6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had issued a writ for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the electoral district of Dalley, in the place of Robert Howe, deceased, and that the dates appointed in the writ were as follow: - Date of nomination, Thursday, 6th May; date of polling, Saturday, 15th May; return of the writ on or before Monday, 31st May.
Mr. LAIRD SMITH presented a petition from timber mill-owners and employes in Tasmania praying that the House will impose import duties on timber based on the suggestions contained in the petition .
– With the leave of the House I desire, on behalf of honorable members generally, to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members who were travelling with him to Sydney last Friday upon their good fortune in escaping what might have been a terrible disaster.
– I acknowledge for myself and my brother members the cordial kindness of the Prime Minister. It was hardly to be expected, however, that any ordinary accident would place a train-load of members of Parliament hors de combat.
The following papers were presented : -
Food Supplies and Trade and Industry dur ing the War - Correspondence between the Royal Commission and the Minister for External Affairs.
Inter-State Commission - Tariff Investigation - Appendices to Report : Statistical and other information, and Evidence -
Apparel, viz : - Corsets.
Boots and Shoes.
Hides and Skins.
Inks, Stains, and Dressings for Leather.
Iron and Steel.
Locks and Lock Furniture.
Matches and Vestas.
Tobacco, Cigars, and Cigarettes.
Panama Pacific Exposition - Royal Commis sion - Correspondence between the Minister for External Affairs and the President of the Commission.
Ordered to be printed.
Postmaster-General’s Department -
Statement showing Business Transacted and details of Receipts and Expenditure in respect of Post Offices in the Commonwealth, year 1913.
Public Service Act -
Central Staff, Lighthouse Branch - New positions created -
Professional Division -
Appointments of -
Class C, Western Australia.
Promotions of -
Appointment of D. H. Reader, as Officer in Charge, Class E, Professional Division, Wireless Telegraph Station, Cooktown.
Promotion of E. A. Guiltier, as Postmaster, Grade IV., 3rd Class, Hay.
Regulation amended - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 52.
Strategic Railway - Instructions issued to Mr. Surveyor Combes in connexion with the preliminary inquiries.
– As His Majesty the King has decided to abolish intoxicating liquors from his palace while the war lasts, an example which I am glad to know has been followed by His Excellency the Governor of Western Australia, I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you will be good enough to referfor the consideration of the House Committee the question whether this Parliament should not, during the continuation of the war, abolish intoxicating liquors from the Parliamentary refreshment-room ?
– The matter is one for the House to deal with. Possibly, if the honorable member were to move a motion, he might influence honorable members to take the course which he desires.
– On the 14th December last, the honorable member for Grey asked that a return be prepared during the recess showing the total quantity of wine manufactured in Australia. The following table shows the total production of wine in the several States during the last five seasons : -
– I wish to know whether anything has been done in regard to providing a wireless installation for the vessel which is to convoy a dredger and a barge to Western Australia ?
– The Naval Board has decided that the Protector, which will act as the convoy from Melbourne to Adelaids, shall, be fitted with wireless, and, last week, wireless apparatus was sent from Melbourne to Adelaide for installation on the steamer Musgrave, which will act as the convoy from Adelaide to Fremantle.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if it has been brought to his notice that the Imperial Government has requisitioned the whole of the insulated space on all the steamers trading between Great Britain and Australia ?
– Ten or twelve days ago, a cablegram to that effect from the Secretary of State was received by the Prime Minister. It suggested that the insulated space on vessels now in Australian waters should be requisitioned by the Commonwealth Government, and taken control of by the Department of Trade and Customs. The Prime Minister replied that this Government was prepared to fall in with that arrangement.
– Has the Assistant Minister of Defence any further information to give regarding the treatment of Captain Brown, who was shot some months ago by sailors on board the Gerber us ‘i
– A report on the occurrence was obtained by the Department towards the end of last year, and it stated that the shooting of Brown was his own fault. Five shots were fired at Brown, and he was hit once in the leg and once in the hand. On the 21st January, a representation was made to me on the subject, and thinking that, perhaps, further information could be obtained, I ordered a second inquiry, as the result of which the Minister, while not admitting any liability, has recommended the Treasurer to pay the sum of £100 to Brown.
– At the first investigation the charge was made that Captain Brown had been drunk. Can the Minister say whether the subsequent investigation proved that this was not the case?
– The medical officer who attended Captain Brown stated distinctly that he was not drunk at the time.
– In order to preserve supplies to the Defence Department, the Government have placed a prohibition on the exportation of hides - a course with, which we all agree ; but as there are many hides, particularly those taken from fallen stock during the period of drought, which are unsuitable to the requirements of the Defence Department, will the Minister of Trade and Customs take steps to have the embargo so modified as to give to those particular hides the benefit of sale in the world’s market?
– The honorable member has said the exportation of hides was prohibited on defence grounds: but as I understand that out of every thousand hides purchased, even of the proper weight for soles and uppers as required for defence purposes, only about 200 are found to be of any use after tanning, I shall be pleased to have an inquiry into what the honorable member asks. At present, in order to get the requisite number, the Defence Department has to purchase five times as many hides as it requires.
– Has the attention of the Assistant Minister of Defence been drawn to a recent report in the press to the effect that a man who was found in possession of 300 lbs. of tea, 180 lbs. of sugar, and 34 tins of jam, alleged to have been stolen from the Morphetville Training Camp, was acquitted? What action does the Minister propose to take, in order to bring the culprit to justice ?
– I have not seen the statement in the press, and know nothing of the matter, but I shall have inquiries made.
– Is the Post and Telegraph Department considering the matter of granting some relief to people who have contracted for carrying mails in country districts, but who find that, owing to the high price of fodder, they are losing money over their contracts?
– The Department is considering every case on its merits, and is going as far as it can in the direction of giving assistance.
– I have received from Mr. Oxenham, the Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the following letter : -
The only fair and reasonable course which, it is considered, the Department can take in this matter is to consent to reduce either the frequency or alter the mode of conveyance, as may best suit the circumstances of the case, and to make a less proportionate reduction in the amount of the subsidy .where the circumstances warrant such reduction.
I ask the Postmaster-General whether the intention of the Government is not to give mail contractors any increases, but to reduce mail services to the people in the districts concerned ?
– I am sure that the honorable member will see that after tenders have been let under a public contract system the Department cannot give increases.
– What steps have been taken by the Defence Department to restrain Socialists from making seditious speeches in the Domain in Sydney, and from distributing seditious literature ?
– I have not heard of any such matter.
– Is it true, as reported in the press, that there has been some difficulty with the employes in connexion with the plate-layer at the western end of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway with reference to the amount of work to be done daily by the plate-layer, and if the statement is true, will the Minister of Home Affairs take the House into his confidence in regard to the matter?
– There has been some complaint to the effect that more work might be done, but as the EngineerinChief is now in Kalgoorlie inquiring into the matter, it would be as well to await his return.
– In connexion with a proposal that has emanated from Western Australia to use rice as food for poultry, owing to the shortage of wheat, maize, and oats. I would like to ascertain from the Minister of Trade and Customs the quantity of rice which was imported during the last twelve months, the value of the same, and the amount of duty paid ; and I would also like to know whether any step has been taken to remit the duty, or to give any rebate to the poultry growers in Western Australia in order to enable them to continue their poultry farming?
– The honorable member having written to me, notifying me of his intention to ask this question, I have obtained the following information: -
In 1913, 557,359 centals of uncleaned rice, valued at £222,913, were imported - chiefly from India and Java.
The Australian production is small, and growers usually retain the yield for their own consumption owing to lack of transport facilities in districts suitable for rice.
Duty of 3s. 4d. per cental added to cost brings the landed price of uncleaned rice to about 13s. 4d. per cental- or 1 3-5d. per lb.
Compared with maize at 7s. per bushel, or lid. per lb., or wheat at 8s. 6d. per bushel, or 1 2-3d. per lb., rice in the husk at 1 3-5d. per lb. is not an economical poultry food, but at 1 l-5d. per lb. (i.e., minus duty of 3s. 4d. per cental) uncleaned rice would be almost as cheap as maize or wheat now that abundant green-stuff is available.
The residue from cleaned rice contains good poultry food, but is a dear food unless the price is very low owing to the large proportion of husk.
With regard to the latter portion of the question, that relating to the remission of the duty, I may add that the Government have considered this matter, and have decided that they cannot advise that the request be granted at the present time. I hope that the item on the Tariff will shortly be discussed.
– Has the Defence Department taken any precautions with a view of protecting the foodstuffs supplied to our soldiers in the field as far as weight is concerned, and has it found, for instance, that tins of jam contain three ounces less than they are supposed to contain ; and that there is similar shortage in regard to other foodstuffs)
– When the Defence Department makes contracts for the delivery or purchase of jams, it always buys the jams in accordance with the quantity contained in each tin. That condition is specifically noted in the contract.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs state whether he can hold out any hope that when considering the Tariff members will haven the report of the Inter-State Commission available?
– I expected to have a progress report, dealing with a small set of items in the Tariff, in my possession to-day. Of course, I should have to peruse the report before laying it on tho table of the House. I do not think that the Inter-State Commission will be able to make available a report on a very large number of items before the House has an opportunity of dealing with the Tariff.
– Does not the Minister consider that every member of the House ought to be placed in possession of the report of the Inter-State Commission as soon as the Minister himself receives it?
– I think the Minister in charge of the Department is entitled to peruse the report before presenting it to Parliament.
– Will the Minister say what public good can be served by his withholding such a report from Parliament - a report which cannot be changed before Parliament is given an opportunity of seeing it?
– The report will not be withheld from Parliament. It will be laid on the table as soon as I have had an opportunity of looking through it.
– I should like to ask the Minister whether the report of the Inter-State Commission is addressed to him personally, and whether he can pui forward any possible excuse for keeping the report from Parliament for one moment ?
– The Minister has not said that he will keep it from Parliament.
– But the Minister may take several weeks in perusing the report.
– The Inter-State Commission Act provides that the report shall be laid on the table of the House within one month of its presentation. I certainly would not hold up the report, but, the document being addressed to me, I do think that I have the right to look through it before I lay it on the table.
– Why should not we know all the facts as well as you ?
– Honorable members will get all the facts. I have to-day laid on the table between 1,000 and 2,000 pages of evidence taken by the Inter-State Commission. That will give honorable members plenty of work for the time being. I have not yet received from the Commission any report.
– Does the Minister desire to revise the Commissioners’ report!
– No, I do not.
– Then why not let honorable members have it as soon as. it is presented ?
– I adhere to my original answer that the Minister in charge of the Department is entitled to look through the report before presenting it, but I assure honorable members that it will not bo detained in my possession more than a few hours, or at the utmost a couple of days, before it is placed before Parliament.
– I should like to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that not only in the Constitution, but under the Inter-State Commission Act, the Commission is charged with the duty of investigating matters which, in its opinion, are in the public interest, and its report would not necessarily be made to the Minister at all. The only matters referred to in the Act amongst which the Tariff could be included are those mentioned in paragraph I of section 16, “ Other matters referred to the Commission by either House of the Parliament, by resolution, for investigation.” I ask the Minister whether that does not give honorable members the right to have that information as soon as the report is presented by the Commission ?
– The report will be laid before Parliament as soon as it is presented. Does the honorable member wish me to lay on the table an envelope addressed to me without my having broken the seal ? I say that I have the right to open any communication addressed to me before I place it on the table of the House.
– Has the Minister any idea whether the report of the Commission will deal with the items in the order in which they appear in the Tariff?
– The Chairman of the Inter-State Commission informed me last week of a report upon a series of items which are scattered throughout the Tariff, but principally towards the end. Neither I nor any honorable member has the right to instruct the Commission as to the manner of transacting its business.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence arrange that the papers relating to Cockburn Sound, which he said would be made available to myself and other members will be placed in the Library or some other place where honorable members can peruse them ?
– I shall be pleased to grant every facility to the right honorable gentleman to peruse the papers referred to.
– In view of the serious delays and heavy expenses being incurred through the delay in the arrival of German ships which are interned in South Africa, and which have Australian cargo on board, will the Minister of Trade and Customs give to honorable members any information he possesses as to the likely arrival of the steamers in Australian ports, or of any satisfactory arrangement having been come to as to the freight charges to be levied on the Australian consignees?
– The Minister of External Affairs and I did our utmost to expedite the release of those cargoes from South Africa. I understand that an arrangement has been made by the consignees by which a flat rate will be charged to every port in Australia.
– In view of the substantial losses incurred by the telephone branch of the Postal Department, will the Postmaster-General consider the matter of making universal use of the small pole in country construction, and adopting the system of constructing the lines by local labour ? In Victoria, the cost has been reduced by over 100 per cent. by the adoption of this system.
– The policy of the Department is to have the construction work done as cheaply as possible, having due regard , to efficiency. Efficient results are necessary, otherwise the subscribers complain. In some places the poles can be used. The policy is governed by the locality.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that this system of construction has been tested in Victoria? I understand it is not general throughout the Commonwealth; but I know that its adoption has reduced the cost of construction by one half. I should like to know whether the Postmaster-General will see that the system is made general, because there is no doubt that it would save the franking of men and poles for hundreds of miles.
– If the honorable member has any good suggestions to make, I shall be glad to receive them.
Karri Sleepers’ Contract- Progress of Work - Gauge
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Port Augusta. - Rails in stock, 83 miles; laid in road, 240 miles. Sleepers in stock, 101 miles; laid in road, 240 miles.
No delay has occurred up to the present by reason of any shortage in delivery, nor have I any reason to believe there will be any delay in the construction of the line.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the statement by the Prime Minister on 14th April that “it is estimated the East- West railway will be completed in less than 2½ years’ time -
Will he obtain and place on the table of the House a report by the EngineerinChief for Railways on the present position and the estimated future progress of this railway - especially including the cause of the alleged great delay in carrying out this work - the date when it is anticipated the rails will be all laid and the mileage already ballasted of the 450 miles of rails already laid, water supplies, &c. ?
Whether there are not 400 miles of the length still to be laid that traverses an elevated limestone plain, almost level, on which two miles a day can easily be laid ?
Whether the rolling-stock, viz., locomo tives, carriages, and wagons, &c, is. under order and under construction; and, if so, the quality and estimated cost of such rolling-stock?
The total expenditure on the railway to date ?
The time this 1,060 miles has been under construction ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The first sod at the Port Augusta end of the line was turned on 14th September, 1912, and at the Kalgoorlie end on 12th February, 1913.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In regard to the statement made by him on the 14th inst. “ that there are reasons to believe that the same gauge from Kalgoorlie to Perth will be in existence before the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie is completed “-
Has he been asked by the Government of Western Australia to negotiate a loan, so as to provide funds for this purpose, and has he undertaken to do so?
Will he place any correspondence that has taken place on the table of the House ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked theMinister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Australian Government to certain foreign companies in connexion with whale fishing in Australian waters?
– I have no information in the matter,but will endeavour to obtain it.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Messrs. Burns, Philp and Co
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whetherhe will cause all papers governing relationships of the Federal Government with the firm of Burns, Philp, and Co. to be laid on the table of the House, including any which give the said firm any pre-emptive right over the conditions of settlement in the New Hebrides ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The various contracts with Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company have either been printed (see Parliamentary Papers 1901-2, General No. 56, Senate No. 01, 1905, General No. 78), or can be made available for the honorable member’s inspection. The arrangement with regard to the ownership of lands will be found in the Parliamentary Papers, General Senate of 1901-2 referred to.
Mr. PAGE (for Mr. Carr) asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether the Commission consisting of Messrs. Bamford and Johnson, which has been sent to the New Hebrides, has all the necessary power to investigate the conditions under which the relationships of the islanders are maintained with the mainland, and the extent to which the subsidy granted by this Parliament to Burns, Philp, and Co. fosters this relationship ?
Mr. PAGE (for Mr. Carr) asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether the complaints received from residents of the New Hebrides and those interested in Australia in trade with the New Hebrides are of such a nature as, if substantiated, would justify the Government in withholding any further subsidy from Burns, Philp, and Co.?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The opinion of the Government concerning the complaints may be gauged from the fact of the Commission having been appointed.
When the report of the Commission is received it will receive the fullest consideration with a view to determine what action is necessary or desirable.
Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether he will arrange for an adequate number of Australian postal sorters to accompany our Expeditionary Forces with a view to facilitating the delivery of mails, as delays complained of are largely due to ignorance of proper methods in this respect?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Minister will be pleased to arrange for the enlistment in the Expeditionary Forces of any postal sorters who desire to so enlist and can be spared from their duties in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
These men might be employed by brigades mid battalions for postal work’ as required, but they could not be wholly employed in this way.
It is not practicable to allow postal sorters to accompany the Expeditionary Forces in a civilian capacity, nor is it considered desirable to enlist them for these special duties only.
Provision is not made in the war establishments of units now being despatched abroad for the enrolment of men for postal duties alone, nor is any such provision made in the war establishments of similar units of the Imperial Army.
The postal services in connexion with the troops in the field are under the control of the Imperial authorities, who have at their disposal a Post Office Corps enrolled specially for this purpose, but the members of such corps are not allotted to brigades and smaller units.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the House as to the number of chaplains, for each denomina-tion, accompanying the Australian Expeditionary Forces and the number of troops represented by each?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Of the above numbers, the following were appointed Chaplains on transports for the voyage only : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The following are the particulars respecting the investment of Australian Notes Funds in State Government securities at 20th April, 1915.
Of the £18,000,000 to be advanced to the States under agreement, as under, viz. : -
the following amounts have already been paid, viz. : -
Payments have been made to the States on or about the 15th of each month, the first payment having been made in December. The amount paid to each State monthly represents one-twelfth of the total amount to be advanced to the State. £350,000 and £100,000 included in above total were advanced to Victoria and South Australia respectively in November, 1914, but those amounts will be deducted from the instalments due to those States in a future month.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 16th April, vide page 2416) :
Division 1 (The Senate), £7,914
Upon which Mr. Finlayson had moved -
That the item “ Clerk of the Senate, £1,000,” be reduced by £100.
.- The discussion which ensued upon my amendment on the last sitting day afforded me considerable gratification. I was very glad that so many honorable members expressed their sympathy with the object I had in view, although they complained somewhat of the method by which I purposed reaching it. The Leader of the Opposition was good enough to suggest that the effort might well have been made on some other item. It is quite sufficient for my purpose to point out that I took action on the very first item in the Estimates in connexion with which provision was made for an increase of salary. I submitted ray amendment with the intention that, if carried, it should be an instruction to the Government, as I stated at the time, that during the continuance of the war no increments should be granted to any officer in receipt of a salary of over £300 per annum. Had I waited for a later item, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, I might have been charged that I was specially singling out an officer for a reduction of salary. I was particularly anxious to avoid anything of the kind. I said on Friday that I had no particular individual in view, and that my proposal was intended to be of the most general character. I was therefore sorry to hear several honorable members introduce individuals into the discussion. I hope that, if the matter is to be further debated, we shall not deal with individuals other than any who may be directly concerned in the item actually dealt with. I am not at all concerned with the question as to whether or not the Clerk of the Senate is entitled to an increase of £100 per annum, but I am much concerned with the proposal that highly-salaried officials shall be granted increases at the present time. This is not a time when, in the interests of the people and of the finances, salaries should be increased. Salaries are not being increased outside, savein the case of men who can prove that their wages are insufficient to meet the increased cost of living. That argument does not apply to the officials to whom my amendment extends, since I do not propose that increments should be held back, save in the case of officers receiving salaries of over £300 per annum. The Leader of the Opposition asked why I singled out those who were in receipt of £300 per annum and over, and said that I might prevent an officer from receiving an increase of £5 or £10 per annum to which he was entitled. If I made the amount £310, or £510, or £901 per annum, the same argument would apply. A line had to be drawn somewhere, and I drew it at what I thought was a fair point, because £300 a year gives an ordinary individual a fair chance of carrying on honestly and comfortably, notwithstanding the present extraordinary price of goods. I regret that the suggestion was made from my own side of the chamber that I was thus seeking to set up a £300-per-annum standard of living. I made no such suggestion, and no such construction can be placed on any statement that I made. It has been urged that the carrying of my amendment might lead to reprisals by the Senate - that the Senate might interfere with the Estimates for the House of Representatives. I was surprised that the Leader of the Opposition in this House - which, under the Constitution, is particularly charged with the care of the finances - should have suggested that the Senate might deal with us in that way. I am not going to be intimidated by anything that the Senate may or may not do, and I hope that if we come to the conclusion that a certain course is right, no considerations as to what the Senate may do will deter us from following that course.
– The Senate is a powerful body.
– I hope that we shall be powerful enough to keep it in its place, and later on, if necessary, to send it about its business. Honorable members may laugh, but I do not recognise the Senate as an Upper House, and I believe that a second House is an anomaly and quite an unnecessary part of our governmental institutions. That being so, I. am prepared to vote to-morrow for its abolition. No statement regarding the opinions or intentions of the Senate in regard to this matter will have any effect on me. I was astounded to hear the Prime Minister say that this increase - although it has not been voted by Parliament - is being paid. If that is so, why are we asked to consider the Estimates, because I presume that the increase does not stand alone in that respect? No fewer than ten officers of the Senate are receiving increases, and four of them draw salaries exceeding £300 per annum. Are the increases being paid in every one of those cases?
– The Leader of the Opposition has explained what occurred.
– I cannot understand how an increase can be paid before the appropriation of Parliament. If the presiding officers of Parliament have the right to pay what salaries they choose, it is useless to ask us to review the Estimates. The Prime Minister suggested that I have moved the reduction in order to meet the war expenditure. What I said was that, as there is a heavy warexpenditure to face, we should economize in every direction, and should not pay out money unnecessarily. According to the right honorable gentleman, theincreases proposed to be given total only about £6,000, but I question the accuracy of the figures. They do not present the whole truth. On page 94 of the Estimates there is a list of eighty-nine officers, about whom no particulars are given, whose increases amount to £70,000; on page 103 a list of 208 additional officers with increases of £67,000 ; on page 110 of 137 additional officers with an increase of £37,380; and on page 124 an increase of £651,000. I do not think that officers in any branches of the Public Service should be given increases at the present time. We cannot shut our eyes to what is happening outside. Members are overwhelmed with letters and besieged with interviewers, asking their assistance in obtaining employment. One has only to read the newspapers and to make a few inquiries to know of the distress that is prevailing.
Mr.Rodgers. - The war has created employment.
– In some directions, but it has thrown hundreds out of work, and the drought also has caused unemployment.I share the optimism of the Prime Minister as to Australia’s ability to meet its obligations, and believe with him that we shall emerge triumphantly from the struggle and economically sound. But when the war ceases we shall have a war debt of from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000, and at present we are faced with unemployment and distress. This is therefore not a time for increasing the salaries of highlypaid officials. I know that the present Estimates were taken over by Ministers from their predecessors.
– They were framed before the war.
– Possibly, though they were laid on the table after the war broke out. It is not to require a great deal of our officers to ask that during the continuance of the war they should forego increases. I believe that they are as patriotic as any employes in the Commonwealth, and that we have reason to be proud of the good and faithful services that they render. They are able and conscientious, and I have not a single complaint to make against them. My proposal is not the reduction of salaries, but the suspension of increments for a short period. The honorable member for Barrier has suggested that this Parliament should follow the example of the King in abolishing intoxicating liquors from the refreshment room, merely for the sake of the example. In the matter of salaries it is hardly necessary for the Commonwealth to set an example, becauseI am certain that no commercial house is increasing salaries at the present time, and the Government of Queensland suspended the payment of increments to the public servants of the State because of the extraordinary expenditure which had to be met this year.
– Owing to the war?
– The war does not cost the States one penny.
– That is so, but the Government of Queensland feels it necessary to reduce expenditure because of the drought and for other causes, and it wishes to throw the responsibility for what it is doing on the war. When times of stress come it is generally the men at the bottom who suffer. In my opinion it is they who should have more consideration; it is the men at the top who should make a sacrifice. The statement made by the Prime Minister that the Estimates are framed by the Public Service Commissioner, who determines what increments shall be paid, and that the Treasurer provides the money, but that the next Estimates will be revised by him, cuts the ground from beneath my feet. It is a strange thing that the Public Service Commissioner has hitherto been able to demand from the Treasurer the payment of a certain sum for the remuneration of the Public Service, but if the Prime Minister next year gives effect to his promises, I think that the public interest will be effectively protected.
– The item which the honorable member has proposed to reduce was not submitted by the Public Service Commissioner.
– I am aware that the officers of Parliament are not under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, but I moved the amendment to express the wish of the Committee that no salary exceeding £300 per annum should be increased during the continuance of the war. But inasmuch as the Estimates now before us are not those of the present Government, but of its predecessor, and because of the promises that the Prime Minister has given, I desire to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the item “Clerk of the Senate, £1,000,” be reduced by £1.
As I said on Friday, I was not in sympathy with the proposal of the honorable member for Brisbane to reduce this salary by £100 as an intimation to the Government that no salary above £300 per annum should be increased during the continuance of the war. But I am not in favour of increasing the salary of the Clerk of the Senate by £100. There seems to be a principle at stake in this particular item. I understand that, during the term of office of the last Government, the President of the Senate demanded that the Clerk of the Senate should be paid exactly the same salary as that received by the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Now I am not in favour of the principle of equal pay, unless there is equal capacity, equal experience, and equal work - unless, of course, the principle could be made general, every person in Australia receiving exactly the same salary, and rendering to the community right to his utmost capacity the service of which he is capable. When such a state of affairs comes about, there will be a happy time in Australia, but I do not think that it will come about in our time. In the meantime, if we are not prepared to follow on those lines, we must, in fixing salaries, take into consideration a man’s capacity for work, the work he has to do, and the experience he possesses. I have no desire to pit one House of Legislature against another. The people of Australia by a referendum have decided on the adoption of the bi-cameral system of legislation, though, by the way, I may say that, with the honorable member for Brisbane, I hope that the time will come when we shall have only one Chamber.
– Which House would you retain?
– I should prefer to retain the Houes of Representatives, but if the people said, “ We shall retain the Senate, and abolish the House of Representatives,” well and good, for there would then be only one House. However, I think that the people will hardly decide in that way. I have always been in favour of having a single chamber of legislature, but that system has not yet come about, and as long as we have two Chambers, our duty is to work them as amicably as possible. The position taken up by the President of the Senate in demanding that the Clerk of the Senate should be paid a salary equal to that paid to the Clerk of the House of Representatives, is very unfair to this House. Every man is anxious to receive as much salary as he can get, and if one officer is to get only the same salary as that paid to another officer, who has a great deal less work to do, he will naturally be anxious to get the position where there is less work to be done. If I could get exactly the same salary by being Clerk of the Senate, I would ask to be sent to the Senate, because there is not so much work to do in that Cil amber.
– Do not your remarks apply to members of Parliament?
– Honorable members are not paid a “ salary.” They receive an allowance for. out-of-pocket disbursements. I can realize that senators have to pay more out-of-pocket expenses than members of the House of Representatives, and therefore I can conceive that senators should receive a greater allowance.
– Do you advocate that course?
– No; I leave senators to advocate it. Undoubtedly the Clerk of the House of Representatives has more work to do. He works longer hours and has more worry than has the Clerk .of the Senate. In this House we have heated debates, whereas in the Senate everything is done calmly and smoothly. The fact that three different parties have control of the fixing of the salaries which appear on the Estimates brings about a great anomaly. The Public Service Commissioner fixes the salaries for the Public Service, Ministers fix the salaries of heads of Departments and a few others, and the Speaker and President fix the salaries of the officers connected with Parliament. We have considerable anomalies in the Estimates before us. The salary of the Secretary to the Treasury, who looks after the finances and advises the Treasurer, is £900 a . year ; whereas the Clerk of the Senate, who, one would imagine, cannot have as much responsibility and work to do as the Secretary to the Treasury has to undertake, is to receive a salary of £1,000. The Secretary to the Defence Department, who has to do a great deal of work, and has a great deal of responsibility, is paid a salary of £900, which is also the salary paid to the Secretary of the Home Affairs Department, Colonel Miller, who rendered great and distinct services in South Africa, and who, according to his friends, is a born organizer and a great administrator, and who has been intrusted by three Ministers of Home Affairs - one Liberal and two Labour - with the task of going to the Federal Capital with a fairly free hand to lay the foundations of that city. Yet the Clerk of the Senate is to receive a salary of £1,000. The salaries paid to our various commandants are shown in the Estimates in a lump sum, but I understand that that of the commandant in Victoria is £775. ‘ I cannot say whether all the commandants are paid exactly the same, but certainly uo commandant, except perhaps in New South Wales, would receive a salary greater than that paid to the commandant in Victoria. A State commandant, particularly during this war, has a great deal of responsibility, yet he is paid a salary of only £775, while the Clerk of the Senate, whose salary is already £900, is to have an increase of £100. And so I might go on. The Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales is in receipt of a salary of £850, and the Deputy Postmaster-General in Victoria is paid a salary of £800, while other Deputy Postmasters-General receive smaller salaries. We hear a great deal about the Post Office. We can have Commissions, and we can talk in Parliament as much as we like, but a great deal of the successful running of the Post Office depends on the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, yet Parliament says that the salaries paid to these officers are quite sufficient, and, according to the information we received on Friday last, unless the Clerk of the Senate is paid a salary of £1,000, the Senate is going on strike. The Chief Electoral Officer has a great deal to do, and has a great deal of responsibility, and he does his work very well. At any rate, we have no reason to complain. We have all been returned to the House.
– Do you mean to insinuate that the Chief Electoral Officer favours any one?
– No. He is a very honorable man, and does his work very well. I say that we have no reason to complain, seeing that we are here. At any rate, his salary is only £700.
– It is not enough.
– He has to work long hours during an election; he has no long recess. In New South Wales, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly is paid a salary of £1,000, but the salary paid to the Clerk of the Legislative Council is only £740. I understand that in Victoria the Clerk of the Legislative Council is paid a salary of £1,000, and that the salary of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly is only £900, but I understand that the latter is also paid £100 a year as Clerk of Parliaments. I quite agree with the honorable member for Indi that the work of the Clerk of Parliaments is of a very skilled character, and requires special knowledge, because, if errors were made in the wording or punctuation of our Statutes, there might result endless litigation. The clerks of our Parliament are competent and courteous officers, and I have not a word to say against them. One of the principal duties of the Clerk is to be responsible for a Bill leaving the Chamber in exactly the form Parliament has decided upon. That work is done by the Clerk of the House, in which the Statute originated. Nine out of ten of our Bills originate in this chamber, and consequently the Clerk of this House has nine times as much responsibility in that way as the Clerk of the Senate. When the Estimates were being introduced last year by the right honorable member for Parramatta, I asked why increases had been given to the clerks in this House, when a number of other responsible officials in the Commonwealth Service were kept on the £900 mark ‘i The right honorable member replied that he did not know why that policy was followed. I am not here to ask that the salaries of highly-paid officials should be further raised. Like the honorable member for Brisbane, I rather stand for those who are lower paid, but I recognise that those in high and responsible positions would naturally feel that their work was not being properly appreciated if we refused them the increments which were given to other highly-paid officers. I have in mind the position of the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, We have excellent administrators in Papua and the Northern Territory, but. nevertheless, the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs has to carry a great deal of responsibility; yet we say that £900 is a sufficient salary for him, but the Clerk of the Senate must be paid £1,000, or something serious will happen. I intend to give the Committee an opportunity of voting on this item. Unless we are prepared to adopt the principle of giving to all officers in a class equal pay, irrespective of capacity, experience and age, I am not willing to allow that the salaries of the officials in this chamber and the Senate should necessarily be on an equality.
.- The two previous speakers gave to new members some insight into the past history of Federal Administration; but it amazes me to find that, after fourteen years, we are only now discovering that the salaries of our public servants are framed on an unscientific basis. Why was this not discovered years ago? I quite agree that the salaries are most unscientifically regulated, but whether the proposed reduction be £1 or £100, whether it be to enforce a reduction or to suspend an expected increase in salary, on principle, I am not prepared to vote for any reduction of salaries unless a similar reduction is applied to myself. If honorable members will propose a motion whereby the emoluments of members of Parliament are subjected to a similar reduction as is proposed to be applied to the salaries of servants of Parliament, I will support it.
– This is not a reduction.
– This involves the holding up of increments that were expected.
– These are not statutory increments.
– In this instance we are dealing with an anticipated increment that has been before this particular officer for nine months. I do not think that it is fitting on the part of honorable members to attempt any suspension of well-merited increases to servants of Parliament, unless we are prepared to submit to the same treatment. If a limitation of expenditure be necessary I will be the first to agree to an equivalent reduction in my own emoluments, as it ia proposed to apply to the salaries of those in our employ. It is not reasonable or fair that salary reductions in any division of the Commonwealth Service should be advocated whilst honorable members are immune. Therefore, I hope the amendment will be defeated.
– I have received several communications from persons who desire me to vote against any proposed increases to high salaries, but it is not my intention to do that. When the Victorian Parliament sat in this building, the then Clerk of Parliaments practically owned the Parliament. The authorities were constantly casting round to find ‘some excuse for increasing the Clerk’s salary, but the work lie did was so little, although he did it with a great amount of show, that, ultimately, they could find no other excuse than to pay him £100 a year for the supervision of the gardens.For several years after the establishment of Federation the Clerk of the Senate was Clerk of Parliaments. I can remember when it was first contended that the Clerk of this House, and the Clerk of the Senate, occupying positions of equal responsibility, ought to be on an equality in every sense ; and it is not long ago that that policy was given effect to. I remember contending at the time that the Clerk of this House was entitled to just as high a salary as the Clerk of the Senate. Having taken that stand then, I am only acting consistently now in saying that the Clerk of the Senate should be in every respect on the same level as the Clerk of the House of Representatives. I hold no brief for the tall poppies; although, in some circles, I am myself considered a tall poppy. It should be remembered that we might do an injustice to many men by refusing increments during the present year. For instance, there are public servants who this year must retire, and if their salaries are reduced, so must their pensions be, seeing that a pension is always based on the salary received.
– How many Commonwealth public servants are entitled to pensions ?
– Many of those who came over from the services of the States are entitled to pensions. . In some quarters, the Clerk of the Senate is supposed to, in some way, occupy a higher position than that of the Clerk of this House ; and I think that, at any rate, the salaries ought to be equal. It is a most peculiar fact that, quite irrespective of party, the members of another place seem to regard themselves as more “blueblooded “ than we are, and, on that account, claim certain conveniences and privileges that we do not enjoy. Their seats are more comfortable than ours, being made of plush, while here we find merely leather; and their supply of newspapers is more liberal, and their notepaper and envelopes of better class.
– They could not be provided with worse paper and envelopes than we get.
– However that may be, the dear old gentlemen in another place claim every consideration, and are much better looked after than we are. Again, do honorable members believe that this proposed reduction of salary, if carried into effect would tend to that peace and harmony which ought to prevail between the two Houses? I am afraid that if they find us robbing their Clerk of £100 we shall find them “ standing on their hind legs.”
Question - That the item “ Clerk of the Senate, £1,000,” be reduced by £1 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the item “Clerk of the Senate, £1,000,” be reduced by £100.
I do not see any force in moving to reduce this salary by £1. We are all, I think, against increasing salaries at the present time; and we ought to express our feelings in definite language. I submit the motion as a declaration that we desire to retain the salaries as paid before the Estimates were framed.
Mr. I j AIRD SMITH” (Denison) [4.48]. - I sincerely hope that this motion will not be carried; and I desire to briefly explain why I voted as I did in the division just taken. The gentlemen whose salaries are under consideration have to undergo a special training for their work, and largely in the Commonwealth Service it is the position, and not the man, that is classified. If any officer faithfully and ably, as these officers admittedly do, carry out the duties that their positions demand, they are entitled to the salary proposed in the Estimates.
– As a point of order, 1 should like to know whether it is competent for an honorable member to submit a motion proposing to reduce this item by a larger amount than that against which the Committee have already decided .
– I think that the motion is not in order. The Committee have already decided that the salary shall not be reduced by £i; and honorable members would stultify themselves if .a motion to reduce the salary by a larger amount were proposed and carried.
– Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that you will not permit the motion to be submitted to the Committee ?
– I have ruled that the motion is not in order.
– Then I shall have to move to disagree with your ruling, which, if upheld, will put us in the position of having our hands tied. This would be neither desirable nor creditable.
– I think it is a very old ruling.
– If it is, then it is about time that an end was put to it. Surely there is a material difference between an amendment to reduce a proposed vote by £1, which may be submitted as a test question, and another to make a reduction of £100 !
– The honorable member for Barrier submitted an amendment that the item be reduced by £1, and a prior amendment that it should be reduced by £100 was withdrawn. Had the two amendments stood, I should have ruled that that relating to the larger amount should first be submitted to the Committee; but since the Committee has determined the question of the proposed reduction of the item. by £1, I cannot now permit an amendment for a larger reduction.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 2 (House of Representatives), £10,664
.- I am well aware that this is not a very opportune time to suggest to the Government and the Committee an increase in any particular item; but I determined some time ago, as the result of personal experience, that as soon as I was in a position which would free my action from any personal significance, I would direct the attention of the Government and the Committee to the allowance of the Chairman of Committees. It is set down at £500, but in reality the Chairman draws only £300 for his work in the chair, since, under the Act dealing with the allowances of members, his salary as a private member goes back to the original one of £400 per annum. I do not wish to make any comparisons between the position of the Chairman of Committees and that of the Speaker, but I may be allowed to make one or two suggestions. I do not intend again to occupy the position of Chairman of Committees, and I therefore think I shall be in order in asking the Committee to give some consideration to this matter. The Speaker has a net salary of £900 per annum, and his services are undoubtedly of that value to the House. We require as Speaker an individual of wide experience and knowledge of the rules of debate and of the Standing Orders. But the Chairman of Committees requires an equally thorough knowledge of parliamentary procedure. I am aware that Mr. Speaker has, outside the chamber, other duties that require attention; but, even taking into consideration the additional duties falling upon him, I think there is too great a discrepancy between his allowance and that of the Chairman of Committees. The Chairman of Committees has a position quite as responsible as that of Mr. Speaker, while he is in the chair. He has to give his decisions upon his own responsibility, and, so far as the strain “of the work is concerned, I think it will be admitted that he has to be on duty quite as lon» as Mr. Speaker, and under circumstances that are frequently even more trying than when the House itself is discussing a general proposition. The Chairman, even when he is not in the chair, has still to be on duty, since he never knows when he may be called to his position; and he has also to be ready to relieve Mr. Speaker. I think, upon consideration, the Treasurer, who alone has the power in this matter to give my proposition any direct shape, will recognise that we have here an anomaly that requires to be adjusted.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 3 (Parliamentary Reporting Staff), £8,072; division 4 (the Library), £6,351 ; division 5 (Refreshment Rooms), £1,216; division 6 (Water Power), £175; division 7 (Electric Lighting, Repairs, <£.c), £1,070; division 8 (Queen’s Hall), £520; division 9 (Parliament Gardens), £665; division 10 (Miscellaneous), £1,466, agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Division 11 (Prime Minister), £19.756.
– I have a few observations to make regarding the expenditure on the historic memorials of representative men, which, I think, is developing to an absurd situation. I have a keen appreciation of art, but I do not think any of us can examine, with any degree of satisfaction the alleged portraits in the Queen’s Hall. I remember on one occasion discussing one of them with a leading member of this House, under the impression that it was a painting of a totally different individual. While some are certainly recognisable, barely one of them can be described as a work r>f art. The best of them display a certain amount of fine brushwork; but portraiture is a class of painting that is exceedingly difficult. As a matter of fact, there are only some half-dozen portrait painters of any eminence in the world at the present time. While I have every desire to encourage youthful aspirants for fame as portrait painters in Australia, I submit that the fact that a person can depict a landscape fairly well on a piece of canvas is by no means an assurance that he or she is equal to the task of handing down to posterity the features - and the character, as shown in the features) - of representative men in Australia. Nearly all of these alleged portrait paintings are, in that respect, lamentable failures. Dealing with them upon a strictly business-like footing, the price in every case is excessive and absurd. We pay £250 for each of these pictures, the value of which, in several cases, consists almost entirely of the frame. There is one portrait painting of high quality - that of the late Sir Henry Parkes. That, in my opinion, as well as in the opinion of critics, who, perhaps, know more of these matters than I do, is the only genuine piece of portrait-painting that we have in the collection. Honorable members will notice that it is not very large, but it gives us all that we require. It gives us the head, the face, and features the character of the individual portrayed. Why should we pay about £100 more than we need to in order that posterity may be assured that the present Prime Minister had a pair of fairly good legs, and that they were encased in the orthodox trousers? It is neither necessary nor desirable. A threequarterlength portrait is £100 cheaper than a full-length one. True, it would deprive us of about eighteen inches of trousers in the painting; but I submit that all that is required is a picture of the head and shoulders, and that can be obtained at a much less figure, and would be far more satisfactory, than those huge expanses of canvas depicting the altogether unbecoming and inartistic habiliments of these days. We are apparently committed to a portrait of every Prime Minister, President, Speaker, and Governor-General who may happen, for however brief a period, and in however uninteresting a way, to hold office.
– Where shall we find room for them?
– What a heritage the country will have acquired 100 years hence! The destination of many of these pictures will, I am afraid, be the cheap sale or the bonfire. The original understanding was that we should have historical memorials of representative men. I would not for the world insinuate that the portraits we already possess are not those of representative men, but if we continue on the lines now being followed, we shall certainly spend a considerable sum on the portraits of men who will be in no way representative. In view of the facts, and of the apparent impossibility of securing anything like decent portraits in oils, I suggest to the Treasurer, who, I know, desires economy, that our object would be achieved by photographic representations of our public men, done, perhaps, in sepia. We should thus get better and more faithful likenesses and more artistic productions than many of those that have been imposed on the Commonwealth at such high rates compared with their quality.
– I do not agree with the criticism of the honorable member for Perth, because I consider that the portraits to which he has referred are equal to anything that could be got in the Old Country for the same money. It is one of the features of Australian criticism that it regards everything done in this country as inferior to work done elsewhere.
– My remarks contained, no such insinuation. Some of the portraits to which reference has been made were painted outside Australia.
– I had no wish to do the honorable member an injustice. As to the artistic quality of these paintings, I am not in a position to express an opinion, but I have visited on more than one occasion some of the most famous, picture galleries in the world, and I have the advantage of acquaintance with those who know something about art. There are in the older countries of the world galleries whose, collections consist almost wholly of masterpieces; but, taking ordinary collections, my individual opinion is that, picture for picture, the portraits that have been referred to are equal to any that will be found elsewhere.
– Who did the portrait of Sir George Reid ?
– It was done overseas, in the great art centre of London, by a leading portrait painter.
– Thank God an Australian did not paint it ! It is the greatest abortion of a portrait that ever came to the country.
– I do not think that we should say that. The efforts of Australian painters should be encouraged by the Governments and civic authorities of this country. Without the encouragement of art, a people become mere drudges, and lack ideas of an elevating character.
– I have never suggested the discouragement of art.
– The honorable member said that it would astonish an ordinaryminded person to be taken into the Queen’s Hall and asked to consider the portraits there as works of art. I do not agree with the honorable member. I think that the portraits are works of art. They have been passed by gentlemen who were intrusted with the choosing of pictures for our best galleries.
– The right honorable gentleman’s portrait is a good one.
– Those who know me will not accuse me of personal vanity. The standing for that portrait was a bore and a trouble to me. It may be that the wrong men may be painted, and, in a small way, thus acquire immortality, but future generations will be glad to have the pictures, and the amount that they cost does not weigh by comparison.
.-.I made two discoveries during the Prime Minister’s speech; that he is not a judge of art, and that he is modest. He was rather unfair to the honorable member for Perth in suggesting that that honorable member’s remarks were in the nature of crying stinking fish. I do not know a better Australian, nor one keener to preserve the credit of Australia and Australians. I suggest to the Prime Minister that an Australian who is engaged in perfecting his art at some art centre outside the country is still an Australian. The right honorable gentleman seemed to suggest that such a man is not an Australian, and, therefore, not an inherent genius. Mr. Lambert, who painted the portrait of Sir George Reid, is one of the most gifted artists that this country has produced, and though he is now living in London, he is still an Australian. It is to be remembered that every one does not make so good a subject for the portrait painter as does the Prime Minister.
– Does the honorable member say that the portrait of Sir George Reid was a good one ?
– It showed distinct cleverness. I suggest that we may confuse the coming generation that is expected to look with admiration and awe on the representations of our noble selves, by making the collection too large.’ I am with the Prime Minister in desiring to see his own portrait adorning our gallery, and I think that the portraits of all our Prime Ministers, whatever may be our views regarding their personal fitness from a purely artistic stand-point, should be painted. But with all respect to the occupants of the chair here and in another place, I am afraid that the portraits of Prime Ministers, although comparatively numerous, would be altogether swamped by the portraits of the less important Presidents of the Senate and Speakers of the House of Representatives. Except the first President and the first Speaker, I think that we need not immortalize our Presidents and Speakers in this way.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 12 (Executive Council), £173; division 13 (Audit Office), £26,226; division 14 (Public Service Commissioner), £18,196; agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Division 15 (The Treasury), £24,084.
– I do not propose to deal with the financial position set forth in these Estimates, and in the important statement read by the Treasurer on the 14th instant, but I wish to make one or two remarks concerning what was said in that statement about the Commonwealth Bank. The information given in regard to the Commonwealth Bank is very interesting, but that in this important Ministerial statement, covering the financial position of the Commonwealth, dealing with the assistance the Commonwealth has been able to render to the States, and that which the Imperial Government have been able to give to us, and giving information in regard to the note issue and the advances made to the States from funds connected* therewith, we should have two whole pages devoted to details of the Commonwealth Bank is something more than one would have expected, and more than was necessary. The Commonwealth Bank having been established under Statute, the Governor of the Bank has always taken the stand - and prided himself on it - that he would not give any information if he did not care to do so; but, judging by the information that he has given to the present Treasurer, he now seems to have departed from that attitude. This information is very interesting; but I wish to deal with one paragraph only, a paragraph that has no doubt been supplied to the Treasurer by the Governor, and which says -
The Savings Bank in London was established primarily for the benefit of Australians or intending Australians, and generally to assist emigrants leaving England for Australia, and has been almost exclusively made use of in this respect. Other persons are not encouraged to deposit with the Savings Bank Department in London, and several suggestions that the bank should receive deposits from the public throughout Great Britain have been declined. At the time of its establishment the British Post Office Savings Bank was consulted in the matter, and took no exception whatever to the establishment of this portion of the activities of the Commonwealth Bank of London, and the friendliest reciprocal arrangements still exist with the British Post Office Savings Bank, and also with the New Zealand Post Office Savings Bank throughout that Dominion. 1 say that the statement contained in this paragraph is not accurate. I know that this is strong language to use in regard to such a matter, but from my own knowledge the statement is inaccurate, and should not have been put forward in the way in which it has been put forward. Honorable members are no doubt aware that the Savings Bank branch in London was established with a great flourish of trumpets; I am not sure that the King was not present; at any rate, there was a great function, ‘and Sir George Reid, after a great speech, placed £100 of his money in the Savings Bank as its first depositor. I have not looked up the speech delivered by Sir George Reid, but my memory serves me well enough to know that there was no mention of any limitation of the activities of the Bank. It was not said that the Bank was only for the special purpose mentioned in the paragraph I have read, and that it would be made use of exclusively for that purpose, or that the Bank did not wish to receive deposits from the public of Great Britain. Already in this chamber I have protested against the Commonwealth entering into the Savings Bank business of London, trying to gethold of some of the savings of British people with small means in order to bring the money to Australia; because T maintain that Great Britain, with its great obligations and responsibilities, should be entitled to retain these funds for its own purposes, and we should not attempt to get them away from Great Britain, lt was not said at the time that it was not intended to do this. Holding the views that I do upon this point, I was altogether opposed to the Commonwealth establishing a branch of the Savings Bank in London ; and when I was Treasurer, having looked into the matter, I found that there was no authority by law to establish any branch of the Sav- ings Bank beyond Australia. The AttorneyGeneral, Sir William Irvine, when consulted on the point, emphatically advised that there was no power under the Statute to establish a Commonwealth Savings Bank in London, and I thereupon informed the Governor of the Bank to this effect, but that gentleman was very reluctant to give up his idea. He even sent to me a solicitor’s opinion, controverting that of the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, but I told him that the thing could not be done. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank never, though he knew my opinion upon the matter of taking away the savings of the people of Great Britain from the field in which they should be controlled, hinted to me, in all the conversations I had with him, that by establishing the Commonwealth Savings Bank in London he intended to deal with no business other than for the benefit of Australians, or intending Australians, and that he had no intention of doing other than obtaining as much money as he could through the Savings Bank branch in London. However, during last year the present Treasurer introduced a Bill which gave the power to establish a branch of the Savings Bank in London, and overcame the difficulty that I had detected. There was no need to establish a Commonwealth Savings Bank in London “ primarily for the benefit of Australians or intending Australians, and generally to assist emigrants leaving England for Australia,” as the Commonwealth Bank could deal with all those matters without having any Savings Bank provisions, and even before the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank our High Commissioner aid the business. The reason advanced in this document could not, .therefore, have been the true reason for the establishment of a Savings Bank in London. Another matter that proves that the intention was to get money in order to carry on the business of the Commonwealth Bank, and to make money for it, is the fact that a rate of interest was given on deposits higher than the Imperial Government paid through its postoffices.
– That would be a good thing for the poor people.
– To give the poor people ten times more interest would be good for them ; but the point I make is that the idea in establishing this Savings Bank in London was the securing of funds for the Commonwealth Bank, because if the intention was only to establish it, as mentioned in the document, “ for the benefit of Australians or intending Australians, and generally to assist emigrants leaving England for Australia” - for which purpose it has been said it has been almost exclusively made use of - why then should a higher rate of interest be paid than was given by the British General Post Office ? I mention this matter now in order to reiterate what I have said all along, namely, that it was not a friendly action to take - in fact, the action of the Commonwealth Bank in entering the British arena in order to get deposits for its Savings Bank branch at a time when Australia was borrowing all its loan money from the Old Country, and generally was under great obligations to it, was about the meanest action I have heard of. I maintain that the Commonwealth Government had no right to enter into competition with the British Government, and offer a higher price for money than the Post Office of the “United Kingdom was paying.
– Judging by the scandals connected with Savings Banks in England a little while ago, it was necessary for some one to establish something.
– The honorable member’s views are not the same as mine. He does not think it mean and contemptible to go to the Mother Country and attempt to divert the savings of the. people from the field in which they should be applied, when Australia is still going to the British money-market, and is still under obligations to Great Britain ; but, in my opinion, the offer of a higher rate of interest in order to secure this money was a most unfriendly and mean action on our part. I was ashamed of the step we had taken - one of the most ungrateful things I had ever heard of. But, now, why have we this change that has taken place in regard to the attitude of the Savings Bank in London as disclosed by this document before us? The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, who knew the views I .held, never mentioned to me any limitation as to the operations of the branch, yet now when, owing to this terrible war, we are getting under greater obligations to the Old Country, he says that he has declined to receive deposits from the public throughout GreatBritain. That is the first I have heard of this attitude, and I bring the matter forward to-day because, from my knowledge of the affairs of the Commonwealth Bank, I know that the statement that the Savings Bank in London was established primarily for the reasons stated in this document, is inaccurate. Seeing that we had a branch of the Commonwealth Bank in London, which can do all the business the Savings Bank branch could do in the matter of assisting Australians, or intending Australians, and seeing that the High Commissioner could do all the work: even without the Commonwealth Bank, there was no need for us to establish a branch of the Savings Bank in London, and our action in doing so is not only unnecessary, but ungrateful and unwarranted. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If the British Government came into the Australian arena and endeavoured to get use of the savings of the people here, or did some such improper act, we would be disgusted and annoyed ; honorable members opposite would be rampant with rage; they would consider the act as most improper on the part of the Old Country ; but, apparently, there is nothing improper or unfriendly when we do the same thing, and without any necessity for doing it. It is not necessary to give higher rates of interest in order to attract deposits, if we are not going to receive them. So far as my knowledge goes, the statement is inaccurate, and ought not to have been placed before Parliament in that form.
– The righthonorable member for Swan has referred to the statement of the Governor of the Bank as inaccurate; he practically said that it was wilfully inaccurate.
– I did not say that. I say it is inaccurate, and that you ought to have known better.
– In my opinion it is not inaccurate. It is a statement of fact, and will be verified when the opportunity is given. It is quite true that the right honorable member was against the establishment of a branch of the Savings Bank in London; be did his best to prevent its establishment, and would have stopped its continuance if he could.
– I was against the Commonwealth Savings Bank in Australia also.
– In that respect the right honorable gentleman is quite consistent, but he is not sound in his arguments. To say that when a country has passed a banking law which permits any other country to establish a banking institution, it is contemptible and mean to take advantage of that law, is surely not sound reasoning. Imagine the little Commonwealth Savings Bank in London, established to assist men and women of small means, many of whom are contemplating coming to this country, by enabling them to have their money transmitted without cost, and to earn interest from the day of deposit, interrupting or endangering the financial affairs in London, which is the clearing centre of the world, dealing with, perhaps, billions of exchange in a year !
– Do not forget the higher rates.
– Higher rates are common in London. I recollect that banks in London paid 6 per cent, on deposits when consols were only bringing about £2 18s. It is not the policy of the Government of Great Britain to prevent people who are doing business legitimately paying whatever rates of interest they can afford; if such a policy had been adopted England would not be the great country it is.
– You might have received millions of pounds’ worth of deposits if you had paid higher rates, and that was the intention.
– There was no intention of establishing a savings bank in London’ for the purpose of raising loan money, and any Treasurer who would attempt to do that would ultimately fail, because he would not obtain his money as cheaply by dribs and drabs in that fashion as if he borrowed it directly. The right honorable member for Swan will see that the Savings Bank is ancillary to the Commonwealth Bank in London, and I do not think that any harm will result. The right honorable gentleman opposed the establishment of a savings bank branch in London, but the branch is lawfully established now. There is provision in the original Act which gave the Governor of the Bank, with the consent of the Treasurer, power to establish branches of the Bank in any place outside Australia, but, because the words “ and Savings Bank “ were not included, the London branch of the Savings Bank was considered to be unlawfully established.
– That is not Part V. of the Act.
– It was not the intention of Parliament- to limit that reference in the Act to general banking merely. It was only by a legal technicality that the Savings Bank was not included in that power.
– How do you judge the intention of Parliament?
– I was in the Parliament, and I piloted the Bill. I know what my intention was, and I thought that the power I have referred to covered both branches of. the Bank ; that the Bank was one institution, with two branches, dealing with general business and savings business respectively. However, the London branch has now been established, and the Governor has told the House what it was intended for.
– That is a different tune from that which he sang before.
– If the Prime Minister saw the circulars which were issued in London inviting deposits, he would say that the Commonwealth was touting for the savings of the British worker.
– I think the honorable member for Balaclava, when Premier cif Victoria, took exception to the circular because it referred to the “Commonwealth. State Savings Bank.”
– It referred to the “ State Savings Bank.”
– The Constitution refers to “ the State of the Commonwealth,” as well as to the individual States.
– The Minister then in charge of the Treasury withdrew the circular.
– Yes; and with alacrity, because he has been consistently against the Savings Bank; in fact, against the Commonwealth Bank “ lock, stock, and barrel.”
– No. I was opposed to there being no directors of the Bank.
– On that matter I have always kept an open mind. I do not say that the present system is a perfect one by any means. The Bank has developed very well; but I shall not close my mind against further consideration of the system. Altogether, the Bank has done very well. I tell honorable members frankly that there was so much discussion about the Bank that I asked the Governor for these particulars. The Government had a right to ask for them ; at any rate, I asked, and Mr. Miller supplied them.
.- I desire only to point out that when I was dealing with that portion of the paragraph in which it was said that the Post Office Savings Bank in London had been consulted, and that no objection was raised to the establishment in London of a savings branch of the Commonwealth Bank, I omitted to say that I. do not think the authorities of the London Post Office Savings Bank were keen about the advent of an Australian competitor. It is not likely that they would welcome such a competitor who intended to give a higher rate of interest. I have seen the correspondence, and, if it is made available, honorable members will see that a somewhat guarded assent wis given.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the Treasurer to a few points I had in mind when speaking on the note issue last week. I was not able, at the moment, to lay my fingers on the figures which I wished to bring under notice. The Treasurer, I am sure, will give me credit for assuming with him, in any criticism I may offer, the absolute solvency in every respect of ihe Commonwealth. My idea is that in all war finance we must be particularly careful, because we have double obligations - one obligation to Australia, and another to the Mother Country, which, in this crisis is largely helping the Dominion. T believe that before peace is restored the Mother Country will be helping to an even greater extent to facilitate our financial operations; and facilitating finance is a mighty different thing from coming to the help of a weak State. It is only through the Mother Country, during war, that we can get the best terms in financing on our acknowledged security. There is no doubt of the capacity of the Mother Country to do that, or of the security that Australia can offer. In regard to the financial position of the United Kingdom, I find that, in Mr. Lloyd George’s statement, on the 17th November, he estimated the total cost of the war for the financial year at £339,571,000. Mr. Asquith, speaking on the 1st March, said that the war expenditure for the financial year ending the 31st March was estimated at £362,000,000. The burden of that can be very easily borne, because, as the Chancellor pointed out in his financial statement of the 17th November, the approximate national income of Great Britain was £2,300,000,000. Besides that amount there were figures, which he did not give, but upon which he probably based the statement that we could, for a period of five years, finance the war. At any rate, it is a fact that over £200,000,000 per annum is received by capitalists from public and semi-public investments abroad, leaving out of account altogether the interest or profits derived from private investments.
– I think the figure is much higher.
– That is not an official estimate; but I think I read those particulars in the Edinburgh Review two or three months ago.
– I think the Chancellor admitted later that he had underestimated.
– That may be, but I am now dealing with another matter, namely, the fact that the actual interest received in England every year from public and semi-public investments abroad is over £200,000,000, and of this 95$ per cent, is unaffected by the war. Owing to the presence of our Fleet, the ocean is free to us, and this interest comes from countries that are under no obligation of neutrality, and are not prevented by the war from sending that financial stream which sets in the direction of the United Kingdom. It is also something to be proud of, when we find, from the last trade figures, that while the total external trade of the United Kingdom in 1913 was £1,404,000,000, it had shrunk to only £1,223,000,000 after eight or nine months of war. As Mr. LloydGeorge said, in November, it is very reassuring that 97 per cent, of the 20,000,000 odd tonnage of our shipping was sailing the ocean unaffected by the war at that date. Let me now come to the question of the gold reserve. I ask the Treasurer to see that he exercises that caution which is apparent in the figures of the Bank of England and of the Treasury at Home, and in the practice also of the principal Continental banks. Mr. Asquith” stated on the 14th November, 1914, in the House of Commons, that foreign exchanges were working perfectly satisfactorily, and that the gold reserve of the Bank of England on the 2nd July was £40,000,000. On the 7th August that reserve had shrunk to £27,000,000; and there was, of course, at that time a tremendous nervous slump. I remember that, within a week, some of the leading stocks of the Stock Exchange shrunk in value by £600,000,000, but within a month there was a great restoration of confidence.
– The same occurred here.
– I cannot say as to that; but on the 7th August those gold reserves were £27,000,000; and at the time of Mr. Asquith’s speech, on the 14th November, they had increased to £69,500,000. I am now referring, of course, to the Bank of England reserves, and there were also the central gold reserves of the Treasury, £80,000,000, or, as Mr. Asquith put it, about double the amount before the war. Evidently, therefore, the Imperial Treasurer, through the Bank of England, was strengthening his gold reserves, and at the same time using them. I shall now show the position of the German Bank and the Bank of France, with the observation that our Imperial finance is not only strong, but the better for commerce, because the reserves are used fairly freely, as Mr. Lloyd George told us in his speech about two months ago. Nevertheless, caution was necessary in view of the necessity of larger imports which might have to be faced later on.
– Are we not cautious?
– I merely say that, comparatively, we do not seem to be. Of course, the German Reichsbank cannot be held up as an example to be followed in every particular, ‘because the authorities there are not using their gold as are the British bankers. On the 31st December last, the total gold in the German bank was £104,640,000. A year ago that gold was £58,498,000, and this shows that they are doing all they can to increase the reserve. The actual note issue on that date was £252,000,000, but the statutory reserve showed 59 per cent., of which 41 per ‘Cent, was gold, the 59 per cent, being made up of gold and certain approved securities which must be held. The only change made by the war was that the number of acceptors of the securities was reduced by three to one, and a 5 per cent, tax on the issue over the gold or cash deposits of the bank was temporarily suspended. There is a 5 per cent. tax on the volume exceeding a certain reserve, which is kept within’ purely healthy limits in time of peace; and this, as I say, was suspended, leading practically to the doubling of the total volume of the note issue within a few months. As to the Bank of France, it has been stated by the Paris correspondent of the Economist, after a very exhaustive examination of the position, that the value of the note issue, through the care of the gold reserve, has been brilliantly maintained. In the case of the Bank of England, on the 13th January this year, the gold was £69,360,000, and the notes £35,174,000; and to those figures must be added some others. To the notes issued by the Issue Department, and, therefore, held by the public, must be added the volume of the currency notes outstanding and redeemable at the bank by an arrangement made on the 3rdor 4th August between Mr. Lloyd George and some of the banking officials. This arrangement was made on the advice of experts whom Mr. Lloyd George properly called to his aid the moment the war broke out, he not being a specialist in such matters. By addine these currency notes, we get a total issue by the Bank and by’the Treasury of £72,400,000. Let me push the matter further. The Banning Department held £53,000,000 of notes. I suppose that in Australia half’ the issue is held by the banks, and the rest is in circulation.
– Quite right; that is a fair statement of the case.
– I find that, adding to the £72,000,000 of notes issued by the Bank of England and the Treasury notes still in circulation, the £53,000,000 held by the Banking Department, we get a total, for which the bank and the Government are responsible, of £125,400,000, and against that there is held £90,000,000 in gold. That is altogether a different proportion against current liabilities of the sort from that observed in connexion with our note issue. We are apparently only commencing to largely increase the volume. As it was, some financiers at Home said that such a state of affairs was not perfectly sound financing; but I think they were rather captious.
– And others say that it was a first-class arrangement.
– I am talking of the position at Home, and not yet of the position here. I refer to the Imperial figures and the figures of the German banks to show that, rightly or wrongly, since the war began there has been a large increase in the gold reserves against current liabilities, principally in the shape of notes. If we deduct the amount borrowed from the banks here, we have a reserve, according to some figures whicn appeared in the press, of about 30 per cent.
– Oh, dear, no!
– I think I am right. I am referring to figures that I read in the newspapers, and they seemed to me to be fairly correct.
– The only publication to read in this connexion is the Gazette.
– I did not see the Gazette, but it does not seem to me that the figures I saw are wrong. I assume the newspapers really took the figures from the Gazette. At any rate, what I read on the 3rd March was that the issue was £25,232,000 - and I do not think that is out in any way - while the gold held was £10,133,000. At that time the Treasurer had borrowed, approximately, £3,500,000 from the banks to strengthen the gold reserve.
– It was not borrowed, but handed over by an arrangement.
– I do not care what terminology the honorable gentleman uses. I am not condemning the arrangement, but only urging caution, and pointing out that if we deduct the money obtained from the banks under this reciprocal arrangement - or whatever we may choose to call it- from the £10,133,000 held on account of the note issue, we have a net basis that could not be taken from us by the banks if the war were to end tomorrow.
– Now I understand you.
– We have a net basis of £6,633,000, which, in relation to a note issue of about £25,000,000, represents, not 40 per cent., but a little over 30 per cent. at the best.
– The honorable member left a wrong impression on my mind, and I think on the mind of honorable members. I understand now that he is speaking of when the war is over.
– Of course, as last week I more than once said, and also of the position now. The whole burden of my remarks is that the arrangement is one under which the Treasurer must give this money back to the banks when the war is over, and I say that it is not a sound system to base the note issue, to any substantial extent, on gold which is absolutely at call, and may be taken in the bulk.
– If I make an arrangement that the money should not be taken for some years, will that suit the honorable member?
– I believe we are perfectly sound, but, at the same time, I do not think that this represents a perfectly safe basis for the Treasurer.
– I think I could make an arrangement to-morrow that would relieve the honorable member’s feelings in the matter.
– I do not regard it as sound to altogether trust to this as a basis for the note issue. The Treasurer mentioned the great aid which he said had been given at Home by the Commonwealth Bank. I do not know what the right honorable gentleman has to say about a paragraph that appeared in the Argus yesterday, to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank was one of several which had come to an arrangement to facilitate the operations of the Government by not cashing certain demands within a certain time.
– I do not think it is true.
– I do not know whether it is true or not, but I can understand that the Bank may have helped men who, at the moment the war broke out, required cash at once. But the aid given by the Bank in local and Imperial finance was infinitesimal. What was the trouble that had to be faced? There was a demand for small currency. Some thought the Bank of England notes too large, and others thought that a note currency would be too small, and an arrangement was made for the temporary issue of 10s. and £1 notes. Within a month or so the’ volume of these notes was comparatively small. There was a rush for temporary accommodation, and, the issue in proportion to the reserve began at first to increase, although it afterwards decreased. The volume of our notes at present is trifling compared with the power of the Commonwealth to meet them. The chief object in view was to keep trade going, and the operations that were Imperial in their magnitude as well as in the security behind them were in connexion with the acceptance houses. Every day the United Kingdom imports an average of about £2,000,000 worth of food and raw material, comprising six or seven chief commodities, in order to keep its industries and its people going.
The moment war broke out the acceptance houses had obligations for three months, to the extent of about £350,000,000, and as all financing was disturbed - all relations with debtors abroad and remittances were stopped for the time being - unless the acceptance houses could be induced to cash these paper obligations, the imports of the United Kingdom could not be kept up. It is one of the most striking features of the heroic efforts of the Imperial Government that they at once came to the aid of these acceptance houses, through the Bank of England, and undertook contingent responsibilities to the extent of about 60 per cent, of the obligations incurred. It is operations of that kind about which we should speak in connexion with Imperial finance rather than such questions as that of whether the Commonwealth Bank helped a few Australians in London, who, when the war broke out, were unable, perhaps, to cash their drafts or cheques at the ordinary banks. Before resuming my seat, I wish to refer the Treasurer to a short quotation from a speech made by Mr. Lloyd George, which is somewhat pertinent to the point that I wish to impress upon him. Speaking in the first or second week of February last, Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that the strength of the Imperial Government for financing was its gold reserve, and the fact also that the United Kingdom, unlike the Continental banks, was not afraid to use that gold for purposes of commerce. He warned his hearers, however, that there was a time coming when they might have to be more cautious. What he said in this respect will apply also to Australia. We experienced a bad season last year, and if next season we cannot export as largely as we do in average years, there will be a very great difficulty in meeting, at all events, our imports. We shall certainly have to import more largely, and, in the circumstances I have just mentioned, there may be some difficulty in financing these imports. Mr. Lloyd George, speaking of the British gold reserve, said -
It is true that we have never had such a strain put upon it as during the last few months, and very likely it will be considerably increased during the course of the next six or twelve months, when our purchases abroad are very much heavier than they ever were before and when our sales to other countries are considerably less.
These are the conditions that confront the great Imperial Government, to whose financial strength I made a short reference at the outset of my remarks. In conclusion, I ask the Treasurer, if he increases the volume of the note issue as a means of financing the exceptional obligations of the country, to take care that the gold reserve is not brought near the 25 per cent, margin, and to see that it does not consist of gold held in large sums, such as the £10,000,000, at call’.
– I have stated many times, both in the House and in Committee, that there is no intention on the part of the Government to reduce the gold reserve to 25 per cent., but that, on the contrary, we shall maintain a working margin of about onethird. The Commonwealth would have had a larger gold reserve than it has at the present moment if we had required the last two monthly instalments of the banks’ loan to be placed in the gold reserve. It was my own view, however, that this was not necessary, and we have left the gold with the banks without any attendant disadvantage to the Commonwealth. I should have pleased the honorable member for Angas, no doubt, if I had allowed these amounts to go into the gold reserve in the Commonwealth Treasury instead of allowing the gold to remain with the banks.
– But to get that additional gold reserve from the banks, would not the Treasurer have been forced to issue additional notes?
– The honorable member is aware of the differential proportions, and will not forget that I am dealing now with the question of percentages. In effect, if we had not adopted this course, we should have strengthened our gold reserve in proportion to the amount that we have left with the banks. I do not think there is the slightest need to be apprehensive about the present note issue or its prospective increase. No financier of any standing with whom I have had to deal has put before me any view of serious danger. I promise honorable members opposite, however, that when such a situation arises I will take steps to apprise them of it. I do not think it is wise to discuss the matter ; but I wish now to say that any honorable member, whether he is a member of the
Opposition or a supporter of the Government, who wishes to ascertain the whole of the facts, may obtain them from the Treasury. If I were to speak every day for a month, I could not give honorable members all the details, and I think this is the better course to pursue.
– Will the Treasurer tell us what proportion of the £10,000,000 arranged for with the banks has been lodged in gold?
– £3,000,000, as shown iii my statement.
– Has there been no increase since that statement was made? Is the amount to-day £3,000,000?
– That is so. The next monthly instalment will come in as usual. I rose chiefly, however, to say that the whole Parliament will be taken into the confidence of the Government in respect of this and all big financial matters. What is more, we have no objection to securing the assistance of the whole of the best minds in Australia in dealing with these financial matters during the war crisis. No financial crisis has yet arisen, nor is there any prospect of one if I am properly advised, and I am speaking now of advice other than that of the officers of the Department. I appeal to honorable members not to make statements concerning these matters without first asking me for the whole of the particulars relating to them. I can say no more in this regard. It is not known to the general public that the Commonwealth is in a singularly good position in another respect. It is stated that the Commonwealth has great debts. As a matter of fact, however, it has no debts. On the transferred properties we have, of course, to pay interest to the States; but all the investments of our note trust fluids are bringing in interest amounting approximately to from 3£ per cent, to 4 per cent, or a little more.
– But every note is a promise to pay.
– I hope the right honorable member will grasp the point I am seeking to make. We have an annual income from the investment of our Trust Funds that is not paid into the Consolidated Revenue. It is a separate and distinct Trust Fund which is accumulating. On the other’ hand, we are debiting ourselves with interest on the money expended out of these funds on public works, although not one penny is paid by way of interest to any outside person or body.
– What is to be done with that accumulation ? What is to be its destination ?
– It is to pay off the national debt of Australia.
– What does the accumulation now represent?
– Roughly speaking. £600,000.
– The Treasurer said a moment ago that we had no national debt. He now says that this accumulation is to pay off the national debt.
– I excluded the transferred properties from that statement.
– The Treasurer means that the Commonwealth has no debt that is an obligation on its revenue?
– No. We have no real debt in this case, because our public works are constructed out of Trust Funds which are earning interest, and we are debiting ourselves with interest on moneys so expended, plus a sinking fund. We pay the interest to ourselves, and place it to the credit of a Trust Fund, whilst we “also pay a per cent, to a sinking fund designed to wipe out the whole of the principal.
– This is all very wise, but why not call it a capital debit instead of a national debt?
– There is a very marked difference between borrowing from other countries and borrowing from ourselves, on our own credit. The Government take no great credit to themselves for what has been done in this regard. We merely say that we established these funds, and I think that Parliament ought to be pleased with our action. So far as I am aware, no other country has adopted the same course.
– Lending to the States is very profitable to the Commonwealth, when it merely gives them notes.
– It is very profitable to the States. They are obtaining money-
– They are obtaining money from the Commonwealth which, to the best of our belief, will not cost them more than £4 2s. 6d. per cent.
– But the Commonwealth is only giving the States Commonwealth notes. It is not lending gold to them, and I think the rate charged is rather high, seeing that the loan costs us nothing.
– Some of it does cost something.
– At the best, Australia merely gets credit in London, when she borrows; she does not get gold, nor does she want it. We all want credit, not here, but in London, in such circumstances, so that we need not trouble on that score.
– The Commonwealth Treasurer has £18,000,000 there.
– If the right honorable member examines the statement I have read, he will see that the States have had £7,950,000.
– In London.
– They can operate in London, and they are very glad to have money there.
.- I do not propose to traverse at any length the statement just made by the Treasurer. There is, however, one phase of the note issue about which some of us are concerned. So far as we can understand the situation to-day in regard to the gold reserve, the figures as published are not alarming, but are certainly interesting. It is in regard to the future treatment of the note issue at present in currency that many of us feel concerned. The Treasurer has given us a promise, which I did not expect from him, and which I think is highly reasonable, that, should we approach the danger zone with regard to the note issue, in relation either to the amount of the issue or the amount of the gold reserve, the Opposition will be informed, and, I take it, consulted. The Treasurer intends to go further, since he has told us that the leading minds in finance outside will also be brought to the task of assisting the Government in such circumstances. That, too, is a highly reasonable course to take, and will assist the stability of the note issue of the future. None of us can read many months, or even hours, ahead, more particularly at a crucial time like this. The note issue, even now, is much beyond all anticipations, and the difficulty which many of us see ahead relates to the time when the note issue has to be absorbed - when it has to be brought to normal limits at the conclusion of the war, or when normal times once more return.
That will be a period of grave anxiety to the Treasurer of the day, who, I hope, will be the present Treasurer, since I trust that the war will soon terminate.
– Very few think there is any danger in the direction mentioned by the honorable member.
– I am not crossing swords with the right honorable gentleman.
– I recognise that.
– I am directing his attention to a matter which has doubtless been under his observation. In the city there are a large number of men in finance - and I have discussed the matter with some of them - who look with anxiety to the period when a £40,000,000 note issue will have to be reduced to a £10,000,000 or a £15,000,000 issue.
– I think that the note issue will never get back to that. The people will get used to paper money. Queensland used easily a note issue of £3 per head of population.
– That would be a note issue of only £15,000,000 for the Commonwealth. There must be a shrinkage of anything between £20,000,000 and £25,000.000 in our note issue.
– There is £18,000,000 to come from the States.
– The task of getting it will not be an easy one.
– The States are not bankrupt.
– I do not suggest that they are, nor that they will be unable or unwilling to repay the money. But after the war, the State Treasurers will not find it an easy thing to repay this money. Belgium, France, Russia, and other countries as well as the Dominions, will all be applying to the great financial houses in London ; and, to my mind, money will be dear for a time.
– Surely the Dominions will receive preferential treatment.
– I hope so; but so much has occurred recently that the riddle of the future is not easy to read. I hope that when the reduction period comes the Treasurer will take counsel with the strongest financial men in Australia, so that there may be as little dislocation of business, and as little injury inflicted on the employing interests, as possible.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Prime Minister always does that?
– No doubt, if he were left to himself, he would do it; but I see on the other side so many financiers who think that they know more than he does that I am somewhat apprehensive.
– If the honorable member carried as much weight with the Opposition as the Prime Minister carries on this side, he would be satisfied with his position.
– What does the honorable member think about his own weight? In the only memorable speech that I have heard him make, he quoted McLeod on Banking in support of the theory that 10 per cent, of what a bank receives is all that it is necessary for it to hold in order to do business. I advise him to apply that theory to the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank which has just been presented. However, I am a mere lightweight, and he, no doubt, considers himself qualified to fight Jess Willard for the championship of the world. If the Prime Minister will take counsel of eminent financiers in the critical period to which I have referred he will save us great anxiety.
– I did that before we commenced with the note issue.
– I hope that the right honorable gentleman will continue the practice until we get back to normal times. We are facing a situation such as no other country has faced. There has been an abundant expansion of the note issue in France. Canada, and the United States of America; but the period of reduction has always been a critical one. In our case, a note issue of £6,000.000 or £7,000,000 has been suddenly swelled to £40,000,000, and will have to be reduced to £15,000,000 or £20,000,000. I cannot speak for the Opposition, but some of the honorable members on this side will support the Prime Minister’s note issue propositions very firmly, if convinced that he is availing himself of the best financial assistance obtainable.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7. £5 p.m.
– I do not know that I would have troubled the Committee with any remarks except for some statements made by the Treasurer before dinner. I accept to the full his statement as to the help which he expressed himself as glad to receive from any member of the House who is able to contribute in any way to a solution of the financial problem with which he is grappling, and which has arisen mainly out of the war. It would be a reprehensible thing if anything of a party character should be imported into the consideration of our national finances in these crucial days, and, so far as I am aware, the Treasurer will receive from the whole of the members who act with me on this side of the chamber the most cordial assistance and the best help they can give him in solving this problem which he has set himself in financing the war.
The first remark which I feel I ought to make is to offer a little advice to the Treasurer in regard to the language which he uses upon occasions. I saw two statements made by the right honorable gentleman during the adjournment. The first was made at a public meeting, and the other formed portion of a telegram sent by him to the Labour Conference, which was sitting in New South Wales, and had reference to the Norton-Griffiths agreement, which was then being debated somewhat fiercely in the conference. But for the fact that this was the second occasion on which the Treasurer had used almost the same language I should not have referred to it. This is the expression to which I referWhen we came into office it was discovered that the financial proposals agreed to at the Conference convened by the Cook Government during the war had broken down.
The Treasurer has not told the House, nor the Parliament, nor the country, why or how these proposals had broken down. I do not know why they broke down. I know nothing about their having broken down. The Treasurer has never ‘ told the country the way they did break down, and so we are in the dark in that respect; but to any outsider reading that telegram the inference conveyed would be that to the Conference so convened, and which the right honorable gentleman, together with the present AttorneyGeneral, attended, the Cook Government had submitted a financial proposal which, after acceptance, had broken down. The right honorable gentleman has chided me on more than one occasion for having referred to a single detail connected with that Conference. All I have to say is that, if the Treasurer does not wish to have the details of that Conference divulged - and I do not wish to divulge them - he should word his statements concerning it rather differently. He knows as well as I do what occurred at that Conference in connexion with the financial scheme. He was as much concerned in its terms and in their acceptance as I was, and a great deal more.
– I shall put the whole of the papers on the table.
– The right honorable gentleman knows what occurred; he knows how it finished up; he knows my attitude towards the whole scheme, and he knows his own attitude and that of the Attorney-General, and he does not put the matter fairly when he conveys tha impression that the Conference accepted a scheme which my Government submitted to it, and which has since broken down.
– It did not break down, but it failed in its object.
– But whose scheme was it, and what broke down, entitling the right honorable gentleman to use the words in this telegram ? It was not the scheme originally submitted to that Conference. I feel I ought to put this matter before the public. The scheme which broke down was not a scheme submitted by the Cook Government.
– Did the scheme break down?
– That is precisely what I am quite unable to say. I do not know that the scheme broke down.
– Was the scheme acted upon ?
– That, also, I do not know. I am not able to give the honorable member any details. I do not know them. All I know is that a scheme was agreed upon at the Conference, but it was not a scheme submitted by the Cook Government; and when the- Treasurer words his telegram to the Labour Conference in such a way as to leave a clear and unmistakable inference to be drawn that some proposal of the Cook Government had broken down, it means misrepresentation.
– I did not say that in words.
– What other inference’ could be drawn from the words, “ When we came into office, it was discovered that the financial proposals agreed to at the Conference convened by the Cook Government during the war had broken down “ ? That is all I wish to say “in order to correct the inference which one would draw from reading the statement of the Treasurer, namely, that some scheme submitted to the Conference by the Cook Government had broken down; as the right honorable gentleman i.« well aware, no such thing occurred.
Now, speaking broadly and generally, I wish to say that - and this is the only criticism I wish to make about the recent financial statement of the Treasurer - a very large portion of it deals with the part of the Commonwealth Bank in financing the States and the Commonwealth during this war time. I am . unable to see why this matter . has been introduced at such great length, and with so much labour and anxiety, because the figures give the clearest of all indications as to the part played by the Commonwealth Bank during this crisis. The facts, boiled down, are that the Commonwealth Bank has been of no assistance whatever to the Treasurer in solving any of his own financial problems. He has not borrowed a shilling from the Bank, so far as we know; and, in all these large transactions, evidently the Bank has had no money to give him. The Bank has assisted the States only to the extent of £2,000,000. If I were championing the cause of this institution, as he is doing, I would be content to express the pious hope that, at some future time, in connexion with some other Australian crisis, it might have grown to such proportions as to prove a valuable standby to the Commonwealth. That would be a correct statement of the attitude of this Bank through all these crucial days, and in connexion with the serious financial problems which have confronted us.
Let us take the figures as they are set out in the Ministerial statement. The Prime Minister tells us that he has already borrowed, or arranged to borrow, from the Imperial authorities, £28,000,000. lie borrowed £18,000,000 from them in the first instance, which sum is to be transferred by monthly instalments to the States, and he has arranged to borrow another £10,000,000 from the same source. He has also arranged for a loan of £2,000,000 towards the construction of the transcontinental railway, and his Estimates provide for loans which this Parliament has authorized amounting to £7,805,086. These amounts, together with 10,000,000 sovereigns, which he is getting from the private banks, make up a total of £46,986,000. It will be seen, therefore, that whilst he is getting £28,000,000 from overseas, he is borrowing the rest from the Notes Fund and the private banks, with which the Common wealth Bank has nothing whatever to do. Out of a total of approximately £47,000,000 - the total loan authorizations - the Commonwealth Bank has not contributed one cent.
– The right honorable gentleman should cut out the £7,000,000 that will not be used.
– I am speaking of commitments - of what this House has authorized.
– But that £7,000,000 is intended to cover contingencies. It does not represent a debt.
– And the £10,000,000 is intended to cover contingencies. Part of Mr. Lloyd George’s obligations represent contingent borrowing. He assumes that the war will last a year, but if, by some miracle, it were to end to-morrow, the whole of the money would not be spent.
– But that £7,000,000 is not in existence.
– And I am pointing out that the expenditure contemplated by Mr. Lloyd George is not in existence. It represents contingent borrowing - contingent in the sense that he anticipates that the war will last till the end of the year. I am speaking of authorizations by this House, and I say that of the £47,000,000 to which I have referred, the Commonwealth Bank has hypothecated not one penny. The whole statement is out of proportion. In the Ministerial statement there were only two small paragraphs, occupying about 4 inches, devoted to financial authorities which have supplied the Prime Minister with 10,000,000 sovereigns, whilst about 30 inches were devoted to a bank which has not given him a penny. Just why this elaborate reference to the Commonwealth Bank finds a place in a document which relates to the right honorable gentleman’s own financial obligations, T do not pretend to know.
– The right honorable gentleman was calling for a statement. I asked the Governor of the Bank for one, and he supplied it.
– There is no doubt that the Prime Minister has permitted .a fine statement by the Governor of the institution to be placed alongside the other financial statements embodied in the document. That seems only to emphasize one thing, namely, the very poor part which the Commonwealth Bank has been able to play in the tremendous crisis which has come upon us. What has the Bank done? It has lent to the State Governments £2,000,000. I suppose that we may fairly eliminate from our calculations any reference to municipalities, tramways, and harbor trusts. I do not suppose that expenditure under these headings necessarily arises from the war. Therefore, the plain fact is that while the Treasurer’s authorizations in connexion with the war have risen to the tremendous total of £47,000,000, the Commonwealth Bank has been enabled during this time of unprecedented stress to lend the States - not the Treasurer, U0 the author of the Bank, and not the man who has needed these rolling millions - the sum of £2,000,000. Whilst the Treasurer has had to go to the private banks for 1.0,000,000 sovereigns, the Commonwealth Bank has not had a sovereign to give him.
So far as that institution is concerned, I hope it will continue to grow in resources, in soundness, and in stability. I wish to say as plainly as I may that this war and its consequences have only served to bring into greater relief the faulty basis upon which the Commonwealth Bank was established. We did not supply it with any resources. It has had to go round taking the people’s pence wherever it could get them. Every thousand pounds that it has collected in the States has reduced the reserves of the States to a corresponding degree, and has thus forced them into its hands. The £2,000,000 which it has been able to lend them is only £2,000,000 out of the £6,000,000 that the Governor of the Bank has gathered from the States, and has therefore taken from their financial resources. Before a Commonwealth Bank can stand up to a crisis such as that with which we were suddenly confronted, it will have to make for itself a commanding position and status in Australia, so that in time of emergency it may be able to come to the rescue of the national Government. That is the teaching of the history of the Commonwealth Bank. The one outstanding feature is that while we have had to borrow money right and left that Bank has not had any money to lend us. I hope sincerely that we shall set up a Commonwealth Bank with such capital and resources behind it that we shall be able to draw upon it whenever a national crisis shall force us to do so. If ever anything emphasized the need for building this institution on a different basis the crucial time through which we have passed has done that. I hope that the Prime Minister, even now, will not turn down the idea of placing the Bank under the control of a directorate. It is the correct thing to do. I would suggest the wisdom of getting the States into this Commonwealth Bank, thus making it a national institution in essence as well as in name. There is another aspect of this matter. We find in nearly every great nation, the national bank coming to the help of the national Government. The Bank of England is the banker of the Imperial Government, the Bank of France of the French Government, the Bank of Russia of the Russian Government. The national Bank of Australia is not the banker of the Australian Government.
– The institution is not old enough yet.
– It has been in existence for three years.
– Under three years.
– It is more than three years since the Bank was established, and I venture to say that if the right honorable gentleman had called the States to his assistance, and if all the financial resources of the States were behind him and concentrated in that Bank, he would have been able to do for Australia during this crisis, through the national Bank, relatively the same as the other national banks are doing for the countries oversea. That is the object we have to keep in view - make the national Bank in its relation to the national Government of Australia exactly what the national banks oversea are in relation to their Governments. I think I am entitled to say so much, Having in view the fact that fully one-third of this report is devoted to the assistance to the Commonwealth supposed to have been rendered by the national Bank. Honorable members must not mistake my attitude. I am not using this as an argument to decry the Commonwealth Bank, but only as an argument to induce the Prime Minister to make the institution a national bank, which it is not to-day. We cannot call a bank “national” when it cannot give us a sovereign in a national crisis. We must make the Bank into a national institution, and I am now pleading with the Prime Minister to take to heart the outstanding lessons of this war in relation to finance, and try to build up the Bank by appointing directors from the States, thus bringing the resources of the States into this national channel, and so fitting the Commonwealth to stand any strain that may come on it in the future.
– I made a proposition to the States.
– I know the right honorable member did, but somehow the Premiers would not accept it. The Liberal Government made propositions to the States at the Premiers’ Conference, and those proposals were agreed to. Had they been carried into effect they would have given the Commonwealth Bank £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 of current business.
– “Where would it have come from?
– It would have represented the States’ combined banking business. It would have given us £40,000,000 worth of current business at once.
– It would not have added one penny to the wealth of Australia.
– No, but it would have added many millions to the resources of the Bank, and the Commonwealth Treasurer would have been able to borrow from the Bank during this crisis in a way he has not been able to do. I am not going to pursue the matter any further. My only wish is that we may soon create and erect this institution into a national Bank in deed and in fact, as it is now in name.
– I propose to deal with the item in the Treasury Estimates dealing with old-age pensions. We all recognise the great financial difficulties which the Government have had to contend with, but we must remember that members on this side of the House made definite pledges during the last election campaign to increase the old-age pension. Although we do not expect the Government, during this session, to amend the law so as to increase the old-age pension at the present time, we wish to intimate to them that it is the intention of honorable members on this side of the House to insist on this increase being granted in the near future. The present pension of 10s. per week is not sufficient to maintain our old-age friends in decent comfort. Those honorable members on the Opposition side who, on several occasions during their term of office, made a pretence of advocating an. increase in the pension, never had any sincerity in the promises they made to the House and to the country. I am confident that in the near future the present Government will handle this matter in a way that will be entirely satisfactory. There are many other pensions which this Government are pledged to improve, but, unfortunately, on account of the war, we are not able to carry out that policy as early in this Parliament as we should like. We have advocated the payment of a full pension to the blind, and I am confident that a sufficient number of honorable members in this House will be found in support of the proposal to insure its passing. I have a scheme, which I shall later submit, by which we may possibly raise the amount required for that purpose without levying any heavy tax on the majority of the people of the Commonwealth. The subject of pensions for the blind has been discussed in this chamber on several occasions, and as we have only 3,300 blind persons in the Commonwealth, I do not think we will be loading the people with an undue burden by asking them to pay the blind a pension, which many members advocated in the early stages of the last election campaign.
– There is a pension for blind people.
– There is a pension for some of them, but any person who is earning £1 per week cannot draw a pension. It is our desire that any blind person in the Commonwealth shall be entitled to draw a full pension, irrespective of what his earnings may be. I think when the Government come to consider the question they will have little hesitation in bringing down an amendment of the Old-age Pensions Act so as to include the blind people in its provisions. Another item to which I desire to direct attention is the provision made for the old people in the benevolent institutions in the Commonwealth. Under the present arrangement the Commonwealth is saving 2s. per head, for the States receive only 8s. per week for their maintenance, and the other 2s. is being saved. Many of the old people will live for eight or ten years, and perhaps longer, without ever handling one penny of money during the remainder of their lives.
– We wanted to do something for them.
– The honorable member’s party proposed to bring in a Bill to deal with the matter.
– We brought in a Bill, but your party opposed it.
– The Bill was introduced in this Chamber and read a second time.
– And your party dropped the Bill.
– You were not very anxious or you would have passed it.
– Well, the honorable member will have an opportunity shortly of expressing his views on this matter.
– We have given them already.
– Evidently the honorable member was not very sincere about the matter.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman-
– Order ! I must call the honorable member for Oxley to order. He is not entitled to say that.
– I trust that the Government will take into consideration the question of paying the extra 2s. to the. old people, and thus give them the opportunity of enjoying additional comfort in the declining years of their lives. There is also another item to which I desire to draw attention, namely, the payment of pensions to widows and orphans. We are pledged to bring in this pension scheme, which, if operating in full effect, would confer a benefit upon 140,000 widows and 92,000 orphans. If they received the pension on the basis of the military scheme, it would mean on that basis an expenditure of £8,500,000 per annum; but, taking the basis of application for the old-age pension as a guide - that is, one in three - this would be reduced to £2,800,000 per annum. The only items to which the Government are not pledged are the pensions to the blind and to the old people in institutions. The blind pension would cost the Government £85,000 per annum; the pensions to our old friends in the benevolent institutions will cost £40,000 ; and an additional 2s. 6d. per week to the old-age and invalid pensions would mean £680,000 per annum.
– Is that the Treasurer’s estimate ?
– No; these are figures which I have obtained from Mr. Knibbs.
– Would you give every blind man a pension, whether he was wealthy or not’
– If he desired to have it, yes; but I do not think we have many wealthy blind people in the Commonwealth. There are very few indeed, and probably they would not apply “for the pension. The expenditure on account of the old people in the benevolent institutions would only mean £40,000 per annum, and I should think that the Commonwealth is sufficiently prosperous to be able to pay that amount without any inconvenience whatever. These proposals would mean a total additional expenditure, as far as pensions are concerned, of £3,605,000 per annum ; but, as we know that there is an opportunity in the Commonwealth at the present time of tapping resources of revenue not hitherto touched, and from which we might probably obtain the whole of the revenue required, I think it is only fair and reasonable that the Government should give it some consideration. The source of revenue I refer to was that mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa, namely, a tax on bachelors; and in connexion with this matter it is instructive to know that 42 per cent, of the male population in Australia is unmarried at the present time. We have heard much in this chamber, more especially since the war broke out, about the unemployed male portion of our community; but my own opinion is that there are probably more women than men unemployed. Many countries in the world have attempted legislation on the lines I suggest; and it is eminently necessary, in view of the fact that, in the present day, men wait until they are forty-five or fifty years of age before they marry. This is because our unmarried men, in many instances, earn salaries sufficient to enable them to live as single men in such ease and luxury that they do not care to settle down to married life with its responsibilities. All will agree that this question is one of very serious importance to Australia. Authorities declare, not only in Australia, but in other countries, that a great social evil arises from the tendency to which I have referred. The money that could be raised by means of a tax of this kind is urgently needed, especially when we consider that. under the present circumstances, the Government may not find themselves in a position to pay the pensions that have been announced to the people. The presence of so many unmarried men in the community gives rise to evils that we must all deplore. The lives of many innocent girls are disturbed ; and men delay marriage until they arrive at an age when their health is not what it would be in the married state. At forty-five or fifty years of age, as I have already said, they find that they are not so attractive as they were when younger, and they feel compelled to make an attempt to settle down, with the result that, in many cases, they marry girls from twenty to twentyfive years their junior. My own opinion is that any tax under 8 per cent, would not be of much use. As a matter of fact, I am not inclined to think that even such a tax as that would not cause many men to marry, but it would probably cause some to do so. As far back as 1695, William III. of England imposed a tax, ranging from ls. to £12 10s. per annum on all unmarried men over twenty-five years of age. In 1785, Pitt, when Prime Minister, taxed all bachelors’ servants; and in Bulgaria in 1909 a tax of 8s. 4d. per annum was imposed on bachelors. In 1910 the German Parliament passed a law of the kind; and just before the war the Finance Commission of the Russian Duma approved of a Bill with that object in view. In 1795, unmarried men in France were taxed; and in several of the States of America bachelors are called upon to pay for the privilege of living a single life. The number of unmarried men in the Commonwealth between the ages of twentyone and sixty is 541,000.
– Would the honorable member tax a bachelor over the age of sixty ?
– From all I hear about the honorable member, he has become afraid of some tax of the kind. I fancy that those honorable members who now seem very much amused at this proposal will prove to be its staunchest supporters. If we take one-third of that number of men as taxable, and we impose a tax of £10 per head per annum, the resultant revenue, after exempting all earning less than £200 per annum, and all who are responsible for dependents, such as parents or invalid members of the family, will amount to nearly £2,000,000 per annum. The gross earnings of bachelors who are earning over £200 per annum, amount to £68,211,000; and if we take one-third of that amount as available for taxation we get, at 8 per cent., £1,800,000. Many people consider that a much greater revenue than I have suggested might be raised from this form of taxation. I am not the only member of this House who has advocated the taxation of bachelors. I am satisfied that many will be pleased to hear that a proposition was to be submitted for the taxation of these people. Many of them who are in a position to pay taxation are escaping probably a fifth of the taxation of the community generally in the Commonwealth to-day, and, quite apart from that, by refraining from getting married, they are not doing their duty to the nation.
– Is the honorable member proposing a resolution in connexion with this matter, or what action does he propose to take?
– I am giving expression to my views on the subject. My idea is that we could raise sufficient revenue by this means to pay the pensions which, I think, should he paid to people in the Commonwealth. The Government do not desire to impose new taxation in any other form. This is a source of taxation which can best be tapped at the present time. Many people in the Commonwealth are not paying a tenth of the taxation which they should be paying, and I am confident that I have underestimated the revenue likely to be derived from a tax upon bachelors. I should like to submit to honorable members the names of one or two people who have already advocated the taxation of bachelors before quoting the opinions they have expressed. Amongst the number are the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sir David Hennessy; Mr. Carmichael, late Minister of Education in New South Wales; Miss Gladys Taylor, barrister-at-law ; Mr. Watt, the honorable member for Balaclava ; Mr. Atkinson, the honorable member for Wilmot; Dr. Maloney, the honorable member for Melbourne; Mr. Denny, the late Attorney-General in the Verran Government; and the Rev. Douglas Price, a prominent clergyman in Brisbane. I may add that several newspapers published in the Commonwealth have also strongly advocated this form of taxation. This is what the Lord Mayor of Melbourne had to say on the subject - “ In a country like this,” continued the Lord Mayor, “ we require population, and, from a patriotic point of view, it is better to have our own people than to invite immigrants. Look at America. Its curse is its population of aliens from all lands. Bachelors are intensely’ selfish, and it is useless for them to cry poverty as an excuse. Most bachelors spend more than would keep two wives. If they only had the sense to marry, they would benefit financially as well as morally. If they don’t, and won’t, marry - well, tax and re-tax them.”
This is what Mr. Carmichael said -
I find that in the whole of the Commonwealth, out of 1,248,000 men between the ages of eighteen and fifty, 079,000 are unmarried, widowed, or divorced. As a politician who has had experience in the Treasury, the number to be taxed is a great temptation.
– There is no advocacy of the bachelor tax in that statement.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to be allowed to finish what I have to say on the subject. It will not take me more than ten minutes to do so. Miss Gladys Taylor said - “ If a man remains single from choice, no tax will make him marry or alter his selfish existence.” Miss Taylor thinks “ that every person should be married at twenty.” She believes that the unmarried man or woman is a social evil.
This is Mr. Watt’s opinion -
I don’t think that the bachelor is a curse to society. In every State a certain number of bachelors is inevitable.
But his subsequent remarks stamped Mr. Watt as a keen advocate for the bachelor tax.
– That is not as emphatic as the honorable member usually is.
– That is blank cartridge.
– This is the testimony from Mr. Atkinson -
Mr. Atkinson thinks that while, at the present time, there may be some justification for the imposition of a bachelor tax, such an impost can hardly bc supported on general principles in ordinary times, as it would be only a class tax. “ And,” he added, ‘* if the object of the tax is to induce people to marry, then it can scarcely be compatible with the idea that marriages are made in Heaven.”
This is Dr. Maloney’s opinion - “ Surely I would tax every blessed bachelor there is,” he said, when he was asked the question. “ The party to which I belong wants to make life for every man and woman such that they shall have when they make the means to exist without fear for the children, who will be the future units of the State.” A bachelor tax would be a realization of one of the ideals he had cherished since he had been in Parliament. “ When I started parliamentary life,” he said, “ I had three ideals - woman’s suffrage, old-age pensions, and a child pension. Two of these have been realized through the agency of the party to which I belong, and before long I hope to see this bachelor tax - my fourth ideal - also realized.”
The Rev. Douglas Price, an eminent Brisbane minister, expressed this view - “ I do not consider,” said Mr. Price, in answer to a question, “ that this tax- would make any one marry who did not already intend to. The only moral defect in this tax that I can see would be to make unmarried men realize that they have a duty to the State. A. man earning £200 a year could well afford to pay 5 or 10 per cent. Then I should say married men with families, and who are earning less than £250, should be exempt from taxation. If women drew equal wages, ana were economically in the same position, it would be a fair thing to tax them also; but they arc not. I advocate the taxation of bachelors only on the ground that it will be fair for all who can to take part in the burden of common life. It won’t make men moral, nor will it induce them to become parents.”
– Does the honorable member believe in the taxation of spinsters ?
– No. I have many other authorities, gathered from newspapers throughout the Commonwealth, which I might quote. I am not the only member of Parliament who has advocated this proposal. My references to it tonight have caused some merriment, but that fact will not cause me to alter my view.
– Are we to have a vote on this question?
– I hope so.
– I was wondering whether the bachelors could “ pair.”
– I cannot say, but I feel that if the Government are sincere in their desire to bring about the payment of the pensions we have advocated, they will be able by means of such a tax to raise all the necessary revenue. Many of our old people are living in misery because of the insufficiency of the invalid and old-age pensions.
– Where should we get the money if all the bachelors married as the result of this tax ?
– It would not be sufficient to make them marry, and those who did not ought to pay such taxation.
– Some men could not pay it. lt would apply to all the loafers in the country.
– 16 would apply only to bachelors in receipt of over £200 a year.
– Why should not bachelors receiving less than £200 a year contribute to the revenue in this way ?
– We do not consider that those who receive less than £200 a year should be taxed at all.
– There are many workmen who do not receive £200 a year, and they have to maintain a home and family.
– Quite so, but I think it would be sufficient to exempt from the tax those receiving less than £200 a year, which I estimate would yield £2,000,000 per annum. I shall bring this matter before honorable members again in the near future.
.- I have not risen with the object of trying to rival the honorable member for Oxley, who proposes a tax on bachelors, and, in the one speech, finds himself the champion of the old, the blind, and the unmarried, and has left me only the halt and the lame with whom to deal. My own experience of married life leads me to believe that the bachelors of this country are already overtaxed by reason of the blessings of married life which they ara missing.
– After that the honorable member will secure the women’s vote.
– I hope the honorable member does not think I rose for that purpose. My chief object was to draw attention to the anomalous position in which the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act places old-age pensioners who become inmates of public institutions. Section 45 of that Act provides that -
If a pensioner becomes an inmate of an asylum for the insane or a hospital, his pension shall, without further or other authority than this Act, be deemed to be suspended, but when the pensioner is discharged from any such asylum or hospital, payment of his pension shall be resumed, and he shall be entitled to payment in respect of the period during which his pension was so suspended, of a sum representing not more than four weeks’ instalments of the pension, if the suspension so long continued.
The committees of these public institutions undertake a very laborious and trying financial and personal obligation in their endeavour to set up and maintain establishments which will care for those who are afflicted or in ill-health. The Commonwealth, in assuming control of the old-age and invalid pension system, took over the obligation from those States which had then made provision for the payment of old-age pensions. It seems that the Commonwealth Government are prepared now to pay an old man or woman a pension as long as he or she remains in good health, but that should an old-age pensioner become afflicted with illhealth they cast on the State the obligation of caring for him. Some of these public institutions have two wings - one used as a genera.] hospital, the other as a benevolent asylum, and we have the spectacle of two roads leading to the one institution. In the benevolent wing, an old-age pensioner may become a paying guest. That is his position when he enters the benevolent wing, but should he enter the general hospital wing, then, under the Jaw, and its present administration, he does so practically as a pauper. I do not care to use the word* “ pauper “ in this connexion, but it seems to me that the Act as administered to-day declares, in effect, that the Commonwealth Government are willing to pay an old man a pension while he remains in good health, but that at the very time” when his necessity should demand some additional allowance his pension is stopped. We are all aware of the great difficulties with which these public institutions have to contend. In many mining towns, where the hidden wealth of the districts has been, to a great extent, laid bare and won, the population has dwindled Sown, but these institutions are kept going by the public spirit ana philanthropy of the citizens. It may be said that, approximately, one-third of the revenue of these institutions is subscribed by the State - that is the position in Victoria - and the finding of the remaining twothirds is an obligation cast upon the general community. It seems to me most illogical that the Commonwealth, having undertaken the guardianship of these old people - having determined that when they are no longer able to be hewers of wood and drawers of water they shall be able to end their days in reasonable comfort - should create this anomaly under which old people, to whom this privilege has been extended, are forced as beggars into these institutions when stricken down by illness. The late Government brought down a Bill - the right honorable member for Swan was in charge of it - to remove the anomaly. In that Bill it was proposed that four-fifths of the pension payable to a pensioner should be paid to the institution that he entered, and that the remaining one-fifth should accumulate for his benefit, so that when he had been cured of his illness for the time being, he might be able once more to face the world with sufficient to make a fresh start. That Bill was introduced, and I regret that an opportunity was not given to pass it into law. I have already, by correspondence and otherwise, brought the matter under the notice of the Treasurer in the hope that the Government would undertake to pass legislation to remedy the anomaly. It is a very hard impost upon localities for the Commonwealth to abandon an obligation definitely and honorably undertaken by it, as soon as the old pensioners become ill. Many of these old people wander about a good deal, It is not as if they lived always in one locality. When old people come from all directions to get the benefits of the institution, it is very hard on the local population that they should have to carry the burden. I hope the Government will take action to relieve these local institutions, which have done a great deal of good, of this additional burden to enable the pensioner to pay his way. I would support the proposal of the late Treasurer - the right honorable member for Swan - that four-fifths of the pension should go to the institution. It has to “ carry the baby “ for the time being, providing nurses, doctors, and medical comforts. When in good health the pensioner is allowed the money wherewith to carry on. Surely, if he falls into ill health, that is the very time that the Commonwealth should come to his assistance, and to the assistance of those who are trying to help him over a critical period. The question of the note issue has been ably touched on Dy previous speakers. I do not propose to offer any comments on the alarming state of the note issue, but a very patient, loyal, and patriotic community has been closely watching its startling inflation from about £10,000,000 to between £26,000,000 and £27,000,000. I would ask that a day be set aside for dealing with the finances, when the Treasurer could, with all candour, give the House a clear statement of the exact position, and how it is intended, at the termination of the war, to liquidate our obligations. The honorable member for Wimmera the other day asked the Treasurer how he proposed, at the end of the war, to liquidate the loan obtained from the banks, by means of which the inflation of the note issue was brought about, and will be continued far in excess of the amount borrowed. The Prime Minister replied that the States owed the Commonwealth money, which they were under an obligation to repay at the end of the war, and that the money would therefore be available from that source. The honorable member for Wimmera then asked the Treasurer if we would undertake to ear-mark that particular money for the purpose, and apply it to repay the banks at the end of the war. The Prime Minister declined to give any such undertaking. It would restore confidence and relieve a good deal of uneasiness in financial circles, because the banks have great obligations ahead of them, if the Treasurer took an early opportunity to further illumine the financial situation.
.- I want to take up the cudgels on behalf of the bachelors whom the honorable member for Oxley wishes to tax. It is easy to say, “ Tax the bachelors.” The honorable member quoted statistics, taken, I suppose, from Mr. Knibbs’ book, as to the number of unmarried men between the ages of twenty-one and sixty. I wonder he was so generous as to let off those over sixty. Mr. Knibbs includes the whole of the population between those ages. What is the honorable member going to do with all the lunatics between twenty-one and sixty ? Does he propose to gather £10 a head from them ? How does he intend to collect the tax from all the men between those ages who are in gaol ?
– I said one-third of the number would be eligible for taxation.
– The honorable member proposes to tax those who earn over £200 a year. Among my acquaintances, I can count all the bachelors between twentyone and sixty on the fingers of one hand. How many does the honorable member know 1
– The honorable member has a most fertile imagination.
– I said 180,000 were eligible for taxation in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member also quoted opinions expressed in the War Cry, or the Christian Herald, or the Young Ladies’ Journal. I can quite understand all the ladies between twentyone and sixty wanting husbands; but how is the honorable member going to deal with the case of the man who is rejected three or four times? If the Commonwealth has to resort to such an expedient as a bachelor tax, and there are no other sources of revenue available, as the honorable member suggested, it must be in a very parlous condition. The honorable member for Oxley quoted what the honorable member for Wilmot said during an interview with some lady friends at a tea-fight in Tasmania.
– No; here.
– I am sure that if the honorable member will make a personal explanation on the subject, we shall hear something that we shall all enjoy. The establishment of the Commonwealth Bank is the only Labour measure for which the Opposition has not tried to take credit; the only one about which the honorable member for Parramatta has not said, “ We introduced it,” or “ We first talked about it.” To-night, for the first time, I heard the right honorable member give the Bank his blessing.
– Then the honorable member must have been deaf.
– I am not. I was pleased to hear what the Leader of the Opposition said this evening. Like him, I desire that the Bank, which belongs to the people, shall become a National Bank. He compared the national banks of the older countries of the world with our baby Bank, which is only two or three years of age. All the national banks of the world had a struggle in their infancy, and our Bank is in a fortunate position. To make it a truly National Bank, I think it would be a wise thing to get the States to become partners with the Commonwealth, and to form a Board on which they would be represented, not for the control of the Bank’s operations, but to give advice. I would make the Bank a truly national institution. The right honorable member for Swan is very much concerned because the Savings Bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank is asking in the Old Country for the shillings of poor people. The right honorable member thinks that Australia ought to induce the poor people of the Old Country to come out here. Why, then, should he object to the establishment of offices of the Savings Bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank at Home? To many persons in the Old Country a difference of interest of J per cent, means a great deal more than it means to people out here.
– The British Government have not objected to our action.
– I understand that the postal officials at Home have not objected.
– They have given their consent.
– Is it not as legitimate for the Commonwealth to do savings bank business at Home as for private banks to do it?
– It is a curious thing that we should borrow millions from the English people, and then offer them 1 per cent, more than they can get from their local banks for savings bank deposits.
– The Commonwealth Bank is going ahead by leaps and bounds. Quite recently the Brisbane manager told me that the Bank is getting some of the best accounts possible, which shows that the people have confidence in it. Recently, when touring my electorate, some men asked me what was the difference between the Post Office Savings Bank and the Savings Bank that was being conducted at the local Lands Office. I said that one was controlled by the Commonwealth, and the other by the States. One of them immediately remarked, “ I shall put my money into the Commonwealth Savings Bank,” and when I asked why, he replied, “ Because the Labour blokes manage it. and the boodlers cannot take out the money while they are in power.” Throughout the western back country of Queensland, the people have so much confidence in the Labour Administration that they are taking money out of the State Savings Bank to put it into the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The honorable member for Parramatta complained that the Commonwealth is depriving the States of money deposited in the Savings Banks. Does he not remember the old Protectionist argument, which we shall hear repeated again and again presently, that the great thing is to keep the money in the country ? What does it matter whether the savings of the people are deposited in a Commonwealth Savings Bank or in a State Savings Bank, so long as the people have confidence in the administration of. the institution ?
– What would happen if the Commonwealth Savings Bank increased the interest on deposits to 3£ per cent. 1
– The State Savings Banks would collapse. The fact that the Commonwealth Savings Bank gives only 3 per cent, on deposits shows that there is no hostility towards the States.
– Did the honorable member explain the difference between the two rates of interest to the men who consulted him in Queensland ?
– No. The bushman generally cares little about interest so long as he can be sure that his principal is safe. Many remember the bank smashes of 1893, and are only too glad to think that the safety of their principal is secured by the credit of the Government. T hope that the Treasurer will make a public declaration regarding the calling in of worn coin. I have seen two women forced to leave tram cars because the only coins that they had with which to pay their fare were so worn that the conductor would not take them, and I have seen two men in the same case. All worn coin should be called in. The tramway authorities ought to be able to take worn coins to the nearest bank, and get value for it. The people should not be made to suffer inconvenience and loss.
– Call in the worn silver coins?
– So long as the Treasurer notifies the banks that the Treasury will accept the coins at their face value they will be taken. Let the banks send the coins down to Melbourne, or let the nearest Commonwealth Bank deal with them. They should be defaced or put through the Mint again, and the people given the face value of them. That is all that is needed, and something in that direction should be done. I hope that the Treasurer will act upon my suggestion as it could be carried out very easily. The trouble generally arises in the big centres of population. Out back in Queensland it does not matter how much a coin is worn; so long as it is a coin it will be accepted; but in the big centres of population it will not be taken. If the Treasurer puts in the newspapers an advertisement that full value will be given for such coins at the Commonwealth Bank, I am sure that it will get over that part of the difficulty. With regard to the Treasurer’s general statement, I am not croaking about it. The honorable member for Wannon took the Treasurer to task because he would not tell the honorable member for Wimmera what he proposed to do to relieve the tension after the war was over. He was very wise indeed not to announce his intention.
– Reduce the note issue.
– Earmark the £18,000,000 which he has lent the States to reduce the amount of the note issue.
– He first said that that was the source from which he would get the money.
– That was one of the sources. I have faith in the honorable member for Wide Bay as Treasurer, and I want to instil a thing into the minds of not only honorable members, but of the people and the country. When the Libera] party were beaten at the polls they said, “ Let the Labour party go into office, and see what a holy mess they will make of the finances of Australia. That is the rock on which they will perish.” What is concerning honorable members opposite now is that the Labour party are doing so well. So far we have not borrowed a single shilling, yet we are keeping the ship afloat.
– We have not borrowed a single shilling, except from our own sources.
– What about the £21,000,000 borrowed from Great Britain?
– That has been lent to the States, to enable them to carry on, because they could not get the money themselves.
– No, no.
– It is all very well for my honorable friend to say, “ No, no,” but the fact remains, all the same, and we have not made the mess of the finances which our opponents thought we would. Our leader has proved himself to be a capable Treasurer, and, whether the war lasts one year, or two years, or three years, if the Labour party have control of the finances, I feel satisfied that the people will retain the honorable member for Wide Bay at the head of affairs, and keep the second-rate financiers in their proper places - in the cool shades of opposition.
.- 1 do not propose to follow the honorable member for Maranoa in his amazing excursion into the realms of finance, except to remind him that the notes he carries im his pocket bear on their face the promise of the Commonwealth of Australia to redeem them in gold when they are presented at the Commonwealth Treasury, and that there have been between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 of the notes circulated in Australia. I am not saying it is right or wrong that that should have been done, hut I am pointing out that these notes have been circulated in Australia. I may say - and I am not offering this as any criticism against the action taken, but merely as an elementary fact in finance - that the notes issued do in themselves, as far as they are beyond the ordinary requirements of the currency, constitute the most dangerous loan which any community could possibly take upon its shoulders.
– Do you say that an Australian £l-note would not be worth a sovereign at the Federal Treasury to-morrow morning ?
– I do not say that for a moment, but I do say that when my honorable friends circulate 30,000,000 notes, each of them bearing on its face the promise to redeem it in gold when presented at the Commonwealth Treasury, it is idle for any honorable member to get up with his tongue in his cheek and say that the Government have borrowed no single shilling.
– Not a “bob” have they borrowed.
-I suggest to my honorable friend that he might look up the words of the Treasurer, and find out from them exactly the difference which exists between the sum borrowed from the Mother Country and the sum lent to the States, and if he does, he will find that we have really borrowed a certain sum from the Mother Country. I am not, in any shape or form, criticising any of the Government’s operations. I do not think it is our function here to do more than to help the Government in a matter of very grave financial difficulty. But I do suggest that it is not the best way to help the Government to pretend that we are not doing things, when it is well known to every one of us here, and to every student of public affairs, that we neces sarily are doing them, and have done them to a considerable extent.
– We are doing the same as the British Government.
– I am not criticising. I am only saying that what the honorable member for Maranoa said, and what the Minister of Home Affairs cheered, is not correct, and the latter knows it. I do not think that the honorable member for Maranoa was quite fair to the honorable member for Oxley. I think that he ought to recognise that there is some sort of poetic justice in the fact that the two Labour members for Brisbane are men exercised in their minds over beef, bachelors, and beer. Does not my honorable friend see something almost of divine retribution in the fact that the bachelors of Australia should be made to pay for the baby bonus? The proposition of the honorable member for Oxley is that they pay for the bonus, and the only weak link in the whole scheme of argument is that the less persons you have to pay - in other words, the more effective the tax becomes - the greater will become the burden that the tax has been created to obviate! I cannot see that the argument of the honorable member for Oxley will carry very much weight in the community outside. I can only commend him for one thing in connexion with the proposal, and that is his extraordinary discretion. For, while recognising how easy it is to secure the affections of the other sex, recognising the supreme impossibility of the lamentable fate outlined by the honorable .member for Maranoa ever befalling any man - the lamentable fate of being unable to get a mate to attend to his home - his discretion in limiting it to a basis of £200 a year shows that there is some sanity underlying his proposition. It would be a difficult thing indeed to start out to tax every bachelor in Australia, for, after all, bachelors over the age of twenty-one years and beneath the age of sixty years, have votes. But, in proposing only to tax those who have more than a certain sum of money, my honorable friend feels that his poetic ideas are on a fairly safe electoral basis. But when he was dealing with the question, and quoting various authorities, from leading members of the Bar to the honorable member for Balaclava, I do think that he might have remembered a very apt statement by Miss Vida Goldstein, who, when asked on a public platform whether she was in favour of a tax on bachelors, said, “1 am not in “favour of any Government action which would induce some persons to get married.” Before resuming my seat, I desire to refer to one aspect of the Commonwealth Bank which I think is worthy of the attention of honorable members. On the Estimates is an item of £8,000 for the payment of exchange upon Commonwealth banking operations, and I am afraid that unless this matter is watched the item for exchange will actually be inflated very largely with the laudable object of giving the Commonwealth Bank a particular profit. I agree that the Commonwealth should do all its business through its own Bank - I think every honorable member is agreed upon that point - b’lt I believe that we can go too far in that direction. Let me give an illustration of what I mean. When I was presiding in the Department of Home Affairs, a recommendation came before me. one morning that a certain railway contractor in Western Australia should be paid some instalment of his contract by telegraphic remittance, and having looked through the papers, and found that this man was entitled to the prompt payment of his instalments as they became due, I looked to see what he asked me. All that he asked for was that these sums of money should be paid into his credit in Melbourne. I ascertained that this request had been overruled, aud that the arrangement was that the Department should telegraph the money to Perth or Bunbury, or the particular place in Western Australia where the contractor was located’, and that this had actually been done on a previous occasion. The contractor was getting done for nothing what he was quite prepared to do at his own expense. I asked an officer of the Department, “ Why do you charge the Department in this way?” and he replied, “ The Department is not charged a cent, for it.” Thereupon I asked, “ Who bears the expense? Is the Commonwealth Bank a philanthropic institution that does the work for nothing?” and the officer said, “No; the Treasury pays.” If the Treasury proposes to pay for all sorts of things for private contractors, for which these people are not clamouring, and to which they have no right, the Commonwealth Bank is go ing to be, to a certain extent, while beneficial otherwise, a burden on the taxpayers.
– Every other employer would pay on the spot.
– Every other employer pays where he is entitled to pay, according to the terms, moral or otherwise - generally otherwise - of his contracts. Take the transaction to which the honorable member for Maranoa referred, the lending of a large sum of money by the Imperial Government. The States of Australia wished to have the money handed to them in London, where they effect all their balances, and meet all their obligations, but the Treasury would not pay that money in London, and insisted on paying it over in Australia, and, as a consequence, the cost of bringing the money to Australia against all the exchange had to be borne by the people of Australia in order, apparently, that the Commonwealth Bank might get a bit of exchange profit. I am anxious that the Commonwealth Bank should prosper, and be given every opportunity to do so, but the action of deliberately placing this burden on the back of the people of Australia in order that the Commonwealth Bank might show a profit is not good business either for the people of Australia or for, the Bank itself. The honorable member for Maranoa also referred to the way in which State Savings Bank deposits were leaving the State Savings Banks, and coming to the Commonwealth Savings Bank, but if the honorable member would examine the State Savings Bank accounts, he would find that a vast number of the accounts are in excess of the amount on which interest is payable - a fact which the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank very cleverly recognised ; because, although he had placed his rate of interest at per cent, lower than the rate paid by most of the State Savings Banks, he is still getting all this surplus investment. There is nothing very wonderful about that.
– You should first inquire whether that is a fact.
– That the Commonwealth Savings Bank is getting a large number of investments is a fact.
-But the State Savings Banks are not losing money; they are increasing their deposits.
– That is also a fact. There is nothing inconsistent between the two statements. If a man has £450 in a State Savings Bank and is paid 3J per cent, on £300 only, obviously be will deposit the other.. £150 where he can get the full 3 per cent.
– That will account for a very small proportion of the increase in the Commonwealth Savings Bank’s deposits.
– -It accounts for a very large percentage.
– I know several cases of that having been done.
– The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank admits that he gets most of his money in that way.
– These matters do not involve the larger question to which the honorable member for Maranoa drew attention, namely, the desirableness of bringing all our great institutions into line, trying to get them co-partners in one great national scheme instead of remaining competitors for the savings of the people.
.- I rise to indorse and support the remarks made by the honorable member for Wannon in regard to the distribution of the old-age pensions. The honorable member has explained the matter very clearly, and I wish to refer only to that portion of his remarks dealing with the payment of pensions to pensioners who are inmates of various State institutions. The old-age pension is granted as a right, and in those circumstances the pensioner is perfectly entitled to claim continuity of payment of the pension. The payment of the pension is an obligation on the part of the Commonwealth, because it is given in order that it may provide the aged with the necessary sustenance of life ; and, on the other hand, if a pensioner goes into a State institution and is cured, I consider that there is an obligation on his part to pay portion of his pension to that institution’. A stipulation in accordance with a proposal made by the right honorable member for Swan when he was Treasurer, to the effect that a certain portion of his pension should be paid to the institution in which a pensioner is being treated would be quite fair. We are all agreed that the various State institutions are doing some of the best work it is possible for any public bodies to do. Some of the best service that can be given by -citizens is given to the direction and management of hospitals and other public institutions. The skill of our doctors, the devotion of our nurses, the equip ment of the institutions for the performance of operations, and the general attention to patients, are the best that money can procure. Therefore, as the Commonwealth has undertaken the obligation of paying the old-age pension, and on that ground the payment of the pension should be continuous, when occasion arises for a pensioner to enter a State institution to be medically treated, the stipulation should be laid down that a portion of his pension should be paid to the hospital authorities. That is a logical position that should receive sympathetic consideration from the Treasurer. I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman is not iri the chamber during this debate upon’ the Treasury Estimates, because I would like to offer a few observations on some of his statements about the drought which has afflicted the Commonwealth during the last eighteen months. I have no desire to pose as a pessimist, or to circulate statements which may have a deleterious effect on the credit of Australia. I can quite understand the optimistic attitude taken up by the Treasurer and his desire to preserve the credit of the Commonwealth by every expression of optimism to which he has given utterance on more than one occasion; but I think the Commonwealth is sufficiently sound financially, and has sufficient recuperative powers, to stand on a statement of the position as it actually is. No good can accrue at any time from a mis-statement of our productive position. I do not say that in certain directions the drought with which we have been afflicted during the past twelve months caused such a tremendous loss of stock as did the drought of 1902. The fact is that in our grazing areas the drought is still in evidence. . We have not had sufficient rain to sustain the growth of feed which is necessary to the maintenance of the stock that has so far been saved. The only reason why the present drought has not inflicted greater loss upon us in the matter of stock than did the drought of 1902 is that our pastoralists were in a better position to withstand it. That has been due entirely to the productive power of the Commonwealth, and to the splendid action on the part of our financial institutions, which enabled our graziers to maintain, as far as they possibly can, their flocks by the purchase of artificial fodder. It is difficult to secure accurate statistics as to the stock losses which have recently been suffered. But I gather from Mr. Knibbs’ Year-Book that, in 1S90, we had 97,000,000 sheep, that in 1900 the number had dropped to 70,000,000, and that in 1905 it had again risen to 74,000,000. Reference to the figures supplied upon page 291 of the publication I have mentioned will show that during the year 1902 we suffered a loss of 18,000,000 sheep. I am very glad to say that, so far, we have not sustained quite such a severe loss during the present drought, and for the reason I have stated. But we are by no means “ out of the wood,” although I hope that the drought has broken sufficiently to enable our pastoralists to maintain the flocks which they have so far saved. Our patriotic stockraisers realized that it was their duty if possible - even if it cost them their last shilling - to preserve their flocks as an asset to Australia.
– Their own organizations helped wonderfully.
– That is so. I believe that in Victoria, South Australia, and “Western Australia the drought which we have experienced during the past twelve months was much more universal and severe than was the drought of 1902. From Mr. Knibbs’ publication I gather that in 1900-01 there were only 1,517,000 tons of hay in Australia, whereas in 1913 we started with more than double that quantity, namely, 3,217,000 tons. In 3902 the highest price realized for chaff in the northern parts of Victoria was about £6 10s. per ton, whereas at the present time it is being sold for £12 and £13 per ton. It is obvious, therefore, that, although when the present drought started we had more than twice the amount of hay that was held in stock in 1902, our supplies must have been reduced to a lower level than has ever been touched before. The people who have suffered mostly as the result of the drought during the past eighteen months have been the graziers and agriculturists, and they have been met with an increase of the land tax to the extent of fully one-third of the original rate. The price of fodder would not be as high as it is if, prior to the adjournment of this Parliament, in December last, the Minister of Trade and Customs had suspended the fodder duties, just as he did the wheat duties. We should then have been in a position to import large quantities from New Zealand and South America. As a “Protectionist, I am not an advocate of suspending Customs duties on commodities as soon as a shortage is experienced. But I venture to say that the duty upon wheat was suspended last December because of the pressure which was brought to bear in the great central cities of Australia. The Government are open to a very serious charge on account of their unsympathetic attitude towards the great agricultural and pastoral interests of Australia.
– The honorable member is losing sight of the fact that the Commonwealth offered to import direct for the States.
– I know that the honorable member took a considerable interest in this matter last session, and that on several occasions he put very pertinent questions to the Minister of Trade and Customs regarding the suspension of the fodder duties.
– Had the Government imported the fodder the pastoralists would have had to pay the duty.
– The Government informed the States that if they would intimate what their requirements were likely to be, or the quantity which they were prepared to handle, the Commonwealth would import that quantity for them. But had the duties upon fodder been suspended at the time the duty upon wheat was remitted, the States would have been able to make large importations from New Zealand and elsewhere.
– Do you advocate a revision of the duty?
– This is an extreme situation, and when the Government took the extreme step of removing the duty on wheat, it was equally necessary to take the same step in regard to fodder.
– Do you know of private enterprise importing wheat because of the duty being taken off?
– Wheat was not available for importation, except from a distant country ; but I know that, if necessary, 100.000 tons of fodder could have been imported from New Zealand. I made inquiries from the Trade Commissioner for New Zealand, and I ascertained that fodder could have been imported from New Zealand at just about the same price as that at which it was selling here at that time, namely, £5 10s. per ton ; but it could not have been imported and sold at that price if the duty was paid. Here is another view of the matter : The Commonwealth asked all the States to agree, and to communicate their requirements to the Minister of Trade and Customs, who would then import fodder in their behalf. But we know that it is almost impossible to get the States into line on any question, especially when it is one of pressing importance. There are six States, and sometimes it takes years to get them to come to an agreement on one question. For fifteen years we have been trying to get them into line in regard to the State debts.
– That is why we are asking for greater powers for the Commonwealth.
– When the time arrives, I shall be prepared to ask the people to give greater powers in certain directions to the Commonwealth. Had the duty on fodder been removed at that particular time, it would at least have been possible for any one State to have undertaken the importation of fodder from other countries.
– How much would that have saved the country?
– One pound per ton. If 50,000 or 100,000 tons of fodder had been imported from New Zealand at that time, we could have obtained our chaff £3 or £4 per ton less than we are paying for it now, and it would have had the effect of keeping down the price throughout the Commonwealth. As was the case with wheat, a large proportion of the chaff was held by large capitalists, and we may be sure that the price was systematically regulated in accordance with the supply in hand.
– Was freight available?
– It would have been available through the Union Company.
– What is being paid for chaff now?
– In my district, the price is from £12 to £13 per ton. To show that the Minister of Trade and Customs realized that the policy he had failed to adopt in December was the policy he should have adopted, we have his statement at the eleventh hour that he would allow anybody to import into the Commonwealth, and there would be a refund of the duty paid as soon as Parliament met and gave the necessary authority.
– Order ! I have allowed the honorable gentleman considerable latitude, as I did not desire te curtail the debate; but I ask him not to elaborate that matter any further, because it is in no way related to the Treasury Department.
– I regarded this matter as one affecting the administration of the Government, and I understand that the Treasury Department is the one which will have to refund the duty in connexion with the importation of chaff.
– The honorable member will not be in order in pursuing the subject. He is now dealing distinctly with a matter that relates to the Customs Department, and I ask him to defer his remarks until the Estimates for that Department are reached.
– In order to complete my remarks, may I be allowed to read this letter from the Minister of Trade and Customs, in reply to certain representations from the agricultural districts, from cab-drivers, and others using horse-feed extensively throughout the country : -
With reference to the question of refunding duties on certain classes of fodder, I beg to inform you that since it was arranged for the refund of duty paid on importations of bran, pollard, and oaten straw by State Governments, it has been decided to treat importations of such fodders by private individuals in the same way.
That letter was written on the 5th March of this year. Had there been sympathetic administration or a desire to deal sympathetically with the pastoral and agricultural interests of Australia, the decisions contained in that letter would have been arrived at in December when the Government decided to suspend the duty on wheat. I have no desire to go into the question of the losses of horses and cattle on account of the drought, but should there be a breaking up of the drought I do not despair of the recuperative power of Australia enabling us to regain the position we have always occupied as the chief sheep and cattle breeders of the world. I have made these remarks in order to show that, in my opinion, when we were faced with a visitation such as the drought, it was the duty of the Prime Minister to place before the people the facts of the case, and not make a misstatement which would assuredly look worse, when the financial interests of the
Commonwealth cabled to the financial interests at Home and laid before them the position that actually existed.
– I think the Committee is entitled to a statement from the Treasurer in answer to questions which have been raised to-night. A statement was made by the honorable member for Wentworth that on £18,000,000 which had been borrowed from London, exchange was paid to bolster up the Commonwealth Bank, instead of paying the money in London, as asked by the States. If that statement is correct, the transaction is outrageous, and we ought to have an explanation from the Government. Then the honorable member for Oxley informed the Committee that unless the Government take a certain course of action regarding an increase in the pensions, members on the Ministerial side will take steps to force the hands of the Government.
– Are you not going to assist us?
– I do not desire the assistance of the honorable member, who, to-night, with his tongue in his cheek, accused honorable members on this side of insincerity. He should be one of the last members in the House to speak in that manner, for if there is insincerity on the subject of pensions, it is not on this side. It is all very well for the honorable member to make these statements, but he should have shown us his earnestness in the matter. Let the Government say that they will adopt a common-sense attitude by taking up the Bill brought forward by the right honorable member for Swan last session. Country hospitals are being defrauded nf what is their due right, simply on account of the inaction of the Government. The honorable member for Oxley has been talking about a tax on bachelors; but why did not he say something about some of the bachelors who are loafing at the city street corners* Why does not the Government send these men to the front? I know this is not the time to raise a controversy, and, instead of talking about taxing bachelors, it is up to the Treasurer to give some answer to the statement made this evening.
– Are we to consult the honorable member as to what we do ?
– If the honorable member for Oxley charges me with insincerity, he will get some small change. We would be cowards in this House if we did not say what we think. If the honorable member for Oxley talks about quarrelling, he will be sorry that he came into the fight.
– Order, order!
– Surely the Minister sitting at the table has told the Prime Minister what was said in this House about bolstering up the Commonwealth Bank by exchange on money sent from London, and surely he is going to answer the statement at once. I am one of those who believe in the Commonwealth Bank. It is a very big institution. It should be the greatest institution of this country, and I refuse to allow gentlemen on that side of the House to insinuate, or make out, that we are opposed to the Commonwealth Bank simply because we exercise our right of criticism. I ask the Treasurer what he has to say with regard to suggestions for a directorate. I have nothing to say against Mr. Denison Miller, but he has powers that should be shared by men from the different States. What has the Treasurer to say to that? There appears to be an impression that because we criticise the Bank we are opposed to it. The statement made to-night will be viewed with a great deal of alarm in this country, and I again ask the Treasurer if he intends to say anything about it. Is the Treasurer prepared to give an answer to the charge by the honorable member for Wentworth?
– What is the charge 1
– That exchange was paid on a large sum of money for the purpose of bolstering up the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank. Surely the other Ministers sitting at the table heard that.
– They did not hear it that way.
– Well, the statement was made, and I repeat it was a very serious charge. I hope it is not true. If it is true, it is a public scandal, and a very serious reflection on the Treasurer. I would be loth indeed to believe that the Treasurer would be guilty of such a grave indiscretion. Why should criticism in this House be treated as a burlesque? Surely there is not a desire to treat u serious discussion in this way, and turn Parliament into a circus. The Leader of the Opposition said to the Minister to-day that we did not want to start fighting here, but that we would help the Government all we could. That is a proper spirit. 1 do not want to fight, and I ask honorable members not to charge us with insincerity. I again ask the Treasurer to make a statement to the House with regard to the charge, for I would be very much surprised if it were true.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro need not get excited about the matter. If the honorable member for Wentworth made a statement of the character attributed to him by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro since I came into the House, then the honorable member for Wentworth does not know what he is talking about. That is the best way of putting it.
– I am very pleased to hear that.
– I understand that the statement was not made in the way in which the honorable member has put it. It related to the exchange regarding the State loans.
– That is what he said.
– But this has nothing to do with the Commonwealth Bank, for the Commonwealth Bank does not get the exchange at all. I have seen to that. They get the ordinary banking commission that they would get by dealing with money of that kind, and the Commonwealth is entitled to the balance on exchange when it is for us, as we would be called upon to pay when it is against us. At the present time the exchange is in favour of Australia.
-The statement was that you were asked to pay. money in London and declined to pay it unless the Commonwealth Bank got the benefit of the exchange.
– The statement might have been made like that; but if it was it was not correct. The agreement was that it was to be paid in London and in Australia.
Mr.Glynn. - And the memorandum of the Imperial Government said the same thing practically.
– The arrangement was that the States - I am speaking now of the agreement - were to get in London, even when the exchange was in their favour, what money they required for material for public works. But the statement that this is done for the benefit of the Bank is just one of those insidious statements that are always being made, the suggestion being that the Bank is getting the exchange in order to bolster itself up. Let honorable members be bigger than that. This is our own institution, and if we were to do all that is said, in order to help the Bank, it would be done with Commonwealth money.
– What is the Commonwealth Bank doing in the matter? Is it getting anything out of the business?
– The Bank is getting nothing but what it would get as a trading institution in the way of business.
– Then it is getting something ?
– It is only getting the same amount that any other Bank would get.
– Then it is getting something ?
– What nonsense ! Does the honorable member say that when he buys a pound of cheese at a shop, that shop gets an advantage? If that is the paltry position to be taken up, it is not worth meeting.
– The Prime Minister has told us a lot of things, and simulated much indignation. After telling the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to be quiet, he finished up with his usual tactics, and sat down without telling us anything. Why does not the right honorable gentleman tell us precisely the part the Commonwealth Bank has played in connexion with this £18,000,000 loan? What is the Bank doing, and what is it receiving for it? Is it doing anything in the way of acting as agent?
– Yes. certainly.
– The right honorable gentleman never told us so. If the Bank is doing anything, presumably, like every other Bank, it is paid for what it does.
– I did not hear the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth, but the matter can easily be brought to issue. According to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth was that the Government, instead of making this money available as requested by the States for their purposes in London insisted on the business being brought here, to the detriment of the States. Either that is a fact or it is not. Either the States could have saved some money had the business been arranged in London, or they could not. The Prime Minister could settle the matter in two minutes without becoming indignant.
– The exchange in favour of Australia at the present time is 25s. or 30s., and naturally the States wished to have all the money in London; but the place in which to finance the matter is in Australia. I admire the wit and wisdom of the States; and, doubtless, if the exchanges were against them, they would wish the business to be done in Australia. A sensible straightforward, businesslike arrangement was made with the States, and the money they required for material for their public works purposes could be got in London.
– I wish to refer very briefly to the matter of old-age pensions. The late Government, in the session before last, introduced a measure to give further consideration to the pensioners, and to place them on such a footing that they would be relieved from the stigma of pauperism when they had to enter hospitals and benevolent asylums.
– The honorable member is exceeding his limit; he has already spoken twice.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. After I had sat down on the first occasion, I wished to add a few words that I had omitted, and did so. I did not understand that those few words constituted a second speech.
– During my temporary absence a Temporary Chairman of Committees was in the chair, and I see that he has noted the honorable member as already having spoken twice.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
It is proposed to proceed with the consideration of the Estimates until we have got rid of them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 April 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150421_reps_6_76/>.