7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. GREGORY presented the report of the joint Committee on Public Works together with minutes of evidence and an appendix relating to the proposed erection of Common wealth Note Printing Offices.
Ordered that the reportbe printed.
– Now that the Public Works Committee has presented its report in regard to the proposed erection of note printing offices, I desire to ask the Minister for Works and Railways whether the House will be afforded an opportunity to express its opinion on that report before the work is proceeded with?
– In accordance with the law, notice of motion iii relation to the report will be given at an early date.
– i desire to ask the- Assistant Minister for Defence whether the constitution of the Board to inquire into the trouble on the troopship Bahia Castillo has been finally decided upon and whether any arrangement has been made whereby some civil authority can be represented on it?
– i shall make inquiries and advise the honorable member.
Business to be Dealt With.
– Can the Prime Minister yet inform the House as to what business the Government intend to proceed with before the prorogation of Parliament, and can he state approximately on what date the House will rise?
– The House will probably rise next Friday week. As to the first part of the honorable, member’s question i have prepared a list of Bills, . all of which have relation to business that must be dealt with at once, ‘but we are trying to reduce the number. i hope to ‘be able to let the honorable member have the list to-morrow.
– i know of no reason why i should not do so.
– It is reported that the New South Wales branch of the Repatriation Department is refusing to make advances to soldiers for the purchase of fibre-cement houses, which are accepted as sound security by the State Savings Bank, and other financial institutions. Does the Acting Minister for Repatriation know of any regulation prohibiting the making of advances to soldiers on such security ?
– Arrangements for the purchase of houses already built are made through the Commonwealth Bank. I have no* knowledge of the circumstances to which the honorable member refers, but will have inquiries made. I personally see no reason why advances should not be made on the security of fibrocement houses provided that the relative value of such buildings is taken into consideration.
– In view of the newspaper reports as to the somewhat peculiar position obtaining in the Northern Territory, will the Minister for Home and Territories make a statement to the House in regard to the situation there?
– It would be difficult now to make a’ statement - covering the whole position in the Territory at the present time. I presume that lie honorable member ‘is referring to telegrams from Darwin published in this morning’s newspapers in relation to certain so-called requests made to the Director of the Territory, Mr. Carey, to the Secretary, Mr. Evans, and to Judge Bevan, to leave by the first steamer?
– Yes. Is it true that a provisional government has been established at Darwin ?
– An attempt appears to have been made by certain persons to establish what, by some, may be called a provisional government, but, of course, requests made under duress cannot be accepted. I have sent a telegram to Darwin to the effect that there is to be no change in connexion with the officials of the Territory except in so far as those changes are incidental to or necessary for administrative purposes. That is the present position.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government have decided upon the payment of a- gratuity to all returned soldiers; and, if so, what the amount of the gratuity is to be?
– This is a matter that concerns the soldiers themselves. They are waiting on me, and I shall explain to them what I propose to do.
Reported Offer by British Government.
– Statements have been published that owing to the feeling in Great Britain that Naval expenditure must be reduced, Australia can have a free hand in selecting vessels of the British Navy for carrying out Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Jellicoe’s recommendations. It is stated further that high authorities of the Admiralty hope that Australia will accept a gift of such vessels, including dreadnoughts. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, having regard to the heavy expenditure of the Commonwealth and its present burdens, the Government will consult Parliament before taking over any of these vessels ?
-I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member refers, and as I did not quite catch the honorable member’s question, I ask him to give notice of it. We do not propose to do anything without consulting Parliament.
– Some time ago I drew the attention of the Defence Department to the case of a returned soldier who served at the Front for from four to four and a half years, and was wounded on four occasions, but who, owing to petty offences while in the field, had no deferred pay to draw, and arrived here penniless. I have received a reply that the question as to whether any grant should be made to this soldier is a matter of policy. Will the Prime Minister make known his policy in that regard before the coming elections?
– I will.
– In view of the fact that there is a married man with children in the service of this Parliament at a salary of £2 4s. per week, will Mr. Speaker obtain the following information and furnish it to the House: -
Senate and House of Representatives who are in receipt of £3 and less per week? and
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - The honorable member was good enough to supply me with a typed copy of his question. I do not know of the particular case to which he has referred; but, as I understand the honorable member’s reference is to some one employed in a portion of the building not under my immediate control, I shall make inquiries in regard to the matter from the President of the Senate. I do not know of any married male attendant on the House of Representatives staff who is in receipt of less than £3 per week, but I shall make further inquiries [n regard to the second question, I will supply the honorable member with the desired information more fully later on, but I may mentionthat some of the attendants receive tea money, on full sitting days of the House, in addition to their salaries; if called upon to perform special extra duty they receive extra payment for what they do outside the ordinary course of their work. However, I shall furnish the information which the honorable member desires more fully when I have obtained reports from the officers of the House and the President of the Senate.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories say whether any Australian-born citizen is to be prevented from voting at the forthcoming general election for the Senate and House of Representatives ? At the same time, will the honorable gentleman mention what is likely to be the nomination day for the election ?
– There is nothing in the law, nor is there any proposal to bring in legislation to prevent natural-born British subjects already qualified under the Constitution from voting. As the Prime Minister stated last week, the date of the election will be, approximately, the 13th December; therefore, nomination day should be about the 14th November.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Claim for Reparation
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he supply to Parliament a full and detailed statement of the items and amounts included in the claim submitted to the Reparation Commission in France?
– It is not in the public interest, at present, to give further details than those given in my speech in this House on 10th September.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will communicate with the Governments of Canada and New Zealand with the view of arranging, on some mutually satisfactory basis, for a regular steam-ship service between those Dominions and the Commonwealth?
– The Government has this matter under consideration, and will take such action as appears to be necessary.
Transfer of Departmental Staffs to Canberra - Mr. Blacket’s Findings
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Government have announced their intention of transferring the Federal Capital to Canberra, will the Minister give the House some idea as to how many years will elapse before the central staffs of the various Departments will be transferred there, in order that returned soldiers in the Federal Departments who intend purchasing land and building houses, under the war homes scheme or otherwise, may know what to do?
– It will not be possible to give any idea until the proposed investigations have been completed and. reports obtained.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– To assist the Minister in arriving at a decision, certain experts were called in by my predecessor. It is not considered advisable to lay the reports of these persons upon the table of the Library.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Rent FOR Cemeteries - Pek Capita Payment to Imperial Government - Discharges Overseas - Leave to attend University Courses, etc.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant’ Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether ho will have a return prepared showing - (1) the total number of Australian soldiers discharged in the United Kingdom or overseas generally; (2) the total number of members of the Australian Imperial Force who were granted leave in the United Kingdom, France, America, &c, to enable them to take up special courses at universities, technical schools, trades, businesses, &c?
– .The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Advances to Municipalities:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will submit particulars of the advances made to local governing bodies to enable them to employ returned soldiers, mentioned on page 15 of the Budget speech, and totalling £250,000, such particulars to include the amount granted in each case, the period of loan, the rate of interest, and the terms of repayment?
– The sum of £500,000 was set apart as grants to local government bodies to enable additional works to be undertaken, to open up avenues of employment for discharged soldiers. In order to apportion that sum, it was divided among the States in the first place on the basis of population, and then subdivided according to the number of local government bodies in each State.
The grants thus payable to each of the local government bodies were - In New South Wales, £599; in Victoria, £749; in Queensland, £374; in South Australia, £243; in Western Australia, £216; in Tasmania, £406; average, £465.
These grants are not loans, but absolute gifts, and no interest is, of course, payable. At the time of the Budget, about £250,000 had been paid. Further payments are still being made.
asked the Minister for trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, when amending the Old-age Pensions Act so as to provide for the increased payment of 15s. per week, he will review the proportion allowed to the States for the maintenance of pensioners in charitable institutions, with a view to making a greater allowance to the pensioner than the 2s. per week allowed at present ?
Mr.WATT. - The question will receive consideration.
” Sydney Morning Herald.”
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - 1.. Has he investigated the matter in connexion with the Sydney Morning Herald being mailed through the post without complying with the Postal Act and the usual conditions of administration?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– On the 2nd October the honorable member for South. Sydney (Mr. Riley) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation for. particulars showing the progress made with the construction of war service homes, and indicatingwhat further pro gress would be likely to be made before the Christmas holidays.
I am now able to supply the honorable member with particulars showing the position as at 1st October, 1919 -
Until applications are received and examined it cannot be stated which propositions involve the construction of homes, &c, and, therefore, it is not possible to furnish any reliable estimate as to future operations in the case of individual applications.
The Commissioner is well ahead with his building programme, in anticipation of applications, and at least 500 homes at 31st October, 1919, and 1,000 at 31st Decembar, 1919, will either be constructed, under construction, or under tender. Subject to the availability of stocks of building materials, these figures should be considerably increased.
– On the 9th October the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - 1. (a) 142, (b) 56, (c) 18 were eligible, of whomeight volunteered, but were debarred from enlisting bysuperior authority.
– On 26th. September the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– With regard to Mr. Kelly’s statement, on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Thursday, on the subject of the treatment of consumptive soldiers in New South Wales, at the present time we have a sanatorium at Bodington, in the Blue Mountains, another sanatorium is in course of erection at Kuring-gai-chase, and we have also a building in the hospital grounds at Randwick set apart for the accommodation of consumptive patients - this building was selected only after careful consideration, and with due regard to the interests of all concerned. The sanatorium in the Blue Mountains is full, and pending the completion of the Kuring-gai-chase sanatorium, it has been necessary to find accommodation for the overflow in the building at Randwick. This building, however, is intended for patients in an advanced stage of consumption, and as soon as the Kuring-gai-chase sanatorium is ready the patients (with the exception of the advanced cases) who cannot be accommodated at Bodington will be removed from Randwick to Kuringgaichase. Patients at Randwick will then be limited to advanced cases only, and the medical authorities state that in such cases treatmentby the sea is at least as good, and probably preferable, to treat ment in a mountainous area. Randwick is certainly far more convenient for most of the friends of such patients, and this must be a source of comfort to the men.
The statement of the Principal Medical Officer, Sydney, that the men appreciated the action of the medical authorities in arranging for their treatment at Randwick, and that of Mr. Kelly that 75 per cent. of the men denied this to the Secretary of the Returned Soldiers’ League, is probably due to the fact that the Principal Medical Officer’s statement referred only to those in an advanced stage of the disease, for whom alone the hospital is intended, while the Secretary of the League interviewed cases in all stages of the disease. The Principal Medical Officer still insists that the patients in the advanced stage prefer treatment at Randwick.
With regard to the statement that the men were prevented from going to the mountains because certain places there had been occupied for a long time by men who had not been to the war, I am informed that there are no non-returned men in the departmental sanatorium in the Blue Mountains, though, of course, some may be at private institutions. The Department has no objection to offer to Mr. Kelly’s suggestion that where a man, who is in an advanced stage of consumption, desires to be treated in the local hospital near his home, arrangements should be made for him to be permitted to do so, and instructions will be issued to the medical authorities that this be done so far as it is practicable.
I am further informed by the departmental medical authorities that, so far as the interests of Randwick are concerned, there is no danger to surrounding inhabitants from a well-managed consumptive hospital.
The following papers were presented : -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1919, No. 233.
Customs Act -
Proclamation (dated 1st October, 1919) prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain conditions) of Animal Fertilizers and Superphosphates and the Raw Material for the manufacture of such goods.
Regulations am’ended - Statutory Rules 1919, No. 238.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1919, No. 245.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired under, at Carnegie, Victoria - For War Service Homes purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-1915.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move- .
That, in addition to the land tax payable under the provisions of the Land Tax Act 1910-1914, there he imposed for the financial year 1919-1920 an additional land tax, equal to 20 per centum of the amount of land tax payable under those provisions.
There is no alteration in the measure as passed last year. It continues the super land tax imposed then for one year. There is no amendment or variation, and there is therefore no need to occupy time in explaining the Bill.
.- In the case of the income tax, there is, first, a super tax of 25 per cent., and then an additional tax of 30 per cent., which was put on last year for the first time, and is continued this year. I do not know whether the 30 per cent. is calculated on the original tax, or on the original tax, plus the 25 per cent.
– It is on the two added together.
– Then that makes at least 55 per cent. additional “burden borne by those who have to pay income tax, whereas the rich land-holders have to meet an increase of only 20 per cent. No one can say that they are not well off, because before a man is called upon to pay the Commonwealth land tax, he must be possessed of land to the unimproved value of at least £5,000 . He must be in a fair position before he has to pay land tax.
– Some of them are paying now up to 10½d. in the £1.
– If a man made an income from that land, would he not have to pay income tax ?
– I am calling attention to the differential treatment. Income taxpayers are required to pay an additional 50 per cent., whereas the landowners - and the persons who pay this tax, except the owners of city lands, are not small land-owners - are asked to pay only an additional 20 per cent. The income tax comes right down to the man who earns only £3 per week, which to-day is less than a living wage, but the land tax does not reach any man who owns land of an unimproved value of less than £5,000, which means, with improvements, an estate worth at least £8,000 to £10,000.
– Some States impose a land tax on even the smallest land-holders.
– Yes, but the States im- pose an income tax, too. In Victoria there is a small exemption, and I believe that this year, for the first time, a deduction is to be allowed for children. The land-holder is able to bear an additional impost at least equally as well as the income taxpayer.
– The land-holder pays both the taxes.
-Of course he does when he makes an income, but on account of the Government buying lands all over Australia for the settlement of soldiers, land values are being inflated. Some persons may ask why we, on this side of the House, do not move for an amendment of this tax in order to make the land-holder bear a heavier burden. The explanation is that only a Minister can move to increase the rate of taxation, and that means that an increase must be sanctioned by the Ministry as a whole.
– This increase will make the land tax about 10½d. in the £1 on the highest grades, so that the landholder is being made to pay fairly stiffly.
– Very likely, but the Budget-papers show that the Commonwealth derived a very small revenue from the land tax in comparison with that earned by the income tax. Yet the Government are increasing by 55 per cent. the impost on a man who earns upwards of £3 per week, whilst the land-holder is required to pay only an additional 20 per cent. There is another differentia- tian in our taxation. When we increased the postage we required the payment of an additional½d. uniformly over all letters andpapers. I have never heard one person complain of that tax, but there is an anomaly in the fact that the insurance companies, banks, and other big financial institutions, which post bulky documents on which the postage is 5s. to £1, pay only the same increase of½d. We, on this side, can take no steps to remove that anomaly, because it is outside the province of a private member to do more than suggest an increase in a tax. I believe that the Treasurer is making a mistake in increasing the land tax by only 20 per cent., when this House has already increased the income tax by 55 per cent.
Question resolved in theaffirmative.
Resolution reported, Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Poynton do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and. read a. first and second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- The clause merely re-enacts the land tax for one year. Some of the other taxes are imposed without any such limitation. The entertainments tax is one of them, andif no amending Bill is introduced this year the people will soon be paying the same tax. Why are not all taxation measures placed on a uniform basis, either with or without a time limit?
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
.- I move-
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Entertainments Tax Act 1916-1918 upon payments for admission toentertainments there be imposed upon such payments as from a date to be fixed by proclamation a tax at the following rates, namely: -
“Continuous place of entertainment” means a place of entertainment which is open for more than four hours on more than two days in the week for the admission of persons to the entertainment upon payment.
It was in 1916 that an entertainments tax was first imposed, at the rate of½d., on every 6d. charged for admission. In November, 1918, the Act was amended, and the rates fixed were Id’, on any chargenot exceeding1s. ; and, exceeding 1s.,1d. for the first1s., and½d. for every additional 6d.
Mr.McWilliams. - How much revenue will be lost by the new Bill ?
– The estimated lose is £92,000 on the year’s transactions. The amendment now proposed will remove the continued complaint of irregularity in the incidence of thetax ; that is, the complaint that the rate is as high on the lower priced ticket as on the higher price of1s., making the percentageon the 3d. ticket higher than that on the1s. ticket, and so on.
Another complaint in regard to the present tax is that it penalizes the children; the proposed amendment exempts all under sixteen years of age.
The Government think that they can now see their position in regard to their commitments, and they have come to the conclusion that they can at least remove this imposition as it affects picture shows. There has been much complaint by pictureshow proprietors, but I am afraid their anxiety is not so much concerning the children as concerning themselves. These proprietors have from time to time been very severe on the Government, because in their opinion the tax is an unjust one. They, however, did not directly refer to the children, but to the tax as a whole; and it would be as well to show how far they have shown consideration for the public’ One would think, from the criticism of the proprietors, ‘that the tax represented a great hardship on the people; but, as a matter of fact, the complaint of the people who attend picture shows is not as to the tax, but as to the increased prices of admission.
– Hear, hear! The “roping off “ of reserved seats on holidays and. Saturday nights.
– On this aspect of the question I have received the following report: -
Further reports indicate that average prices of admission to Melbourne theatres have been increased from 2s. to 2s. l0d. in 1909, and 3s. 3d. to 5s. 6d. in 1919. This excludes charges of 10s. for booked seats on “First nights.” In Sydney, the average prices have been increased from Is. 3d. to 2s. 9d. in 1909 and Is. 10*d. to 4s. Id., in 1910, not including charge of 10s. for booked seats on “ First nights.”
In the year 1916, before the entertainments tax was imposed, average prices of admission to Melbourne theatres were 2s. 6d. to 4s. 10i”d. This year, 1919, the entertainments tax being levied, the average prices are 3s. 3d. to os. 7½d. The report of the Commissioner shows -
The Is. admission has been discontinued at Her Majesty’s theatre on all days, and at all theatres on Saturdays and public holidays.
The 4s. stall admissionhas disappeared from all theatres, Saturdays and public holidays.
Seven shillings is taking the place of the Cs. charge to orchestral stalls and dress circle on all nights (except Saturdays) at Her Majesty’s theatre.
“First nighters” are charged 10s. instead of 7s. 6d.
Two thousand one hundred and forty seats at Her Majestv’s theatre, in 1916, cost £299; average, 2s. 9d.
Two thousand one hundred and eighty-three seats at Her Majesty’s theatre, in 1919, cost £517; average, 4s. 8d.
– Do those figures include the tax paid ?
– No ; these are the charges for admission.
– Do the figures represent the full capacity of the theatre ?
– I suppose so.
– Better tax the people on their amusements than on their necessities.
– It can, I think, be demonstrated beyond doubt that the imposition of an entertainments tax has not reduced the attendance at theatres and other places of amusement, although the prices of admission, as I have already shown, are from 100 to 120 per cent. higher than they were a few years ago.
This proposed amendment will relieve my honorable friends opposite from the necessity of telling their oft-repeated story about the 33 per cent. charged on the admission tickets of the children, and I am afraid they will never forgive me for depriving them of a very fine election cry. However, the fact that there is this tax on the children has been prominently brought under my notice by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor).
– That will make a good election cry for me.
– The Government will want it all.
– I am satisfied that’ we shall want all the revenue we can raise, but I think we can manage to remove the tax on children’s tickets, and even up the incidence of the taxation in the way provided in the Bill.
.- I am pleased that the Government have decided to make this reduction,because I have always held that no tax should be imposed on 3d. entertainment tickets. I have frequently spoken in Opposition to such an impost, and I am glad that it is to be removed. At a conference of the National party held recently at Bendigo, it was urged that the tax on 3d. tickets should be removed, not because it wasunjust, but for the reason that it supplied the Labour party with a stick with which to beat the Government.
When this tax operated for the first time last year, complaints were made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) and othersthat children who paid1d. for admission to baths had to pay an extra Id. by way of tax. I desire to know whether those who pay Id. or 3d. for admission to a swimming bath will have to pay this taxi
– I should like to see all swimming baths free to the public; but I recognise that some provision has to be made for their upkeep. I take it that it is not intended that this tax shall applyto merry-go-rounds, ocean waves, or other amusements of that kind. . I hope that when the regulations are framed, care will be taken to confine the tax to picture shows and such like entertainments, and not to allow it to apply, as was clone last year, to swimming baths and various other establishments.
This proposal will grant some measure of relief, and I am very glad that even at the eleventh hour the Government have realized the justice of the contention of the Opposition that children’s tickets of admission to places of amusement should not be taxed. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton) is apparently afraid that the people will take the view that, but for the approach of a general election, this measure of relief would not have been granted. I again express my pleasure that the Minister has seen fit to yield to the arguments of the Opposition, that the children of the Commonwealth should not be subject to heavy taxation, when their parents desire to provide them with a 3d. seat in a picture show.
– When the Entertainments Tax Bill was before the House last year, I suggested that the Government should adopt the scale of taxation applied to amusements in Great Britain. Under that scale the taxation on the higher priced tickets would be considerably increased, and the revenue correspondingly augmented, while at the same time relief would be granted in respect of the lower priced tickets of admission. I recognise that it is quite useless, on the eve of a general election, and when many honorable members . are already on their way to their constituencies, to deal with general principles; but I intend to express my regret that the Government are prepared to forego any revenue whatever at the present time. The Budget statement, which we have yet to consider, shows that we have to face an enormous increase of expenditure, and that our public indebtedness per head of the population is heavier, perhaps, than that of any other country. In the circumstances, the Government are making a very serious mistake in throwing away, as they will do under thi3 proposal, revenue to the extent of £92,000. If it is deemed advisable to remove the tax on the low priced tickets, the Government should make good the loss of revenue so sustained by increasing the taxation on the higher priced tickets. It is better that the people should be taxed on their amusements and their follies rather than in respect of their necessities.
– Is recreation a folly?
– No. This tax, however, unquestionably relates to amusements, and those who go to places of amusement can, in my opinion, afford to pay something by way of taxation.
When the matter was before us last year I urged the Government to remit the tax on the lower priced tickets, and to considerably increase the sliding scale of taxation relating to the higher priced tickets of admission to places of entertainment. Would it not be better for the Government to adopt the scale of taxation applying to entertainments in Great Britain ? In that way relief would be granted to those who purchased the lower priced tickets, while those who could afford to purchase the higher priced tickets would have to pay increased taxation. We read of record attendances at stadiums, football and race meetings. Surely the people who attend such gatherings might reasonably be asked to contribute something to the revenue of the Commonwealth. Having regard to the fact that drastic retrenchment and increased taxation will be necessary, I think the Government arecommitting almost an act of criminal folly in deliberately throwing away revenue to the extent of £92,000. If I thought I could carry an amendment at this stage I would propose that the Government be asked to adopt the scale of taxation for amusements now operating in Great Britain, but, for the reason I have already given, I recognise that it would be useless at this stage to attempt to do so.
.- The Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton) claims to have satisfied the public demand by proposing the remission of the tax on children’s 3d. entertainment tickets. His statement that this will involve a loss of £92,000 a year proves conclusively that the Opposition have been right in urging from the first that the taxation of children’s 3d. tickets is a cruel injustice.
– The last Labour Government intended to impose a heavier tax on children’s tickets.
– The Treasurer in that Government (Mr. Higgs) made some such announcement in his Budget speech, but the honorable member, who was then a member of our party, will bear me out when I say that the proposal had not received the approval of the party. I have stood behind more than one Labour Government, but have had occasion sometimes to vote against them, and I would do so again is such n, proposal were made. I have never believed in the taxation of low-priced tickets. If we are to have a tax on amusements it should relate only to the higher priced tickets, purchased by those who can well afford to pay such taxation. I should be very sorry to see amusements so taxed as to deprive the poorer sections of the community of the opportunity to enjoy an hour or more every week at a picture show or some other entertainment.
Even under this proposal the mother and father of a family who purchased 3d. tickets for a picture show would pay a tax of Id., and if they took with. them a boy and girl over sixteen years of age, they would pay a tax of 2d. in respect of one night’s amusement. Threepenny tickets, whether used by young or old, should be exempt from taxation. The head of a family who is content to occupy a 3d. seat in a picture show- the poorest part of the house - cannot have a very large income.
– As a. rule, it is not the poorest part of the house.
– The 3d. seats in a picture show are immediately in front of the screen : but people who can afford to purchase the higher priced tickets are accommodated with luxurious seats.
– How would the honorable member make up the loss of .revenue ?
– A suggestion in that direction has already been made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams). He says that the Committee is in such a state, immediately prior to an election, that it is not capable of giving a second thought even to the most profound proposal that could be submitted by a Minister. However, I am not in favour of the taxation of tickets below ls., and move -
That the following words be left out of the motion: - “Not exceeding fivepence for the admission to a continuous place of entertainment of persons apparently over the age of sixteen years - One halfpenny.
Sixpence - One halfpenny.
Exceeding sixpence but not exceeding one shilling - One penny.”
– The honorable member’s proposal would exempt ls. tickets from the payment of the tax?
– I leave it to the Acting Treasurer to adjust the schedule. At any rate, any ticket over ls. should pay the tax.
– Then the tax would not be worth collecting.
– All I can say in reply to that statement is that the people now proposed to be taxed are those who are paying the greatest share of the taxation of the country. It is difficult, immediately following the Minister’s explanation, to properly formulate an amendment, but, in any case, my proposal should improve the schedule. Amusements and recreation are part and parcel of the life of the people. I regret that municipalities in large centres of population did not have sufficient foresight in the early days of picture shows to build halls and enjoy the revenue which is now flowing into private pockets. I regret, also, that the Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton) has not seen his way clear to give greater relief to the poorer section of the community, who, under our unfortunate and unscientific methods of taxation, aire called upon to contribute everything.
– ‘It is marvellous how virtuous some people become the older they get. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who has moved this amendment, was a supporter of the Government which imposed a much more drastic tax.
– Did the party assent to iti
– Of course. It was assented to before it could be introduced in the House.
– And then the party voted for it afterwards.
– There was no vote taken.
– The tax was double that which is in forceat the present time. It is remarkable how free some people are with other people’s money. In addition to the £92,000 which I am prepared to lose, the carrying of this amendment would mean a loss of over £100,000 in revenue. I am not prepared to give up that amount. The schedule as it stands provides for a reasonable concession, and the Government must oppose the amendment.
– According to the Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton), in his earlier remarks, people do not growl at the entertainments tax, but growl because houses of entertainment have raised their charges. That may have occurred in the cities, but there have been no increases in charges in the suburban picture show? except, perhaps, on Saturday nights. If the Minister is seeking for fresh avenues of taxation, he could easily exploit the high-priced tickets for theatres and race meetings. I do not think that the person who is prepared to pay 10s. for a first night seat at a theatre would object to paying 2s. in the shape of entertainment’s tax. Racing clubs charge their patrons 12s., as against the old rate of 10s. 6d. I do not think that the person who is prepared to pay 12s. for admission to a racecourse would object to paying an extra 2s.6d. in the shape of entertainments tax. I wish to draw the Minister’s attention to the taxation which is imposed upon national associations and friendly societies. ‘Members of national associations, such as the Caledonian ‘Society, the Hibernian Society, and the St. George’s Society, pay from 5s. to 10s. per annum, and, in addition to the ordinary meetings at which national questions are discussed, they meet in social gatherings, or have dances, or sing-songs. Yet the Commissioner of Taxation collects a portion of their annual subscriptions. Of course, it is said that these societies can make an additional charge to their members to cover the amount of the tax, and that no one would growl, but those who take an interest in such organizations know that it takes the committees controlling them all their time to make ends meet.
– The honorable member does not object to placing 33 per cent. duty on kiddies’ boots, yet he objects to a 33 per cent. tax on their amusements.
– The honorable member has got in a very nice interjection, and I know that the Chairman will not permit me to reply to it, but if he cares to come to Melbourne Ports, I shall be prepared to debate the question with him there.
The meetings of these organizations are not held for the sake of making a profit. The officials who conduct them for national love have many times had to put their hands in their pockets to make up deficits. Yet the taxation officers come in every year, and collect a portion of the membership fees. It is a petty form of tax. We must be very poverty stricken not to be able to seek revenue in some other way rather than by taxing something which ought to be encouraged. I ask the Honorary Minister to give serious consideration to the question of exempting these social gatherings from the payment of taxation of this kind.
.- T shall vote for the amendment. I would vote for the elimination of the tax on the individual altogether. We ought to adopt a more scientific form of raising revenue. This form of taxation is a farce. No one can say that I voted for the entertainments tax, as it was first introduced. I would have been blind, paralyzed, and blithering drunk to do so.
– The honorable member did not vote against the proposal when it was first introduced.
– The Minister knows that no division was taken.
– That was not the honorable member’s fault. If he had wanted to vote against the proposal he could have done so.
– My faults may be many. Heaven knows how many the Minister will have to answer for. Every theatre has increased its prices of admission during the war, and I accept the statement, made either in this House, or outside by one who is in a position to know, that the theatre proprietor’s have largely increased their profits. It is the profits that should be taxed, and I say to the Government, “ Tax the profits as high as you like.” The taxation on profits in England is far higher than ours. Ours is a mere bagatelle. Our income tax rates cease to increase at between £6,000 and £7,000 per year.
– That does not apply to the war-time profits tax.
– That is a little heavier. Why should the man who has to pay income tax on a very moderate wage, and to pay, also, the unjustly increased prices of the present day, have to pay another tax on his ticket if he goes to a place of amusement? The present- day taxation, like the taxation of the past, is all in the direction of making the workers pay and letting the rich escape. The ratio of this tax is not fair/ Its incidence is not fair. It is contemptible to begin by taxing the Gd. ticket. I thank the Government for doing away withthe tax on the 3d. ticket; but would I be unjust in attributingtheir action to the shadow of the coming election?
– The authorities in the Old Country have levied much heavier taxation to meet the war expenditure than we have done. Their expenditure on the war out of revenue has been enormously greater in’ proportion than ours has been. They have faced the question of war expenditure by taxing their people to a much greater extent than we have, because we have confined ourselves almost wholly to loans to meet our expenditure on the war. In Great Britain the 2½d. ticket pays a tax of½d., the’4d. ticket pays1d., the 7d. ticket 2d., the Is. ticket 3d., the 2s. ticket 4d., and so on until the 10s. 6d. ticket pays a tax of Is. 6d. If the Committee desires to relieve the 3d., ticket of the tax, I would again urge the Government so to increase the, tax on the higher priced tickets that we may not lose this revenue. I would impress on them, before they surrender one penny of revenue, the fact that as sure as the sun will rise to-morrow, every penny of taxation that we are remitting to-day will, have to be re-imposed with much increased force when the new Parliament meet’s. We are extremely ill-advised in deliberately throwing away £92,000 a year just on the eve of an election, when we know that this House has not faced the financial problems which are being forced upon our attention. ‘No private member can move to increase taxation, and so I would urge the Government again - if they intend to remit this amount of taxation from the lowest priced tickets - so to amend their scale that at least the amount they are throwing away will be made good out of the taxation on the higher priced tickets. In that way, we shall not be asked to surrender revenue to the extent of £92,000 which we need now, and will need in the future. I appeal to the Government not to throw away deliberately motley which we want so badly. If the tax was retained, it would not constitute one scrap of punishment, injury, cruelty, or hardship to any class in the community. We have invaded practically every avenue of taxation that was left to the States, and I do not know where we are to get the increased revenue that we shall be called upon to provide in the near future. I urge the Government to consider the position seriously. If they are not prepared to face the question of raising theenormous taxation that will have to be imposed in the near future, they should at least not throw away revenue, every penny of which will have to be re-imposed when the new Parliament meets, that is, if the new Parliament intends to face the liabilities which are pressing upon us. I cannot understand a proposal to throw away deliberately £92,000 a year coming from any Government when we are in such serious straits for the money.
. -I intend to support the amendment. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams) would convey the impression that to save Australia from financial chaos and insolvency we have to come down on the “kiddy” who goes to the picture show. I thought the soldiers had already placed Australia high and dry and safe for Democracy. The honorable member should be a working man, with four or five “kiddies,” and earning only the bare minimum wage offered by Mr. Justice Higgins, or any other man who eits in a cosy chair and crucifies the working man’s wife in the witness-box as to the least she can live on. He would then know what a hardship the tax on the picture-show tickets is. The honorable member has never focussed his attention on the position of a working man with four or five “ kiddies “ - a man who likes to see his children have a little pleasure in this life. God knows that a threepenny picture show is little enough pleasure. When the father pays the tax on tickets for four or five children, he pays a hig lump; and if the children get the enjoyment that should be theirs he is actually paying a weekly tax. According to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) when this tax was first imposed, there was nothing left to tax out of a minimum wage of £3 per week. If that was true at that time, it is doubly and trebly true to-day. Still, the Government “ get into “ the worker.
The honorable member for Franklin says the tax will have to be re-imposed, and talks very seriously about it. What about the £102,000,000 increased deposits in the cheque-paying banks of Australia ? I do not believe in a class tax such as this. ‘ I do not agree with the man who never goes to a picture show escaping his national responsibilities. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) says, we should impose a scientific system of taxation, under which every one would pay in proportion to his ability to pay. The only way that can be done is by means of an income tax adjusted with, no light hand in accordance with the amount of income each individual possesses. It is the height of absurdity to say that that cannot be done, or that the revenue cannot be raised, in view of the tone of the Budget speech delivered in this chamber only last week. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton) gave us another insight to-day into the means by which we may do the right thing by the people of Australia. Recently, when we were discussing the Bills for the alteration, of the Constitution, every, time the word “profiteer” was mentioned, we heard a guffaw from one honorable member or the other” on the Ministerial side. They asked us where the profiteer was. The Honorary Minister told us .of profiteering in the amusements business. I do not patronize picture shows or theatres to any great extent; but, comparing the prices of admission that. . ruled in times gone by with those charged today, I am satisfied that the Government have not administered the war-time profits tax in the way it should have been administered, in view of the fact that they collected only £1,886,000 through its agency last year. A big part of that amount, according - to the Minister’s figures, could have been obtained from entertainments alone : and it would be interesting to know, if it was possible to ascertain the facts from the Taxation De- partment, how much of the tax camefrom that source. The Minister’s statements regarding entertainment charges astonished me, and I hope that something, will be done to bring these people to book. They are evidently taking advantage of the extra money that has been put into circulation owing to the exigencies of the war, to quite as great an extent as has any boot or clothing profiteer that we have heard of. We are asked what we suggest as a means of raising, revenue. I have already suggested a way out which can be taken as soon as the people are prepared to accept it and act upon it. The most efficient manner of meeting the financial troubles of the Commonwealth is to get hold of the wealth of the Commonwealth. We shall never get “our bit” until we do so. I reiterate that the most scientific system of running this Commonwealth, in the way of providing the financial wherewithal, is to grapple with finance itself. We must devise some method of utilizing the wealth that is here, without paying the exorbitant interest on it that the war times -called for.
The then Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) stated in his Budget speech -
The results of the 1917-18 season were highly satisfactory, as the value of pastoral production amounted to £ 93,700,000, the highest sum on record; while all round increases occurred in the live stock figures throughout Australia.
Yet, honorable members talk- about ruining the Commonwealth by removing the id. tax on the “ kiddies’ “ 3d. picture show tickets. Shame to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) if he upholds this tax when the Acting Treasurer’s statement shows that the industry which the honorable member represents earned in 1917-1S £93,700,000. I do not wonder at there being Bolsheviks in Australia. So long as honorable members try to cheat the people, sci long will they be hatching Bolsheviks - or Progressives, as I prefer to call them - who will see that the cost of the Commonwealth’s upkeep rests equitably upon the wealth that is produced. That is the policy that should be adopted instead of placing a -£d. tax on the tickets of persons who, after toiling and moiling year in and year out to produce the wealth of the country, and to pay every tax which is passed on to them, seek a little amusement -for themselves and their “ kiddies.”
I have mentioned the pastoral industry, not because I have any grudge against it, but because it is the first industry mentioned in the Budget speech. But the same story is to be found throughout the production statistics for the war period, and the Committee will be doing no more than bare justice if it removes a tax that ought never to have been imposed on those who seek to keep themselves virile and sunnytempered by paying for a little recreation in their spare time. Do not let us say that we will save the Commonwealth by collecting a½d. on each 3d. that a “kiddy” pays to go into a picture show, or even by taxing the amount that aman pays to go on a race-course. The wealth production of a Commonwealth should bear the burden of taxation, and the statistics show that there is a wide area of taxation to be developed without imposing this iniquiti-, ous tax. I shall vote for the amendment.
.- A statement has been made again and again that the members of the Labour party, when in power, voted for a heavier entertainments tax than thatwhich is proposed to-day. That statement is absolutely without foundation.
– I know that the estimate of the Labour Treasurer was £2,500,000.
– I think the estimate was £1,500,000. I. intend to put on record the financial proposals of the then Treasurer (Mr. Higgs). I had left the Government before the financial proposals were submitted to the House, but I am certain that the Labour party never voted upon those proposals.
– I was at the party meeting, and I am under the impression that the proposal of the then Treasurer was adopted.
Mr.Fenton. - The tax was mentioned, but not the incidence of it.
– All the members of the party supported it in the House.
– That is not so.No vote was ever taken in this House upon the entertainments tax, until it was introduced by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) as Treasurer in the second Hughes Government I refer honorable members to the Parliamentary Papers for theSession 1914-17, volume 3, page 335. They will see that the then Treasurer (Mr. Higgs) said in a state ment of the Government’s financial proposals -
The Repatriation Fund is for the assistance and benefit of Australian soldiers and of their dependants, and is administered by trustees, as they in- their discretion think fit. The levy mil amount to 1½ per cent. on all estates, real and personal, of the value of £500 and over. The levy may be paid in three equal yearly instalments, or the contributor may pay cash, in which latter case he will be entitled to a rebate or discount calculated on the basis of war loan interest for the period covered by the prepayment.
Honorable members will see that the first of the series of proposals by the then Treasurer was a wealth levy of 1$ per cent.
– Thatwas abandoned.
– Yes ; and we abandoned the entertainments tax also. Honorable members opposite were quite agreeable that we should forgo the wealth levy, but they ignore the fact that’ we also abandoned the entertainments tax. Upon this subject the then Treasurer said -
This tax will amount to id. on a ticket cost ing 3d.; . Id. for a ticket’ costing 6d.; and Id. for each additional Gd. or part thereof.
That proposal was abandoned, together with the wealth levy.No vote was ever taken upon either. The honorable member for Capricornia continued -
The Government propose to take 50 per cent. of the profits for the year 1915-16, allowing an exemption of £200, and a profit standard of 5 per cent. and6per cent.
What did the Nationalist Government do? They proposed an exemption, not of £200, but of £1,000, and a profit standard of not 5 per cent. and 6 per cent. but 10 per cent. The Labour Treasurer continued -
The Government propose to allow a standard of 7 and 8 per cent. for this year, and an exemption of £200, but propose to take all the war profits over this sum.
Government supporters defend themselves by saying that the honorable member for Capricornia proposed an entertainments tax; but they are silent upon the fact that they dare not proceed with the war-time profits tax which he proposed. When they say that we on this side proposed an entertainments tax, will they also tell the people . that the other financial proposals of the Labour Government were a wealth levy of1½ per cent., and a tax on war-time profits, allowing an exemption of only £200, instead of the £1,000 allowed by the Nationalist Government, and that it was intended in the following year to take all war-time profits in excess of the exemption and the profit standard of 7 and 8 per cent. I hope that I have disposed once and for all of the statement that the entertainments tax was voted upon in this House. None of those financial proposals embodied in the Ministerial statement which I have quoted was the subject of a vote of the House. The then Treasurer (Mr. Higgs) made his statement on the 27th September, 1916, and within a week Parliament had been adjourned, and we were in the midst of the’ conscription referendum campaign. The vote took place on the 2Sth October-
– The House did not sit from the 3rd October to the 29th November.
– Honorable members will see thatwithin a week of the making of that statement by. the then Treasurer honorable members were facing the electors onthe conscription issue.
– Does the honorable member deny that the Labour party did not repudiate the principle of a wealth tax?
– They did in their policy speech.
– I am anxious to state the facts fairly. It is unfair to pick out the entertainments tax as one of the financial proposals of the Labour Government in 1916. and to ignore the fact that it was partof a series which included the wealth levy and the war-time profits tax. If the party abandoned’ the wealth tax it is only fair to say that we abandoned also the entertainments tax.
– The entertainments tax must have been approved by the party as part of the policy of the Government before being introduced bv the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs).
– So was the wealth levy, but, later, the party became wiser, and abandoned both those proposals. But we never abandoned the war-time profits tax. The former honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) stated in the House that the war-time profits tax proposed by the Nationalist Government was useless and that the Bill might as well be thrown into the waste-paper basket, because the shipping companies, the mining companies, the coal-mining companies, and all the other firms which were making big profits, would go absolutely 3cot-free. The question of an. entertainments tax was never voted on, though the Labour party as a whole may have agreed to such a tax. On this latter point I am not quite clear.
– The Labour party agreed to it, and also to an exemption for each child under the income tax.
– However that may be, the financial proposals were then introduced as a whole. The position to-day is quite different,and a. man who will not learn from experience is a fool.
– You are not against the motion?
– So far as the entertainments tax is concerned I would wipe out the whole, because I do not believe in the principle. It may be quite accurate, as stated, that the proprietors of certain places of amusement have raised their prices of admission, but, perhaps, those proprietors may have something to say in reply. I remind the Committee that when the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) introduced his Budget he dealt with the finances as a whole, and did not single out one section of the community.
– I agree that there is a black time ahead of us; but there has been a black time ahead for the poor people of the country for several years now. It is probable that the question of an entertainments tax was discussed at our party meetings, but its incidence was never related, that being a Cabinet matter. At any rate, on the 27th September,. 1916, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) . introduced his Budget, in which was included the entertainments tax proposals. From then up to the 3rd October several financial Bills were put through but an Entertainments Tax Bill was not among them. The House then adjourned for the referendum campaign, and after we reassembled on the 29th or 30th November the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) moved a voteof want of confidence in the Government. With the exception of an Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill’, and one or two other small money measures, no financial proposal was introduced between the 27th Septem- ber and the 30th November. That parties were all askew, and had no opportunity to record a vote concerning an entertainments tax, is proved conclusively by the motion of want of confidence; and there is thus cleared up a lot of “ tarradiddles “ in connexion with the matter. If the Government are not prepared to accept the amendment they ought to accept some modification of it.
– I merely wish to inform the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) that during his absence from the chamber I pointed out that there are organizations, the members of which are charged so much a year, and then hold an entertainment at which certain outsiders are allowed to attend on paying a charge. I do not think that the money paid by members of such organizations ought to be taxed, seeing that there is no profit made out of these affairs, which are conducted bv people associated in a friendly way. Similar organizations are conducted by some churches, and I hope that the Government will see their way to do something to meet the position.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Mr.Fenton’s amendment) stand part of the motion - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to move -
That the following words be left out: - “Not exceeding flvepenoe for the admission to a continuous place of entertainment of persons apparently over tbe age of sixteen years, One half -penny; sixpence, One half -penny.”
– The honorable member may not move that amendment, seeing that the Committee has just decided that those words shall stand.
– I am moving in regard to a lesser amount.
– I distinctly put the amendment as proposed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton).
– I was on my feet, Mr. Chanter.
– The honorable member has allowed the division to take place, and the Committee has decided that those words shall stand as printed.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong was that all the words should be omitted up to and including “exceeding sixpence, but not exceeding one shilling - one penny,” whereas my amendment does not go so far.
– That may be so, but the Committee has decided that all the words shall stand, and I cannot oppose the action of the Committee.
– May I take it, Mr. Chairman, that you pay no attention to those who rise ? I rose to my feet.
– Before you put the whole question.
– The honorable member would be quite in order in deleting any portion of the motion subsequent to the words on which the Committee has divided.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong had regard to the greater amount up to 1s., whereas my amendment deals with the lesser amount up to 6d. I submit that my amendment is quite in order.
– I regret that I cannot accept the amendment. The Committee having already decided that the words shall stand, the amendment is not in order.
– Your ruling, sir, is contrary to all rulings previously given on the subject.
– The honorable member is at liberty to move that my ruling be disagreed with.
– I know that, but I do not wish to waste time.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Poynton do prepare and bring in a Bill to cany out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and read a first and second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
.- 1 wish to correct an error made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) in referring to a comparison made by me of the rate of tax on 3d. and 6d. tickets. I erroneously referred to 6d. and Is. tickets, whereas I should have spoken of the ratio of taxation on 3d. and 6d. tickets. The tax upon 3d. tickets is double what it has been on the 6d. tickets; in other words, a tax of½d. on 3d. tickets is equal to 16 per cent., whereas a tax of½d. on 6d. tickets is only 8 per cent. While admiring the astuteness of the Minister, I assure him that in future I shall be very careful in accepting a correction made by him.
.-I should like the Treasurer (Mr.. Watt) to state whether any regulations have been made exempting from the operation of this tax patriotic and semipatriotic entertainments. In New South Wales there have been several very hard cases in connexion with the collection of this tax in respect of entertainments held to raise funds for soldiers’ memorial halls, Local Repatriation Committee work, and other patriotic and charitable objects which Parliament never intended should be taxed. The Treasurer a little while ago gave us an assurance that such entertainments would be exempt. I should like to know whether action has been taken to give effect to that promise and, if not, whether it is competent for the Committee to insert a proviso to that end.
– The subject to which the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) has addressed himself has caused the Treasury some consideration during the last few months, particularly in consequence of certain rulings which have been given by the Commissioner for Taxation. We have not yet been able to secure, with respect to this matter, a reading of the law that satisfies the Government. I have only to say that it is not the desire of the Government to tax entertainments to raise funds for the building of memorial halls, or any of the objects about which considerable dispute has arisen in recent months. After the law is clearly defined, I will see that proper relief is given to those who are endeavouring to promote the patriotic entertainments in which we are all so much interested.
.- This tax has been applied, not only to. entertainments to raise funds for’ the building of memorial halls, but to gatherings to welcome home returned soldiers. The citizens of Richmond, for instance, periodi- cally entertain a large number of returned soldiers.
-Tha’t is one class of entertainment to which we say the tax should not he applied.
– Quite so. The citizens of Richmond entertain returned soldiers in batches of about 600.
– Although I spoke of memorial hall entertainments, I did not intend to confine my remarks to them. My remarks will apply to the case to which the honorable member refers.
– In the past the tax has been collected in respect of such gatherings at Richmond. A charge of 2s. 6d. was made for admission, and the tax was collected in respect of every person who attended. Every member of the Committee, including the secretary, paid for admission, and even where one or two complimentary tickets were issued to visitors of note, the promoters were debited with the tax in respect to them. That was before any arrangement had been made with the Department.
– I understand that welcome home entertainments are no longer subject to the tax.
– If we could get a clear promise that such entertainments would be exempt in the future that would be sufficient.
– Yes. Last Easter an appeal was made throughout this State for funds to raise a memorial to Nurse Cavell. I attended a patriotic football match in connexion with that’appeal, and I was afterwards informed that the promoters were obliged to pay entertainment tax, not only on the charge for admission, but also on the takings at the refreshment tables. I advised them to apply for a rebate, because I thought that it was never intended that the tax should be applied to such forms of entertainment. The Minister should exempt welcome homes to returned soldiers, and the class of entertainments mentioned by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond).
.- 1 hope that the Acting Treasurer will give the assurance that in cases where it is absolutely clear entertainments were promoted solely for charitable purposes or for receptions to soldiers all pending prosecutions will be withdrawn.
– I can give that assurance unhesitatingly.
– In many country towns fortnightly entertainments are held for the purpose of welcoming returned soldiers. If I had the slightest idea that there was any intention to gain a profit from an entertainment of the sort, I would insist on the payment of the tax.
Clauses agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.
Proposed vote, £140,852.
– For the information of the Committee, I propose to give a very brief survey of the figures in connexion with this portion of the Estimates. For some years past, when dealing with the Estimates of Expenditure, it has been the practice to defer consideration of the general Estimates, and deal first with the Estimates for additions, new works, and buildings, so that the construction of works in progress may proceed . with full appropriation authority, and not await the passage of the general Estimates.
The total amount included in the Estimates for additions, new works, and buildings for the current financial year is £397,144, which is £57,807 less than the amount appropriated for the year 1918- 19 ; and when it is remembered that the Estimates submitted for last (financial year were £802,666 less than the amount provided for the year 1917-18, it will be seen that every endeavour is being made to curtail this kind of expenditure wherever possible.
The provision made in the Estimates’ before the Committee is mainly to continue works which were in progress on the 30th June; 1919, and only under very urgent circumstances have new services been provided for. The principal items of expenditure are as follow: -
– Will the expenditure upon aviation take place at Point Cook?
– Some of the money will be spent at P.oint Cook; other expenditure will take place on the Sydney side.
– Is there any proposal to remove the Point Cook establishment to some other site in Victoria?
– No. I am merely giving a rough survey of the schedule of expenditure. Ministers will be in charge of the Estimates for their respective Departments, and will be prepared to give every detailed information that honorable members may desire.
.- At such a late stage in the session, and on the eye of the prorogation of Parliament, it would, perhaps, ‘be out of place to appeal for additional expenditure on works, but there are many parts of Australia very much in need of post-offices and drill halls. In this respect the constituency of Fremantle has been very harshly treated in the past. The mention of isolated cases,- which may not seem to be of great importance, raises the question of the broad policy of expenditure of this nature. I think that the whole situation ought to be reviewed, particularly with the object of providing more post-offices and improving existing facilities.
The lack of expenditure on drill halls may be due to the recent decision of the Government to discontinue - the general training scheme pending the consideration of the whole financial outlay on defence; but I urge that further consideration should be given to the claims of Cottesloe, in Western Australia, for a drill hall. The local authorities there have arranged with the State Government to have a portion of some land, which is vested in the municipality, made available for a drill site, and they have levelled it and cleared it, so that there will be no expense on the part of the Defence Department in regard to the land itself; but the council are asking that some shelter should be provided for the trainees. The district is right on the sea front, and during the winter the boys suffer great hardship if they are exposed to the weather, when undergoing training. There is a drill hall at Claremont, the adjoining suburb, but the Defence Department makes no provision for the boys to meet in one central place.
Some years ago the then PostmasterGeneral agreed to purchase a site for . a post-office at Cottesloe Beach, and the land was bought, but as hard times subsequently beset the Government of the day, the provision for the building was struck off the Estimates. We are again faced with the necessity to make ends meet. I should like to know if anything can be done to go on with the original plan of providing a separate building to conduct the post-office work at Cottesloe Beach. This should be underaken by the Government if it is at all possible.
I have touched only on local wants and wishes, although I am not one, as a rule, to adopt that course. I prefer to speak on broader questions. In that connexion, I wish to discuss aviation. Will the Minister state what is proposed to be done with the £40,000 provided for aviation in the works and buildings esti-mates ? Is it only for land and buildings, or how is the money likely to be expended ? I had some experience in France extending over thirteen months, and know the value of air defence and of-‘.’ fence. If ‘there is one phase of the Australian Defence policy that should receive more than ordinary consideration at a time like this, it is aviation, including the provision of the necessary hangars and personnel in different parts of the Commonwealth. We have very widely separated areas to protect. We have a huge coast-line, and it is absolutely essential to provide the speediest means of communication from a defence point of view. In the advance made towards the, end of October at. the northern end of the British, line in France, the authorities, by means of aeroplanes, kept up with the advancing troops after they had passed over Passchendaele and the surrounding coramtry, not only in the matter of munitions, but actually in the provision of food supplies. From that, fact alone, honorable members:, will realize what an important part the aeroplane played in the war in the matter of communication and transport. I must express my regret that the Government propose so small an expenditure for aviation purposes. I am not in their confidence as to their proposals, but I would impress on them that the question of aviation will have to be handled quickly. We need to get the best machines and the most experienced men. There are Australianborn men who can control our aviation defence remarkably well. The Australian Flying Corps did good work in France, and we can easily get officers with the necessary experience who canadvise the Government and see that the best machines are obtained. When in London recently, I was informed by an Australian then serving in the Air Force Department that the request of the Australian Government to be supplied with plans and specifications of the latest type of aeroplane had been replied to by the Air Department in London supplying plans of machines which had been discarded at least six months before by the Imperial authorities themselves. That information came to me from a source upon which I can absolutely rely. I therefore urge the Government to be very careful to see that they get the latest plans, and, above all, that they do not place their confidence wholly and solely in Imperial officers, but take advantage of the brains, energy, and ability of our Australianborn, who have learnt in the school of experience. I hope we shall have a review of the whole of the aviation defence proposals, and that the Minister will tell us definitely what is to be done with the vote of £40,000. The future defence of this country, by means of aviation and submarines, is one of the most important questions which we have to consider. Our air defence schould not be concentrated in one or two places. We have at Point Cook, perhaps, the nucleus of our Australian air force, but I want to, see hangars erected also in other parts of; the Commonwealth.
– And they are. talkingof shifting the Point Cook school to Geelong,
– Any one who knows the comparative closeness of those two. sites must wonder why any such decision has been reached.
– They have been looking around Drysdale, way for a site, but I do not know that the school has been shifted.
– They must keep up the expenditure in Victoria somehow.
– I do not say that the Government are actuated by the policy suggested by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), but we ladly need considerably more aerodromes in other parts of Australia. It is not a question of bringing men to one central place to train them. We have a sufficient number of experienced instructors, who can be sent to other part? of the Commonwealth to train the younger men on the spot as they offer themselves. The day is rapidly passing when we must concentrate everything in Victoria and in New South Wales. Everything connected with naval examinations, for instance, is concentrated in Victoria. I should like to know why, from a Commonwealth point of view, we cannot have some of those examinations held in other parts of Australia. The outlying States should be given more consideration in the construction of aerodromes than has been shown them so far. We cannot have too many aerodromes and -landing places around the Australian coast. The Frenchman who, according to the cables, has left Paris on a flight to Australia can, it is true, land on practically almost any level piece of ground, but as he has no knowledge of the loeal.conditions, we shall have to make preparations for his guidance. All the world over, aviation is rapidly coming to the fore, not only from a defence, but also from a commercial point of view. The Government must take the matter seriously in hand. They must decide whether the whole of the aviation arrangements in Australia shall be under Commonwealth control, or whether State Departments shall be created’ for organization and general administration from a commercial point of view. They must bear in mind, at the same time, our defence needs, and avoid the mistakes that have been made in the past through overcentralization.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) that, although we are living in times of considerable financial stress, the creation of postal facilities has such a developmental effect on the wide reaches of a continent like ours, that they should be in no way curtailed. While in some cases they may not be revenue-producing to the extent of paying for the work done, there is at the same time a developmental aspect which should never be lost sight of. There are two sections of the community which suffer more than any other by the lack of postal facilities. The one comprises those who are pioneering in the way-back country, and the other those who live in the outer suburban areas of the various capitals.
– It is the latter type that I was referring to particularly.
– Those two classes seem to suffer under greater disabilities than any other. If there is a possibility of saving a coin or two, the out-back facililities are cut off without any apology, and sometimes without any notice. I represent a big portion of the outer suburbs of Melbourne, starting as far out as St. Albans and Deer Park, and coming round to Keilor and Broadmeadows, and my experience is that it is very difficult indeed to obtain for the people even the most meagre postal facilities. It should not be so. The men who go away out back to pioneer Australia, and dcs work for themselves, as well as for their country, and those who reach out into our outer suburban areas, should be granted all the postal facilities that can possibly be provided.
– That is a much more necessary vote than the £3 ,’800 provided for the Maribyrnong Cordite Factory.
– I do not know how Australia would have got on without that Factory. The employees there have rendered the most signal service in these distressful times. If the splendid work they have done could be summed up, and presented to this House in the form of a statement, even the most critical would be silenced.
In regard to the Blythe River iron ore deposits, I have wondered why the Commonwealth Government did not accept the verdict previously given by experts to the Government of New South Wales. Within a few days of the announcement that the Federal Government had taken an option over those deposits, a letter was published in the press of Melbourne, and possibly, of Sydney, too, from an ex-Minister in the New South Wales Government, practically warning, the Commonwealth not to incur any expenditure in connexion with these works, because the New South Wales Government had already obtained reports from their experts, in consequence of which no action had been taken. However, we have spilt over that project a sum of over £3,000. I suppose it will be said that that is” only a small item in a Budget involving tens of millions of pounds.
Another item of expenditure to which’ I am opposed is the sum of £14,000 pro- ,vided for the Institute of Science and Industry.
– I suppose that is another Melbourne establishment.
– Soon they will all be in Melbourne.
– I complain about this expenditure being incurred before Parliament has given its sanction to the creation of an Institute. The usual procedure is to’ first obtain the sanction of the Legislature to the. establishment of an institution, and then to provide money for carrying it on. The Government are reversing that procedure. Already they have spent many thousands of pounds upon this proposal, and now, notwithstanding that the Bill for the creation of the Institute is still before Parliament, they have the temerity to place a sum on the Estimates for carrying on the work of the Institute. I notice that the Bill is fairly low down on the notice-paper, an indication, I suppose, that it may not be proceeded with during this Parliament. The Government propose to pledge this country to an expenditure of thousands of pounds to carry on work that already is being very well done ‘by some of the State Governments. I have stated previously that if a sum of money were provided for the present Commonwealth Analyst, Mr. Wilkinson, in order that he might acquire the necessary equipment, he would be able to conduct practically all the experiments that, would be carried on by the proposed
Institute of Science and Industry. At a time like the present when the people are staggering under financialburdens, expenditure of this kind might well be deferred until more prosperous times, when we are not being called upon to pay out millions of pounds annually as a consequence of the greatest war recorded in history.
The expenditure on the Federal Capital site also can very well wait. Parliament is asked to sanction hurriedly, expenditure on the Institute of Science and Industry, and the Federal Capital. The former is a project that Parliament may not sanction. It is more than likely that the new Parliament will feel inclined to wipe clean the slate of many of the propositions that appear upon these Estimates. So far as the Federal Capital is concerned, we have waited until now, and we can wait longer.
– That is Victoria’s policy.
– Before I realized how heavy were the financial burdens that the people would be called upon to bear, I was inclined to believe that it would be desirable to remove this Parliament from a State capital to a Federal city, where the political atmosphere would be rarer. But the expenditure of the Commonwealth is increasing by leaps and bounds. We promised our soldiers when they left Australia’s shores to fight our battles, that on their return they would be well looked after. If we pay to our soldiers a gratuity, as is proposed, we shall only be following the lead of New Zealand and” Canada. I make no complaint regarding that proposal, but I remind the Committee that if we do even a modicum of justice to those men, the gratuity will involve the country in an expenditure of £25,000,000. Therefore, it becomes all the more necessary to cut down or eliminate some of the items that appear in the Estimates. The proposed expenditure on the Federal Capital can wait.
– To what item is the honorable member referring?
– Unfortunately, items of expenditure which are closely allied and relate to the one subject are spread over various Departments, and one has to hunt through page after page of the Estimates in order to ascertain how much money is to be expended on the Federal Capital during the current financial year.
– There is no provision on these Estimates for expenditure at the
Federal Capital, except a few small items.
– The items on the Estimates total nearly £15,000.
– There is a total of £5,100.
– There is an amount of £4,800 for incidental works and a physical testing plant. Elsewhere there is a total of £11,445 for new works, buildings, &c, in various States and FederalTerritory. Whatever may have been our opinions three or four years ago, they must be revised in view of the present financial position. Expenditure on the establishment of an Institute of Science and Industry, and on the erection of an expensive Federal Capital, might well be postponed.
– The honorable member will get a paragraph in to-morrow’s Age.
-I opposed this expenditure on a previous occasion, when, during the term of office of the Labour Government, I and others kept the House sitting all night on the Works and Buildings Estimates.
– The honorable member is in favour of honouring the terms of the Constitution?
– That is all very well; but will the Minister contend that this expenditure is justified in view of the financial burdens which the country is required to bear?. The Government prate about economy. I know what kind of economy will be practised after the elections if the Nationalists are returned to power. The unfortunate workers inside and outside the Service will be made to suffer.
The Institute of Science and Industry will result inthe duplication of work that is already being well done by some of the State Governments. The Government are not content that the State authorities shall expend thousands of pounds in employing experts to carry on research in every branch o’f science, but particularly in connexion with primary production; they propose to duplicate that expenditure and say, “We have a few more thousands of pounds to waste. We shall tip it into this particular bin, and establish a new Department, provide a few men with good billets, andcommit the country to an expenditure that may ultimately amount to millions.” This is a cruel proposal. The Government are treating the people in a disgraceful fashion, and I feel confident the electors will resent it. We shall shortlygo before our masters, and tney will bejustifiedin questioning every one of us regarding each and every one of the items on these Estimates. No matter what State an honorable member repre sents, he cannot justify some of the expenditure which the Government are proposing. Honorable members may say that this item represents only a few thousand pounds, but, in the aggregate, the various items total millions of pounds.
– Well cut them out.
– I am willing to do that.
– I have no time for the Federal Capital project.
– In several parts of the Estimates thereare items of expenditure for the Federal Capital .
– There will be bigger items after the election.
– Not for expenditure on the Federal Capital.
– Parliament will require to consider the financial burden which the country has to bear, and will rightly declare that the Federal Capital shall not be proceeded with. We cannot at this stage afford expensive Ministerial fads like the Institute of Science and Industry.
– Cut a bit off that item.
– The State Government authorities are doing very effective research work, and the taxpayers do not object to the few thousand pounds that is being expended, but they will object to a needless duplication of such disbursements. Unless honorable members wake up, these items will be passed through hurriedly, and later we shall be told that we readily consented to the expenditure, and we should not therefore complain. Last year, when the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) pleaded for the speedy consideration of the Estimates, he allowed three days for the discussion of the finances of the country. We require more than that time to discuss the estimates of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department alone.
– Victoria is doing all right so far as the postal estimates are concerned.
– I do not know why the honorable member is always referring to what Victoria is getting. If he expects to pass a vast expenditure of this kind without being called to book by the electorsthe has marvellous faith in the patience of the people.
– Indicate some item that should be cut out?
– On page 314 there is an item of £4,800 for the Federal Capital Territory.
– What would the honorable member cut out of that item?
– I should like to cut out the whole of it, but all one can do is to move for a reduction of it. Then on page 315 there are two items - Incidental works, £1,700; and physical testing plant, £3,100-
– Is not the honorable member in favour of preserving the expenditure that has been already incurred at the Federal Capital?
– That is all that is proposed.
– What is the physical testing plant for?There is, for instance, the item of the Institute of Science and Industry, establishment and equipment, £3,000, which I should like to see struck out altogether.
– You would strike items out without knowing what they are !
– The item is plain enough. I know that the honorable member takes a fatherly interest in the Bureau, owing to the fact that for a few months he presided over its deliberations. The Bureau has published a number of papers, but these, in a number of cases, only repeat what State experts have already said.
– How many have you read?
– Quite a number. These papers are “ trotted out “ as something new, but the same men who wrote them for the Bureau penned similar articles years ago for the Victorian Journal of Agriculture.
– Can you give us one instance of the reproduction of a paper printed years ago?
– I said some years ago.
– How many years ago?
– Not twenty years ago, of course ; but there 16, for instance, a paper by Dr. Gilruth, which had been previously published in the Victorian Journal of Agriculture.
– If it is good, it is worth reprinting.
– But have we money to spend on such. expensive pamphlets? I know these facts are irritating to honorable members opposite,, who are simply told by the Government that they must “ gape and swallow “ the Government’s proposals.
– Give us an instance of the reprinting you allege.
– If we wait for instances, we shall not have this precious institution. At any rate, I have mentioned the article by Dr. Gilruth.
– He is not in Victoria.
– He was at one time in the Victorian Agricultural Department, which got some information from him.
– That information was confined to the “ cabbage garden.”
– All this expense is incurred without the sanction of Parliament. Of course, everybody has his eye on the 13th December, and if I had oceans of proof, it would not convince honorable members opposite. Contained in the schedule there is proposed expenditure that is criminal in the present state of our finances, and we ought to stop it.
– I am surprised that there is no reference in these Estimates to the shipbuilding proposals of the Government. I understood that we were to have a comprehensive system of shipbuilding in Australia ; and the Minister in charge of shipbuilding. (Mr. Poynton), at the launching of the Dromana, made the statement that there was to be an extension of the Williamstown yard in order to carry out the policy of the Government. I desire to keep parochial considerations . out of this discussion; but I understood the honorable gentleman to whom I have referred to say that ships are necessary to us, and that we can produce them in Australia at a price to compare favorably with that of imported vessels. In Great Britain, America, and all other shipbuilding countries, including Japan, there has been an enormous increase in the cost of producing ships. . We cannot get back to the pre-war price of tonnage; and if we are to become a self-contained nation, shipbuilding is one of the great essentials. There are yet some nine months ofthe present financial year to go, and if shipbuilding does not receive consideration now, it will be well into the year 1920-21 before we shall have an opportunity to consider the next Works Estimates. That, of course, is a black outlook for Williamstown; and I had been hoping that the Government would be prepared at the present time to lay before us a comprehensive programme of shipbuilding. I am not now talking of men-o’-war, but of cargo ships; and, whether we like it or not, we have launched our policy of State shipowning, from which I do not think Parliament would dare to depart, unless we are prepared to lose enormously on the venture. Even if the cost is somewhat high in. Australia, we ought to be prepared to provide our own vessels; and I am sorry that the Minister in charge of shipbuilding is not here, because I desire to know what possibility there is of the Government keeping faith with the people in this regard. We have men trained to do this work, and they ought to be utilized. . At the initiation of Commonwealth shipbuilding the newspapers told us that it had cost twice as much to build the Brisbane in Australia as it had cost to build one of the imported vessels of the same standard. That may be so, because at the initial stages of a huge industry like this money must be lost. No man can go into a new business without suffering in this respect; and while the loss here was great the men employed’ received invaluable training which otherwise would have been impossible. The Adelaide was built at a considerably less cost than the Brisbane, and with an expedition that somewhat surprised the opponents of State shipbuilding. The Dromana is admittedly one of the finest of her class, and there is another vessel on the stocks which it is hoped will be launched shortly. With that vessel, however, the work would appear to be finished, because we hear no proposals for any further building in Australia. Are we to allow these men, whom we have trained at great expense, to wander away, as has been the case with other men trained under similar conditions? TheFisher Government, it will be remembered, sent young men Home from time to time to learn engineering in special branches, but when they came back, most of them found their way to other countries, because their talents were not appreciated in Australia.
Mr.Fleming. - That has been the case, not only in relation to shipbuilding, but in other directions, particularly in connexion with the Bureau of Science and Industry.
– I am in favour of a Bureau of Science and Industry, and do not regard any money spent on that object as wasted, provided, of course, we have the right men at the head. However, if we drop shipbuilding now wo shall have wasted all the money already spent.
– Shipbuilding is dealt with on the loan Estimates.
– I have not looked through the Loan Estimates; but my trouble is that we shall not meet again until after the elections, with, probably, a change of Government - which, of course, would be for the better - and much time will be lost. We have been told that the rest of the Estimates are to be dropped, and we may not have an opportunity to deal with the Loan Estimates.
– They will come on later in the day.
– If the Minister will assure me that before Parliament prorogues we shall have the Loan Estimates before us, and they deal with shipbuilding, I shall be satisfied.
– Ifthe, honorable member will curtail his remarks we might reach the Loan Estimates before the dinner adjournment. The Loan Estimates are to come on immediately after the Works Estimates.
– Then I am satisfied. I should now like to indulge in a little bit of provincialism, and I am sorry that some of those “ sharks “ or “whales” for getting so much for the “Ma” State are not present. Victoria is not treated fairly, so far as the repairing, refitting, and reconditioning of vessels of the mercantile fleet associated with the Royal Australian Navy are concerned. It does not get anything like the proportion of such workthat should be allotted to it by the Commonwealth Government.
– What about South Australia ?
– She gets still less.
– Victoria gets practically the whole of such work.
– The honorable member has evidently not inquired into the matter. During the lastsix months I have been endeavouring to induce the Government to recondition troopships at Williamstown. Such vessels as the Canberra, Indarra, and Kyarra, had the whole of their first and second class cabins taken out of them when they were being fitted for the conveyance of troops oversea. That work was done in Victoria, and the fittings “were allowed to remain here, the understanding being that the vessels would be reconditioned in Victoria when they were no longer required for transport purposes. Instead of that being done, however, the fittings were ultimately put on board these vessels for replacement at Cockatoo Island. We certainly thought that Williamstown would get its share of that work, but it did not. I find no fault with the Minister in charge of shipbuilding (Mr. Poynton), who did all that he could to secure for this State some of the work. The position, however, is a peculiar one. The British Government pays for the reconditioning of these vessels, and the owners of them insist that the work shall be carried out at Cockatoo Island. It cannot be denied that the work can be well done there; but I think that preparations should have been made to fit the Commonwealth dockyard at Williamstown for undertaking some of it. Many men, who were unable to find employment at this class of work, in which they have always been engaged, have had to remove with their families from Melbourne to Sydney. The Government ought not to encourage the shifting of population from one State to another. If the situation is unavoidable, I have nothing more to say ; but I think that, by a little judicious expenditure, justice could be done in this matter to all the States.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) has said that none of this work is done in South Australia.I hold that every State capital offering facilities for repairs to shipping should re- ceive its share of the work. Unlike some honorable members, I do not say that a fair share of the expenditure of the Commonwealth in this regard has not taken place in Victoria. It would be quite wrong to make such a statement.. But New South Wales, because of circumstances that should not exist, gets more than its share.
– That is because of the natural facilities offering at Sydney.
– By the expenditure of a reasonable sum, the dockyard at Williamstown could be made quite effective for the carrying out of all work of this kind. Difficulty has arisen owing to the parsimony and want of foresight displayed by State Governments in failing to properly equip the Williamstown dockyard when it was the property of the State. They frittered away money; but at last brought out from Home Mr. Greenlees, a thoroughly capable man, and placed him in charge of operations. Some new machinery was then installed, but much that was obsolete was allowed to remain. Now that the dockyard has been taken over by the Commonwealth, its development and progress are not such as might reasonably be expected, having regard to the population of Melbourne and its big water frontage.
I do not wish to raise a provincial cry, but South Australia undoubtedly robbed the people of the rest of the Commonwealth when it got rid of the Northern Territory and the burdens attaching to it. The building of the East-West railway has also been an advantage to bothSouth Australia and Western Australia, while New South Wales, in different directions, has reaped the advantage of much Federal expenditure.
– Surely the honorable member does not object to Australia shouldering her responsibilities in respect to the Northern Territory?
– Not at all; but I think that the States should be fair in their dealings with the Commonwealth. The State Parliaments, assisted by some members of this Hou3e, endeavour to get as much as they can out of the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 7.45 p.m.
– I have no complaint against the Minister’s endeavour to secure that certain work in connexion with ship repairing shall be done in Victoria,except to say that I think the Victorian yards ought to be fitted to handle vessels such as those which had to proceed’ to Sydney.
– I agree with the honorable member in that regard.
– It seems peculiar that ships which could be dismantled here have to proceed to New South Wales because the owners feel that the work can be done there with a greater degree of safety. I hope that whatever steps the Minister may determine upon to obviate this necessity will be taken in the very near future, and I trust that “Victoria will get a fair share of the expenditure on shipbuilding establishments. Men have been trained to shipbuilding work. There ought to be no break in the continuity of the work offering for the men who have been trained in repair work since the war commenced. Some of them are now unemployed. Anything that can be done in the direction of improving the Victorian yards for the purpose of enabling repairing work to be done locally will give them a greater chance of earning a livelihood. I am informed that the foremen in the Williamstown yards receive a smaller wage than is paid to the foremen at Cockatoo Island. In fact, I was told at Williamstown that the man in charge did not receive more than £216 a year. His predecessors were receiving a higher salary, and I understand that it is very much lower than the amount paid at Cockatoo Island. I would like the Minister to compare the wages paid in Melbourne with those paid in Cockatoo Island.
– I rise to express my regret at the amount provided on these Estimates for carrying out the agreement made when Federation was launched, that the Seat of Government should be removed to the Federal Territory. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has talked about the heavy financial burden upon the country. It seems to me that the heaviest financial burden the Commonwealth bears is the cost of maintaining a temporary Capital in Melbourne. The evidence of that fact is in every line of the Estimates. Victorian influence abounds everywhere. I have looked through a couple of pages of the Estimates, and taken out a few figures. The proposed expenditure ondefence in New , South Wales isnil; in Victoria it is £8,599. Under the heading of Science and Industry, £3,000 is to be spent in Victoria; nothing is to be spent elsewhere. A sum of £371 is to be spent in Victoria under another division.; there is to be no expenditure under the same heading in any other State. While £8,436 is to be spent on post-offices in New South Wales, no less than £19,776 is to be spent on post-offices in Victoria, although this State has a smaller population and. a much more compact territory. The same story as told in the Estimates of previous years, except that it is a little bit worse. In the Federal Capital, which is to be the heartand centre of Australia, £6,000 was voted last year, but Victorian influence prevented more than £1,000 being spent. One thousand pounds to keep =an agreement solemnly entered into ‘on the honourof theother States ! This year £6, ‘000 is on the . Estimates, and is to be allocated to one or two matters . that merely . mean keeping in repair work already dame, tout not afarthing is provided for the purpose of keeping thecompact to ibuiuld aCapital, and give ithis continent some common loentre which itcam call Australian. The buildingof the Federal Capital is not a mere parochial ‘or State matter. By no stretch of imagination can the Australian people regard Melbourne as theCapital of the Commonwealth. It is merely the ‘capital of Victoria. A proposal has been put forward to move the Seat of Government to Sydney, but I would be just as much opposed to that as I am to retaining it in Melbourne. We do not wish ‘to (remain the guests ofany State; we want tobe in our own (home, where faxound this gufeatdemocratic parliament therecan be built up an Australian sentiment thatshall look, not to one part of Australia only, but to every part of the continent, an,d that shall mot be concerning itself about Flinders-lane or Collins-street,asthe great Aingus is, or about Carlton ‘beer and sheep dip, -as the Age is, but shall take a broad Australian view ofthings, and say that whatever is to be doneshall be done in the interests of Australia. Moreto-day than ever is there a demand that this national work shall be carried out. The soldiers of Australia have given to this nation asoul ;they havemade Australia mean more than it has ever meant before, and it is necessary now, more than it ihas ever beenbefore, to have some shrine for this Australian sentiment, some common centre belonging to the wholeof the Australian people; not to thisor that State, but something that shall be the common property ‘of the whole Commonwealth. We are to nave an Australian War Museum.
– Where ?
Mr.HECTORLAMOND.- I suppose it will take very much the same form as the great Australian library, which we have packed away in cases in the cellars below this House, where it is rotting.
– It is notrotting. The honorable member’s remark is a reflection on the Library Committee.
– We shall have museums in Melbourne and -other centres., but the museum that is to represent Australia, and which should be intheFederal Capital, we shall not have until we are ableto overcome those prejudices which keep the Seatof Government an Melbourne, when, . according to the termsof thecompact, it ought to . be elsewhere. From thenational point of view, the building of theFederal Capital is the most important work Australia has to undertake in connexion with her postwar projects. As soon as wecan do so, we ought to get away from the surroundings of any State capital. If we could accomplish that, our debates would be on a higher level than theyare when people have . to put their noses in the Age in the morning ‘to find out what they lought to say in the afternoon. The Queaubeyan Age is a much more Australian paper than is the Melbourne Age. I look around the metropolitan press, and do not “find . one which is notthe natural creature of its own environment, or ‘Chat does not let the interests of Australia go by tihe board when it becomes ‘a matter of State, or more particularly metropolitan, concern.
As to economy, this debate, short as it “will be, ‘emphasizes one . fact that the people ‘o¥ Australia “should have placed before them. When these petty newspapers talk . of economy, what do they mean ? They “simply mean that the great postal -services . which, routside” this little State of Victoria, are “the very ‘life-blood rof ibhfe -country, are iso ‘be ourtailed-
They mean that everything that is for the encouragement of industry and the extension of industry in Australia is to he stopped. They mean that we are to turn back ten or fifteen years to Estimates that were adequate for our people then, although to-day the call is for statesmen who can look ahead, and provide for the growth of population that must be here if we are to meet our war obligations, and the obligations to our soldiers and their dependants. The call to-day is for statesmanship that will spend, money in the direction in which it will earn money, and that will encourage the industries of Australia, not only by Tariff taxation, but also by scientific investigation that costs money. If those business men who meet together, ,and call themselves taxpayers’ associations, and bo on, applied to their own businesses the principles which they want us to apply to the business of the Commonwealth, they would have to put up their shutters in six months. Their contention that we should deny the insistent call for the extension of the industries of this country, 6hut down on postal facilties, allow our railways and tramways to rot, and, like Rip Van Winkle, dream of things in the future, and yet do nothing to bring them about, does not mean a policy of economy, but a policy of waste and reckless disregard for the best interests of the Commonwealth. I regret that the Ministry have listened to the’ ‘call for economy, and have cut down postal services until, in one instance in my electorate, a postoffice built twenty-five years ago to’ serve the purposes of 2,000 people, is now called upon to serve the purposes of 12,000 people, and the accommodation is so paltry that if the building were a factory the Postmaster-General would be prosecuted for overcrowding his employees, while the facilities for paying thousands of pounds over the public counters would be inadequate for a banana shop in a back lane. Yet these people say it is economy to run the business of the country in this “ expensive” and “extravagant” way, and that we are doing good to the people by refusing them the facilities which they ought to enjoy for the conduct of their business. It is not economy.
It would pay this country to spend more than a million pounds in shifting the Seat of Government to its permanent location at the Federal Territory. We are throwing away money every day by erecting buildings in Melbourne for a temporary purpose. What man running his own business would want a temporary arrangement if he could build on a certain future? Much of the money spent in Melbourne in the past ten or twenty years has been an absolute waste. It would have been better to spend it in improving our own property. What is the effect of the expenditure of this money but to send up the land values in Melbourne, and enable the people who own this city to draw more rents from business people who conduct enterprises here, and enable those whom the Argus represents so well to levy a heavier toll on the industries of the State of Victoria ? All the while We are spending our money to produce this result the land that the people of Australia own in the Federal Territory lies unimproved and useless. The other day there was an .article iri one of the newspapers deploring the fact that it was proposed to shift so many thousand civil servants to Canberra. I think it was mentioned that 2,000 homes were to be built there. Is .there anything Australia wants to-day more than the building of homes ? Is there any one who will say that it is better to build more homes in the congested cities than to go out and do so in free air and a good climate? If the choice is between building homes in cities and building them in the country we should always choose to decentralize rather than continue the policy of centralizing the people of Australia. It is no economy for us, with property at Canberra, to continue to improve other people’s property and neglect our own. If we threw the thing open, and formed a company to take over Canberra, build the Commonwealth buildings, and take the land values for the next fifty years, any business man would entertain the proposition. The real reason we aTe kept here is that the whole of the people of Australia are feeding this city of Melbourne. Take the proportions in which the taxes collected are spent in the various States. The money is a toll that this city is enabled to impose upon the rest of Australia, and, until the other States realize that fact, and realize that we are building up an artificial city here at the expense of the rest of Australia, and at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia, we shall get ho further. In the State of New South Wales, at any rate, the people are waking up, and making some effort to secure the keeping of the agreement. Whan it was before our State Parliament, nearly twenty years ago, Sir George Reid was asked what guarantee he had that the compact would be kept. He said the people of New South Wales could rely upon the honour of the statesmen of the other States. The honour of the statesmen of the other States has, so far, proved a very unreliable foundation for their faith, and the honour of past Federal Parliaments has not been much higher, when they have allowed this thing to go on from year to year, without any real effort to keep the bargain made with New South Wales at that time.
Apart altogether from that, if the matter were new to-day, I should still say the Capital ought to be constructed in the interests, of the growing national sentiment of this continent. We shall never be the nation that the Constitution designed us to be until we have some common centre that belongs to Australia and not to a State. For that reason, I urge that this work be undertaken. What better work could be found for the soldiers who fought for Australia, and made their name reverenced throughout the civilized world, than the building of their own Capital for their own people? It would give to the people, to whom they have brought a broader nationality than they ever had before, a city which would he their city, associated with their great work on the other side of the world, and which would be to coming generations of the Australian people a shrine, to be held in the same sentimental regard that, the British people have for the city of London, the American people for the great city of Washington, and the people of every country for the city which represents to them the centre of their government. Surely, if the Governments of old-world countries can erect these cities for their people, we, who enjoy the freest and most democratic form of government in the world, should have a city worthy of our people, and of the institutions that we hope to establish there.
.- It is quite evident that we are within six weeks of an election. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) has been expatiating upon the deficiencies of his own Government, ‘which he sits there and supports, and for whose actions, he is absolutely responsible. All this talk of his is very cheap. He knows that he can stand up and move a motion on these Estimates to give some effective registration to his protest; but, while he indulges in so much beating of the air, he takes no effective action.
– I could only help Ryan, Wren, and revolution by that.
– The honorable member’s wild statement shows how annoyed he is at being exposed.
I have heard this stuff about the Federal Capital before. There is no business in it. There is no earnestness in this Government about the Federal Capital. They do not mean to go on with it.
– That shows that there is one little bit of sense about them.
– Here are two Government supporters, sitting side by side, one yelling out that his Government ought to go on with the Capital, and condemning them for not doing so, while the other says that the Government show their good sense in not going on with it. The Government are trying to balance between these two widely differing views on the part of their ‘own supporters.
We were told a little while back that a. majority of members have signed a requisition calling upon the Government to go on with the Capital. If there is a majority of members in the House desirous that the Capital shall be gone on ‘with, that majority can have their will carried out, because if a majority of members put the gun up to this Government, the Government would back as fast as ever they could, and give way to them. Those honorable members who talk so much about it know perfectly well that if they once showed their Government that they were in earnest, the Government would mighty quickly go on with the Capital rather than risk their offices. I have seen this kind, of thing going on before.
Another honorable member, who i6 not here, has time after -time called, us together to meet him. He takes the chair at the meetings, where they talk about the Capital, and form a deputation to the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn). When I pick up the newspapers published throughout his electorate, I find that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) occupied the chair at a largely attended meeting of members of both Houses of the Federal Parliament; that they had a talk ; that so-and-so was going to be done; that they had promises from the Minister ; and that all parties were helping the honorable member. Later on, there is a report in the papers throughout his electorate to the effect that he introduced a large and influential deputation to the Minister; that he said some nice things to the Minister; and the Minister said some nice things back to him. Reports of this kind arecirculatedbroadcast, but they contain not one word about any of those who are associated with the honorable member. It is all merely an electioneering dodge for the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. The names of none of the other members associated with him, not even of the senators from New South Wales, are mentioned in these reports’, which are printed in the newspapers throughout his electorate, to which he sends them.
It is just about time the electors of the surrounding districts “ took a tumble “ to the kind of hypocrisy that is going on. As soon as ever the election looms in sight these gentlemen get on their hind legs and shout themselves hoarse about the Federal Capital being gone on with, but we hear nothing about it from them for the rest of the time. Those very men know that they are a party to what is going on. They themselves are responsible for the Capital not being proceeded with. They keep the Government in office. If a motion is moved to disapprove of the action of the Government they will not vote for it. What, then, is the good of all this empty talk on their part about the Government not doing certain things?
I asked some questions here to-day about the Federal Capital. A Royal Commission was appointed to make an investigation. Mr. Wilfred Blacket, the Royal Commissioner, presented six reports, and in one of them he saiddistinctly that the man in charge of the construction of the Federal Capital had been for two years prevented from carry ing out the duties of his “office. He had been paid £1,000 a year for two years, and had not been allowed to carry on the work of his office because of the obstacles put in his way by departmental officers.
– That was. when your Government was in power.
– It was for a very short time, while the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) was Minister. When the party found out what was happening, they quickly made a change in their Ministers. The honorable member knows that perfectly well.
– What did Mr. King O’Malley do when he got there?
– He could do very little, as the inquiry was proceeding. The Royal Commission took some time, and when the reports were presented there was a change of Government. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt),’ who was one of the representatives of the metropolis of Melbourne, had charge of the business, and what did he do? Secretly he appointed accountants to present something to him - God knows what it was - behind the back of the Royal Commisioner who had held his investigation in public, and practically put the Royal Commissioner’s reports in the waste-paper basket. When I asked to-day that the reports of these accountants should be laid on the table for investigation by honorable members, I was told that it was not considered to be in the public interest that they should be given publicity. There is evidently something very shady about it; otherwise we should have had those reports put upon the table. What is there about that secret investigation by the accountants behind the back of the Royal Commission in connexion with the Federal Capital that ought to be withheld from the public ?
One statement made by the honorable member for Illawarra was perfectly true - that there is a huge vested interest preventing the Capital from being built. Before the outbreak of the war £250,000 per year was being paid in Melbourne in salaries and wages to departmental officers who are associated with this Parliament and the central staffs. Since then I think that amount has been almost doubled. It would not be too much to say that £500,000 a year is paid now in Melbourne in salaries and wages to huge departmental staffs, because this is practically the Seat of the Commonwealth Government.. I believe that, approximately, about £1,000000 a week has been spent in Australia in the shape of war expenditure. The great bulk of that expenditure goes through; the central offices in Melbourne, and Victoria gets an undue share of it.
– Have you any figures to show that?’
– I can give the honorable member a couple of instances to show the length to which it goes. When- Ford motor cars were wanted for the Federal Capital, although there is a big central agency for those cars in Sydney, practically close at hand, from which they could have been driven to the Capital in two or three hours, the. Department bought Ford cars in Melbourne, carried them on the railway to Albury, transhipped them at Albury, and had them carried to Goulburn, and from Goulburn to Queanbeyan, where they ran them off. When they wanted some common kitchen stoves for a number of houses th’ey were building at the Federal Capital, they did the same thing. They bought them in Melbourne, and carted them all the way round through Albury to Queanbeyan. I have no doubt that if the total were reckoned up, there would be found to be a huge war expenditure in addition to the civil expenditure in Victoria, because of the Federal Departments being centralized here.
The Commonwealth civil servants in Melbourne are a great obstacle to the building of the Federal Capital. Heads of Departments are settled in the suburbs. The social interests of themselves and families are centred here. Their grown up girls and boys are being trained in various professions, and there is a regular discussion at the fireside whenever the issue of the Federal Capital is raised in this Parliament. The families say, “For God’s sake don’t let, us be shifted iuto the bush in New South Wales. Whatever shall we do if we are shifted out of. Melbourne? Our friendships and social interests are here. The future of our sous and daughters will be sacrificed if we are shifted to that beastly place, Canberra, which is so much decried by the Melbourne press.” When the whole of the heads of Departments are combining to prevent the will of Parliament being carried out, a very powerful influence is exerted. Few Ministers can stand up against even one departmental head.
The statement made in this House some time ago about Ministers being merely “ rubber stamps “ is true in the majority of cases. A file of papers is dumped before a Minister, and he signs so many to the minute, without knowing half the time what he is signing; he is in the hand’s of the head of his Department. We know the influence one head of a Department exerts over a Minister, and when they all combine for the one purpose, there is practically an insurmountable obstacle to the carrying out of the Federal Capital scheme.
The Federal Capital area was practically the hinterland to Queanbeyan. The locking up of this huge area, and the prevention of its development, is a gross injustice to Queanbeyan, which is being practically ruined. It is true that lands in the Federal Territory are being let on short leases, but everybody knows that there can be no real development under present conditions.
– More money was spent at Canberra in a month since the Federal Capital was started than was spent in fifty years before.
– While the work was in progress, the local towns were better off than they had been before, but latterly the whole of the work has been at a stand-still. All sorts of excuses have been advanced, as, for instance, that the capital could not be built during the war.
– That was a pretty good one.
– It was absolutely nonsensical, as the orgy of extravagance of this Government proves. The work has been delayed from time to time on various pretexts. I doubt if the Federal Capital will be. built in our day and generation.
– Hear, hear!
– Already it has been postponed close on twenty years, and Heaven only knows when it will be built.
It is only fair to say to the people that nothing has been done in regard to the Federal Capital except what was done by a Labour Government. Let that be thoroughly understood. This question was the shuttlecock of party politics until the Labour party came into power; and soon after the Fisher Government assumed office in 1909, the Capital site was definitely settled. Then the Labour party went out of office, and practically nothing was done until its return to power in 1910. From that year until 1913, there was a policy of rapid development; the work was proceeded with in earnest.
– The honorable member means that a lot of money was spent there.
– Not a fraction of what was spent on the cursedwestern railway. That is an incubus we shall be carrying all our lives in order to pleaseWestern Australia.
– I joined with Western Australian members in seeing that the Federal compact was honoured so far as Western Australia was concerned.
When the Labour Government were in power from 1910 to 1913 the work of building the Federal Capital was proceeded with in earnest. The foundations were started, and some works were completed. Then the war broke out, two or three rapid changes of Government followed, the whole country was turned topsy-turvey over the conscription issue, and since that time practically nothing has been done. One can see at Canberra plant exposed to the weather and deteriorating. Not enough’ expenditure is being incurred to keep in decent order and repair the works already completed. The Federal Capital will not be proceeded with until there is another Labour Government in power, for the reason that the Labour party is the only party that can defy the vested and moneyed interests.
Victorian interests look to see what is in the Age and Argus leading articles every morning, and they are backing and filling to please those papers all the time, lest they should oppose them at the next elections. I have never seen in any other part of the Commonwealth the same backing and filling as is shown by Victorian members in their fear of the daily newspapers.
The honorable member for Illawarra who has had so much to say about this question, is in a position to move a motion which will compel the Government to proceed with the Federal Capital.
Let him do it. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), no doubt, will support him.
– I shall have something to say on it.
– But will the honorable member do something?
– More than the honorable member will.
– We on this side of the House, numbering only twenty-two in a total of seventv-five, can do nothing but talk. Honorable members opposite, who are responsible for keeping the Government in office, can do something, and they will receive good support from this side of the House if they show that they are really in earnest.
The honorable member for Illawarra complains of the unsatisfactory postal facilities in his electorate. What is the good of Illawarra being represented by a Nationalist if the Nationalist Government deprive the electorate of facilities granted by a previous Government? The inference is that the electors ought not to support the Nationalists, but ought to return another Government, who will give them something like the fair deal they had before the present party cam6 into power. The honorable member for Tllawarra helps to keep the Government in office, and he cannot blame them without blaming himself. He is responsible for what they do. What is the use of criticising the Government and appearing to the electors outside to agree with them, when, as a matter of fact, by. every vote he records in this House he hones to keep the Ministry in office? I do not think that the honorable member has recorded one solitary vote against the Government since he has been in the House.
– The honorable member is too busy attending to other affairs to know how I vote.
– The honorable member has not given a vote against the Government on any question.
– Why did the Labour party appoint the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Webster) PostmasterGeneral ?
– He was all right as Postmaster-General until he came under the influence of the Government of which he is now a member. The present Government will not allow him to do anything. They will not give him the necessary funds to carry on the functions of his Department. But the honorable member for Illawarra keeps the PostmasterGeneral in office, and is partly responsible for his administration. He cannot blame the Postmaster-General when on every test division he votes to keep him in office. It does not lie in the mouth of the honorable member tocriticise Ministers. His complaint about lack of postal facilities will not convince the electors of Illawarra in his . favour when they know that every time he has a chance of acting he refuses to do anything. He has an effective way of registering his protest, and that is by acting and not merely talking. When the honorable member is prepared to do something in earnest he will receive the support of honorable members on this side in petting for the electors of .Illawarra that justice which is denied them by the present Government.*
.- I shall not attempt to follow the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) through all the phases of his characteristically unfair speech. I feel sorry for honorable members on this side when I realize from the utterances of the honorable gentleman that they cannot attain to the lofty standard of virtue from which he alone regards things. But I think that there are some circumstances which might be mentioned in justification of the inanition of which be says we have been guilty. He forgets that the present Government were returned to power for a purpose far greater than the building of the Federal .Capital. The Government were put in office in order to prevent a disruption which- the honorable member for Cook would have very much liked to foment and which would have relieved us of any necessity to build the Federal Capital or do anything except leave tracks as we fled with our heels to the enemy. The honorable member should recollect that the Government and the party supporting them, whatever their shortcomings may be, having that great duty to perform, had to subordinate all questions of domestic importance, especially one like the Federal Capital, regarding which there is such a diversity of opinion. The honorable member made much of the fact that the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) had raised through a fellow member a discordant ‘ voice on this side of the House. He ignored . the fact that a few moments before, at his own elbow, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) proclaimed the project for the building of the Federal Capital as an absurdity. I at least attempt to be fair and just, and I am quite content to take, my share of whatever blame may attach to this party in respect to the Federal Capital.
I have an interest in the project apart from the national one, which I hope I shall put first on all occasions, because my electorate partly surrounds the Federal Territory. Apart from that interest I feel that the national aspect of the question is one that can no longer be ignored. Every State of the Union is interested in seeing that the compact so solemnly made in the Constitution shall be honoured. I do not believe that amongst the majority of the representatives in the Commonwealth Parliament there is other than a feeling that the greatest danger of all is over, and that although we may have been left financially crippled, and unable to dream of marble palaces and £1,000,000 lakes, they still intend to carry out the Federal contract., We who have been, as the honorable member for Cook chose to put it, quiescent during the war, may now, with good reason, claim with insistent voice that the promise shall be redeemed. If it can be shown that by proceeding with the Capital we shall add too heavily to the burdens of the country - that we should thereby be unable to meet our obligations to the returned soldiers or our financial and other obligations - we would,, of course, still have to hold our hands. But, as has been said already, we can now in the Federal Territory make use of much labour for which we must find employment. We can assist returned soldiers in little businesses without prejudically affecting the interest of other people already in business; and we have an opportunity of settling even partially-disabled men on very liberal conditions, of giving them a monopoly of the new market that would be created at the Seat of Government, and of enhancing by millions the value of hundreds of thousands of acres now largely idle. It is a splendid opportunity, and it is only one of others that we shall have to grasp with both hands if we are to fulfil our obligations, to not only provide for our soldiers, but open up fresh avenues of employment and development in the country.
I believe, too, that we shall have to “ formulate and give effect to a growing progressive policy in order to develop and settle the Northern Territory as part of this great work of development. For the past eighteen months or more I have had on the business-paper a motion, which I cannot discuss now, but by means of which I hope to show how that great work may be begun. Ve are losing a great opportunity when we lose the services of scores of thousands of those labour-loving and valorous young men who went forth to light, and were fortunate enough to come back uninjured, and who might spend a probationary period in learning cattleraising, and, with assistance, return to the Government fifty-fold the wealth expended on them.- We could thus solve the problems of the Northern Territory, however tough those problems may be. It is certainly not a high credential to the intelligence of the House to find us. like senseless children, throwing taunts at one another - taunts from Victoria to South Australia, and from New South Wales to Victoria. We are all one family, and if one goes down, we all go down. The object of men who, at least, ought to attempt To develop statesmanlike instincts, should be the common good of their common country.
As the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) will admit, if we can only show how progress can be made by the expenditure of millions as a preliminary, there is a very short way to travel in view of our opportunities. But I have the greatest confidence and faith in what I call the principles of self help. I ‘believe it is possible to utilize the labour, not only of the returned soldiers, but also of others, without the expenditure of much capital, and in a way that will create arid develop fresh wealth to assist in the still greater work beyond.
It is idle to say that the Government must be condemned because they cannot meet the requirements of every growing district throughout the continent. As the representative of Werriwa, I require post-offices in my constituency, and could find fault with the Government on that score. Some of the post-offices there, at present, are only fit- far nests for crows; but I have ‘ to realize that the men charged with the ‘administration of the finances are at the present moment like the father of a big family who finds his cupboard almost empty, and every one of his people clamouring for a meal from “ Gunslers.” But I feel it a reflection on that spirit of independence which is the characteristic of our race, and found such splendid, and noble expression in. the valour and daring of our troops, to say that the young men, and young women, too, of our time are not game to face the battle of life unless they are armed with all the advantages and refinements of civilization. I remember in my early youth people who had come from the Old Country, and must have been absolute strangers to the conditions here, going hundreds of miles into the interior, and there subjecting themselves to hardships and trials in their work of knocking the bush into shape - wringing from nature’s arms a sustenance. But nowadays, unless a fellow is within cooee of a picture-show, and can wear a pair of patent-leather boots, he does not con,sider he is a civilized being. That spirit of adventure and independence, of which we had so much in the past, must be fostered. It is not that the men of the present day have not strength, courage, and spirit, but .there is too much of the molly-coddle idea. I recollect the time when, if a man got hold of a paper two or three months old, he considered he was lucky and right up to date - a time when, we would be happy but for the devil’s agencies in. the shape of roadside shanties, causing men to get talking to themselves.
– Having a word or two with sensible men.
– Exactly ; that is a good idea; and I often think that if some of the people whom we hear talking of profiteers would look into a glass they would find one there pretty quickly. I feel there is too much of this insistent claim on the Government to do this and that, and I regret to see the spirit. I remember the day when diggers went forth to develop new country and pioneer settlement. Many died and perished by the roadside, but their independence was so strong that if you wished to offend them you had only to offer assistance while they had a kick in them. What sort of spirit are we now developing? Men in the flush of youth will come to a member of Parliament and ask if the Government cannot do something for him in the way of a soft job - they have a cobbler’s constitution and cannot stand hard work ! Of course, we all want something pretty light; but, as one who had a rough experience in my youth, I -say that to a man there is nothing like the pleasure of achieving a task that seemed in’surmountahle. It is not the value of the reward that gives the pleasure, but the fact that a man has tried and conquered; and, even if he fails, he has the satisfaction of having tried.
We on this side are now called “ shirkers “ by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) because we have not taken some heroic and direct action against the Government. Surely the honorable member might give us credit for a little common sense, seeing that on this side we have the intelligence which he so slavishly followed for years, and found nothing wrong with until the parting came. The honorable member charges us with insincerity, but surely he knows that thereare considerations to which we must pay some regard. No man with any sense would kill an elephant simply in order to destroy a flea that happened to be fattening on it. “ Elephants “ in the shape of bigger interests than the . Federal Capital must be kept alive and well. Of course, I know that my constituents look to me to see that the Federal compact is not forgotten; but I tell them that if, in my opinion as an independent representative, I feel that to proceed with that work would endanger greater interests essential to the welfare of the country, I shall unhesitatingly turn it down.
But the probationary period of “ wait “ through which we have to pass is fast disappearing, and the interests of the Government and the country - the interests, too, of the people who are seeking employment - depend on our keeping the Federal compact. It does not necessarily follow that we must fulfil the contract in an expensive way. The majority of us have lived in very humble lodgings - I lived in the “Sky Hotel” for years, and think that I bear my fifty-seven years rather better in consequence- but all the accessories of ordinary and reasonable civilized life can be provided for a few hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the advantages that will follow to the country will more than counterbalance the little disadvantages which may seem apparent now.
I should like to bring before the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) works that are required in Werriwa. We have to remember, however, that the honorable gentleman can only do what the funds at his disposal will enable him to do.
– The Post and Telegraph Department is not before the Committee.
– I shall merely say that we can all suggest numerous new works and buildings that would doubtless be of great service, but the man charged with the duty of providing, funds and the responsibility of spending them, must be allowed to say in what order those works are to be entered on.
The agitation in connexion with the Federal Capital is no ephemeral movement, but one that has been stemmed and dammed up for years in consequence of the war. It is a movement that will gradually become insistent, and I am sure that the claims made will not fall on unheeding ears. The Government, even as at present constituted, with a diversity of opinion on the question amongst their supporters, will, on the whole, I think, give effect to the promises made in the past, and vindicate the Constitution.
.- - I move -
That the proposed, vote be reduced by £1.
My object is to obtain from the Government a statement as to their policy in regard to the Federal Territory. It is said that it is the intention of the Government to carry out the compact made in the Constitution, and, if that be true, I wish to know when, how, to what extent, and why they propose to carry out the compact.
– Where are we to get the money from?
– In that interjection I still hear the voice of Victoria. I blame the representatives of New South Wales for not standing solidly together to protect the interests of that State. New South Wales has not been properly treated. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who is always anxious to have money spent on the Cordite Factory and the roads leading to it, is not prepared to support the building of the Capital . This is not a party matter. It is our duty to see that the compact made with New South Wales is carried out. There might have been some excuse for the failure of the Government to proceed with the building of the Capital during the war, but now that the war is over they should state what they intend to do. Many returned soldiers are, out of employment; last week I saw 4,000 of them registering for work, and I blame the Government for not coming forward with a public works policy. It would be far better to spend money on reproductive works than to make sustenance payments to our men. Reproductive works would find suitable employment for them and would do away with waste. . The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) is constantly calling for economy. Is he prepared to discharge his duties in this House for nothing’! Does he want the Government to stop all public works and bring about unemployment ?
– He does not ask for economy in relation to reproductive works.
– He does not discriminate. He asserts that the Government are wasting money at Canberra. I would remind the Committee that a large sum hasbeen expended in acquiring land in the Federal Territory and that waste is involved in the failure of the Government to put that land to profitable use.
Mr.Sampson. - Does not the honorable member think that the erection of more telephone and telegraph lines throughout the Commonwealth wouldbe more useful than heavy expenditure on the Federal Capital?
– As to that I do not agree with the policy of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster). The honorable gentleman takes credit for saving thousands of pounds, tout any man can isave money by denyinghimselfor others things that are really necessary.
The people of ‘New South Wales are entitled to fair treatment in the matter of the Federal Capital. The . Federal Territory is capable of ‘sustaining a large population, and -all Commonwealth puttie Will dings should tee erected there. The Piulblic Works. Committee has r’ecomamemded the erection of a note-printing office in Melbourne-
Mr.Fenton. - The recommendation was almost unanimously arrived at.
– Of course it was. We haveonlyone . representative ofNew South Wales on that Committee, and,unfortunately, he was absent through illness when the decision was arrived at. It is proposed to expend £44,000 on the erection of a note-printing office in Melbourne. That is only part of the total expenditure involved.
– Ihave seen the plans, and know that additional buildings are to be erected.
– Very large ordnance stores have recently been erected in Sydney.
– Our desire is that such buildings should be erected not in Sydney, but at Canberra.
– They should be erected where they will best serve the national interests.
– The national interests will not be best served by the erection of a note-printing office at Melbourne. The site was acquired without consulting Parliament, and although it is said that the existing note-printing office is unsuitable and unsafe, I think it could be so remodelled as to satisfy present requirements. Every possible influence is brought to bear on the Government to erect Commonwealth buildings in Victoria. It was said, for instance, that Geelong was the only city in which we could erect woollen mills., since a suitable water supply could not be obtained elsewhere. The answer to that is that we have atMarrickville several woollen mills, the output of which is of the highest grade. After all, I do not blame the representatives of Victoria. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt), and- his fellow representatives of this State, are doing their best for it, and I should not be doing my duty . to New South Wales if I allowed this opportunity to pass without registering my protest against the failure of the Government to proceed witli the work at the Federal Capital. The Government should . atonce develop . their public works policy. If they hold over public works until the winter., we shall have a very large body of unemployed. ‘Thousands of our men are returning from the Front, and . a vigorous works policy would keep them and many others employed, . and remove . the present . discontent. If we are to haveunemployment in addition to high prices, we . shall have a crisis.
I desire, in conclusion, to refer to the General Post Office, Sydney. The first floor of that building has been empty . for about eighteen months or two years, be-, cause of a proposal to remodel the office. During all this -time the business of the office has been congested. The matter should be ‘referred to the Public Works Committee, and immediate steps taken to remodel the building so as to meet the needs of the people.
– A good deal has been said this evening ns to the failure of the Government to proceed with public works at Canberra. It is amusing to watch the corned y that is being played by the representatives of Victoria and New South Wales. Representatives of Victoria naturally desire that the Federal Parliament shall continue to meet in this wonderful city, where it is under the influence of the daily newspapers ; but I think that a few observations by a representative of another State, which is not deeply interested in this “ pull baker, pull devil “ struggle between Victoria and New South Wales, may not be out of place. I agree that the promise made to the people of New South Wales when the Constitution Bill was before the electors should be redeemed. But it is a huge joke for any member of Parliament to complain of the failure of the Government to proceed with the building of the Federal Capital while we were engaged in a war unparalleled in the history of the world. The common sense of the people will lead them to commend, rather than to blame, the Government for the stoppage of works at the Federal Capital during the great struggle. Having regard to the war liabilities that confront us, the time has arrived when the Government should provide the House with an estimate of the expenditure that- would be necessary to accommodate the Federal Parliament alt Canberra. I dm not th ink it is necessary to erect the wonderful legislative halls designed by the distinguished American who discovered where the sun shone. It should be sufficient to erect suitable temporary buildings. There is a great deal in what the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) has said as to the influence of Melbourne, Sydney, or any other State capital having an undesirable effect upon Federal work and sentiment, and I believe that as soon as we go to the Federal Capital our legislative work will improve. At the same time, I do not think we should plunge headlong into an expenditure of millions of pounds without knowing what the ultimate cost of establishing the Capital will be. v I would be no party to such a move. The Government, however, should be able to estimate within £5,000 or £10,000 the cost of housing the Federal Parliament at Canberra. Surely the present generation is not to bear the cost of erecting there buildings to last for all time. Australia belongs not to us alone, but to the unborn generations to come) and we should deal with questions of this character from that stand-point. We have only a life interest in the Commonwealth. If the Government came forward with an estimate of the cost of building the Federal Capital, we should “ be able to say at once whether we could afford to spend £100,000 or more, and could proceed with the work in. a systematic fashion. The work at Canberra has been standing still for years. I regret it, because we have there the most valuable electrical plant iu Australia. However, the loss on the Federal Territory cannot be very much. By this time, we must have acquired the whole of the area by buying out the improvements of the residents. Therefore the revenue derived from the agricultural land ought to be sufficient to meet the current expenditure.
We have been told by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), with his usual characteristic love of the truth, which he knows nothing about, and about which he is not desirous of knowing anything, that I was removed from my office as Minister for Home Affairs in consequence of the mess I had made at Canberra, and that a Royal Commission had condemned me. Leaving for the moment the matter of my removal from office, let me deal with the other aspect of the1 question. There was an agreement which was a very unsatisfactory one between the ‘ Commonwealth Governmentand Mr. Griffin. It was of a very debatable character, one which the lawyers would like to handle. Mr. Griffin claimed the right to have a Department under him, and to do the whole of the work in connexion with the building of the Federal Capital. He also claimed the right to have the officers engaged in the work responsible to- him alone. On the other hand, the Fisher Government declined to have two Departments dealing with the public works of the Commonwealth. I agreed with that decision, and, in consequence, the Cabinet decided that the work to be done at Canberra should be carried out through the officers of the Works Branch of the Department of Home Affairs, which had an- ample staff for the purpose. However, the Minister who succeeded me reversed that decision, and gave Mr. Griffin the power to be absolute master of the work at the Federal Capital, and full jurisdiction todo what he liked there. Of course, the Government that succeeded the Government of which that Minister was a member very speedily put that policy to the rightabout.
As for my being removed from office because the work at Canberra was not going on well enough, or because the work on the East- West railway was not proceeding properly, the truth is that it came about because I would not allow the Trades Halls to- dictate to me as to how I should do my duty. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) and I were both driven out of office because we chose to keep our oaths. It is not uncommon -for members in Labour Governments to break their oaths ; but we did not do it. As Mr. Lloyd George says - the Government must be on top. The sooner a Minister of the Crown who is not on top is out of office the better it is for the country. I was removed from office by the most corrupt Caucus that ever existed in Australia.
The honorable member for Cook says that my administration was subject to an inquiry. I came into this House . in 1910, and found the honorable member here engaged then as he has been ever since in intriguing against his own colleagues to get into office. He has not succeeded, and is not likely to do so for a time at least. Some of his tribe have got. into office, and I was removed because I was an obstacle in the way. The inquiry conducted by Mr. Blacket was too big a job f or that gentleman to undertake. He should not have gone on with it, or should have applied to the Government for the assistance of assessors. In any case, it was a lame step for a Government to take to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the administration of one of its own Departments. According to Mr. Blacket, I was pushing on the departmental plan for Canberra, and not Mr.. Griffin’s. I happen to know what was in my mind, and I say solemnly on my honour that I never once . had in my mind the departmental plan. Mr. Blacket may come to any conclusion he likes for all I care - I have nothing but scorn and contempt for his verdict- but when he imagines that he knows what I had in mind better than I do myself, I respectfully inform him that I am the best judge upon such a matter. Those who have known me in this House for the past nine years, and those who have known me for the twentyfive years in which I have served my electors in the State and Federal Parliaments, know that my word is worthy of acceptance, not only here, but also in the State of South Australia. I shall not go further into the matter. The Government of the day very wisely closed the incident, but a more infamous, costly, and terrible waste of public money never existed than during the administration of that Caucus which turned me from office, and which was responsible for it. to the bitter end.
– Who was the Minister that succeeded the honorable member?
- Mr. King O’Malley. I dare say some honorable members could tell how he got into office. It is an interesting history’. Some men know the inside running of it better than I do.
On seven or eight occasions the union controlling the building of the East- West railway dictated that bosses should be removed, and they were removed. The idea of carrying on public works with the worst section of the men dictating the removal of their bosses ! I hope, in the interests of Australia that we shall never be inflicted with another Government that will submit to dictation of such a character.
.- I cannot indorse all that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) has said. I expected him to talk about South Australia. I was astonished to hear so much “ pull devil pull baker “ criticism of one another, and so much talk of certain gentlemen not being statesmen, and so forth.
– We are all statesmen.
– I believe the honorable gentleman and I, who went to the war, are statesmen. Did we not make history ?
As to the honouring of promises, 1 had nothing to do with the selection of the site of the Federal Capital, or with the decision as to what should be done there, but I believe that the people of New South “Wales have a very good case for the honouring of the promise made to them. There is also a promise to South Australia that should be honoured.
– Another little railway will not do us any harm.
– The right honorable gentleman is quite right, and I ‘hope that he will be able to convince the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) of the advisability of allowing an adequate sum to be placed on the Estimates to take a railway into the Northern Territory so as to minimize the loss the Commonwealth is incurring there each year.
– The best way to convince me is to put these Estimates through. That is what I am waiting for.
– There is nothing in the Estimates to satisfy me that the Government are sincere in the matter of hon.ouring the promise made to South Australia.
It is time that Australia set about finalizing the idea of the Federal Capital. If we could raise £300,000,000 to fight the war, we can raise something to develop this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has sounded a tocsin. He says that Australia, to get out of the turmoil into which it has been brought by the war, must “produce, produce, produce.” Looking through the Estimates, how much do we see that will “produce, produce, produce”? I thought that the Prime Minister would have something in them over and above the shipping programme that would have approximated to the ideals he held when he first came into this Parliament as a Labour member. The men who left the Labour party - I will not say “ ratted “ on it, because to do so would be offensive - declaim that they are still Labour men, and that they have merely added patriotism to their platform. If they are still Labour men they must still hold to the tenets they accepted prior to . the split which drove them into the arms of the Nationalists - the National Political League, or the Women’s National League - and finally into the Farmers and Producers Associations; and naturally one would expect these Estimates to reveal some of the characteristics of those tenets. If the Prime Minister is still a Labour man, and desires Australia to produce, as he says it must do in order to meet its liabilities, he could not do better than honour the promise to South Australia, and build a railway that would open up the Northern Territory for tropical cultivation, for which it is eminently fitted, or develop the woollen-cloth industry, instead of sending our. wool overseas to be woven into cloth elsewhere. Let him develop some of the potentialities of Australia. We have heard a lot of the word “ potentialities “-
– I apologize for having used the word.
– Of course, I will have the support of the right honorable gentleman who went with me to the war. I did not see him there. He may have been in that “ hop over “ that I saw the Prime Minister’s party take. one morning between Corbie and Bray. On that occasion I was on one side of a canal and our infantry were on the other side. Some one said to me, ‘ ‘ Are you not going over to the ‘ shivoo ‘ this afternoon 1” I said, “What’s on?” He said, “The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy are over there.”- I said it was too far for me to walk over the bridge, but I heard “ God Save “ played by the band, and some cheers, and I knew my honorable friend was doing his bit for the Empire.
The feeling of the people of Australia is that we have seen too much of the practice of sending overseas to foreign countries the goods that we raise here, and then buying them back with the cost of freight and the price of manufacture added. The Customs revenue as between Japan and America is plain enough in itself to show that Australia needs to do something to protect itself. If we want a strong, virile community, let us find enough opportunity for work and production for our people in Australia. Let us create opportunities not only for the natural increase of our population, but to bring here immigrants without having to resort to the methods we had to use before.
I will support the New South Wales members in the matter of the development of the Federal Capital site. It is quite time we. did this work. It is a big project ; a project that we ought to be proud of; but apparently some one now would like it to be kicked out like a stray dog.
– It is so good .that- we ought to keep it as a project.
– I can understand Victorian members taking up that attitude. Evidently the Victorian members of the Works Committee were of that opinion when they recommended the erection of a building in Melbourne for the noteprinting offices. The note-printing work nas come to stay. It is essentially a Federal work, and requires a Federal building.
– There was only one New South Wales member on the Committee, and he was not there to vote.
– The New South Wales members were caught napping when the question was referred to tie Committee. If they had been alive to the interests of their State they would have been on deck when it was proposed to hand the question over to the Committee, and it would not have gone there.
– They were all in the House, and there was not even a division on the question.
– When it came to a division, the fighting force was away sick. Anything can be carried under those’ conditions. As a man who is interested in the question of the note-printing establishment only from the point of view of what is best for Australia, and not because my own State is interested, I say it will be a crying shame if a permanent building of that character is established in Melbourne and not at Canberra; that is, if we really intend to go on with the Federal Capital. I am prepared at all times to assist in honouring the compact embodied in that part of the Constitution which enacts that the Federal Capital shall be in New South Wales.
Another promise which, although not a constitutional one, should be honoured just as fully as. the Federal Capital compact, is the building of the railway line to the Northern Territory. I remarked jocularly to-day that if the Commonwealth was not honest in its intentions regarding the. Territory, it should be handed back to South Australia, and South Australia would develop it. I have sufficient faith in the power and ability of my own State to think that if we had had it as long as the Commonwealth Government has had it, it would not have been in its present parlous condition.
– You had it much .longer.
– But we were much younger then- The Commonwealth should give us credit for putting the transcontinental telegraph line across that enormous tract of territory, and for doing a great deal to develop the Territory. I believe that if it had been left in the hands of our State, which kept its development within the realm of practical politics right up to the time it was handed over to the Commonwealth, we could have done a great deal more with it than the Commonwealth has done. An offer was made to Mr. Tom Price to build the railway on the land grant system. A similar offer has now been made to the Commonwealth by Messrs. Timms and Kidman.
– Are you in favour of that?
– No, I am not in favour of -the land grant system; but I believe that if the Government were honestly prepared to bring the matter into the region of practical politics, and to deal with those who are ready to carry out that great work, a modus operandi would soon be found, and the railway would be built. The question of money does not come into it. That question is fast going out of the sphere of consideration in connexion with State or Commonwealth public works. In a number of works carried out in ‘South Australia, the firms concerned have been prepared to take Government bonds in payment. I understand that Messrs. Timms and Kidman were ready to take Government bonds. If the Government are sincere in their desire to honour the promise made to South Australia regarding the completion of the North-South railway, there are ample opportunities for them to act.
– Why does the honorable member keep quoting a case that he does not believe in ?
– The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) shook his head when I suggested that Messrs. Timms and Kidman’s offer was on the land-grant system, so I took it that it was not. Still, there are plenty of other ways in which the work could be undertaken and completed. I read carefully the reports of the Royal Commission on the Northern Territory, and found ample evidence there to show that, although the Territory may not turn out to be an Eldorado, its resources would have justified us in keeping it. If the Government wanfto reduce the cost of the Territory, and to make it safe from a defence stand-point, they must honour the promise made to South Australia, and construct the railway.Will the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) tell us what has become of the enormous amount of working material used on the East-West line? We were given to understand that it would be used in constructing the railway to the Northern Territory. If that was not promised in definite language, it was at least suggested. Is that material going to waste? Is it left out in the desert to deteriorate?
SirJoseph Cook. - I saw a lot of it at Cook Station the other day when I came through.
– I hoped to see a lot of it at Kingoonya, which wassuggested as the best place to start the line northerly to Hergott and Oodnadatta, and. thence through the Macdonnell Ranges. This is a matter of vital interest to South Australia, which carried the burden of the Territory for many years. The late Mr. John Darling always considered that we made a mistake in disposing of it. There is nothing on these Estimates for that work. All I can find is an item of £192. We are getting a deuce of a lot out of Federation, are we not? It is the duty of this Parliament, and of those who believe in the development of Australia, to act up to their professions in this matter. If we want to shut the gate in the Northern Territory, the only way to do it is by constructing a railway by the most direct route. The only way to stop the “ Bolsheviks “ is tolet them come down more frequently and see what civilized people are like. The Government should let them get into touch with them, and then possibly they would not kick the Government’s officers out and determine to govern the Territory themselves. By the way they have treated the Northern Territory, the Government have sown the wind, and now they are reaping the whirlwind, which is their just reward.
Some time ago I put on the noticepaper a question as to the number of Federal offices scattered about Adelaide. They are all over the shop in that city, and if you want to see them all you have to travel over half Adelaide. I said at the time that our people would be prepared to consider the question of the Commonwealth buying the best site in Adelaide - our State Parliament Building - to house the whole of the Federal Departments, plus the Commonwealth Bank. I commend the suggestion to Ministers, and if it is carried out it will only be doing for South Australia something equal to what has been done in the other States. They have all got their big buildings to connote the fact that they are in the Federation, but up to now Adelaide has nothing of the kind.
I must now touch up the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster). I and others had a conversation with him on Saturday, and I hope I did not misunderstand him when I thought he said that an amount was on the Estimates for the renovation or extension of the Adelaide Post-office.
– I said it was on, but it is not on now.
– The members of the deputation will be astonished to know that that is what the Minister said. Personally, I am bowled over, because I thought the honorable member was telling me the truth when he said the amount was on the Estimates. He did not say it was on last year and would not be on this year.
– I said I had put it there, but it is not there now.
– The honorable member met representatives’ of most of the branches of his Department over there. I told them” before they went in that, if they would give the Postmaster-General a fair spin in regard to the performance of their duties, they would find him a jolly decent fellow to get on with . I was only telling them what I honestly thought. I do not wish to retract it, but I am surprised to learn that he did not mean what he seemed to mean when he told the deputation that the amount was on the Estimates, clearly indicating to them that there was a possibility of an early realization of their request to him, that is, the extension of the post-office with a view to establishing a postal institute. They reminded him that the young telegraphists were at present being trained down in the cellar, where you can touch the ceiling with your head, and the atmosphere is far from healthy. The PostmasterGeneral’s reply encouraged them to believe that there was an early possibility of the work being done. However, there is not a line on the Estimates for, the purpose. “When honorable members complain about the Capital at Canberra not being gone on with, I remind them that there are public functions that are remunerative and that need attention in the existing cities. The PostmasterGeneral has put up a record with regard to the finances of his Department. His annual report reads well, but if he is going to make a profit by keeping his men working in the dungeons, after promising them some likelihood of redress, I am afraid that efficiency and contentment in the postal service will not continue.
There is another point which, perhaps, it is not within my province to dwell upon, but I mention it because the honorable member for the district (Mr. Archibald) has just resumed his seat without calling attention to it. I warn the PostmasterGeneral that there will be a repetition of the Northern Territory trouble if he does not do something to provide a new post-office at Port Adelaide.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– There is no mention of that work in the Estimates, although the inadequate facilities at Port Adelaide have been the cause of much discontent. If the Treasurer will consult with the Postmaster-General he will find that he would be doing only fair justice to the residents of the district if he made money available to build, a new post-office there. The only expenditure proposed in these Estimates for South Australia consists of two items - central office, £175; and Henley Beach telephone exchange, £17.
– Order! The honorable member will have an opportunity later of discussing those items.
– I know that the people in the districts affected are much concerned about the matters to which I have referred. The increased business that would result would make the provision of these facilities profitable to the Department.
.- I presume that, although an amendment is before the Chair, honorable members will be allowed to deal generally with the Estimates, in order to avoid repetition. As I shall be leaving for Western Australia this week, I should like to take this opportunity of drawing attention to a few items of expenditure respecting which the Committee should demand some promise from the Government before agreeing- to them. A sum of £40,000 is provided for. an aviation school.
– The discussion must be confined to items of expenditure controlled by the Department of Works and Railways. The honorable member will be in order in discussing any work .that is controlled by that ‘ Department ; but I have already called other honorable members to order for attempting to discuss items in other Departments.
– I shall confine my remarks to the amendment, the purpose of which is to elicit from the Ministry a statement of policy in regard to the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra. So far .as State interests are concerned, I am indifferent as to whether the Seat of Government is in Melbourne, Sydney, or elsewhere; but honorable members should consider seriously whether they are justified in consenting to an enormous expenditure on the establishment of a Capital city in the bush. We have heard a lot of talk about building a North-South railway and other projects involving large expenditure, but the Estimates show that we are to raise this year £16,000,000 in direct taxation and £17,000,000 through the Customs Department. I do not know how we can get much more revenue from the people through those channels.
– That is hardly the value of the increased price of wool.
– The honorable member would like to use the wealth that somebody else has produced for the purpose of building the Federal Capital. Notwithstanding that large revenue the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) anticipates a deficiency. He estimates an ordinary expenditure of £48,000,000, and a further expenditure from loan of £53,750,000. I have met many persons who talked economy. When I advocate economy
I have no desire that there shall be any stoppage of public works; but 1 desire to insure that all the works we undertake shall be of a reproductive character, so that they may help us to pay the enormous bill with which we find ourselves saddled in consequence of the war. Still larger sums must be found for the purpose of carrying out the pledges we made to the soldiers. Therefore, we must have economy. “We see Departments growing larger year by year, existing staffs being increased and new ones being created, and when we ask for economy we ask for it in connexion with administration. At the same time, we realize that the Government must carry on a progressive policy, particularly at the present time> when a large number of soldiers are returning to Australia for whom work must be found. But let such work be reproductive. For instance, I would not care how much money was expended in the locking of -the Murray, Goulburn, and other rivers, knowing as I do that that expenditure would increase production and enable us to settle a larger population on the land. Centralization is the curse of Australia to-day. Fully 48 per cent, of the population of Victoria is settled in and around Melbourne.
– The proportion is greater than that.
– There is no other country in the world where the proportion of city dwellers to rural dwellers is so great as it is in Australia. If the Government are to get out of the financial hole in which they must find themselves, they must do everything possible to increase production. A great mistake would be made by sanctioning at the present time further expenditure upon the Federal Capital, because we have no estimate of what the project will cost the Commonwealth. I am quite convinced that the accommodation required for the Commonwealth Parliament and the Federal Service cannot be provided under a cost of from £-15,000,000 to £20,000,000.
– That sounds like the estimate of a Victorian civil servant.
– That is my opinion, and it is in accordance with the scale upon which the Federal Capital works were started. This. Parliament approved of plans which included the creation of ornamental lakes and great boulevards.
– Those have not been started.
– But we have had . the plans before us, and. the honorable member would have been only too- pleased to recommend those works to Parliament a few years ago. I saw at Canberra the great avenues that were being built, not only of immense width, but rising in some instances to heights of from twenty to thirty feet. Stone was blown from the hills and carted away at an enormous cost, and this involved further immense expenditure in making the whole area reasonably level. The engineers were literally blowing down mountains and filling up valleys, because houses could not be built alongside a huge embankment without filling up the surrounding country. In connexion with the arsenal at Tuggeranong, a Government official estimated that the cost of housing 5,000 workmen, assuming half of them to be married, and providing them with the facilities of a township, including schools, hospitals, roads, sewerage, and lighting, would be £1,750,000. That. was between two and three years ago. Costs have increased so much since then that the estimate may now be advanced to not less than £2,500,000.
– We propose to expend £20,000,000 in erecting soldiers’ homes. Why should we not expend some of that money at Canberra ?
– Because when we had established the soldiers -there they would be producing nothing. If the honorable member can inform the Committee what the soldiers could produce if they were established at Canberra, he will destroy my argument.
– What do they produce in Melbourne ?
– Bank-notes and rent for landlords.
– Surely the honorable member does not assume that a Federal Capital can be established and maintained by the employment of 220 hands in a note-printing office.
– That establishmentwould help the Federal Capital.
– It would ; but there are people who would be foolish enough to establish that note-printing office at Canberra at once at an expenditure of £180,000, instead of waiting until the Capital is established and then transfer- ring Federal departments and activities to it. On the plans prepared, no amount less than £10,000,000 to £15,000,000 would be of any use-
– Spread over how many years?
– The honorable member has been a-sociated with me in the initial work connected with the Capital, and he must agree that it will require, at any rate, £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 to provide Parliament House and the public offices. I believe the Government are going to open the designs to the competition of the world.
– An Australian architect would do the work just as well.
– Surely the honorable member would try to get the best in the world?
– I would not go outside Australia.
– Perhaps the honorable member would not allow any brains to come into Australia from outside. On the contrary, I think that it is a very wise step to open the competition to the world, so that we may get the best; and, of course, the best may be found in Australia. Knowing this. Parliament as I do, I feel perfectly satisfied that it would not be. coment with a Parliament House which cost less than £2,500,000 or £3,000,000. What did this building cost?
– What would it cost to-day? I do not assume that Parliament would expend £2,500,000 on the Parliament House at the. start, but that bile plans would be so arranged that the work could be spread over from seven to ten years, or longer. In my opinion, when the Seat of Government is taken to Canberra, the Parliament of the day will not care how much extravagance there is, so long as everything is in apple-pie order, and the result is something of which we can boast.
– You would like the money spent in Melbourne,, instead of at the Capital ?
– I have no special interest in Melbourne. My only desire is to see this country built up, and people encouraged to come here; indeed,, we cannot build up the country unless people do come. It must be remembered that we are not going to sell any land in the Federal Territory, and all the work must be done with money got from the people of the Commonwealth. At present, we are paying through the Customs £17,000,000, and in direct taxation over £16,000,000; and the people cannot pay- much more than they are doing at present. The designs for the Federal Capital show a civic quarter with ornamental lakes and boulevard’s, with a group of buildings for the various public offices, all of which means an enormous expenditure; and then there is the Capitol, but that, I suppose will not be built for the next fifty years. How much money has been spent up to the present time?
– I think it is more like £700,000 or £800,000.
– We are the only country that will not improve its own lands ?
– And it is proposed! to improve, our lands by expending am enormous sum of money on. buildings, that will never return a single sixpence. And if we have spent £1,700,000 on the Federal Territory, what have we got for that expenditure? If honorable members go there, they will find a power-house that will, not be wanted for years, a dam over the Cotter River, a pipe-line, and a couple of large excavations for a water supply. Beyond those works, what havo we got for the expenditure?
– We have brickworks and a nursery.
– Have anybricks been turned out?
– Yes, good bricks; but the works are- like this Committee-: they are not working.
– There are a number of other matters with which I should like to deal. For instance, there is an item of £40,000 for the construction of an Arsenal, and there are many other items about which one feels doubtful, and on which some information should be forthcoming. There is also the Aviation School at Point Cook, in. regard to which I asked some questions a short time ago. Altogether, about £78,000 has been spent’ on this latter work, some £18,000 or £20,000 being the expenditure last year; but now we learn that the authorities are negotiating for land at Geelong for the purpose of establishing a new school there. I wonder if even, the Minister in charge of the Estimates was aware of that fact. These are all matters on which we ought to be supplied with proper information, because there has been some awful waste.
Honorable members will recollect how I fought the Arsenal proposal for a couple of years. I believe, of course, that we should have an Arsenal and manufacture our own munitions; but, with all respect to the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who so eulogized the Small Arms Factory a little while ago - although, of course, his statements were those of the officials - there is no greater disgrace in the history of Australia, so far as our industrial Departments are concerned, than the administration of that Factory.
– The past administration.
– The past administration has been absolutely, damnably’ vile and wicked, and it does not leave much room for boasting on the part of Ministers. From four .months after the war started not a rifle was sent out of Australia. According to the - guarantee of- the builders when the Government took over the Factory, it should have turned out during a certain period from 55,000 to 60,000 rifles, and it only turned out 16,000. I have an official report as to 300 rifles which were sent to Perth, and it shows that over 100 of them would not take the cartridge, and that in many the rifling was broken. It would, in my opinion, be much better to take the control of work of this sort out of the hands of the Defence Department. A report came into my hands, given to me by a man who, I believe, had stolen it, and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) got an anonymous letter at the same time. Hundreds of the rifles ready to be’ sent out had all been condemned, because they would have been absolutely dangerous to use. Never a machine-gun has been made at the Factory, although there is a pattern Lewisgun there, and the manager stated that if he were supplied with a small amount of machinery he could immediately start the making of such guns. Before embarking on a great enterprise of this kind the Government ought to obtain the best expert advice from the Old Country. I may say that we paid an enormous price for the manufacture of such rifles as were turned out. The estimate was £3 9s. Id. per rifle, but, as honorable members will remember, I offered to put up £50 if each rifle did not cost over £11.
– We got an expert from America to start the Factory.
– Nothing of the sort; that gentleman was sent from America to erect the Factory.
– And the Government took him as the best man.
– Is not all this ancient history?
– The same Minister is still in charge, and still boasts of the Factory’s output. I am urging that the Government ought to hav.e the best expert advice from the Old Country in such enterprises as this, and more par’ticularly when they are thinking of starting a work at the Federal Capital which will cost from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000. With the management of such enterprises as the Small Arms Factory taken out of the control of the Defence Department, we could rest assured that if anything went wrong the departmental officers would cry out immediately; but, under the present circumstances, if they make any protest they are criticising the work of their own Minister, and things are hushed up which ought to be made public. I shall de my utmost to prevent any expenditure on the Federal Capital at the present time.
.- I shall vote for the amendment if it goes to a division. Putting aside the supposed jealousy between New South Wales and Victoria, I desire to look at the question from a purely Australian point of view. One of the greatest abominations that ever disgraced the country is what is known as the departmental plan of the Federal Capital. Certain officers in high position sucked the brains of every man who had sent in a design for the. Federal Capital, and in that way produced this departmental plan. They gave no credit whatever to the men whose ideas they had used, and if it had not been for the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) that design would have been carried into effect. I shall always thank the right honorable member for having done justice to Mr. Griffin, .a great genius, who was being injured by a circle of highly paid officials. The right honorable member sent for Mr. Griffin, who had won the first prize, and decided that the future Capital of the Commonwealth should be given a chance. I shall thank him still more if he will see that the Federal city is built. 1 believe that he. once agreed that the Capital could be erected under a system which would ultimately involve no cost to the people. We have large areas of land there where we could build the note-printing office and* other Commonwealth structures. I do not think the Government are treating fairly the owners of the old Turn Verein site, which has been selected for the note-printing office. I belonged to that old German Club for forty years, and there learned most of my Democracy. The amount offered for the site is small, but if the building were erected at Canberra the land would cost us nothing.
I desire also to thank the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster), who with Mr. Griffin has made the Melbourne Postoffice what it should have been years ago. The genius of Mr. Griffin, under the guidance of the Minister, has converted it into a building that is the delight of all Melbourne citizens. It is to be regretted that it has not been extended rightthrough to Little Bourke-street. Had it been in Sydney, such an extension would have been made. As it is, we have at the corner of Bourke and Elizabethstreets a magnificent pile of buildings that dwindles down to a building of one storey at the northern end, and next to it we have a galvanized iron shanty. If the complete design had been carried out, we should have had plenty of room there for a note-printing office.
– We could also have had the Navy Office there.
– I agree with the right honorable member.
I should like to draw the attention of the Government to an eyesore in the shape of the small enclosure immediately to the north of Parliament House. It is at the present time an absolute disgrace. The iron- palisading should be removed, and it should be converted into a grass plot where the children of the congested areas near by could play. The civilization of the present day has swept away the fences surrounding our public parks’ and gardens, and the reserve to which I refer should also be thrown open.
– We have nothing to do with it. It is owned by the State.
– The honorable member will agree that the Victorian Government are treating us most generously in giving us the free use of this building, and I am sure that if they were approached they would improve the reserve , to which I refer.
The building which we now occupy is badly ventilated, and in the effort to improve it many architects have almost broken their hearts. The State Parliament House in the Exhibition Buildings cost about £50,000, and is far more comfortable and convenient than is this building. I d’o not think we should erect expensive parliamentary buildings at Canberra. The work could be financed on the lines adopted by the people of Guernsey in erecting a market place at St. Helens. The people there wished to build a market about 120 years ago, when - it was rather difficult to borrow money in London, and, on the suggestion of a citizen occupying a high position-, it was decided that the work should be financed by means of notes issued by the local governing body. The contractor agreed to accept these notes in payment for his work; the townspeople accepted them as legal tender, and’ the municipality also accepted them in payment of rates and taxes. Once a year the municipality burned all the notes that had been returned in payment of rates and taxes, as well as notes representing whatever additional amount could be spared. In ten years every note issued for the erection of the market place, which cost £4,000, had been burned, and the municipality had a rent-producing property for all time. Why should we not earmark every year by way of rental 5 per cent, of the cost of building the Federal Parliament House. If we did that, in twenty years the whole cost .would- be liquidated.
– Or in thirty years, at all events.
– Quite so. Shops, hotels, and banks could be erected in the Federal Territory in the same way, so that ultimately the Capital would be established without having cost the country a penny.
– Shortly put, the honorable’ member proposes that the Federal Capital works should be paid for with paper money.
– Yes. We could have a note issue based upon the security of the Territory, and every building in it. Behind that security we should have the guarantee of the Commonwealth.
– If a man who had money invested in the Federal Capital was about to leave Australia.; and wanted his money, he would not be able to get it, and he would not take away a brick.
– The honorable member would not take a brick.
– At all events, I would not take any of that paper money.
– I come now to another phaseof this question. Mr. Griffin has designed two garden cities in New South Wales, which are known as Griffithsville and Leeton. They are as nothing compared with what they will be in the future, but even now they show the genius of the designer. If New South Wales continues on these excellent lines, she will lock the whole of her tributaries of the Murray, and build upon them beautiful garden cities worthy of Australia.
In reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), I propose simply to read the report on the Federal Capital administration. Mr. Wilfred Blacket, who was appointed a Royal Commissioner, set out the following findings which, in justice to Mr. Griffin, I desire to place on record -
Upon all the evidence, and particularly upon that which has been stated or referred to in this report, I find that the reasons why
Mr. Griffin between18th October, 1913, and 15th November, 1915, performed no substantial part of bis duties under bis contract with the Commonwealth are’ as stated in four of the five charges advanced in his behalf, viz., charges 1, 2, 3, and o, and are as under: -
As to the fourth charge - “ That in order to prevent Mr. Griffin’s design from being carried out wilfully false estimates of its cost were given “ ;
I find that it wholly fails, and that no such false estimates were made.
These are the highly paid ofiicials who have caused the waste of . possibly £250,000 at the Federal Capital. On ‘a little post-office opposite the . South Yarra railway station built during the terrible times following the land boom in Victoria when labour was cheap, there is some splendid stone carving, but the Commonwealth Director- of Works, or Colonel Owen, or Colonel Miller, actually gave orders to paint it to make it look like stucco. I do not know of any other instance in the world where spendid carving has been so desecrated. If a parliamentary body had been in control of that officer he would have been dismissed.
In the erection of all public buildings I hope that outside architects will have the opportunity of competing, and that when the prize has been adjudged, the successful architect will be given control of the work, apart from the men who tried to implant an abomination on Australia instead of the splendid Capital, designed by . the genius who won the first prize.
– I appeal to the Committee to pass these Estimates as speedily as possible, and the Bill that follows them. If this is done, the Government promise that no further business will be taken tonight; but the Loan Bill, which covers the loan works, and involves the same principles, will be brought forward to-morrow, when, if I am permitted, I shall take the opportunity of explaining a few facts in connexion with the Federal Capital, and shall make some calculations as to the probable cost of it. My friends opposite, and those in the Ministerial Corner who are keen upon the prosecution of this great national project, will find some interesting food for thought in the figures which i shall be able to give. I am not detaining the Committee at this stage, I am simply asking ‘it to proceed to a conclusion as early as possible this evening.
. -I find that £1,723,000 has been spent on the Federal Capital Territory. Although 51 per cent, of the people of Australia live in cities, and although, the thoughts of honorable members should be turned in the direction of getting the people out of the cities and on to the land, it is proposed to establish yet another big city in a place which offers little advantages for such a project. When we have Sydney at the front door of Australia, with one of the finest harbors in the world, why is there any need to go to Canberra? It is a ridiculous proposal to talk of transferring 4,000 civil servants from Victoria to a new city. The cost of building houses for them would exceed £3,000,000, and altogether, with the establishment of hospitals and schools, and other conveniences^ the expenditure would run into million’s and millions’ of money which we cannot afford at the present time. We could spend the money more wisely in placing our soldiers’ on the land, and in encouraging them to produce, and in that way create wealth for the community. There is neither wood, nor’ water, nor stone at Canberra; very little could be produced there which could be turned into money. Why do we not look forward to doing something big ? Why not build the North-South railway through some of the most fertile country in the world? It is ridiculous to talk of spending money at Canberra when we have country in the Northern Territory; and are doing nothing with it. No wonder the people in the Territory are on strike when we refuse to build a railway for them. I have a few figures which are interesting. In the Northern Territory we have 213,430 square miles of country with a 20-inch rainfall, 96,790 square miles with a rainfall of 20 to 30 inches, 120,600 square miles with a rainfall of 30 inches to 40 inches, and 80,500 square miles with a rainf all of over 40 inches. Yet, we are doing nothing with this territory. We ought to be ashamedof ourselves. On the Barclay Tablelands, there are 20,000,000 acres capable of supporting 10,000,000 sheep. There are 80,000,000 acres of land with a 15-inch rainfall on which wheat could -be grown. At present the country beyond Oodnadatta is like a great river that cannot be bridged without a railway. It can be bridged. Messrs. Timms and Kidman have offered to bridge it by means” of a railway built either on the land grant system or by accepting Government bonds. What is the good of this country if it is not peopled? What good will the land be to Messrs. Timms and Kidman ? They would put people on it. The railway would open up the finest country in the world on which our soldiers could be settled. An honorable member has mentioned a loss of £14,000 a year on our horse-breeding establishment at Maribyrnong. If this railway were built to the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth’s -horses could easily, be transported to the Barclay Tableland’. In the Macdonnell Ranges we have 120,000,000 acres of land, capable of growing wheat. In fact, we have more wheat-growing land in the Northern Territory than in any other part of Australia, but at present it is absolutely idle, while down here we are bickering among ourselves, and not doing what we ought to do.
-Mouth Australia will take back the Territory.
– It ought to do so if the Commonwealth will not work it. South Australia would -have been very much better off if it had not handed over the Territory to Federal control. I say to the Commonwealth Government, “ Do not touch the Federal Capital, but go. on with the work of building the NorthSouth railway, and this country will be very much better off.” Earl Kitchener said to another honorable member and myself, when we saw him in Great Britain just prior to our return to Australia, not so many -years ago, “ Do not forget to advocate the building of that railway in the interests of the defence of Australia, and if I live long enough I will come and - see the first sod turned.” We cannot defend Australia properly until that line is built.
It is a work that must be carried out, and that immediately. There is a chance of doing- it now that this offer has been made. We can get the line built, and settle men on. the land. If we do not embrace the opportunity we ought to be blamed. I hope that I shall live long enough to see this work carried out in the interests of this great country of ours.
– It has been delightful to hear some honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House complain of lack of enterprise on the part of the Government in regard to expenditure on public works. I agree most heartily with everything that has been said in that direction. I listened to the honorable member for Dampier (‘Mr. Gregory) with great interest when he spoke about the expenditure that he thought was necessary on public works to develop this country. How grandly he said that he would not complain if the expenditure Tan into millions so long as it was for reproductive enterprises! I thought that he was a great Australian, and then I suddenly found as he went on with his speech that he was, after all, only a little Western Australian, because his complaints soon began to pour in regard-1 ing the very items that he had previously approved of in connexion with the expenditure on public works. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) also started splendidly. He, too, approved of a forward, progressive, pushful public works policy to develop this great country. I thought he, too, was a great Australian ; but I find, after all, -that he is only a little South Australian, and that all he is thinking about is how he is going to advance the interests of South Australia.
– Nothing of the kind ! You want to centralize everything in Brisbane!
– On the contrary. I entirely agree with the honorable member in regard to the building, not only of the railway that he spoke of, but of any other railway that is necessary to open up the unoccupied parts of - this continent.’ It is because I approve of -that policy that I disapprove of his parochialism when he objects to the building of the Capital at Canberra. If there is land anywhere lying idle that can and ought to be put immediately to’ public reproductive use, it is the Capital Territory at Canberra.
That is where the honorable member’s whole argument fails, and shows that he has only a one-eyed view of the development of Australia by the building of Tailways. He can see only one railway.
– Will the honorable member show how the building of the Capital at Canberra would add to the wealth of the country?
-I shall tell the honorable member that in the course of my argument. I am an enthusiastic supporter of the building of the Capital at. Canberra. It ought .to have been gone on with years ago. Had the policy followed for some years of -quietly proceeding in a careful, honest, progressive way with the building of the Capital been pursued we should have been there by this time, as we ought to have been. We have land there of great agricultural and pastoral value, lying, practically idle.
– It is all under occupation.
– It is not, and ii is not producing anything approaching what it ought to produce and would produce if there wa3 any settlement there. It is our business to promote settlement there. There are two reasons for being anxious that the Federal Capital should be moved to Canberra and established there as soon as possible. The first is based primarily on the promise made at the beginning of Federation that the Capital would be removed from the capital city either of Victoria or New South Wales. It would be equally objectionable to have the Federal Parliament located in Sydney as it is to have it in Melbourne. I do not think w.e shall ever realize honestly and fully what Federation means until we have the Federal Parliament removed from the influences of a State capital.
– When your party were in power, for about six years, why did you not do it?
– It was .while the Labour party were in power that something was done.
– That was when” O’Malley’s traction engine ran into the creek and was bogged.
– Mr. O’Malley made a start, and the honorable member’s party blocked him. At page 74 of the Budget-papers presented last week, figures are given to show that it was while the Labour party were in. power that something was done. Money was expended on the Federal Capital Territory as follows : - 1911-12, £84,439; 1912-13, £316,818; 1913-14, £432,121; 1914-15, £253,153; 1915-16, £96,211; 1916-17, £237,669; 1917-18, £99,197; 1918-19, , £3,715. By far the bulk of the expenditure on the Federal Capital so far took place during the regime of the Labour party. I hope that with the advent of the Labour party again to power after the forthcoming election a progressive policy will be once more adopted in regard to Canberra. We shall not realize what Federation is, or ought to be, until we remove this Parliament from the influences of a State capital, because, whether we like it or not, we are consciously or unconsciously influenced by the Melbourne point of view. ‘ Melbourne interests are pressing upon us on every hand; local interests affect our decisions; we are approachable and approached by Melbourne interests, Melbourne concerns, and Melbourne institutions in a way that is not proper or suitable to enable us to get a Federal view of things. Not until this Parliament is in a position where it is free from all those social, political, and industrial conditions that are purely local in their influence and perspective, shall we be able to do our duty properly as a Federal Parliament. The smaller States of the Federation - Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania - will never be able to get a fair deal in this Parliament until we move from Melbourne, and it would be equally bad if we were located in Sydney. For those two reasons I am enthusiastic regarding the removal of the Capital to Canberra.
It would relieve the congestion in some of the States if we were to establish the Federal Capital at Canberra. It has been suggested that the Small Arms Factory should be located there. If that were done it would immediately remove from Lithgow a pressure that has brought about a scandal in regard to the housing of the Small Arms Factory employees there. The present conditions have been good for the landlords at Lithgow, but the Commonwealth owns the land at Canberra, and is in a position to establish workmen’s homes there, which would not only vastly improve the living conditions of the employees, but would aIso enable this country to realize for its own benefit a satisfactory return on its property, which at present is lying idle. That is one. specific instance where we could put it to a proper reproductive use, but it is only one item in connexion with the settlement of that area. Immediately the Parliament is established there, the economic and productive value of the Territory will be increased, because settlement will be attracted. A return for the money that we employ will be created. If we had adopted the proposal made eight years ago, to appoint a Commission to have charge of the Capital Territory, and had placed £500,000 a year for four years at their disposal to carry out a progressive public works policy in the Capital area, that £2,000,000 would have immediately become interest-producing, and each succeeding year the return from the outlay would have been of increasing advantage to the Commonwealth. I do not know any other way that could be adopted if we wish to follow business-like methods. Those who have been to the Territory know that all the diatribes and complaints made against it are based either upon personal prejudice or on some local interest. I have been there several times, and am an admirer of the country, and an enthusiastic admirer of the scheme submitted by Mr. Griffin for the lay-out of the city and the building of the Capital. It is a design that is beyond challenge by anybody in Australia. I do not think there is any person in Australia competent to criticise it successfully, or to put against it anything equal to it.
– You are criticising it very favorably now.
– I am only commenting.
– But you are quite competent to do that?
– I am not. I am only basing my comment on the fact that I have had the advantage of hearing the opinions of experts on both sides; and, speaking from an entirely impartial point of view, I believe the design is incomparable for the character of the country and the purposes for which we want it. Not only in regard to Canberra do I regret the position in which we are placed to-night, but it is most unfortunate that the Government are so slow in their public works policy generally. I notice that in the estimated expenditure for this year, a sum of £6,085,000 is set down for soldiers’ land settlement. There is also £1,500,000 for the local authorities, and £70,000. to be spent in regard to forestry in connexion with the same object. These axe all splendid items; but is that money going to be spent in the right place and in the right way ? The £6,000,000 odd for land settlement for returned soldiers could be better spent by settling the men on the vacant lands in our own Territory - not only in the Federal Capital area, but also in the Northern Territory - rather than by paying extortionate prices for repurchasing estates under the State Governments. One of the scandals in connexion with our returned soldiers’ settlement policy is the amount of money that we are throwing away, giving away, or being robbed of, in the prices that are being paid for repurchased estates. This is particularly a vicious policy, because of the fact staring us in the face that here we have territory of our own immediately available, territory suitable in many directions for a variety of purposes, and that we are making no use of. By the expenditure of this money directly by us on our own country, we should obtain an immediate and satisfactory return.
– Would you send the soldiers up to the Northern Territory?
– I think they would be excellent settlers in the Northern Territory.
– Why suggest that, when you know there is so much good land in Queensland, so easily got at ?
– I did not suggest sending them to the Northern Territory. I was asked 3 I would like the settlers to go there, and I said they would make excellent settlers there. The honorable member should recognise that there is a distinction in the use of words. He is trying to make me say something that I did not say.
– The . honorable member is pretty canny.
– I know what I said, but the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is trying to make me say something else. I am one of those who believe that the Northern Territory includes land equal to any in other parts of Australia, and not only is there room for many of Australia’s returned soldiers, but we ought to make settlement possible for any other soldiers of the Empire who could beinvited to go there.
There is another respect in which I regret the paucity of the Government’s proposals in regard to public works. The Government propose to spend from revenue during the current financial year £397,144, and from loan £1,460,221. I have taken the trouble to look up the expenditure on new works and buildings in every financial year since the commencement of Federation. The figures are most instructive. I shall give the figures only from 1910-11 onwards: - 1910-11, £2,452,960; 1911-12, £3,797,252; 1912-13, £4,729,748; 1913- 14, £5,470,640; 1914-15, £4,828,378; 1915-16, £5,399,253; 3916-17, £4,301,530. Up till that time all the expenditure on works and buildings was from revenue. But probably under the compulsion of war conditions we established in the following year the principle of providing portion of the works expenditure from loan. In 1917-18 we spent from revenue £622,203, and from loan £1,803,447, making a total of £2,425,650. Honorable members will notice that there was a heavy reduction. In 1918-19 the expenditure from revenue was £405,159, and from loan £1,085,364, making a total of £1,490,523. This year from revenue and loans combined the Government propose to expend only £1,857,365. If ever there was a time when there should be a courageous policy of public works, either from revenue or loan, it is now, when the soldiers are returning and development is so urgently necessary. We are faced with the glaring fact that men who sacrificed useful and lucrative positions in society in order to go to the war have returned to find that their positions are not open to them. Unfortunately, some of them, are not fitted to resume the work in which they were employed before the war, bub others are willing and able to resume their places in civil life, and the work is not available for them.
– The honorable member is overlooking the other glaring fact that our loan nearly failed, and the New Zealand loan did fail.
– But a saving is possible in directions in which expenditure does not return interest, or where it is not as necessary as that which will find reproductive employment for our soldiers. Of course, to carry out works merely for the purpose’, of finding- employment is a temporary and unsatisfactory experiment. I believe that if we are to hold this continent, against the forces, that seem to be multiplying against us,, we must, settle it with people who. axe directly interested in it, and we must’ attract others from overseas, thus getting a big population which, will cause increased; production, which-, inturn, will mean, increased wealth. How can we> do that unless we carry on a policy of works which, will give our people something to do ? We are- getting an advertisement throughout the ‘world to-day because of our repatriation scheme) ];hanwhich there is. no better- in any country. But I believe that half the money which is spent in repatriation would: be better expended1 in building railways and opening up the- country for settlement. The men who* are drawing sustenance money, who are obliged to go to the Department in order to get enough’ money to keep body and soul together, would rather go into The country to work if jobs were available for them.. The money that is being expended on sustenance and1 on land settlement could be better expended in settling’ the soldiers, on our on territory and’ in the- construction of public works..
– I suppose the honorable member is aware- that, ninetenths of. the soldiers say that, they will’ not go into the way-back country.
– Quito probably; but let me ‘mention one specific instance of other work that could be done. At the present time, the Commonwealth is spending £25,000 per annum in renting buildings for public Departments in the capital cities alone. Yet we all know that, whether the Federal Capital be transferred to Canberra soon or late, accommodation for our employees will be required in the State capitals in order to carry on the work of Commonwealth Departments. But when it is suggested that we should erect public offices in which, all the Departments could be concentrated instead of being spread all over the city-
– That will continue whether or not there is a Federal Capital.
– We should undertake immediately in each capital the erection of Commonwealth Government offices. By so doing, we should effect a saving in rents, and increase the efficiency of the Departments. Even Ministers must be handicapped im administration through” the- fact of their Departments; being- scattered’ in buildings’ in various parts, of thecity: Suppose- that it would cost £1,000,000’ to- erect decent Commonwealth offices in each capital city, why should we not incur that expenditure? That would provide work straightway for returned’ soldiers, and for others who are ‘ walking- the streets looking in vain foremployment.
– That would add £25,000- to the annual interest bill.
– The right honorable gentleman overlooks the fact that this expenditure would be reproductive ; it would obviate the payment of the present big rent bill. The money that is spent on sustenance yields no return. I can never forget Queen Mary’s statement that “ Employment is better than relief.” Our soldiers do not want sustenance if they can get work.
– Cook.: - Queen Mary’s statement had’ much more force in England” than it has here. The Imperial Government were spending scores of millions of pounds on sustenance.
– The trouble is the same there- as here - a lack of courage to. launch out in schemes that will provide work. In Australia we have less excuse than there is, in the Mother Country, because we have undeveloped areas in every direction requiring works and workers.
– They are a lot of incompetent, nincompoops, in the Old Country,, of course*.
– I did not say so. But if the right honorable gentleman, who has been to England recently, makes that declaration, I accept it.
– Do you not admit that the number receiving sustenance is small considering the total number of soldiers ?
– It is too . large. I am not complaining of the number receiving sustenance, but am saying they should be given work.
-5- Would not those men be better employed’ in constructing, 6ay, telephone lines?
– That is an excellent suggestion, and I hope that it is one the Postmaster-General will take into consideration.
– It cannot be made a successful commercial proposition under Australian conditions.
– I absolutely refuse to believe anything of the kind.
– The question has been discussed for the last thirty years.
– I recently read a statement in a Brisbane newspaper relating to the returns from cotton, which showed that those who had been experimenting had made a success of it.
– What wages were paid?
– According to the information I have received, the question of wages is not the important one in connexion with the growing of cotton.
– It is a most important question.
– That shows the honorable member’s ignorance of the whole matter.
– I am not ignorant on the subject. I know the question of wages is one of the most important.
– I went into the question exhaustively, and prepared a speech which I hope to have the opportunityof delivering on some future occasion. I have had incontrovertible testimony from America showing that, instead of cotton growing being a coloured labour question, or one which can afford to pay only small wages, it is paying the highest wages of any product in America.
– Is not the honorable member dealing with machinery for stripping ?
– According to the opinions of those engaged in the growiug of cotton, only one machine is necessary, and that has. not yet been perfected.
– Various typesare in existence.
– The growers are in need of a satisfactory machine for cotton picking. I have seen one in operation in Queensland that is equal to the best in use in America.
– There is room for improvement.
– In the cotton growing States of America, picking machines are not in general use, and much of the work is done by hand. Even when the cotton is picked by hand, it is not a question of low wages. The American authorities on the question have clearly stated that the cotton industry can pay as good wages as any other. We have miles of territory, not only in Queensland, but also in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, eminently suitable for cotton-growing.
– It is a question of wages in the Northern Territory.
– Are you suggesting this as a suitable scheme to be undertaken by the Repatriation Department?
– I have not had an opportunity yet.
– I had two reports from the Imperial Institute which were favourable to the prospects of cotton-growing in the Northern Territory, but the difficulty in regard to wages was against the industry.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by £1 (Mr. Riley’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- There are very many complaints from the public as to unsuitable buildings used for carrying on the postal business in New South “Wales, and I find, on looking at the Estimates, that New South Wales is not going to be in a much better position in this respect this year than the State has been in the past. I do not wish to be provincial, but it seems strange that considerably more money is expended on public works in Victoria than in New South Wales. There may be a good reason for this, but I point out that last year, on postal buildings, there was spent in New South Wales £17,9 5S, and in Victoria, £22,009, while this year it is estimated that in New South Wales there will be spent £8,436, and in Victoria, £19,976. The fact stands out that in New South Wales’ there are not the postal buildings there should be in the important towns.
– That applies to all the items in these Estimates.
– That is so, and it only shows the concentration of the Departments in Victoria, where the heads are, and, of course, they have great influence, with Ministers. Cessnock is, perhaps, the third town in New South Wales, ranking next to Newcastle in point of population, and there the postal buildings are altogether inadequate. Whenever representations are made on this head, we are told that the buildings are supposed to be satisfactory; but, as a matter of fact, they not only give rise to complaints from the general public, but are doing much harm to the health of the employees. Without sufficient air space the health of the officials must suffer, and this is accentuated by the fact that they are doing more work than they ever did in’ the history of the Department. Every piece of legislation which entails the payment of money provides that the payment must be made through the post offices, and this means so much additional work that very many men are on the point of breaking down in health. This may seem exaggerated, but I honestly believe it to be true, and the least we can do is to find our officials suitable accommodation, and not overwork them.
– Bring them under the Factories Act.
– I do not care what is done so long as the position is relieved; for, if it is not, we shall have many breaking down from nerve trouble. It is not true economy when it is exercised at the expense of the public and the officials. The Minister may be able to explain why the expenditure in Victoria is so much greater than in New South Wales, especially in view of the fact that in the latter State the population is larger.
– The expenditure - varies from year to year.
– I have been told that often. Two or three years ago, when I drew attention to the matter, I was told that the expenditure was necessary because certain works were required’ in Melbourne, and now we find the position the same this year. Is it to continue for all time? Has New South Wales never to get a “ look in “ in connexion with post offices and postal buildings? Victoria may be entitled to all that State is getting, but, if so, New South Wales is not receiving what it is entitled to. Every representative of a country constituency knows that postal facilities are being cut down every week, and no endeavour is made to meet the requirements of the public.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote3 (Postmaster-General’s Department), £165,000; (Defence - Military), £77,192; (Navy), £14,100, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply,. reported and adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution’.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and passed though all stages without amendment.
Soldiers’ Kits: Munitions Workers on “ Bahia Castillo.”
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Some days ago, I put a question to the Assistant Minister for Defence regarding kits belonging to returned soldiers which were inadvertently carried on to Tasmania, and he gave me a reply to the effect that they had been returned, with the exception of one or two belonging to the officers. I drew attention to the matter because the father of one of these soldiers, whose kit was missing, said it contained material valued” at over £20. This gentleman has been down to Keswick Barracks on several occasions - to make inquiries. When I furnished him with the official information, he again called upon the officials at Keswick Barracks; but they “pooh-poohed” the idea, and, I understand, treated him rather discourteously. I have every right, as a representative of my constituency, to make the inquiries, and I think I am entitled to due respect in my official capacity. When this gentleman was informed that they could do nothing for him, he told them that he had had the official reply given to me in the House, and they said, “You bring Yates hare. We will soon deal with him.” Naturally, I expected this sort of thing from some of these people who get the military uniform on ; but the gentleman to whom I Tefer did not care to go any further in the matter until he had heard from me. His letter reads as follows: - 223 Halifax-street, Adelaide, 13th October, 1910.
Saw Sergt. Gill this morning. Showed him the letter, andasked him why the Commandant had reported that all the kits had been returned to South Australia, and delivered. Ho said he did not know, but knew it was not at Keswick. He said we were making such a b- fuss about a lost kit which was enough to make a man mad. I told him if he had lost his he would not talk like that. He then walked away.
– As the Minister was at the scene of the war, he will know that our soldiers prize what they have in their kits; though I do not suppose that the Minister would grieve very much about his loss, because probably he could get all he wanted in Sydney if he desired. I do not mean, of course, the star with red, white, and blue ribbon which he wears on his breast. I realize that that is an honour conferred upon him. Speaking seriously, I do not think that any father of a soldier, or the soldiers themselves, should be treated as this gentleman has been treated. I may tell honorable members that his name is Mr. Joseph Rundell, a well-known South Australian cricketer, and a man very well known and respected throughout the State. He is not a man to raise trouble unnecessarily. I hope the Minister will have full inquiries made into this matter, and see that, if the soldiers cannot get their kits returned to them, they get anequivalent in the way of a grant.
– I shall have the matter fully inquired into, and without delay.
. -I should like to know if the Minister for the Navy can give me any information in regard to the promised inquiry into the cause of the trouble among the munition workers on board the Bahia Castillo?
– I am glad to be able to tell the honorable member that the Government have already caused a Gazette notice to be published appointing a Royal Commission, to comprise Mr. Cohen, police magistrate, who has been kindly lent to the Commonwealth by the State Government of Victoria ; BrigadierGeneral Lloyd, representing the Defence Department; and Captain Brews, representing the Naval Department.
– Will the returned soldiers be represented.
– I should imagine so; and I hope there will be a full inquiry into all the facts concerning this most unfortunate incident.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191015_reps_7_90/>.