? For going to Western Australia, and up to Queensland, and all over the country?
– The right honorable gentleman might as well claim that my boat fares in going to my electorate are travelling expenses that I have drawn. The Leader of the Opposition claims that he drew less than £100. The impression conveyed by the Treasurer was that the ex-Prime Minister was doing something wrong. If the right honorable gentleman did not intend to infer that, where was the need to mention the matter at all?
– I admit that there was no necessity for it, but the Leader of the Opposition should not have said anything to me about my taking privileges.
– Though the Treasurer took to himself a privilege that no other honorable member could enjoy, I do not object to his taking that privilege.
– I did not receive any privilege. “
– The honorable member allowed a certain document to go out with cross-headings, a privilege denied to other honorable members, and about which there was some trouble in the House some years ago.
– Why should you interfere in this matter ? Let the Leader of the Opposition defend himself. I am sure if he were here he would have ac cepted what’ I have said in the spirit in which it was uttered. You are onlymaking mischief.
– I am not now talking about the matter between the Leader of the Opposition and the Treasurer. I am now talking about cross-headings in reprinted speeches of honorable members, and I have as much right to talk upon that subject as the Leader of the Opposition and the Treasurer.
– The cross-headings were a great improvement to the Treasurer’s speech.
– They were. That was the point made by the Leader of the Opposition; yet the Treasurer took offence. My claim is that every honorable member should be entitled to have crossheadings in his speech if he desires it, and that the Treasurer has no more right tothe privilege than other honorable members.
– I shall never take it again if you make such a fuss about it.
– The honorable member is very misleading.
– I shall have the speeches printed at my own expense if you question my right in this matter.
– I do not object to the honorable member haying done it; he can have as many cross-headings as he thinks proper, “but I say that every honorable member should have the same right.
– You know Parliament decided otherwise.
– Then why did the honorable member do what Parliament decided he should not do ?
– I considered I was doing it on behalf of the Treasury. If I- made a mistake, it shall not occur again.
– I consider that the cross-headings improved the right honorable gentleman’s speech. Every honorable member approved of the course the Treasurer adopted. Had it not been for the cross-headings, the chances are that I would not have read the speech.
– I was never in favour of cross-headings being disallowed.
– The honorable member will see my point if he waits a moment. Cross-headings improved his speech, just as thev will improve the speech of every honorable member that is reprinted. Even Hansard improves speeches by- breaking them up into paragraphs. Cross-headings are a great improvement, and 1 think they should be allowed.
– They were disallowed by a resolution of the House. I can show -you the resolution.
– I see, from the Votes and Proceedings of the 5th August, 1909, that the Printing Committee reported -
The Joint Committee have informally considered the question of the printing of crossheadings in the reprints of parliamentary debates for the use of members, but finding that matter, is beyond the powers of the Committee as defined in the Standing Orders, have resolved to take no action unless on a special reference of the question to the Committee by the respective Houses.
When the matter was debated in the House, the following resolution was agreed to-
That the only reprints-, permitted be an exact reproduction of Hansard, but speeches already ordered by members, with cross-headings, shall be printed and delivered.
– The trouble arose over some of the headings being considered offensive.
– They were very offensive.
– Some of the crossheadings put in were considered by the Government of the day as reflecting upon, them, and that, caused the trouble. The right honorable gentleman, as Treasurer, stopped certain speeches being printed, and the matter was brought up in Parliament, upon which it was decided that no more cross-headings be permitted. But what was the honorable member’s first action when he came back into office ? To violate the resolution of the House.
– I did not think I was doing so.
– I have never made a speech that I thought worth reproducing, so that the Treasurer cannot think that I am speaking for myself in this matter; but I hope he will see his way to give the necessary instructions to allow cross-headings in speeches that are reprinted. He can take it that I am expressing the feeling of honorable members in regard to . the matter.
– I think the matter should go to the Printing Committee. . If I allow it I shall get into another row.
– I am quite agreeable to the course of remitting the question to the Printing Committee. Cer tainly the cross-headings improved the right honorable gentleman’s speech.
– I thought so, too.
– It enabled honorable members to go through the speech more easily.
– If members would give their assurance that the cross-heads were really connected with the paragraphs, I do not think there would be any objection.
– Some awful ones were put in at one time.
– I thought they were very modest. The Treasurer tells us that the 10s. note is not very popular, and is not much used. On one occasion in New South Wales some persons sent for 400 10s. notes, and all the Commonwealth Bank could supply was thirty. They sent to some other institution, and all they were able to find there was four. It is not a question of the notes being popular or unpopular. The trouble is that - the banks, for some reason best known to themselves, are trying to boycott them. I have not the slightest doubt that if the 10s. note was given a fair chance by the banks, a great many more of them would be in circulation today.
– My experience is that the banks will not ask for the 10s. note. They say there is’ no demand for them, and I cannot force them on them.
– I am not finding fault with the Treasurer in this respect; I am finding fault with the banks. I do not know what their ulterior motive is, but they probably have some reason of their own. I trust that the Commonwealth Bank will circulate the notes, and, if it does so, it will only be a matter of time when the other banks will be compelled by force of competition to take a similar course. If our own bank will not do it, I do not think we can reasonably expect the private banks to push them.
.- I am rather disappointed that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is not in the chamber, because he has given some attention to the old-age pension scheme, and it would have been just as well for honorable members to hear his views this afternoon. He brought forward a motion six or eight weeks ago for an increase in the . allowance to our old-age pensioners, and I understood that the Government intended to give the matter consideration.
Many honorable members had an idea that the Government would bring forward a Bill this session for the purpose of dealing with the increase, which is thoroughly deserved, because we all know that our old-age pensioners at present cannot eke out an existence on the allowance which the Government are now paying them. It would have been a good thing for the House and for the people if we had dealt with the Bill to provide the increase before we discussed the Estimates; but, as we are nearly at the end of the session, I hardly think the Government are likely to deal with the matter this year. It is a great pity that they have not brought the measure forward, because it is of more importance than any other measure they have tabled this session. We owe much of our present prosperity to our old-age pensioners. They have been responsible for developing many of our great resources, and have built the majority of our railways, roads, and bridges. Many of them have reared big families, and have not been able to save money for their old age. That is why they are drawing the old-age pension to-day. Many of them are crippled with rheumatism and other ailments, and, in many cases, the allowance will hardly provide them with sufficient medicine or medical attendance to relieve them from pain. I know the Treasurer is sympathetic, and I hope that if he has the power he will give his decision in favour of an increase. I hope, before the- session closes, that we shall get an assurance from him that he is prepared to grant it in the near future. It would not be a very big item. Roughly, there are about 80,000 old-age pensioners.
– There are 100,000 invalid and old-age pensioners.
– On those figures, the extra 2s. 6d. a week would run into about £500,000, or a little more per annum. This would be. money well spent, because it is in constant circulation throughout the community. These people do not hoard up their money. Immediately they receive it they spend it, because the allowance is so meagre that ‘they cannot save anything out of it. The Government will, in all probability, receive a great proportion of the extra money back, because our oldage pensioners pay a certain amount of taxation, even out of their allowance. I agree, with many of. the speakers this afternoon as regards the allowance that should be paid to our old people. No doubt many people who do not require the pension do not bother about making application for it; but if it were provided by Act of ^Parliament that every person attaining the age fixed in the Act should receive it, whether he desired it or not, I think the people of this country would be much better off. The honorable member for Barrier places a very high estimate on what it would cost, but I do not think it would cost half of the additional amount which he estimates. Many people are anxious to receive the old-age pension, but, on account of the humiliation to which they are subjected on making the application, they would* rather allow themselves to put up with poverty than submit to what they would have to endure.
– One-third of those above the age get it.
– The honorable member said the other day that half the people above the age got it.
– I was wrong if I did say so. I looked into the matter, closely, and find that 33 per cent, of men above sixty-five, and 33 per cent, of women above sixty receive the pension. One in fifty of the whole population receives it.
– And £2,000,000 is paid in subsidy to hospitals, public and private.
– I understand that the Government are going to nationalize hospitals.
– It will cost something; all the revenue will be gone.
– We are going to. show the Treasurer how to spend money well. If the Government are not prepared to liberalize the Act so as to pay the pension to all old people over the age, irrespective of their positions, surely they will give consideration to the question of increasing the amount. Some honorable members understood that the Bill which the Government proposed to bring forward contained a provision which would enable them to do this.
– The Bill has beentwo months on the table, and the honorable member could have read it.
– I have not read it, because I did not think that the Treasurer - was serious about pushing it forward this: session, and my anticipations in that’ regard are turning out to be correct. I understand that the Government also intend to make a small allowance to our old people in the different benevolent’ institutions. Practically the whole of them deserve some consideration and some little allowance. It matters not how small it is, even if it is only a few shillings a week, or even the 2s. 6d. which I am asking for as an increase in the pension. If that amount was paid to our old people in the benevolent institutions, it would considerably increase their comfort. They require many little things, such as tobacco and medicine, and if the Government were considerate enough to make this allowance to them, it would make a great deal of difference to them. I hope that the Treasurer will give consideration to this matter. Probably it can be dealt with under the law as it. stands. There is another case which I wish to bring under his notice. There are living in my electorate a couple, aged about seventy-five and seventy-two years respectively, who have a daughter who is practically an imbecile, sometimes being in good health and at other times needing attention. They possess three small houses, but the rents are not sufficient to keep them, nor as much as would be received in pensions did they not possess this property. Having the property, they are not as well off as if they hail no property and drew pensions. Application for an invalid allowance for the daughter has been made, but the claim has not “been granted because some conditions cannot be complied with. _
– Could they not sell their property]
– It is in bad order, and they have no money with which to do it up, so that they could not sell it for much. The police sergeant in South Brisbane is favorably disposed to them having pensions, but under the Act they cannot get pensions. The Act .needs amending to provide for this and similar cases. I wish to refer also to a case similar to that mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner. In this case, a man suffering from asthma earns £2 8s. a week, and has to pay from 8s. to 10s. a week for medicines. Some time ago, his wife lost a limb, and is now unable to do any work, so that some one has to help to look after his children. _ When a woman is quite incapacitated for the performance of household duties she should receive an invalid pension.
– Children who are well off ought to have to support their parents. If this were done, we could afford to be more liberal in other cases.
– I have known persons in good circumstances to place their children in a blind institution; but,’ where parents can provide for their children, no allowance is given. In many cases children do not do the right thing by their aged parents, and, no doubt, the families of many old-age pensioners are in a position to keep them. No man or woman with any spirit would allow father or mother to receive an old-age pension if it could be helped, but in many cases parents are not assisted by their children. I do not know whether the Government” intend to make it compulsory that this assistance should be given. I understand that a Bill has been sent here from the Senate providing for the payment of pensions to widows who have lost their breadwinners. Many widows are left entirely unprovided for, and the Government could be associated with nothing that would do them more credit than the establishment of a fund to provide for them. Often a widow has a’ large family, and has to go out to earn money for them, leaving the children at the mercy of the world. Many . young girls have been ruined because their mothers have been left unprovided for on the deaths of their fathers. Children so left sometimes drift into bad associations. A” majority of honorable members would welcome the passing of a relief measure to meet these cases. The revenue this year is likely to be enormous, and the Government hope to close the financial year with a very large surplus. Some of the surplus could be used to benefit poor widows with families. Let me now say a word in regard to the position of the blind. I am acquainted with an institution in Brisbane where the blind have complained that they have little encouragement to be energetic, because their earnings diminish their pensions. The honorable member for Barrier has rightly said that we should provide pensions for every blind, deaf, and dumb person in the Commonwealth. This will be done, but whether by this or a succeeding Government it is hard for me to say. If the present Ministers do not do it, they will “fail in their duty. Most of the blind persons to whom I refer live away from the institution, and have to pay attendants to conduct them between it and their homes. The full amount of their earnings, which may be 15s. or 17s. 6d. a week, is deducted from their pensions, although they may have to pay from 5s. to 7s. a week to their attendants, making their net earnings so much less. Many of them are married, and are men who have lost their sight in mining, on railway works, and by following other dangerous occupations. Before meeting with accidents, they earned from £2 10s. to £3 per week, and now, by reason of their blindness, cannot earn half as much. What I propose would cost the Government only between £70,000 and £80,000 a year, “the blind numbering about 30,000. We should hear, before the close of the session, exactly what it is intended to do. Many of those in my electorate are anxious about this matter, because it has got about that in the early part of the session the Government intended to provide pensions for blind persons, without regard to earnings. Many of the blind try to eke out an existence by selling tea and hawking other wares. Among the blind are some of the most intelligent and energetic persons to be found in the community. Their knowledge of political and other matters is wonderful. Many of them are splendid musicians, and some of them earn a fairliving by playing at concerts and socials.
– I hope the honorable member is not going to take up his full time. He has told us about this matter already.
– But the Treasurer has not yet told us what the Government intend to do.
– I have said that we can do nothing this session, but that I shall consider the matter.
– With the result that next session, perhaps, we shall be no further forward than we are to-day. This is an important proposal, and many of the Government’s supporters favour it. I. do not think it can be said that a woman who has been blind from her infancy, and who has lived in Australia for twenty years, was brought here in order to obtain a pension. Such cases ought to be provided for under the Act. The Treasurer tells us that he is bringing forward an amending Bill, and I think that he is. merely putting it before the House to quieten a few of his own supporters.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro and other honorable members opposite are anxious that there shall be pensions for the blind, and that the old-age pensions shall be increased.
– The honorable member will not give me any time to deal with the Bill if he goes on talking.
– The honorable member’s own party have nothing to say. Will the Treasurer agree to amend the Bill to provide for cases of the kind to which I have referred ?
– No. .
– Then we shall have to see what can be done when the Bill is before us.
– In reference to the provision of £80,917 for the administration of the Land Tax Act, I would suggest to the Treasurer that during the recess the Government should confer with the State Governments with a view to having one staff of valuers for State and Federal taxation purposes.
– We are going to have a conference.
– I think that such an arrangement ought to be made. In regard to the question of old-age pensions, it seems to me that, whilst we may not be in a position to increase the pensions all round, we might very well, increase the payments to . pensioners who have no homes of their own. Whilst some pensioners have a home in which they can live, others have none. The cost of living in recent years has enormously increased, and I often wonder how many of these poor old people manage to exist. The honorable member for Fawkner suggested that we might find money for this purpose by reducing the expenditure on defence. I should be prepared to support a reduction of the defence expenditure for that purpose. In answer to the honorable member for Oxley, who remarked that we on this side had little to say, I would point “out that if the Opposition would only give us an opportunity we should gladly bring questions under the notice of the Treasurer. As it is, they monopolize the whole time of the Committee. During this debate, reference has been made to the use of 10s. notes, and it has been declared that they are unpopular. It is quite possible that honorable members have not realized their usefulness. Where they have been in the habit of giving £1 as a donation to a bazaar or some like object, they have now a chance of sending along a 10s. note. When honorable members realize their usefulness in this direction, I think that they will be asking the Government to print, not only 10s. notes, but 5s. notes. I am simply revelling in the 10s. notes, for soon after . being elected I discovered that a 10s. note sent along as a donation would answer the purpose remarkably well. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I trust the suggestion I have made in regard to land tax valuations will be taken up by the Government.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [6.22]. - I indorse what the honorable member for Corio has just said in regard to the desirableness of having one staff of valuers for Commonwealth and State purposes. When the Land Tax Bill was under consideration in this House, it was mentioned that, in New Zealand, the one staff of valuers make valuation for probate, land tax, and municipal purposes. We should certainly be able to arrive at an agreement with the States to do away, with the overlapping that now takes place.
– We should have had a Valuation Bill applicable to each State.
– The basis of valuation varies in the different States.
Mr.FENTON. - I know that there are many complaints. Quite . recently, I met a land-owner - one of our most intelligent farmers - just after he had interviewed the Federal Land Tax Commissioner, and he remarked, “ I certainly must compliment you upon the man you have appointed as Commissioner. He has given me every possible information, but I have not been able to make head or tail of what the State Land Tax Commissioner has told me.” I am glad to say that we have in Australia some very large landowners who have no objection to the Federal Land Tax.
Coming to another question, I should like to ask why members of the Commonwealth Service are not paid their salaries in Federal notes. It would be an admirable means of increasing our note circulation.
– Why should a man not get what he wants?
– A public servant who is not satisfied with notes could readily get them changed.
– I think that the Treasurer is prohibited by the Act from paying in notes.
– The Treasurer himself may be debarred from doing so, but what is to prevent the accountants of the several Departments paying in notes?
– Many of the banks would not give them gold in exchange for their notes.
– If I were a public servant, I should very quickly take action if the bank with which I was dealing would not give me gold for my notes. When I was in the Public Service, we were at one time paid by cheque, but later on an up-to-date accountant used topay us in gold or notes. I see no reason why our Public Service should not be paid in Commonwealth bank notes. The Treasurer, indeed, should be the first to stand by our note issue, because by borrowing from the Notes Fund, he is- able to carry on many important developmental works. I believe that, in a few years’ time, we shall have a larger paper currency, and more especially in Victoria, where, this being a gold-producing State, we seem to have always preferred gold to paper. I find that in respect of bank exchange for all Departments, the Estimates for the year 1912-13 provided £2,809, whereas this year we are asked to vote £8,000 for that purpose.
– The Commonwealth Bank charges us now, whereas the other banks did not do so.
– That cannot account, for the difference.
– It does.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I did not quite catch the Treasurer’s reply . in reference to bank exchanges - as to the reason why the sum is so much larger this year than it was last year.
– The only reason I can give is that the Commonwealth Bank makes a charge in this connexion, whereas the banks did not charge us anything.
– It is the usual bankcharge, I should say.
– The banks, did not. charge anything at all to the Government.
Mr.FENTON.- I suppose the banks reckoned that if they got the Government accounts they were sufficiently well paid.
– That is it.
– After all, it is only one Department paying another. On two or three occasions I have asked questions in regard to the supply of radium to the hospitals; and the following paragraph may be of some interest : -
The custody and use of radium belonging to the Melbourne Hospital provided subjects for discussion at a meeting of the Committee. The Medical Superintendent (Dr. Hurley) reported that at present there was not sufficient radium at the institution to properly carry out necessary work. Last year the offer of the Government to provide£1,500 worth of radium, on condition that the hospital should contribute £500 towards its cost, was accepted, but so far this had not come to hand.
I understand that the £1,500 was to be in the shape of a donation from the Victorian Government. The Prime Minister, in reply to a question, said he thought that Commonwealth money could be wisely spent in increasing the supply of radium at some of our main hospitals and kindred institutions in the different States. I trust that something in this direction will be done, because radium has now become a valuable agent in the treatment of various diseases that human flesh is heir to, and several thousands of pounds could very well be devoted to this object. There is another subject to which I should like to refer, and to which I suggest the Treasurer might call the attention of the State Premiers. A large number of police and other State public servants are engaged from time to time in doing work for the Commonwealth - the police in collecting the names for the electoral rolls, and the other officers in various capacities. For this work a certain allowance is made by the Commonwealth, but it appears to me that it never gets into the pockets of those who are really entitled to it. For instance, a lump sum is paid over to the State Governments for the services of the police, but only a portion of the money reaches the constables, the rest being retained by the States. The police, no doubt, perform very valuable, work, and are entitled, not only to the allowance made by the Commonwealth, but to much more than they are paid by the State Governments. If it is not regarded as interfering too much with the States, I think, a friendly request might be made by the
Government, by conference or otherwise, to the State Premiers to see that this money finds its way to those who do the work. It was, I think, during the last session of the last Parliament that the present Prime Minister heartily cheered a sentiment expressed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, when the latter urged that there should be an investigation to find out exactly where the wealth of our community resides. If we are to deal intelligently with taxation measures, it is absolutely necessary that we should know exactly who are the people who possess the wealth. The Commonwealth Statistician informs me that the groundwork on which he would have to base his calculations is not provided; and I should like to quote a paragraph to show how this information is obtained in America; -
Mr. G. K. Holmes, expert on wealth statistics for the 10th census, found that 3-10ths, or 1 per cent., of the people owned 20 per cent, of’ the wealth of the United States of America; 8.79 per cent, of the people owned 51 per cent, of the wealth ; and 91 per cent, of the people owned only 29 per cent, of the wealth.
That, no doubt, is very valuable information. There are some indications that the wealth of this community is in the hands of a few. I am not quarrelling with that fact; but the information I suggest should certainly be in our hands when we are dealing with taxation. It has been shown that 230 people pay half the land tax in Australia. This shows very conclusively that, at any rate, the great bulk of the land is in the hands of a few. In the United States of America special men are appointed, not only to take the census regarding the number of the people, but also a census in regard . to wealth, and this affords just that information which I say ought to be available in Australia, without disclosing any secrets. If this can be done in the United States of America it can be done here, and would prove very valuable to our Statistician. I trust that the matter will be taken into consideration, and an amendment made in the Census Act, or a special Act passed to carry out the suggestion made. We need not wait until it is time to take the next census, because we can take a wealth census at any time.
Mr.Patten. - The income tax returns ought to give the information.
– But that information is not of so reliable a character that we could base arguments and legislation on it. There is no desire to do any injustice to anybody.
– The honorable member only wishes to tax those people !
– To tax people is not an injustice.
– Is the idea to put a levy on them ?
– Not a levy, but a tax, such as is imposed wherever there is anything like civilized government. There are anomalies in our taxation, and its incidence, and in the Tariff; and when we have the information that I desire we shall be able to legislate on much more just, and up-to-date lines. If this Government do not take any steps another Government which is coming in the near ‘future will be absolutely impelled to move in the interests of the people of the country. I trust that the few requests and suggestions I have made this afternoon will bear some fruit.
.- I hope that the Prime Minister will join the Treasurer in the endeavour to get for honorable members permission to put reasonable headings to their speeches in Hansard if they -so desire.
– I think that is a pretty thread-bare subject.
– I have here a long list of the headings which appear to have brought about this embargo, and, really more amusing than offensive, they are certainly calculated to brighten up any person’s speech. In Hansard of 5th August, 1909, page 2117, there is a list of the headings that were objected to, including “Novel ‘Stone-wall,’” “Betrayal of Alfred,” “ Quintette of Peddling Politicians,” “A Double-Shuffle,” “ Did not know it was Loaded,” “ A Political Anarchist,” “ We asked for Bread and received a Stone,” “ Lawyers, Bad and Worse?” There is nothing the matter with these headings, as the honorable member for Gwydir, who made the speech, said, and the object is to indicate the various subjects dealt with. The Treasurer, I think, was quite right in putting headings in his Budget speech, because such headings assist the . reader, who, otherwise, might find some difficulty in dissecting the closely-printed matter. I was interested this afternoon in listening to the suggestions to increase the oldage pension. I remember some time ago reading in Sidney Webb’s book on poor- law relief in the Old Country that that relief had been used for the purpose of keeping down the rate of wages. We shall have to be very careful to consider this question from the economic standpoint - to see how far we can increase oldage pensions without reducing the wages of people who are not entitled to pensions. I dare say, in time to come, when society is better organized, there will be a law to prevent any employer from using old-age pensioners with the object of obtaining cheaper labour than he otherwise could. Quite recently I have noticed in the Melbourne newspapers advertisements such as “ Wanted, a. man to do light work; pensioner preferred.” What is the reason? It is that employers think that a pensioner will be able to do work at a cheaper rate than will a man who has not a pension.
– The probabilities are that the advertiser would do the work himself if he could not get a pensioner.
– Why not organize, and have an old-age pensioners’ union?
– Unfortunately, there are people ready to avail themselves of such an opportunity to reduce wages; and, by-and-by, as I say, through the Arbitration Court or Wages Boards, we shall have to take care that no one is permitted to employ any person under a minimum rate. There is a good deal to be said in favour of allowing a person to earn more than £52 a year provided that this minimum is not to be used for the purpose of reducing the rate of wage of the man who is not receiving a pension. The Prime Min.ister recently informed the public that a gold bangle was bought by some one who received the maternity allowance. Iti could not have been a supporter of the Labour party. As a rule, supporters of the Labour party use the money for the purpose for which it was intended, and in all my experience I have come across only one case in Queensland where the money was used in what might be termed an unusual way. The father, a model husband, was engaged in rocking the cradle when the wife came to him, and asked what she should do with the maternity allowance - they had had about a dozen children - and the husband said, “ Go down town, and buy a cradle; buy a good one; buy one that will last.” I have no intention of preventing the passage of these Estimates in any way, but I do not think that the Treasurer is correct in saying that the subject of cross-headings in speeches is threadbare. I do not think it is fair that the Treasurer should be expected to go into the” city to get his speeches printed. Honorable members generally cannot afford that.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 15a (Australian Notes Branch), £4,838; division 16 (Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office), £45,755; division 17 (Maternity Allowance Office), £9,675, agreed to.
Division 13 (Land Tax Office), £80,917
.- There is an item of £1,500 for the purchase of “motor cars. The previous Government were denounced for purchasing motor ears, but there is no mau in private business to-day who has much running about to do who would depend on any other means of transit.
– We have purchased no motor cars.
– Honorable members are now very anxious to ask about these motor cars, but they were allowing this item to pass in silence.
– I was going to ask a question about them.
– Then I shall let the honorable member do so. I was afraid that the item was going through, and that no one was going to ask for information. Personally, I believe that it is necessary to have motor cars to transact the work of Ministers as well as that of private business men.
– These are cars for the Land Tax Office.
– Are these cars to be used in the Central Administration of the Land Tax Office?
– This item escaped my attention. I understand that the cars are for the next Land Tax Valuers, but we shall be careful in expending the money. None of this money has been spent, and I can assure honorable members that now attention has been drawn to the item, I shall give it careful consideration, as also the item of £10,200 for travelling expenses for valuators, including upkeep of motor cars. As to the expenses of valuations, honorable members must bear in mind that it entails a good deal of expense to value lands all over Australia, and we are going to attempt to bring about some arrangement to prevent the duplication ‘of valuations.
– The total for contingencies for this Department is £6,000 less this year.
.- The first year after the imposition of the land tax the Commissioner reported that the cost of collection was a little over 1 per cent. , but these Estimates show that the cost is gradually increasing. Undoubtedly the bulk of the extra cost is for check valuations, and these are necessary in the interests of the public. When the tax was first imposed, land-holders were compelled to supply their own valuations, and were threatened -with all sorts of drastic penalties and criminal actions if their properties were undervalued, but the fact, that “the Commissioner has now to put on check valuers to revalue the whole of the land practically, or to show that it is valued properly, shows that all those provisions in the original Act were unnecessary. All lands are now practically being valued by the Department, and the cost is consequently going, up. I was, about to object to the purchase of motor cars, because, if a man dashes through your property on a motor car, he may possibly put on a little higher valuation than he would if he had a better look. My experience is that if we give £700 for a motor car, it costs another £700 a year to run it.
– We have municipal valuations, State land tax valuations, and Federal land tax valuations, and very often three sets of men are employed to do what any business firm would do with one set of men.
– The tax is not on the same basis.
– That does not alter the valuation of a property. Before one can arrive at a proper basis for taxation on the unimproved value it is necessary to acquire a knowledge of the capital value of a property. The two things go hand in hand. Why is it that the cost of the Land Tax Department is constantly increasing? It was necessary to put a good deal of machinery into operation when the tax first came into being, but once the valuation is completed it is not necessary that the expenditure should increase.
– The valuations have not been obtained yet.
– Is there to be a valuation every year ?
– No. But previously we accepted property-owners’ valuations. Our valuations are not completed.
– The Department is costing considerably more this year than last year, and it cost more last year than in the previous year.
– We get more revenue.
– That has no bearing on the question. When a valuation is obtained - and it must remain for three years - the total cost of the Department in the interim should not go on increasing; but it seems that, no matter on what basis, we start a Department, be it moderate or extravagant, there is an increase in the cost of that Department every year. That is the experience of the Commonwealth. No explanation has been given as to why the cost of this Department is increasing every year. I would like to know how we are to use motor cars for valuation purposes. We do know that there has been a system in some of the States where valuers simply ride up to boundary fence and -value a whole property by a glance at it, and the very fact of placing valuers in motor cars would induce them to go as far as the road will take them, and value a property from the gate.
– I do not think yon are fair.
– We have had exploration of the Northern Territory by motor cars, and now we are having land valuation by motor cars. The whole thing is absurd. If there is a division, I shall vote to strike out the item for the purchase of new cars.
.- I take no exception to the purchase of these cars. I merely wished to point out that the Government were apparently doing things for which they - denounced the previous Government. There are places to be. valued which . cannot be reached by rail, and we know that motor cars are much more reliable than they formerly were, so that there is necessity for the purchase of motor cars to enable these valuers to do their work. They will be hiring cars from other people to get about, and it will probably be more costly for them to do so than to be provided with cars. The Treasurer must be satisfied that this expenditure of £1,500 is a good one, or he would never allow it in his Estimates.
– We have had no explanation of it as yet.
– I candidly admit that we have not. It will be a mistake to have motor cars in every Department. I know there were no motor cars in the Land Tax Department before. We have bhem in the Post Office to-day, and we have three Ministerial motor cars, which are not too many for the work that has to be done. Now we are to have them in the Land Tax Department.
– They should only be used on business.
– I quite agree with that, and I believe they will be. I have seen a motor car numbered “ 20 “ from the Postal Department.
– I heard they had to go back to the traps; the cars were so costly.
– We shall be able to get that information from the PostmasterGeneral. It would be a mistake for this Department to practically put its repair and upkeep work into the hands of a private concern when we have a Government Department doing the same work. I hope the Treasurer will bear that in mind, because we can effect economies by having it done in our own Departments. If it is necessary to have these cars, as the Treasurer and the head of the Department states, they should be obtained instead of hiring cars from private people.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 19 (Government Printer), £19,902
– Now that we have such an immense amount of printing, costing the Commonwealth thousands of pounds, with a separate office for printing stamps and another for printing notes, I strongly favour having our own printing office.
– The stamps and notes are printed in the same place.
– They are treated as separate Departments, but I am glad to know they are under the one roof. At any rate, the great bulk of our printing is . done at the State printing offices, both here’ and in other States.
– A very good ar- , rangement.
– I think the State is helping to wear out our machinery very considerably. They have the use of it. I understand we were the first to introduce linotypes into the Victorian State Printing Office.
– I do not think they make anything out of it.
– The matter needs inquiring into.’
– If the . honorable member, as a Victorian representative, raises tht question, none of the other State representatives can object.
– I am here in the interests of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. I have a very strong belief that if we had a printing office under our own control we could do our printing cheaper than it is done at present.
– We are very well served by the Victorian Government.
– Of course, we are in many ways under great obligations to them. I do not know whether this matter will come under the control of the Committee of Public Accounts that we intend to appoint, or whether it will come under the Committee of Public Works when it is in working order. The Treasurer is at variance with his own leader. The Prime Minister interjected, only the other day, that, so far as the purchase of . paper was concerned, the different Departments required overhauling, because each was a law unto itself, some paying very expensive prices for paper. If that is so in connexion with paper, it is so in connexion with printing. If we had the whole matter under one control, giving one order for paper, &c., we could manage much cheaper than we are doing at present. At any rate, this is a matter for investigation. I do not say it will come within the province of the Public Works Committee to investigate, but here is an expenditure of £20,000 a year or more for printing - a big item that needs looking into.
– We have a Printing Committee that does everything relating to printing.
– What do they know? They only pass papers for printing, and they do not know much about the cost of the work, a question with which they have nothing to do. We have just as much right to investigate our printing bill as any other.
– The Committee will be able to do it.
– If there are practical men on the Committee- they will be able to; if not, they will not.
– The Public Accounts Committee might do so.
– They will not be able to say whether this is or is not a fair charge for printing. We have the services of State officers:. I am saying nothing against them; but I do say that in our cool stores we are paying more in connexion with our Export Department than if we had officers under ‘ our immediate control. That is the usual thing - when the other fellow has to pay for it, if there is any difference at all, put the difference on to him. I believe even the Commonwealth pays more in printing and other bills than it ought, because the work is being done in the establishments of the States.
.- Whilst I recognise that the honorable member for Maribyrnong is desirous of securing efficiency and economy in connexion with our printing bill, I hope the Treasurer will make no attempt whatever to establish a Commonwealth Printing Office at this stage. A bill of £20,000 would not represent a very expensive Department at the present time, but instead of creating new Departments we want to go in more for the amalgamation of State and Federal Departments. A very valuable discussion has taken place in connexion with the land tax, and I hope the opportunity will be taken by Ministers to endeavour to get into closer association with the States in order that we may bring about an amalgamation of at least one Department, so that we can reduce the administrative cost which, State or Federal, has to be borne by the taxpayers of Australia. . Our Bureau of Statistics, for instance, is an example. The States are maintaining their Bureaux and Statisticians, and we have our own Bureau and Statistician. Instead of creating new Departments and increasing the cost of administration we want increased fusion of existing Departments.
– Why do we not go to the States to do our stamp and note printing ?
– I’ am sorry to say that at the present time there does- not appear much chance of the Bill establishing the Tender Board passing through both Houses. I trust the Tender Board and Public Accounts Committee will make investigation into the affairs of the Printing Office, and see whether we get value for our money, and whether economy, combined with efficiency, can be carried out in that Department. I trust that, instead of multiplying Departments, various Ministers will use their administrative opportunities during the recess to get into communication with the States in many directions, in order that we may reduce the cost of administration which is so rapidly mounting up within the Commonwealth. I hope the Treasurer will take note of the discussion, and endeavour to see whether in the State Printing Department, where the whole of the Commonwealth work is being done, any saving of the people’s money can be effected by having an investigation by the Public Accounts Committee, and, later on, by the Tender Board, so that economies may be brought about where they are necessary.
– With regard to the suggestion of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, there may be a great deal to be said in favour of concentrating everything in Melbourne, but we shall be probably going to the Capital. I would suggest to the Treasurer that in the case of any printing for use in the other States, the various State Government Printing Offices could come to his assistance and do the work quite as efficiently and ably as it can be done in Melbourne.
– That is what we do; at any rate, I desire to do it.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 20 (Governor-General’s Office), £4,444; division 21 (Coinage), £15,000; division 22 (Miscellaneous), £397,924. agreed to.
Division 23 (Unforeseen Expenditure), £1,500
.- I desire to know if the Treasurer will be good enough to do the honorable thing as to the statement he made regarding my expenses to-day?
– So I did; I made a speech.
– A speech is worth nothing to me; I want the actual facts laid on the table of the House to show that I was misrepresented.
– They were laid on the table before.
– No. My personal expenses were under £100.
– I withdrew that, if I made a mistake there.
– The Treasurer is bound in honour to bring down a statement to protect me.
– I think it is on the table already. The honorable member seems to want to have a quarrel.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 24 (Stamp Printing), £2,010 ; division 25 (Refunds of Revenue), £275,000; division 26 (Advance to the Treasurer), £500,000, agreed to.
Division 27 (Secretary’s Office), £7,660
– I do not know whether the Arbitration Act, or any regulations under it, compels the Registrar of the Arbitration Court to tender to this House an annual report, but when the late AttorneyGeneral was in office he promised that the Registrar would be requested to do so. I do not know whether this has been done. If it was, I have not had the pleasure of looking through the report. Industrial matters occupy so much of our time, both inside and out of this chamber, that an annual report of the Registrar of the Court would be a valuable document.
– I shall look into the matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 28 (Crown Solicitor’s Office), £7,837; division 29 (High Court), £10,4.84; division 30 (Conciliation and Arbitration), £4,808; division 31 (Patents, Trade Marks and Designs), £24,759 ; division 32 (Copyrights Office), £607, agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Division 33 (Administrative), £18,760.
– The Liberal candidates at the last election, their committees, and the Tory press which supported them, condemned the Fisher Government for its extravagance. I was subjected to continual annoyance by persons who quoted opinions expressed by Liberals regarding our extravagance. But I find that the Liberal party proposes to expend on the ‘ Northern Territory this year £362,000, while the expenditure of the- Fisher Government last year was only £283,000. If that is economy, I should like to see some of it applied to my salary. Every one recognises that there must be a big expenditure in the Territory for its development.
– But consider the asset - a Garden of Eden.
– We always get interjections of that kind from representatives of South Australia, which was very glad to get rid of the Territory. If this Government intended to economize, it has had plenty of time in which to find out how to effect reforms. However, I do not wish to be hard on the Minister in charge of ‘ the Department, and I shall content myself with expressing the hope that, at the next elections, we shall have less cant from honorable members opposite. I am pleased that money is to be expended on a new. wharf at Port Moresby. Those of us who visited Papua know that the present wharf is unsuitable, not being large enough, and being at a wrong angle. For some years, Port Moresby is likely to be the chief place in Papua, and there should be a wharf there worthy of the fine harbor. I ought, perhaps, to apologize for continually speaking, on the subject of immigration, but I have said much the same things as I am about to say when supporting a Government. . Item 2, of subdivision 2, of division 33, is-
Im migration Act - Interpreters’ fees, legal and other expenses, £3,500.
– That is to provide for the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– Well, item 3, of division 39, is -
Immigration, including expenses of advertising resources of Commonwealth, £50,000 - and subdivision 5, of division 36, provides £5,500 for immigration in connexion with the Northern Territory. If the Governments of the States showed any desire to join with this Government in making proper provision for immigrants, there might be some justification for spending £55,000 to encourage immigration, but it is to be remembered that the Commonwealth itself has no territory under its control beyond the land in the Northern Territory and that in Papua. We advertise abroad that Australia is a beautiful land, and I maintain that it is the best country in the world, better even than the United States of America, although the citizens of that country might not think so. Wage- earners are certainly better off here than in Great Britain or in Europe. We need more population, the increase by excess of births over deaths not being large enough to populate the country as one would desire. But we need population of the right kind. Some of the finest men that one could associate with have come to Australia as immigrants of late years, and I make no attack upon the immigrants generally, but it is obvious that to bring out here persons accustomed to town life is to do injury both to the immigrantsthemselves and to our own people. In our large cities, Australian-born workmen, and workmen who, have been in the country for a number of years, areunable to secure employment of a continuous character, and that being so, it is not fair to advertise abroad that Australia is a place where people can get permanent work and large wages. Moreover, the best of our agricultural and pastoral lands are in the hands of private individuals. Many of the States have legislated to get back part of that land to throw it open to closer settlement, but their legislation has had the effect of raising prices without enhancing values. That has certainlybeen the case in Victoria, where many landowners have been able to dispose of their land to the Government at twice its real value. The Government has paid £8 an acre for land on which the municipal valuation was from 35s. to £2 15s., so that, obviously, the land was either undervalued by the municipality, or overvalued by the Government officials. Its cost has been increased to small purchasers by the expenses of subdivision, so that it has been almost, impossible to profitably occupy any but the best patches. The good land, of course, has been disposed of quickly, but the Government has much on its hands to-day that it cannot get rid of.
– Because the State has not sufficient population.
– When the State Governments throw open land that is of any value, there are hundreds of applicants for it, but there are no applicants for useless blocks. . It is scarcely fair, at this stage of the session, to go into the question of the handling of land by the States. But this is the only opportunity we have to discuss it, and I do not think that it has ever received the consideration that it deserves. We are asked this year to vote £50,000 in respect of this item. Last year we voted £20,000, and I well remember the outcry that took place when we were asked a few years ago to vote £5,000. The Minister should require the High Commissioner to see that there is no over-stating of the opportunities offering to people in the Old World to gain a livelihood in Australia. I ask him to see that agents are not allowed to advertise in the Old World that men can obtain permanent work here at 10s. per day, or that they can obtain agricultural farms here at cheap rates, because, as a matter of fact, they cannot. It is idle to advertise that all that is essential to success in Australia is industry, and an earnest desire to get on, because, whether men go on the land or settle in our cities, something more is necessary. The Minister should examine some of the lantern slides that are sent Home, and inquire into the promises that are made to induce people to come to Australia. If we cannot secure immigrants by telling the truth, we ought not to resort to duplicity. There may be thrown on a screen a picture of a magnificent crop of wheat, with a mob of cattle grazing in a neighbouring paddock, and wattle trees in full blossom.
– The honorable member is thinking of Mr. Batchelor ‘s wattle blossom picture.
– I objected to this expenditure when the late Mr. Batchelor held office as Minister of External Affairs, and when the vote was very much less than that to which we are now asked to agree. If the promises to be held out to the people of the Old Country are to grow in proportion to the increase in this vote, then it seems to me that they will be told now that they can earn £1 a day here without any trouble. I have, perhaps, better opportunities than have honorable- members opposite to ascertain the number of men in Melbourne anxious for work but unable to obtain it. Is it any wonder that, representing, as I do, a congested electorate, where there are many out of work, I should display some concern about this matter? It would be worse than criminal to bring more people here to swell our already overcrowded labour market. The trouble is that the people coming here in many cases are of the wrong type, and that immigrants are also brought here at the wrong time. For fully three months of the year, particularly during the winter, we have quite a large number of casual workers unemployed. Our cities are too large at present to be supported by the back country. If the Government will see that only immigrants of the right class are encouraged to come here, I shall not grumble.
– There is only one definition of “ the right sort.”
– I mean- people who will go on the land.
Mr.Patten.- And the wrong men are sent to. select them:
– I know nothing of that, but I do know that a lot of people of the wroug type are brought out here. I should like to move a reduction of the item .
– The item includes immigration, whereas last year it related only to advertising.
– Do the Government intend to- bring out immigrants for the Northern Territory?
– This proposed vote relates to the whole Commonwealth.
– Are the Government going to bring out immigrants?
– That does not necessarily, follow. The greater, part of this money will be expended, I think, on proper advertising.
-Do I understand that the Federal Government intend to bring immigrants to Australia in addition to the work now being done in that direction by the State Governments? If that is so, then the seriousness of the position is intensified.
– No: I do not say that. I think that the greater part of this money will be used for proper advertising.
– The Minister has said that a portion of this money will be spent on immigration. I take it that that means that the Federal Governmentare going to bring out immigrants; that, like some of the States, they are going to charter vessels to convey immigrants to Australia. If they bring out immigrants, not for the Northern Territory, but to hand them over to the tender mercies of the State Governments, they will commit a crime, and one which we ought not to allow. Where will the Government place the immigrants when they bring them here?
– My first care is the peopling of the Northern Territory, and I hope to apply some of this vote to that purpose.
– That is very indefinite.
– We are not going to usurp the functions of the States without a definite arrangement.
– The Government are going to spend £30,000 more on advertising.
– Not necessarily.
– As- a private member, I do not like totake’ the responsibility of moving a reduction of the item during the temporary absence of my leader; but I do not think we have ever known the Minister to be so indefinite as he is concerning this item. If he will assure me that this £50,000 is to be spent in taking immigrants to the Northern Territory, I shall be satisfied.
– I hope that a great deal of the money will be so expended. The bulk of the money will be devoted to that purpose and to advertising.
– Has the Minister made any arrangement with the State Governments ?
– No. And I am not spending one penny at the present moment to bring immigrants to the States of Australia. I have refused applications to take up the province of the States in particular instances.
– Some of the States have been complaining of the increased cost of immigration. ‘They have chartered ships, and, in some cases, one-third of the provision made on them for immigrants has not been taken up. . I admit that I am glad of that, because too many of the wrong sort have been brought out, and too many are brought out at the wrong time. Is it the intention to subsidize any of the States in this direction ?
– We have no such arrangement with the States.
– What is in the mind of the Minister? Is he asking for this vote with the hope of peopling the Northern Territory, and if he cannot do so, will he spend this . money in assisting the State Governments to bring immigrants here?
– I refused last week to give money for that purpose, because the States ought to attend to that business themselves until the system is altered.
– I should not object to some of this money going to assist the States if the honorable gentleman, as the Minister responsible to this House, had any voice in determining the class of immigrants to be brought here. But the State Governments have not endeavoured to assist the Commonwealth in any way, and it would be news to me that they now desired to help us. I do not say this of the Conservative State Governments any more than I do of the State Labour Governments. I have found that the Labour Governments are just as hard to deal with as the Conservative Governments. That has been my experience here. I have known successive PrimeMinisters and Ministers of External A.ffairs to endeavour, without success, to make arrangements with the States.
– The Governments which own the land ought to look after the immigrants.
– My fear is that the money will be wasted in the advertising. A country which advertises too much is somewhat like a man in business who advertises too much; he may be successful) but his customers do not always get full value, and in the same way the Governments may get what they desire, namely, immigrants, but the immigrants do not always get the better conditions that they have been promised. It is useless spending this money unless some direct advantage is to be gained. In . 1907, Mr. Deakin, as Prime Minister, endeavoured to make some arrangements in this regard with the State Governments, but he met with rebuffs at every turn. His successor, who is the present Prime Minister, was no more successful; and the late Mr. Batchelor, when Minister of External Affairs in the Labour Government, was unable to come to any arrangement with the States, who were afraid that if the Federation took a hand the States individually would lose something. The States evidently have an idea . that this being an Australian, and not merely a State, Government, will look after the interests of Australia, and will not offer what they have not to give to immigrants. My own opinion is that no State will come to an arrangement unless it obtains some advantage. I hope that the Minister of External Affairs will see that those who have charge of the advertising shall, tell only the absolute truth to the people of the Old Country.
– I agree with the honorable member. I took the trouble to dictate very long instructions, under this head, to one of the agents when he was in Australia.
– Should the States advertise unfairly, the Commonwealth Government, if it has any power at all, will have to take steps just as decisively as they did in the case of the small-pox in New South Wales, utterly regardless of what the outcome may be. Unless a true picture is placed before the English people, this expenditure in advertising will be wasted ; and I hope that the immigrants brought here will be those who intend to go upon the land, and who will not remain in the city to further swell the ranks of the unemployed.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Forts seems to think that the Government are indulging in inordinate expenditure in the Northern Territory; but, if we run through the items, we see that this expenditure is chiefly due to the system initiated by the late Government. If that Government had remained in office, and had continued on the lines they laid down, the expenditure would have been very much higher than it is. It is not fair to charge the present Government with extravagance, because they have had to take things as they found them, and have not had time to thoroughly investigate and re-organize on a “business footing. If the Government cannot make improvements in regard to expenditure and settlement, there may be occasion in the future to take them to task ; but it is unfair at the present stage to attempt to make political capital out of the situation. The Territory has been taken over, and we have to do something with it. Whatever Governments come and go, the Australian people must make up their minds that much money will have to be spent there; and as there is no population to tax, the settled portions of the Commonwealth will probably have to pay up for a much longer time than they like. If there is any increase on the Estimates presented next year, we may be sure that it will be accompanied by some big scheme of reproductive works.
– What Government does the honorable member think will present the Estimates next year.?
– I am certain that the present Government will. As to immigration, I am glad to say that a good many people have been brought here during the last year; and there ought to be a constant stream of the right sort. A good many people appear to have come to Australia on the strength of information quite contrary to their experience when they arrive - they did not find things as they had been painted. If we desire to induce people to come to Australia we should present to them as faithful a picture as we can of the country. There are, in my opinion, too many people on the other side who have a hand in sending immigrants out; and one of our chief troubles is to regulate the selection of immigrants, and see that they are given a good idea of what they may expect. Of course, a good many ‘people in this way might be deterred from starting for Australia; but, on the other hand, we might get more of the right sort, who are in search of land. If we cannot get the numbers we require from Great Britain, we know that Germans, Scandinavians, Danes, Dutchmen, and French people make good immigrants; and they would not be here very long before they would be as loyal Australians as any in the Commonwealth.
– Why not a few lawyers?
– I do not think we need them, seeing that we have a good many lawyers, bush and other varieties, even in this House at the present time. Now that the High Commissioner is in Australia, the Minister would do well to talk, this matter over with him, and I am sure that the result Would be satisfactory.
– I again desire to draw attention to the increased freights charged between Great Britain and Tasmania. These freights are much higher than to any of the mainland ports, and I hope that in this connexion the Minister will be able to use his influence with the High Commissioner.
– What about the Tasmanian Marine Board ?
– The trouble is that Captain Evans, who is Speaker of the Tasmanian Parliament, a member of the, Marine Board, and local manager of a big shipping company, and who seems to be the general manager of Tasmania, used his influence, when the question was brought before the Marine Board, to have it ruled out of order. Legal advice was obtained, and the matter again raised by Mr. Murdoch, but the Marine Board refused to do its duty in obtaining justice for the port. My desire is to take the question to a tribunal that has greater power than the Marine Board. I had an idea that I should get some assistance from the Chamber of Commerce, but, so far, that body has not approached me - I presume owing to their prejudice, against the party that I am associated with. That, however, will not prevent my doing my duty to my constituents, and bringing under the notice of Australians, and the people of the Old World, the fact that in Tasmania we have the finest aud cheapest port in the Commonwealth.
– It is the cheapest port in the world.
– Only members like the honorable member for Yarra would question such a statement. We have just completed a pier with 65 feet of water, able to accommodate a sister ship of the Titanic. I hope, as I say, that the Minister will bring this matter under the notice of the High Commissioner, and that the latter will drop a hint in a certain quarter with some effect, because the present state of affairs should be no longer allowed. As to immigration, I believe in advertising our country, and I hold that the High Commissioner and his staff have done excellent work. It was my privilege, unknown to the gentleman representing the High Commissioner, to hear a lecture on Australia given at the Norwich Show by a young man. He was a brilliant young fellow, and the manner in which he handled Australian matters was a credit to him and -to the High Commissioner. He told the huge assemblage that Australia did not require men for the cities, that there were plenty of workmen in the cities, but that we required farmers with small capital. He said that a British farmer who came to Australia would get better treatment here than in any other part of the world. The High Commissioner had a splendid exhibit at the show. I was looking at the sheep, and a gentleman, evidently the owner of some sheep, was good enough to display their good points to me. I said, “ The sheep may be very fine here, but the wool on the sheep in Australia is far superior.” As he did not agree with me, we proceeded to the Australian exhibit, where I was pleased to see a merino fleece from Tasmania, and Be had to admit that he had never seen anything like it before.
I mention these matters to show the value of having such exhibits, and the value of the services that young man was giving. I inquired whether he was from a. farming district, and I found that he had been a reporter on the Melbourne Age. Evidently, in travelling round, hehad gained great knowledge, and knew as much about Australia as any man.. In my opinion, when an honorable member interjects that the wrong men have been sent Home he has been misinformed. When I was there two years ago the High Commissioner and his staff were doing excellent work to advertise Australia. We cannot hold our land, or keep it, as it is at present. We musthave population, and it behoves the States to rise to the occasion and make the land available. Our land tax is doing good work. It has already compelled’ two of the biggest companies in Australia, to disgorge. They are selling their land on very good terms, and are making splendid farms available, and once it becomes known in the United States of America, and in Great Britain, that these farms are available on the terms offering we shall have no trouble in getting the men here that we require. We welcome them, we desire them to come, because there is plenty of room in this great. Australia of ours. The increased expenditure is a matter for the Minister todeal with. Honorable members will watch the expenditure most carefully, and if there is the slightest waste willi freely criticise Ministers next session. It is a paltry excuse to say that the Government of the day are not responsible for any of the expenditure upon these Estimates. The Treasurer admitted the other day that the Government had cut down the expenditure by £2,000,000. If that was possible it was also possible for them to cut the Estimates down by another couple of million. But the truth is that, when Ministers came into office, they found it impossible to reduce expenditure, and that the Government that preceded them had kept down the expenditure to the very lowest ebb. I have searched the Estimates most carefully, and I cannot find ‘ where Ministers are making any saving, at any rate, no section of that £1,000,000 that the Prime Minister said he was saving in administration. If there is any such saving, why is it not shown on the Estimates? The expenditure is greater than ever. and I hold the opinion that it will continue to grow if we are to develop our country as it should be developed. Of course, as the expenditure increases, so, I hope, the revenue will keep on increasing. I am surprised at the honorable member for Wilmot, with the experience he possesses, telling the tale that he evidently gives to his constituents. That sort of thing is no good in this Committee.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in saying that I go to my constituents and tell them tales? I have never accused any one to-night. All I wished to say was that the Government-
– Order! The honorable member cannot make an explanation in rising to a point of order. Besides, there is no point of order.
– I trust I have not hurt the honorable member’s feelings.
– You will not, so long as you keep to the truth.
– Let me put it another way. I am tiredi of hearing about these commitments that the honorable member spoke of. What twaddle it is to talk about these things to intelligent people! I had not finished my sentence when the honorable member interrupted. I was saying that the honorable member might tell his story to his constituents, but not to this Committee.
– What story?
– But I venture to say when he goes before his constituents again they will know as much about this matter as he knows, and they will not allow him to trot out a silly little story, a little nursery rhyme, “Babes in the Wood “ business. He should place facts before the people, and the facts are that the Government of the day, in order to prevent stagnation in Australia, and to have something like a story to tell the people next year as to the progress of the Commonwealth, have to go in for this expenditure. No one knows it better than honorable members supporting the Government. I wish to put myself right before my constituents in regard to the expenditure on the Northern Territory. I voted for that expenditure, and I shall vote for it again, because we cannot afford to lock up that great Territory.
We took it over; we were compelled to take it over, because the previous Government had promised to do so.
– What are we doing to make the second blade of grass grow?
– I understand that there is plenty of grass growing up there if we would only make it possible to get the cattle and sheep and produce away. I hope the Minister will take into consideration the advisability of developing the Northern Territory from the southern end. We might push on a railway to the Macdonnell Ranges.
– Hear, hear !
– There is excellent land there, and the facilities for raising cattle and sheep are good. Then, probably, we might have spur lines towards Queensland, and on to the Barklay Tableland without breaking any agreement with the people of South Australia, or with honorable members who voted for the through railway to benefit the development of Australia and its defence. Honorable members seem to lose sight of the fact that we are committed to the construction of this railway across the continent by the scheme laid out by Lord Kitchener. His report greatly influences me in voting the money for the construction of this railway.
– We are committed to it by the agreement.
– I urge this explanation so that people in a State not greatly interested in the Northern Territory will know why I voted for the construction of this railway and for the money for the development of the Northern Territory. We cannot develop any section of Australia without the whole of the Commonwealth being developed through it.
– I was disappointed to hear the Minister declare that no portion of this £50,000 is to be devoted to helping the States.
– We cannot upset the existing arrangement until it is altered by some other agreement.
– I was under the impression that this was the beginning of a general scheme of immigration under the control of the Commonwealth. I think the time is overdue when the Commonwealth Parliament should take in hand the matter of bringing people to Australia. The States are now competing with one another in connexion with emigration from Great Britain. But under our Constitution the Commonwealth Parliament is given power to undertake this work, and we should take the matter in hand boldly, and see that the proper class of people is brought here.
– What do you mean by the proper class of people?
– There should be discrimination. I am not sure that we have not very largely depleted the number of agriculturists we can get from Great Britain, and it may be necessary, as the honorable member for Wilmot has mentioned, to exploit European countries. No new country, notably the United States of America, Canada, or Argentine, has been able to populate its territory by depending solely on emigration from one single country. It has drawn largely from every country in Europe, and I believe that this is a step we will have to take; but it is a step that can only properly be undertaken by the Commonwealth Parliament. We should at once establish an Immigration Bureau in the Old Country associated with the High Commissioner’s office. Money should not be put on the Estimates simply to advertise Australia, because the States are also advertising Australia. We have a duplication of work going on in the Old Country. Every State in its endeavour to get a few more immigrants than the other is telling its own story to the people there. We have the greatest difficulty at present of any new country in the world to get immigrants, because we have no systematic method of choosing them, or of making our resources known throughout Europe, in order to get the class of people that we require. People are prepared to go on the land, and remain there. There was a splendid example in the Minister’s own constituency and the Wimmera of a large number being brought out. That great pioneer, Mr. Angas, brought large numbers of people from Germany, and settled them upon the land. No class of people have gone on the land in any part of Australia and shown better results than those. That was many years ago, but it has stopped, and now we have to use other means of getting people. Some of them bought, the land from Mr. Angas themselves, and they settled on the land at that time under much greater disadvantages than exist at present, because they were a long distance from a railway, and they had not the necessary water supply to carry on their farm work to advantage. Unless you can get a class of people who are prepared to go into the back country, and do the pioneer work, we cannot hope to bring about a large increase of population of the proper class. There are large numbers of blocks of closer settlement land available in Victoria, which we ‘are not able to get the people to take up, because we have not the people here.
– The trouble is the cost of the land.
– The land can be purchased on very easy terms. I know a lot of closer settlement work is going on in my own electorate, and the right class of man has bought the land on the Government terms, and are already making a success of their holdings. If we can get the right class of people from the Old Country, they will make a success of things under the closer settlement conditions of the States of Victoria and New South Wales. The people are not here at present demanding the land. There is no proper demand for the areas of Crown lands, even in Victoria and South Australia, that can be rapidly made available for closer settlement purposes. As a matter of fact, we are spending millions of. pounds a year in defence, and doing very little to bring out people, who alone can defend Australia. I do not advocate the bringing out of people to enter into all sorts of competition with the artisans and mechanics of the community. I think that all the States that have brought out immigrants . have brought out too many who have entered into competition of that character. They have not brought out sufficient people who will go to work on the land, and remain there. I admit that it is hard to get them. There is only one possible method by which you will bring out the class of agrarian people who are prepared to remain on the land; people who have come from the land in their own country, and that is by exploiting the European countries. For instance, there are tens of thousands of acres of land eminently suitable for citrus fruit growing in every State, especially in Queensland. If we want to get the best men for that industry, we must go to the southern portions of Europe, particularly northern
Italy. If we want to exploit Australia for fruit-growing and agriculture, we might find it advisable to go to Austria, Hungary, Germany, America, and, as the honorable member for Wilmot mentioned, the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, and other places offer a good field for the selection of immigrants. Seeing the large numbers that go to Canada, the United States, and the Argentine Republic, it is not to be expected that this great continent can be people by depending exclusively”’ on immigration from Great Britain. It will have to be done by selecting a proper class of immigrants from other parts of Europe.
– I am dealing directly, even this week, with the Argentine agent.
– Only one body can undertake that class of immigration, selecting people, and bringing them here from different parts of the world; and that is the Commonwealth Parliament. I believe that the various Agents-General are spending £50,000 or £60,000 a year in keeping their establishments open for the examination and selection of immigrants in Great Britain to send to Australia. I believe that if the Commonwealth were to undertake that work of controlling the whole of the immigration from other countries, the States would no longer have any excuse to keep open those expensive establishments, which everybody thought, when Federation was established, would cease to exist, the taxpayers being relieved of expenditure to that extent. Unless we are to undertake that work, the States must continually bring out their own people. It will not be difficult at all for the Commonwealth to regulate a system of immigration to Australia in a way that will enable the States to enter into association with the Commonwealth, in order that a certain proportion of immigrants may be properly distributed among the States, who are waiting for settlers to go on the land.
– Supposing the States will not take them?
– The States cannot afford to refuse to take them. There is a proper and healthy rivalry between the States at present in their endeavour to increase their population. The 25s. per head from Customs duties is a great inducement for them to get new settlers. We have any amount of room in Australia for millions of people to settle upon the land.
– The people cannot get land.
– They can get any amount of closer settlement land in Victoria if the proper class of people will take it up. That is away up in the northern parts of Victoria particularly. There are quite a number of blocks available if the right class of settler takes them up, but, under present circumstances, the conditions have been so good in the large centres of population that the people are loath to leave them, and we must bring people here who are prepared to go out and do the pioneer work. I hope this £50,000 placed upon the Estimates shows the recognition by the Federal Parliament of its plain duty to control the whole of the immigration arrangements for Australia. I shall very much regret it if, during the recess, the Government does not mature some scheme by which it will be able to discharge its constitutional duty in respect to this matter. The United States Government over and over again have had to come to the assistance of the States in reclamation work in the western portions of America, with the result that they have 15,000,000 or 16,000,000 acres of land under irrigation in the western States. This would have been impossible had it not been for the strength of the National Government coming to the assistance of the States. We have an opportunity now by spending £3,000,000 in erecting storages on the River Murray to establish a scheme that would increase the irrigation area along the Murray valleys. There is a field for land settlement there. The Commonwealth can also assist the States to make available these areas of land.
– Would you have that land handed over to the Commonwealth?
– No; the Commonwealth could erect the storages. That is a part of the navigation power of the Federal Parliament.
– Who is going to get the benefit ?
– The people who settle on the land.
– The people of two or three States only.
– I hope the honorable member will not be so provincial as to regard a great waterway like the Murray as anything but a great national asset. The Federal Parliament should assist the
States by taking control of the great question of immigration, and the settlement of the people on the land, and bring its great credit and financial resources to bear in order to assist forward those two great foundations of national strength, wealth, and safety.
Several honorable members have shown an interest in the New Hebrides question, and a few days ago an influential deputation waited on the Minister regarding it. He indicated his sympathy with the endeavour to preserve the islands for the use of the Australian Commonwealth. I wish to know if he has any information to give the Committee regarding the progress of negotiations, or the possibilities of negotiation, concerning a suggested new treaty or convention between Great Britain and France. We know what happened in 1905 and 1906, when, although the Imperial Government had promised to consult the Commonwealth Government, it failed to do so until the convention had been drawn up, so that, although the weaknesses of the arrangement were pointed out by the Commonwealth Government, it could not secure any alteration. It was then urged by Mr. Deakin, who was at the head of the Government at the time, that the Commonwealth Government should be consulted in connexion with future negotiations. I wish to know from the Minister whether that view has been consistently pressed on the Colonial Office, and whether the Government is insisting on its right to -be consulted in connexion with any alteration or amendment of the convention, and upon the representation of the Commonwealth at any conference between representatives of Great Britain and France on the subject?
.- The honorable member for Wilmot assumed that the increase in the expenditure by the Department of External Affairs related only to the Northern Territory, but that is not so. The increase in connexion with the administrative branch of the Department is from £16,367 to £18,760; in the High Commissioner’s office from £21,225 to £24,461; in Papua from £64,987 to £78,125; in the Northern Territory from £283,105 to £362,001 ; on the Port Augusta Railway from £85,961 to £100,300: on the mail service to the Pacific, Islands from £19,850 to £21,350; and miscellaneous from £40,927 to £71,533, the latter being relatively the largest increase, t wish to know whether the grant of £25,000 for a new Government steamer for Papua is to be spent in constructing a steamer outside Australia?
– No. Tenders have been called for at Home and here, but I am not going to accept foreign tenders while the work can be done here. I cabled to that effect to-day.
– I am glad to hear that, because I understand that a paragraph has appeared in the newspapers saying that the steamer is to be built abroad.
– I obtained estimates of cost to check the local estimates.
– It was as well to do that. Had the Government intended to construct this steamer abroad, I should have found fault with it, as I did for ordering from America four locomotives for the transcontinental railway. The vote for immigration has been increased from £20,000 to £50,000, an increase of 150 per cent., and hitherto we have voted money for “Advertising resources’ of Australia,” but this year the vote is for “ Immigration.” We should give those who desire to come here full, fair, and accurate particulars of the conditions which prevail in Australia. Unfortunately, those who have been selected in Great Britain as country workers have been men with no knowledge of country life, men from the crowded centres. They are men of the right class in one respect - 90 per cent, of them vote for our party.
– In the towns they do. I believe that those who have recently come from Sydney will bear out my statement.
– They have been brought out to New South Wales for that purpose. A man was sent there specially.
– They have certainly not been brought to Victoria for that purpose, because the present State Government is the first Labour Administration that Victoria has had, this State having been more pronounced than any other in its antipathy to labour.
– The honorable member is merely voicing one of the excuses that have to be made for the recent defeat pf his party in New South Wales.
– They certainly have to find excuses for that.
– And for the knock-out of the newspapers.
– I know what I am talking about.
– Then it is for the first time since the honorable member has spoken in the Chamber. I have never known any one so far astray as he has been on every subject on which he has spoken. If the proposal were to spend £50,000 to bring immigrants to the Northern Territory, which contains practically the only land which the Commonwealth controls, I could understand it. If it is intended to establish a new system, the policy should be explained to us before a penny is voted. Are more persons to be brought out to overcrowd our already densely-populated cities? I am sure that Parliament will not vote money for that. No one will take exception to any proposal to populate the Northern Territory, because the development of that country is necessary to the effective defence of Australia. I am prepared to vote against the proposal, unless it is for bringing persons to the Northern Territory, or for advertising the resources of Australia by making public the exact condition of affairs here. The people elsewhere should be told that many immigrants when they arrive can find no work to do, that our manufacturers, and other employers, ask for workmen to be brought here, and are prepared to employ them to displace Australians, and to displace one batch of immigrants with a later batch. I trust that the Minister will lay before us’ the policy of the Government in this matter of immigration.
.- The honorable member for Yarra challenged my statement regarding the immigration into New South Wales, but I know what I am speaking about. The secretary of the Bread Carters Union, in Sydney, was sent Home to put the rule over all immigrants, and not more than four months later the Premier stated at Junee that his party had. altered the immigration policy of the State, and that instead of inviting men to come out to go on to the land it had taken the precaution that the immigrants should be men of unblemished character and undoubted unionists. Those were his words. Now the honorable member for Yarra tells us that they vote in the right way. That is the secret of it. I am more particularly interested in the settlement of the lands which this Commonwealth Parliament directly controls, and I wish, therefore, to draw attention to some of the items of expenditure in the Northern Territory which I think should be revised. The only information available to honorable members regarding the Territory is contained in the Administrator’s report for 1912, the perusal of which will not encourage wild expenditure there. We have appointed to the Agricultural branch of the Administration a director, an economic entomologist, a manager for the demonstration farm at Batchelor, and another for the demonstration farm at Daly River, a manager of the stock experimental station at Mataranka, and two experimentalists and a clerk. As a practical farmer, I say that the men who will do most for the development of the Territory are the experimentalists, and they get only £200 each, whereas the director, who is merely an ornament, gets £650. The experimentalists should get at least three times what they are getting. I venture to suggest that these items should be increased. I will, advocate, if necessary, a decrease in the salaries of the ornamental officers, so that the practical men should receive the remuneration that is their just due. The Government are not going to attract to the Northern Territory the right class of men to carry out experiments unless they pay reasonable salaries. A little further on in these Estimates we find that provision is made for £6,000 for the wages of farm hands. I am the last man in the House to raise any question with regard to the wages of farm hands, for I believe that the better you pay your farm workers the better will be. the class of workers you will attract. We find, however, that considerable difficulty and trouble has been experienced in keeping these men up there. There must be something in the locality of which they do not approve. In the Administrator’s report it is stated with regard to the Batchelor Farm that -
It will therefore be seen that in all there have been eighty-five . men engaged on the two demonstration farms during the year, and there remained on the farms on the 31st December - Batchelor, 20 men; Daly River, 13 men.
These men were taken up from the south, their passages were paid, and they have received fairly good wages - from 10s. a day upwards - but the locality, apparently, cannot hold them, since only thirty-three out of eighty-five remained there at the end of the year.
– They are lucky to have as many there.
– I agree with the honorable member, for the reason that there seems to be no attraction for men to settle on the land there. This report would be taken up by a would-be settler as likely to furnish him with some data as to the cost of getting land cleared up there, and I find in it a statement that by day labour, using a forest devil and grubbing, it took six weeks to clear 2 acres for a vegetable garden, the cost being £11 10s. 6d. per acre.
– That is not expensive for clearing land in the tropics.
– Here, is a description of the timber -
Few of the trees exceed 2 feet in diameter, but there are a great many trees to the acre. The majority of trees of any size are piped, and this, combined with the fact that the roots are fairly deep, increases the difficulty of hauling them out with a traction engine. . . .
It strikes me that any practical men finding that these trees were piped would cut into them, insert a fire stick, and burn them up.
– The timber up there will not burn.
– Then it could be ringbarked, and when dead, or nearly dead, could be grubbed out at one-fourth the cost.
– It would be easier to let loose on them some of the white ants.
– The white ants could do the rest. Any wide-awake, intelligent, scientific farmer would take up this report to ascertain what it would cost to clear land there, and he would discover that it would cost him up to £11 10s.’ 6d. per acre. In my judgment the whole scheme of the agricultural experiments at Batchelor Farm, at least, should be altered. The Meteorologist’s record of the rainfall there shows that during May, June, July, and August, 1912, there was no rainfall; that in September there was a rainfall of 1½ inches; that in February there were 16 inches 81 points, and in March 18 inches 91 points.
– That is no good for closer settlement.
– It is no good for agriculture as we understand it. The Minister should at once obtain a report from the Director of Agriculture as to the class of agriculture that the Batchelor Demonstration Farm is going to encourage would-be settlers to take up. It is ridiculous, with such rainfall, to conduct experiments in the growing of such cereals as oats, barley, or wheat.
– It was never suggested that they should grow cereals there.
– I do not know what was suggested, but the report shows that experiments have been conducted in the growing of maize, sorghum, amber-cane, oats, wheat, Cape barley, rape, Johnson grass, lucerne, sweet potatoes, and so forth. If, as the honorable member says, it is not proposed to grow cereals there, what is the use of . conducting these experiments, and what is the use of having up there a high-salaried Director of Agriculture to make such experiments? He surely cannot know his work, and should be brought down at once, or else he should devote his time to experimenting with other crops that are likely to be more successful.
– Will cotton grow there?
– I thought that the honorable member said that he believed! in experiments.
– I do; but I think that they ought to be conducted on something like reasonable lines. With a rainfall, such as that to which I have just referred, it is not the place to grow wheat, barley, or oats, and the Director should turn his experiments into other channels. The honorable member for Denison suggested that the Territory should be developed from the south upwards. I would pointout to him that the difficulty standing in the way of carrying a railway from Oodnadatta due north lies in the fact that for some hundreds of miles it would go through country which has never more than 2 inches of rain per annum. . What production could be expected in such country? None whatever. I admit that in the Macdonnell Ranges - in the region of Alice Springs, and from there northward - there is a stretch of country where experiments might well be conducted. I. suggest to the Minister that he should request the Director of Agriculture to send one of his experimentalists into that region to ascertain the correctness or otherwise of the rumours that have reached him with regard to the growing of wheat and lucerne around Alice Springs during 1911 by a certain Mounted Constable Dow. If the country there is any good at all these experiments might well be followed up, with a view to increasing its production.
– What is the rainfall in that area ?
– I am told that along the foot of the hills there it is from 5 to 10 inches per annum. With a 10-in. rainfall between May and September - the growing period - nothing better could be wanted for cereals.
– But it does not fall during that time.
– I am informed by men who have been there that ‘there is a winter rainfall, and with such a rainfall we should be able to encourage settlement there. The report by the Director, however, is not a very encouraging document to be placed in the hands of would-be settlers. This is what the Administrator himself says -
Two agricultural leases had been applied for, but he doubted whether in any instance the lessees had made any material effort to cultivate their holdings; and this remark applied, not only to those whose leases were still current, but also to those who had completed their right of purchase. On two holdings, which he personally inspected, the Government Resident found the lessees settled on their land, but they had no implements of any kind, and absolutely not a shilling of capital, and not a particle of rations.
– He was not referring to the present settlement.
– That statement appears in the Administrator’s report for 1912, and it is not encouraging. I admit, however, that there are encouraging signs, and that there are areas in the Territory that we might well exploit a little more with the aid of the officials up there. We have there 180 officials who are fairly well paid, and if, as the result of their efforts, we are not going to get any settlers up there, they had better come out of it. I do not think that the Commonwealth is justified in maintaining them if they are not going to be of any material use in the settlement of the Territory.
– Who would look after the Territory if they were withdrawn ?
– What is the good of looking after an empty Territory? These officers ought to do something tangible for their money, and we should be able to place in the hands of would-be settlers a complete report as to the possibilities up there. According to the report, there appears to be in the Macdonnell Ranges a piece of country that would be suitable for the establishment of a horse-breeding station. There ought to be more interest exhibited in the breeding of remounts and gunners’ horses than there appears to be at the present time. The Australian horse known in other countries as a “ waler,” is snapped up by all sorts and conditions of buyers in Germany, Japan, and other places, where horses are required for military purposes. If we are not careful we shall wake up some day to the fact that we have not a decent horse left to carry our horsemen or drag our guns, and my suggestion is that those highly-paid gentlemen in the Territory might spend a few weeks in the part of the Territory to which I have referred, and let us know whether it is rumour or fact that it is suitable for a breeding station. I suggest to the Minister that if, in the case of the experimentalists, he could increase the amount from a paltry £200 to at least £400, it would be money well spent.
.- I should like the Minister to give us some explanation of the item £12,500 for the development of the oil fields of Papua. What development has taken place, and what are the prospects of success? Further, on what conditions are the oil fields being conducted?
– They are at present conducted by the Government.
– Twelve months ago .we passed a certain vote for development purposes, but no information was forthcoming.
– I shall give the honorable member all the information presently.
– This is a part of Papua which, if money were well spent in it, would develop even more rapidly than the Northern Territory. There is no doubt as to the soil, which is full of minerals, and a successful oil field would greatly help to open up the country. The proposal to spend £50,000 in the extension of the immigration policy is a new departure. Last year we spent £20,000, and I should like to know whether the Government have entered into contracts to carry immigrants to the Commonwealth, and, if so, what are the conditions? Are the Government going to send so many immigrants to each State according to population?
– We are not doing anything of that sort. The greater part of the money will be required for advertising and for the Northern Territory. I am going to -meet an agent who is bringing 100 immigrants from South America.
– Some honorable members opposite talk about getting the “ right class” of immigrants, and the honorable member for Wimmera suggested that- we should go to different nationalities, as was done in the case of the United States. I hope, however, that we will do nothing of the kind, because I would rather see Australia progress slowly than filled with men of different nationalities, all speaking different languages, sometimes when employed on the same job. The effects of the mixture of nationalities is one- of the problems that has to be faced in the United States, where there is likely to be a social upheavel on account of the friction caused. This country is already attracting the right class of labour from Great Britain, in spite, of what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said. We cannot expect to get the cream of the people from elsewhere to come to Australia. The Labour party desire immigrants, but we do not ex.pect more than a small proportion of the very best of the race in the Old Country. Most of the immigrants I have met are a fine class of people, a credit to the country they come from, and I’ believe they will be good citizens here. We are making great strides in population, seeing that in the last three years we have had more immigrants than in all the previous twenty years. If we can only keep the people here when they come, we shall do very well ; but, unfortunately, in some cases they are being brought here too rapidly, and, as they cannot be absorbed as quickly as is desirable, they become discontented, and a number of them return Home, unable to find employment. The development of the country is going on steadily, and in the right direction, and. we have no desire to overflow the cities with mechanics. The question is whether we require farm labourers, and my own opinion is that there are enough here for the work that is going. The wages of farm labourers are not of the best, and they are not housed or fed too well.
– They are paid twice as much as in some parts of Europe.
– In Ireland, where there is no industrial organization, and where unionism has remained, stagnant for the last quarter of a century, farm labourers are paid from 8s. to 12s. a week, with which to keep themselves and their families, and if, as is said, they are paid double here, that means the magnificent wage of 16s. a week. I hope we shall never degrade the rural population of this country by placing them on the low level of the rural populations of other countries. However, on account of the respect we all have for the Minister of External Affairs, and because I am prepared to- trust him, I shall not oppose, as I should like to do, this vote of £50,000.
Colonel RYRIE (North Sydney) [10.25]. - We have no more important question to deal with than that of the settlement of the Northern Territory. Prom a defence point of view, it is absolutely esesntial that this enormous tract of country should be populated. Eastern and coloured races must cast their eyes on this practically empty territory, because, I believe, they can live and work where a white man cannot, and they can grow tropical products, such as rice and tobacco, as the white man cannot do profitably, to compete in the markets of the world.
– There are coloured men there, and they are not doing so.
Colonel RYRIE.- I do not know that they- have the opportunity. I have no desire to indulge in any captious criticism, or to embarrass the Minister, but I should like some explanation in regard to the administration of the Lands Department, which, I understand, is governed partly by the Land Acts of South Australia, and partly by an Ordinance passed by the last Parliament. I hope the Minister will not allow too much of this Ordinance to be enforced, especially in regard to leases, as to which there are some provisions that, in my opinion, are simply ridiculous. I feel sure that this Ordinance could not, in this respect, be put into force without driving the lease-holders altogether off the land. In regard to pastoral leases, for instance, there is a reservation of all timber and timber trees, and all trees producing bark and other valuable substances. Such a condition must hamper the lease-holder in his operations, because he could not even split a few posts for his fencing without a permit from the Administrator. Further, there is a covenant by the lessee that he will, within three years after the -date of the lease, stock the land to the extent prescribed by regulation, and keep the land stocked during the continuance of the lease. The men who framed that regulation knew nothing at all about the business of grazing. To stipulate that a man must “ stock the land as prescribed by the reflation,” and keep it so stocked is absurd. Another provision says that a man must not overstock the land. No man is going to cut his own throat in these matters. If it pays him to stock his land to a certain extent he will do so, and he is not going to overstock if he loses money by doing so. To say that he is to keep the stock at a certain number, and keep it at that number, is ridiculous. We must provide for droughts and adverse seasons.
– South Australia had similar regulations for the Northern Territory.
– But they were never put into operation.
ColonelRYRIE. - Here is another covenant which the lessee cannot carry out : “ The lessee covenants that he will fence the boundaries of his lease as prescribed by the regulations.” What does it mean to fence one of these leases?
– Take the smallest lease - the agricultural area.
Colonel RYRIE.- No, I shall take the biggest lease - a grazing lease. In Class 1 the maximum is 3,000 square miles. Now, a lease of 3,000 square miles is 55 miles square, which means 220 miles of fencing. I do not believe a, man can fence in that district at anything under £80 a mile, that is, to put up what we call a good fence. In the first place the timber is very scarce, and it will not be up more than two or three years before it is eaten out by white ants, and the wire will, need to be carted at least 500 miles. I estimate that the total cost of fencing a grazing lease of 3,000 square miles will be £17,600.
– A man with that money need not go to the Northern Territory.
– That provision is really not in force. I have noted some, of these matters on going through the Act.
Colonel RYRIE. - Of course, it would be absurd to expect a man to carry out this covenant.
– It is boring for water that is really required, not fencing.
Colonel RYRIE.- The Ordinance is partly in force in the Territory now, and I hope that the Minister will see that such provisions as these are not enforced.
– Does the Ordinance say that the area “shall” be fenced?
Colonel RYRIE.- Yes. The lessee covenants that he will fence the boundaries of the lease as prescribed by regulation.
– Is there any time specified?
– Yes, three years; but they do not enforce any fencing.
Colonel RYRIE. - It appears to me that the number of officials employed in the Territory is excessive. I understand that there are about 180.
– I think there are 172 provided for on the Estimates.
Colonel RYRIE. - Considering- that there are not more than 1,000 whites in the Territory that number is excessive. We may be asked what officials could be dispensed with. I think that some of those engaged as protectors of aborigines might very well be dispensed with. We must all agree . that the unfortunate aboriginal will sooner or later disappear from Australia.
Colonel RYRIE. - It is well known that with the spread of civilization the aborigines disappear. That has been the case in the history, not only of Australia, but of other countries.
– But why should they disappear ?
Colonel RYRIE. - I do not know; but the fact is well recognised that in Australia the effect of civilization is to wipe the black race out of existence.
– Hear, hear!
– The rum does it.
Colonel RYRIE.- The abuses which the white men introduce are certainly a great factor. .
– The cruel way in which the blacks were shot down in Queensland was a disgrace.
Colonel RYRIE.- The only way to treat the aborigines is to leave them alone. Give them larger reserves, but let them live their own lives, and let the police see that white men are kept out of those reserves.
– And keep out the white man’s grog.
Colonel RYRIE. - I have seen something of the aborigines and their lives. I have seen attempts at civilization; I have seen little aboriginal children adopted by respectable white people, brought up in good homes, sent to good schools and educated, but the moment they get a chance they are off away back to the tribe. The call of the bush is in their very nature. They cannot be civilized. They will go back to their native way of living. From what I learned on our trip to the Northern Territory, these protectors of aborigines are worse than useless. They are ‘ not the right sort of men ; they do not know the language of the blacks or whom they are dealing with. Young fellows from Sydney and Melbourne, from the colleges, and so forth, were appointed, and they knew absolutely nothing about what they were sent there to do; in fact, they were the laughing-stock of the residents of Darwin, and even of the blacks themselves. That is one great source of extravagance in connexion with the administration of the Northern Territory.
– There must be some officials to carry out your plan.
Colonel RYRIE.- “With big reserves established for the aborigines, the police could have strict instructions not to allow white men to go on these reserves. We could supply the blacks with medical attention.
– And tucker?
Colonel RYRIE.- I suppose we could give them tucker, but in some places they will not require it. The Daly River natives are a very fine lot, and I do not think they require any tucker from white men. I believe they live on fish and game. There is an objection to supplying the blacks with tucker. The moment we do it the blackfellow will not look for food for himself. He will wait until it is brought to him”. If we do not supply him with tucker he must get it in his own way, in the way he was born and bred to. It is better for him to do it. It will give him exercise. We should give them medical attention, and leave them to live their own lives. I believe that is the proper % way to deal with the aborigines. It will do away with the expenditure on all those officials now in the Territory dealing with this matter. The only way in which we can successfully settle the Northern Territory is to connect it with the centres of population in the south. It would be better to connect Darwin with Sydney by rail than to carry out the proposed railway from Oodnadatta. I believe there is some honorable understanding between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government that the line shall be built from Oodnadatta.
– That is not so.
Colonel RYRIE. - The Minister can say whether it is or not.
– lt is provided for in the Transfer Act. But the two lines can be built.
Colonel RYRIE.- It would be much better to build the line to Sydney first. It would go through better country, and not only would it be shorter, but it would be preferable. We could build the line from Bourke to the Queensland border, in the neighbourhood of Tobermory, then connect with the western system of the Queensland railways, and then run out to Camooweal. Queensland has sanctioned the construction to Camooweal.
– Sydney has more trade than she can handle now.
Colonel RYRIE.- The Northern Territory has not. If we bring the line to Camooweal it would be only 600 miles from the Katherine River, and there would not be any great length of railway to build to connect Sydney with Darwin. This brings me to the question of the construction of the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. The Bill authorizing the construction of that railway was passed through this Chamber the other night. I think it took us rather on the hop. We did not have a chance to say a word on it, but I understand it has not passed through another place. This is a ‘railway which wants a good deal of inquiry. There is the matter of the gauge, for instance, which, I understand, is to be 4 ft. 8½ in. The gauge from Darwin to Pine Creek is only 3 ft. 6 in.
– The sleepers will be of steel, and fit to carry either a 3-ft. 6-in. or 4-f’t. 8½-in. line.
Colonel RYRIE. - The sleepers from Darwin to Pine Creek are only for a 3-ft. 6-in. line, so new sleepers will have to be put there, because the gauge will have to be uniform from Darwin to the Katherine River. ‘ Is the gauge going to he 3 ft. 6 in. ?
– For the present.
Colonel RYRIE. - I should have liked to hear a definite statement from the Minister or the Government with regard to a genera] plan of railway construction for the Northern Territory, or as to what we are going to do with regard to the transcontinental line, but to construct this line from the Katherine River to Pine Creek is ridiculous. It is putting the cart before the horse. We should commence at the other end. This bit of a line will not serve any usefulpurpose. It goes through country which will not feed a bandicoot. The honorable member for Barrier will bear me out that it is worthless country.
– Did you not vote for the railway?
Colonel RYRIE.- It slipped through before we knew what we were doing. The matter wants very serious consideration before we ‘ actually make a start on the line. We should know what is the policy of the Government as regards railway construction. Where are we going to connect with the Katherine River? Is it to be from Oodnadatta ? Is it to be from Camooweal, in Queensland? Are we to connect with tha western system of Queensland, and so on into Sydney; or what is the policy of the Government?
– It does not matter where we go from ; we must run a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine.
Colonel RYRIE. - What purpose does it serve? It may be years and years before we run a line from the populous centres - either Sydney or Adelaide. In the meantime, all the interest on the money for the construction of that bit of a railway is running on, and it may be very costly to construct. It would be much cheaper to construct it if we could build it as we go along. We are starting now at the wrong end. However, the measure has passed this House; although it will require very serious consideration before we actually make a start with the construction of the line.
– Every shilling we have put into the Northern Territory is waste. I do not care what anybody has said, we shall never settle the Territory except by an overflow from this country, when we have 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people. We ought to experiment to find out whether it will grow cotton.
– Does that apply to the United States of America?
– It did. There were millions of acres there which could have been had in the West, because the people passed by to California. That is just what the honorable member for Wimmera spoke about - the National Government and the States joined hands and agreed on a great irrigation policy, putting millions of pounds into it. They did away with their overlapping and the multiplicity of Boards, and organized it on a business basis. They conserved and irrigated 25,000,000 acres, and now they have 20,000,000 people settled in that country. There is talk about the factories closing up in various . parts of the world because the United States cotton crop is short this year.’ They have only grown this year 16,000,000 bales of cotton, instead of the 18,000,000 or 20,000,000 that they expected. The manufacturers of the world have to depend upon the Southern States of the United States of America, and I understand that the Northern Territory is in about the same latitude. Why do they not experiment with cottongrowing there?
– They have done so, and it is growing very well there.
– Then the land ought to be leased for grazing. South Australia has tried hard to settle that country in the last fifty years. When I was in the South Australian Parliament, they were most paternal towards it. They did everything they possibly could to make it a success, and the late Minister of External Affairs devoted days and nights of thought to it. He had it before the Cabinet until we were all tired, thinking how he could settle it. I was of the same opinion then that I am now - that we are not going to easily settle a country which is so isolated from civilization. Men will not go there when they can stay close to Melbourne. A railway ought to be built to some good part, and the country ought to , be let for grazing and cottongrowing. My honorable friends talk about immigrants. Why, if the Chinese and Japanese went there, if they did not bring their own tucker, they would starve. If we had a railway there, it would facilitate their movement to the south. The safety of the country is not to build a railway. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that we ought to have an organized business understanding between the Commonwealth and the States. We could then bring about a policy of irrigation, conservation, and afforestation; behind it we should want a corporation to finance it. Without money you can do nothing. One honorable member said we do not want to build only a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. Why cannot we wait for a few years in this matter? Why this madness ? I remember, when Senator Findley and myself put the question . of aerial defence and submarines to the Brisbane Conference, they thought we were lunatics. If I were. the Dictator of Australia, I should not spend a penny more on the Northern Territory-. I should take half the money we spend on defence, and put it into irrigation, immigration, water conservation, and afforestation. If this were a board of directors, we should all be trying to see how we could make the show pay. We want to run this business, not for the directors, but for the shareholders. If ever a Minister tried to make the Northern Territory a success, the ex-Minister of External Affairs did. We cannot settle the Territory unless we find out by a thorough geodetic survey of the area what it is fit for. We cannot establish closer settlement up there. There are millions of acres to be settled all over this country, and young men with pluck will go to the Northern Territory years hence. Here is a good chance to experiment with the American Meat Trust. Let those roosters go up there and put 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 head of cattle on the land, and ship the meat at the nearest port to America.
. -There is no department of Commonwealth activity that can be more severely criticised than the Northern Territory. During the last Parliament, and this, I suppose, there will be no subject on which every member can have a different opinion, and exercise his right of criticism to a more full and free extent, than in. regard to this matter. Personally, I am. inclined to be very free and friendly in my criticism of the Northern Territory administration. No Minister is more deserving of our sympathy in- his efforts to administer his Department properly than the Minister of External Affairs, particularly in regard to this part of Australia. I believe the Ministers in charge of this Department, particularly since we took over the Northern Territory, have tried to do their very best with it. And the present Minister can be trusted to continue a wise and sane policy of development. Those who have so adversely criticised the administration of the past and the projects of the future are not quite fair. The Northern Territory provides us with one of the most perplexing and difficult problems that we have to face. We have there an area of 525,623 square miles, or 333,116,800 acres, as to which, after forty years of occupation, we are unable to form a correct estimate. The honorable member for Hume suggested that £11 10s. per acre is an exorbitant amount for clearing land there, but the evidence put before the Fruit Commission last year was that nowhere in Australia did it cost less than from £20 to £25 per acre to make land available for cultivation, and, where rainfall is abnormal, as in the Territory, the vegetation is bound to be strong and thick. The honorable member for North Sydney was not fair in his criticism of the land regulations. The officials would not be so regardless of the dictates of common sense as to insist on literal compliance with all the regulations and ordinances regarding fencing, clearing, and stocking.
– It is left to their discretion.
– Not only the Minister, but his officials also, must have great latitude in the administration of these laws. The honorable member for North Sydney suggested that ‘ the rail-‘ way from the Northern Territory should be diverted towards Sydney, but nothing could be more fatuous or ridiculous than to make Sydney the outlet of the Territory. Sydney is at the present time unable to handle efficiently the produce of New South Wales, the congestion df traffic there being a disgrace to the State. The honorable member’s suggestion was as foolish as that of the honorable member for Denison, that the development of the Terrtory should be from the south to the centre. No part of Australia has been, or will be, developed from the interior. Development occurs by population settling on the seaboard, where there is means of communication, gradually extending inwards. Railways from the Northern Territory to the south would be now, at least, a quarter of a century before their time. The railway system and development of the Territory will gradually extend from the coast inland, and towards the surrounding States. The honorable member for Darwin suggested that the suitability of the Territory for cottongrowing should be tested, but we have had practical demonstration that cotton can be grown there and in Papua most successfully. Not only in those two places, but also in Northern Queensland, and in the northern part of Western Australia, there is land second to none for cotton growing. Cotton is becoming scarcer and scarcer, so that the manufacturers of Great Britain are trying everywhere to find new fields for its cultivation. They are anxious to exploit Australia, and the Minister could do nothing better than invite the British Cotton Growers’ Association to join with him in selecting ‘a piece of land and settling on it persons who would come here specially to grow cotton.
– Where would the labour for picking be obtained?
– That would not be difficult. No doubt it is thought, because in the Southern States of America cotton has been grown with slave labour, that cheap labour is essential to the successful cultivation of the crop; but it is not. In Queensland, it is being proved at -the present time, though only on a small scale, that cotton can be grown successfully with white labour, at 6¼d. per lb. I’ have suggested to the Minister that he should get into communication with the British Cotton Growers’ Association, and arrange with its members for the introduction of 10,000 persons, if necessary, to grow cotton. The Minister is well aware of the position. I know from certain correspondence that I have placed at his disposal that the necessary settlers can be obtained if land is made available to them, and assistance is given during the first few years by providing mills for ginning the cotton.
– The Association would bring men from India?
– No; its members know that the work must be done here with white labour. I know that they are willing to enter into this arrangement, and it would bring about the settlement of part of the Northern Territory, to the great advantage of the whole Commonwealth.
-They have made a first step by contributing towards an expert.
– I believe that an arrangement has been come to with regard to the export of cotton from Queensland by offering 6¼d. per lb. for the cotton. This will again encourage the industry there, the State containing land most suitable for it. I regret the remarks made by the honorable member for North Sydney concerning the aboriginals. One of the darkest chapters in the history of Australia, and of British colonization generally, is that which tells how the aboriginals have disappeared before the white settlers.
– It is in accordance with a law of evolution.
– I do not admit that it is necessary that the black races should disappear before the white races. It is not the mere presence of white men that so adversely affects black men; it is the vices of civilization that destroy the latter. It must be remembered that our aboriginals are mere children of nature, whereas we are grown up, and they cannot be expected in one generation, or even in ten, to take the jump from the stone age to the steel age. The honorable member for North Sydney says that he has known aboriginals to be taken into a home, trained, schooled, educated, looked after, and provided for, and yet to return to the wilds as soon as they had the chance. Were he, by some mysterious process, to be suddenly transported to heaven, and put into the company of the angels, lie would take the first chance to return to earth, because he would find himself unable to accommodate his nature to the environment in which he found himself. It is ridiculous to expect that the aboriginals can be quickly civilized. In Papua, however, we are dealing with the difficulty to some extent. We are realizing that the natives want to be treated as children in the infancy of civilization, and that they should be dealt with gently and kindly. We owe a duty to these aborigines that we cannot overlook. I hope that in regard to the Northern Territory, at any rate, the Government will persevere in their efforts to maintain the purity, such as it is, of the aboriginal races. Give them a chance to live under their own conditions. The less civilization we impose upon them the better for them, and perhaps the more to our own credit. Scientists and others who have investigated these matters amongst the South Sea Islanders are unanimously of opinion that it is the attempt to enforce civilization and civilized practices on the native races that leads to the development of those diseases which are so destructive. Even the forcing of, or expecting, the native races to wear clothes as we wear them is wrong, and is really a disgrace to us. The native races are able by a reasonable consideration of the circumstances of their environment to dress themselves, and so to eat and drink as to give them the best possible results. It is only when they adopt our ideas, not knowing as much as we do, and try to ape our manners and customs, that they begin to degenerate. Missionaries tell us that where we allow natives to continue in their natural environment there is less danger of disease and trouble. Nothing has spread more immorality among native races than have our attempts to clothe them in European fashion. Our civilization is inviting in’ them the development of immoral ideas where, left to their own natural methods, immorality is practically unknown to them. There are one or two other matters to which I desire to refer. Coming to the High Commissioner’s office, 1 regret that the Estimates do not’ make provision for the appointment of a produce expert in London. If there is an officer who is wanted in London at present it is one who has some knowledge of produce, and who is able to assist the primary producers of Australia. The primary producers of the Commonwealth are losing thousands of pounds every year through the want of satisfactory control and management of their produce upon its arrival in London. I have already referred to the findings of the Fruit Commission in this regard, and our report is unanimous that the condi- tiona at present obtaining in London for the reception, distribution, and handling of fruit that is sent from Australia is open to very severe and searching criticism. The High Commissioner admitted to the members of the Fruit Commission, when we interviewed him in the Prime Minister’s room a’ few weeks ago, that he had asked for the appointment of a produce expert, and that his request had not” yet been granted. I regret that these Estimates still leave that office unfilled. It is in regard, not only to fruit, but butter, meat, and all the primary productions of Australia that we need in London such a man. and his services will be increasingly necessary as our primary exports increase.
– If they are only managed as well as our butter is managed they will do pretty well.
– Our butter producers have been able to manage their own affairs in London to a certain extent; but Australian butter, even in the Old Country, is not at present getting a fair deal. It is depreciated by those companies whose interests are principally associated with Danish importations. It is a matter of common note that Australian butter is bought at a disadvantage, and sometimes sold as Danish butter, or as second rate. I believe that the Australian butter sent to London is as good as any that is landed there; but vested interests, particularly in regard to the handling of the Danish products, is so strong that the Australian article cannot make good. With a gentleman of some knowledge and ability in this direction representing us in London, we could save the primary producers thousands of pounds. One hesitates to criticise too freely the High Commissioner’s office, because whilst that office has been filled by Sir George Reid we have had better results than were ever before obtained. It must be recognised, however, that we are practically only at the beginning of our trade in products with the United Kingdom, and that we are only at the beginning of the development of Australia in its primary productions. We need, therefore, to make sure that the foundations of our business are of the very best. Commercial agents have been suggested. I notice that provision is made for a commercial agent in South Africa, £250 being set aside for that purpose. What surprises me is that no Government yet has grasped the possibilities for trade that await Australia in other countries. We. want, not only a commercial agent in South Africa, and a High Commissioner in London, but commercial agents in every part of the world. In Vancouver and San Francisco, for instance, there are millions of pounds’ worth of trade waiting for Australia, and yet we have no representatives to handle our business, and, unfortunately, no proper means of opening up business there. Then, again, away in the East - in India; China, and Japan - we have countries teeming with population with whom we are doing practically no business. Any Government that was prepared to bring down Estimates providing for the appointment of expert commercial agents in ten or twenty different countries would find honorable members prepared, and wisely prepared, to pass them promptly. There is no expenditure which would more promptly return an advantage to the people of Australia than that to provide for the appointment of commercial agents.
– I rather differ from the honorable member. When I was in office I used to turn them down.
– The suggestion has been made that we are not growing enough, but it is the opening of new markets that encourages the people to grow more. The very fact that there is another market, for fruit, for instance, is an encouragement to the producer to increase his acreage. Some people actually suggest that we have reached the limit of fruit production in Australia, so far as successful marketing is concerned. As a matter of fact, however, we have not yet reached the margin of the possibilities. London is taking just about as much fruit as it can, and we cannot successfully send more than we are doing at present, and unless the fruit producers are prepared to accept less for their fruit, or find other markets, they might as well stop producing. The whole world, however, is waiting for fruit, but what encouragement is there to extend the acreage or increase production ? The producers have no knowledge of, and no means of reaching those other markets. It is the Government’s duty to send men to find other markets, and make arrangements for the sending of supplies, not only of fruit, but of the other products of Australia. I should like to refer to the item of £125 for the International Bureau of Public Health. I notice that last year under this head, we voted £124, and I was wondering to what good influence we might attribute the increase of £1 this year. What, or who, or where is the International Bureau of Public Health I do not know, for we have no information whatever. This money may be going to China, Arizona, or New Zealand, so far as we are aware. I have not the slightest recollection of ever receiving any reports, or pamphlets, or any information whatever regarding it, and ) take it that other honorable members are in the same position. There is no matter of more importance to the people of this country, and none receiving less attention, than that of public health. Seve ral of the States are, to some extent, of course, necessarily compelled to take an interest in the matter.
– I hope to-morrow to place on the table a report on this very question.
– There is no matter that will force itself on the Federal Parliament more in years to come than that of public health. I assume that £125,. under this head, is, useless, so far as Australia is concerned. We ought to spend a reasonable amount in trying to secure the public health to its fullest extent. We are very much concerned about infant industries, bub very little concerned in regard to infant life. We are greatly concerned about the safety and protection of our cattle and live stock generally, but we are mightily little concerned in regard to the human asset, which, after all, is the greatest asset in the country. I hope that, by-and-by, we shall take up this question of public health, and consider it from a reasonable and proper stand-point.
– I understand that there is a very general desire on the part of honorable members that we should not sit later to-night. Some of us have travelled over from Sydney . to-day, and do not feel too bright; and honorable members opposite have promised to let the Government have the whole of the Estimates by half-past six to-morrow night. I understand that the Senate is very anxious to have the Estimates, but they will have to wait until that hour in order that we may have a night’s sleep. Progress reported.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House,at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I have asked this question before without getting a very satisfactory reply, and I hope this evening for more favorable consideration from the Prime Minister. Does the honorable gentleman intend to give any time for the discussion of private members’ business? There are several motions on the paper, and it has been the practice in the past to allow a day or two for their discussion. I should like the Prime Minister to promise to give a little time; and I undertake not to detain the House very long with the motion standing in my name.
– The Government business is all’ on the notice-paper, and every honorable member knows what it is. I shall be very willing to give the honorable member the time he desires if he will make arrangements with his own side to getthe Government business through. I cannot, just at the moment say what will be done, but I hope some time may be given to the honorable member to deal with the motions he has on the paper, for the rest, I suggest that he consult his own side, and come with some pro position to the Government, who are willing to consider anything he- cares to suggest.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 December 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131215_reps_5_72/>.