8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Six Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2:30 p.m., and read prayers.
. WAR SERVICE HOMES.
Press Criticism or Minister job Repatriation : Build mo of Bombs . in South- Australia: Agreement- with South Australian Government.
Mr. LISTER.- Last year I drew the attention of the Government- to the reported maladministration - of the War Service Homes Department,’ and asked that a Commission be appointed to inquire into certain charges that had been made. I desire now to ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen in to-day’s press a statement in which very grave reflections are made on the Minister for Repatriation (Senator £. D. Millen), with regard to War Service Homes building operations. In view of that, does the right honorable gentleman propose to take any action?
Mr. HUGHES. - I have not seen any statement in to-day’s press referring to ‘ War Service Homes, or anything else. If there is in the press a statement which reflects upon my honorable colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, I shall discuss- it with him, and will then answer the question asked by tho honorable member.
Mr. BLUNDELL.- As the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation has ‘definitely stated, in this House, that there- is no agreement in existence between the Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia for the building of War Service Homes, I desire to ask him, if that is so, under what - authority has £1,000,000 been advanced by tho Commonwealth to the South Australian Government for the building of soldiers’ homes? ‘
Mr. HECTOR LAMOND. - A similar question is being asked, on notice, in another place to-day, and I shall read to the honorable member the answer that is to be given to that question. 1 and 2. The memorandum signed by the then Assistant Minister and the State Minister for ‘Repatriation provided for a loan of only £800,000 during last financial year. When the formal agreement, in accordance with this memorandum, was prepared and submitted to the South Australian Government for approval, they contended that on error had been made in the memorandum, and that the contemplated loan should be for £1,000,000. The Commonwealth agreed to increase the loan as requested, and continued to advance moneys to the South Australian Government in good faith, but when the agreement was engrossed and submitted for signature, the South Australian Government held it up for weeks, and subsequently submitted an entirely new agreement. In view of this action, it is not thought unreasonable to require the completion of the agreement before further advances arc made. The new agreement submitted by the South Australian Government has been referred to the Commonwealth Crown law authorities.
– I desire to . ask the Prime Minister when the House may expect to be furnished with information as to the intention of the Government with regard to the appointment of an official representative of the Commonwealth, such as ‘ a High Commissioner, in the United States of America?
– I have no official information to give the honorable member. What he suggests is a thing eminently to be desired. Many of these proposals resemble going to heaven. We all want to get to heaven, but, apparently, there are obstacles.
Representation of Australia
– Has the Prime Minister yet determined upon the representation of the Commonwealth at the forthcoming Conference of the League of Nations at Geneva) I addressed n similar question to the right honorable gentleman about a month ago, and he then said that the matter was under consideration. As the Conference is to be held next month, honorable members desire to know the names of the two representatives to be appointed in addition to the High Commissioner.
– It has not been the practice for the Commonwealth to have three representatives at such gatherings, nor do I think that anything is to be gained by representation by three delegates. I think I said in reply to the honorable member’s previous question that the High Commissioner would represent the Commonwealth in this instance. Questions wore then- asked as to whether we proposed to consider a request for -the appointment of a woman delegate to represent the -women of Aus-‘ tralia, and I replied that that matter was receiving attention. Reference was again made to that phase of the subject yesterday. I shall be glad to hear from honorable members why they think we ought to have three representatives at the Conference. If the House is of the opinion that nothing less than three will do, the Government will appoint three, but, for myself, I donot see the necessity for appointing three. The matter is, however, one for the House to decide.
-Can the PostmasterGeneral give the House information as to when the forward policy of his Department in regard to the construction of country telephone lines will be proceeded with inNew SouthWales? By way of explanation, I wish to say that a line from Gunning to Byalla, in my electorate, was surveyed over two years ago, and that, although I have frequently urged its construction, I can obtain no satisfaction?
– I hope, immediately after the delivery of the Budget statement by the Treasurer, to give the House a full and detailed statement of our programme. I recognise that honorable members are anxious to know what is being done in this respect,
Remission of Inspection Fee on Apples and Pears.
– In yiew of the unprofitable experience of apple exporters this year, will the Minister for Trade and Customs take into consideration the advisableness of remitting the inspection fee of½d. per case proposed to be charged by the Department on apples and pears for export? Does the honorable gentleman realize that a shipment of 60,000 cases involves a payment of £75 for inspection work, which can be carried out in a couple of days?
– Where the Commonwealth has set up a system of inspection of exports, particularly of such exports as meat and butter, it is the practice to require a proportion of the costs so incurred to be borne by the products. The Commonwealth has a very large staff of inspectors and others, whose duty it is to examine produce for export. The fruit industry, up to the present, has contributed little, if anything, to the cost of inspection. I am not prepared at this stage to say that we will not make a charge for inspection ; but, in view of the representations made by the honorable member and others as to the unfavorable season, I promise to consider the matter further.
Conversion of Vacant Block
– In view of the great generosity of the State of Victoria in providing us with this magnificent building free of all rental charge, can you, Mr. Speaker, inform the House if anything is to be done to remove that awful eyesore, of an empty block which is guarded by a splendid fence so that children may be kept from playing upon it? I refer to the unkempt plot of ground to the north of Parliament House, and I wish to know if that great iron farrier around it cannot be removed in order that children may have access to the ground to play thereon.
– I have to inform the honorable member, as I have done on previous occasions when referring to the same matter, that the plot of ground in question was the subject of negotiationa some time ago between the President of the Senate and myself on the one hand, and the Speaker and the House Committee of the State Parliament on the other. A scheme was submitted to them for the conversion of the blockinto an attractive little ornamental garden space.We undertook to be responsible for the removal of thefence and lay out the garden area., and the City Council wero prepared to shoulder their share of tho maintenance scheme. However, the proposal did not meet with the approval of the State authorities, one objection being that they thought they might require the ground, for public buildings when the Federal Parliament gave up the. occupancy of its present location. Recently a suggestion was made by an officer of the Education Department, apparently with the approval of the State Parliament House Committee, that the ground should be utilized for the purpose of a children’s playground in connexion with the High School closeat hand. I communicated recently with the President of the Senate, . who is chair; man of the Joint House Committee, with respect to the matter, of this piece of ground, and I have received from him tho fallowing reply: -
Early this week I had a visit from one of the officials of the Education Department, who desired to make a proposal that it should be made available as a recreation ground for the pupils of the High School just across the way. He Informed me that the State Parliamentary Committee had given him permission, provided it was agreeable to our Committee. I promised him that, on receipt of a written request from him in that regard, enclosing copy of formal permission of the State Parliament, I would bo prepared to recommend to our Joint House Committee that the desired permission should be granted, provided that all costs necessary for the preparation and maintenance of the ground should be borne by the Education Department I anticipate that the necessary papers will be all available within the course of a day. or two, and then, after consultation with you, the necessary action can be taken.
That is all I can communicate at this stage. Whether the piece of land in question should be reserved solely for tho use of pupils of the High School or should be made available as a general playground are subjects for further consideration.
– In the event of any arrangement being made with the Victorian authorities for tho disposal of the reserve, will tho House be given an opportunity of considering the proposal with a. view to allowing all children, rather than those’ from only one school, to use the ground ?
– I think I have already intimated that that aspect would require to be considered when the proposal was before us in concrete form. Tho whole matter willbe dealt with by the Joint House Committee when a definite proposal in writing has been received.
Allocation of Proposed Grant fob Public Works - -Iron Trades awd Shipbuilding.
– Tho honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) asked tho following question yesterday: -
Will the Prime Minister lay upon the tabic of the House a statement showing the allocations to the different States of the amount of £250,000 . to be advanced by the Federal Government for road making purposes?
I am now in a position to give the honorable member the desired information, The allocations to the different States of the advance by the Federal Government for road’ making purposes are as follow: -
– The Prime Minister received a deputation last week from representatives of various unions, who placed before him the matter of unemployment in the iron .trades and in the shipbuilding industry. Has the right honorable gentleman any information regarding what is proposed to be done to provide employment?
– I understood that the information had been already published; representatives of the press interviewed me last night on the matter. Shortly put, the suggestions - made by the deputation had relation to the repairing of ships, and to a contract forming part of the work to be carried out under the AngloPersian Oil Company’s agreement with the Commonwealth. As to the repairing of ships, reference was specially made to the Araluen. The other vessels lying idle are new ships which have just come out of the yard. I discussed the whole subject with Mr. Kneen Acting Manager for the Commonwealth Line in Australia; and, after very careful consideration, he reluctantly came to the conclusion that it would not pay to repair the Araluen. The sum of £20,000, I understand, would be necessary to fit her for sea, and it is more than questionable whether she would be worth £20,000 afterwards. With respect to the other point raised by the deputation, namely, that relating to the construction of works under the AngloPersian .oil agreement, I went into the proposition with Sir Robert Garran, one of the Commonwealth directors on tho company. I gathered from him that there were either four or five contracts - the work had been so divided - and that tho reference made by the deputation was to one among those four or five. . The’ others had been let within the Commonwealth. This particular matter, however, was one of urgency, and was such as would determine the date bywhich the works could be erected. The directors, after closely examining the whole of the facts, had said that it would be impossible to extend the time, and, further, that all the work that would be done here would eonsist of punching holes in plates which would have to be imported.When one sets against that position the fact that, for eight or nine months, some hundreds of men who would be otherwise employed upon the finished refinery would be out of work, the conclusion was reluctantly reached that nothing further could be done other than had already been decided upon.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. On 27th July, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) the following question : -
In reference to his speech at Adelaide on the 20th May, in reply to a deputation asking that a portion of company profits should be exempt from income tax. in which he stated it was the intention of the Government to deal with the matter, will he bring in the necessary Bill at an early date?
To that the Treasurer replied -
Apparently the honorable member has been misled by some faulty newspaper report. I did not receive a deputation in Adelaide on the subject mentioned, or make any statement of the character indicated.
I have before me a copy of the Australian Insurance and Banking Record of 21st June, and in it I find the following passage : -
The Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) referred to the taxation of companies in his speech at Adelaide on 29th May. He said that the section ofthe Income Tax Act dealt with the power given to the Commissioner of Taxation to step in in the case of any company and say that a sufficient part of the profit has not been distributed. He had explained in Brisbane that there were two questions connected with it. One was the placing in the hands of a single individual the great responsibility of that determination, and the other was the fact that the intention of Parliament had evidently not been carried out in the proper sense, by reason of the fact that a legal interpretation which had been placed upon it had caid that there was no option to the Commissioner to say that a sufficient amount had to be distributed. Thetax was to be levied on the total profits, and no part was to be kept in reserve. It was the intention of the Government to deal with the question with regard to the two sides of it.
I quote that passage to show the foundation upon which my question was based. I think the Treasurer will give me some credit for taking a keen interest in the financial welfare of Australia,
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act- Promotion of W. C. Street, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1922 - No. 5 - Interpretation.
CUSTOMS TARIFF (INDUSTRrES PRESERVATION) ACT.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Rebates: Purchases Abroad: Fruit and Jam Industries
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1.What is the total weight of the sugar content of processed products such as milk and fruit exported from the Commonwealth since the present sugar agreement has been in force?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay upon the table of the House -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Tlie answers to tas honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Commonwealth press telegrams shall mean those relating to parliamentary, executive, and departmental proceedings of the Commonwealth, or reports of proceedings of Federal Royal Commissions, or parliamentary papers and Bills; or summaries thereof, without notes or comments, or any extraneous matter beyond what may bc necessary to afford a connective statement of the facts.
The rates for press telegrams prescribed by the Post and Telegraph Kates Act 1902- 1920 are as follows: -
The foregoing rates are exclusive of porterage charges, and are for single press telegrams. The charge for a multiple press telegram is the charge for a single telegram for the first copy and an additional charge of 4d. per 100 words, or portion of 100 words for each copy.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The matter is being inquired into, and the information asked for will be supplied as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories -
Benior officers, Messrs. Hicks and Senior, be. fore recommending the junior officer, Mr. Ainsworth, issue a certificate certifying that there is no senior officer available ascapable of satisfactorily performing the duties “ as Mr.. Ainsworth, as is required by section 44 of the Act?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
White Australia Policy - Industrial Arbitration - Northern Territory Development
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If so, will he answer Sir Henry Barwell by furnishing definite replies to the following questions propounded by him: -
Can white women live there and enjoy reasonably good health while carrying out ordinary domestic duties?
Can white children be successfully reared there?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Debate resumed from 27th July (vide page 861), on motion by Mr. Bowden -
That in the opinion of this House the time has arrived to reduce (he postal charges within the Commonwealth.
– In dealing with this question I propose, first of all, to outline the reasons for which the present charges were imposed. In June, 1918, the then Treasurer (Mr. Watt) advised that, in order to pay war pensions and interest on war loans, the Commonwealth would require to raise in the year 1918-19 a very much larger revenue than had previously sufficed to meet obligation’s, and he asked the Department of the PostmasterGeneral to prepare a scheme which would enable additional revenue to the extent of £700,000 to be raised. When delivering his Budget in 1920, the succeeding Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) said -
The necessity for raising extra revenue suggests a review of the charges mode for services rendered to the public, particularly by the Post Office Department, and new rate’s are proposed which have a better relation to the increased cost of supplying those services.
Later on, my predecessor (Mr. Wise) asked the House to increase the postal charges, and in doing so submitted a number of reasons in justification for the increases sought to be imposed. Among these were -
He pointed out that those increased costs represented £1,200,000, and were brought about by a number of causes, including higher wages payable as the result of Arbitration awards. The honorable member also pointed out the probable increased cost -of inland mails as the result of the liberal policy he had established in regard to outlying services. Where in former years the people supplied with these services had been obliged to bear the whole of the’ loss sustained by the Department in running these ‘ services, and at a later stage 50 per cent, of the loss, my predecessor announced that in future the Department would bear 75 per cent, of any loss sustained by a particular service. He also pointed out that there would be increased cost in respect of overseas mails, and drew attention to the fact that the percentage increase in postage charges, in which he asked the House to concur, would not be greater than that charged in other countries: I do not wish to deal with the increases made in other countries. In any case, it is. hardly fair to compare Australia, with its extensive areas, with other and more settled countries of the world, except, perhaps, to extend consideration to our Postal Department .because of these vast areas. The increased rates charged were, however, not introduced at the wish of the Postal Department.
Let. Bie refer to a few of the commitments which the Treasurer had in mind when he asked for additional revenue. I have secured from the Treasury a statement, showing the exact position at the present time of what, may be termed war or poet-war commitments. Our commitments from revenue in respect to interest and sinking fund during the financial year 1921-22 were no less than £21,075,693. I mention this fact because the surplus revenue of the Postal Department goes into the Treasury to relieve, and to that extent relieves, the Treasurer from imposing taxation in other directions.
– Is it a new policy to expect postage to pay for repatriation ?
– It is not a new policy ; it is one to which the House agreed when’ it was brought forward, and I am merely dealing with the position as I find it to-day. Other commitments which the Treasurer had in mind a.t the time were in respect to wail pensions, repatriation expenditure, and payment for other war services. Une complete figures are as follow : -
The following expenditure for war services was made from revenue in 1921-22 :_
It is interesting to note how much money has been paid out of Consolidated Revenue upon war commitments. To 30th June, 1922, the following amounts had been paid out of revenue -
– I thought it was the Treasurer’s duty to deliver the Budget. What connexion have these figures with postage- rates?
– They are .of considerable importance in view of the. fact that it was this House that agreed that postal charges should be ‘ increased, and that the revenue derived- from the increase should go to meet the commitments -to which I have; just been referring.
– I suppose that the Postmaster-General . will let” us know the amount that has been contributed by ,the Post Office to the Consolidated Revenue.
– Yes, I can da so. As the result of the increased charge of 1/2 d. imposed in 1918, the revenue of the Department increased in that year by £463,318. Prom the 1st July, 1919, to 30th June, 1920, the revenue was £7.45,962, and from the 1st July, 1920, to the 30th September, 1920, it. was £197,953, or a total for those twentythree months of £1,407,233.
– Does all this represent the gross proceeds from the extra postal taxation, or does it simply represent the proceeds, plus something else ?
– It represents the gross proceeds of the extra postal taxation. I wish now to refer to another phase of the question, in order to shaw the difference in the expenditure in the Department now as compared with the period when penny postage was introduced. Penny postage was introduced in May, 1911, and the following figures are a comparison of the expenditure .on inland «4id coastwise’ mail services during 1910-11 and 1921-22: -
– Where do you get those figures from?
– From Mr. Haldane, the Chief Accountant of the Department, and their accuracy is vouched for by responsible men; that is the reason I am keeping so close to my notes. When this motion was given notice of, I asked the officers in the Department to inform me as to the total increased expenditure in respect of salaries or allowances since the Service had been brought under the Arbitration Act. In reply, the Chief Clerk of the Department has furnished me with the following information : -
The increased remuneration granted members of the Federal Public Service organizations registered under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act of 1911, from the date of the first award [a 1913 up to the present date, has been as shown hereunder. The figures set forth are Oil an annual basis, and aTe calculated as for the first year Of operation of awards or variations thereof. These amounts represent increased payments to permanent officers of the Service due directly to arbitration, and do not include increments of salary due to ordinary progression through classes or grades, or increases by promotion; nor do they include the benefits gained by temporary employees as regards increased remuneration due directly, or indirectly, to arbitration awards, nor ‘the in-, creased amounts drawn by permanent officers as overtime, relieving and travelling allowances and other payments of a miscellaneous nature: -
In addition to the foregoing* permanent officers were paid during 1920-21 at the annual rate of £191,094 on account of basic wage, and £145,952 for child endowment, thus making a total of nearly £1,500,000. I point out that this information does not include the temporary staff, and it is difficult to obtain figures as to what the increase has been as a result of Wages Boards awards and other concessions, because some of these are intermittent.
– Is the trend of this argument that we are to have a bigger surplus at the end of this year than we had last year?
– No one can say what the revenue will be, but the present indications are that it will be bigger at the end of this year than at the end of last year. I do not wish to go into .all the details of the arbitration proceedings; there are about a dozen different decisions.
– They all mean increased cost.
– Yes, to the extent I have said. In 1920*21, over and above all these costs, we made a profit on the telephone service of £222,475, a loss of £8,312 on the telegraph service, and a postal profit of £’929,605, a total of £1,143,767. There has been a good deal said about what may happen if we reduce the postage to Id. It is thought by many that if we decrease the rate there will be a greater volume of business. In October, 1920, the war postage was abolished and the rate was raised to 2d. per oz. The war postage increased the postage by 50 per cent, in respect of 95 per cent of the number of letters posted, but this increase brought about no reduction in the number of letters posted. As a matter of fact, the postings of letters for delivery within the Commonwealth during 1918-19 were 2,403,061 over the previous year, and the postings for 1919-20 were 40,809,898 over those for the year 1918-19. . In like manner, the increase of rates in 1920 has not to any extent interrupted the natural growth of postings. As stated, the postings in 1919-20 were nearly 41,000,000 in excess of the postings of the previous year, an increase of 8£ per cent. The increase was abnormal, and was due partly to large postings by the Departments of Defence and Repatriation, and to the fact that in that year we had a. general election and a referendum. The postings of letters for the year 1920-21 showed a decrease of 14,240,847. The postings of packets during the same period, however, showed an increase of 9,426,633. Under penny postage, circulars and other commercial papers were posted as letters. Under the recent rates it is cheaper to send them as packets. Therefore, the actual decrease in postings was 4,814,214. It is not fair to make a comparison of the postings of 1920-21 with those of 1919-20 unless allowance is made for the abnormal conditions prevailing in the latter year. The natural increase of postings in 1919- 20 over those for 1918-19 would have been 15,000,000. Therefore, if 1919-20 were credited with that increase, the figures, of 1920-21 would show an increase ‘of approximately 12,000,000, exclusive of making allowance for packets. This contention is strengthened by the figures of postings so far available for 1921-22. The complete returns are not compiled, but reports to hand giving the figures as to postings at the General Post Offices in the States show an increase, at these points, in 1921-22, of 9,000,000 over the postings for 1920-21. Further, they show an increase to the extent of 5,600,000 in the number of packets posted .
It is popularly supposed that the introduction of penny .postage brought about an enormous increase in postings, but if reference is made to the departmental statistics, it will be seen that the total number of letters posted for de- livery in ‘ the Commonwealth only increased to the following extent: -
None of these figures show what I would describe as an abnormal increase.
– They all relate to postage for delivery within the Commonwealth ?
– Yes. I am not dealing with oversea mails. In 1911, when penny postage was generally introduced throughout the Commonwealth, the postings increased by 14 per cent. Therefore, no great increase in postings is likely to follow a reduction in rates, especially as the recent increases in rates did not -bring about a decrease of postings. In 1912, the year following the introduction of penny postage, the number of postings per head of population was 96.36. In 1920, with twopenny postage, the number was 104.24. The position justifies the assumption that even if penny postage were introduced the increase in business would not exceed 10 per cent, for the first year of its operation. The following table should be of interest: -
It is clear from these figures that, as the result of twopenny -postage, the mail matter dealt with, has not decreased. On the contrary, there has been a marvellous increase. Some people seem to think that, with a reversion to penny postage, the volume of correspondence dealt -with by the Department would he doubled, so that there would be no actual loss of revenue.
– And the work of the Department, so far as this branch is concerned, would practically be doubled in that event.
– That is a point which some advocates of penny postage do not seem to take into account. The statistics I have put before honorable members clearly show that, with the introduction of penny postage, there was no abnormal increase in the mail matter dealt with.
– When Senator Thomas brought in penny postage the Department estimated that it would result in a loss of about £750,000 per annum. As a matter of fact, in the first year during which . the reduced rate operated we did not lose half that amount, while in the second year there was an actual increase in the postal revenue. It is well known that practically every official of the Department is opposed to penny postage.
– I think I have clearly shown that, with the exception of the first year, when there was an increase of 14 per cent., the increase in postings under penny postage continued to be normal. To revert to penny postage would be to hit the country districts very hard. My predecessor in office, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) arranged some two years ago for a more liberal treatment of country post-offices and telephone services generally than had ever prevailed before. When a demand is made for a new service in a country district the persons concerned are required to show that it will produce a certain amount of revenue. The Department is now prepared to bear 75 per cent, of the loss on any such service, provided that the people to be served will enter into a guarantee to contribute the remaining 25 per cent. I would prefer to do away altogether with- the requirement as to a guarantee rather than revert to penny postage, and so lose revenue.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral proposing to do away with the requirement as to a guarantee?
– I am not. The adoption of such a course would be attended with certain disadvantages. The very fact that people who ask for a cer tain service are prepared to contribute 25 per cent, of any loss that may be incurred in connexion with it is some a’ssurance to the Department that it will not be loaded with an absolutely non-paying undertaking. I would infinitely prefer to do away with the requirement as to a guarantee in respect of special services rather than reduce the revenue of the Department by reverting to penny postageI do not regard my Department as one merely for the collection of taxation. Itis a Department that renders to the public certain services, and for those services it should receive some payment.. Does the honorable member for Nepean think that the farmers would benefit by penny postage?
– Every one would benefit.
– No. The merchants would chiefly benefit by such a change.
– Does not the honorable member think that the merchants pass on the additional postage charges?
– They pass on all their costs. Could there be anything fairer than equal pay for equal service? There are some people who would like to bring about a special metropolitan rate. Honorable members representing country constituencies beseech me almost every day to organize badly-needed extensions of telephonic facilities. What would those country representatives say to the Government conceding a special metropolitan postal rate while retaining the twopenny postage basis in country districts? The proposition, although it has been seriously urged by various people, and advocated in the press, is an iniquitous one. Since the recent reductions of rates in the United Kingdom, the estimated increase of business foc the financial year has been set down at only 10 per cent. What would be our position if, following a reduction of charges by 100 per cent., we received an accretion of business amounting to only 10 per cent. ? If rates were reduced by only £d., there would need to be an increase amounting to fully 33’ per cent, in order that the same revenue might be derived from the postal service. Apart from that, however, there would be the factor of increased staff costs. There would be trouble with mail contractors owing to heavier loading. If there are any men in Australia to-day who are badly paid, a number of our mailcontractors must be included among them. Ifour postal charges were reduced so that there was more business I would be faced with the necessity of paying certain of our mail contractors more to recompense them for their heavier loading. Some people say that my Department should not be revenue earning. Suppose thatI handover to the Treasurer at the end of the financial year a sum of £1,000,000; probably I shall be able to pay into the Treasury more than that amount. But, if the Treasurer were seeking £1,000,000 and had to look somewhere other than in mydirection for it, would not the same people have to provide that £1,000,000? If that sum had to be derived by means of additional taxation, who would say that that would be fairer., all round, than the maintenance of the present postage rates ? To argue inthat way would beabsurd.
Certaincritics have referredto bungling in the Postmaster-General’s Department. I have some interesting particulars for honorable members regarding telephonic operations and charges all over the world. That there is great lack of telephonic facilities throughout the Commonwealth at present I am bound to admit. The unfortunate position isdue to past financial stress; but I shallnow compare our charges with rates imposed elsewhere, and I think honorable members will be surprised. I intend to take as a basis an average of 500 calls, and to include the item of rent. The cost in the Commonwealth is £7 12s.1d. ; whereas in New Zealand, it is £8. Dealing with telephone charges in various great cities of the world, calculated on the same basis, I present the following table : -
It will be observed that, with the exception of cities in Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and South Africa, our rates are lower than those of any ether country. With regard to Sweden, I must point cut that each new subscriber is required to pay entrance and installation charges, amounting to £12 7s., in addition to rental charges.
I desire now to make a comparison of trunk-line charges in Australia with those imposed in New Zealand,with theproposed rates inGreat Britain, and with those existing in the United Statesof
America. They are all based on’ threeminutes’ conversations, and are as follow :–
We have, without doubt,, the cheapest telephonic service in the world. * ,
I have before me the report of a Select Committee of the British House of Commons, which was published only this year. The subject of reference was the organization and administration of the telephone service and the method of making charges. The Committee stated : -
Our attention has been drawn to foreign comparisons by several witnesses, and usefully so; but the visits of our delegates to the countries concerned have tended to show .that the witnesses were sometimes misinformed, or not quite informed up to date, or else the fresh facts throw a different light on their conclusions. Thus the Norwegian system, has been justly held up to us for imitation, since the Norwegian community and tourists in. Norway are generally extremely well satisfied with it; but. further inquiry has disclosed that it is run at a loss, and that neither the. Government nor all private companies put by reserve or depreciation funds in the sense in which they are understood in this country. There was likely to be a deficit in the past year of 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 kroner, mainly owing to increases in wages.
Further, the report of the Select Committee set forth: -
The Swedish telephone administration, which is a State system, and has recently taken over the large private telephone company in Stockholm; informed our delegates that it has earned 8-) per cent, on an average for the last thirty years. There is, however,, no separate allowance for amortization or depreciation, and this may create a problem when the plant comes, to be renewed, as it must before very long. Renewals as well as maintenance are charged1 to revenue. In Switzerland, where there is on efficient State system,, there was a. tolerable profit two years ago. Last year- there has been a deficit, attributed to the slump in trade and increased salaries, of which the reduction is being canvassed.
Thus it is revealed that, with respect to the three great European services whose rates are less than those imposed in the Commonwealth, all are ‘being run at ‘a loss.
In 1919, when the then honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Webster) was PostmasterGeneral, there were- numerous complaints of bungling in the postal branch, and the Minister thereupon appointed an inquiry officer to make investigations in the various States, both in the cities and in the country, so that there might be ascertained precisely what were the grievances of business people. Upon, assuming the office of Postmaster-General I thought that it would be a good idea, as there had been no inquiry since 1919, to make further investigations along the same lines. The instructions to the inquiry officer were that he should ascertain: -
As an outcome of the inquiries pursued; in. New South Wales, thirty-two leading commercial houses were interviewed. In nearly every instance appreciation was expressed of the good service given by tha Department under considerable difficulties which had been brought about by the financial stringency and the rapidly changing economic conditions. The telephone, service was, rightly, the principal object of complaint. The following typical details are taken from the list of particulars furnished by the firms visited’. In one instance the number of letters posted over a given period was 202,000; and there were only fifty-seven missing from among that, volume. In another instance, of 468,000 posted, nine were missing; in still another,, of 124,000 posted, one was missing; and, in respect of one other firm, of 130,000 letters posted, five were missing. Among the many millions of letters and postcards handled by the Department only one letter for every 60,000 has definitely gone astray.
– Have most of the missing letters contained money?
– Such has often been the case; but one cannot help being astounded at the numbers of letters continually held up from delivery for lack of sufficient address. Thousands contain no addresses whatever. In Victoria seventy-one business places were visited, of which fifty expressed complete satisfaction with the service rendered by the Department. Many of the firms .commented favorably upon the endeavours of the Department to co-operate with the business people and the public generally for the benefit of all concerned. In, Queensland, the general opinion expressed by those interviewed, was that the” Department provides a very satisfactory service all round. Altogether fifty-one firms in Brisbane were interviewed, forty-five of whom furnished information which indicated that the value of their transactions with the Department over a period of twelve months was approximately £85,000. The President of the Chamber of Commerce stated, “In a large concern like the Department, complaints are bound to occur, but there is a wonderful amount of accuracy considering the volume of work handled; none are perfect, and in our own business mistakes occur.” In South Australia thirty-six firms, whose transactions with the Department aggregate . over £62,000 per annum, were interviewed, and the general opinion is that the service is satisfactory. One or two firms drew attention to minor matters in which they thought improvements might be effected, but not one had a serious complaint to make. The * advantage of this inquiry amongst business people is that the Department learns of a number of minor grievances, and is able to rectify them at once. Where letters were missing we have been able to trace the culprits, who, in many instances, were employees of the complainant firms. The Department has a list of numerous instances of the kind; yet the postal people have had to bear the blame. Of the postal business transacted in the city of Adelaide for a month, totalling 1,102,188 articles, representing 44 per cent., were undeliverable. Of this number 152 were received without addresses, 251 were returned because of insufficient addresses, and 18 were posted without contents. In Western Australia 91 firms in Perth, 29 in Fremantle, and 10 in Subiaco were interviewed. General satisfaction was expressed by the public with the facilities afforded by the Department and the services rendered. I have visited these places since, and the people whom I met expressed their entire satisfaction with the Department’s work. The chief complaints have been in regard to telephones and extensions into country districts. Trunk lines are the chief trouble to-day, but that difficulty will be overcome by the new scheme, of which I hope to give honorable members particulars later. Inquiries in Hobart and Launceston yielded the same satisfactory results. I have received a number of deputations from people who are already enjoying some service, including deputations from Gippsland and the north of Victoria-and I asked them pointedly if they desired a reduction in the postal rates. In nearly every case they answered emphatically that they did not want a reduction in the rates, but they did want increased services. For in.stance, complaint is made that a number of trunk lines are overloaded, and that impairs the value of the service.
– In regard to telephones, that is the complaint.
– But those people had no complaint against twopenny postage, and I know that in many districts the residents would be glad to pay much more for a mail service. People in the city complain about having to pay twopence to send a letter, but in some country districts it is difficult to get amail once a month, and twopence per letter to the residents is a mere bagatelle. What those people want is service, and any money that is available should be utilized in extending existing services throughout the length and breadth of the country. That is my policy.
– I thought the Minister’s policy was to make revenue to hand over to the Treasurer.
– When there is a surplus in the Postal Department, it is handed to the Treasurer, but that is in accordance with the decision of this House; and if, after giving service to the people, I can hand over some money to the Treasurer, what is wrong with such a policy? Treating postage as a form of taxation, is there anything unjust in its incidence when everybody has to pay the same rate?
– If the Minister grants our requests, he will not have much of a profit to hand to the Treasurer.
– In all the circumstances, I cannot accept the motion. I believe that, instead of reducing the postage rates, we shall do much better if we give increased facilities in the country. My policy is to do that; and I venture to say that when honorable members see the three-years’ programme that will be submitted to the House later they will agree that the Department is making provision for a wonderful extension of facilities to the people.
– Out of loan money.
– Yes, but we shall have to meet the interest from revenue. We shall spend a lot of money on the Sydney General Post Office, for instance, and it will not return interest for a long time, although eventually it will do so. In the meantime, revenue will have to bear the burden of interest and depreciation charges. In view of the fact that the people as a whole do not want a reduction of rates, but demand more extensive and more efficient services, I ask honorable members to support me in voting against the motion.
Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) [3.581. - I do not propose to .traverse the lengthy and interesting statement made by the Postmaster-General, but I point out that as .the extra postage rates were imposed in consequence of the war, it is but natural that, the war being over, we should look for relief from them as time goes on. Whether or not the present time is opportune for granting relief in regard to postal charges, I am not prepared to say ; but, in any event, I think it undesirable that the Post Office should be turned into a taxing machine for purposes other than its own, at least, in times of peace. My object in rising is to draw the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to an extraordinary anomaly, namely, that at the present rates a parcel can be posted to Germany and otherforeign countries at less cost than it can be sent to the United Kingdom. Honorable members will hardly believe that that is so.
– That is a result of the Madrid Convention.
– The rates of postage charged on parcels addressed to foreign countries, and which exceed the minimum, are less than those charged on similar packages posted to the United Kingdom. The rates as between nation and nation were fixed by the Madrid Convention, but it is competent for any of the signatories to the Convention to fix the local rates within its own borders, or within its own territories or dependencies. The charge on postage between the British Empire and foreign countries is regulated on the ounce unit by the Madrid Convention; but the rata* chargeable within the Empire is a matter for ourselves, and this has brought about the anomaly. I am informed that comparatively few commercial packages pass through the post to overseas countries that do not exceed the minimum rates, and therefore the result of the present system is to make it cheaper to send packages to foreign countries than to the United Kingdom.
– The honorable member does not. suggest that the rates to foreign countries should be increased?
– No; but I desire the anomaly rectified so that the rate to the United Kingdom shall be reduced, and at least placed on a parity with that of foreign countries. As an illustration of the present rates, the postage to the Unite- 1 Kingdom is 2d. for each $ oz. ; the postage .to foreign countries is 4d. for the first ounce, and, I think, 2d. for each additional ounce, and the result of those different rates is that a person sending an 8-oz. parcel to the United Kingdom pays 2s. 8d., but if he sends the same parcel to Germany, or any other foreign country, he pays only ls. 6d.
– We have communicated with the parties to the Madrid Convention, and asked them to alter the rate; we cannot alter it-
– The Commonwealth can regulate its own charges as between the United Kingdom and Australia. The Madrid Convention only fixes the rates as between different nations.
– The parcels business between the United Kingdom and Australia is about 90 per cent.” of’ the whole.
– The Madrid Conference fixed the unit at 1 oz. and specified a special charge per ounce unit upon international postage. To be fair, I should state that the answer of the Department’ is that the anomaly is due to the adoption of the 1-oz. unit of postage on parcels ‘sent to foreign countries, and that it is impossible <to overcome it without also adopting the 1-oz. unit of weight for domestic and British Empire correspondence. The “Department says also mat 95 per cent, of the letters which are posted within the British Empire do not exceed oz., and to alter the unit from -J oz. to 1 oz. would be impracticable without materially increasing the initial rates of postage. Moreover, it would lose a large amount of revenue which it cannot spare. Nevertheless, I say that the anomaly should not continue. The policy of Parliament and the Government is ‘to extend preference to Great Britain; but we are deliberately hampering trade with the Mother Country by penalizing it in regard to parcels postage as compared with the rates which are charged on parcels sent from the Commonwealth to foreign countries.
– The point is that 94 per cent, of our parcels go to Great Britain.
– .But the point is that where the advantage is in favour of the foreign country the same rate should be made to apply to the Empire and the Mother Country.
-. - This ought to be termed “foreign preference.”
– It is distinctly “foreign preference.” The operation of these rates is distinctly unfair to Great Britain, because it confers a preference to Germany and other foreign countries.
– How do the foreign countries treat us?
– So far as I am aware, they treat us fairly; but the Mother Country treats us uniformly with the utmost generosity. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to give the matter his attention.
– We are already trying to make arrangements in regard to it.
– I am glad to hear that statement. This certainly is an anomaly which should not be permitted to continue, particularly in view of the policy of the Government and the anxiety expressed by this House that the utmost consideration should be extended to Great Britain.
There is another feature of the ‘postal rates to which I wish to draw attention. During the war a super-tax of 6d. was imposed on various parcels arriving through the post from overseas. Attached to each parcel was a special Isabel bearing a 6d. war-tax stamp. The war is over.
– The charge is illegal now.
– But this supertax has not been remitted. The Department have simply removed the word “war” from these labels. The postal officials claim that, since these parcels contain something of a commercial character, and therefore entail additional handling, . such, for instance, as investigation by officers of the Customs Department, and storage, in the circumstances the additional rate of 6d. per parcel is justified; but I would point out that the postal rates covered all this. The tax was imposed for a specific purpose, and the reason for its imposition having passed away, the tax itself should pass away. At any rate, the Department should at least confine the extra charge to that particular class of parcel ;which contains goods for commercial purposes instead of making it applicable to a number of parcels which cannot come under the definition of “commercial purposes,” and causing considerable annoyance to those to whom the packages are forwarded.
– Under the Postal Union the impost to which the honorable member refers is forbidden. It was imposed under the guise of a war tax.
– It was imposed under the guise of a war tax, and has been extended to times of peace. The word “ war “ has been struck out, but the tax of 6d. per parcel still remains.
– The same position applies in Sydney; and I am informed that the reason for continuing the charge is the fact that people are making use of the parcels post to send goods to Australia at a cheap rate.
– But that reason also applied before the imposition of the extra tax. Apparently the parcels post operations of the Department have proved so successful that business has increased largely in volume. That fact, however, cannot be set down as a reason for increasing rates. In other commercial enterprises, if the volume of trade increases’, they are usually able to reduce overhead charges.
– Does the honorable member approve of people sending goods through the post in this way ?
-It is a valuable facility to the public. The Post Office is justified in offering conveniences and facilities to the public, and has adjusted, its ordinary rates to that end. There is uo complaint on that score. It was. a successful move on the part of the Department to provide facilities for parcels trade, and its business has increased more and more iti volume, but the Department do not appear to be very anxious to take off this particular war tax. It is clear that when they initiated the parcels post business they charged a rate of postage which was intended to cover the cost of handling and storage.
Mi Austin Chapman. - That is so. All costs were included.
– Yet, on tap of the original impost, they charge this super-tax, adopting the very short-sighted policy of penalizing a successful branch of their business. The reason for the super-tax having disappeared, there should be no longer need to penalize, this particular branch of trade* and the mercantile community and the general public, who benefit by the facility afforded by the Department for posting parcels, should be relieved of this extra impost: It is particularly oppressive in the case of people who receive packages,, the contents of which cannot come, under the definition of “goods of a commercial character.” I ask the Postmaster-General to look into these two matters I have brought under his attention
– I have made a note- of them.
– I beg of him to rectify with every reasonable! speed the anomaly of charging the Mother Country more for her postage rates on parcels than we charge the foreigner. I ask him also to investigate the extra parcels impost.
– If there is any branch of Commonwealth activity in which the people should take an interest it is the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. The honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) has advanced no reason, other than sentimental reasons,, for asking foi reduced postage rates. Sentiment will no: assist the Commonwealth out of its financial difficulties. I have not found many people anxious for reductions in th* postage rates. The great mass of thi people with’ whom I am associated, the industrialists of Australia, do not make much use of the Postal’ Department ; their stamp bill in twelve months is very small ; but I am sure that, rather than have a reduction of the postage on letters, they would prefer to see the twopenny stamp retained, so that postal facilities might be given ti people in country districts. It is a well known fact that the Department suffer.’ a loss in conveying a letter from Sydney to Bourke, 600 miles away, for 2d., an-1 that it relies upon the profit made bv carrying letters in the metropolitan area* of Australia to pay for the extra cost of forwarding mail matter to country people. For. a number of years now it has been usual with many of us here to bombard the Postmaster-General, whoever he might be, with questions as to why this or that postal matter is not attended to. For instance, two or three years ago, during a drought, the mail contractors in the country were unable, with the allowance that was paid them, to feed their horses, much less themselves, and many representations were made on their behalf in order to insure them better treatment. We were told, however, that there was no money available to make the allowances more liberal. My own opinion is that there .are no mail contractors, postmasters, or other officials receiving any considerable emoluments from the Department. Of course, we know thai storekeepers and others engage in such work more for the sake of attracting customers to their own places of business than anything else ; but, at the same time, I think they ought to receive more consideration. In view of all the facts; I find myself unable to support this motion. I have an idea that this cry foi cheap postage is more on the part oi newspaper proprietors and “others who arc personally interested. Some years agc there was a great fuss raised .by certain members of the New South Wales Parliament on behalf of the people in the country, who, it was said, required cheap postage in order to be supplied Wit literature, but my idea is that Tit–bit and literature of that kind, which is st largely read, is not sent through the post. but by the railways. I have found it impossible to follow and appreciate the figures submitted by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Poynton) to-day. They are the usual Commonwealth figures, of & size which makes one feel thunderstruck. In “Treasurers’ statements, both Commonwealth and State, the accounts -are presented, in such a way - and, I believe, designedly - that no ordiniary person can understand them. In New South Wales for a. number of years the Railways Commissioners returned £500,000 or £600,000 after paying all charges, and this balance was paid into the revenue, and the result there, as everywhere when that practice is followed, was that if any supplies were required they were purchased out of loan account. In the case of the Post Office we find that practice followed, according to the PostmasterGeneral to-day, and I cannot regard it as proper financing. I ask leave to continue my remarks nu a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, His Majesty’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth’ should, after tho prorogation of the session of Parliament in 1923, advise His Excellency the Governor-General to summon the session to be held in 1924 at Canberra, the Federal Capital.
I make no apology to provincial Victorians for introducing this motion. The only question which we have to discuss now is whether the summoning of Parliament at Canberra is practicable, and I hold the view that it is, despite the opposition that is always offered to any proposal of the kind by a few provincials who think that when they climb a post.dice tower in Victoria they see the world. I think that after twenty years’ we might well keep the compact that was made with New South Wales. We know what is said by those who ‘ oppose our removal to the Federal Capital and express opinions about the place, but who never take the trouble to go there. It is a fact, however, that nearly every one who has gone to Canberra with feelings of hostility towards removing Parliament to that place, have returned converted to the idea. I extend a very warm invitation to the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) to visit Canberra, notwithstanding the many bitter things he has said about it, and in that invitation 1 include the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook).
– Are you aware that I spent a week travelling over, the territory there?
– If so, it seems to have done the honorable member very little good. The honorable member for Kooyong, however,, makes it a sort of boast that he has never been there, and does not intend to go. We have spent several millions of money there, and now I think it is only reasonable that we should get into our own home and thus honour the compact, and this latter is the main object of this motion. We should not then be under the domination of provincial newspapers. In this city we have the contents of the Argus and the Age rammed down our throats every day. People in the other States, who fi-r1 it necessary to transact business in or through Parliament are placed at a great disadvantage compared with the residents of Victoria, and particularly of Melbourne, who have merely to walk up the street to Parliament House. I repeat once more that there is a very provincial atmosphere where the Federal Parliament now meets. As I have already indicated, the time has passed for discussing whether we ought to remove ourselves to Canberra. It is admitted by all that we are bound to go there, and it is only a question of the time. My contention is that it is quite practicable to go in 1924, and the only way that can be brought about is by an instruction to the Government. If honorable members have houses to live in and a large hall to meet in, with the comforts of life that people have there now, they ought to be satisfied. It might be left to members of Parliament to provide themselves with conveniences that are not there now. Last week we passed a resolution providing for the building of a hostel for members- and the .public, and there are other centres at hand where good hotel accommodation can be found. To give the Federal Capital a fair start, we need to have the Parliament meeting there. Once the Parliament goes to Canberra, it cannot be removed. That is one reason why I have submitted this motion.
In order that the Commonwealth Parliament may meet at Canberra, certain temporary buildings must be erected. I have made inquiries this morning from architects and other professional men in the Department of Works and Railways, and have been informed by them that the present proposal is to erect a temporary Parliament House at an” estimated cost of £120,000. We do not look for the immediate erection of palatial marble halls such as may ultimately grace the Capital. What we want are temporary buildings, which will be erected of brick, and will be devoid of elaborate ornamentation. When no longer required for the purposes of the Parliament, they will be adaptable to other purposes. Plans for these buildings are in course of preparation, and are almost ready for submission to the Public Works Committee. It is -estimated by the officials that a temporary Parliament House such as I have just described can be erected at a cost of £120,000, and can be completed within eighteen months. I therefore see no reason why Parliament should not be able to meet at Canberra in 1924. This Parliament, as a rule, meets in the middle of the year; so that, in the event of my motion being carried, the Government would have two years within -which to make the necessary arrangements to give effect to it. Once we definitely fix a date within which the Parliament shall meet at the Federal Capital the Department of Works and Railways, with the display of a little enterprise, will be able to have erected within that time the buildings necessary for our accommodation. We already have a railway to the very heart of Canberra.
– Where is the heart of
Cannberf £1* ?
– Certainly not in Victoria. I do not know whether the honorable member puts the question by way of a joke, or whether he wishes to cross-examine me.
– I went to the Capital and enjoyed the visit, but I do not remember seeing the centre of Canberra.
– I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing my honorable friend once more in Canberra. I feel satisfied that the buildings necessary to enable the Parliament to meet there can be erected within the time mentioned by me. Some people seem to think that no real work has been done there. I would remind the House that the Federal Territory comprises 900 square miles of country, or 576,000 acres. We commenced operations there in 1911, and construction work started in 1913. The war naturally retarded operations to a very considerable extent; but during the nine years that have elapsed since the work of constructing the Capital was entered upon much greater progress should have been made. Already, however, a magnificent water supply has been provided. It is estimated that the scheme is capable of supplying 700,000 people. We nave plenty of water and plenty’ of good land in the Territory. For the most part, this land is now being used for depasturing sheep and cattle, when, as a matter of fact, it should be carrying a large population.
– It is lying idle.
– Practically lying idle. We talk frequently of the need of closer settlement, and the desirableness of bringing more people to Australia; yet the Federal Government has done practically nothing to settle people on this area of splendid country, which is eminently suitable for closer settlement. There is a railway, as I have said, to the heart of the Capital; the district has a good rainfall, and the construction of a few miles of railway between Yass Junction and Canberra and a connexion with Jervis Bay would not only assist settlers there to get their produce to market, but would enable the produce of the Riverina to be conveyed to one of the most magnificent ports in Australia for shipment overseas. Some honorable members talk freely about the need for decentralization ; here they have a means of helping on the movement.
In addition to a splendid water supply, we have already installed at Canberra a 1,770 horse-power electric power and lighting scheme. We have within the Territory 92 miles of roads formed and made, 88 miles of roads gravelled and metalled, and 155 miles of roads repaired, with water-tables and drains. Within the city area itself we have some splendid roadways. We have 14 miles of roadways formed, 6 miles metalled, and 6 miles under construction. Excluding the Duntroon College, which in itself is a little township, we have eighty buildings, nearly all of brick, a power house - one of the largest in Australia - and a number of very nice brick cottages.
– What about the brick yards?
– We also have brick yards where millions of bricks are stacked ready, for use. Then, again, we hav.e thousands of feetof seasoned timber at Canberra. And yet men. are walking the country in search of employment. We are told that not only unskilled labourersbut many skilled workers in the building trade are out of employment. Here is an opportunity to do something for them We. have inthe Territory, I repeat, 576,000 acres of land owned by the Commonwealth. Government, and that vast area is; not being put to onetenth of its capacity.
Having regard to all these facts, I think we should make a special effort to house the Federal Parliament at Canberra at the earliest possible moment. I have specially specified the year 1924 so, as to give the Government two years-
– Without the option.
– The honorable member has earned the distinction of being an out-and-out opponent of Canberra, but he has never advanced any reason why the Federal Parliament should not meet there except that he does not want to. leave his beloved Melbourne. In. view of the caning- which the honorable member received in the House a few days ago at the hands of the Minister for Works, and Railways ( Mr. Richard Foster) I shall say no more of his attitude on this question. I would say to the Minister, “ Give the people a chance. Throw. open this area, so that men with a little capital may go there and make homes for themselves. Give the people an opportunity to settle on the lands of the Territory and to establish farms and orchards for themselves.” Splendid fruit can be grown there. Many small investors would gladly avail themselves of the, chance to erect shops in the Capital and to establish little businesses for themselves. We donot want Canberra to be run on Socialistic lines. Our desire is that private enterprise shall be given a chance.
– By setting out with a proposal to erect a “ pub.” at a cost of £80,000.
– The honorable member seems to be very anxious in regard to the erection of a hostel, or “ pub,” as he calls it, at the Capital. I am told by the Minister that it isnot going to be a public-house. It is going to be “ dry.”
– Who said so?
-I was referring to the Minister charged with the administration of the Territory, and not to the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster), who has simply to see that the requisitebuildings are erected at Canberra. The honorable gentleman’s conversion, by the way, is in itself something at which to marvel. He candidly admitted in the House last week that he had condemned Canberra before he. had seen it, but having visited the Territory, he was now convinced that his earlier judgment was. unsound. There is an old saying, and a very good one, that “ wise, men change their opinions; fools never.” I was surprised to hear some honorable members of the Country party say that they would never change their opinion with regard to the Federal Capital.
– The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) will not.
– I have great hopes of his conversion. This, however, is a question which should be seriously considered. I do not propose to detain tha House at any length, since I know there are many good friends of Canberra who wish to speak to the motion. We are also anxious to obtain a vote to-night. Our policy is. “ Work, not talk.” I look, forward to the Parliament meeting at Canberra in 1924. The necessary buildings, other than the Parliament House itself, can be erected within twelve months. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), who is a practical builder and was Chairman of the Public Works Committee, has examined the plans and tells me that the buildings can be erected: within that time. Funds have been voted for the purpose, and there is no reason why the work should not be proceeded with without further delay.
If this House instructs the Minister for Works and Railways to prepare for the Parliament meeting at Canberra in 1924, he will do so. Further dilly-dallying with the building of the Federal ‘Capital will lead to either this or some other Government being defeated. I have no desire to see the present Government earned out of office, and I hope they will take warning and realize that the will of honorable members is that we should get out of Melbourne as quickly as possible and take up our residence in the permanent home of the Parliament. I have great pleasure in commending my motion to the approval of the House.
.- It is about time, after all these years of waiting, that Parliament definitely decided to take up its residence at Canberra. One of the first principles laid down in connexion with the formation of the Federation was that the Commonwealth should have its own separate Capital. It was felt that our Federal laws should be enacted altogether apart from State influences and Inter-State jealousies. I would be as much opposed to the proposition to make Sydney or any other of the State capitals the Seat of the Commonwealth Government as I would object to Melbourne being so placed. The same conditions that one finds sd objectionable here would exist in any of the other capitals; the same disabilities would be felt with just as much force in Sydney. Unconsciously, members are swayed in their judgment by the weight of the State atmosphere surrounding them in a State capital. Our environments inevitably mould our characters. It is our task to legislate for the people of the Commonwealth, and not in the interests of those of any particular State.
– Hear, hear! But can the honorable member mention any legislation that has been influenced by the fact that the Federal Parliament sits in Melbourne rather than in Canberra?
– I can, indeed; and I can point to no more striking example of the influence of the State atmosphere, the “ pull “ of the Melbourne press, than is provided by the honorable member himself. Day after day, in all he says and does, one perceives how his attitude in Parliament is based upon the lead of the Melbourne newspapers. It may be unconscious, I do not say that it is not; but the fact remains. After having read the Melbourne, papers, Victorian repre* sentatives use slab after slab from the leading articles in their speeches day by day. All the other .States have a right to demand that legislation affecting their interests shall be enacted apart from the undue influence exerted in Melbourne; We can only hope to work in the true Federal spirit and atmosphere, and for the true Australian ideal, when our Parliament has been established in the; Fede-ral Capital City, in the heart of the Federal Territory. The reason why 1 am an ardent advocate of the establish^ ment of the Capital at Canberra is summed Up in the phrase “ Inter-State jealousies and parochial bias.” The people of the Commonwealth desire to get away from such evil influences. They wish our Commonwealth legislation tobe enacted in the interests of all rather than for any one section or city. We should decide to-day that the Federal Capital can be, and shall be, established, and that Parliament shall meet there by 1924. I have great pleasure in supporting, the motion, and in acknowledging the unselfish devotion to this cause of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman).
We have a great example in the American nation. Before the establishment of Washington as the capital of the United States of America that country was tora by State jealousies and riven by local prejudices. The true advocates of an all-Australian sentiment to-day are called upon to wage just the same fight that the true Americans, with their all-America ideals, had to make in order to establish their Legislature at Washington. How can we hope to make Australia great when there are men in the National Parliament who will do everything possible to hinder and postpone their transfer to the Federal Capital, because of petty, selfish interests’? The reason for some honorable members opposing the motion will be found to be a matter of purely personal inconvenience. Among our opponents will be found certain honorable members who, because they are engaged in a certain profession in this city, may have to forgo portion of their remunerations in order to attend the Federal Parliament in its true home. The people >of all the States complain of the present position of affairs. The Victorian public have just as much to complain of. Citizens of Melbourne realize that the Commonwealth Parliament legislates for the whole of the people of Australia. If our laws are unduly influenced by the claims and the clamour of the Melbourne section, those laws are still the laws which govern the people of Melbourne just as they do the citizens of every other part of the Commonwealth. Surely Melbourne folk do not wish to see laws enacted which have been influenced by a little Melbourne clique ! “With respect to the practical side of the motion, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has clearly demonstrated the possibility of this Parliament meeting at Canberra within the time specified. The Capital can be brought into active being by 1924. “We have the brickworks already successfully operating, and but a small section of railway requires to be constructed from Yass in order to link up the Capital with the chief centres of the Commonwealth. , A splendid water supply has already been provided, and other basic services are being constructed. A power-house has been built which is capable of’ lighting a city three times the size of Melbourne. We have at Canberra the essentials for the establishment of a great city. All that is now wanted i3 the breathing of the breath of life into the constitutional project, when the Federal Capital will become a truly living entity.
.- . I do not wonder that the honorable members who have spoken to the motion should have impressed upon the House the necessity for treating it seriously. It is difficult to do so, however. The motion is one which would disregard every practical consideration merely to gratify a sentiment. I was disappointed, while listening to the somewhat vindictive and unworthy remarks of the honorable member for Dalloy (Mr. Mahony). He referred to a Melbourne clique, and to its machinations in the direction of defeating the noble ideals of the Federal Capital. Apparently, however, the honorable member forgets the machinations of the Sydney clique. “ Inter-State jealousies “ are the stockintrade of the Canberra movement, and that stock-in-trade is being hawked, advertised and unblushingly used by a clique in Sydney. Some time ago this Sydney clique made a piteous appeal for the sum of £1,000 for propaganda purposes, in order to make the Federal Capital cry a live one. A circular was issued, and “ Inter- State jealousies “ were relied upon as the chief factor for stimulating the great cause.
– Will the honorable member wait until I show him a. circular issued by the Melbourne clique? I have it here.
– I know something, at any rate, of the Sydney clique. The mass, of the people of New South Wales are not concerned about Canberra. Like the rest of the citizens of Australia, they prefer, before allthings, that our overwhelming burden of taxation shall be lightened. They desire, chiefly, that our financial, affairs shall be put in order. At the present time we have not the money available for the construction of the Federal Capital. The circular containing the appeal, for £1,000 was signed by ex-Judge Heydon, and it contains deliberate misstatements.
– This circular of theMelbourne clique has the honorable member’s name attached to it.
– Anything that bears my name I am prepared to honourAll this propaganda work on the part of the junta of Sydney members in this House originates with the activities of theSydney clique. There was no life whatever in the “ Canberra cry “ until the appeal was issued for the sum of £l,00(r to assist in the work of propaganda. I suppose that the £1,000 was secured, and’, that the leading spirits in the Sydneyclique thereupon set to work and galvanized the whole sorry business. I do not mistake their propaganda, however, for the true voice of the people of New South Wales; the latter are totally indifferent on the subject at the present moment. Reproachful reference has been, made this afternoon to the matter of dishonouring the contract with New South Wales. There has never been a suggestion or desire to do so. That honorable contract was constitutionally imposed, and is- ‘ one, therefore, which must be observed. But it was never contemplated that wcshould have to beg, borrow, and steal inorder to honour it.
– What year would the honorable member say should be the proper time for the Federal Parliament to meet in Canberra?. Forty years hence?
– When , we have reduced taxation to normality, and when the cost of labour is reasonably normal, let us by all means proceed with the construction of the Capital. But at a time when for every £100 worth of work under normal conditions we have to pay £180, to proceed with that project would be a sheer, wanton, and disgraceful waste of money, which we cannot afford. With one statement made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro I am in perfect accord. He said, “ Let the public have a chance.” That is exactly what I say. If he desires to learn the state of public feeling on this subject, let him refer it to the people at’ the next election, and allow them to decide whether we shall at this juncture incur a further waste of millions of pounds in the present financial state of affairs on the so-called Federal Capital. If that be done, the honorable member will get an answer that will surprise him considerably.
– It will paralyze the honorable member.
– It will be more likely to paralyze other honorable members. What is the use of saying that there is plenty of land and water at Canberra? Man, cannot live on land and water alone. The motion asks us to fix an arbitrary date when this Parliament shall be transferred to Canberra. Yet the one-sided Advisory Committee, which was appointed for’ the purpose of finding some scheme or means by which the proposed transfer could be clothed with some semblance of sanity-
– Does the honorable member say that that Committee was one-sided?
– Undoubtedly it was. It was appointed for a specific purpose, as set out in its report.
– I wish the honorable member were half as genuine as were the members of the Committee.
– That Committee had all their ingenuity concentrated upon determining, in accordance with the dictation of the Sydney junta, meekly carried out through the agency of the
Government, the earliest date at which this Parliament could proceed to Canberra. The Committee report that, after £1,800,000 has been expended, it will be possible to get there in three years.
– Why does the honorable member say that the Committee was one-sided ?
– Let’ the Minister examine the Committee’s report.
– Let the honorable member examine .it, and he will find himself steeped in prejudice.
– Whatever prejudice I may have in regard to this matter was formerly shared in full by the Minister, but now his zeal, like that of all converts, knows no limit. The Advisory Committee reported about September, 1921-
The . period of three years assigned by the Committee for the first stage is the minimum that the resources in material and labour would permit without unduly increasing the cost.
– One of the three years has passed.
– And practically nothing has been done.
– Has the honorable member been to Canberra?
– I have not. *I am not disputing for the moment the eligibility of Canberra as the site for the Federal Capital. I am assuming, for present purposes, that it is equal to all that has been said of it as to suitability. My objection is that we have not got the money, and this Parliament should have the courage to face that fact. Demands are made for increased postal services, and the reply of the Treasurer is “no money.” Demands are made for increased old-age pensions, and the reply is, “No money.” And to all demands for productive works the reply of the Government is, ‘ ‘ We have not any money to spare; oh no! of course not. Canberra must get it all.” There is no money for all the important purposes that I have mentioned because Canberra stands in the way. According to the report of the Advisory Committee, after having expended £1,800,000, we can partially transfer to Canberra in three® years. The Committee points out how at first the administration will have to be divided between Melbourne and Canberra, and that means that the public will have to- submit to a wicked inconvenience and. expense in order to satisfy this fetish of certain honorable members. There is the conclusive evidence of expert advisers who were deliberately appointed to discover the earliest moment at which Parliament could be transferred to Canberra, that we cannot go there in less than three years. The Committee suggested that there will be two stages - the first in three years, when we can partially transfer and submit the public to all the inconveniences of divided administration, and the second stage after another three years, and the expenditure of an additional £1,300,000. In other words, we are to commit the Commonwealth to the expenditure of upwards of £3,000,000 at this critical moment in our financial affairs for the purpose of the erection of temporary buildings for an unnecessary and inconvenient transfer of the Federal Administration to Canberra. The motion is childish and entirely impracticable. There is no justification for the suggestion that Canberra can be ready for the reception of this Parliament in three years’ time unless we are prepared to live in tents and suffer gross inconvenience. The motion is not worthy of the serious consideration of the House.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) are convincing proof that no matter what the circum-stances were he would oppose the transfer to Canberra. He has’ admitted that £1,800,000 had been already expended at Canberra.
– Wasted !
– The honorable member wastes his time in this House ; he should be back on bis poultry farm. Already £1,800,000 has been spent in doing the pioneer work of a new city, and the’ honorable member for Kooyong says that it would be waste of money to spend a further £120,000 upon the erection of two temporary ‘buildings in which Parliament could meet. Is it not a waste of money to allow the-. works which have been already carried out at an expense of £1,800,000 to remain unutilized for the sake of a further £120,000 1 As a matter of fact, the proposal now before the House is an economical one. If Parliament meets’ in Canberra the 900 square miles comprised’ in- the Federal Territory will increase in value, and as the new city grows the rents from land will be more than sufficient to counterbalance the expense which the occupation of the Capital will involve. I admit that we are indebted to the Victorian Parliament and people for allowing us to use the parliamentary building in which we are at pre1sent accommodated, but we cannot continue as guests in this building for ever: This Parliament, with the largest revenue of any authority in the Commonwealth, and dealing with big national questions, should if it is .to be a Parliament worthy, of the Commonwealth, occupy its own House built in its own Territory. It is all very well for the honorable member for Kooyong to say that there is no money available. That is a cry that can be raised at any time. The honorable member suggested that increased pensions to the aged and invalid people were refused because of the demands of . Canberra, but I think that when the honorable member had an opportunity to vote for an increase of the pensions he voted against it.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– Honorable members on this side proposed an increase in the pensions, and we received no support from honorable members sitting behind the Government. However, the only question before the House is whether Parliament can be transferred to Canberra in. the time mentioned in. the motion. I say that it can. Even the building, which we at present occupy could be built in twelve months, but it is- not proposed to start at Canberra with a building, nearly as elaborate as this.- The Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, comprising ten stories^ was built in less than twelve months. All the pioneering work has been done at Canberra ; bricks are available on the spot, the Water mains are only a few miles away, and light and power are already provided. If the Government were anxious that- this Parliament should meet at Canberra, it could be done at once. On the other, hand, if they wish to delay the transfer, all they need do is to say, 1 ‘ We believe in keeping the compact with the people in New South Wales> but not just now.” Faith ought 4e be kept with the people of that
State. Western Australia and South. Australia have claimed that certain railways promised to them should be built, and the Federal Parliament has a right to- carry out the agreement in respect to those works. The people of New South Wales entered the Federation on the understanding that the Federal Seat of Government should be in their State, and there has been ample time for carrying out the compact in that respect. Most of the area enclosed in the Federal Territory has been given to- the- Commonwealth by the State of New South Wales,, amd. when it is thrown open, and there is a large population in the city of Canberra, the revenue derived from land rents should be sufficient to cover the cost of administration. We should not hesitate about getting to Canberra as speedily as possible. Our anxiety to do so is no reflection upon the people of Victoria, to whom, the Commonwealth owes a deep debt of gratitude. If the Commonwealth Government want money with which- to build a city at Canberra, I am sure that the people of New South Wales would find it for them.
– The proper method is to turn the whole concern over to a Commission, who will find the money and build the city.
– That method would merely delay matters. How much would Tasmania contribute - that little -State which always wants so much and gives nothing in return ?
-That statement is not correct. The people of Tasmania- would have to bear their share of the cost of building, the Federal Capital.
– Why will not the opponents of Canberra fix a date, for the meeting of the Federal Parliament there, and thus give the people of New South Wales something to go on ? The New South Wales representatives in this House cannot be blamed for attempting. . to force matters. They are pledged te do< so. The question is not a dead one, as the honorable member for Kooyong says it is. On the other hand, it. is a very live question in New South Wales, and it is not made prominent by reason of the expenditure of money. At every meeting candidates for the Federal Parliament are asked when the Federal Parliament is to be transferred to- Canberra.
– It is not a very live question- in other States.
– I quite believe that, but the representatives, of New South Wales cannot be blamed for standing up for the rights of their State.
– Hand the Territory over to a Commission.
– I believe that once we get to Canberra something will be done< m that direction. I can assure the hon- “orable member for Kooyong that he is wrong when he says that our agitation is influenced by a small clique in Sydney. On the contrary, it is a. very widespread movement. The whole of the New South Wales press are anxious for the transfer for which we are asking. No injury would be done to Victoria. On the other, hand, it would be- of advantage to the whole of the Commonwealth. In the United’ States of America the. meeting of the Federal Houses of Parliament at Washington- led to- the establishment of a new city. Honorable- members who represent country districts in this House, claim that the cities of Australia are overcrowded’. If we build a new city at Canberra it should serve- the purpose of removing the surplus population from those “ overcrowded cities.” I am sure that this Parliament could meet at Canberra within- two years without extra cost or inconvenience to honorable members. I have a book giving a short history of the Queensland Parliament. On the front is a photograph of the old Queensland Parliament House, a little structure that served its purpose for a number of years-. The first Parliament House in Victoria was not very elaborate. Parliaments must make a start at some time in houses of their own. Why should not the Commonwealth’ Parliament do so? We would need nothing elaborate, but simply a place in which to carry on our business under healthy surroundings. The climate of Canberra is the best in the Commonwealth. The contour lines are such as. to make the place attractive to visitors. I ami confident that once the city gets going it. will become one of the most prominent centres in Australia. Honorable members may delay tie transfer for a few years, but it must, come in time. The Commonwealth “has already spent so much money at Canberra that it would not be justified in abandoning its operations there.
.- I was pained at the outburst of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert
Best). He said, at the opening of his speech, that he did not think that the question under consideration was a serious one, but the manner inwhich he handled it showed that he himself regarded it as serious.
– Did he not take a broad national view of the question?
– He talked of InterState jealousy, but he was the very first person to raise that bogy, by some insinuation about a “ Sydney clique,” which he used as justification for the observation that the movement in favour of this Parliament meeting at Canberra was not deserving of the support of the House. Every time the honorable member has spoken on this question he has raised the old bogyof Inter-State jealousy. His only arguments are of this trumpery nature. He talks of Inter-State jealousy, about the time not being ripe, and about the insufficiency of funds, just the very same argument as is used by every fraudulent bankrupt, who declares that he intends to pay his debts at some time, that is, when it is convenient for him to do so. The question of “ when “ is to be left, not to the decision of the people to whom the promise was made, but to that of the men who made the promise. The honorable member for Kooyong says that no date was fixed in the agreement with the people of New South Wales. We all know that such is the case, but the honorable member can tell us from his practical experience that the fact that no date has been fixed in an agreement does not invalidate such an agreement, but is interpreted to mean “ a reasonable time.” The honorable member has been in this House and in another Chamber for. twenty-one years, but never yet has he said what is “ a reasonable time “ for the carrying out of the compact with the people of New South Wales. The arguments he uses to-day are those he used twenty years ago. He simply “ rings the changes “ on the same old arguments. He uses fresh illustrations, but the same old “ dope,” every time he speaks. He says, “ The financial circumstances do not permit.” “ We are disregarding every practical consideration.” “ It is a piteous sentimental appeal.” The greatest things in the world have arisen from sentiment. Common honesty is merely sentiment, but it is that upon which we move and live. The motive underlying our every activity is sentiment. The honorable member laughs when he says, “ It is mere sentiment.” If we were without sentiment we would be as the beasts of the field. The honorable member says that there was never any suggestion of dishonoring the agreement with New South Wales. There are two ways of dishonoring an agreement, either by repudiating it in a straight-out way, or by postponing its fulfilment. A man says that he does not dishonour his bill when he comes the day before it is due for the purpose of renewing it. Nevertheless, he does not discharge his debt, and may be, like Mr. Mioawber, he says, “ Thank God, that is settled,” and signs another promissory note. Surely, after twenty years, the time has come for us to ask the honorable member for Kooyong when he proposes to do something practical. Surely a “reasonable time” has elapsed. The honorable member objects to the fixing of an arbitrary date.
– America had only thirteen years.
– The experience of the American Parliament was that, owing to Inter-State jealousies, there was no chance of getting to Washington until a date was fixed, whereupon the Senate, which was the stronger House of the two, passed a motion directing its President to convene the. next meeting of the Chamber at Washington. The American legislators accordingly went to Washington, although they suffered all sorts of inconvenience; but they took very good care that they were not inconvenienced for long.
– The only way in which you can get Victorians to Canberra is to make them go.
– The time has certainly come when we shouldfix a date for transferring this Parliament to Canberra. This House should say, “ We are going there on such-and-such a day.” We have reached that stage in the development of the Territory at which our location plans are being thrown open to the public for building purposes. If we are to derive rents from city sites, the men who are to take up those sites and build upon them must have an assurance that Parliament will meet at Canberra within a certain time. As the honorable member for E’den-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has said, we should give the public a chance of building and investing their money at Canberra. I believe that if we were prepared to say we were going to Canberra on a specific date we should find business men quite willing to invest their capital, but we cannot expect them to take any interest unless we give such an assurance.. We were told the other day by the Minister (Mr. Richard Foster) that we could get to Canberra within three years, and I believe that if the House would say that the removal should be made within a certain time, the place would go ahead, and money would at once be invested by private interests. I remind honorable members that it is a very short-sighted policy, from a financial stand-point, to spend £3,000,000 in preparatory work and then not spend a small balance in doing what is required to make the work effective. We cannot expect the water supply, sewerage, and the railways to pay at this stage; if you carry out such works and there is no city, of course the scheme cannot pay. There is nearly £200,000 invested in the sewerage, which we have been asked to complete, and we cannot expect a return until it is completed. There is money invested in the waterworks, but water cannot pay if it is running to waste. There is money invested in tho brickworks, and millions of bricks are waiting to be used. But as to the other £900,000 or so invested in lands, the Commonwealth is now receiving between 7 and 8 per cent. - not a bad investment from a Commonwealth point of view. That part of the scheme is paying its way, and costs the Commonwealth nothing. The expenditure out of loan moneys will, of course, mean the paying of interest, and the sooner the works thus constructed are completed the sooner we shall get a return. I have no doubt whatever that Canberra is going to be a most paying proposition.
– I forget the figures, but there is a considerable revenue already.
– That is so; and Canberra, in my opinion, will prove a property of which we shall be proud. It is bad economy to leave things half or threequarters done, when the expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money will make the works reproductive. It must be remembered that we are paying considerable rentals in Melbourne and other cities in connexion with the services that were transferred. According to the return obtained by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), the Commonwealth is paying about £180,000 a year in rentals for different premises in the Commonwealth. That return is hard to analyze, and it is difficult to ascertain how much of these rents would be saved by a tranfer of our services to Canberra. We can take it for granted, however, that a very considerable proportion would be saved.
The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) talked much about the waste of. money at Canberra, but the report of the Advisory Board, which he quoted, shows that very little has been wasted. On the other hand it shows that it has been well expended, and the work well done. Indeed, that is one of the most satisfactory clauses of the report. I was very glad, indeed to read it. There was, I know, a dispute as to whether money had been wasted on the sewerage, but Mr. de Burgh, who is a great authority on the matter, has expressed the opinion that this work was well done.
The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) made most slighting references to the temporary buildings which are proposed, but in reality the buildings are not temporary, though the uses to which they will be applied may be. If the first Parliament House is built, as proposed on, I think, the museum site, then, when the main parliamentary building is erected, the temporary build- ‘ ing will not be useless, because it will be incorporated in the other buildings on the museum site.
– Is it proposed that the building to be used as a temporary Parliament House shall become part of the permanent structure?
– No; but it. will be. part of the permanent structure of the museum, or one of the other buildings. I have no desire to labour the question; indeed, I should not have spoken at all had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong. We get tired of the repetition of the old stale arguments, and hope in vain for something fresh, and I merely rose in order to tell that honorable member what I. thought of hia use of such arguments now. As to the practicability of our moving to Canberra in two years’ time, I remind honorable members that the Board was of opinion that we could go there in three years. One year has already passed with the work proceeding all the time, and I see no reason why we should not be. able to move in the, time stated. I have asked leading builders and architects in Sydney their opinion on the point, and I am told that if we are prepared to go, Parliament could be sitting at Canberra in eighteen months. I can see no obstacle to the realization of the suggestion that Parliament should meet there in 1924.
– I do not intend to take up much time. First, I wish to say that I am not in sympathy with the motion submitted by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman). Then I have to tell honorable members that the attitude of the Government is what I stated’ last week. The Government hope to go on continuously with this work, and as rapidly as prudence will permit. We do not intend to waste money, and to put unnecessary burdens on the people, if not for all time, at all events for a very considerable time. The cost involved is too great for us to “ rush the business.” It has been said by one honorable member that there are numbers of men out of work all over Australia. There are; but there are not big numbers of men in the building trade out of work.
– Yes, there are.
– It has been my business quite recently to thoroughly inquire into this matter, and I find that, strange to say, it is only in Sydney where any large number of skilled workers in the building trade areout of employment.
– They are handy to Canberra !
– Then why do they not go there, for I want them; we would push on, if men would go there and work on reasonable terms.
– Why not offer them jobs?
– I went to New South Wales a week ago partly to inquire into this very question, and my opinion is that there is much building in anticipation, by private enterprise, but those concerned will not proceed to build at the present outrageous cost. Further there is a great deal of public building to be undertaken in Australia, and much of it is now waiting. Only a. little while ago, we called for tenders for twenty houses, or cottages,, as. they might be called, and, though we advertised in every State, we got the poor response of two tenders, both of which were about 80 per cent. above pre-war costs.
– How much per cottage?
– The tenders were about £1,000. for cottages which previous to the war could have been built for £500, or £600, at the very outside.
– Rush on with Canberra!
– I am not going to “ rush on “ at such prices. I suggest to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) that he should have regard to the divisions taken in the House last week, because I know that some of the votes were cast with a belief that we are not going to unnecessarily waste money by rushing this building while prices are. so high. That is the position taken up by the Government, and it is an honest position, which was approved by some building firms in Sydney, and also by the newspapers there, when I visited the city last week.
– Who were those people?
– Some of the building people, and some of the newspapers.
– Who were they?
– The position was approved by the common sense of Sydney, and if the people professed otherwise, I would not believe in them. I am a personal friend of the honorable member for Kooyong, hut I have no sympathy whatever with his attitude on this question, in regard to which he appears to be simply steeped in prejudice. Nor have I any sympathy with honorable members on the other side who would rush the building of the Capital under present conditions. The people of the other States outside Victoria are coming torecognise that the time has arrived when this provision in the Constitution for the building of the Capital should be honoured. Those people, however, would not approve of our rushing on with the building of the Capital when building prices are from 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. above the pre-war rates. I do not think these high rates will continue much longer.
– When does the honorable gentleman think that building charges will come back? And to what extent they will fall?
– Our experience in connexion with tenders for which we have called recently is that, except in New South Wales, prices are falling.
– Building costs in Melbourne have not come back to any extent.
– In some of the States there has been a considerable fall. The drop in this city is not of any extent; but tenders: which were called recently for the erection of buildings in Victoria show that there is a tendency to come back. When building charges show a distinct tendency to come back to a reasonable point, I shall push on as vigorously as possible with the building of the Capital.
We ought to be fair in dealing with this project. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir RobertBest) carefully avoided pointing out that there was a revenue side to the question. The revenue derived from the Capital territory is not large, but it is coming along very nicely. Regard must also be had to the saving in respect of rents which would be effected by the accommodation of the administrative staffs in the Federal Capital. The building of Canberra is not the dark picture that some people would have us believe. For many reasons, I am as anxious as is any one to push on with the enterprise. For instance, we have there nearly 6,000,000 bricks. That means idle capital, which I do not like to see. As soon as we can obtain reasonable tenders, I shall push on with all these works with all energy consistent with prudence. I am not prepared, however,to throw money away recklessly. Neither the people of New South Wales nor of any other State wish that to be done. I would emphasize the point that it is impossible, without wasting money, to accept the advice of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and to accommodate the Parliament at the Federal Capital within the time mentioned by him.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– That we meet at Canberra not later than the beginning of the Parliament after the next. If we can get there sooner, with due regard to economy, well and good; the sooner the better.
– We could be housed there within two years from the present time.
– Not without disregarding the people’s interest, so far as the public purse is concerned. I am not going to erect these buildings on those terms. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is an enthusiast who deserves to have a monument erected to his memory in. the Capital. His name will never be forgotten there; but I would say to him, andto honorable members generally, that we cannot’ rush on with the building of the Capital along wasteful lines. Our desire is to push on as rapidly as possible with construction works on prudent and economic lines.
– I do not think the House will accept the Minister’s interpretation of the feeding of Sydney, or New South Wales as a whole, in regard to this matter. I do not know that he can claim to speak with authority on behalf of the people of the State. Judging by his speech this evening, the honorable gentleman is inclined to “ slip “ on his Canberra policy. It seems to me that he proposes to continue the old system of providing on the Estimates, from year to year, for an expenditure of £100,000 or £150,000 onthe Federal Capital, and allowing about onehalf of the annual vote to lapse. He evidently desires to lead the people of Australia to believe that he favours a forward policy in regard to Canberra, although he has no serious intention in that direction. If the honorable gentleman, when speaking this evening, was voicing the views of the Government, I am inclined to think that we still have what may be called an anti-Canberra Administration, and one that is not prepared to push on with the building of the Capital. He stated that only in Sydney was there any pronounced unemployment in the building trade, and that he would be glad if some of the men in the trade who could not find work there would go to Canberra.Will the Minister undertake to employ skilled men in the building trade whom I can send to Canberra tomorrow? Will he guarantee them employment there?
– Then I will supply the honorable gentleman with a list tomorrow.
– That is what I want.
– I undertake to supplythe Minister with the names of a number of skilled tradesmen who have practically devoted half their lives to the building trade, and who would readily take up work at Canberra. I am pleased to have the Minister’s assurance, since it means that I shall be able to find employment for a number of men.
This motion will serve to put the acid test, not only on the Government, but on all who claim to favour the establishment of the Capital without further delay. I was hopeful that the Government would agree to it. It seems to me that only by fixing a definite date within which the Parliament shall meet at Canberra can we put a clear-cut issue before the House. I do not intend to reiterate what has been said of the experience of the United States of America. Such an experience is common to all undertakings where practical results are desired. If the Government desire to continue to put off the honouring of the compact for the establishment of the Federal Capital, they could not do better than follow the policy enunciated to-night by the Minister, since it is one of procrastination. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) asked why we should waste £200,000 on this proposal. He does not object to works and buildings at Canberra on which £2,000,000 have been expended lying unproductive. So long as there is no Canberra, it matters not to him whether or not £2,000,000 or even £3,000,000 of Federal property is allowed to deteriorate there. The best way to secure a population for the Federal Capital is to establish the Federal Parliament there. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) spoke this afternoon of the thousands of acres of fertile land within the Territory that were lying practically idle. I would urge the Government to cut up that land and to put the people on it. If that were done, it would give an impetus to the Capital city itself, and the Government would derive a big revenue from Crown rents in respect of business areas, with the ultimate result that the money so obtained would not only provide interest on capital expenditure, but permit of the establishment of a sinking fund which would wipe out the whole capital expenditure within a relatively brief period.
Reference has been made to private enterprise. In this case private enterprise must be given a chance. The Government are not going to conduct the hundred and one businesses which must bc established in the Capital; they must be left to private enterprise.
– Why was not the honorable member in favour of allowing private enterprise to build the hostel?
Mr.LAZZARINI.- Because private enterprise would not undertake the erection of a hostel that would not give an immediatereturn.
– Half-a-dozen such establishments will be required.
– Quite so. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) objects to the building of the hostel by the Government in order that the convenience of honorable members may be served. Why does he not say that honorable members should be. compelled to go to private restaurants fordinner every night instead of availing themselves of the parliamentary dining-rooms? Why does he not advocate the abolition of the conveniences that honorable members enjoy in this building? The hostel is toprovide such conveniences as are available in every House of Parliament.
The honorable member for Kooyong stated that he was prepared to honour the compact made with New South Wales, but that the time was not yet ripe. Wihen quite a boy, I read the debates in this House on the Federal Capital, and can well remember that even in those days the cry of those who opposed the establishment of the Capital was, “ The time is not yet ripe. We will honour the compact, but at some future period.” I am told that, under the Constitution, the Parliament should not have met in Melbourne after the site of the Federal Capital had been chosen. How long is it since Canberra was definitely fixed upon?
– About thirteen years ago.
– And yet we have done practically nothing towards establishing the Parliament there. If we are to accept the judgment of the Minister for Works and Railways as to what amount of money should be spent every year on building the Federal Capital no one in this House to-day will live to see the Parliament meeting there. Ever since I have been in this House the policy which the Minister enunciated to-night has been that of those who are deadly opposed to Canberra. The honorable member for Kooyong spoke of the Federal Capital as being “ a sink of inconvenience and waste.” “ Convenience “ with him is the primary consideration _ That, so far as he is concerned, is “ where the shoe pinches.” It will inconvenience the honorable member to attend the sittings of the Parliament at Canberra just as it inconveniences representatives of other States to come to Melbourne. Representatives of New South Wales will not have their convenience served by the removal of the Parliament to Canberra; we shall either have to settle in the Capital or to maintain two homes, as we have to do at present. It is the question of inconvenience that troubles the honorable member for Kooyong and others who oppose this project. The honorable member said that a clique in Sydney was providing the motive power behind the Canberra movement. My reply is that the obstruction offered to the building of the Capital is the outcome of pure selfishness on the part of representatives of this State. It is time that this young country had its own Federal Capital. The removal of the Federal Parliament to Canberra will help to build up a fine national sentiment ; it will -be one of the things that will sweep away the parochial States-right interests which have been retarding the progress of Australia. It will give expression to a fine nationalspirit, and for these and other reasons I commend the motion to the House. In my opinion, even a delay of two years is too long; in any event the Federal Parliament should certainly be meeting at Canberra within that time.
.- While appreciating the earnestness of the advocacy of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), I can also give credit to the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best); that honorable member has been equally consistent. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat asserted that the motion provides an acid test whereby the real views of every member upon the question of the transfer of this Parliament to Canberra will be revealed. I hold that if a vote is .taken upon the motion it will not provide, such a test. We are speaking rather early of sitting in Canberra when we place the date only two years ahead.
– That is not what you said at Menzies.
– What about the Kalgoorlie Miner?
– That journal does not exert the same “pull” upon me as the newspapers published in various of the capital cities do upon some other honorable members. There is, however, a great deal in the criticism that Melbourne is parochial upon almost all matters affecting Australia. At the same time, I am bound to admit that in almost every other part of Australia the same is said as being applicable to Sydney. During the recent Tariff debate, when the subject loomed so large all over Australia, the influence of Melbourne and Sydney was referred to with more or less bitterness almost everywhere outside of those cities,. I desire to place this Legislature beyond the scope of any such influences. Australian politics should be free of the “pull” of any section of the press. 0ur political endeavours should be directed towards the benefit of all the people, and not of any one particular section. As for the project immediately under consideration, it is altogether premature. Has any honorable member yet seen the plans for the construction of the building in which we are to legislate at. Canberra ?
– I have the word of -the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster) that those plans will not be ready for four months.
– We have seen the rough sketches.
– I would like to examine the plans of the chamber in which we are to sit from day to day. I shall not be prepared to support the .construction of any parliamentary building in any part of Australia if it is’ not going to be aja improvement on ‘this place. No member should be called upon to address the House from a point where he cannot see the Speaker. It should not be necessary foi- any honorable member to have to tuan his back upon almost ail his fellow members in order to address the Chair. However, some honorable members who are ardent advocates of Canberra have had the exceptional privilege of examining the plans.
– They have seen rough sketches; the plans will be ready in about two months.
– When this Legislature meets at Canberra, on how many days a week shall we be sitting ?
– There will be a continuous Parliament.
– None of those points has yet been discussed.
– There is no need for a discussion of the details yet.
– I contend that they should all be threshed out before we go to Canberra. Is the same old business t,o continue? Here, nowadays, members representing remote parts of Australia are called upon to cool their heels from Friday tO’ Wednesday, over each week-end, while other members can reach their homes in a tram or by journeying on a, train for one night. At Canberra, Sydney “members will be favoured by being able to board a train at’ 10 o’clock at night, arriving at their destination at about 5 o’clock in the morning. They will be actually “ on a. better wicket “ than they are now. However,. I give the Sydney representatives credit for believing that it is not for any such small personal reason that they desire to bring about, the transfer of lie Parliament. But I emphasize that the members representing the distant parts of the Commonwealth will be no better off than at present ;. indeed, numbers of them will not be as favorably situated. I am not touching upon the question whether or not we should go to Canberra. The matter of. the establishment, of the Federal Capital has been definitely settled ; but it is impossible to state a. hard-and-fast .date on .which this Parliament shall meet there.
Reference has been made, during the course of this debate, to the efforts of the American people to establish their own Federal Capital, and have their own Federal Parliament meet there. It is a historic fact that there was very considerable difference of opinion in the various States of the Union when the capital project was the chief subject of discussion.
– Of course, there were Robert Bests’ in those days.
– One big reason why we should not fix a definite date for the transfer is that the cost of building to-day is enormously greater than it was a few years ago, and far higher than it will be in a few years ‘hence. By way of concrete example, I may say that I know of a house, the prime cost of which, when it was built before the war, was £547. That dwelling, if it were to be duplicated to-day, would entail an expenditure Qf £1,100. . I do not favour the reduction of wages. My view is- that before anything of that character is carried out to an appreciable extent, it should be preceded by a reduction in the cost of living ; but honorable members use a poor’ argument when they say that we should push on with the work of building the Capital in order to afford more employment in the country. There is no justification for a policy of that sort. I shall vote against the motion. If we can get to Canberra quickly, let us do so ; but on the data we have before us> it is impossible’ for this ‘House to fix a definite time within which to transfer Parliament to Federal Territory.
– I think the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has made a mistake in proposing that Parliament should transfer to Canberra two years hence. It is impossible to prepare the Capital’ for the reception of Parliament in that time. Twenty-four years’ ago, when the proposals for Federation were being considered throughout the Commonwealth, the Conservatives of Melbourne went down on their knees to the people of New South Wales and said’, “ Give us Federation, and you can have anything you want.” That offer did not draw the people of New South Wales; they stipulated hard-and-fast conditions, and continued coy for some time. , Then the Melbourne Conservatives grovelled on their stomachs and said, “ We will give you the Federal Capital, or anything you like, so long as you agree to Federation.” To-day we have that same class trying to repudiate the condition upon which they induced the people of New South Wales to enter Federation. ‘It is amusing to hear some honorable members talk in opposition to this proposal. In my opinion, it would be a good thing for us to remove to Canberra. Of course, some of those honorable members who oppose the transfer will not go there; they will not be able to afford to go, because they will not be able to. sit in Parliament and still make large fortunes at their professions or in business. When Victoria joined Federation it was known that the Federal Capital was to be established in New South Wales, and at the inception of Federation it was thought that this Parliament would be sitting at Canberra within a very few years. Of course, the war gave the project a setback, and I believe that but for that we would have been in Canberra to-day. But the vested interests in Victoria are pulling the strings so strongly that the representatives of that State will not vote for the transfer. The articles published in the Melbourne press are enough to make one sick. Those, journals are so bound up with the property interests in Melbourne that they do not want the Federal Administration removed from here. But it will be a good thing for Australia when the Capital is taken away from Melbourne, because Parliament will then be able to legislate untrammelled by parochial influences. Some people object that further expenditure there will be a waste; but it is clear to me that we shall waste the money already expended if we do not complete the scheme at the earliest possible date. That point i3 so obvious as not to require labouring. No man, inside or outside thU House, can prove that Canberra, as a going, concern, will not pay its way. Even to-day, although money has not yet been spent there in a way that creates a popular interest in the place, the fees from the land represent fair interest on the money invested. That being so-, what will happen when Canberra becomes a living city? We know how land prices rise when a railway runs through a district, and a few blocks on either side are reserved for a township; and it is ‘certain that, within a few years, the rents from land in Canberra will more than pay for the cost of administration of the Territory, to say nothing of the public buildings in the Capital. Only the deliberately blind cannot see that. When we get away from Melbourne we shall get better legislation. One, reading the Age, would think that the people who conduct it own Australia. They have no sense of fairness; they never tell the truth, even by mistake. Their portrayal of the doings in this Parliament is the very opposite of the truth. “The Argus is not much better; but it has a different view-point. ‘ The people who conduct the Age seek to dominate politics in Australia. I have never denied that their literary capacity is great, but their political capacity is nil. Like every other man who is not in Parliament, these writers think that if they had charge of public affairs they could play hell and break things. There has never been in any Australian Parliament a newspaper man who was successful to any extent as a legislator. Some honorable members may think that the late Alfred Deakin was an exception, but he was really not a pressman. When these men get an opportunity in political life they prove ineffective, but they sit iu their newspaper offices and criticise and condemn Parliament in every possible way. Their outpourings would not matter if they stated the case fairly. I have often laughed at the newspaper attacks upon the Government. They pass by actions or inaction which would constitute good ground for castigating the Government, and attack them in regard to matters that are comparatively unimportant. Some people urge that, rather than spend money in creating a city at Canberra, we should honour the compact with New South Wales by simply transferring the capital to:Sydney. There would be no advantage in doing that. Selfish interests in Sydney are as bad as those in Melbourne, and we should be simply .exchanging one evil for another. The place for Parliament to meet is the place which was agreed upon years ago; but, after hearing the speech of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr! Richard Foster) to-day, I am not quite certain that the Ministry are sincere in their professed desire to proceed with the construction of the Federal Capital’.
– They are not dealing with the project in a way which would prove their sincerity. They talk about the price of material and labour. Does any honorable member believe that prices will ever come down to the pre-war level ?
– No. I wish they would drop half way.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.38 to 8 p.m.
Sugar : Commonwealth Government Control - Balance-sheet.
Debate resumed from 2nd August (vide page 1041), on motion by Mr. Rodgers -
That the paper - “ Commonwealth Government Sugar Control, Balance-sheet, as at 30th June, 1922; profit and loss account for the period from 19th July, 1915, to 30th June, 1922; trading and profit and loss account for the period from 19th July, 1915, to 30th June, 1922; operating and trading accounts “ - be printed.
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ and the retail price of sugar be reduced to 4Jd. per lb. from the 7th August, 1922.”
.- The printing of a paper appears to be a small matter, but upon it, in this case, hinges the whole question of the control of sugar, the future of the sugar industry, and the fate of the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the price of sugar be reduced immediately to 4-Jd. per lb. It would be extremely beneficial to Australia at large if we had a full, frank, and free discussion upon this highly important matter of production within’ our own borders; and, if in> my endeavour to place before the House a complete review of the whole position as I see it, I may exceed my allotted time, I hope that I shall have the indulgence of honorable members. I realize that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) has only been in his present office for six months.; but he, in his position as controller of sugar, is practically like a director who is engaged upon the thankless task of clearing up one of the phases of the world’s deflation of prices. He has been bombarded from all sides. However, I desire to enter upon the discussion of this question as one who has had a very long experience of sugar. I have -been through the sugar districts of Queensland, I represent in my position in this House at least 100,000 consumers of sugar, and I have been cognisant of many of the troubles of fruit-growers for quite a long time past. From each and every angle I shall endeavour to approach the question in as fair a spirit as possible.
Although it is not necessary for the immediate discussion’ of to-day to refer back very far in the history of the sugar industry of the Commonwealth, I venture to say that a review of the.position of production, prices, and so forth since the inception of Federation will serve the useful purpose of establishing some standards of comparison, and of throwing a little light upon this much-discussed subject. We are not helped very much by the. Minister’s statement as to what is to be the future of the industry, whether an agreement should be continued in some shape or form, or whether the people engaged in the sugar industry should be protected, or, like others engaged in primary industries, so encouraged in self-help as to ultimately lead to co-operation and control among themselves. Whatever may be the merits of nationalization or private enterprise, co-operation, or Government control, we must always remember, in discussing the present sugar position, that it is the result of a deliberate step taken by Parliament itself in confirming the agreement entered into about March, 1920. In this House, every honorable member stands in the position of director, so far as the politics of the Commonwealth, and all that surround them, are concerned; while the Government stand in the position of managing directors in respect to every matter that may arise in connexion with parliamentary government and its concomitants. To-day, when the sugar operations of our managing directors are under review, every honorable member has a right to know fully how the financial and commercial activities, as well as the political problems of administration, have been carried on. In my position, as one of the directors of the Commonwealth, I am well within my rights when I say that to me the sugar account presented by the Minister was much too lean. At all events,- it had not much fat upon it, and as a business statement did not fairly cover the sugar operations of the Government.
– The Minister did not suggest that it did.
– The Minister, in his statement last week, grouped all figures of sugar control over a period of seven years. In my opinion, if it was not intended to be extended, it gave a minimum of information with a maximum of complexity, and by no means gave any help to those , in the House who want to find a fair balance as between the producers and consumers of sugar in the Commonwealth. No business man could describe the statement as being other than merely a bird’s eye view of the position. It did not bring us to close quarters with the industry, and was useless as a document upon which to base intelligent commendation, criticism, or conclusions. In my opinion Parliament is entitled to at least detailed balance-sheets, if not for each season, at any rate for the periods of each of the three controls exercised by the Government during the seven years. During that time we have had all sorts of fluctuating conditions, sometimes making profits and sometimes suffering losses - and heavy losses at that. In the statement issued, the broad based periods have been ignored and run into one another, although during the last seven years there have been three changes in prices for the grower, miller, refiner, distributors, and users.
In fairness to the Minister for Trade and Customs, I must say that it has given me great pleasure to hear his promise that he will give Parliament complete and full details regarding the sugar business of the Commonwealth during every year and every period.
There is one matter in connexion with the sugar statement which should be elucidated, seeing that it has a bearing upon the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and upon what the real position will be on 1st November next, when we expect to have a reduction in price. I refer to the item of stocks of sugar on hand. In the balance-sheet presented, stocks on hand at cost price are estimated to be worth £1,970,000. So far as I can ascertain, and assuming that the raw sugar in the hands of refineries cost approximately £33 per ton, the figures given in the balancesheet submitted by the Minister would indicate that there is now about 60,000 tons of sugar on hand. If that is* the case, and if there is nothing else to take into consideration, the debit to profit and loss account of £255,000 should be wiped off in two months, so that on the Minister’s own statement a reduction of Id. per lb. in sugar should take place on 1st September next instead of 1st November. But there are other considerations to be taken into account besides the deficit shown by the Minister. When a reduction is announced, I believe that the Government will be inundated by applications from all holders of sugar for rebates on the stocks they hold. It is perfectly natural that those who deal in sugar or use sugar will buy from hand to mouth between now and 1st November, so that as a consequence in the next few months the average sales cannot be expected to be as high as they are in normal times.
– The object of giving ample notice is to enable stocks and purchases to be adjusted with a greater degree of accuracy.
– I agree with the Minister; but I believe the features I have indicated have already been taken into consideration. We may estimate the normal consumption or sales of sugar at so many thousand tons per week, but I believe that during the next few months the sales will be below the average, and in the circumstances it would only be fair to give the manufacturers who have a lot of sugar stacked in their factories and included in the_ goods they sell in their industries some reasonable rebate in connexion with the proposed reduction.
I would also suggest that there may be debits against the sugar control not yet disclosed. There is bound to be a considerable amount of interest, because we see interest for sugar being paid even into the Treasurer’s account on account of the forthcoming Budget. It is a comparatively small amount, but is, I think, paid by the sugar control for the use of Commonwealth moneys lying here and in London that are practically at call in. the Commonwealth Bank, and are not, for the time being, in use.
– That is right; there is no money under interest.
– In order toclarify thepoint, I repeat that the amounts that have been received under the heading of sugar that vere shown in the Treasurer’s statement the otherday, are received from the sugar account as interest on money being used for the purpose of financing the sugar control.
– That isright; it isour money instead of borrowing from the Bank.
– I point out to the Minister that the auditor’s statement is unusual, and in spiteof the Minister’s stress on this point, the wording of the first paragraph seems to imply that the Auditor-General had not had proper time to go into the matter, and that there were amendments made in the account originally submitted to him and those now in our hands. The Minister courageously told the House that, amongst other things to the creditof the Government in connexion with the sugar control, was that all the purchases of sugar were made free of cost of commission to the Government, and were done by their advisers practically free of charge. It is difficult to believe that so much philanthropy exists; and the statement can be checked only by a detailed account showing dates, prices, names of buyers and sellers, in connexion with the indents for sugar placed abroad.
Another statement made was that refining has been done at cost price. This also is difficult tobelieve, in view of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s balance-sheets of recent years. I agree with the Minister that thesugar control will be judged by the final results, and I leave the matter at that. But I want to say that he has taken a good deal of the edge off some criticism I have made in promising, at various timessince the statement was laid on the table, to take the House fully and frankly into his confidence in regard to the whole of the transactions of the sugar control. I wish to take one more exception to a statement made by the Minister, namely that the rest of the world- if by this he means Europe - was at one time in the war on rations, while Australia was fully supplied. That statement is true; but it should also be stated that the submarine menace, andthe necessity also for revenue, vitally affected the price of sugar in the northern hemisphere. The shortage of shipping also affeoted the position, and at one time England had but a few days’ supply of foodstuffs; and after the submarine menace had become acute, she dared not do anything but keep her people on the ration list for many other commodities besides sugar. 1m Australia our Java shipping service was never entirely interrupted. We had also our Commonwealth Line trading mostly in the southern hemisphere; and no fair comparison, andcertainly no arguments, can be used regarding the relative position of commodities in Australia and in England, once the submarine menace in the northern hemisphere became acute.
– The honorable member has said that this position was due to the submarine menace, but the real critical time for the sugar business was long after the war was over.
– But the Minister has been talking about the price of sugar in England during the war.
– There were seven years of control.
– I was pointing out that both the Minister and the sugar propagandists from Queensland based a good many arguments on the highest price paid in England during the war.
– I anr not apropagandist.
– The Minister has said that the grocers were satisfied, and I am not surprised that theyshould be, because they were getting a much bigger profit out of retailing sugar than they ever did ; and, I am not sure, but I think they have been prevented by law from selling it cheaper than 6d. per lb. There isone big emporium in Sydney which is now selling sugar at 5½d. retail, and I hope a great many other grocers will follow suit under the present arrangement. In my opinion, without Government control of the distribution ofsugar, competition amongst the distributors themselves, under the present agreement, would havebrought down the price to 5½d. per lb. One other remark bythe Minister I shall refer to later on, and that is that the great increase in the export of commodities containing sugar was because we had the cheapest sugar in the world. In this connexion, I draw the attention of honorable members to the following table, showing the production of sugar in the Commonwealth, average yearly production was 224,000 tons. The consumption point of about 275,000 tons is the maximum point of the increase of the sugar industry to-day, unless we get more population to consume it within our own borders. Those honorable gentlemen who have long been members of this Parliament will remember the many keen debates, and the great consideration that was given to this industry in connexion with the abolition of black labour. It will be seen by the figures I have quoted that the production of sugar in Australia has shown considerable progress. The bounty and the Excise came to an end in 1913., the duty of £6 per ton being in full operation in the year 1914; and I think that it will be generally admitted that, in spite of the industry suffering at various times from the effect of drought, cold, or other physical causes, the figures on the whole show a satisfactory increase in production. The following table, which I think will be found to be approximately correct-, sets out a comparison of the various amounts received and paid in connexion with all those concerned in the production and consumption of sugar -
according to the Sugar Journal, since Federation has been in existence:-
Queensland produces over 90 per cent, of the sugar production in Australia, and it will be seen from these figures that the average yearly outputs of sugar have steadily increased. From 1903 to 1914 it had on the average doubled, the average being for this period nearly 200,000 tons. From 1915 to 1919 there was a further increase, and in 1920 and 1921 the
– Are they the official figures?
– No, but the House may rely on them as approximately correct. It will be seen from this table that if no losses on importations had been made, and there had been what I think to be a reasonable distribution cost fixed, the sugar would have been selling retail at 4½d. per lb. during the whole course of thepresent agreement, and the obloquy that the sugar industry of Queensland has had to bear through being loaded up by at least1½d. per lb., might have been avoided, and much prejudice on the part of consumers in the south saved. That is to say, if the grocer had not been given1d. per lb. when they received before only½d.-
– He gets nine-tenths of a penny.
– And the wholesaler gets the rest.
– And also a rebate of 5 per cent. more than in any other part of the world.
– It must be remembered that the consumption of sugar within the Commonwealth, direct and indirect, averages about 2 lbs. per head per unit of population per week, and each 1d. per lb. on the price of sugar, up or down, means an average difference of1s. per week for every family of six. This fact cannot be overlooked in our consideration of the sugar problem.
The imports of sugar and the average price per ton, according to Customs statistics in recent years, were as follows: -
This is a table of imports of sugar since 1914-15, and includes the whole period of Commonwealth control. It tabulates separately the quantity imported from Fiji, Mauritius, Java, and Cuba. I obtained this information from the Statistical Bureau, and have dissected it in order to arrive at the figures I show. I. have taken the import value of the sugar to be, without duty, but to in clude c.i.f. and e., refining ports, and I thus arrive at the following average prices of importedsugar, without duty at refining porta in Australia: - £13 15s. in 1914-15; £16 2s.1d. in 1915-16; £20 3s.11d. in 1916-17; £17 13s. in 1917-18; £20 0s. 3d. in 1918-19; £38 12s.10d. in 1919-20; and £56 8s. 5d. in 1920-21.
– Are those figures based on the declared prices for import duty purposes?
-The import duty is a specific one.
– Yes; but are they the declared invoice prices?
– -They are the values given by the Department of Trade and Customs for the sugar imported, and the Statistical Bureau buttresses them by giving me the information that the figures show the value at -ports of entry without duty. The small quantity of sugar we re-exported for the period named has not been taken into consideration, but does not materially affect the figures and values of imports I have given. , The apex of our export trade for jams, canned fruits, and condensed milk was in the year 1918-19.
I think that a perusal of the ‘import figures I have given in table “ B,” which 1 urn informed includes c.i.f. and e. costs, Sydney, shows that the price of sugar did not so much affect the enormous increase in the export of commodities containing sugar as did the war, and its large military requirements, and the dislocation of the world’s trade.
– Is the honorable gentleman including-
– In reply to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), I must take it that the values put upon imports by the Customs authorities are values at the ports of entry, otherwise the Statistician’s figures are all wrong. I have dissected these figures, and, ou the information I have, I think they are correct. If the Minister in charge of the sugar control (Mr. Rodgers) is able to show that I am wrong because I have not taken, this, that, or the other thing into consideration, I can only say that- further information than I have given is not available to me as a member of Parliament.
I think the Government treated the manufacturers very fairly during the earlier periods of sugar control, but I do not agree with the Minister, on the figures I have quoted, that the enormous figures for export, during the apex year of 1918-19, for jams, canned fruits, and condensed milk, were entirely the result of the sugar control. If my figures are correct, it is an illusion to think that, at any time during the war, sugar was selling in Australia for less than the price at which sugar from Java and Fiji could have been imported. The figures I have given prove that that is so. It will be seen by reference to table “ A “ that, from the commencement of Government control, the minimum net price for direct distribution on a cash basis, without any distributing profit, averaged about £20 per ton. That was before the sugar control. On the. 9th July, 1915, the Government took control, and raised the net price to about £24 per ton. On the 17th January, 1916, it was further raised to about £27 10s. per ton, and remained at that price until 26th March, 1920 - the commencement of the present agreement, when the lowest net cash price, on the average, to manufacturers and wholesale distributers was about £47 per ton. The Minister will mark the difference between the home net cash price and the wholesale cash price, subject to discount.
– There is also the question, of whether the sugar is for home consumption or for manufacturing purposes for export.
– I am perfectly well aware that a rebate of £20 per ton is allowed in respect of sugar, used for manufacturing purposes for export.
– And that disposes of the honorable member’s argument.
– Not at all. I wish now to raise another point in connexion with the asset of £415,000 alleged to be due by the Commonwealth Government to the sugar control as set out in the Minister’s statement.
– I made no such allegation.
– In the statement presented by the Minister there is, in the assets of the sugar control, an item, “ Payment to Treasury - profits £415,000.” So far as I can trace it, that item has arisen in this way : When the late Lord Forrest. was Treasurer his Budget for the year ended 30th June, 1917, showed an amount of £431,690 0s’. 2d. as having been paid into the Consolidated Revenue on sugar account. I understand this to be a sum of £415,000, representing profit made by the sugar control prior to that date, plus an amount of interest making up the full sum. The Minister now brings it back as an asset in his accounts, and it is undoubtedly an asset. Although this was a profit made long ago, it was, nevertheless, a profit made out of sugar control up to that date, and I am afraid my honorable friend, the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), will have to repay the amount before the sugar accounts are closed up. In any case I, for one, will not stand for the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth benefiting to the extent of £415,000 out of sugar, and so taxing the same thing twice in respect of the whole control.
– But how will the honorable member vote
– It will make no difference so far as my vote is concerned, because the Minister for Trade and Customs has taken the amount into consideration as an asset. It is simply a matter as between him and the Treasurer. I think the Minister is entitled to take it into consideration as an asset, and that the amount will have to be found for the sugar control in the forthcoming Budget.
– It is a positive obligation on the part of the sugar control to take it into account as an asset.
– If that is so, it is a debt owing by the Consolidated Revenue to the sugar control. I have come to the’ conclusion, on the figures I have given, with regard to the importations of sugar into the Commonwealth over the whole period of control, that Australian producers have not been paid less than the world’s parity at Australian ports of entry. They, in fact, have been paid a little more, but, in my opinion,, not enough to make up the disparity between increased wages costs and those for black labour in other sugar producing countries, and not enough to give the Australian sugar producers a fair difference in favour of white labour.
About the middle of 1919 the world’s parity for the first time since the war began exceeded that in Australia, and as the year ran on the discrepancy became greater. Naturally the sugargrowers became dissatisfied, and the result was that the present agreement was made in March, 1920, for three years. That agreement was made, as far as I can ascertain, because of the high parity of the then world’s prices. It was, when made, a good agreement for the consumers of sugar in Australia, and the sugar producers then did not get the world’s parity, as will be seen by a comparison of tables “ A “ and “ B “ for the years 1919-20 and 1920-21.
It seems to me that up to 30th June, 1919, there should have been no loss on sugar, local, or imported, if imported free of duty, and the old credit of £415,000 or £431,000 odd should have been intact. It will be seen in table “ B “ that the sugar control then was not losing money so far as imported sugar was concerned, the import figures for the first four years of control averaging a cost of less than £20 per ton without duty at refinery centres. I am in the dark as to whether Customs duty was charged during the first four years of control or not. The cost of refining only is not large, so that until world’s prices in the middle of the year 1919 began to soar, on the evidence, ohe credit, in the Treasury, to the operations of the sugar control previously, was probably intact, or at least should not have been drawn on , especially as the period 1918-19 would close on 30th June, 1919.
Having given my reasons why up to 30uh ‘June, 1919, there should have been no loss on sugar, and the old credit should have been intact, I come to the average cost of importations in 1919-20, viz., £38 12s. lOd. per ton, and the net tonnage imported, 110,000 tons. The refined cost to the Government, without duty, and including management, would be about, say, £44 per ton. For the first nine months of that period sugar was selling wholesale at £27 10s. per ton net. There would be a loss, therefore, of approximately £16 10s. per ton. On the portion of the 110,000 tons imported in that year and sold at £27 10s. per ton up to March - the date of the new agreement, when the price was raised to £47 - if we estimate that portion at threefourths of, the total quantity of 110,000 tons and accept the loss as amounting to £16 10s. per ton, we arrive at this conclusion: 82,500 tons was sold at a loss of £16 10s. per ton; and that transaction is equivalent to placing £1,361,250 to the debit side of the Sugar Account when the agreement began, less a sum of about £400,000 which must be set to the credit side. The profit on the remaining quarter of the 110,000 tons - assuming it to have cost £44 per ton, and that there was no duty - would be £3 per ton.
Now, in 1920-21, the average cost was, say, about £60 per ton refined, showing a net loss of about £13 per ton. The quantity imported during this period was 116,000 tons; and this, of course, would be a further debit to the Sugar Account. But, on all the Australian-produced sugar sold since 23rd March, 1920, the Government’s profit has been, so far as figures show, about £9 per ton. My calculations!, in the absence of more detailed particulars, are that the price of sugar could be reduced at once, and not so far off as 1st November. I present the following table “ C,” setting out the estimated position of the Sugar Account from 1st July, 1919, to 1st July, 1922 : -
As the note attached to table C shows, my calculations are based on the assumption that no duty has been paid upon any sugar during any portion of the period of control. But I now understand, from an interjection of the Minister, that duty was paid up to 1919.Obviously, that fact materially alters the figures which I have just given. Calculating the duty up to that period, roughly, at the rate of £6 per ton, that - so far as I can rapidly check tihe figures - would make the Minister’s statement correct namely, that there was a deficit of £255,000 in the sugar account.
No honorable member can go into further details unless he be supplied with the full accounts of the Department for the three different periods of varying prices. The losses on imported sugar, owing to high world’s parity before and after the present agreement, are the real cause of consumers having to pay 6d. instead of 5d. per lb. But the peak of prices reached during the agitation amongst the sugargrowers for the world’s parity did not last more than six months after the agreement had been made.
I now approach the consideration of the present sugar control, and of the statements that have been made concerning it. I will admit at once that able propaganda work has been done by the sugar industry in connexion with the present agreement. At its inception, the Prime Minister and Parliament - and I take my full share in the responsibility - did, owing to the sudden and extraordinary increases in the world’s parity for sugar, about the middle of 1919, enter into an agreement which, in effect, doubled the price of sugar over the average of pre-war rates. When the agreement waa being considered, it was claimed that one of the reasons why Parliament should enter into it was the fact that the Australian sugar industry had been robbed of the world’s parity, during the course of the war. The figures which I have given do not prove it. But that which can be proved is that, at the time when the agitation for the present agreement began, the world’s parity had jumped to an extraordinary extent, and it had been at abnormal figures for about nine months prior to the present sugar agreement being entered into. The fact is that, instead of the world’s parity being abnormal during the course of the war, it was practically normal from 1914-15 to 1918-19; the jump took place about the middle of 1919. The most, therefore, that the sugar industry can claim is that for nine months - namely from 1st July, 1919 to the date on which the agreement was entered into in March, 1920 - the world’s parity for sugar was higher than the local wholesale price, but that for more than three years previously the local wholesale price had been considerably more than the world’s parity; while, for years- previous to that it was higher to the extent of the duty imposed by Parliament, which was £6 per ton. Therefore, any claim that the Queensland sugar industry had on the Commonwealth to bring the price on a level with the world’s parity, and any benefit that Australian sugar consumers had through Government control, must now be confined to a period of about nine months prior to the present agreement, and for a period of five or six months after it.
When discussing the present sugar agreement in another place, I hazarded the- opinion, which has since been borne out, that the agreement extended for a year too long; that, in the first year, it would be in favour of the consumer; that, for the second year, it was very doubtful that the then high world’s parity would prevail; while, for the third year, the agreement would be most unfavorable to the sugar users and consumers of Australia. At that time, those who supported the agreement ventured the opinion that, in the interests of the growers, the agreement was for a year too long. They said it- would be against the interests of the growers to enter into an agreement for more than two years, in view of the certainty of a shortage in sugar throughout the world. The sequel to-day is that, in Australia, the price of sugar to the consumer is 6d. per lb., and the minimum wholesale net price to the manufacturer is £47 per ton. In America, the price for home consumption is 6 cents, or 3d., per lb. ; and for export, 4 cents, or 2d., per lb. The price at which Java mill white sugar can be bought, c.i.f . and e. Australia, is about £20 per ton.
Perhaps, for the sake of clarity, it would be as well for me to quote the Customs duty on sugar imposed in various countries. I give the. following, on the authority of the Sugar Journal: -
United Kingdom, general, £25 13s. 4d.; British preferential, £21 7 s. 9d. (98 per cent, polarization). Canada, general, £11 3s.; British preferential, £8 7s. United States, general, £9 19s. 8d. South Africa^ general, £6 14s. 5d. Australia, general, £6.
When statements are made that, in the United Kingdom, the price of sugar is £48 10s. per ton, it should be pointed out that the duty alone is £25 13s. 4d. ; and that, when comparisons are made between the price of Australian sugar and prices in other countries, the Customs duties imposed by those various countries should be given. The retail price for the United Kingdom has been quoted at 5$d. per lb., but, out of this, it will be seen that nearly 3d. per lb. is for duty. All the information I can get practically concurs in proving that the high world’s parity did not exist for much more than about eighteen months - that is, for nine months before and a few_ months after this 0 agreement -was made; and I hope that my contribution to the debate will have the effect of preventing further misstatements being made with regard to what consumers owe the sugar industry. Many loose statements have been made, largely by the special propagandists of the sugar industry, which have no basis in fact. It has been stated that the present agreement is advantageous to the sugar users in Australia. It has been asserted that, but for the fact of the existence of the sugar agreement, extraordinary prices Would have been paid; and, further, that sugar control in Australia has saved Australian sugar consumers extraordinary sums, varying from £20,000,000 to £30,000,000, covering the period of control. I now present table D, which makes a relative comparison of the cost of Australian’ mill white sugar at home ports, and of foreign raw sugar at refining ports of entry: -
I will admit that, for eighteen, months, had there been no sugar control, the retail price for sugar would have been Id. or 2d. more than was paid; and that farmers, sugar-growers and millers, were - for eighteen months at the outside - supplying sugar more cheaply than the price for which it could have been imported. But eighteen months more, completing the three years of the present agreement, will make up for this sacrifice - if it was a sacrifice.
– Honours are easy.
– Clearly that is so.” If the question is brought down to a money basis, at the end of the present agreement Australia will owe nothing to the sugar industry, and the sugar industry will owe nothing to Australia. There is, of course, in addition, the strong feeling against black labour in Australia, and I have emphasized only the money basis. The figures I have given dissipate the claims made by special propagandists of this industry that Australian consumers owe so much to the local sugar-growers.
– And, of course, Australia has done nothing for the Queensland growers ?
– Australia has not done much for the growers during the last seven years. The Queensland grower, although he has received a little more than imported foreign parity, has not. received enough on the average, including some never recurring world’s high prices, considering that he has to employ white labour in competition with the black labour of. other countries.
I wish to say a word or two in regard to Government control in the future. I believe that the industry should be stabilized ; .but, unfortunately, throughout all the controversies dealing with the sugar question this industry has apparently always been in the position of a quasipolitical shuttlecock - black labour versus white labour, private enterprise versus nationalization, the sugar producers pitted against the fruit-growers, and in one way or. another sugar has been throughout its whole history the football of politics. I have heard during my short experience of Parliament honorable members storming at the large profits made from the industry by the Colonial. Sugar Refining Company. I know that those honorable members believe in the nationalization of the sugar industry; but, in my opinion, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has done much for Queensland, and its scientific administration is. a credit to Australian industrial development. The large profits that are made by that company are made by the application of science to industry rather than by making a large percentage of profit upon the turnover.
– That was proved by the Royal Commission.
– I thank’ the honorable member for that confirmation.
-The manager of the company refused to give evidence before the Commission.
– Order !
– We have only had from the Government a summarized financial statement covering seven years’ balances, but the Minister has promised to give us the details. Extension of time granted.’] As for the future, I believe it is the function of the Government to govern, and not to trade, and also that a Government, and Parliament, too, should remain at the helm of the ship of State, and not traffic in or muddle with its cargo. I am not a believer in governmental interference with trade, commerce, industry, and production, because the facts prove that where governmental interference has taken place, especially during the last seven years, in the State of Queensland and the State of New South Wales, and also in some activities of the Commonwealth, generally speaking, the successes achieved have been few and the failures have been many. The whole sugar position shows that Government trading, like many other methods of trading during the jumping peaks of recent world prices, has not . always been .as satisfactory as we could have wished. But although it is clear that huge purchases of sugar were made at high prices, it is’ very difficult to criticise such purchases during the period in which they were made, because those were times of rapid and unexpected deflation, in many quarters, and scores of business men have, to my own personal knowledge, been caught in the same way, and many firms have had to go bankrupt owing to misjudgment during periods of inflation.
I do not think that the sugar industry oan be stabilized without the widest discussion,, as it is perhaps from the producing, commercial, manufacturing, distributing, and political sides the most complicated problem that Parliament will be called upon to settle. I do not believe that, any academic inquiry, or a desire for political expediency, will give a permanent solution of this very knotty problem. As a Protectionist, and as one who has always advocated a White Australia, and also - and this is important - an Australia self-contained and selfsupporting as far as possible, I will not by my vote do anything to unfairly prejudice the fine sugar industry of Queensland. The policy of this Parliament should be directed along the lines of importing as little as we can, and exporting as much as we can, so that we may thereby get a favorable balance of trade, and pay off some of our debts abroad. The fruit-growers’ interest also must be considered, for in acreage, production, and employment, direct and indirect, their interests exceed those of the sugar industry, important as that is. There is more fruit produced now than can be consumed in the Commonwealth, and the acreage is rapidly increasing, and if expansion in this industry is desired the local consumption of commodities composed of fruit and sugar must not be checked by dear sugar. Sugar at world’s parity should be available for the export trade.
– It is at present.
– Not quite. Users could import Java sugar for £20 a ton, and the Government are charging them £24. After the expiry of the existing agreement we shall still have to consider the sugar problem. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) indicated last night that the next Parliament would have to consider that question. I hope that this Parliament will deal with it.
– I said that we should have to consider the ‘agreement at a later date.
– I have much more pleasure in advocating the consideration of this question by the present Parliament than I would have in leaving it to be dealt with by the next Parliament, because, so fair as I know, the next Parliament will not be in’ working order until after the new sugar agreement, if there is to be one, must be considered.
All honorable members wish to get down to a fair deal for the sugar-grower, a fair deal for the consumer, and a. fair deal for the fruit-grower, always remembering that sugar can be grown only in the tropics, and, unlike other great protected industries, is subjected entirely to the competition of the product of black labour.
My own attitude regarding the future is that I shall be reluctant to vote for any sort of Government control, as I do not think that it will permanently stabilize the industry, which is what I desire to achieve, and in no circumstances can I vote for any solution of the sugar question that will include further Government trading. After a very close investigation of the position, with my sympathies all in favour of Australian industry and enterprise, especially those carried on within the tropics, I do not think that the industry can expect to receive in any future arrangements the present rates. Varying statements are made as to what will be a fair price. The Royal Commission considered that £22 per ton to the grower and miller in the interim was a fair and profitable price. Others connected with the industry to whom I have talked mentioned £24, £26, and £28 per ton for raw sugar. The Sugar Journal has stated recently that the producers must receive £26 10s. per ton for raw sugar if the industry is to be stabilized. Senator Crawford, representing the Queensland growers, in 1912 suggested a duty of £7 per ton, but I admit that since that dato a good deal has happened. The present world position, particularly in Java, which largely governs parity so far as sugar is. concerned in the southern hemisphere, seems to indicate that the crops of mill white sugar will be offered at about £15 per ton. In all probability, £4 or £5 per ton must be added to this price for railage to shipping points, freights, exchange, insurance, &c, to importing points. Therefore, the competition which the Queensland industry will have to meet will be about £20 per ton for Java mill white sugar, c.i.f., Australian ports. In my opinion, a duty of Id. per lb. would stabilize the Queensland sugar industry..
– It would not be half enough.
– Householders will not generally use mill white sugar. There’ is no refined sugar as such coming from Java. Therefore, Java quality would only come into competition with Queensland mill white sugar, and would be used largely for manufacturing purposes only. lt is quite as suitable as any other sort for many of such purposes.
– No fear!
– ‘For manufacturing many things Java sugar is quite as suitable as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s refined sugar, and gives equally good results. That is the point of difference we have to consider in connexion with the* competition of Java mill white sugar. If we were to impose a duty of Id. per lb. on raw sugar we would stabilize the industry. Those who believe in the policy of a White Australia ought to be satisfied to pay Id. per lb. on sugar for the maintenance of such a policy. With a reduced distribution cost, with slightly lower prices to the cane-grower and mill-owner, and a duty of Id. per ib. on mill white sugar to stabilize the industry, a fair wholesale price should be 3d. per lb. for mill white sugar, and 3£d. per lb. for refined; and leaving the matter of distribution to competition among the distributors. After the expiration of the present agreement refined sugar ought to be put in the hands of the public at 4d. per lb., and mill white at Sid. per lb.
Industries consuming fruit and to whom sugar is a raw material could, by a system of levy among the mill-owners and cane-growers for the purpose, get their raw material at a reasonably low price, so that the consumers of these commodities, even within the Commonwealth, would not be prejudiced by dear sugar. I think the mill-owners and cane-growers should give their brethren who grow fruit the opportunity of converting their product into canned fruits or jams.
– Why all this nursing?
– I am merely drawing attention to the important points that have arisen in connexion with the sugar industry. I believe that in order to stabilize this industry in Queensland it may be necessary to have some form of cooperation. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has only eight crushing mills in Queensland and New South
Wales, and there are twenty-nine other mills in operation. Government help would probably be necessary to stimulate the co-operation I suggest. I think also that the Queensland arbitration laws should co-ordinate sugar awards with the industrial position in other parts of the Commonwealth. I have endeavoured to place some facts before the House in regard to this matter. I want to give fair play to the Queensland sugar industry, and I want also honorable members to remember, seeing that this Parliament passed the present agreement, that they should have no quarrel with it. The agreement was deliberately entered into and approved by Parliament, and on the figures I have quoted has averaged out as expected.
– Was the agreement approved by Parliament?
– It went through both Houses, and every honorable member who voted for it or refrained from voting against it was responsible for it.
– Hear, hear!
– We have also to remember that during the first year of the agreement Australian consumers of sugar got their sugar at considerably less than the world’s parity; that is to say, at considerably less than they would have had to pay had there been no sugar industry in existence in Australia. In the third year, I admit, the consumers have had to make this good; but we must be fair to the sugar industry, and on the figures I have quoted we have been barely fair, and have given no favours. Seeing that the figures put forward seem to prove that, on the whole seven years’ operations of the sugar control, the growers and millers have been getting about the world’s parity,’ we should now be in a position to reconsider the whole situation on a fair basis. There seem to be no obligations on either side.
In setting this case before the House, I have placed before honorable members four tables of calculation. The first shows what every one has got out of the sugar control. The second deals with the quantity and average ‘ price of importations during the period of control. The third covers the financial position. Honorable members will remember that the Minister has told us that about £1,000,000 has been paid in duty, a fact that must be taken into consideration now in Table C.
– It was over £1,000,000.
– My last table gives a comparison between the Queensland parity and the world’s parity during the whole period covered by the agreements. I am anxious to arrive at a basis of stability for the sugar industry. It has been made the football of politics long enough. The Minister has promised us a full and audited account of the sugar figures from year to year and from period to period.
– Do not forget that the net profit on Australian sugar at the present time is £6 6s. 2d. per ton.
– If the millers and cane-growers get £30 6s. 8d. per ton, and the ‘Colonial Sugar Refining Company £6 16s. 6d. per ton for handling and refining, according to the figures given by the Prime Minister in reply to a question, at a wholesale price of sugar of £47 per ton the Government must be getting more than the figure mentioned by the Minister. My whole desire is to get at the facts. There: have been many allusions to different aspects of this question ; but each honorable member is anxious to get at the truth. I have endeavoured to get as close to it as possible in my address. I have not touched upon the amendment because I believe that the sugar deficit at the present time is in the region of £255,000, as stated by the Minister, and because, if the amendment were carried, it would immediately impose on the taxpayers of the Commonwealth a loss on sugar which I consider should not be placed upon them.
.- The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has already .proved valuable, because it has helped to put honorable members au fait with the present position of sugar. The speech just delivered by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten), with all its detail, has been most enlightening. I do not intend to deal with detailed figures. The honorable member has done sufficient in that direction. I want to say a few words on the broad principles of the question.
The first step taken by the Commonwealth Government in this matter was to fix the price of sugar at £18 per ton. That price was raised in 1918 to £21 per ton, and had the Government of the day allowed sugar-growing and crushing to be carried on in a natural fashion there would have been very little, if any, of the trouble that has since arisen. But I am informed that at the time the Government stipulated that the area under cane was not to be extended, and that no improvements were to be made to the mills. It was a case of helping the industry on the one hand and strangling it on the other.
– That stipulation was withdrawn at once.
– As a result of the adoption of that policy, 20,000 acres went out of cane cultivation.
– That was because of the Dickson award.
– That award increased the cost of production in other directions; but other primary producers of Queensland extended their production to meet the demands of the times, so thatAustralia could be kept going during the war period. The chief cause for the reduction of the area under cane was the stipulation of the Government that there should be no increase in the area under crop, and that the mills should not increase their capacity. We have been told by the Government, and by their supporters, time and time again, that the people of Australia have had cheaper sugar than was procurable by people in other parts of the world; but that was because the grower had to produce- at a cheaper rate. While the Commonwealth Government were paying £56 per ton for 116,000 tons of sugar purchased in Java, the canegrower in Australia was getting only £30 6s. 8d. per ton. The Government boasted that the people of Australia were getting the cheapest sugar in the world. At whose expense? Not’ the Government’s. It was at the expense of the men who were responsible for producing the article. The Government has put a distinct black mark against the industry, inasmuch as it has been overcharging the people, not for the benefit Of the grower and the -producer - not of the man who does the work on the farm - but in order to pay the increased cost for the imported sugar. The Government’s statement that we have been getting cheaper sugar is really an argument against the interference with the industry. We are told that the Government have had to charge this increased rate to make up the losses. This increased rate is a burden not only on the sugar industry of Queensland, but on the fruit and dairying industries throughout Australia. A penny per lb. increase means about £50 per acre to the man who is growing soft fruits, however they may be preserved. It is essential, from the point of view of production, that we should have sugar at as reasonable a price as it can be produced at, but we are not in a position to know what is the proper price. The balance-sheet presented to us by the Government leads us nowhere. I have spent some time over it, and I defy any. one to get any real satisfaction out of it. The whole of the accounts are lumped over the whole of the seven years, and it is impossible to arrive at any information which would lead to a satisfactory conclusion either for or against the agreement and the results of the trading in sugar. There are, however, one or two points in the balance-sheet that are worthy of mention. In the profit and loss account we are told that the interest on overdraft paid to the Commonwealth Bank is £248,076 10s. 6d., and this, of course, is put down as. a charge against sugar. But we know that there was a profit made in the dealings with sugar in the early stages, and it would be very interesting te know whether the sugar account has been credited with the interest on this profit during the whole of the years under consideration.
– The House appropriated that to revenue in June, 1917.
– The whole of the facts should be setout in order that we may see what the balance is. This is supposed to be a balance-sheet, and I ask whether a board of directors would bring down a statement of that kind to their shareholders.
– They would.
– We are not shareholders, but we are the board of directors acting for the people, and we should know what the figures are - we should’ know the whole position. This statement is simply brought down here and flung on the table, and we know nothing at all about the details. Then, in the operating and trading accounts, there is an item, “Cyclone damage, 1918, sugar, £210,608,” and of this we have had no explanation. We are also told that there was sea-damaged sugar to the extent of £2,217. These are, however, small matters for consideration alongside the remarks of the Auditor-General, which seem to disclose a very serious position -
The foregoing statements of accounts have been audited by an Audit Inspector, acting under my direction, the statements having been submittedfor examination on 14th July (instant). After examination, the statements were again submitted in the present form this day, and they have been further submitted to audit.
Why should these statements have to be submitted twice to audit? Is it because on the first occasion they were not satisfactory? The Auditor-General goes on to say -
The transactions of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Millaquin Sugar Company had previously been audited by the Audit Inspector specially appointed to examine the accounts of these companies, such accounts having been passed to the 30th September, 1921, and the 31st December, 1921, respectively. The transactions since those dates, and the figures for which have been incorporated in the above statement, were supported by the certificates of the respective general managers, as also have the figures relating to the value of stocks stated to bc on hand at the 30th June, 1922. These figures, therefore, remain to be verified by the Auditor Inspector when making his next visit and conducting his audits at the offices of the companies concerned.
Subject to the foregoing remarks, and to the verifications referred tothe above statements are certified to be correct.
We are asked to accept this balance-sheet, yet we are told by the Auditor-General that figures remain to be verified. What is the use of a statement of accounts like that?
– I fully explained the qualification.
– This kind of balancesheet only leads to further confusion, and at present the position is confused enough, simply because we cannot get at the facts. It is impossible at the present stage to know where we stand - to know what sugar really costs, and at what price it can be sold. When the present amendment has been disposed of, I propose to move the following: -
– You are a “ bridgebuilder”!
– It is strange that I should be called a “ bridge-builder” by a member of this House.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I shall name the next honorable member who interjects after I have called for order. I have before appealed to honorable members, and I do not propose to injure my throat by repeated and vain appeals for order.
-We believe that there is a possibility that sugar can bo produced and sold at a lower price, but we cannot speak definitely until we know the position in regard to the grower and the producer. All we know at present is that the grower gets¾ d., labour 2½d., the Commonwealth1d., the refiner5/8d., and the wholesaler and grocer11/8d. It will be seen that the grower gets least of all except the refiner, though the grower has to do all the work, go to the expense of clearing his property, and of putting in his cane and waiting for it to mature, while running the risk of cyclones and other occurrences that destroy his sugar and his market; and the¾d. has to cover the cost of labour and everything. It looks pretty evident that the grower is not getting as fair a deal as he should. We cannot say, with this present statement before us, that the Government can sell sugar at 4d., 4½d., or 5d., and we think that we ought to have a definite and clear knowledge of the position. In our opinion, the Government have handled the whole sugar question in a way that has damaged both the consumer and the producer. Unless the Government can bring down a statement which will put us in a position to know where we stand - which will show that the Government have saved the country money, and that the damage which has been, done to the industry is only temporary, I do not think there will be anybody amongst honorable members opposite who will be able to call me a bridge- builder. At present it is impossible to say where we stand; when we have the figures before us, we shall be able to speak in a very definite way.
– I have been very interested in the last two speeches that have been delivered. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) is very critical of the Government ; he charged it with having damaged the interests of both consumer and producers, yet he proceeded to “ build a bridge “ for the Government to climb over to safety. Such an attitude is typical of honorable members in the worner. In my judgment, their attitude is one that does not commend itself to self-respecting members of Parliament. We saw, during the evening, the Government Whip busier in the corner whipping up the Country party than he was on the Government side; and the Government Whip was apparently just as successful here as was the “ whip “ that was cracked in the Caucus room to-day. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) for an hour and a half gave us a speech in which he criticised the Government and condemned its figures; he proved, by logic and facts, that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is practical, and can be carried out ; and then he proceeded to find a lot of reasons for voting against the amendment. The “whip” had been cracked in the Caucus chamber. The honorable member went on to express a lot of sympathy for the poor consumer; but sympathy is not of much good to those who are paying 6d. per lb. for sugar.
I propose to briefly . review the sugar agreements, and the conditions that led upto them. I shall show that the motives that prompted the first agreement have absolutely changed in the case of the existing arrangement. I shall show, by an analysis of the figures, that the same power that dominated the industry before Government control is dominating it almost as effectively now. The honor- . able member for Parramatta said that he would be reluctant to vote for Government control. But what is the alternative? To go back to the control of the company which has this industry in its grasp ? I remember that, in 1911, whenI was a member of this House, there was a strike amongst the cane-cutters for 30s. and keep for a week of forty-eight hours, and the grower proved beyond dispute that he could not afford to pay such a wage. It was shown that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had the growers intheir power to such an extent that they had to sweat their workers, who certainly laboured under the most unfavorable conditions possible. I have looked up the press of that time, and I should like to read a quotation from a special article that appeared in the Age of 4th August, 1911. It was written by a man who had investigated all the circumstances, and it contained the following: -
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company con trols the price which the consumer must pay for sugar. Then, seeing that the company fixes the price for raw sugar, the sugar monopoly also regulates the price paid to the cane-grower for his raw material. Every stage of the industry, from the growing of the cane to the bagging of the finished article, is ordered and directed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Its vice-like hold upon one of the necessities of human life is a most striking example of commercial monopoly, probably without a parallel in any part of the world
In a leading article published a week later, namely, on 11th August, the Age wrote -
The Government should have long ago taken a hand in the matter By the establishment of a national refinery.
At that time the Age was advocating Government control, and was engaged in a dispute with the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who was then AttorneyGeneral, as to the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to establish a national refinery.
– When was that?
– On11th August, 1911. In 1912 the Fisher Government appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the sugar industry, and Mr. Knox, managing director of the Colonial Sugar’ Refining Company, was among the witnesses examined by that Commission. He was asked -
Did the Colonial Sugar Kenning Company contribute ?50,000 to support the opposition to the proposed law to alter the Constitution relating to monopolies which was submitted to the electors on 26th April, 1911?
Mr. Knox replied ;
That is a matter I am not prepared to give information upon.
He was then asked, “ You did not make the contribution?” His answer, and I ask honorable members to note it, was, “ I do not say we did not make the contribution. We did not make that contribution.” The contribution might have been more or less than ?50,000.
I come now to the several agreements that have been made. The first of these, drawn up in 1915, was made between two Labour Governments - the Fisher Government and the Ryan Administration. I invite honorable members to contrast these agreements and the principles underlying them. If they do they will discover some reasons why there is an outcry at the present time against Government control. It is not so much a question of Government control as it is a question of proper control in the interests of the consumers and the producers as against control in the interests of the capitalists. The agreement, made between the Fisher Government and the Ryan Government of Queensland in 1915, was for a period of two years. It provided that in 1915-16 the grower and miller should receive ?18 per ton for raw sugar, and that the retail price should be 3d. per lb. For the second year it provided, so as to allow for increased costs in 1917, that the grower and miller should receive ?21 per ton for raw sugar, and that the retail price of sugar should be 3?d. per lb. The increase in the price paid to the grower and miller for raw sugar was equal to 16 per cent., and the increase in the retail price was also 16 per cent. This shows that the makers of the first agreement realized that when the price of the raw sugar was increased to the extent of 16 per cent., a like increase should be made in the retail price. Keeping that in mind, let us examine the arrangement entered into by the present Government in 1920. Under a former agreement the grower was receiving ?14 per ton and the miller ?7 per ton, while the retail price was fixed at ?32 133. 4d. per ton, or 3?d. per lb. Under the new agreement made in 1920 the grower receives ?19 6s. 8d. per ton and the miller ?11 per ton. The retail price is ?56 per ton, or 6d. per lb.
– The retail price is not fixed in the agreement.
– I did not say that it was, but it is fixed by the Government. I am pointing out that under the agreement the Government have provided for increased prices for the grower and the miller, and that that increase has been carried, on to the retailer by the Government itself. Under this new agreement of 1920 there was an increase- of £5 6s. 8d. per ton to the grower, and an increase .of £4 per ton to the miller, whereas the increase in respect of refining and distribution was raised to the extent of £23 6s. Sd. per ton. The increase to the growers is equal to 30 per cent., and to the millers 57 per cent.; while the refining and distribution cost has increased to the extent of 71 per cent. I know that the objection will be raised that the retail price was fixed at the high rate of 6d. per lb. to make good the losses incurred on imported sugar. Let us,- then, take the position as proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs when the deficit shall have been wiped off, and when he is not going to take into the Consolidated Revenue .anything in respect of sugar. The retail price is then to be 5d. per lb. The increase in the price paid to the grower, as compared with that ruling under the old arrangement, will then be 30 per cent., and to the miller 57 per cent., whereas the increase in the retail price will be 42 per cent. And yet we have the Prime Minister trying to camouflage the facts, when replying to the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Charlton), by saying, “Look at the white men in the cane-fields bearing the heat and burden of the day!” He raised the cry of a White Australia, and pictured the plight of the poor white man working in the cane-fields; the suggestion being that the benefit of these increased prices was going wholly to the white workers and the growers. The actual position under the present arrangement is, however, that the increase to the grower is 30 per cent., to the miller 57 per cent., and to the refiners and distributers 71 per cent. The arrangement was made practically in the interests of the Government’s supporters - the capitalistic class.
– That cock will not fight.
– Proof of -my statement is to be found in these figures, and the Government cannot get away from them. It is for the Minister to show why, in the original agreement made between the Fisher Government and the Ryan Government, when the price for raw sugar was increased by 16 per cent., the retail price was increased to exactly the same extent. How does he justify the present arrangement,’ under . which, while the increase to the grower is 30 per cent, and to the miller 57 per cent., the increase in respect of refining and distribution is 71 per cent.? Even when the deficit has been wiped out, the increase to the grower, according to the Minister’s own statement, will be 30 per cent., to the miller 57 per cent’., and to the refiners and distributers 42 per cent.
Let us come now to another phase of this question. We were told that we had to pay a high price for sugar because of a local shortage, and the fact that importations at high prices had consequently to be made. I propose to give some reasons why we had a shortage and a deficit. I shall show some of the actions of this Government, and what they permitted to go on. We are told, in a semiofficial report representing the views of the Government, that the deliveries of sugar at the end of 1919 were extraordinarily heavy, being 30,000 tons more than the deliveries for a similar period in any previous year. What is the significance of that statement? I- ask honorable members to recall what happened in 1919 - during the period immediately preceding the increase in the retail price. It was well known in trade circles for many months that the price of sugar had to go up. Authoritative statements to that effect were made. Every ohe in- the trade knew of this, and it was exactly at this time that the deliveries of sugar were 30,000 tons in excess of the deliveries for a similar period in any previous year. We were told again and again that the reason why people could not obtain the sugar they required at that time was that there was a strike in progress. . Yet here we have the facts set out in a semi-official report that the deliveries from the mills and the refining companies were 30.000 tons more than the. quantity received in. the same quarter in any previous year.
– Who was to blame for that ?
– I shall tell the House. The reason was that the Government allowed their “ pals “ to stock their big warehouses up to the ceilings with sugar in anticipation of - the heavy rise to come. I know something of what was going on at the time. I saw truckloads of sugar! arriving’ at different stations, and going into stores and barns. They were camouflaged with bags of wheat. There were Government officials who knew of the existence of these stocks, while at the same time housewives were being supplied with 3 lbs. or 2 lbs. of white sugar, and had to take 6 lbs. or 12 lbs. of black sugar.
– I ask the honorable member to give the names of the Government officials who knew of these stocks of sugar.
– For an obvious reason, the honorable gentleman is not going to obtain their names from me. I know, also, that some very strong supporters of honorable members opposite profited to the extent of thousands of pounds while they were dealing out to the consumers 2 lbs. and 3 lbs. of white sugar for every 7 lbs. or 8 lbs. of black sugar which they were required to take. Proof of my statement is to be found in the fact that, as soon as the retail price of sugar was raised te 6d. per lb., consumers could buy sugar by the dozenlbs.
– Did the honorable member report the matter at the time to the proper authorities.
– The Government was well aware of what was going on. I wrote to several newspapers drawing attention to it, but not one of my letters was published.
I want to give another reason why the importations of sugar at the time in question should have been exceedingly heavy if a clause inserted in the 1918 agreement was worth anything. That agreement was made when a Labour Government no longer ruled in the Federal arena. A clause was inserted, in it to the effect that the Queensland Government should not, during 1918-19, erect., assist, or encourage the building of any new mills. The removing or enlarging of existing mills was also prohibited. The excuse offered for the insertion of this provision is that the Government wished to avoid a surplus production in Australia. And yet we have the same Government offering as a reason for the high price of sugar the fact that they were compelled to import dear sugar.
– We started that season with a six months’ surplus.
– That is no excuse for the insertion of a clause in the 1918 agreement designed to limit the production of sugar in this country.
– It did not affect the production of sugar in the Commonwealth.
– It will remain for the honorable member to justify in his own constituency such a provision in the agreement. I draw the special attention of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) to these facts, because he attended a meeting of housewives, and told the audience that it was the sugar-growers who were penalizing the fruit-growers. He had not one word to say about the people who raked in the profits after the grower had been satisfied. The grower is, probably, getting a very reasonable return for his labour. He is, perhaps, better off than he ever was. I do not believe the people of Australia will begrudge the grower and the worker what they are getting out of this agreement ; but they certainly object to the big profits that are being raked off by the capitalists. When the growers were getting £14 a ton for their sugar in the second and third year covered by the original agreement, the retail price was £32 13s. 4d., or 3½d. per lb. In other words, the cost from the grower to the consumer was £18 13s. 4d. per ton. Under the scheme outlined by the Minister, leaving out of consideration altogether the disturbing element of imported sugar, and taking the proposal that the retail price shall be 5d. per lb. after the deficit has been wiped out, the cost from the grower to the consumer will be not £18 13s. 4d., but £27 6s. 8d. per ton. The cost of handling has been increased to the extent of £8 13s. 4d. per ton, or 46 per cent., since the 1918 agreement.
The Minister submitted to us a few days ago a balance-sheet covering the seven years’ period of Government control. I want to know why an annual balance-sheet was not submitted. When we asked the Minister for details we were told that they could not be supplied because we were in the middle of the financial year. Have we been in the middle of a financial year for the last seven years? Can that excuse be offered for the failure to supply details in respect of the preceding six years ?
– Some details are given.
– We are not’ given any details. We are supplied with, a balancesheet which is misleading to the people as a whole. Upon examining that balancesheet I find a sum of £415,000 included in the sugar account as an asset. Answering a statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) last night, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) said that that sum had been appropriated to revenue. Upon examining Budget statements of recent years, I find specific reference to an estimated sum of ‘£500,000. May I presume that that represents this sum at present under discussion 1
– The Minister says that £415,000 was appropriated to the revenue.
– That is so - by the sanction of Parliament.
– Then it has gone into the Treasury. It no longer belongs to the sugar account. If I, as the manager of a company, am presenting a balancesheet to an auditor, and if I point to a credited sum of £50 and say that during the period under review I gave it away to a hospital, would he permit me to show it on my balance-sheet? ‘ It is gone. I cannot regard it as an asset.
– Does the honorable member realize that there are two distinct entities involved - one the Board of Sugar Control, and the other the Commonwealth Treasury?
– This amount cannot be given away to one of those two entities and be still retained by the other and included as one of its assets. I thank the Minister for emphasizing my point. This sugar account is not a Government account. The only connexion that the Government have with it, outside of the scope of the agreement itself, consists of the advance of loans to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to finance its purchases. But here is a sum of £415,000 which nearly six years ago was lifted from out of the profits of the sugar account and handed over to the Treasury to swell the revenue of the country. Then, what is it doing here as an asset in the sugar account?
– Does the honorable member know that the Prime Minister stated in this House that the producers of sugar were to understand that not a single farthing would go into* the Consolidated Revenue accounts?
– Well, .if the right honorable gentleman said that, it merely adds to his already long list of broken pledges - a list which would reach to the full length of this chamber. If the Prime Minister actually said in this chamber - as his supporter, the honorable member for Wide Bay, avows - that not one penny of the profits from sugar would go into the revenue of this country, and if the Minister -for Trade and Customs is correct when he now tells the House that a sum of £415,000 has gone into the revenue, I emphatically insist that that assurance of the Prime Minister was no more than another of his broken promises. I want to fmd out ‘what that £415,000 is doing here as an asset if it was given away to the Treasurer six years ago. I suggest that the Government are going to hand that sum back - but only temporarily - as a bookkeeping entry, as something with which to square the ledger for the time being. I say that because, if it is an asset on paper, the amount must be put back. But eventually it will have to come back in ‘cash, unless the Government are going to make it up again out of the pockets of the people. Here is the crux of the whole situation: The reason why the Government propose to charge the people 6d. per lb. to the end of October is that thus they will be able to get the £415,000 back again. It was wrong to have taken the sum out of the sugar account originally. I repeat that it is an account covering various private interests. It was wrong to have taken that amount out, even though the deal was sanctioned by Parliament itself. But, although it was wrong to have done so, it is still more improper now to propose to put it back without the sanction of Parliament. Parliament should insist that the £415,000 taken from sugar profits should be returned legally. If the money was put into the Treasury, what right have the Government to present, it as an asset in the sugar account ?
– What right has the Sugar Control Board to show it as such ? Will the honorable member deal with the facts?
– The Minister is now sheltering behind the Board, yet he stood in his place only a few days ago and said, “ I will take the responsibility for the accuracy of every statement I make, and for the correctness of every figure I use.’’ The fact is that the Government have muddled and bungled the proposition, and that this is a muddled and bungled balance-sheet. If .the Government sought to give the people the facts they would not have placed such a document before Parliament.
The Minister for Trade and Customs informed the House that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had worked at cost price, and had made no profits.
– I said no such thing.
– Well, that the company had worked and had handled the sugar at cost.
– The refining was done at cost. The company did other work.
– This is the first occasion on which I have heard the Colonial Sugar Refining Company referred to as philanthropists, even though they did give £50,000 - the amount may have been less, but may also have been considerably more - in order to insure the defeat of the Constitution referendum having to do with the control of monopolies. As a matter of fact, they are getting £1 2s. 6d. per ton - over and above the cost of refining, of distributing, of bags and freight, and of everything else - in recompense for what is euphemistically termed “management.” That sum of £1 2s. 6d. per ton is neither more nor less than so much “bunce” to the company. _ I estimate that they have made out of the sugar agreements more’ than £2,000,000. So much for their philanthropy!’ The great bulk of their transactions during the past financial year has consisted of the handling of this sugar, and the company have declared the biggest dividend announced for years; they have made a profit of 17.39 per cent.
Honorable members were informed by the Minister in this balance-sheet that, to the 30th June last, the deficit amounted to £255,000. The Government intend that the consumer shall continue to pay 6d. per lb. for four months from the 30th June last. I calculate that there will have been consumed in that period more than 90,000 tons of sugar. Thus, the Government will be provided with a profit of more than £800,000.
Rushing to the rescue of the Minister for Trade and Customs, two honorable members opposite have delivered themselves of weighty opinions. I have sought to examine the remarks both of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten). I have done my best to probe their excuses for the robbery of the people. First, I shall examine certain statements of the honorable member for Wide Bay, who, however, does not accept responsibility for what he has said. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking last night, and at the moment when he was pointing out that the Government would make a profit of £800,000 during the four months in which the retail price of 6d. per lb., would continue to be enforced, the honorable member for Wide Bay interjected, “But you do not know at what price their stocks have been purchased. YOU do not know if it was sugar purchased at £80 per ton or not.” The honorable member was asked if he knew, and he said he did not know. I do not think he did,, but I intend submitting some facts which, by a little deduction, will prove that his suggestion is wrong. I shall quote the estimated figures of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) which he submitted in a statement read in this House, and which was prepared for him by the Department. On page 949 of Hansard of the 30th March, 1920, the Prime Minister said that he estimated that from 110,000 to 130,000 tons would have to be imported to enable us to carry on until the 1920-21 sugar crop was harvested. I wish honorable members to note that the harvesting of the crop usually begins about this time of the year; and when the Prime Minister spoke on the 30th March he said we wanted 110,000 tons to carry us over until the next harvest. Although our imported requirements were estimated at’ from 110,000 to 130,000 tons, the actual importations represented 116,000 ‘tons, which was a fairly accurate estimate, and which proved that the sugar imported in 1920-21 was required before July or August of 1920. It would, therefore, be consumed, and the remainder would be Australian sugar.
– The new crop comes in June.
– I am repeating the statement of the Prime Minister, which was that the season was late, and that the Government would have to purchase the 110,000 tons to make up the deficiency to the 1st July. The actual importations totalled 116,000 tons, which proves that the sugar imported for that year must have been consumed by July. In 1921 the Australian crop was 295,000 tons; and as our average consumption over the past seven years has been about 275,000 tons - the highest has been 280,000 tons - there was a carry-over from that year, and it is clear that the stock on hand is Australian sugar, which has been purchased for £30 6s. 8d. per ton. What arguments did the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) adduce in defence of this proposal ? He suggested that we should continue paying 6d. per lb. for another four months from the end of June, and show a profit of £800,000, in order to wipe out a deficit of £255,000. He also suggested that those who have stocks on hand should get a rebate under the new price, although he showed in his figures that the wholesalers, retailers, handlers, and distributors have done better during the last two years than they have ever done before. That is perfectly true. It is, however, unreasonable to suggest a rebate while the consumer continues to pay the absurdly high prioe of 6d. per lb. for sugar, particularly when we remember that the rich middlemen made profits on their stocks when the rise was made. The honorable member suggests that those who have reaped a rich harvest should be considered ; and that the unfortunate workersshould be penalized in order to further increase the profits of those who have done remarkably well out of the industry.
– The workers in the industry were never better off than they are to-day.
– The Minister knows perfectly well that the working men in our midst are still labouring under the greatest possible difficulties owing to the high cost of living and soaring rents.
– I refer to the workers in the industry.
– And I am dealing with the workers of Australia as a whole.
– That is not an answer to my suggestion.
– As I have said, the profit during the next four months will be in the vicinity of £800,000, and it is contended that this amount will be required to wipe out a deficit of £255,000. What is to become of the difference? There was a sinister suggeston in an answer to the question submitted in this Chamber during the last week, when the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) asked the Minister for Trade and Customs if the Government would reduce the price of sugar as soon as they could. The answer was in the affirmative. If there is a deficit of £255,000, and the industry shows a profit during the next four months of £800,000-
– They must show that profit on their own figures. If 90,000 tons is consumed, there must be a profit of £800,000, and one naturally asks what is to become of the difference between the two amounts. The surplus will be carried on for a while, when an adjustment of the accounts will be made. The Government will pat themselves on the back, and say they have no desire to take money out of the pockets of the consumers, and will therefore reduce the priceof sugar for three months to 3½d. during the election period.
– Election sugar!
– That is quite on the cards, and in keeping with the actions of the Government. The present agreement is not equitable, particularly when we are dealing with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the distributors of sugar. I have nothing to say against the growers of the cane, but I believe that some of the millers are getting a bigger “ cut “ out of it than they have had before. The interests of the growers should be considered, because they have had to establish the industry, and have proved beyond all doubt that it is possible for white men to work in the northern parts of this continent. According to the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs, the quantity of raw sugar purchased was 1,997,178 tons, the refining, bagging, and distribution cost £6,302,930, and the average cost is therefore £3 3s. per ton. It must be remembered that 100 tons of raw sugar is equal to only 94 tons of refined sugar, so that £30 6s. 8d. per ton for raw sugar is equal to £32 5s. per ton for refined sugar. Adding to that the cost of £3 3s. for refining, bagging, and distribution, makes a total of £35 8s. If we add an additional 3 per cent, for the wholesaler, we will be treating him very well, and the retailers surely cannot complain if they are allowed 15 per cent, on’ their transactions. I have considerable knowledge of the retail trade, and I know that on a basis of 10 per cent, the retailers considered that they were doing well. Under present conditions, I do not consider 10 per cent, adequate, but 15 per cent, is ample. These additions amount to £6 10s. and therefore make a total of £41 18s. Incidental charges approximate 2s. 6d. per ton, and the grand total is £42 0s. 6d. Therefore, without altering the agreement, sugar could be retailed for 4Ad. per lb.
– What profit is the honorable member allowing on Australian sugar ?
– I am. dealing with the whole costs. I live in a southern State, and have visited Queensland only once. I have not had the privilege of visiting the sugar districts, but I have read a. good deal concerning the industry, which might be termed one of the romances and also one of the tragedies in Australian history. It has been a tragedy because we allowed the wealthy to crush the unfortunate kanaka, and because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company treated its white workers as slaves. Although it has been suggested that there should be de-control there is no such possibility in the sugar industry. There has been control in the past by the slave-drivers, and later by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. And then there was control by Labour Governments, which was equitable to the worker, to the grower, and to the consumer. That is the sort of control we want - not the kind of control we get through the present Government, but control through a Government that will represent the interests of the growers, the men working in the field, and the people who consume the sugar. That is the only means of solving the problem. De-control will not do it. Can anybody imagine that if we were to hand the control of the sugar industry back to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company the consumers and the manufacturers would get their sugar any cheaper? No. Let us have good control by a Government that represents the interests of the people. We do not want control by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company or by a Government who are dominated by that company and the capitalistic crowd that stand behind them. That is the difference between the original agreement and the arrangement made by the present Government. On the figures submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten), and on all the facts and equity of the case, as well as on the information given to the House by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), it is clear that the people could be given sugar at 4£d. per lb. from 7th August. I trust that the House will agree to the amendment.
.- May I have the adjournment of the debate?
– The Leader ofthe Opposition stated last night that sugar could be sold for 4 1/2d. per lb. from 7th August, and he placed facts and figures before the House in support of his contention. Those statistics have been backed up to-night by the arguments of the honorable member for Yarra and others. The Minister iu charge of the House, by interjection, disputed the correctness of the figures quoted from this side of the House; but it is a significant fact that neither he nor any member of his party attempted, by analysis, to prove the figures wrong in any particular. They merely attempt, by interjection, to convey the impression that the Leader and. honorable members of the Opposition are trying to build up a fictitious case. Until the Minister for Trade and Customs analyzes the figures, and proves them to be wrong, it is useless for him to disparage the case from this side as “ electioneering nonsense.” That sort of thing will carry very little weight with the people who have to pay id., if not Id., per lb. too much for their sugar. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) stated that one reason why the present price of sugar must be continued until November, and then be reduced by only 1d., is that many traders may have on hand large stocks of sugar bought at high prices, and that the Minister for Trade and Customs may be inundated with applications for refunds. There may be a few manufacturers of jam and condensed milk who have a few tons of sugar on hand ; but the retailers, who handle by far the greater part of the sugar, renew their stocks almost from week to week. Because sugar is such a bulky commodity, and space for storage is such a big factor with all small traders, they carry only small stocks, knowing they can renew them at short notice. The contention of the honorable member for Parramatta may have some application to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. On the figures which have been quoted to the House, the retailing of sugar at 5d. per lb. shows a profit of 22 per cent. As ninetenths of the retail traders in sugar turn over their stock once a week, or at least once a fortnight, it will be seen that on twelve months’ trading a profit of 22 per cent. means very good business. If the Government chopped a little off that profit, and also reduced the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, they could easily give the consumer sugar at 4½d. per lb. without doing an injustice to anybody. I agree with the contention of the honorable member for Parramatta that the balance-sheet submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs gives very little information with regard to the operations of the Government during the period of Government control. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has pointed out, the balancesheet relates to a period of seven years. This is the first document of the kind that has been presented to the House by the Government. Figures running into a very large sum are thrown together, but very little information in detail is given, and it is clear that there is something to be covered up. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Perhaps this would be a convenient opportunity to draw the attention of the House to what appears to have been a misunderstanding in connexion with the date fixed for the adjourned debate on the motion of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) relating to the Federal Capital. By an error, I am informed, next Thursday was mentioned as the date for which it should be made an Order of the Day, but it was intended that the date should be Thursday, the 17th August. With the concurrence of the House, I propose to rectify the error, and make the adjourned debate an Order of the Day for the 17th August.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would like to briefly refer to a matter of vital importance to a number of men who have recently been discharged from the Defence Department. I refer, particularly, to those who were invited to send in their resignations, owing to the decision of the Government to reduce the personnel of that Department. The men received an intimation that certain compensation would be paid to them, and this was probably done to encourage them to tender their resignations, and so make it an easier matter for the Government to reduce the strength of the Department. Some of the officers and men, unfortunately, are not in a very favorable financial position, and, in consequence of their being retired, they are to-day unable to take up any business, because the compensation promised them has not come to hand. I understand that the money cannot be paid until a Bill has been passed by Parliament, and the payment of the money approved. I would like to know from the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) when the Bill will be brought forward. Some of these men have given many years of service in the Department, and they have large families. As they have already been out of employment for a month, their scant savings are being seriously encroached upon. They should not have been retired, even compulsorily, until the compensation had been provided for them. I have one letter in which it is stated that they were given clearly to understand that the compensation would be provided by Parliament as soon as the House met, so that they might receive the money at thesame time as their discharge. If that course had been adopted, several of the officers would have been able to put the money into a business concern. One constituent of mine, who has a wife and seven children, has informed me that he is now drawing upon his small reserves to the extent of about £5 a week. He had an opportunity to embark on what he believes would have been a very successful business venture, but he was prevented from doing so by reason of the fact that the promised compensation was not forthcoming. Is it possible to bring down the necessary Bill at an early date!
.- I have had the Bill in my pocket for the last fortnight. If the interminable flow of talk would stop, and the House would condescend to do a little work, we could get the measure through in a very short period. I mentioned the matter the other day to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and he said that when we had got rid of the sugar question, and a few other matters, he would be prepared to talk about it.
– That is poor satisfaction to the men who are out of work.
– But the blame in this particular instance does not rest on the Government. It is due entirely to my friends opposite, who insist on occupying the time of the House with other matters. They know that these men are waiting for the Bill to be put through, and they are aware that the Government are ready to bring it forward. Particulars as to compensation have already been announced, but so long as honorable members opposite insist on talking about other matters, the blame for the delay rests upon them. It is no use honorable members opposite trying to put the blame for the delay in the introduction of this measure on the Government, when it rests on their own shoulders entirely. The Bill will be introduced at the first possible opportunity, and the Government will endeavour to put it through.
– If there is no more definite information than that, I shall move, the adjournment of the House to-morrow.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition prepared to adjourn the consideration of the sugar question!
– It is more important that the public should have cheap sugar.
– There is the answer. As long as honorable members opposite may do a little electioneering on sugar, they do not care two straws about these military gentlemen. The Government are most anxious to get the Bill through, and they will put it through at the first opportunity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 August 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220803_reps_8_99/>.