8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Referred to Committee of Supply.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives with the exception of amendment No. 3, to which it had agreed with an amendment in which it desired the concurrence of the House.
– Some time ago it was announced that sugar would be sent to Tasmanian ports other than Hobart. I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether that has been done, and if not, when action is likely to be taken ?
– Instructions have been given that in all cases, where it costs no more to land sugar at any Tasmanian port othor than Hobart, sugar shall be so delivered at the same price as that relating to delivery at Hobart.
– Has any sugar yet been sent to Tasmanian ports other than Hobart 1
– I believe so.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government intend to agree to the adjournment of Parliament for half the day on, say, Wednesday or Thursday of next week, to allow honorable membersto visit the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show. That was done last year.
– That is a matter for the House to consider. My right honorable colleague, the Treasurer (Sir
Joseph Cook), reminds me that on the afternoon of the 22nd a garden party is to be tendered to Her Excellency Lady Helen Munro Ferguson. The House, of course, cannot carry on business that afternoon, and I scarcely think that we couldadjourn for two half days in the one week.
Action by Shipping Combine to Increase Freights.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister -
– The honorable member was good enough to apprise me of his intention to ask this question, and I now desire to supply him with the following reply -
Employment of Returned Soldiers - Living Allowances
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Are theTe any employees upon the permanent or temporary staffs in the service of the Repatriation Department in Australia who do not come within the rigid definition of a returned sailor or soldier as defined by the Repatriation Act?
– The Commission advises as follows : -
There are five such on the staff of the Repatriation Department proper. Since the coming into operation of the amended Repatriation Act certain pension staffs have been transferred to the Repatriation Department, and these include a considerable number of non-A.I.F. mon. Instructions have been issued that re turned soldiers are to be afforded opportunities to learn the duties of the positions held by nonreturned soldiers with a view to the filling of those positions by returned men at the earliest possible moment. This is being done, and some States have already submitted the names of returned men suitable for appointment thereto.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Having regard to the hardships entailed by the abolition of living allowances from the operation of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, will the Government take the necessary steps to have these allowances restored in the Act?
– The whole question of the continuance of the payment of living allowances is at present receiving the consideration of the Government. Meantime, however, these allowances are being made available pending a decision in connexion therewith.
Pool Payments - Guarantee for 1920-21 Harvest
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Statement Showing Total Amount Per Bushel Paid to Wheat-growers in the various” Pools.” 1915- 16 Pool.-
New South Wales, 4s. 10d., less rail freight and handling charges.
Victoria, 4s. 9d., less rail freight and handling charges.
South Australia, 4s.7½d.,less rail freight and handling charges.
Western Australia, 4s. 7¼d., less rail freight and handling charges. 1916- 17 Pool-
New South Wales and South Australia, 3s. 3d.
Victoria a.nd Western Australia, 4s., less rail freight. 1917- 18 Pool-
New South Wales, 4s., less rail freight.
Victoria, 5s., less rail freight.
South Australia, 4s. 9d., less rail freight.
Western Australia, 4s. 6d., less rail freight. 1918-19 Pool-
New South Wales, 4s. 7d., less rail freight.
Victoria, 5s. 2d., less rail freight.
South Australia, 5s. 4d., less rail freight. Western Australia, 4s. 10d., less rail freight.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In connexion with the Prime Minister’s guarantee of 5s. per bushel at country stations for the 1920-21 harvest, will this amount be payable on delivery of the grain and the issue of the certificate?
– I am not yet in a position to make a statement on this matter, but will do so as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, vpon notice -
– I would invite the honorable member’s attention to the reply which I have just given to the honorable member for Echuca.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Rates of Pay
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Australian Engineers were, under the old regulations, already receiving rates which, in many cases, approximated to the general rate provided for their ranks under the new scale. In these cases no appreciable increase will occur until the members obtain promotion.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If he will inform the House when the balance of wool now in the Wool Pool will be sold?
– It is impossible to say.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will consider the advisability of amending the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act, with the object of making retrospective the exemptions of co-operative societies trading under the Rochdale system during the whole period of the war?
– The income of the societies referred to was subject to the war-time profits tax in respect of the year 1915-1916 only. This matter of its retrospective action was, I understand, carefully considered when the last amending Act exempting these societies was passed, and it was decided by my late colleague that it should only apply to the year then current and future years. I see no reason for reversing this decision now that the Act is expiring.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Employment of Returned Soldiers
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether it is correct that the services of a number of returned soldiers now employed in the casual branch of his Department are to be dispensed with?
– The Acting Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne, has furnished the following information: -
Twenty-five casual employees (returned sol- diers) took up duty in the Mail Branch on 17th June, 1920, in consequence of a depletion of staff due to an outbreak of influenza.
These men were originally engaged for a period of twelve days, but were retained to work off arrears of leave. Before commencing duty, however, they were distinctly informed that their services were liable to be dispensed with at any moment, and they are still employed on that understanding. It is probable that a few weeks will elapse before their engagement is terminated.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Factory, who are now paid the minimum wage of £ 2 12s. per week, up to the Board of Trade’s finding?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 18th March the houorablemember for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) asked the following questions relative to the settlement of returned soldiers on the land: -
Whether, in view of the financial interest and responsibility of the Commonwealth in connexion with the question of the settlement of soldiers on the land, he will obtain the following information from the various State authorities, and make such information available for members of this House: -
The number of returned soldiers in each State, up to the latest available date, who have been placed upon the land through the agency of the respective State’s machinery in connexion with the repatriation scheme?
The average purchase price in each State of the properties acquired for such purpose?
The average number of valuations obtained in respect of such properties prior to their acquisition?
The average amount paid for valuations in respect of each such property?
Whether the amount paid in respect of such valuations is added to the purchase price of the land to the soldier?
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has now furnished me with the desired information, which has been made available by the several State Governments : -
New South Wales -
Four thousand two hundred and ten up to 30th April, 1920.
Under Returned Soldiers’ Settlement Branch, £5 8s. 4d.; under Closer Settlement Act, £4 16s. 2d.; under Closer Settlement Promotion Act, £5 9s. 8d.
Valuations are mostly made by departmental officers.
The small amounts paid will be added, but will make no appreciable difference to the capital value.
The number of discharged soldiers who have been allotted land as perpetual lease selections in the State to date is 1,867.
The average purchasing price paid for properties acquired for discharged soldier settlement cannot be given, as in a number of cases the Land Court has not yet determined the amount of compensation. Where the compensation has been fixed, the average price of the properties is about £9 per acre, but when the total compensation of the acquired lands has been determined, the average will be very considerably reduced.
In all cases the services of officers of the Lands Department have been utilized for the purpose of making valuation for the Crown on acquired lands.
In three cases only were the services of outside valuators used to verify the figures of the departmental officers. The average cost of such valuations was £42,
In computing the capital value of the land to the discharged soldier, no sum to cover the cost of the services of the officers of the Department, nor any of the amounts paid to private valuators, has been added to the compensation money paid for the land.
To 31st July, 1920, the State of Victoria had settled 5,470, and had provided land for 2,123 extra.
The average price per acre, £7 3s.10d.
Four, valuations are obtained in the case of small properties. Five valuations in the case of large properties.
£8 8s. paid in fees to valuers. Other valuations made by salaried officers,
Estates are loaded to the extent of 2½ per cent. of the purchase price to cover all expenses, the making of roads, and other necessary improvements.
South Australia -
Up to the 6th May, 1920, 1,101 soldiers have been settled on the land in this State under the provisions of the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act.
£3 15s. 4d. per acre.
Under the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act of 1919. no land can be purchased for discharged soldiers unless recommended by two members of the Land Board and a District Valuer.
The members of the Land Board are paid an annual salary, and the District Valuers are paid a retaining fee of £50 per annum, and a fee of two guineas per day when engaged upon valuation work.
The amount paid in respect of the valuations is not added to the purchase price of the land to the soldier.
Western Australia -
The total number of returned soldiers who have been placed on the land under the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Regulations up to and including the 26th May, is 2,819.
Owing to the majority of the properties acquired for this purpose being purchased as walk-in-walk-out propositions, crop, plant, and stock being included in the figure paid, it is not possible to supply the information desired.
The average number of valuations obtained in respect to such properties, prior to their acquisition is two. In certain cases an independent valuation is found necessary.
Valuations of properties acquired for ex-soldiers are made by (1) the Government Land Inspector in the district concerned, (2) the local Repatriation Committee operating in that centre.
The former official is departmentally remunerated, and the services of the Committee are rendered in an honorary capacity. No direct debits in respect of such valuations are made aganst the ex-soldiers, the only charge on each application being in respect to the statutory fees payable on the transaction, and which total 5s. per centum of the amount applied for, as against £1 per centum charged to a civilian settler. All disbursements under this head are made for the ex-soldier, and debited to his account with the Department.
This inquiry is answered by the above.
The number of returned soldiers in Tasmania, up to the latest available date, who have been placed upon the land through the agency of the State’s machinery in connexion with the repatriation scheme - Farms allotted, 1,262; free selections, 168; remissions of P.M., 132; remissions of rent, 11; remissions Agricultural
Bank loans, 10; advances on private- land, 51. Total, 1,634.
The average purchase price in Tasmania of the properties acquired for such purposes, £1,213.
” YEOMAN “ WHEAT.
– On 1st July the honorablemember for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following question : -
I am now in a position to furnish the folloving information on the matter, which has been supplied 6y Professor Biffen, of the School of Agriculture, Cambridge, the producer of “ Yeoman “ wheat: -
The “ Yeoman “ wheat is a hybrid between “Browick” and “Red Fife” raised on the Plant Breeding Institute’s Farm, at the School of Agriculture, Cambridge.
It is especially suitable for intensive cultivation on good wheat soils. Under favorable conditions it crops enormously, frequently giving80 bushels per acre, whilst cases are on record where yields of 96 bushels per acre have been obtained. Even under these conditions the straw has stood perfectly.
The quality of the grain, though better than that of ordinary English wheat, is not so good as that of “Red Fife.” But millers purchase it in preference to other sorts, partly on the ground of quality, partly because of its free milling capacity.
Importation of Forgings
– On the 3rd September (the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The reasons for importing a portion of these forgings are as follows: -
It is considered that in these large vessels for the overseas trade, carrying exceptionally valuable cargoes, the best material should be employed for such important purposes as shafting, &c.
– On 25th August the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following question : -
Is it the intention of the Defence Department, on the plea of employing returned soldiers in the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery, , to discharge married men who volunteered, and obtained the volunteers’ badge, but were prevented from going to the war; and is the Department recruiting young single men who did not go to the war?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
No members of the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery who volunteered for active service are being discharged except those who reach the age limit, or are undesirable. Members of the Royal Australian Garrison Artil lery who, being eligible, did not volunteer, will not be re-engaged on the expiration of their present period of enlistment.
Preference in enlistment is always given to applicants who have had war service, provided that such applicants conform to the physical standard necessary for enlistment in the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery.
– I lay on the table papers in connexion with the purchase by the Commonwealth of mills, timber areas, &c., in Queensland. Particulars as to further contracts for securing hardwoods, lime, tiles, plaster, and joinery are being prepared for presentation to the House.
– (By leave.)- Due success of the second Commonwealth Peace Loan is now beyond doubt, and, though final figures cannot be given at this stage, the information to hand enables me to make the unqualified statement that more than £25,000,000 will be secured, and the loan over-subscribed.
The amount actually in hand in the Commonwealth Bank up to mid-day today is £25,046,470, and our experience in the past indicates that the mails from country districts, which will reach the various State capitals during the next few days, will bring further substantial amounts, which, together with some large subscriptions, of which we have been notified, but which are not yet actually in hand, will bring the total up to substantiallymore than the £25,000,000 required. In the course of another day or two I hope to be able to supply detail figures showing the amount received in each State, and I am pleased indeed to be able to say that appearances indicate that the quota allotted to each of the several States will be fully covered by them. I feel that I must again express the thanks of the Commonwealth Government to all who have contributed to this highly successful and gratifying result.
– Why refer to States? It is an Australian loan.
– I am announcing just now an Australian result, andI am glad to say that appearances indicate that the quota allotted to each State will be subscribed. Surely the honorable member does not object to be told that New
South Wales, as well as the rest of the States, is going to raise her quota!
I desire to add an expression of the deep gratitude of the Government to all who put their best services into the gathering in of the loan. The bulk of the organizing work fell on the shoulders of the various Central and Local Committees, and to them and also to the Women’s Committees - which were organized for the first time, and which so ably assisted - our best thanks are due. The banks, the stock exchanges, and the press, ali heartily co-operated with the Government and the organizing committees, and it was by this combined effort that success was achieved. By placing this large amount of money in the hands of the Commonwealth Government for repatriation purposes, the people of Australia have shown that they are determined to do whatever is necessary to insure the proper reestablishment of our returned soldiers in civil life, and that their memory of the country’s obligation to these men is not dimmed. With the funds secured, the Government will be enabled to carry out its programme and fulfil its promises, and the prosperity of the Commonwealth will be materially assisted by turning our returned soldiers into active producers.
The following papers were presented : -
Austro-Hungary - Declaration modifying the Agreement of 10th September,1919, between the Allied and Associated Powers with regard to the contributions to the cost of liberation of the Territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Signed in Paris,8th December, 1919. (Paper presented to the British Parliament. )
Customs Act -
Proclamation (dated 24th August, 1920) revoking Proclamations (dated 28th October, 1914, and 6th December, 1919) prohibiting the exportation of sheepskins and woollen fabrics, &c.
Proclamation (dated 24th August, 1920) revoking Proclamation (dated 29th March, 1916) prohibiting the exportation of waste paper.
Public Service Act - Appointments of L. J. Dickenson, K. S. Skerritt, Department of the Treasury.
Purchase of Queensland Timber Mills, &e. - Papers relating to the Purchase of Mills and Timber Areas from Laheys Limited and Mr. J. F. Brett, Queensland.
War Service Homes Act -Easement acquired over land at Cheltenham, Victoria.
. -I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure to make provision for the acceptance of the mandate for and to establish civil administration in those islands which were once comprised under the generic term of New Guinea. The Territories and islands comprised in this Bill are: - Kaiser Wilhelm’s Land, on the mainland of the island of New Guinea; the Bismarck Archipelago, containing the large islands of New Britain and New Ireland, the Admiralty Islands, and the German Solomons. These, with Nauru, were the whole of the German Pacific Possessions south of the Equator. They were all included in the colony of German New Guinea. The Governor of German New Guinea surrendered them all to the Australian Naval and Military Forces on 17th September, 1914; and they were all occupied by, and are still occupied by, the Commonwealth of Australia. Prior to the German Treaty coming into operation, our occupation was by military force against a belligerent country. But by the Treaty, Germany renounced her right, title, and interest in these islands, in favor of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers. The Principal Allied and Associated Powers had already agreed and announced, in Paris, on 7th May, 1919, that a mandate in the case of these islands should be held by Australia. Since it is a matter of interest to honorable members, and most important that the form in which this decision was made should be stated, I will quote from the official record which was addressed to the British Empire Delegation: -
The attached agreement was reached thisafternoon at a meeting between Mr. Lloyd George, M. Clemenceau, President Wilson, and M. Orlando, and will be published at once. (Sgd.) M. P. A. Hankey,
Villa Majestic, Paris, 7th May, 1919.
Togoland and Cameroons. - France and Great Britain shall make a joint recommendation to the League of Nations as to their future.
German East Africa. - The mandate shall be held by Great Britain.
German South-West Africa. - The mandate shall be held by the Union of South Africa.
The German Samoan Islands. - The mandate shall be held by New Zealand.
The other German Pacific Possessions south of the Equator. - Excluding the German Samoan Islands and Nauru, the mandate shall be held by Australia.
Nauru. - The mandate shallbe given to the British Empire.
German Islands north of the Equator. - The mandate shall be held by Japan.
Thus, on 7th May, 1919, the Council of Four decided that the mandate for these islands should be given to Australia.
This Bill does three things -
The delay in issuing the mandate has been a matter of some embarrassment; and it is thought desirable to establish a civil government at once, on a provisional basis, in lieu of the military government which now exercises authority, and which is no longer appropriate, because we are no longer holding these islands by force of arms against an enemy. New Zealand has passed an Act for the government of her Samoan Possessions. South Africa has acted in like manner. New Zealand has obtained from the Imperial Government an order, under the Foreign Jurisdiction Acts, upon which to base her legislative power. South Africa legislated under her own Constitution. This Bill is an exercise of the powers of the Commonwealth under our Constitution Apart from the Treaty and the agreement to confer a mandate, we have also section 122 of the Constitution, which empowers the Parliament of the Commonwealth to make laws for the government of any territory placed by the King under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth. This Territory is de facto and de jure under the authority of the Commonwealth; and under the Constitution we have power tomake laws for its govern ment. This government must be regarded as provisional, and the proposals for the civil government are of the simplest character. Provision is made in the Bill for the appointment of an Administrator, who, until Parliament otherwise provides, will hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. Provision is also made for the appointment of such deputies of the Administrator as may be found necessary in different parts of the Territory, and for Ordinances to be made by the GovernorGeneral . In that respect the Bill follows on the lines of the Papua Act. It will be noted that the chief Executive Officer in this Bill is referred to as the Administrator,while under the Papua Act he is referred to as LieutenantGovernor. When we come, in the light of experience, to bring in supplementary legislation we shall be able to consider precisely what is best to be done in regard to thismatter - whether the designation of the Administrator de facto shall be that of Lieutenant-Governor or not. In my opinion it is quite an immaterial matter.
Provision ismade in the Bill for the exercise of executive and legislative power in the Territory, and this Bill will enable all the necessary measures to be taken, and all the necessary governmental machinery to be set up. The Ordinances will be subject to disallowance by either House of the Parliament, as in the case of Papua.
Honorable members must not forget that, while we are legislating in regard to these islands, we have not sovereign power over them, as we have over Papua. Ours is a position of trust, and we are responsible to the League of Nations, or the Allied and Associated Powers who are the signatories of the treaties, and who, either in their capacity as the Council of the League of Nations, or asthe principal chief Allied and Associated Powers, will look to us to carry out our trust faithfully, and to whom we must make report from time to time as to the manner in which we are carrying out our obligations.
A word or two on the mandates may be permitted. The Covenant of the League of Nations provides for three classes of mandates, A, B, and C, and it will be noted that themandate, as far as Australia is concerned, is in Class C. The Class A mandate applies to countries such asparts of the Turkish Empire, which have reached the stage of development when their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised, and the mandate is to be applied during the process of reconstruction. In Class A mandate the question of trade and the rights of allied nationals does not arise; the policy in regard to these is to be determined by the mandated nations, and not by the Mandatary, excepting as a temporary measure. We now turn to mandates of Class B, which apply to countries in an earlier stage of development, such as the Cameroons, Togo Land, and German East Africa. These are tropical countries, of vast extent, where the population is very numerous and which have attained a much higher standard of civilization than the islands in the Pacific. There the mandatory Power is compelled, not only to enter into guarantees in the interests of the native population, but must also undertake-and this is most important - to secure equal opportunities of trade and commerce for the other members of the League. The third class of mandates, Class C, is entirely distinct. If we are to take as an analogy the tenures of land, we may say that this is a leasehold tenure, which, if it does not give the right of conversion into freehold, for all practical purposes, gives such rights as are given only to freeholders. The terms of reference to the C class of mandates in the Covenant, paragraph 6 of Article 22, are worthy of being quoted. They arc as follows : -
There are territories, such as South-West Africa, and certain of the South Pacific Islands, which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centres of civilization, or their geographical contiguity to the territory of the Mandatary, and other circumstances, can he best administered under the laws of the Mandatary as integral portions of its territory, subject to the safeguards above mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population.
These safeguards are set out in clause 15 of the Bill, as follows: -
Subject to those conditions we have a mandate over these islands which enables us to make the same laws in relation to them as we can make for the Commonwealth itself. Under Class B mandates the mandatory Power is compelled to maintain the principle of the open door, which applies to both men and goods ; that is to say, it cannot exclude the nationals of any of the signatories to the Covenant, nor can it impose any bar against the importation of goods. On the other hand, under Class C mandates, such as ours is, we may impose whatever restrictions we please upon both men and goods. I need hardly point out how vitally the difference between Class B and Class C mandates affects us; and, seeing that the islands are contiguous tq the mainland of Australia, and that German New Guinea marches with the dividing line of Papua for 600 or 700 miles, it must be apparent that it is vitally important that whatever conditions apply, for example, to German New Guinea, must necessarily affect Papua to the extent of colouring its whole circumstances. If men or goods could flow freely into German New Guinea they could flow freely into Papua, and if that should happen they would then be within 80 miles of Australia.
Perhaps one of the most valuable fruits of victory in the late war, from our point of view, was this recognition of our geographical and political circumstances. The conditions under which we were given this mandate were the manifestation by the Allied and Associated Powers of their recognition of the splendid services Australia had rendered to the cause of the Allies during the war. At the Versailles Conference it was pointed out with some force, not only what Australia had done, but also how vitally her future, and even her present, would be affected by what ever policy was adopted in regard to these islands.
As a result we have the mandate in its present form, and Australia, therefore, will be in a position to administer these islands, to the extent she thinks fit, as integral portions of her territory. Her obligations to the League of Nations are in the nature of a Trust, or Mandate, to safeguard the interests of the native inhabitants with regard to specified matters, and to report to the Council of the League. These obligations are accepted in the last two clauses of the Bill; and the League can rely on their being faithfully carried out, in accordance with the traditions of British government of native races. The Commonwealth will not be hampered in its administration by any other limitations on her full control. As to immigration, trade and commerce, and shipping, the Parliament of the Commonwealth will have the same unfettered discretion as it has on the mainland of Australia. In regard to shipping alone, and the trade it carries, this means that Australia will be able to secure for herself, not only the trade in regard to commodities taken to and brought from these islands, but also the control of the shipping that conveys them. Honorable members who have given the matter any consideration will realize what a tremendous handicap it would have been for Australia had we lost control of the trade and shipping of these islands. However, I shall not dwell on that point now, because during the debate I shall have opportunities to emphasize it more particularly.
Now let me refer to a few of the facts in relation to the islands in order that honorable members may realize the possibilities of the future. The area and population of Australia’s “ island empire “ is estimated as follows : -
We have, therefore, close on 1,000,000 people, and a huge territory, with vast potentialities, which can best be gauged by a comparison with certain tropical and other countries detailed in the following table : -
It is, of course, easy to exaggerate the actual and potential riches of New Guinea. The Royal Commission, which consisted of the Lieutenant-Governor of
Papua, and Mr. Atlee Hunt, and Mr. Lucas, at page 13 of their report, say -
It is important to remember that the area of cultivable lands in these, as in other tropical countries, cannot be gauged from the total area? mentioned, as, owing to the fact that so much of the country is mountainous, and so much swampy or inaccessible or of poor quality, the extent of land available for settlement is comparatively limited.
I have never been to New Guinea, and I regret very much that honorable members did not take advantage of an opportunity which recently presented itself, in order that they might see, at any rate; something of this great Possession that has come to us. It is an added responsibility, but it is also a wonderful opportunity, of which I feel confident Australia will avail herself. I do not accept the statement of the Royal Commission that ‘ ‘ the extent of land available for settlement is comparatively limited “ as the last word to be said on the matter. I venture to say with all respect to two of the Commissioners that they did not go very far, and consequently could not have seen very much. It does not take very much swamp to put in a very good day’s work for a man, and mountainous climbing is the sort of thing that one does best at one’s fireside.
– There are swamps in many parts of Australia to-day because of the recent rainfall.
– I believe that I am an optimist in regard to the possibilities of this great empire that has fallen to us. I remind honorable members that if they turn to the early history of Australia they will read very much the same kind of pessimistic wail as I have .quoted from the report of the Royal Commission.
– There was upon a Victorian atlas when I was at school the words “Desert Land “ over what is the Goulburn Valley to-day.
-I remember that when I had the honour of surveying a great deal of Queensland in an entirely honorary capacity - at intervals of which I was engaged, amongst other things, in digging post-holes at 4jd. a hole - I met with a number of gloomy pessimists, who said that western Queensland was no good. The place where I was working at at the time was somewhere between Amby Downs and Bunjeworgori. I have had the honour of trying to tame the wilderness in both these romantic and poetic spots. I was told that neither wheat nor any other useful thing would grow there. I understand now that wheat has been grown, and quite good wheat, as far west, and I believe even further west, than those places.
The point I wish to make is that New Guinea is, potentially, a very rich country. It has nearly 1,000,000 native inhabitants. No doubt it is practically unexplored. We are making arrangements now with a small party of scientists to go up there, and take stock of what the country possesses. At the present time, we are in this position, that not one acre of the land there has passed from the possession of the Crown. Of course, a large area was sold to German settlers, but that land has been taken over under the provisions of the Peace Treaty, and is being vested in a public trustee under the Act. So that we can start in New Guinea with a tabula rasa, and can establish a sound policy there. We hope that we shall provide opportunities for our enterprising young men who came back from the war. We are very sure, for example, and we do not require any scientists to tell us, that New Guinea will grow copra. We know that the bulk of the export from that country is copra. In all human probability there is oil there. It will grow sago. It will grow such things as coffee and rice, and it will grow rubber. It is probable that its metalliferous wealth is considerable. It has a number of navigable rivers, one of which, I believe, can be navigated for 400 miles by vessels of 16 feet draught. I speak of these things as one no more informed than are other honorable members. New Guinea is quite a different country than PaDua, and is, I believe, an incomparably better country. The possibilities of trade, and what that trade will mean to Australia in wealth and opportunity, can hardly be exaggerated. The richness of the Malay Archipelago is almost incredible. A single fact may illustrate this. At Sourabaya, which is only one of the many ports in Java, no fewer than thirtyeight ocean-going steamers were loading in the one port at the one time during September last The country that has come to us in this way is one with which we can do a great deal, if we apply our minds to the consideration of the best form of government for it, chastened and informed by the experience of 100 years of Australian government. I do not put this Bill forward as anything more than an outline - a means by which we can establish civil government there. The time has come when military government should be swept away. It is an anachronism that we should hold on a military tenure countries that have become ours by right of a solemn Covenant in the form of a Treaty. Honorable members will have an opportunity of discussing the Bill and of considering what I have said in relation to it. It is important that we should establish the civil administration without delay. We are now taking over from the German companies their businesses, and are so preparing, that when the civil Administrator is appointed he will be in a position to offer inducements or opportunities for Australians to develop these islands.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Bureau of Commerce and Industry - Vote for Contingencies - Second Peace Loan - Budget - Telephone Exchanges - Case of Ex-Warrant Officer Little - Repatriation : Allowance for Tools and Advances - Price of Woollen Goods: Commonwealth Woollen Mills - Purchase of Saw Mills and Timber Areas in Queensland - Salaries of Postal Officials - Drought Allowance to Mail Contractors - War-time Propits - Tax : Co-operative Societies - Maternity Bonus: Asiatic Aliens - Nationality Bill - Commonwealth Departments : Rent - War Gratuities: Payment to Men Enlisted Under Age - Federal Capital - Darlinghurst Gaol: Detention of Prisoners’ - Telephone ‘Communication : Sydney and Brisbane - Mertons v. The Prime Minister: Terms of Settlement1 - Action Against Colonial Combing and Wool Spinning Company - War Precautions Regulation: Losses on Requisitioning of Ships.
In Committee of Supply:
“4.4]. - I move -
That there he granted to His Majesty, for or towards defraying the services of the yeal 1920-21, a sum not exceeding £1,729,915.
– Do you not propose to make any statement ?
– Yes, when the Bill comes. Do you want me to make it now ?
– I should prefer it now.
– Very well. My first remark is an expression of regret that I have been compelled to come for another month’s supply. I quite expected, when I obtained the last, that it would take me over the time when the Budget was delivered. Untoward circumstances have militated against the earlier delivery of the Budget, much as I should have liked to deliver it before this. I am, like many other honorable members, a creature of circumstances in this matter. There has been a conjuncture of circumstances of a somewhat adverse kind so far as these finances are concerned. Our trouble began with the failure of the London loan market. We were already then overdrawn on our Loan Account, and I had to make a beeline to our money market here to replenish our funds so that we could carry along our ordinary loan objectives. I am glad to say that the loan has been wonderfully well received and successful in every way. We have got our money.
– The full amount?
– Yes; the loan is over-subscribed. That side of it is, therefore, so far satisfactory, but this happened just at the time when the Budget should have been delivered, and I certainly thought it wise to clear one set of financial obligations out of the way before embarking on another. That is why the Budget has been delayed - I had no option - and that is why I have to come to the House again for another month’s supply. There is ‘nothing in this Bill whatever, except the ordinary carryon amount. The total is £1,729,915. There are no special items in the Bill calling for comment, except, perhaps, two. One is the item of £100,000 for refunds of revenue. These are refunds from all Departments, including income tax, land tax, and post-office.
– And Customs?
– No. Customs’ refunds are dealt with in a special way. These are refunds of revenue, which have to be appropriated bv the House. The other item is £250,000, advance to the Treasurer, for the purpose of carrying on our public works and contracts of various kinds, until the Works Estimates have been agreed to. This is the third Supply
Bill since the end of last financial year. The first was for £1,838,847; the second for £2,367,826; and this is for £1,729,915. The total of the present Bill is made up as follows : - Ordinary expenditure, £1,111,515; war services, payable from revenue, £268,400; refunds of revenue, £100,000, and advance to the Treasurer, £250,000. It takes us practically to the end of this month. I hope to deliver the Budget on Thursday, when the whole financial situation of the country will be disclosed. There are one or two items to which I would like to direct the attention of the Committee, but strangely enough they are not in this Bill.
– Then had you not better leave them alone?
– I do not intend to leave them alone, because they are extraordinary items, and the House seems to have grown peculiarly sensitive on the matter of the control of the finances, and particularly of large expenditures. I wish to point to two items of expenditure which we have had to incur without consulting the House. They come under the Post and Telegraph Department, and concern two large exchanges, without which we cannot proceed very much further in the development of the telephone system. One of these relates to the establishment of a large exchange at Collingwood, at a cost of £90,000, and another to the establishment of a similar exchange at North Sydney, at a cost of £81,000. Apart from these two items. I should like to explain to honorable members that the reason why the Post Office is so crippled at the moment is not for want of cash, but because orders have not been placed sufficiently far ahead to enable us to get the necessary material to cope with our requirements. We are suffering because we did not order material a couple of years ago. It now takes an extraordinarily long time to complete orders for telephonic and telegraphic materials, and time and again the Postal Department has urged une to agree to the placing of orders for the year 1922.
– We shall gradually overcome that trouble.
– But we have not overcome it yet, I have given the Postal Department permission to order material for the year 1922 to the extent of £500,000. I shall disclose in the Budget what we propose to do this year.
I merely mention this matter now because it is so very pressing, and I hope honorable members will recognise that if we are to overtake the arrears in the Postal Department, we can do so only by the adoption of a forward policy, which will enable us to estimate our requirements beyond the current year and well into next year at least.
– The establishiment of the Collingwood telephone exchange was recommended by the Public Works Committee in 1916.
– Quite true ; but we did not build big exchanges during the war, and for a very solid reason. It was useless to build exchanges until we knew who was going to operate and own them after the war. Now that the war is over, we have a large leeway to recover in the Post Office, and we can recover it only by a well-considered forwardpolicy, such as I have outlined.
– How much expenditure is forecast for the country districts?
– A great deal. When the disclosures of the Budget are made, I hope my honorable friend will find that the’ country districts have not been overlooked. I mention these matters now so that we may not be told hereafter that we have placed large orders without the sanction of Parliament.
.- The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has supplied us with a large quantity of information in connexion with this Supply Bill. It is better that we should be given that information in Committee and before the Bill has been actually introduced. . Honorable members generally are exceedingly pleased to know ‘that the second Peace Loan has been so very successful. Personally, I would have preferred the delivery of the Budget before the introduction of the Supply Bill.
– So would I. I very much regret that the adoption of that course was not possible.
– I recognise that it was impossible. It has, however, been hinted in the press that the reason why the Budget is not to be delivered until the second Peace Loan has been closed was that the Treasurer intended to bring down in his Budget certain taxation proposals. I am not going to discuss that matter, because the Government have not taken me into their confidence in connexion with it. Nobody knows what Ministers propose to do in that connexion.
– They have appointed a Commission of wealthy persons to look after the interests of the masses.
– That Commission is very much like the Commission which was appointed in connexion with the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. I recognise that the workers had a chance of nominating one man to the Taxation Commission, and that they declined to avail themselves of it. I regret that they acted in that way. My own idea is that it is wise for the workers to have representation on Commissions of this character if only for the pur]30se of enabling a minority report to be submitted. However, they probably had a sickener in such matters on account of the way in which they were treated in connexion with the Bureau of Science and Industry Commission. I understand that the Bureau of Commerce and Industry Commission is costing the Commonwealth £370 per month at the present time. It would be interesting to know exactly what work it is doing.
– It is very busy.
– Then I should like to know precisely what it is doing. The Treasurer has told us that the refunds to revenue for the month amount to £100,000. That may not be more than the average amount refunded, but I should like to know whether these refunds will be clearly set out in the Estimates showing the Departments to which they belong. I have a very lively recollection that Supply Bills usually set out the salaries at so much, and the contingencies, including telegrams, postage, &c, at an amount nearly as large. Indeed, it has been pointed out by some honorable members that Parliament votes £500,000 annually for contingencies, and that nobody knows exactly where this money goes. But every Minister knows that it is impossible to get from any Department money in excess of 5s. in the absence of a voucher.
– There was only one mau who was foolish enough to say the contrary.
– And he, of course, literally interpreted the words used by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in the beautiful book which he wrote entitled, A. Financial Carnival. I would like the right honorable gentleman to write a revised version of that book. The carnival is in progress now, just as much as it was then.
– But there is a good safe Government in power now.
– They have spent money in just the same fashion as did their predecessors. One has only to read the press articles concerning the expenditure of the ‘Commonwealth and the States to find that the position is practically the same now as it was then, or, if anything, that it is worse.
– Much worse, because there has since been a world war.
– I quite recognise that. However, it is not merely war services upon which our expenditure has increased, but other services. Whilst I congratulate the Treasurer upon the statement which he has made, we ought to recognise that the only way in which we can reduce our expenditure is by economizing as much as possible. Efficiency is true economy. Expenditure on lighthouses, for instance, may not be immediately productive, but in the end it is necessary, as it often results in saving valuable lives. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) stated that there had been a failure on the London loan market; but we all know that it is not the London market that is responsible, but a few people who take control of finance, and who say whether it is wise or not to invest. It is possible for a few persons to make or mar any loan proposals placed upon the London or any other stock exchange. Personally, I am very glad to know that we are, as far as possible, raising our loan money in Australia, because we are doing infinitely better than could be done elsewhere. I do not intend, at this juncture, to go into the question of whether or not the whole of our loans should be taxable, although I believe it to be right. We have a progressive income tax, and if contributions to loans are free of income tax, persons paying on the higher rate receive a concession, in some cases, of equal to 2 per cent. I have asked the Treasurer to look into the judgment given by the High Court to see how Far State loans are taxable, as I think that necessary in view of the recent decisions by that Court. When we legislated here on the question, many thought State loans were taxable, and the Treasurer admitted that he was surprised to learn that they were not.
The Treasurer referred to two items which are not included in the Bill now before the Committee. One relates to the telephone exchange at Collingwood, which happens to be in my electorate. It must be admitted, however, that exchanges are placed in the metropolitan area largely for the convenience of subscribers, and I am sure the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) could inform honorable members that in many districts the present arrangement is most unsatisfactory. Quite recently, when walking down a street in my electorate, my attention was directed to three houses in the one street, within 40 yards of one another, which were connected with Central, Windsor, and Hawthorn exchanges respectively. Honorable members are perhaps aware that the first exchange to the east is Hawthorn, to the south Windsor, to the north Northcote, and to the west Brunswick. The money proposed to be expended in connexion with the Collingwood exchange was, I believe, recommended as far back as 1916, and that should be sufficient to prove that the work is urgent.
When the Budget is before us it is my intention to discuss the financial proposals in detail, and to see how the Government intend to meet deficiencies if they should exist. We do not know at presentwhether it is the intention to impose additional taxation, but if that is decided upon, we trust that provision will be made for those who possess the wealth of this country to contribute a fair share.
.- It has been my desire Tor a considerable time to bring before honorable members the case of ex-Warrant Officer F. H. Little, a member of the Australian Imperial Force, who rendered service abroad, and returned to Australia under a cloud. Ex- Warrant Officer Little has not yet had an opportunity of proving his innocence, and the Defence Department has not taken steps to further prove his guilt. In bringing his case before the Committee this afternoon, I ask honorable members to bear with me while I quote a fairly complete report of this man’s record, because he has from time to time unsuccessfully endeavoured to secure satisfaction. He has made application to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), to the Defence Department, and. Mr. Speaker has also made representations on his behalf. It appears that, after all the representations that have been made, he has not been able to secure sufficient consideration to enable him to prove his innocence, or for it to be proven that the attitude of the Defence Department toward this man is justified. Ex- Warrant Officer Little enlisted for service overseas on the 4th August, 1914, at the outbreak of war, and departed from Australia with the first contingent. He arrived in Egypt on the 3rd December, 1914, and performed his duties with his unit until he was placed in charge of an Australian Base post-office, which was established in May, 1914. He had a staff of fifteen men under his control, and was promised a commission by the officer in charge of his section, Lieutenant Butler, as soon as an establishment was made. Ex-Warrant Officer Little took up his duties at the Base post-office, but was surprised a few days later to learn that Staff-Sergeant C. S. Cunningham had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant and placed in charge of the office.
– How long had Cunningham been in Egypt?
– I have no particulars of his record, and I am merely giving the details supplied to me. Prior to the arrival of Lieutenant Cunningham to take charge of the post-office, ex-Warrant Officer Little had arranged for the billetting and the messing of the staff at Alexandria under two separate contracts. About the middle of August, Little received a communication from a native named Naggair, stating that he was the catering contractor for the Australian Imperial Force post-office at Cairo, and that he would also be pleased to cater for the Alexandria staff post-office. ExWarrant Officer Little replied that he was perfectly satisfied with the arrangement, and did not anticipate making a change. Warrant Officer Little’s staff so increased between the 29th May and the beginning of September, 1915, that the contractor for the supply of meals informed him that he could not cater for the larger number. Thereupon Little decided to negotiate with Naggair, who had come from Alexandria to interview him. After the interview Little placed the matter before the officer commanding, Lieutenant C. S. Cunningham, who told him to go ahead and make all the necessary arrangements. That instruction was carried out, and from that time matters proceeded satisfactorily. Naggair kept up to the terms of his contract, and the reports furnished by Corporal Grice were so satisfactory that some three weeks later Warrant Officer Little placed the whole of his staff’ under Naggair’s contract. For some weeks everything was satisfactory, but it was then found necessary, owing to repeated complaints on the part of the men, and because of Warrant Officer Little’s own observations, to draw the attention of the contractor to the unsatisfactory manner in which the contract was being carried out. As a result of these representations the causes of complaint were removed, and for a time the supply of meals was satisfactory. Once again, however, there was a lapse on the part of this contractor, and the management was so bad that Little served on him a notice that in the event of his not carrying out the contract in a more satisfactory manner it would be necessary to terminate it. Warrant Officer Little was not satisfied to act only on the reports submitted to him by Corporal Grice. He placed another man, Corporal Healey, in charge of the billet, and received from him reports bearing out those presented to him by Corporal Grice. When accounts in respect of meals supplied for certain months were submitted to him for payment he discovered that the contractor had wrongly included a number of men - that he had charged for the supply of meals to men who were away on sick leave, whilst in other cases he charged for the supply of three meals where only one had been served. These mistakes in the account were rectified by Little, but they were repeated in an account for December, 1915, which was submitted in January, 1916. The discrepancies represented a total of £20. Little brought them under the notice of the Officer Commanding, and also called his attention to the unsatisfactory way in which the contract was being carried out. He returned the account with an intimation that he declined to pass it for payment until it was correctly and properly made out. The next account was prepared by the private clerk of the Officer Commanding, and was presented to Little, in the contractor’s office, for signature. Little again refused to sign the document, as there was still an overcharge of about £3. Complaints were still coming in from the staff, and on 1st February, 1916, Little was compelled to furnish a written report to Lieutenant Cunningham concerning the matter. I come now to a point in this story where it is shown that there was evidently some conspiracy. On 9th February, 1916, while Little was at lunch at the staff’s billet, No. 9, Mahommed Ali Place, Alexandria, Egypt, a sergeant-major of the Military Police, after asking for Corporal Healey, requested Little to accompany him to Kom-el-Dik Fort. Little asked why he was to go, but was told that no reason could be given - that the .officer was simply acting on orders from the Army Provost-Marshal. On arrival at the fort he was paraded before the Officer Commanding, Captain Twybell, an Imperial officer. He asked why he had been brought there under arrest, and was informed that the captain had received instructions from the. Army Provost-Marshal to keep him in detention for safe custody, but that he did not know what was the charge against him. Some three days later Little was taken to the Australian Base post-office, where he and Corporal Healey were brought before the Officer Commanding, Lieutenant Cunningham, and charged with conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline. The crime sheet, Form B252, did not specify any definite charge. Little asked that a definite charge should be preferred against him, but Lieutenant Cunningham replied that he would take the responsibility of making a definite charge after summary evidence had been taken. Corporal Healey inquired whether that would not be irregular. Lieutenant Cunningham replied, “ Oh, shut up ! or I will have you put where you will keep quiet.”
– That is just what he would say.
– My honorable friend evidently has a personal knowledge of this officer. If that is so, I should like him to tell the Committee of it, and so assist me in obtaining justice for this man. With the assistance of the honorable member, I may be able to induce the Defence authorities to deal with this case, and others coming within the same category. When Warrant Officer Little repeated the inquiry made by Corporal Healey, Lieutenant Cunningham said, “ Now, Warrant Officer Little, these sort of questions are not going to do your case any good, and you should know better.” Cunningham ‘ then called in the contractor Naggair. Little asked that the evidence be taken on oath, but the Officer Commanding said, “ No, I will not allow it.” Little pressed the question, and received the further reply, “ You will get that at the court martial.” Corporal Healey at this stage said to the Commanding Officer, “ As you have power to deal with the case, have you decided to send us for a acourt martial before taking the evidence?” Lieutenant Cunningham replied, “It is out of my hands.” Cunningham had a statement in shorthand from his witnesses - a statement which had not been taken in the presence of Little and Healey - and after referring to it, he proceeded to put to Naggair such leading questions as, “ Now, did you give Mr. Little any money?” “How often?” “ And what amounts?” “Did he say anything to you about money?” “ And what “else did he say?” This form of questioning took place during the examination and the taking of evidence from three natives. After Naggair’s evidence, Little gleaned the nature of the case preferred against him. Lieutenant Cunningham was warned that he would be required as :a witness. He stated to the detained men, ‘ ‘ ‘This case has to go to a court martial, and is entirely out of my hands. Take my advice, as I have a lot of Court work - do not call any evidence or make a statement until at the court martial.” The Officer Commanding endeavoured to hurry the ‘proceedings because he desired to catch a train. The proceedings were hurriedly terminated. Later on, Warrant Officer Little paraded before an Imperial officer, Captain Dunn. Subsequently, Captain Twybell intimated that the A.P.M. had ordered Little’s release, and that his case was dismissed without prejudice. Little was astonished later to receive the instruction that he was being returned to Australia.
– Could not the honorable member condense this statement a little more?
– Warrant Officer Little has endeavoured to secure the appointment of a court martial to inquire into hia case-, but without success. He was sent back to Australia, and although the Department itself was unable to establish a case against him, it did not give him a clean ‘ discharge, and he has been deprived of the opportunity of putting his case before a proper tribunal and establishing his innocence. He was definitely promised that, on his return to Australia, he would have .an -opportunity to appear be fore a court martial. That opportunity has not been afforded him, and in a letter from the Defence Department, it isstated that -
A summary of evidence was taken, but it was considered by the military authorities in Egypt that, as .the only evidence was verbal, it would be difficult to prove the case, and for that reason trial by court martial was not ordered.
Little was .given a discharge setting .out that he was discharged because his services were “ no longer required.” I understand that, in military circles, such a discharge is regarded as unsatisfactory. Various inferences might be drawn as to the reason why his services were no longer required.
– I have had several cases of the same kind brought under my notice.
– I do not think that this case has been before the -honorable gentleman. Little has tried to obtain a clean discharge. He has asked that, after the words, “ Services no longer required,” there should be added the words, but not owing to any act of misconduct.” The military authorities, I -understand told him they would give him a clean discharge if he would re-enlist. If they were prepared to do that, surely he should “have received a .clean discharge even if he refused to re-enlist. Little served in the New ‘South Wales Irish Rifles for three years, between the ages of seventeen and twenty years. He was recommended by his commanding officer to go on active service in the South African campaign. Ho enlisted with the 2nd New South Wales Mounted Rifles, and, after serving for twelve months, on his unit returning to Australia he volunteered in South Africa for a further term of twelve months and was attached to the New South Wales Imperial Bushmen. After peace was declared in 1902 he was detailed for duty as noncommissioned officer in charge of oversea colonials at Capetown, and was discharged as a sergeant with an exemplary character. Prior to the outbreak of war in 1914 he was employed for over two years in the examination of stores in the clothing branch of the Defence Department, and received a first-class certificate of character. What was the reason for the action that was taken against him ? Was it that his commanding officer, Lieutenant Cunningham, feared, that Little, by reason of .his zeal in doing his duty, would be likely to jeopardize him in his command ? Was a conspiracy instigated by Cunningham, or was the native who assisted by an Assyrian and a Greek, made the charge against Little, merely taking the opportunity of venting their vindictiveness against him for the way in. which he had been making them adhere to the terms of their contract? Little has endeavoured to secure justice and to prove his innocence in. the eyes of his fellowcountrymen. He has been deprived of his position in the Defence Department; he has been given an unsatisfactory discharge, and the granting of his application for a gratuity is held in abeyance. I think, he has a just claim- upon the Department, and that a court martial should be held, before which he may have an opportunity of proving that his actions were not “prejudicial to discipline and good conduct.”
– With what offence was he charged ?
– No direct charge was made against him. One of his complaints is that when he was paraded before his officer, and requested to be acquainted with the actual charge made against him, the only answer he received was that his conduct had been prejudicial to discipline and good conduct.
– But the honorable member referred to a summary of the evidence taken.
– But evidently it was not taken in the proper way, because I have a statement from the Defence Department that, as the evidence was verbal, the military authorities in Egypt thought it would be difficult to prove the case, and, for that reason, a court martial was not ordered.
– But the evidence must have been taken on some charge.
– The charge was not disclosed. I do not wish to weary the House by reading all the documents relating to this matter. I have endeavored to cull from it such points as are necessary to establish Little’s claim to be tried by court martial, so that the charges made against him may be proved or disproved.
– The charge must have been dismissed.
– If it was dismissed, Little has not received a discharge in keeping with that decision.
– He was sacked.
– And he has been deprived of his gratuity.
– He made application for the gratuity in May of this year, and has not yet received any acknowledgment of his letter.
– I know nothing of the case, but it is quite possible for Warrant Officer Little to have been sent back to Australia because his services were no longer required, and for reasons which have nothing to do with this particular charge.
-If a case against Little cannot be established, is it not desirable that he should receive a clean discharge?
– Not necessarily. Many officers; and noncommissioned officers were returned to Australia, against whom it would be almost impossible to frame a definite charge; but, if a man were a rotter or a waster, the commanding officer had. power to say that he no longer required his services. I do not say that was the case with Little.
-I am sure that the conduct of the Assistant Minister would be always fair. Would it not be possible for a. person having unfriendlyfeelings to wards a man to do a hostile act, and saddle him with responsibility for something he had not done?’
– I admit that. Certain people had it in their power to dto that to me.
– If that had happened, would not the honorable member havemoved heaven and earth to get a clean discharge ?
– I would, but if I had been returned to Australia for the reason that my services wereno longer required, I would have been down and out, and there would have been no redress.
– There would have been no redress in the Army; but we are out of the Army now.
– But Little’s case happened at the Front.
– I am sure that the Assistant Minister will do what is possibleto insure that justice is done.
– I will inquire closely into the case.
– Little held a position in the Department, and he has been discharged, with a certificate which is not satisfactory. He has to seek other employment, and naturally those to whom he applies desire to know the meaning of the words on his discharge, “ services no longer required.” He asks that that Department shall at least do the fair thing, and if no charge against him can be established, to add to his discharge the words, “ through no act of misconduct on his part.” I hope that he will also be able to participate in the war gratuity as his just due for the services he rendered.
– If he was returned to Australia because his services were no longer ‘ required, the Department cannot withhold his gratuity.
– The correspondence shows that he applied for the gratuity on the 11th May, and that he is still without it. -
– Thousands of men have not yet received the gratuity.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I trust that the Assistant Minister for Defence will take action in connexion with the case which has just been related to the Committee. I know nothing of its merits, but I do know something of Major Cunningham. At one time he almost placed me under arrest. I was a sergeant in the postal unit, and because of something I had done, with the object of having letters sent to a unit at the Front, I fell foul of him, and I might easily have been sent home because my services were no longer required. I can quite well believe that Warrant Officer Little has a genuine grievance. No charges were made against him; according to the statements made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, he was paraded before his lieutenant, who listened to statements by a few1 individuals, and Little was then returned to Australia for the reason that his services were no longer required. It is very easy to test this case. The files will show whether letters had been sent to the contractor mentioned complaining of overcharges, and whether Warrant Officer Little complained of the character of the food supplied to the mess. Major Cunningham is in Melbourne, and there is no difficulty in the way of holding an inquiry. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) had the re putation in the Army of being a fair man who was anxious to do the right thing. Let him place himself in the position of Little. According . to his lights he was doing his best for his country. He was suddenly called before his lieutenant, and without any inquiry having been held he was sent back to Australia in disgrace, with the suspicion in the minds of his friends that he had done a dishonorable act. The Assistant Minister and other ex -officers in this chamber know that there are many good Australian officers upon whom disgrace was inflicted by being returned to Australia on the ground that their services were no longer required, although they had been guilty of no greater crime than having offended the dignity of their commanding officer. They had been in his way or had earned his enmity for some trivial reason.
– I never heard of any officer being returned to Australia without any charge having been made against him.
– Neither have I, but. I am not at all satisfied with the trials that men received in the Army. The persons least fitted to try others are officers in the Array.
– The honorable member should not be too sweeping in his. statements.
– The very fact that men have been for years in the firing-line unfits them temperamentally for any judicial function, and many unjust verdicts have been given by courts martial. In the case of Little no trial took place. Hewas merely arrested by the military police, brought before Lieutenant Cunningham, who listened to a few statementsand who then recommended his return to Australia. I am satisfied that the Assistant Minister will immediately hold a full inquiry into this case. If Little is proved guilty, I shall not stand up to defend him, but he should be given an opportunity of clearing his character. He should be afforded in Australia the trial of which he was deprived in Egypt. I do not ask for a court martial. We are now back in normal times of peace, and all offences should be tried by the civil authority and not by any military tribunal. Under the Repatriation Regulations, if a soldier does not apply for the £10 to purchase tools within six months of his return, or within six months of being finalized, be is precluded from receiving any assistance. I know numbers of really bard cases in which soldiers have not had one shilling by way of sustenance money. I have one case in mind in regard to which, as soon as he had been discharged, the returned man started to work. He found out, after six or nine months, that his nerves were not as fit as they might have been, and that he could not continue to carry on at his old job. Therefore, he set to work to take up another occupation. Now he wants assistance to the extent of some £10 or £15 with which to purchase tools. However, because he did not draw sustenance, and had not applied to be given vocational training, the regulations say, in effect, that he can get nothing. In cases where it can be shown that the request is genuine, and that the man is not a malingerer and has tried to repatriate himself as soon as he returned, and, further, that owing to physical condition he has found himself incompetent to carry on his former avocation, an exception should surely be made.
– Has the honorable member seen the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) concerning this matter?
– I have made application to the responsible officials, and have been informed that under the regulations they have no power. It is a matter which is so easily capable of adjustment that it should be sufficient merely to bring it under official notice.
– Has the honorable member personally spoken to the Minister for Repatriation ?
– I think the honorable member should have done so.
– I have endeavoured to adjust all matters having to do with returned men without going to the Minister firsthand. I am afraid that if. I were to approach him personally in respect of every trouble placed in my hands by former soldiers, the Minister would not have much time to attend to his own affairs.
– I will undertake to bring this point under the notice of the Minister himself.
Mr. fenton (Maribyrnong) [5.3].- I desire very briefly to ventilate a matter of vital importance to the people. I refer to the excessive charges being made for woollen goods generally. I have had recent occasion to interview my tailor, and I can all the more keenly sympathize with those who nowadays find that, in order to replace an old suit with a new one, they must pay as much as two or three suits cost some five years ago. Although the woollen manufacturers have made very considerable profits during the warperiod, I believe they are not the greatest profiteers. The manufacturers during two years covered by theperiod of the war made so much profit that it more than equalled the total capital employed in the conduct of their businesses. If the Commonwealth mills can sell cloth to soldiers for 5s. 6d., 6s. 6d., and 7s. 6d. per yard, I contend that, from the constitutional aspect, those mills are not debarred from selling similarly to the general public; for, after all, returned soldiers are only part and parcel of the preat body of the general public to-day. I am glad, of course, that our “ boys “ are receiving this special benefit. Owing to the winding up of the Wool Pool, manufacturers are now being compelled to pay slightly more for their wool than hitherto ; but, even so, woollen goods are being manufactured in Australia to-day - and some of them the very best procurable - at costs which are not higher than 10s per yard. Why. then, should the general public be called on to pay 25s., 30s., and up to 35s. per yard? Who is making these profits? My tailor showed me a beautiful piece of cloth which had been manufactured at the Commonwealth Mills. Geelong. A returned soldier had brought in a suit length which had cost him 7s. 6d. per yard. The tailor told me that if he had been compelled to go to Flinders-lane to purchase the same material he would have had to pay at least 28s. per yard.
– But the shortage of woollen material all over the world is the cause. It has to go through too many distributors.
– They have all got to live.
– That does not appear to me to bear on the crying need for putting a stop to this particular form of profiteering. Why should not the Commonwealth Mills supply the general public as well as the soldiers? There must be an end to the present terrible prices. My tailor also showed me another piece of cloth, and remarked that he had gone to a business firm in Bourke-street, which owns a woollen mill of its own, and had bought this piece of first-class material, retailed over the counter, for 14s. per yard; and he added, “ If I bought this same class of stuff in Flinderslane I would be charged 26s. per yard.” Why?
– You ought to be talking to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce).
– We want a few gentlemen like the honorable member for Flinders’ to tender an explanation.
– But the honorable member for Flinders says that nothing wrong goes on in Flinders-lane.
– The Government object, when pressed to make the cloth from the Commonwealth Mills available to the public, that they cannot constitutionally do so. I believe they can, and the recent decision of the High Court should help them in that direction. Thes Government have been able to purchase timber mills in Queensland; and, if they cam legally sustain there case, I believe they will have done a very good thing. Why didt they do so ? It was to cheapen the cost of material for the building of soldiers’ homes: But. is it not time that: thegeneral public, also, had some protection? To-day we are paying twice as much for our cloth for the making of suits as we should be paying.
– And still we are not paying as much as the people of England.
– That parrot cry, coming: from an Australian, disgusts; me.
– I am not defending the system.
– Australia produces the best wool in the world - millions and. millions of bales of it.
– Unfortunately, though, we have not the mills.
– To talk of what it costs the people of England, or of Tinrbuctoo, is beside the mark. We produce the raw material. Our Government manufactures the finished article. Why should , we pay so much more than its cost? I was delighted with the rebuke the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) administered: to certain honorable members a few weeks ago, when they were talking about strikes and labour conditions in Australia, and crying about what a terrible place it was to live in. The honorable member remarked that, having returned home after a tour o£ the world, he could say that he knew of no other country which offered such inducement as Australia for the investment of money. There was another honorable member, who also sits behind the Government, who informed, the House that certain financiers in. Great Britain had been prepared to invest £5,000,000 in Australia, but that owing to industrial conditions they did not intend to bring: their money here; I think. I may fairly term the honorable member for Flinders a. financier and a capitalist, yet he said, “ There is no better country in the world in which to invest money.” I again appeal to the Government. Can they relieve the people of their pressing burdens?
– Really, the only question which is now before honorable members has to do with passing this Bill in order that wages may be paid at the end’ of the week:
– That is an evasion. There is nothing of such importance hinging either upon this Bill or on the Budget as could equal, in the eyes of the public, an announcement that it is the intention of the Governmentto see that the people are satisfactorily supplied with food and clothing at reasonable rates.I hope- the Government realize that. the. people are groaning under excessive costs to-day.,
What are the. Government going to. do by way of providing; buildings for themselves instead of continuing, to pay a hugerent roll in each capital city? Honorable members may, cry, “Canberra.”; but the. establishment of Canberra will not remove the necessity for maintaining Federal departmental branches in all the capital cities. To-day we are paying a tremendous rent roll, which I consider so muchwaste. Although first costs in putting an end to this state of affairs might be heavy, the saving would be fully justified.
.- When the Budget is introduced, I shall have an opportunity to discuss a. matter that I was prevented from referring to on Friday last, namely, the purchase of timber mills and properties in Queensland by the Government. I shall not refer to the matter from the constitutional point of’ view, but simply from the point of view that the purchase of these properties, and the conducting of them as a State enterprise by the Repatriation Department, will provea very bad investmentforthe soldiers. The result of the purchase will not be to enable our soldiers toget their timber more cheaply, but,as I hope to be able to prove, will show what a very costly bargain has been made for the men who ultimately have to pay for the war service homes.
Idesire to indorse the remarks of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) regarding the necessity for some trust or other fund in the Postal Department to enable contracts to be made for materialfor a considerable time ahead. Every day one receives communications to the effect that works have been approved - works urgently needed by. out-back settlers to place them into communication with civilization, and especially with medical aid - but conveying the information that they cannot be carried out because there is no material available. Thus, in the matter of telephones, revenue is lost, and no increase canbe made in the pittance that the country postmastersnow receive in return for their services. Many of these postmasters have seen from thirty to forty years of service, and yet, in Grade 5, they are paid only £282 as a minimum, with £318 as a maximum. In Grade 6, they are paid from £228 to £264; in Grade 7, from £180 to £222; and so on, less 10 per cent. for quarters in every office where quarters are provided, and plus £32 as war bonus. There are just about 200 post-offices in the Commonwealth in Grades 1 to 4 inclusive, and the remaining offices, in Grades from 5 to 9 inclusive, are about 800. In nearly every case the postmasters are married and have children, and where they are stationed in towns they find themselves receiving much less than other public servants with appointments not nearly so responsible. In the case of one town, I took the trouble to ascertain the salaries of the various officials employed in similar positions, and I found that the teacher in charge of the school, with a staff of two, and eighteen years’ service, was receiving . £420 a year ; the bank manager, with twenty-three years of service, and a staff of three, was receiving £385 a year ; the policeman, with thirteen years’ service, and no staff, was receiving £312; while the postmaster, with thirty-one years’ service, and a staff of five,was paid £270, includingthe warbonus. I suggest that more liberal provision should be made for these postmasters. In many cases in the country centres they have ‘to act as telephone boys practically every night in the year. There are boys appointed who are supposed to sleep during the day., but, of course, they play about, and, after going on duty at night at . 10 o’clock, they are usually asleep by halfpast eleven in the beds that are provided alongside the instruments. When the telephone bell rings, the postmaster,as often as not, has to come down, and answer it. It is no wonder that many of these officials break down in health;and it is a fact that, owing to the miserable pittance they receive, they areunable to take a decent holiday. I shall deal with these matters at greater length when the Budget is before us, and I merely mention them now in order that the Government may know that I, for one, am prepared to support more liberal treatment of postal servants throughout the Commonwealth.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee the case of those returnedsoldiers who enlisted under age, and for that reason are now being deprived of all the benefits that have been arranged for returned soldiers. These men passed all the physical tests on enlistment.
– What is the reason for this treatment?
– They are told that they deceived the authorities by misstating their age on enlistment.
Mr.Ryan. - Is that the reason given ?
– That is the only reason given. They are denied their war service leave, any participation in the advantages of the War Service Homes Act, and they are refused the war gratuity. One lad of sixteen years of age enlisted and was passed as physically fit. When he arrived in France his true age was found out, and he was removed to England and employed in hospital work for about two years. He has now returned home, and has married, but he finds himself left out in the cold. In my opinion, if a youth passed all the physical tests on enlistment he is entitled to every advantage that is given to the returned soldier.
– Why did the authorities not return this boy to Australia when they discovered his age?
– I do not know, but he was kept in England and employed.
– I certainly think that if the authorities kept this and other boys there, and gave them useful work in the Army, they condoned the offence.
– This youth certainly expected that hi6 war bond would be cashed, and I hope that his case will be further considered.
.- I wish to once more briefly refer to the refusal of a tool allowance to returned soldiers who did not put in their application within the prescribed period. I should not have mentioned the matter again but for the question by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) as to whether the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) had approached the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) on the subject. It appears that the honorable member for Ballarat has not approached the Minister, but I may say that I have. I brought six cases directly under that gentleman’s notice, and each application was returned,’ referring the applicant to the Repatriation Commission. When the applications went before this Commission they were all turned down; and I take it that that decision is final. I cannot see why this should be so if the soldiers gave good sound reasons for not making their applications within the prescribed period! I cannot help expressing the opinion that any little excuse seems good enough for any Department to make in order to deprive these men of privileges of the kind. There is another case in connexion with the War Service, Homes Department which I should like to bring under the notice of honorable members. One soldier in my electorate applied for and obtained an advance of £100. After he had put in his application, but before he received an answer, he had an offer of work, which he accepted, at a place about 50 miles away from the district in which he proposed to build. Seeing that he could not use the money at that time, - and while at such a distance, he returned the advance to the Department. When he returned after completing his work he again made application for an advance, but was told that he had already had one, and could not have another. That seems to me a deliberate attempt by the Department to deprive that soldier of his due, and I hope the matter will be looked into.
We are told by the Treasurer and the Postal Department that country telephone lines cannot be constructed because of lack of material. That may be true, but in the case of six applications for country telephones in my electorate not one was refused on that ground. En each case it was pointed out that there would be a certain loss on the line if it were constructed, but that if the people who would benefit by it were prepared to subscribe a certain amount the work would be proceeded with at once. This would seem to suggest that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) is going back to some extent on the promise he made at the beginning of this Parliament that country centres would in the future be better catered for in the matter of telephones.
– About two years ago the then PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) was asked to give immediate relief to country mail contractors who were suffering because of the high price of fodder resulting from the drought conditions then prevailing. On several occasions he stated that he would give the matter serious consideration. In fact, I believe he had it under consideration for about twelve months, until finally he was defeated at the last general election. Applications for relief for these mail contractors were then submitted to his successor (Mr. Wise), and that gentleman’s reply was that the requests would receive consideration. Altogether two years have elapsed since this matter was first raised, but it is evidently still under consideration. Many of these men found it almost impossible to carry out their contracts when they were obliged to pay as much as £20 per ton for chaff and 12s. per bushel for corn. A little while ago the present Postmaster-General was asked whether he had arrived at a decision in regard to the matter, and he said that it was still under consideration, but that he hoped shortly to be able to make an announcement in regard to it. He may raise the excuse that there is now no need to grant any assistance, because fodder is plentiful, but it was not plentiful in the year 1919 and in the early part of this year, and these contractors are asking for compensation for the prices they were paying two years back. In the aggregate their claims represent a considerable sum. I trust that the matter will not remain under consideration very much longer. If it does, or if the Postmaster-General will not grant these men’s request, I shall advise them to throw up their contracts and allow the Department to make fresh arrangements for the conveyance of mails.
This afternoon I asked the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) if he would consider the advisability of amending the Wartime Profits Act with a view to exempting co-operative societies for the whole period of the war. but the right honorable gentleman, in his reply, stated that the income of these societies was subject to the tax in respect only of the year 1915-16, that the question of the retrospective application of the provision in the last amending Bill exempting these societies had been carefully considered in the framing of that Bill, the decision arrived at being that in the circumstances the exemption should be confined to the future, and should not be made retrospective, and that he saw no reason for reversing this decision. I hope to be able to advance reasons for so doing. The whole of the co-operative societies were under the impression that they were exempt from the payment of war-time profits tax, owing to a statement made by the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt), but finally a co-operative society in Lithgow, New South Wales, received a demand from the Commissioner of Taxation for the payment of £1,822, made up as follows: - War-time profits tax, £1,519; penalty for late lodgment, £151 18s. ; penalty r«r late payment, £151 18s. On various occasions the Federal Commissioner of Taxation has been asked to allow the whole of the co-operative societies full exemption, but he says that this is a matter in which Parliament must take the necessary action. Parliament says that it is a matter for the Commissioner of Taxation, and the Treasurer says that there is no need to amend the Act, because no one seems to have been injured by its opera tion. This Lithgow society would certainly be injured. The £1,519 has already been distributed to its members, and as they have already paid individual income tax on the amounts received by them, if they are to be called upon to pay again in a. collective form the,r will be doubly taxed . on the same amount of income. It might appear from these figures that this, particular society had had xa fairly large increase in its takings in the year. 1915-16, but such was not the case. Its earnings were increased by reason of fresh capital coming in rapidly. The war-time profits tax, which it has been called upon to pay, is an impost, not on the actual sale of goods by the society, but on the share capital provided by its members. I hope that the Treasurer will give the matter further consideration, and alter his view of it. A slight amendment of the Act would render it unnecessary for the Lithgow Co-operative Society to make a levy upon its members to meet the payment of this tax, on an apparent profit, which, as I have stated, has already been distributed among its members.
.- I wish, to bring under the notice of the Government a matter concerning which I have asked questions in the House, and had a good deal of correspondence with the Treasurer, because it seems to me that the Government are not taking up a reasonable attitude in respect to it. Some little time ago it was pointed out to mefrom Perth, that instances of hardship had occurred in connexion with the refusal of the maternity allowance to certain mothers, who were singular in this respect, that they had been born in Palestine, but’ had been brought, to Australia, the country of their adoption, by their relatives. They have been educated aud brought up here, and have finally married and become mothers; but, because of the unfortunate wording of the Maternity Allowance Act, they are precluded from sharing in the advantages conferred on Australian mothers. Inhabitants of Palestine, Syrians, and Jews, have been admitted quite freely into Australia; that is to say, there may be a certain amount of supervision- as to their character and their likelihood to settle permanently, and their admission may to some extent be influenced by the fact that relatives already’ in Australia wish them to become citizens ofthis country, but so long as there isi no definite objection to any of these persons’, they are allowed to come into. Australia quite freely. I think we have found that they have become reputable and useful citizens of the Commonwealth. It is, therefore, somewhat in the nature of an unpleasant shock to female immigrants, when they have married and become mothers of Australian children, to find that because they happened to be born in what is regarded geographically as Asia, they are precluded from the advantages of the maternity allowance. Asia Minor is not really a part of Asia, in a racial sense. Many of its people are of quite as pure Aryan blood as ourselves - indeed, I might almost say, European blood. The fact that we differentiate in every respect between them and Asiatics of Asia Major, shows that there is no intention of treating them in the way that, unfortunately, has been brought about by the wording of the Maternity Allowance Act. A Bill will shortly come before us for consideration which will, to some extent, improve the position of these immigrants to Australia, who, at present, are denied the advantages of naturalization. I refer to the Nationality Bill, which has been passed in another place, and trader which it is intended to confer Australian nationality on such persons as those to whom I have referred, who, hitherto, because of the wording of our Immigration Restriction Act, have not been allowed that privilege. If the. Nationality Bill becomes law, as I think it will, it will follow, as a logical: sequence, that the position of Jewish mothers, resident in Australia but born in Palestine, should be altered. If they become naturalized citizens of Australia it will only be logical and consistent to amend the Maternity Allowance Act to enable them to participate in the allowance. This would remove a most objectionable stigma, which, under existing conditions rests upon many useful and desirable citizens of the Commonwealth, who, because they were born in Palestine, occupy, to some extent, the position of pariahs as compared with other Australian mothers.I feel that that was never the intention of Parliament when the Maternity Allowance Act was. passed.. I think. I have indicated reasonable grounds for the amendmentof the Maternity Allowance Act and the method by which its: amendment can consistently be carried into effect.
.-I wish to indorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in regard to the position, of postmasters. It must be admitted that, during the last few years, there have been considerable additions made to the duties they were called upon to perform prior to the war. They have, for some time past, been called upon to perform duties in connexion with war loans, war gratuity bonds, repatriation, military allotments, war pensions, war service homes, and loans to soldiers. I wish to put on record a comparison of salaries paid to State officials in some parts of New South Wales as against the salaries paid to postmasters in those places. The information came to hand too late to be used in connexion with a recent debate on the same subject, but, in justice to the postmasters, it should be recorded.
Comparison of salaries paid to railway stationmasters and postmasters at the undermentioned places are as follows: -
Remarks. - The above stationmasters of 5th Class each receive quarters valued at £50 per annum in addition to their salaries; this equals £375, maximum. Stationmasters are also provided with uniform, which is valued at £15 per annum.
Postmasters pay 10 per cent. for quarters occupiedby them.
Postmasters get. no uniforms.
TakingEast Maitland orMorpeth as a guide, the respective amounts are: -
Stationmasters. - Maximum, £325, plus£50 forquarters, £375; plus uniforms valued£15. Total, £390.
Postmasters. - Maximum, £296, less 10 per cent. for quarters. Total salary, £270.
Thus, these stationmasters receive actually £120 per annum more than the two postmasters quoted.
The cashresponsibilityofthe postmasters mentioned is considerably in excess of stationmasters.
The information with respect to Tailway stationmasters was obtained from tide District Superintendent of Railways, Newcastle.
I supply further the following comparison between the salaries paid to postmasters and those paid in New South Wales to school teachers, whose salaries are considered altogether too low, the StateGovernment at present providing a largesum of money to enable themto be increased: -
The salaries of head masters at the towns mentioned weresupplied by the Inspector of Schools at Maitland.
The following further comparison is supplied between the salaries paid to postmasters and those paid to police officers under the Government of New South Wales: -
Theinformation concerning the police officers was furnished by the InspectorGeneralof Police, through the Superintendentat Maitland.
These figures set out the relative positions of State officers and officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. They indicate a very considerable difference betweenthe emoluments received by those officers respectively, and in viewof the work whichhas tobedone by our postmasters Ibelieve that thedifference indicated is not warranted. We are now receiving such a good return from the Post and Telegraph Department that there is no reason why theofficers of that Depart ment should not be put upon a fair footing in comparison with otherpublic servants. It is not, in my opinion, fair to say that the postmasters can go to a Court, and the Court can decide what salaries they should be paid. I think that we should ourselves decide upon the payment to these officials of adequate salaries in view of the work they are called upon to perform. Some of the postmasters occupy veryresponsible positions. I know, for instance, that at East Maitland the amount of money handled by the postmaster is double that handled by the railway stationmaster. He has a bigger revenue to deal with, and a large amount to pay out in the way of pensions to soldiers and old-age and invalid pensioners. He has a more responsible position til an that occupied by the railway stationmaster, and he receives less pay. We ought to put these officials of the Commonwealth in a reasonable position in the matter of pay.
In regard to the imposition of war-time profits taxation upon co-operative societies, to which the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) referred, I want to say that I think a mistake has been made in this matter. I remember accompanying a deputation to Mr. Watt, when he was Acting Prime Minister, and asking him to make such an amendment of the War-time Profits Act as would exclude co-operative societies from its operation. This was asked for because a co-operative society is in a different position from a company or syndicate. It is an association of individuals, who deal at a particular store of their own, and any profit derived from its operations, after paying the expense of working the store, is distributed amongst the members of the society. This can scarcely be referred to as profit, because it is money given back to them in the form of a rebate. That money has been paid to (members of the Lithgow Co-operative Society for some years past, and the Taxation Department is now asking the society to pay something over £1,800 war-time profits taxation for the year 1915-16. Every co-operative store would have been affected but for an amendment of the measure introduced by Mr. Watt, when Acting Prime Minister. Unfortunately, he did not make the operation of the amendment retrospective; but I am inclined to think that if he were present he would agree with me that it was never intended that any wartime profits tax should be collected from co-operative societies. The £1,800 for which the Taxation Department is now asking was distributed years ago to the members of the Lithgow Co-operative Society, and if it is to be paid now they must take the money out of their earnings during the- next six or twelve months, or be called upon to refund what was returned to them by way of rebate in 1915-16.
– They have paid taxation upon it as a part of their income.
– Exactly. Those whose incomes were over £156 have already paid income tax upon the share of this money paid to them. It was never intended that the war-time profits tax should apply to organizations of this kind. I am not finding fault with the Commissioner of Taxes, who must administer the Act as he finds it. If Parliament has made a (mistake in the matter, he is not to blame for that. I think it would be advisable on the part of the Government to pass an amending measure exempting this particular co-operative society from the operation of the War Time Profits Tax Act. If this is not done, the society will be placed in a very awkward position. No one can say that it has been profiteering. Its capital was increased beyond what it was prior to the war by reason of an influx of members. Quite a number of workers joined the society, and they were called on to take so many shares. If, for instance, they were called on to take up ten shares of £1 each, each new member would contribute £10, and in that way the capital of the society was inflated beyond what it was previously. On the face of it, it is not fair that this co-operative society should be called ‘on to pay a war-time profits tax, especially in view of the fact that the members have already paid income tax on this money. I hope that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) will give consideration to the matter. No one knows better the working of co-operative societies, and the right honorable gentleman knows all about the Lithgow society. He represented Lithgow when the societywas in its infancy, and I believe has kept himself in touch with it. since. I appeal to him to do something for the relief pf the society in this matter.
A reference has been made to the fact that young fellows who enlisted when under age are not being paid the war gratuity. I have had brought under my notice the case of a man who enlisted and went abroad.- He was of age, and, after serving for some time in Gallipoli, he fell sick. The doctor decided that he should be discharged, and he was discharged. A number of other men were discharged at the same time. This man considered that he would be all right for fighting in the course of a little time, but the orders from his chief” were that he must return to Australia. He was so desirous of continuing in the war, which was then in the early stages, that he disobeyed orders, and was absent without leave for three’ weeks, while the boat carrying the men who were to be returned got away. After the boat left he was practically stranded, because he had been turned down as medically unfit, until one of the officers tool; compassion on him and arranged that he should go to England. He went there,- and was accepted immediately for service in the British Forces. He served with them right through the war, and was brought back here only last February. The Government allowed for his passage back after he had served with the British Forces. In reality, he served from the commencement of the war right to the finish. When he came back here he applied for his gratuity as he was Australian born, enlisted here, and went abroad. His discharge was good, so far as the Australian Forces were concerned, and his British discharge was good also, for I have read it, but because he was absent without leave for three weeks, absenting himself in order that he might not be compelled to return to Australia as he believed he would be all right and could do his share in the war, he has been denied his gratuity. I do not think we ever intended that that sort of thing should happen. The man is to be commended for the services he gave to his country, and instead of his being refused the gratuity, his case ought to receive favorable consideration.
.- I wish to bring under notice a matter affecting many of the widowed mothers and orphans of our soldiers. While the Local Committees associated with the administration of repatriation are to be congratulated on the work they have done on behalf of the Department, and have obtained the fullest information about all cases that have come before them, they have been to a large extent handicapped by the answers they have been getting from the Repatriation Commission. I shall mention some cases that have come under the notice more particularly of the Caulfield Repatriation Committee in. my electorate. That Committee has been for some time communicating with the Repatriation Commission on the subject of a living allowance which has been stopped in the case of Mrs. Mary Ann Kate Dickie, and also in the case of Mrs. Wills. After very close examination had been made and full evidence taken by the Com mittee, representations were made to the Repatriation Commission for the continuation of the living allowance to Mrs. Dickie. The State Board agreed that it was a case where the living allowance should be paid. The matter was taken further, and the Repatriation Commission said it had been instructed by Parliament in the last Repatriation Act that no living allowances were to be paid in such circumstances.
– I gave two answers to my knowledge, stating that in every case they had been paid. If those answers are incorrect I want to know something about it.
– I appreciate the answer the honorable member gave me today, and feel that he is doing his best for all those associated with the soldiers. He is probably quite sympathetic. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) distinctly said that where the womenfolk of returned soldiers, through ill-health or any other form of incapacity, were justly entitled to an allowance over and above the pension, he would see that they received sufficient money to provide the comforts of life. That is what the Minister says, rightly or wrongly.
– That is not the question. The question is whether they are getting the same as they did before the passing of the last Act. The answer I have received time after time is that they are. Give me any case that you know of where that is not applicable.
– I will give the honorable member the case of Mrs. Dickie, who was receiving a living allowance prior to the passing of the last Act. The Repatriation Commission wrote to the Local Committee that it had decided, according to orders, to take the living allowance of so much a week from this woman.
– How long ago was that!
– February, 1920.
– Are you in a position to say that she is not getting it now ?
– She was not getting it a couple of days ago. I do not know whether she has received it since.
– That is quite near enough.
– These are cases in which the Committee is handicapped, although it gives a lot of its time, and takes a good deal of evidence in connexion .with them. In the case of Mrs. Wilis and .her living allowance, the Repatriation Commission has added to. the sorrow of this bereaved mother by writing, through the local Committee, somewhat in this way, “ So far as your son is concerned, he went to the war, and he was killed, but still, if he had not gone to the war, or if he had returned, we are going to presume that he would have married, and that he would have left you unprovided for.”
– Did some one actually write that ?
– The information I have is that the Commission “ callously informed the doubly bereaved mother that it was quite reasonable to suppose that if her deceased son had returned he would have been actuated by the same desire as the son who had returned.” Two sons went away, and one returned, and desires to be married. He says that, owing to the financial position of his mother, he cannot marry, because he would have then to maintain two homes, or else to take his mother to live with him. On that, the Commission said that if the other son had returned, or had not gone to the war, they were presuming, at any rate, that he would have married, and left his mother without any adequate means of support. That is a reflection upon Australian boys, none of whom would see his mother unprovided for.
– Are you quoting from a letter sent by the Repatriation Commissioners ?
– I am quoting from what the Caulfield people have told me. They say they received a letter to that effect. I have their authority for it.
– Is it from the Department ?
– Yes. While we are undoubtedly “ up against it,” so far as the Commonwealth finances are concerned, and while we ought to congratulate ourselves on the magnificent success of the last Peace Loan, I am confident that the people of this great Commonwealth are quite prepared to stand behind the Government in seeing that the pledges that were made to the soldiers are honoured, so far as the women and orphans are concerned. We have had the assurance of the Minister to-day that ‘the Government are considering the question of restoring the living allowance, but still we have had that assurance for some time.
– J. said more than that, li you quote the answer .1 .gave, you should mention -also .that the Jiving allowance is .being paid.
– Yes, but it was stopped for a while.
– Two or three answers have been given, and if they are not correct 1 want to know something about it.
– Although the living allowances were cut out of the last Repatriation Bill, on representations being made to the Minister, he very willingly said he would see that they were restored where they had been in force before the 31st July. The Repatriation Department distinctly say that they have no power or authority from the Minister to open up negotiations for any fresh claims sent in since that date.
– Keep to the point. The point was that people had certain living allowances before, and these have been removed. 1 am not referring to fresh cases, but the living allowances which were paid under the Repatriation Act to certain persons were cut off in consequence of the last amending Act.
– That is my point.
– But the honorable member is speaking of new cases.
– I want to speak also of new cases.
– That is a different thing.
– I have no wish to confuse the honorable member. The living allowance was cut off in a number of cases before the Minister gave the assurance that they would be continued. Some of them have been restored, but a number have not been restored. Such an amount of fresh evidence is required in those cases that the opening up of them makes them fresh cases. I know the case of a mother who has been deserted through no fault of her own. She sent her only three boys to the Front, and two of them were killed. Her recompense is that after a lot of trouble with the Department - and the Department admits to me that she is entitled to more - she receives £1 8s. 9d. per week. By the time she pays £1 a week for a house or a room she has a paltry 7s. or 8s. left to live on. Surely any woman who is prepared to give three of her sons to fight for our liberty, and has lost two, is entitled to am additional living allowance, in view of the peculiar circumstances in which sheis placed. I have been in close touch with the Local Committees at Malvern and Caulfield. I know their members very well. They include some of our most reputable men. They have had no end of correspondence with the Commission and the Minister, but they can get no satisfaction as to when the Government intend to restore the living allowance permanently, so that all those cases may come under it again, and so that all the new cases that are deserving may receive the additional amounts which areso urgently required.
– When you get a proof of your speech to-morrow, will you oblige me with a copy of it, and I will then obtain an answer to all those questions?
– I have no desire to suggest that the honorable member has not done Ms part in one way, but still these cases may not have been brought under his notice. The honorable member may feel justified in saying that the living allowance should be cut out.
– I do not give the answer; that comes from the Department, and if it is incorrect I want to know it.
– I have gone down continuously to St. Kilda-road over this particular case. The officers there say, “We think this woman is badly treated, but there is the Act. You, by your own vote in the House, have cut off the privileges which these people received in days gone by.” My constituents at Caulfield, Malvern, and, indeed, throughout the electorate of Henty, are very dissatisfied with the treatment which has been meted out in these particular cases. While the Repatriation Department has accomplished a great work for our soldiers, we think that it might help this woman, who has given two of her sons for King and country, by granting her an extra allowance to enable her to live in comfort instead of being obliged to work at the wash-tub.. I trust that the Caulfield Repatriation Committee will soon receive an answer from the Department stating that it has decided to fully restore these living allowances.
.-I sometimes feel that it is a mere waste of time to indulge in criticism respecting the Postal Department. I believe that salvation for that Department can be found only in a change of Government. For a number of years the Department has been in the habit of importing what it requires from the other side of the world. This practice has been followed so consistently that it has long since become a disease with the departmental officials. Some time ago I severely criticised’ the postal administration in this connexion, and, as a result, I received a letter from the Department to which, however, I did not reply. The Department stated that an automatic telephone switchboard cannot be made in Australia. I do not believe that. Such a switchboard’ can be manufactured’ here just as well as it can be in any other part of the world. But despite all the representations which have been made in this connexion, the Department insists upon get ting its supplies of necessary material from abroad. The adoption of an automatic telephone system in Sydney would relieve a good deal of the congestion which exists there. It would also obviate the necessity for the employment of the lurid language which subscribers indulge in owing to the present unsatisfactory condition of the service. An Australian cannot help using bad language when he is subjected to such continual annoyance as he is by the use of that system.
During the last few days we have learned that there is a possibility of orders for telegraphic and telephonic material not being, executed abroad for a period of three years. We can imagine the language which our. exasperated people will use in the interim. If for no other reason than that, it will be well to abandon the policy of obtaining supplies overseas, and to secure them locally. The engineers connected with the Postal Department are men of ability, and they would - if the opportunity were given them - be glad to assist in removing the many grievances under which telephonesubscribers labour to-day. I do not know that we can manufacture cables, in which from ten to twenty-five wires are run through a leaden installation. But, certainly, we can manufacture hundreds of miles of, copper wire. There is one firm in New South Wales which can produce this material in almost any quantity. It has the machinery for manufacturing the materials required for cable installations other than the rubber. The wire can be steeped in a wax solution, and miles of it can be used for our telephonic system. Instead of doing anything, the Postmaster-General is content to go into his office and become a chair warmer for a little time, and then to give place to his successor.
– Why will not the Department undertake the manufacture of these materials ?
– The honorable member should ask me something easy. I do not know why it will not. I believe that if the Postmaster-General would only say to his officers, “ I want your assistance. Our present telephone system is productive of great annoyance throughout Australia. Can you help me to remedy its defects?” they would be quick to remedy them. When Mr. Webster was PostmasterGeneral I used to criticise his administration, but he always saddled the blame upon the then Treasurer, who refused to provide him with the necessary funds. Now, however, the Treasurer is willing to supply the money which is required, so that there is no excuse for the PostmasterGeneral declining to take the initiative in these matters. Apparently Ministers are averse to undertake the manufacture of anything themselves. That is a foolish policy to adopt. Wherever possible the Department should produce the article which it requires for its own use. In the Supply Bill I note that the word “ contingency “ is used about ninety times. Strange to say, apart from an item of £40 in connexion with the railway to Canberra, there is no provision made for transferring the Seat of Government there.
– That item of £40 is a maintenance vote.
– In view of the promise made by the Prime Minister, I really thought that a sum would be provided in this Bill indicative of the sincerity of the Government upon that matter. We are determined that the Seat of Government shall be transferred to Canberra as soon as possible. We do not require to wait for the erection of palatial parliamentary buildings there or anything of that sort. A severely plain structure for the conduct of parliamentary business will be suffi cient. But we should remove to the Federal Capital as soon as possible with a view to getting away from a provincial, into a Federal atmosphere. At the present time altogether too much provincialism is exhibited by members of this Parliament. Only to-day the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) stressed the fact that this State and that State had contributed their quotas to the second Peace Loan, which, after all,was an Australian loan. Let us wipe out all imaginary lines of demarcation between the States. I regret that, in regard to our war indebtedness, we have not followed the example of conservative Britain, which has defrayed by taxation from 33 per cent. to 36 per cent. of its actual war expenditure. We should not pass ours on for our children to pay.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Before the adjournment I dealt very lightly with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise), and I also referred to the Treasurer’s Department. It is not my intention at the present juncture to further refer to the Department of the Treasury, because I shall have an opportunity of doing so when the Budget is before us. In view of the “ muddling “ there has been in the past, the Budget will, no doubt, be one of the most interesting documents that has been introduced during the present session.
I now wish to refer to the Department of Defence, and I regret that the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) is not present. Recently I submitted a question in reference to the detention of certain military prisoners in the Darlinghurst Gaol, which was vacated by the State Government and handed over to the Federal authorities as a storehouse and a place for accommodating military offenders. Much of the material stored there is not required, and could be sold to advantage at the present time. I have ascertained that seventeen officers are required to look after nine prisoners, and now that the war is over, it would be better to allow these men to have their liberty. Some of the men were sentenced to imprisonment because theydisobeyed orders and were insolent to their officers. Any one who knows the temperament of the average Australian realizes that he is not altogether susceptible to military discipline, and re sents the dictatorial attitude of gentlemen holding military command. At the time I asked the question nine persons were detained, but since that date the number has been reduced to seven, and seeing that the war is over, we should overlook the offences and release the men. When I submitted a question regarding the use to which the gaol was being mrt, it was my intention to obtain some information regarding the materials stored in the gaol, but knowing that there is generally a tendency on the part of Ministers to refrain from giving the fullest information, I did not do so. I trust, however, that the Assistant Minister for Defence will consider the facts I have placed before the Committee, and see whether the Government cannot vacate the building and hand it back to the State authorities. The Sydney people, particularly those who have to pass the building daily, look upon it as the most unsightly thing on earth, and as it is not urgently required, I trust the Government will not remain in possession much longer. * If the Government are prepared to do this, it is my intention to bring the matter before another place - I am not referring to another Chamber, where they merely pass the time away, but to the Parliament of the State of New South Wales. The building is most unsightly, the interior is in need of repairs, and as the ground could be put to much better use, I earnestly trust that action in the direction I have indicated will be taken at an early date. I am not bringing this matter forward merely because the land on which the building is situated is valuable, but because it would be a gracious act on the part of the Government to release the men who are at present detained. Most of them have been imprisoned for minor offences. The record of one man is rather “ rough,” but having inquired into his early life, I have ascertained that he lost his parents at an early age, fell into bad company, and eventually joined the Military Forces, where, unfortunately, his record was not satisfactory. I trust the Government will consider the desirableness of releasing these men, and handing over the building to the State authorities, as by doing so, they will not only be treating the men graciously, but will be relieving the Government of unnecessary expenditure.
. -I desire to bring before the Committee a matter of importance, not only to my constituents, but to the people of Queensland generally. I refer to the establishment of a telephonic trunk line between Sydney and Brisbane. Some weeks ago, when I learned with surprise that the Government intended to duplicate the trunk line between” Sydney and Melbourne, a deputation of Queensland members waited upon the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise), and urged the establishment of a trunk line between Sydney and Brisbane. I regret that the PostmasterGeneral is not present, as he was most sympathetic, and he not only admitted the justice of our request, but said that it was a matter of great surprise to him to know that this line had not already been established. There are already trunk lines between Brisbane and Wal’langarra and Tamworth and Sydney, and it only remains to connect Tamworth with Wallangarra. On the 10th February, 1916, the secretary to the PostmasterGeneral wrote to the Associated Cham-bers of Commerce in Melbourne to the effect that the completion of the line was’ delayed owing to the then financial stress. We are now told that this line cannot be completed owing to the lack of material; but I cannot conceive of any reason which would move the Government to duplicate the Sydney to Melbourne line before establishing trunk line communication between Sydney and Brisbane. The construction of the line as far as Wallangarra has already been passed and carried out. t would not intentionally advocate any unreasonable expenditure, but I am convinced of the justification of my protest, and feel sure that other honorable members will support me in advocating that the Sydney to Brisbane line be completed before ihe Sydney to Melbourne line is duplicated.
.- I desire to ascertain if the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) can furnish me with information as to the conditions under which a certain action which was taken in England against the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was settled. I refer to the libel action of Mertons v. the Prime Minister of Australia, in which, I understand, the Commonwealth Government indemnified the Prime Minister. The Government took up his defence, and the action was. subsequently settled, but, so far as I know, Parliamenthas not been furnished with the details, of the settlement. If it was. of sufficient importance to justify the; Government spending public money in. defence of the Prime Minister, for what was said to be a defamatory statement, I think it proper that we should have particulars of the terms of settlement, and also, the amount which it cost the Commonwealth.
I also understand there is an action pending between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company (P. W. Hughes and Company). This action has been in abeyance for a long time, and I desire to know if the Government intend to proceed with it; and, if not, for what reason ?
There is also another question which I have brought forward on several occasions. I refer to the War Precautions regulation passed earlyin July last - I think about the 8th - which authorized the charging to Consolidated Revenue of all losses in connexion with the requisitioning of ships on the Australian coast. The regulation passed in July rescinded a previous regulation passed, at the time the ships were requisitioned. That previous regulation specifically stipulated that no losses were to be charged against the Consolidated Revenue of the country. I understand that under the original regulation any losses incurred were to be made good by the shipping companies. We find, however, that in July last that regulation was rescinded by Executive act, without the approval of Parliament, and no opportunity has been given Parliament to discuss the propriety or otherwise of that action. The new regulation enables theGovernment to charge to the Consolidated Revenue any loss which was incurred in connexion with the requisitioning of ships. I have been informed, and, I believe, upon reliable authority, that the loss incurred while the ships were held up in the Australian ports owing to the dispute between the companies and the seamen, was borne, not by the shipping companies, but by the Commonwealth Government. I should like to know whether that is so or not.
– Would that be subsequent to the regulation ?
– No, but I am suggesting that the regulation of July last was made in. order to justify and authorize that charge against the Consolidated Revenue; If my information is correct, will the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) tell the Committee what justification the Government had for really standing behind the shipping companies, and so enabling them to fight the seamen, who, themselves, were thus contributingto the expenses of the shipping companies in that regard. The whole of the taxpayers of Australia, so far as I understand, contributed to the expenditure that was incurred by the shipping companies during the holding up of the ships on that occasion. I should like some information on that point. On several previous occasions I have asked why this regulation was passed, and whether these losses were borne by the general taxpayers.
I had intended to refer to some other matters, but I shall not further detain the Committee. I shall be much obliged if the Treasurer will be good enough to give me. if he can, some information on the matters that I have brought before the Committee.
– As to the action brought by Merton’s I know very little. I suggest that my honorable friend (Mr. Ryan) place on the notice-paper, a question addressed to the Attorney-General, who, as he knows, deals with such matters.
– The Attorney-General was the defendant in the action, and I therefore thought the inf ormation would come with more propriety from, the Treasurer.
– As he was the defendant I should say that he would know all the minutiæ of this matter. I do not pretend to. I know that the case was settled ; but I do not know the precise terms.
– The Treasurer knows that the Government undertook to: pay the costs.
– I do not. I am also unable to state what is the position in regard to the wool combing action. That again is a matter for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
– The ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt), was very keenly interested in that case. With the exception of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) no honorable member showed a keener interest in the subject.
– But it was not by virtue ofhis being Treasurer that he was interested in it. Obviouslythat is alsoa legalmatter.
– But there is a question of policy involved. I want to know whether the Government are going on with the caseor not ?
– I do not know; and hereagain I suggest that my honorable friend inquire at the proper legal quarter. I have no doubt whatever that the Attorney-General will tell him all that there is to tell about it.
As to the shipping losses, the position may be briefly explained. The ships were requisitioned from the companies, and therefore were controlled by the Government. They were under our own Shipping Controller, and the freights were also controlled by him. That being so, the Government alone were concerned with whatever loss or profit was made on the running of the ships.
– In all the profits?
– Yes. After the hire of the ships had been paid to the company they were not further interested in the profits or losses on the business transaction. That was our responsibility.The companiesgot their hire money.
– What I am trying to ascertain is if the companies were paid for the use of these vessels, whether they were running or not.
– That I do not know. 1 should imagine that they were. When you charter a ship you pay for it. The Government having taken control of these vessels, it was our concern whether they ran or not and whether they earned profits or made losses. The loss to which the honorable member refers was incurred owingtothe refusal of the Government to increase the farts to the general public. I am not so sure myself that these fares should not have been increased before the ships were surrendered to the companies. Had that course been followed,thecost would have come outof the general public, who are all directly interestedin shipping. That is to say, any increase in fares and freights would have been added to the price of everything carried by those ships, and the public, therefore, would have had to pay for it. The Government represents the public, and, therefore, instead of agreeing to a general increase in these fares, it consented, asrepresenting the wholeof the people, to a comparatively small loss.
– What was the loss ?
– I cannot say iexactly, but I dare say that it was something over £100,000.
– There is a big margin between £100,000 and infinity.
– There is no infinity about this matter. Ihope I ha ve put the position clearly before the honorable member.. The moment the ship-owners regained control they increased the fares, which the Government had resolutely prevented them from doing during the war period. I venture to say that, during the war, freights and fares en this coast were something like 100 per’ cent. less than similar freights and fares in any other part of the world. The honorable member is always a great advocate ofGovernment control of prices. The Government rigidly controlled these freights and fares. It made arelatively small loss in doing so, and, as representing the public, it bore that loss.
– Did the Government pay the loss incurred throughthe holding up of these vessels while the seamen’s strike was in progress?
– I presume that the Government did pay the hire of the ships all along. Why should it not -have done so? From the moment that you hire a vessel, that vessel, in terms of the charter, becomes your responsibility as long as it is underyour control.
– That is the point. Was it in the terms of the charter that the Government did bear that loss? I doubt it.
– I am afraid that I cannot satisfy the honorable member. I wish I could. 1 am telling himall I know of the matter. The Government made this email loss, and so saved to the taxpayers of this countryall that would have been involved in a 20 per cent. increase of fares.If my honorable friend will set that little loss against this immense gain to the public, I think he will be satisfied that it was not a bad arrangement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means covering resolution of Supply adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Poynton do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Sir Joseph Cook) read a first and second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shalland may be issued …. for the purposes …. expressed in the Schedule to this Act. . . .
.- I move -
That after the word “Act” the following words be inserted : - “ Provided that no money shall be expended therefrom for the purposes of the administration of the War Precautions Act, or regulations made thereunder.”
The majority of honorable members are agreed that the War Precautions Act should not disgrace the Statutes of Australia any longer. No doubt the same old argument will be adduced that the Act is dying and will soon expire, and that therefore there is no need for Parliament to take any action. I am not very optimistic on that point. We were told that the Act would go by the board six months after the declaration of peace with Germany. Then we were told that it must remain in force until Australia had made peace with Austria; when Austria ceased to be an excuse we were still at war with Turkey. Turkey is no longer our enemy, so I understand the technical continuance of a state of war with Bulgaria is keeping the Act alive. When Bulgaria is disposed of, God only knows what the next excuse will be. It is about time this question was decided on the floor of the House.
– I don’t think that we should test the question in connexion with this clause to which it has no relevancy.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) called the attention of the Committee to the shipping regulations, which prove that the Government are able to do anything under the War Precautions Act. I asked a question of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on the subject early in the life of this Parliament, and his answer was practically an admission that the
Government had paid money to the companies in the manner described by the honorable member for West Sydney.
– This amendment is not proposing to change the destination of any vote.
– That is so. In the ordinary course of events the companies would have had to bear the loss occasioned by the Marine Engineers’ strike.
– They would, and they would have made the public pay up, too.
– Oh, no!
– Oh, yes. Here is a clear case in which honorable members opposite are opposing a limitation of prices.
– The workers in the shipping industry were engaged in a conflict with the capitalists and profiteers. The Government stepped in with a War Precautions regulation, which prevented the workers from continuing their fight by placing an embargo on the use of their own money. While the War Precautions Act continues in existence nobody is sure of his liberty. Its inroads upon the freedom of the people are too well known to call for recapitulation tonight. Most honorable members admit that there is no occasion for the Act to continue any longer. It is a menace to public liberty, and it is time that Australia was restored to responsible government. Any action which the Government wish to take against the liberties of the individual or associations should be taken in accordance with the law of the land, and if there is no law in existence which permits of such action, the Government should have the courage to introduce the necessary legislation into Parliament.
– Is the amendment in order?
– It is.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10th September (vide page 4444), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I presume that the title of this measure conveys the name of the co-operative society which is being formed for the purpose of erecting silos to deal with the bulk handling of wheat in Western Australia. I have little comment to offer, particularly since I have not yet been able to read the Hansard report of the Prime Minister’s remarks, delivered last Friday, and in view of the fact that the press gave the subject little or no attention. Provided, however, that the security is right I have no strong objection to the Bill. I note that it is proposed that for every £1 put up by the Western Australian farmers, the Commonwealth is to find £2. The security, I take it, will be represented by the silos themselves, until they shall have been paid for. Once the loan of £550,000 has been returned to the Commonwealth the silos will belong to the co-operating farmers. My sole objection to the measure is that I think there is a giving of, perhaps, a little too much on the part of the Commonwealth, in comparison with the amount to be raised by the parties themselves. There is, on our statute-book, at present, a Wheat Storage Act, which was passed in 1917. There, it was set forth that the Commonwealth could advance to the States a sum not exceeding £2,850,000 for the purpose of erecting silos in each State. I understand that only New South Wales has, so far, taken advantage of the Act. Silos have been recently constructed in that State; but whether bulk handling has yet been instituted I am not aware. One of the great difficulties associated with the bulk handling of wheat is that important structural alterations must first be carried out in those vessels which have hitherto carried our grain in bags. Ships’ captains do not care to go to sea with cargoes of bulk wheat unless their vessels are specially constructed for the purpose. The trouble is that the cargo is apt to shift. Provided that our farmers can get their wheat away without difficulty by bulk transport, I am of opinion that the principle is the right one. I certainly hope that our coming harvest will be sufficiently good to warrant the inauguration of bulk handling, and I also hope that the price - whether it be altered in any way by the introduction of bulk handling: - will, at any rate, remain reasonable, so far as Australian consumers are concerned. If we are going to advance £550,000 of the people’s money for the ultimate purpose of increasing the price idi- -our bread, I shall certainly not vote for this Bill. I do not believe that be- cause we ship away one-eighth of the butter produced in Australia the remaining seven-eighths, -which is consumed . here, should be increased in price.
– What leads the honorable member to “think that the introduction of bulk handling will have a similar tendency ?
– - I merely express the hope that we shall not have the same experience in respect of wheat shipped in bulk as in the case of the export of portion of our butter. I will admit, though, that there would be greater justification for an increase in the price of bread in view of the enormous quantity of grain which we export. If we were to be called upon to pay an equivalent of the export parity for coal to-day, Australian consumers would be -charged probably £2 10s. per ton. Honorable members may be interested to know - and I have just secured tie figures from Mr. Knibbs - that we produce about 11,000,000 tons of coal annually, and consume about 10,000,000 tons of it in Australia.
– I saw in the papers to-day that they are paying £29 per ton for coal in Italy.
– I recall that when a discussion arose in this Chamber concerning the price of sugar “the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) -talked out the motion on two occasions. I do not know whether, for the future, we -shall be able to defeat that kind of thing by taking advantage of the tactics witnessed in this Chamber last Friday, when the Corner party taught -us a wrinkle .or two with regard to our Standing Orders; or whether the honorable member for Wide Bay will still be able to talk out motions dealing with the price of sugar.
– A saving of 6d. per bushel on wheat by the inauguration of the bulk handling system would not necessarily mean that flour and bread would be more costly to Australian consumers.
– No. I do not infer that. Indeed, I hope that the opposite tendency will be noted, although I am afraid it may not be.
– - Surely the price of wheat must -be regulated by the world’s market to some extent.
– No more or less than in the case of coal, or any other commodity. Should our woollen manufacturers be al lowed tq say that because woollen goods cost so must in Great Britain .and other parts of the world, there must, therefore, be a big increase in the price -to Australian customers ?
– What about sugar ;in London to-day ? It costs ls. 74d. per lb.
– Far too much ! Concerning this Bill, I -would like the Government to inform honorable members how many States have taken advantage of “the Wheat Storage Act. We should also be told whether, if the Western Australian Government had availed itself of the Act, the cost involved by the Commonwealth, would have been greater, or less, than the sum of £550,000 mentioned in this Bill. The Government should state, further, whether the security given by the Western Australian Government in such circumstances would have been better than that offered in the present instance.
– The bulk handling activities in Western Australia and New South Wales are the merest preliminary instalments of the system.
– I quite believe .that; but there must first be considerable reconstruction among the vessels which have carried our wheat. Probably .95 per cent, of the tonnage removing Australian wheat during the past four years or so has .not been fitted for bulk carriage. I would like the Government ito inform .honorable members what would have been the liability of the Commonwealth, under the provisions of the Wheat Storage Act, if the States, generally, had taken advantage of that Statute. We should be told how much money has been spent in .New South Wales on the bulk handling system, particularly on the silos, and just how far the scheme has been advanced. We should know, also, what amount of New South Wales’ liability has been returned to the Commonwealth.
– I do not think that one bushel of wheat has been put into the silos in New South Wales.
– I understand that that is so ; but, if the Commonwealth has lent New South Wales money, the fact that the scheme has not yet been put into active working order is no reason why the liability . of that State should not have been liquidated. During the years of the war there has grown up in Australia an idea that if the States can get money from the Commonwealth they need not be too particular., -or in too much of a hurry, about returning it. For example, many thousands of pounds were spent by the Commonwealth on the Port Pirie coal grab, but the South Australian Government has not paid back one penny, although it promised to pay. The Commonwealth constructed the East-West railway on a distinct promise, given in; writing, that the Western Australian Government would construct the line between Kalgoorlie and Perth on the same gauge.
– Those States say they recognise their responsibility.
– That is just as far as they have. got. I am merely referring to the loose way we have got into in the handling of our finances. We are proposing to hand over£550,000 to the Westralian Farmers Co-operative Association.
– How about putting a receiver in?
– According to the articles of association the shareholders are liable only for the amount of their shares. Paragraph 13 of the agreement says that the amount to be provided and advanced by the Commonwealth shall be. two-thirds of the total cost to the company of the silos and elevators approved by the Commonwealth, but not exceeding if all the sum of £550,000. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best.) will remember that, when he was a member of the State Parliament of Victoria, that Parliament advanced about £1,500,000 to the farmers of the State for the construction of irrigation channels, and that the farmers, who by this means had the value of their land largely enhanced, repudiated their obligation, leaving the unfortunate workers in the towns to provide the interest on the money.
– That was under the writing-down system.
– It was under the writing-off system.
– It was writing down in many cases.
– Many of those farmers have made huge fortunes, and they are the people whose wills we see recorded in the newspapers every day for thousandsand tens of thousands of pounds. I hope we shall not experience thatsort of thing in connexion with the agreement under discussion.
This Bill will have the effect of doing away with the middleman, and making, the farmers the direct shippers of their own wheat - of bringing producers and consumers closer together.
– That is done now in Western Australia.
– And I am anxious to see more, of it done. Mr. W. D. Johnson, ofWestern Australia, says in a letter to me -
There are eighty-five different co-operative societies distributed throughout our farming areas, and ten industrial co-operative concerns established in our larger industrial centres. Practically the whole of these societies are members of a co-operative federation which was organized last year so as to arrange for closer unity in buying and distributing. This federation recognises the Westralian Farmers Limited as their central wholesale concern.
I should like to know from the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) whether this wholesale concern will get the same terms as other wholesalers from manufacturers in the cities. I know that when there was a wholesale co-operative society in Victoria, the manufacturers would not sell to it on the same terms as to other warehouses. I am anxious that this West Australian society should be placed in exactly the same position as are the Manchester and Scottish wholesale societies, who do an immense business. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), when speaking the other day, said that those gentlemen who enter into Rings and Combines are thieves and robbers.
– He was annoyed when he said that!
– People often speak the truth when they are angry.
Another point regarding, which I am anxious. is whether a standard rate of wage will be secured to those men who will becalled upon to work on these silos. I know that the building industry is sufficiently organized to make sure that those engaged in the construction work shall have at least the minimum rate fixed by the Arbitration Court, but I believe there has been trouble in Western Australia amongst the men engaged in lumping wheat. I understand that this co-operative society paid such men 16s. per day when the recognised rate was 18s. and £1.
– The recognised rate was 16s.
– No ; it was what I have stated. If Government money is to be expended in the way proposed, we should insert a clause in the Bill providing that the standard rate of wage shall be paid by the co-operative society for the handling of wheat. I should say that, by the new method of handling, at least 90 per cent, of the employment at present given will be done away with, and we ought to see that the workers who remain are fairly treated.
– Have you ever seen such a provision in any Bill?
– We on this side tried to get such a provision put into Bills.
– The Arbitration Court protects the men.
– But farmers are not fond of the Arbitration Court.
– They agree with arbitration.
– They only go to arbitration when they are forced.
– A great number of other people are like that.
– But farmers are about the worst example. However, I regard the Bill as a step in the right direction, always providing that the security of the Government is sufficiently covered. I understand that even farmers who are not members of this co-operative association are to have their wheat handled at exactly the same price as is charged to members. That I do not agree with. If this association is putting up £1,500,000, finding first of all £100,000 before anything is done, those non-unionists or outsiders should not be placed on an equality with them.
– Why not? All cooperative societies sell to outsiders.
– All societies do not, but give their members advantages that are not shared by the general public. Under the Rochdale system of cooperation the shareholders, on their purchases, get a rebate of about 2s. 6d. in the £1 ; and, under the scheme we are now discussing, the members of the wholesale association should receive better treatment than that given to outsiders.
– Surely, under subparagraph 7 of paragraph 4, the co-operators get something extra.
– Not according to the articles of association’.
– I rise to support the Bill and to explain, as briefly as possible, how this agreement came about. It -was largely due to the fact that wheat sacks rose to a tremendous price, costing about 6d. per bushel, or an impost of ls 6d. per bag. The farmers determined to make some change. In Western Australia alone over £260,000 per annum was being spent in the purchase of sacks, and went to a country outside, and the sacks themselves, after being used for only a month or two, were also sent away. The farmers realized that the method was antiquated and costly, and they turned their thoughts to bulk-handling, obtaining all the information they could in Australia, and then investigating the systems in vogue in Canada. The Victorian Government were very kind in sending to Western Australia lantern slides showing the bulk handling as carried on in the Dominion of Canada. Finally the farmers decided to form a company with a capital of £1,5,00,000; and I may inform honorable members opposite that that association or company is entirely non-party. Mr. iW. D. Johnson, an ex-Labour Minister, and still a Labour man, is one of the directors, and Mr. T. H. Bath, at one time Acting Premier of Western Australia in a Labour Government, is a shareholder. With such men as these connected with the organization, honorable members opposite ought to feel assured that the interests of those employed in handling the wheat will be well looked after. If all the money owed by Australia were invested as this money is proposed to be invested, the position of the Commonwealth would be much sounder than it is to-day. The Western Australian farmers have undertaken to take up 150,000 £1 shares in this concern be.fo2e the agreement operates, and when it is extended, as it must be, they undertake to put up in cash one-third of the total amount, of capital required, which really means a payment of ls. per bushel upon the wheat grown last and the ensuing year in the State and put into the Pool. As I put 23,000 bushels into the Pool, I pay £1,150 into this company, and am, therefore, justified in recommending the scheme as one which offers reasonable security. The farmers concerned feel the necessity for the establishment of something which will enable them to compete with other countries by the introduction of modern labour and money saving appliances for handling wheat, and they are prepared to put down in cash one-third of the capital required for this purpose. It will be one of the finest investments this or any other Government could make for the benefit of the whole Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member know of any other money-lenders who would jump at a proposal to lend up to two-thirds of the security ?
– Any moneylenderwould be on safe ground in this transaction. When a Government launches out into a big enterprise such as shipbuilding, it is acting very unwisely if it does not make use of the very best methods. I visited the shipbuilding yards lately, and found in use the most up-to-date appliances to enable them to compete with other countries. And so in a producing land we ought not to continue employing inadequate methods of handling our commodities, especially seeing that they must cross 16,000 miles of water to the world’s markets, and in view of the heavy cost of labour attaching to wheat-growing in Australia, and of the further fact that rail charges here are greater than they are in any other wheat-growing country. All these things are against wheat-growing in Australia. Therefore, it is the duty of this Government to assist in every effort that will minimize the cost of primary production, which, as we know, provides the greater part of the wealth of Australia. Every appliance that science can make available for us ought to be brought into use.
The farmers of Western Australia have unitedly and readily joined in this scheme. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has referred to what he described as nonunionists, but I question whether there is one farmer in Western Australia who is a non-unionist in this regard. When I was in the State during the visit of the Prince of Wales I went out with others to place this scheme before the producers, and never previously had I met with such a great display of unanimity in regard to any matter. The farmers readily agreed to put up ls. per bushel out of their 1920 Wheat Pool money to cover the one-third cash required to make a start with it. I mention this merely to show the security the Commonwealth has under this agreement. With the costliness of bags and the rather favorable price of wheat - although it is cheaper here than in any other part of the world - the present time is opportune for the wheat-growers to make an actual cash contribution to help themselves. It is said that God helps those who help themselves, and I think the Commonwealth Government should help primary producers who are prepared to put their hands in their own pockets before asking for Government aid.
– Were not the Western Australian Government willing to allow, the farmers to operate through them ?
– The farmers were not agreeable to State ownership by the Western Australian or any other Government, because they recognised that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s, and this was their own business, for which they were prepared to put down their own guarantee. However, the Western Australian Government is in full sympathy with the movement, and is prepared to make available the necessary sidings at peppercorn rentals throughout the State in order that the seventy silos in the zone for which provision is made may be established.
– I asked the question, because it is usual for the Commonwealth to advance to the State Governments, and then for the latter to advance’ to the private individuals or corporations.
– Western Australia, Victoria, and South Australia had the same opportunity that New South Wale3 grasped, but did not avail themselves of it.
– When introducing the Bill, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) pointed out that every State would be entitled, so far as the present Government are concerned, to the advantages offered under this agreement; and, as it is the policy of the Government, as also of the Opposition, to encourage production in Australia, it is not possible that there should be objection to a sound measure of this kind.
– What provision is made for wheat-growers who are not now in the scheme?
– They can come into it. The number of shares taken up at present will not represent the full capital. This scheme merely providesfor 80 per cent. for the first zone.
– But if a wheat-grower does not desire to become a shareholder, what will his position be?
– He passes his wheat into the schetme at the same cost as is paid by a shareholder. That is the advantage of the scheme. The Leader of the Opposition does not think that nonunionists, as he describes them, should receive the same advantages as apply to ordinary shareholders.
Mr.Charlton. - The shareholder will get interest on his investment.
– I was just about to explain that a shareholder gets, not only interest, but also any dividends available, on a co-operative basis. At a very low estimate the pre-war cost of handling wheat under the present bag system was 10½d. per bushel. The estimated cost under bulk handling is 4½d. per bushel. The difference is worth saving. Furthermore, the expenditure on labour to be employed in building the silos, and in maintaining them, will be spent in Australia. Under the bulkhandling system, wheat is cleaned, graded, and classified in three or four grades. The result is that for the bulk of her wheat graded in this way Canada gets 2d. per bushel more than we can get at present, and a small buyer will be able to purchase small lots. If a man wishes to buy wheat in Australia, he must appoint agents here for the purpose of sampling all wheat to see whether it is fair average quality or not. Hitherto only big buyers, who couldappoint permanent agents, have operated in Australia. The big firms established here, whom we regard as buyers, do not actually buy wheat for themselves, but purchase wheat on behalf of big buyers. It is a costly operation. On the other hand, the elevator system not only classifies the wheat, but standardizes it, and the man in India who requires 100 tors of wheat can, through the Exchange here, buy the necessary quantity of scrip of No. 1A quality wheat, being assured that he will get it, because it is standardized and has the Government’s seal upon it. By buying the scrip any one can acquire wheat insmall quantities without the assistance of middlemen. That,again, is a distinct advantage. Icould devote a good deal of time to explaining other advantages of the bulk-handling system. It takes out all rubbish, which means a saving in freight. The seconds that come from the grader can be retained here for food for fowls and pigs to the great advantage of Australia, and we would know that wheat sent abroador toour own mills for gristing would be nothing but properly graded and cleansed grain. All these advantages are achieved by the adoption of an up-to-date system.
The Western Australian farmers come to the Commonwealth as bankers, saying, “ We are putting down £150,000. Will you back us in this enterprise to the extent of £550,000?”
– That is just the point. No banker in the Commonwealth would do it atthe present time.
– If a bank hadthe same hold upon the farming community of Western Australia, they would readily do it at 6 per cent., with the saving clause that if the bankers find money more costly they can call upon the borrowers to pay more for it.
– The Commonwealth is asked to advance up to two-thirds on the present security.
– It is a very excellent security. In Western Australia primary production accounts for 86 per cent. of the wealth of the State. Surely it needs some encouragement: Otherwise, all that has been said about encouraging rural producers is mere flapdoodle. Unless we are prepared to apply more up-to-date methods to wheat growing, we cannot possibly expect to compete reasonably with other countries, and the people need not expect cheaper living.
I submit that the Government have taken the right course in bringing forward this agreement for ratification by Parliament. Had this been done in connexionwith another deal there would have been little or no trouble about it. This money will not be lost. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will recognise that the farmer who is able to put down one-third in cash out of one year’s earnings, and still carry on, is in a fairly sound position. If the farmers can put down1s. per bushel out of the prices paid for their wheat they will put up one-third of the amount for which they have asked. The calculations I have made in relation to savings include repayment of the loan and interest, and still the farmers will save the costof bags. In twenty years’ time the wheat will be handled under this scheme at1¼d. per bushel, i.e., when the loan has been repaid. From every stand-point this proposal is sound, and the farmers of Western Australia who can grow wheat may be. relied upon to pay the money which the Government are now being asked to lend them.
,.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) has approached this subject with all the enthusiasm of a member of a municipal council asking a Government for a substantial vote for roads and bridges. I profess no knowledge of local conditions in Western Australia, but I ask myself and the House what the Commonwealth, as a whole, is to derive from this business deal between a private company and the Commonwealth Government, which this Bill is designed to consummate. I believe that it was in Western Australia that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), on his arrival after his visit to England, was inspired to make the speech in which he advised the people of Australia to “ Produce, produce, produce.” This Bill produces nothing.
– Indeed it does. It will: produce a silo.
– It does not deal with production at all, but with the creation of certain conveniences for a certain limited body of farmers in Western. Australia.
– Why say “limited” when the primary producers produce 86 per cent. of. the: wealth of the State ?
– It is proposed by this Bill to subsidize those farmers. I. amsurprised at the eloquent and, at the same time, ingenuous manner in which these representatives ofthe Farmers Union have moved forward to the very brink; of the chasm of Socialism in this proposal, and have then, of course, stopped short.
– Is that why the honorable member is opposing the Bill ?
– I am not at present opposing it. I rose to obtain information. If I find a sufficiently good reason for supporting the Bill, I shall do so. Up to the present, Ihave seen that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) is seized with good reason for supporting the Bill, and the farmers who are to immediately benefit by this Commonwealth assistance will naturally be whole-hearted supporters of it. I may be pardoned, however, as a representative ofthe suburban manufacturing electorate of Batman for asking whether the working people of my constituency will benefit if this special measure of assistance be given to the Western Australian farmers?
– For whom are your manufacturers making harvesters?
– What about the Commonwealth factories in the honorable member’s electorate?
– The manufacturers are making harvesters for use by the farmers, who will, no doubt, pay for them in due course. I can tell the honorable member for Swan that if he has some proposal to submit for the promotion of State industries, or. State manufactories, in which the people of the Commonwealth as. a whole will participate, and from which they will benefit he may rely upon my whole-hearted support for it.
I have read the Agreement with which this Bill is concernedfrom end to end.. The Bill is a very simple one, and easily understood, but the schedule to the measure is a little longer and a little more complicated. Under thisproposal farmers in the State of Western Australia look forward to the happy position in which they are to draw dividends up to. 8 per cent., and ultimately to divide the whole of the profits of this venture. I see further that it is proposed that the Commonwealth Government shall advance them money at 6 per cent., which it must borrow at the same rate for the purpose. Why this special care for the farmers of Western Australia? Why should the Commonwealth borrow money at 6 per cent. and advance it to the Western Australian farmers at the same rate of interest up to two-thirds of the value of the security offered by those farmers, and that a personal security?
– They give the people of the Commonwealth wheat at half-price, and the Commonwealth, therefore, owes them something.
– It is no wonder that the honorable member for Swan should congratulate the farmers of his electorate, and the farmers of Western Australia generally, upon this very good deal. They could not borrow this money on such good terms from anybodybut the Government.
– Have not honorable members opposite said thirty times this session that they are the real friends of the farmers? Here is a chance for them to show their friendship.
– If the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) insists upon interjecting, I shall have to ask him : Why is this Agreement, and why is this Bill held out to the restive members of the Country party? What is the special reason for its introduction? I do not wish to put the question, but it is suggested to me by the smiling countenance of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who looks at me and then at the Country party corner, to ask why we should not give this money at 6 per cent, to a chosen, few, when in order to do so we must borrow it at 6 per cent, from some one else.
– The farmers of. Victoria might have made a similar request, but they are too slow in this State.
– I rose with the hope that I should get some information as to why this very unusual procedure has been adopted for the purpose of benefiting a particular class in one State of the Commonwealth. In view of the fact that the Bill is to be passed, I shall look with confidence to the honorable member for Swan, the party to which he belongs, and also the Government to support me in a proposal which I may introduce, on the strength of this very encouraging precedent, for the establishment of boot manufactories on a very large scale in the electorate of Batman, which I intend to propose shall ‘be financed by this benevolent Government to the extent of at least £2 for every £1 contributed by my friends in Batman, in order that my friends in that electorate may be able to draw dividends to the extent of at least 8 per cent, from the venture, and ultimately to divide the profits from it amongst themselves, a proposal which, in the words of the honorable member for Swan, “ cannot fail to commend itself to the people of the Commonwealth as a whole.”
.- On the 27th July, 1918, this Parliament passed an Act relating to wheat storage. I think that it was passed unanimously. In that measure it was provided that the Commonwealth should advance to various
States a sum amounting to £2,800,000, for the erection of silos.
– The advances were to be made to the State Governments, and not to private companies.
– New South Wales took advantage of that measure, and borrowed money from the Commonwealth Government for the erection of silos.
– New ‘South Wales borrowed £750,000 for that purpose.
– Magnificent silos have already been erected at Darling Harbor, and preparations are being made in various parts of the State of New South Wales for the handling of wheat in bulk. In Western Australia, instead of the State Government asking for an advance for this purpose, they have permitted the farmers of the State to come forward.
– Would not the security for the Commonwealth Government be better if the State Government Bad undertaken, the work ?
– The security could not be better than is provided for in this case, because the farmers say that they are prepared to provide £250,000 of this money.
– They are not providing a penny piece. They are putting money into a venture to a limited extent in order to draw profits out of it for themselves.
– They will be repaying the money advanced to them.
– They will be repaying it as any other mortgagor would do, but will be getting exceptionally good terms.
– Will they not be taking risks in putting their money into this venture?
– They will, like any other borrowers of money, but they will be taking less risks than other borrowers have to take in the open market.
– The New South Wales Government borrowed money on the security of the people, and the Commonwealth Government found the whole of the amount they required. In this instance the farmers of Western Australia have clubbed together, and have said: “ We are prepared to put our money into this venture to the extent of £250,000 in order to enable the bulk handling of wheat to be accomplished.”
– It is suggested that they take one risk and the Government take two risks.
– I am satisfied that the honorable member is not sincere in his opposition to this proposal.
– I am as sincere in this matter as I have been in connexion with any other matter, and that is saying a great deal.
– The Government of Western Australia fully approve of this scheme. The State Premier has promised to introduce legislation to enable the necessary sites to be made available.
– Why did not the West Australian Government back the business? They know all about it, and it is their land.
– The farmers wanted the matter in their own hands.
– I do not think that the honorable member’s opposition to the Bill is sincere. When the New South Wales Government was advanced the whole of the money from the Commonwealth for the purpose of erecting silos I cannot see how there can be the slightest objection to this proposal under which West Australian farmers provide onethird of the capital necessary and take the whole of the responsibility of the venture on their shoulders.
– Can the honorable member say why the West Australian Government did not follow the course adopted by the New South Wales Government in the erection of silos ?
– The New South Wales Government was the only State Government that undertook the erection of silos. I cannot say why the West Australian Government or the Victorian Government did not take advantage of the same opportunity. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) reminds me that the New South Wales Government put nothing into the undertaking in its own State. On the other hand, we provide one-third of this money. Sub-paragraph 8 of paragraph 4 of the agreement as given in the schedule makes it clear that there must be no monopoly of any sort, because, under it, every farmer, whether he is a shareholder in the scheme or not, has the same right to put his wheat into these silos as the farmer «vho is a shareholder. The provision is as follows : -
The company in its business shall receive and deal with grain from non-shareholders of the company upon the same terms and. conditions as it receives and deals with grain from shareholders.
That is a point worth emphasizing. Every farmer in Western Australia who produces wheat, whether he is a shareholder in this company or not, is entitled to all the advantages that come from the advance of this money by the Commonwealth.
– But he gets no interest out of it.
– If there is any profit it is derived later on by those who put their money into the scheme; but the money advanced by the Commonwealth has to be paid off by means of a 3 per cent. sinking fund with interest, and there will be very little profit for the shareholders. No profit over 8 per cent. can be divided among the shareholders.
– Did you say that all the farmers in Western Australia were shareholders ?
– I said that most of them had taken shares, but that all the farmers in Western Australia were to have the advantages of the silos.
– Why should a farmer have all the advantages of these silos, for which the Commonwealth provides the money, and for which he pays nothing?
– Let me point out the advantages that are urged for the scheme. It is claimed that in Western Australia, under the bag-handling scheme, it will cost, on last year’s prices of bags, 9 l-10d. per bushel, whereas, under the bulk-handling scheme, the cost will be only 3½d. per bushel, showing a saving of about 5½d. per bushel.
– I believe the action of Western Australia will bring jute prices down.
– I hope so. I hope, also, that all the States will follow suit, and that we shall have the bulk-handling system established throughout Australia. I do not pretend to be a judge in a matter of this sort, and can only form my conclusions from the papers given to me by those who have studied the question; but, so far as I have been able to read and judge, I believe that a big saving will come to the farmer by the adoption of the system of bulk handling. I believe it will be preferable as far as the selling of wheat is concerned, and in every sense beneficial to the farmer and the people of Australia generally. I only had the figures given to me to-day to show the. price that the farmers of Australia received for their wheat from 1914-15, the first period of the war, up to last year. It averaged only a little over 4s. 6d. per bushel. We all know that wheatgrowing did not pay at that price, and under war conditions. We realize how essential it is to keep mem on the land, but we cannot have successful farming unless we have mixed farming. We must have wheat grown in Australia if. we are to have successful agriculture here, and if we have four years in succession, in which there is no margin of profit for those cultivating wheat, it behoves the people and Government of the Commonwealth to see what methods can be adopted to reduce the cost of production: Here’ is a scheme where the farmers are prepared to come in and provide £250,000. The Commonwealth says, “We are prepared to find the money and lend it to the States.” Instead of adopting the attitude of New South Wales, where the State borrowed, the whole of the money and. controlled the. business, the farmersof Western Australiasay, “We would sooner control it ourselves.” One or two small amendments may be required in the. schedule, but I believe that it provides every safeguard that is. necessary, more particularly the oneI have just quoted..
– Is it a. fact that the profits cannot be more than 8 per cent.?
– Then what does subparagraph 7 of paragraph 4 mean? It provides that any net profits in excess of 8 per cent. available for distribution shall be distributed to shareholders on a cooperative basis.
– I overlooked that provision. They have first of all to pay 6 per cent. to the Government. There is a 3 per cent. sinking fund, and the shareholders may receive 8 per cent. of any profits available, while if there are any further profits they will be divided on a co-operative basis among those who become shareholders in the concern.
– That means that you get 8 per cent. interest, plus the possible dividend.
– You might get your 8 per cent. and you might not. The question is whether it is better for theState to control the undertaking, or for the farmers themselves to do so. Surely the’ honorable member will agree that in an industry where the farmers are the sole producers it is better that they should have the full management and control than that it should be in the hands of the States or the Commonwealth.
– Why not provide that no. interest shall be paid to the shareholders until, the loan is redeemed ? That is the honest way of doing it.
– They have- to. provide interest and sinking fund to the Government. I do not know whether any grave objection would be raised to. it, but. I am sure the honorable member would not be prepared to put his money into a concern if he were told that for twenty years, no matter what the profits were, they were all to be devoted to the repayment of the capital advanced by the Commonwealth.
– But the advance made by the Commonwealth should be repaid first.
– Then thehonorable member should have insisted that when the State of New South Wales. borrowed money for this purpose it should all be returned to the Commonwealth before the State made any profit out of the deal. He allowed his own State to borrow money to erect silos, but he asked for no such agreement in that case: Why should he have a different policy in this instance ?
– Because one belongs to the people and the other to private owners:
– Are not the producers a part of the people? The schedule should commend itself to. the House. It shows a. spirit of enterprise which I should like to see emulated by many other sections of the community. We have a. big. country, and it needs a great deal of development. We have huge spaces to be filled, but it. is. rarely that we can get any assistance for the man. who has to go out. and be prepared to make sacrifices. It seems strange to me that, when any proposal is brought forward that would help those who are prepared to take the risk and responsibility of trying to produce for this country, no matter how fair and equitable a proposition it is, some people will find fault with it, although better terms have been given to their own people than are ac corded in the Bill.I hope the measure will be carried without amendment”.
.- I am very willing to support the measure, and glad that it has beenbrought in, but if I were the Government that was actually responsible for making the bargain I should feel by no meansso confident or happy about it. My sympathies,however, are entirely with those people who are trying to do this job . and produce the wheat, and I commend them for their enterprise is bringing this contract forward and getting it through. They have evidently persuaded the Government that it is a good thing, and they can have my support.I am delighted that they have arranged this business and have managed to effect what seems to be an excellent deal in their interests.
– In the interest of both sides.
– I trust that it is in the interest of both sides, because no bargain is a good one where both sides do not do well out of it; but I have rather a grim suspicion that the enterprise of these people is going to get its due and just reward. I am inclined to think they will have the best of the bargain, because, as I see the position, a sum cf money running into considerable figures is to be found, two-thirds by the Government, and one-third by thefarmers, which is a very obvious guarantee of their good faith, but they are really getting two-thirds of the money from the Governmenton the same terms as any trading concern would get its debenture money. Nobody could get debenture money to-dayunder 6 per cent.; which is what these people are topay.
– Or more, if the rate of interest is raised.
– Yes, but that would be the case withvery other concern that was trying to raise debenture money. It would have to pay more in the future. In any ordinary trade and business deal the debenture money is small as compared with the shareholding money that isto participate in the profits. In this case the programme seems to be reversed. The debenture money, which is to be obtained at a fixed rate of interest, and which is not to participate in the profits, is very much greater than the amount which is to hefound by the shareholders, who are to participate in the whole of the profits. It has beensuggested that they are not to participate in the profitsto a greater extentthan 8 per cent., buta very short study ofthe agreement will convince anybody that they are to take their 8 per cent., plus any profits thatcan be earned by their own one-third and the Government’s two-thirds combined. I should be delighted to see this mean a very fair return to the individuals who put their wheat into the Pool, if there ia any subsequent distribution. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) suggests that the money for the sinking fund has to be found before the profits can accrue to the co-operators in the scheme, but I remind Lim that it is almost the universal practice, if you raise debenture money, to repay it over a series of years by means of a sinking fund. That is the ordinary procedure in a commercial deal such as this.
– Then where is therisk?
– I do not believe there is a great risk, but the security is nothing like so good as tho honorable member suggests. The Government are advancing up to two-thirds of the security, and the farmers are finding one-third. The Government security is whatever is acquired with the money found by the two sides, but that is absolutely the only security the Government has.
– The 5d. per bushel that we save is still to be worked on as security. There is that buoyancy in the Pool, because it is calculated that the cost will only be 3½d. per bushel. Wecan even exceed that, and still have a margin.
– But individually the honorable member has no sort of liability to repay the money.
– But it is a security.
– It is no sort of security, because it has nothing to do with it. The Government has no hold ever, and no relationship of any kind with, all these farmers in Western Australia. It has only the relationship with the company.
– And the only liability of thepeople who go into the company is the £1 per share.
– I have been saying all along that the only security that tho Government have is the assets which are purchased with the Government’s own money plus the one-third found by the farmer. There isno personal covenant, and there is nothing else that the Government have by way of security. I am prepared to accept the security, but I do not think it is quite as good as has been suggested several times in thisCh amber this evening. It is an excellent agreement from the point of view of these people, whom I am very anxious to help. I do not think it is such a bad deal from the point of view of the Government that I feel any obligation on myself to try to sway them from the decision that they have come to. I am pleased that they have arrived at the decision, but am glad that the responsibility for it does not rest on my shoulders.
.- I cannot recollect any previous occasion upon which a measure of this character has been submitted to any Parliament. Of course, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) Bays that the Bill is a very good one. Only a few days ago, after a division had been taken in which the Government narrowly escaped defeat, I heard a member of the Country party remark, “ If the Government do not do what we wish them to do. they will be faced with something even worse than this.” I do not know whether this Bill is the outcome of threats of that description. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) dealt with the measure in a very nice way, but one could not fail to perceive that he recognised that it does hot give a fair deal to the people of the Commonwealth.
– I did notsay that.
– To anybody who understands the King’s English, that was the impression conveyed by the honorable member’s remarks. I cannot understand why the Government of Western Australia have not dealt with the question of the erection of silos in the same way as other State Governments have dealt with it.
– They have to deal with a big country, and they have a lot of big works to carry out.
Mr.WEST. - There must be some reason for it. If these silos are going to prove such a boon to the State, those who represent the people should have control of then. I would prefer to sanction an arrangement being made with the Government of Western Australia, in regard to the erection of silos, rather than with a few men who propose to form themselves into a company. As a matter of fact, before anything can be done under this Bill, a company must be formed, whose shareholders will have to contribute £100,000.
– That has already been done. The whole thing has been fixed up:
-I do not think that the honorable member understands the position. He stated that he did not know much about it. He said, “ I have seen a certain pamphlet, and I have been endeavouring to understand it.”
– Did he say that?
– That about sums up his remarks upon the question. The honorable member for Flinders has directed attention to the fact that what the Commonwealth Government propose to provide is debenture capital. I venture to say that debenture capital could not be obtained at 8 per cent.These silos are not to be erected upon private land - they are to be located upon Government land. Under such conditions I am certain that no debenture capital could be obtained anywhere. If this scheme related to any State other than Western Australia, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) would be found violently opposing it.
– The honorable member’s statement does not happen to be correct.
-Under the proposed agreement the fanners cannot get a return of more than 8 per cent. upon their capital. I hold that no interest should be paid to them until the capital account provided by Commonwealth loan has been entirely liquidated. We are merely the trustees of the money which it is proposed to advance to the farmers of Western Australia, and as they will derive a substantial benefit from the erection of thesesilos, that ought to be sufficient to warrant them in disregarding the payment of interest until the capital advanced has been repaid. I would like to hear the honorable member for Swan dealing with this question. Hia remarks would be like thesinging of a psalm. I hold very strongly that the wheat grown in Australia ought not to be disposed of until a twelve months’ supply has been assured to our own people, as a safeguard against drought. That is one reason why I believe in the erection of silos for the conservation of grain. I am in favour of the. erection of silos because I consider it necessary to store- at least twelve months’ wheat, so that there will alwaysbe sufficient on hand for local consumption and seeding purposes. Although active steps are being takenin certainparts of Australia in connexion with the erection of silos, it must not be forgotten that there is only one port in Great Britain at which wheat can be discharged in bulk.
– That is erroneous.
– I understood that the honorable member gave that information bo the House. At any rate, there are very few places in Great Britain or elsewhere where facilities are provided for discharging wheat in Sulk. Ifbulk handling is generally adopted throughout the Commonwealth, wheat shipped in bulk cannot be advantageously discharged at many of the principal shipping portsbecause the necessary facilities are not provided. Under such circumstances, bulk handling would not be of great assistance to the farmers. The Government are prepared to lend money to this concern, but they should know at what rate it is to be repaid. When the Commonwealth advances money to a State it is different to financing a private concern.
– This is not quite fair. You have been talking all day.
– Then, if it will meet the wishes of the Treasurer I will ask leave to continue.
-I am not prepared to grant an adjournment, and would rather allow the honorable member to speak his full time.
– Surely the Treasurer cannot object to criticism of the measure. If the Government are prepared to amend the agreement to provide that no interest shall be paid until the capital is refunded, and will give us an assurance that the Government will secure a clear title to the land on which the silos are to. be erected, I shall not offer anyopposition.
– That will be arranged.
– There is no guarantee of that.
– If it is not donethe Government will not advance the money.
– The honorable member must know that no man has been more persistent than he has in seeing that ah adequate security is provided for all Government money advanced.
– The Government would not advancemoney without a clear title.
– It is absolutely necessary that such. a provision should be embodied in the agreement, and surely an honorable member is entitled to ask that there should be some security.
– The State Government of Western Australia has fully approved of the scheme, and the Premier nas promised to introduce a Bill providing for the necessary sidings at stations.
– Everything has to be done to the satisfaction of our legal advisers.
– I am not opposing the measure simply because I am on this side of the chamber, but ampointing out what I consider to be the defects in the agreement. The Treasurer was not aware of the information that has just been submitted by . the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory).
– That has already been placed before the House.
– The land should be vested in the Commonwealth, and if that were done there would not be any trouble. The Government should draw up an agreement as if they were entering into an arrangement with the State, because we are trustees, and should see that the business is played on a proper basis. There is no mention in the agreement of the Government having a clear title to the land on which the silos are to be erected. This may be regarded as a somewhat socialistic proposition in the interests of the farming community of Western Australia. I hope that when we go into Committee the Government will be preparedto accept reasonable amendments calculated to effectively safeguard theCommonwealth against loss. Only a short time ago, when I urged that the duty on tinctures and various drugs used by the Sydney Hospital should be remitted, I was told that the Government could not afford to grant that request since they were short of money. They san find money, however, for this enterprise. Those honorable members who are most anxious to secure the passing of the Bill are trying to defeat the constitutional requirement that the Federal Capital shall be in New South Wales. They are opposing the building of the Federal City.
– Does the honorable member know that it will cost the Government¼ per cent, to raise this money, which is to be loaned at 6 per cent. ?
– It would be impossible for any private concern to raise money at 6 per cent. from a financial institution.
Mr.Charlton.- It will costthe Government something to raise this money, but the Westralian Farmers Limited are not to be asked to recoup the Commonwealth the cost so incurred.
– I am glad that the honorable member is taking an interest in this matter. It is our duty as an Opposition not so much to try to defeat the Government as to see that when they make a deal the interests of the people are duly considered.
– The honorable member would be very useful to the farmers.
– Useful ?
– Yes, in pumping gas to destroy the weevils in the wheat!
– If the honorable member were not a representative ofWestern Australia he would be a keen opponent of this measure. He is always opposed to any attempt on the part of the Government to encourage industries in the best interests of Australia. If this Bill be defeated, the farmers of Western Australia will have to lav the blame at the honorable member’s door.
I am glad to observe that the . Treasury will have some little control over this venture. I hope that when our party comes into power it will take care that there shall be always retained in Australia at least twelve months’ supply of wheat for gristing and seed purposes to meet the possibility of drought. I believe that if the Labour party were in power it. would make that provision, and I am sure that the New South Wales Government will insist upon it in connexion with their silo scheme. I regret that the Government of Western Australia has not followed the example of New South Wales in building State silos. The Commonwealth, in advancing money to a State Government, would be practically advancing it to a section of its own taxpayers. There might be some reason for lending money for such a purpose to a State Government or a Governmentcontrolled Commission, but in proposing to lend money to private enterprise in this way, we are creating an unwise precedent.
I think I have shown that there are some anomalies in this measure, and I trust that we shall include in theagreement provision for greater security.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
The company shall be formedunder and be subject to the following conditions: -
.-I move -
That the word “ shareholders,” in paragraph 7 of clause 4, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ suppliers.”
If the amendment is agreed to, the paragraph will then read that all profits above 8 per cent. shall be distributed to the suppliers on a co-operative basis according to the quantity of grain delivered by each to the company. All men who contribute grain to the scheme will be contributing also to the profits, and having provided that 8 per cent. shall be paid to the shareholders on the capital invested, it is fair to say that all profits in excess of. that interest shall be distributed amongst all suppliers. Eight per cent. is a fair return on the capital invested. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) said that the bulk handling would mean a saving of 4d. per bushel.The greater the number of suppliers of grain the greaterwill be the profit, and it is fair that they should all participate. If the clause is not amended as suggested the shareholders, besides getting 8 per cent on their capital, will divide amongst them, on a co-operative basis, all profits in excess of 8 per cent., and . nobody else will derive any benefit other than by the more economical handling of the grain. Perhaps within tha next ten years there will be hundreds of new farmers in Western Australia, who may not be in a position to become shareholders in this company, and although they may place large quantities of wheat in the scheme, and thus help to create the profits, they will have no share in them.
– Has the honorable member known his suggestion to be adopted by any co-operative society ?
– The co-operative societies do share their profits with nonshareholders, but whereas the shareholder may receive 2s. or 2s.6d. in the£1, the non-shareholder will receive only about 1s. In this scheme, if the profits were equivalent to 15 per cent. on the capital invested the shareholders would really get the whole of them.
– They would get8 per cent, on the capital invested, and the remaining 7 per cent. would be distributed on a co-operative basis.
– The shareholders are to be guaranteed 8 per cent., which will be 2 per cent. more than the interest they will be paying to the Commonwealth, and if they agree to share any profits in excess of that rate with all who contribute grain to the scheme, they will be offering an inducement to farmers to support the venture.
– Can a man have one share, and be a shareholder?
– Yes, and he will participate in all the profits.
– It is competent for any person to become a shareholder by buying one share for £1. All profits in excess of 8 per cent. will be distributed on a co-operative basis. A man who owns only one share may contribute 10,000 bushels, and on a comparative basis he will get a dividend, but anotherholding 10,000 shares and contributing no wheat, will get no dividend. There is nothing to prevent any man from becoming a shareholder. Mr. CHARLTON.- Nobody has explained previously that there will be provision for anybody to take up shares and participate in the profits.
– It will be a man’s own fault if he does not become a shareholder.
– If the amendment were agreed to, what inducement would there be for farmers to invest any money in the scheme?
– Shareholders are to be guaranteed 8 per cent., which is a very good speculation, especially when the speculator is personally concerned in the business.
– That 8 per cent. is not guaranteed.
– But. before anybody else can get anything, the shareholders must be paid their 8 per cent.
– But in a bad season they will get nothing.
– Hear, hear; 8 per cent. is a fair rate.
– It is true that in a bad season the shareholder may get no return at all on the capital he has invested, and I would be in favour of providing that his8 per cent. per annum, should be a first charge on the profits from the following season.
– Another democratic principle in connexion with the company is that one shareholder shall have one vote. The large shareholder will be no stronger than anybody else.
– The honorable member’s assurance that any farmer, by payment of£1 may become a shareholder, removes my objection to the agreement, and I will not press the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move -
That -the following words be added to paragraph 7 of clause 4: - “after the amount of the loan from the Commonwealth Government has been redeemed.”
I do not think any percentage should be paid to shareholders until such time as the Commonwealth advance shall have been wiped off. In the agreement, only 3 per cent. is allowed for the redemption of the Commonwealth loan. The item of depreciation alone will amount to more than 3 per cent., yet no provision is made for depreciation at all. The Government should have some further security. No business man would entertain such a pro- position as this.
– Three per cent. would liquidate the liability in about nineteen years.
– Still, the item of depreciation has not been considered, and that alone will absorb more than 3 per cent. No property depreciates more rapidly than wheat silos, exposed as they are to all weathers, and liable to a great deal of rough handling every year. The first duty of the people concerned in this measure should be to refund the capital of the Commonwealth, for that would be to their own interests. If the liability were wiped out in ten years the shareholders would find themselves in an excellent position. It appears to me that this Bill represents a money-making concern which is not interested in where the money comes from or when it is to he paid back.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 26a. All persons employed in carrying or transporting wheat to the silos or to the ship shall be paid the standard rate of wage as fixed by the Arbitration Court, or as agreed between the farmers and the workers.”
Practically the whole of the lumping will have been done away with by the introduction of the bulk handling system. Still there will be some amount of work, and I want to see that the workers are safeguarded. Farmers in the past have opposed factories legislation and arbitration Acts.
– But they have a Court now inWestern Australia; all the machinery for the protection of the workers is in active force.
– I can see that the Treasurer will not accept my proposition; nevertheless, I propose to endeavour to safeguard the rights of the lumpers. On the last occasion, when there was trouble in Western Australia, the farmers would not pay the workers the rate which had been fixed. Under the agreement arrived at the rate of pay was from 18s. to £1, but the farmers refused to give more than 16s.
– That was not a matter for the farmers at all. The Minister controlling the Wheat Pool was concerned in that.
– I cannot think that the honorable member (Mr. Tudor) is serious in making a proposal of this kind. Why should these lumpers in Western Australia have preferential treatment over lumpers elsewhere? Surely this is an Australian matter?
– These are the only people we are lending £550,000 to.
– What has that todowith the matter? The honorable member can give the lumpers no advantage out of this £550,000, except such as they get from the Arbitration Court. There is already an Arbitration Court in Western Australia, and all the necessary machinery for securing them proper wages. Why is the honorable member so anxious to duplicate matters in this way? The lumpers already get what the Court gives them, and if a provision of this kind were placed in thirty Acts, it could give them no more. Besides, we cannot bind these people in Western Australia; until the matter has been cleared up in the High Court, we do not know where we stand.
– I do not say it should be the Federal Arbitration Court; I mean any Court, or any agreement.
– It is idle in a Federal Bill to stipulate what a State Arbitration Court shall do. As I say, the machinery is already there, and as this proposal can give these men nothing whatever, why encumber the Bill with it?
.-I do not know why the Treasurer objects to this amendment; or, indeed, why the farmers’ representatives object to it. It merely lays down that men shall be paid what is mutually agreed on, and, failing an agreement, that the matter shall go to the Court, probably the State Arbitration Court. We seek to have this amendment in the measure because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) states that in the past agreements of the kind have been repudiated. If the Commonwealth is finding £550,000 of money, it is only fair to safeguard the interests of the employees.
– We are coming to the Commonwealth as a money lender on certain conditions.
– And the Commonwealth is lending the money on very good conditions. Money cannot now be raised for less than 6 per cent., and it costs the Commonwealth more to borrow the money for this purpose, because it has to pay the cost of the flotation of the loans.
– We might as well attach such a conditionto the per capita grant.
– That is quite a different matter. It would have been better if the State Government had accepted the offer of the Commonwealth three years ago in the matter of the silos. The State Government, however, let the matter slide until the farmers have been compelled to form a company. That does not say much for the Government of Western Australia, or for the Governments of any of the other States who did not take advantage ofthe offer of the Commonwealth. I am quite in sympathy with the scheme, and do not wish todelay the measure; but this association is getting money on security which no other lender would accept. What could we do with the silos if the whole scheme failed? Then, again, the land is to be rested in the company, and no lender will advance money unless the title is vested in him; and we have to depend on the State Government as to whether we get the land.
.- I fail to understand why this amendment is proposed. If I understand it aright, it means that the wage shall be according to an award of the Arbitration Court, or according to an agreement entered into between the parties. Surely wages are always fixed on one or the other plan. Why not make a similar provision in regard to the per capita grant, War Service Homes, or public works generally? It is the first time I have known such an amendment suggested. I feel quite sure that neither the Leader of the Opposition nor the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) are looking for cheap advertisements, but, at the same time, they are putting honorable members on this side in a false position, in, as it were, forcing them to vote against giving employees a wage according to an Arbitration Court or a mutual agreement.
Question - That the proposed new clause (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200914_reps_8_93/>.