9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the published complaints from the High Commissioner regarding his inability to cope with the enormous number of banquets that are being thrust upon him in England, I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether we are to understand that the reason why Parliament is to be closed down, and the honorable gentleman, accompanied by Senator Wilson and others, is to proceed to England, is that they are to go to the rescue of the High Commissioner?
– In fairness to the honorable member, and to render it unnecessary for him to put such a question on the notice-paper, I had better reply at once to his inquiry. The answer is “ No.”
– Will the Minister for Defence make inquiries, and if possible remove the “ red-tape “ restriction which I understand prevents the admission of a returned soldier to the military hospital here unless he obtains, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., an order from the Department of Defence!
– Matters relating to military hospitals are in the hands of the Treasurer. The Department of Defence has nothing to do with them. ‘
– Then I beg to address my question to the Treasurer. Will the honorable gentleman do away with this “red-tape” requirement, and’ make it as easy for returned soldiers to. gain admission to a military hospital as it is to be admitted to any of the ordinary general hospitals?
– I shall be very pleased indeed to inquire into the matter and remove the restrictions if possible.
Wire Netting-Operation of Australian Industries Preservation Act
asked the. Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
In view of the extended powers granted to the Minister under the Tariff schedule to remit duties, and, subject to the recommendation ofthe Tariff Board, to bring imports under the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, and, if approved, to considerably increase duties - Will he favorably consider an early amendment of the above-mentioned Act making it compulsory to hear in public all applications for remission or increase of duties, take evidence on oath, and make all recommendations public?
– This matter has already received very full consideration by the Tariff Board and the Minister. To insist upon all evidence being taken in public would seriously hamper the Board in obtaining confidential information regarding industries without which it would be difficult to arrive at a proper conclusion. Where applicants have no objection the representations are heard in public.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon -notice -
– The practice is to present to Parliament, as early as practicable, complete accounts of Commonwealth Government trading concerns duly certified by the Auditor-General.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whetherhe will sympathetically consider the question of making a forage allowance for mail contractors in the drought-stricken areas?
– Inquiries are now being made in connexion with applications received from mail contractors for assistance owing to drought conditions, and on receipt of the reports called for each case of hardship will be dealt with on its merits.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the necessity of having complete meteorological records, for forecasting weather conditions and also completing the chain of solar observatories of the world,he will sympathetically consider the institution of a solar observatory at Canberra.
– The Government are at present making arrangements for the establishment of a solar observatory at Canberra.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The contract entered into with Messrs. Burns, Philp and Company for three years from 1st August, 1922. provided for the following services to Port Moresby and Rabaul : - Two sailings every six weeks to Rabaul, via Papuan ports.
One sailing every five weeks to Rabaul direct, thence to New Guinea outports.
After a conference of the Island Administrations and other interests concerned the sailings were altered in March last to provide the following services: -
One sailing monthly to Papuan ports only. Two sailings each six weeks to Rabaul direct, one vessel extending to New Guinea ports and the other returning via the Solomons.
The subsidies payable for these services total £32 000 per annum, and the services are being regularly maintained by the contractors.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether it is his intention to utilize, for advertising purposes, the space of the huge blank wall now being erected at the Adelaide Post Office, which will be visible from any angle on the south side?
– I am not aware that there is being erected at the Adelaide Post Office any wall such as that referred to by the honorable member. If he will give further information in this connexion I shall look into the matter.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Consequent upon the adoption of the taxation proposals agreed upon at the recent State Premiers and Treasurers’ Conference -
Will he supply the following information, as it has relation to those Commonwealth employees who are engaged in the Federal Taxation Department : -
The probable number of officers that will be retained in the Taxation Department ?
The probable number that will be absorbed by other Departments?
The probable number of officers that will be retired, and -
Will those retired receive any compensation, and, if so, on what basis ?
Will any set rule be followed as to the class or grade of officer who will be retired, i.e., will the latest employee be first retired, or will those officers whose positions are abolished, and who cannot be given work of a similar grade in another Department, be first retired ?
Will he give an assurance that officers’ present seniority and rights will be fully protected, and that, prior to any interference with such, the officers concerned will be afforded the opportunity of retiring with full compensation similar to that granted to officers of theDefence Department?
– I am not at present in a position to answer these questions. The matter has not yet been fully considered, and, in any case, depends upon the ratification by Parliament of the taxation proposals.
Appointment of Returned Soldiers in South Australia.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following information has been furnished by the Acting Public Service Commissioner: -
Labour Nominations - Deputy Commissioner, New South Wales
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to’ the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, uopon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Tenure of Employees
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Restrictions on Export.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
To enable ‘stocks manufactured before the regulation was issued to be exported, the regulation was not rigidly enforced until 1st June last. On the 7th March. 1023, each jam manufacturer was notified of the Department’s intention to enforce the regulation on the 1st June, unless satisfactory evidence could be furnished showing that the regulation was impracticable, or was contrary to” the interests of the jam export trade. Not one single protest or comment against the regulation was received from any part of Australia.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will instruct the Tariff Board, under the powers conferred upon them, to call for the books and documents of all manufacturers of agricultural machinery in the Commonwealth, with a view to ascertain if undue profits are being made in those highlyprotected industries?
– Very careful inquiries are now being made into this industry. When these are completed, and report made, any complaint made under the provisions of the Act will be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It had been decided that Australia would send a delegation to this Conference; but advice has to-day been received from Geneva which rendered it necessary to reconsider the matter. The agenda formerly contained four items, with the possibility of two others of importance to Australia being added. This agenda has now been altered by the governing body, and only one item, viz., “ General Principles for the Organization of Factory Inspection,” is now listed for consideration. The other items have been deferred’ for consideration by the Sixth Conference, to be held in June next. In view of the foregoing, and the fact that the system of factory inspection obtaining in Australia is equal to that in any country in the world, the Government are considering the desirability of forgoing representation at the Conference in October next, and sending a full delegation to the Sixth Conference, at which several items closely concerning Australia will be considered.
Sale - Payment of Award
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member, I inform him that the ships have not been sold by the Commonwealth. Acceptance of delivery of the ships was refused by the Commonwealth, in accordance with the award of the Arbitrator. If they have been sold, such sale has been made by the contractors: and I have no information as to the prices obtained.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Engagement of Mr. Ennis - Rejection of Canned Fruit
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister . for Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1.Is it correct, as reported, that 35,000 cases of Australian canned fruit have been rejected by buyers for the following reasons : -
Fruit, green, over-ripe, different sizes and number in tins?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Twenty-seven thousand nine hundred and forty-eight cases have been rejected by intending buyers, but the Department is not aware of the reasons for such rejection. A cable was sent to London on 9th instant asking names of the factories whose fruits have been rejected, and for the grounds on which rejections were made.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the many complaints made by occupants of War Service Homes, will the Government extend the scope of the proposed Royal Commission, so that it may inquire generally into the administration of the War Service Homes Commission ?
– The scope of the inquiry of the proposed Royal Commission will be of the character already indicated. Further investigations are proceeding, and action will be taken where warranted.
Exclusion of Undesirables
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the prevalence of crime will the Government take immediate steps to prevent the influx into Australia of undesirables by instructing the High Commissioner to insure a more careful examination and selection of assisted immigrants?
– Instructionshave already been issued to the Migration and Settlement Office, Australia House, London, that all practicable steps are to be taken to insure the careful examination and selection of prospective migrants for Australia under the assisted passage scheme.
” Bunchy Top “ Disease.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the pressing national importance of treating tuberculosis, and the favorable medical reports published, will the Government take immediate steps to re-open negotiations with M. Spah linger with a view to acquire his treatment for use in Australia;
– It is proposed to await further information from the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria respectively, who have been abroad, in regard to this matter before taking further action.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Government Woollen Cloth Factory - Annal Report of the Manager for the” year ended 30th June, 1922.
Ordered to be printed.
Papua Act - Ordinances of 1923 -
No. 1. - Native Taxes.
No. 2. - Native Plantations.
Debate resumed from 13th June (vide page 47), on motion by Mr. J. Francis - .
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General he agreed to -
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
. -I desire to congratulate the, honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis), and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), on their very able initial addresses in this House. If I may, I also desire - although this may, perhaps, seem something new as coming from the Opposition - to congratulate the Government on having established a record - the record of having two sessions of Parliament opened with all the attendant pomp, without one item of legislation being passed. We may search the annals of responsible government in vain for a similar set of circumstances. At the end of the last session my honorable friend, the Assistant Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), in a very able speech, criticised the Government for having failed to submit their policy to honorable members. On that occasion the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) excused himself on the ground that he was new to office, and had not had sufficient time to formulate a programme. Accordingly, Parliament was adjourned to enable the Government to prepare their measures. In such circumstances one would naturally expect the Government to set about the business of formulating a policy ; but instead of doing that, members of the. Ministry, and the
Prime Minister in particular, visited the several States, not for information to guide them in the preparation of their legislative programme, but actually for the purpose of killing time, and performing certain administrative acts behind the back of this Parliament. During the past few months many things have happened. Though honorable members on this side take strong exception to certain administrative acts of the Government, their mouths have been closed. The Prime Minister has mentioned the Premiers’ Conference as one of his reasons for delaying the opening of this session. He said he wanted to consult with the Premiers. 1 should like to know what they have to do with the legislative measures mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Many of them, certainly, did not emanate from the Premiers in Conference. Why did not the Prime Minister convene Parliament earlier 1 There was nothing to prevent him meeting Parliament, and at the same time consulting the Premiers. We have had numberless conferences of State Premiers, and, so far as I have been able to learn, nothing has emanated from those gatherings. Had Parliament been summoned earlier honorable members would have had time to deal with the proposals mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. But now we are told that the session is to be limited to a certain time. It is of the utmost importance, declares the Prime Minister, that he should attend the Imperial Conference. Apparently’ it is more important that he should go to London than that Parliament should continue in session doing the business of this country. In order to create the right atmosphere in the public mind he has, as I have said, been travelling from State to State addressing select audiences such as the Chambers of Commerce and the Millions Club, and impressing upon them how essential it is that he should attend the Imperial Conference in order to deal with the problems that confront Australia. Apparently he has no confidence in his colleagues. What is to be said for the Treasurer (Dr. Page) ? Is he deficient in mentality ? Is he incapable of managing the affairs of Australia in the absence of the Prime Minister? And what is to be said for his other Ministerial colleagues ? Some of them have been in this House for a considerable number of years, and should know something about administrative matters. Can the Prime Minister repose no confidence in them ? Is the future welfare of the country wrapped up entirely in the wisdom of the Prime Minister himself? It was charged against the ex-Prime Minister (the Right Hon. W. M. Hughes) that he was a dictator, but I will-say this for him, that when he went abroad to represent Australia at Imperial Conferences he at least allowed Parliament to sit during his absence. He waa not afraid to trust his colleagues. The Prime Minister is in exactly the same position as his predecessor in office, fie knows that if he desires to go abroad on public business there will always be a pair for him in our division lists. The Ministry would suffer nothing in this respect. But perhaps he believes that unless he is at the wheel himself the Government ship will go on the rocks of disaster.
– He ought to know.
– Yes. We all know that divergent views are held by certain members of the Ministerial following. They do not all speak with one voice. They cannot see eye to eye on all matters, and there is no common agreement in regard to their political ideals. ‘ But there is one thing upon which they- are agreed, and that is that if the present Government fail to retain place and power the consequences, from their point of view, may be disastrous, because the Labour party will then gain office. This statement, has been made by the late Prime Minister and also by the present Leader of the Government, as well as other Ministers on the Treasury bench. But they know quite well that we will never seek office unless we have the voice of the people behind us, and are returned in sufficient numbers to insure stable government. This cannot be said for our honorable friends opposite. The Prime Minister and his Lieutenant represent minority parties in this House. When they were before the people the Leader of the Government declared that he wanted to remain loyal tq his late chief, who, he said, was the only man capable of controlling the destinies of this country. It must be noted, however, that the Treasurer on that occasion, as the Leader of the Country party, held quite the opposite view. He maintained that the late Prime Minister was the worst man possible to hold office. But after the election, and when it was found that the Nationalist party could no longer continue in power, the Prime Minister deserted his old chief, and in order to retain office he came to the conclusion that he himself was destined to rule Australia, lie has set a very bad example. He appears to think that, although we on this side represent the majority party in this House, our mouths are to be closed ; that we have no right to deal with the problems confronting this country except in the time which he has allotted to us ; . and that during his absence from Australia we are to be denied the privilege of meeting for the purpose of dealing with affairs affecting the Commonwealth. By the grace of the Prime Minister this House will last for only twelve weeks in the year. ‘We did nothing for two weeks, and during the next ten weeks we shall be expected to get through the business which he places before us. It matters not to him how important some of it may be. It must, he says, be disposed of within the time limit, failing which, like a sulky school boy, he will not go to London. The Prime Minister has said that he will not represent Australia at the Imperial Conference unless Parliament goes into recess.
– Did he make such a dreadful threat?
– Yes. It practically means that if the Estimates are passed Parliament will adjourn and may not be summoned until this time next year. If honorable members supporting the Government ‘consent to such a procedure,, they will be digging their political graves.
– That ought to please the honorable member and his supporters.
– I would be pleased from a political point of view; but we have a duty to perform to our constituents. The Prime Minister informs us that it is necessary for him to attend the Imperial Conference, where important problems confronting the Empire are to be considered.’ One of the .chief topics to be discussed will be that of Empire defence. The members of this party believe that the time has arrived when the energy of such men as the Prime Minister and other leading Ministers of the British Empire should be devoted to securing peace and not in the direction of war. When the last great international conflict was in progress, we were told by those who are now supporting the Government that it was to be a war to end war, and afterwards that the League of Nations had been brought into existence for devising means of preventing further conflicts between nations. Notwithstanding this promise, the leading men in the Empire, with the exception perhaps of one or two, are refraining from galvanizing the League into activity. Many of them are more concerned in framing defence proposals with a view to preparing for future wars. We are told that Australia will be fully represented at the next gathering of the League of Nations, but it is more thanprobable that the delegates sent from Australia will be men who are hardly known to the public of the Commonwealth. If the meeting of the League is not considered to be of sufficient importance to justify the attendance of the Prime Minister or some other Minister, the Government will send a representative from Australia who is probably unknown in his own land. If a woman delegate also attends, probably one associated with some women’s organization in the city of Melbourne will be sent. If the League of Nations is to be a success, we must popularize it; but no attempt is being made in that direction by the Government. I have seen the danger confronting us for a considerable time. Prior to the last general elections, a cablegram was despatched by the then British Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George) to the exPrime Minister (Mr. Hughes) asking if Australia would be prepared to send troops overseas to assist, if the Greeks and the Turks became further engaged in war. Before the message was submitted to Parliament, the ex-Prime Minister and those supporting him agreed to’ render what assistance was necessary without ascertaining any reason for the impending war. At that particular time, the members of the Opposition were strongly opposed to Australia being pledged in any way before the people were consulted. The present Prime Minister, as reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, said in effect that Australia should have a greater voice in Empire affairs, and that a Government had, without knowing anything of the circumstances, been asked to participate in what might have been a disastrous European conflict. The Prime Minister, when in Queensland a week or two ago, said that it was necessary that he should attend the Imperial Conference in order that the voice of Australia should be heard in connexion with international problems, and that we should not be embroiled in a war without knowing the reasons which caused it. When we put a similar position before this House those who are now supporting the Government opposed us. The members of the Labour party are opposed to war; we believe in peace.
– And so do we.
– Then the proper way to insure peace is for the representatives of the different nations to endeavour to secure it, instead of discussing problems of defence. There are means of settling international disputes without recourse to war, but action is not being taken in that direction.
I am sure that every honorable member is pleased to learn that the Government intend to increase the old-age pensions, and my only regret is that the matter has been so long delayed. Had this party been in power the rate would have been increased long ago. During the war, and since, the cost of living has been so high that the old people find it impossible to manage on the small pensions they receive.
– It was increased from 10s. to 15s. per week.
– Even then it was quite insufficient. Does the honorable member for Bass think that 15s. a week is adequate?
– I did not say so.
– I trust the Government, when dealing with this question, will be as generous as they can, and thus assist the aged and infirm in our midst, to live in a reasonable degree »f comfort. It is also hoped that many of the existing anomalies will be removed, especially in regard to the small incomes from property. I know of an instance where two old people who were unable to work were receiving 20s. per week in rent from two small cottages, and who were later compelled to reside in one. Their pension has now been stopped. If they had not been receiving 20s. in rent they would have been entitled to 30s. per week in pensions. They have also been informed that an amount has been overpaid, but the Department are not bothering about it for the moment.
In dealing with the proposal of the Government to appoint a Board to control the Commonwealth Bank, I desire to express my sincere regret at the deathof Sir Denison Miller, who was for some years Governor of that institution.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– The late Sir Denison Miller was selected by the Labour Government to undertake control of the Commonwealth Bank when it was first established, and I think he rendered good service. The operations of the Bank, however, were not extended as rapidly as one might have expected, because there are a number of large and important towns in Australia in which the residents are anxious to have a branch of the Bank established. I trust that if the Government appoint a Board to control this institution it will not consist of men directly interested in other banking institutions or of those who are closely associated with private enterprises. I hope that this will not be done, because I can conceive of the Bank in this way being hamstrung, and not permitted to fulfil the functions for which it was created. During the war it proved to be the financial bulwark of the Commonwealth. It should be placed in an even stronger position than it occupied in that period. Therefore, I hope that the Go vernment have no evil intentions in regard to its future, that the Bank will not be crippled in any respect, and that the more vigorous policy will be adopted of extending its operations in many important towns desirous of having branches established.
The proposals emanating from the recent Premiers’ Conference are the most important feature of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I admit that nothing definite was achieved at the Conference except in regard to the matter of taxation, which the Prime Minister evidently intends to push through to completion notwithstanding the fact that the State of New South Wales has not yet come into agreement with the Commonwealth. In this connexion I contend that the Government have no justification for entering into an agreement with State Governments to whittle away the powers of the
Commonwealth, by permitting the States to have the sole power to tax the incomes of individuals while the Commonwealth reserves to itself the right to tax companies.The Prime Minister justifies his proposal on the grounds that it will effect a saving of about £400,000 in administration, and will obviate the necessity of taxpayers furnishing two income-tax returns. It is questionable whether the saving will amount to £400,000. I am afraid that the estimate will prove to be a long way out if it is no nearer the mark than was the estimate made by the Treasurer when delivering his last financial statement. He then anticipated a deficit of £2,800,000, but now finds that he has a surplus of £5,000,000 to play with. The £400.000 represents only an anticipated saving so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, but how much increased expenditure will be imposed upon the different States ?
– Practically nothing.
– Will there not be additional clerical work imposed upon the States when they take over the whole of individual income taxation.
– Very little.
– I am not surprised that Sir Arthur Cocks, the Treasurer of New South Wales, should urge his Government to oppose the Commonwealth’s proposal. The State Government does not “ rope in “ as many income taxpayers as does the Commonwealth.
– Of course it does.
– The Prime Minister shows that he does not know much about the subject when he makesthat statement. The great majority of the workers in the Hunter electorate pay income tax to the Commonwealth, but the State does not tax them. A considerable portion of the expense incurred by the Commonwealth Taxation Department is due to the fact that an army of clerks has to be employed scrutinizing returns furnished by employers, in order to ascertain whether certain men included in those lists should not be called upon to furnish income tax returns. As the State does not tax these men, the State Taxation Department does not now incur expenditure in this direction. If, in future, the State is obliged to carry out this class of work, can it be contended that there will be no additional expense imposed on it? Therefore, it is extremely doubtful whether the additional cost to the States of collecting income tax will not be considerably in> excess of what the Commonwealth expects to save by this arrangement.
I have urged, inside and outside the Chamber, that the necessity for furnishing two income tax returns could be overcome without the Commonwealth giving up the right, to impose direct taxation on the incomes of individuals. It is simply a question of getting uniformity between the States and the Commonwealth, by which one return may be furnished by the individual, and upon which the States and the Commonwealth could assess him. I am supported in this view by the Taxation Commission, which, having investigated this particular matter, made the following recommendation : -
The provisional scheme we recommend forimmediate adoption provides, amongst other things, for the passing, as soon as possible, of uniform machinery Acts in respect of income tax by the Commonwealth and the States, each authority also passing its own Rates Acts as at present. The ideal is one singular Assessment or Machinery Acts governing’ the collection of income tax throughout the Commonwealth.
The Commission also names the Commonwealth as the authority which should collect income tax throughout Australia. But our Government, ignoring this recommendation, have decided to hand over to the States, for a period of five years, the power of the Commonwealth to impose direct taxation on the incomes of individuals. They have no mandate from the country to enter into such an agreement for a period of five years. The power which enables the present Government to make this agreement with the States may, in the near future, enable another Government to invite Parliament to repeal what is now being Hone.- I am not talking of repudiation. The power lies in the hands of this House, and if the Labour party should at any time - which may not be far off - have a majority iri this House, we shall take whatever action we deem necessary in this direction. Strange to say, the newspapers, commerical people, and exploiters are all hailing with delight the proposed alteration. Is it because they are going to avoid in future the furnishing of two income tax returns ? No ; the real object of the proposal is to place the taxation that the wealthy section has been contributing, in consequence of the war, on the shoulders of the great masses of the people, including the returned soldiers to whom so much was promised.
– They are the worst friends the returned soldiers ever had.
– Yes. It was a Labour Government who proposed the Federal income tax. It was made very clear by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the tax was brought in for the purpose of meeting the cost of the war. He declared that Australia was going to fight for the rights and liberties of the people, and if the poorer classes were going to do the fighting, the wealthy, whose property was to be protected, should bear the cost of the war. It was for that purpose, and that only, that the income tax was imposed. Why is it now suggested that this taxation should be handed over to the States? Many honorable members opposite are wealthy men, and they know that the proposal will enable them to pay less income tax. because a greater burden would be placed on the shoulders of the poorer people. I suppose that the Federal and State income tax to-day would amount, in the case of some wealthy individuals, to 7s. or 8s. in the £1 . If income -taxation were handed over to the States, there would be no graduated scale, because the States chiefly work on the basis of a flat rate. If the people with big incomes were taxed on a flat rate, it would mean that considerably more money would have to be collected by the States to keep them in the same financial position as when they were in receipt of the per capita grant of 25s. Therefore, the States would find it necessary to raise additional revenue from somewhere, and they would be forced to increase the rate of income taxation. The Treasurer of New South Wales made it clear that the exemption of £250 in his State would have to be reduced to £150. It is evident, therefore, that many poor people in New South Wales w.ho escape income taxation today would be roped in. Individuals who are now free from the Commonwealth tax, and pay only about 6d. in the £1 would then be required to contribute about ls. 3d. Consequently the working man would probably have to pay about three times as much as at present to make good the amount lost through relieving the rich man of taxation. In that way, the poorer people would indirectly help to pay for the war. No doubt it seems to the Government to be a very convenient way to take the burden off the shoulders of the wealthy and place it on the backs of the great body of the people. Under the Government’s proposal, the per capita grant would disappear. The States have now no legal claim to that grant. Recognising the financial needs of the Commonwealth, the States are ready to give up the 25s. per head of the population which emanated from the expiry of the Braddon blot. I admit that the grant has been paid out of the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth, but immediately income taxation is handed over to the States there will still be the National debt to be met, and what channels of taxation are left to the Commonwealth with which to discharge that obligation? Taking the year 1921-22 as a guide, we find that the total revenue of the Commonwealth was £64,897,046, including the following amounts : -
The expenditure on war services out of revenue for that year alone was £31,337^164, and deducting that amount from the total of £64,897,046, we have a balance of £33,559,882. If the income tax amounting to £16,790,682 were handed over to the States with the exception of the companies tax, which amounts to about £5,000,000, it would mean that- the Commonwealth revenue would be further depleted to the extent of £11,790,682. That would then reduce the balance to £21,769,200. The revenue from the Post Office in 1921-22 was £9,320,654, but I take it from expressions of opinion in this Chamber from time to time - especially by members of the Country party - that the Post Office must be treated as a business concern, standing practically on its own basis, and that the revenue derived from it should be utilized for the purpose of extending telegraphic and telephonic services throughout the country districts. It is therefore necessary to reduce the revenue balance of £21,769,200 by £9,320,654, - which leaves only £12,448,546. The war-time profits tax and the entertainments tax will be much less in future years. The gross debt of the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1922, was as follows : -
That is the financial position. Leaving the Post Office out of the calculation, there will be £12,448,000 left with which to carry on the affairs of the Commonwealth. How can the Government proposals do it without removing taxation from the wealthy people and loading it on to the masses? It cannot be done. Everybody knows that the Government to-day is astonished at the amount of revenue which is being received from Customs duties. When we framed the Customs Tariff our object was to make Australia, as far as was humanly possible, self-contained. We did not expect to receive a large revenue from that source. What we aimed at was to provide employment for our own people. It < now appears that there is a screw loose somewhere, for we are receiving millions of pounds more than we expected to derive from Customs duties. Whether this is because the deflated currencies abroad enable speculators to buy goods cheaply, and import them into Australia in spire of the Tariff, or is due to some other cause, I am not in a position to say ; but the result is obvious to anybody. If the Tariff is to be effective, it must produce a diminishing revenue. As we establish our own factories, and manufacture increasing quantities of our own goods, so shall we receive less revenue from duties imposed upon goods imported from abroad. If the Customs revenue falls very considerably, as it should, how shall we be able to manage the affairs of the Commonwealth, and meet our war indebtedness, which, when the war was in progress, it was stated would be paid by the rich people of this country ? The Government proposes to relinquish the right to impose income tax on individuals. Nothing will then remain for it to do but to impose a revenue tax upon goods imported. Then the poor people, who have suffered all the horrors of the war, -will be made to pay for it. The burden of the cost of it will be removed from the shoulders of the wealthy classes and placed upon those who are least able to bear it. Revenue from Customs duties, whether they are imposed for protective or revenue purposes, is supplied mostly by the man with the small income.
– The small man with the large family pays most.
– The man with the small income who has to rear a large family pays disproportionately as compared with the rich man who rears a small family.
– The honorable gentleman fought very strenuously for increased Customs duties when the Tariff schedule was before the House.
– I did, and I still believe that Protection ia the best policy for Australia. I now say that there is a screw loose somewhere. That is evident by the fact that, our ‘Tariff is providing such a large revenue. My object is to show the effect upon the Commonwealth of the ridiculous proposals emanating from the Government - proposals which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will support. Members of the Opposition will fight those proposals to the death. It will be impossible, when we next appeal to the electors, after the Government has got into a financial muddle, to allege that Labour members acquiesced in the proposals. Supporters of the Government may think that the proposals are sound, but they will find if they sift them that there is nothing in them. Certain reasons have been adduced to camouflage what is in the minds of some people. Their object is to avoid their share ‘of the taxation which has to be paid as the result of the war. What right has any Government, by entering into an agreement with the States, to give away the powers contained in the Constitution ? There has been a struggle in this country for the past few years to get enlarged powers under the Constitution, and to give to the Commonwealth of Australia the status of a nation. We are crippled because of the State jealousy that existed when the Constitution was framed. Now we have in power a Government which proposes to whittle away the rights of the Commonwealth Government under the Constitution. I wonder what men like Mr. Alfred Deakin, . Mr. Kingston,
Sir Edmund Barton, and other stalwarts, who took part in building up Australia, and making her Constitution what it should be, would say if they heard of these proposals. They would turn in their graves if they knew that, after all their efforts, after all they had done to make Australia a nation, this Government, without any mandate from th& people, without even a majority of the House, in either of the parties composing it, was proposing to give away deliberately the powers that we enjoy under the Constitution.
It has been painfully evident in Australia for a long time past’ that the Governments of the States have been endeavouring to interfere with the right of the industrial workers to go to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. They do that on the grounds that there are overlapping awards and competition between State and Commonwealth tribunals. There is only one way to remedy the overlapping of awards, and that is by allowing the Commonwealth to make awards which will have currency throughout Australia. There would then be no overlapping; every industry would be placed on the same footing, and each would have a fair opportunity to compete with others. If one industry is better equipped than another, that is so much to its credit and advantage. There, however, the overlap-: ping would end.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that although the cost of living is lower in Tasmania, employers there should pay the same rates of wages as are paid in New South Wales?
– Yes. I think the workers’ wages should be regulated on a uniform basis. The differentiation referred to by the honorable gentleman is the essence of the competitive system which has created so much controversy, and’ which the honorable member himself ,- as a member of the Country party, is trying to avoid by pools and similar devices. He desires to prevent any distinction being made in the returns secured by the primary producers in the different States, and for that purpose he desires to create pools. The wages of the working man, however, he regards as a different proposition, one which he looks at through different glasses. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court could take into consideration whatever facts were placed before it, and it does, in fact, exercise that power to-day. It can do what it likes with regard to claims submitted to it. The trouble to-day is that the State Governments want to abolish not only the Commonwealth Court but also the Commonwealth Parliament; they would like to have supreme power. They have been working to that end for a considerable time’; and when they came to the Prime Minister he apparently agreed with them, because it had been represented to him that differing awards were operating in certain callings. How will it be possible to compile a list of Commonwealth industries, such as is proposed ? How can the “ composite tribunal “ state which is a Federal and which a State industry ? I submit that it is almost impossible. The result will be confusion worse confounded, and the’ scheme, if adopted, will not work satisfactorily. Fortunately, the proposal will have to be submitted to the people for their assent to an amendment of the Constitution. Since the Commonwealth and State Governments are so very anxious to deprive the Commonwealth of its power, I ask them to accept the decision of the people, if it is against their proposal, as a vote of want of confidence. I venture to say that they will not do this, but will stick to the Treasury benches as long as they possibly can. The unions have advocated Federal control in regard to arbitration, and this Parliament has, at different times, appealed to the people for an amendment of the Constitution in the direction of giving the Commonwealth greater industrial power. Those appeals have been unsuccessful: but that is no justification for the Government now agreeing to reduce the power which the Commonwealth already has. “We asked the people to give power to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to deal with State instrumentalities, and the people refused. Subsequently, the High Court, with a. new -personnel, gave a broader interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution than that given by the late Sir Samuel Griffith and those who were then associated with him. The High Court recently decided that there was ample power, under the Constitution, to enable the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to deal with State instrumentalities.
– If you will look at the proceedings of past Conferences, you will find, that that was never intended.
– The Government of Victoria, who have continuously fought to prevent effect being given to -the decision of the High Court, unsuccessfully appealed to the Privy Council. Now, still persisting in the endeavour to defeat the decision of the High Court, they have approached the Commonwealth Government, who have agreed that the Commonwealth Court shall not be allowed to have jurisdiction in regard to State instrumentalities. That is a startling state of affairs, of which not many people outside will approve.
– Except, of course, the employers.
– Only the employers. It has now been agreed by the Conumonwealth and State Governments that those persons who- are employed in connexion with State instrumentalities shall be deprived of the right to approach the Commonwealth Court -for an award. The argument that it interferes with the management of the State railways carries no weight. When an award of the Court is made, the Railways Commissioners regulate freights, fares, and other details of management accordingly. They have to make the railways pay, ‘but that is no reason why the Commonwealth Court should not have power to make an award prescribing uniform conditions throughout Australia. ‘The High Court, which is the interpreter of the Constitution, says that the Commonwealth Court has power over State instrumentalities, and now the Commonwealth Government are surrendering that power without any mandate from the people.
– They have bartered it away.
– They are bartering away the Commonwealth rights under the Constitution. The working classes will not tolerate such a policy.
The question of immigration is in the forefront of the Government’s policy. Any one with a glib tongue can talk about our large empty spaces and the need for more population ; but the first duty of any Government is to see that ample provision is made for our own people. In Australia to-day there are thousands of ablebodied’ men out of employment. Every one of those nien should be ii reproductive asset, and the country is losing when one of them is not employed. But they are to be left to the tender mercies of cold charity. There is no proposal in the Govern or:General’s Speech .to provide an allowance for men who are unable to find employment. The policy of the Government is to take no notice of our own people and to allow them to starve if they cannot obtain employment; yet they are prepared to spend £1,000 upon every immigrant brought to this country. It is claimed that most of these immigrants will settle upon ‘ the land ; but thousands of men in Australia, including sons of farmers, are endeavouring, without success, to procure land. 2V recent applicant for land in a drought-strick.cn district states -
Severe frosts are being experienced in the Armidale district, and as grass is very scarce the outlook for the winter is not bright. In spite of this, however, there were ninety applications for a homestead farm which was made available for selection a few days ago.
Despite the fact that there were ninety applicants for one farm in a droughtstricken area, the Government, before making provision for our own people who are land-hungry, are introducing immigrant settlers. Here is the testimony of Senator Guthrie - who is not a Labour man - at a meeting of the New Settlers’ League on the 16th May -
From the evidence which has- been gathered, the land which the Government had made available was totally unsuitable for the purpose. It had been abandoned by the original settlers on this account, and to-day not -one of them remains on the holdings; it was useless settling’ Banish dairy farmers on land which Australians had already found utterly unsuitable for dairying.
– That applies to other States besides Victoria.
– Yes ; what I have read applies to New South Wales also. The Labour Government of Queensland is doing more to settle people on the land and increase the population than is any other Government in Australia.
– They have not started yet.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) stated that provision will be made to insure that only suitable people are brought .to Australia. A very different statement was made ‘by Mr. Garden, who returned recently from Europe.
– Where had he been?
– His travels do not detract from the value of his statement. Mr. Garden declared -
The majority of the boy immigrants on the Hobson’s Bay were mentally and physically unfit. The agents in England were paid on a commission basis and did not care whom they picked. The fault was not with Australia House, which saw that all immigrants coming here from that institution were of a good type.
Whilst the Government contend that they have a proper system of - dealing with immigration, there is evidence that men are paid a commission in order to obtain people to be sent to Australia. In Syd-, ney last week I ascertained that quite a number of recent arrivals from overseas, under the immigration scheme, were inmates of a mental institution in New South Wales.
– That is correct.
– It is only fair to add that Mr. Garden’s statement was denied by the Rev. T. Menzies Miller, who said, “ It is unfair to say that the majority of the boys are unfit, as only a few of them are not of the right type.” He, no doubt, is personally favorable to immigration, and yet he admits that some of the boys were unfit. That is evidence that the immigration system is not operated on satisfactory lines, and that Australia is being loaded with “ derelicts,1’ men who cannot hope to make good in this country. Here is the newspaper report of a Hobart ca.se -
A pathetic ease was before the Police Court when an assisted immigrant, Frederick Porter, was charged with vagrancy. Porter said he had been induced to come to Australia by advertisements he saw in London, saying” there were “bags of work1’ in Australia.
He had a wife and six children, and they were living on charity because he could not get a job of any kind.
The case against him was dropped when the Bench was told that the Charitable Grants Department was taking steps to send Porter and his family back to England.
Whilst talking about the necessity for exercising economy, we are spending the money of the taxpayer in bringing families out to Australia when there is no employment available for the breadwinner, with the result that the wives and little ones have to depend ion public charity. When these cases come before the Court, and it is seen what position the people are in, ‘provision is made to send them back to the Old Country. What a travesty that is on the settlement of Australia !
– Does the honorable member say that thatis not an exceptional case?
– I say that there are many such cases.
– Does the honorable member characterize our immigrants as “derelicts “?
– Quite a fair number are.
– Is that a fair way in which to characterize them?
– The honorable member must not try to catch me in that way. I have said that a lot of those who have come out here are derelicts, because there has not been on the other side a proper system of supervision. We are paying commission agents to secure emigrants who, somehow or other, succeed in passing the doctor; and in a number of cases, after they land in Australia, they become inmates of asylums.
– We are not paying one penny by way of commission to anybody.
– The shipping companies are doing so. You are supposed ‘to ‘have control, and to exercise supervision over those who are given permission to emigrate. “
– Every man is subject to our confirmationbefore being sent. We do not pay anybody to secure emigrants.
– The Government must approve of these people.
– We do.
– The Prime Minister admits that he approves of these people who are derelicts, who have come out to Australia.
– That is quite absurd; all that I have said is that we have to pass everybody. Later I will deal with those cases to which you have referred. I, like you, do not approve of the entry into Australia of any person who is not a fit immigrant.
– I have here the case of a Welsh miner, the newspaper paragraph stating -
A Welsh miner, an ex-service man, and an emigrant under the Government scheme,has written home, alleging that he and his companions worked thirteen hours daily on a Victorian farm, and later went West, whence they were sent to the bush and employed in clearing at11s. an acre. They gave up the job, and are now in Perth. “ As soon as you land,” he says, “ they send you to the bush.. It is harder work than in a coal mine, with hardly any comfort. We live like blacks. Two hundred have gone to England in thelast two months, and the remainder would go if they had the money.”
So we are spending money in bringing out here people who go backto the Old Country and give a bad account of the conditions that exist in Australia.
– Whose statement is that?
– It is the statement of an immigrant; I have quitea number of them here. I understand the Prime Minister to say that the scheme is not entirely under Government supervision. It should be entirely under Government supervision. I find that the Prime Minister himself believes that there should exist other channels through which immigrants might be brought out here. In proposals emanating from his Department it has been stated -
There seems to be no good reason why the work of immigration should be limited to the Government or to Government schemes.
– Hear, hear!
– It is further stated -
Encouragement should be given to private schemes and to private organizations who are prepared to expend their own capital in works of development or establishment which will create industries, provide employment, and bring in new people.
So the Prime Minister is quite willing to allow private individuals to arrange to bring people here. How can the Government provide for the employment of our own people if private individuals are to be allowed to bring people into Australia as they please? The Prime Minister says that the Government exercise supervision. It appears to me that their policy is to get as many people as they possibly can to come to Australia, and to dump them down, no matter where. These immigrants may be taking the jobs of other men, but so long as it appears that Australia is increasing her population that is all that concerns the Government. Immigration is a big problem. We all know that Great Britain to-day, notwithstanding the fact that she lost such a large proportion of her best manhood during the recent war, has between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 of her people unemployed. She is anxious to find employment for them, and, consequently, turns her eyes towards this country. We are constantly telling the people of England, through the press and through the Government agencies, that openings exist in Australia for thousands of men. We forget to tell them that thousands of our own people are unemployed, and the result is that we get a stream of immigrants. If the Government desire to deal with this question in a proper manner, let them realize that the starting point is to make the land available for those people who want to settle on it. Land is now being held in very large areas, and is not ‘being put to its full productive use. The land is the heritage of the people, and in the interests of this country it should be producing up to its full value. “ If people insist on using for grazing purposes land which is in close proximity to cities, and which has easy access to market, the Government should’ take some steps to see that those people use that land to its fullest productivity, thus absorbing the labour of this country: or the Government should take the land from them and see that it is used in the development of this country. This Government, and the Governments of the States with the exception of Queensland, are not prepared to adopt a policy of that nature. They talk about the land they are going to settle! Much of that land is away back in the Never-Never, and our own people will not select it. It is proposed to dump immigrants on to such land, which requires at least a year’s work even to put into proper order. It will cost this country £1,000 to bring each of those men out. At the expiration of one or two years they will find that they cannot make a success of land settlement, and they will come on the labour market to compete for work with the other men who are unemployed. The Labour party believes that employment should be found first for our own people. We believe that legislation should be introduced to make land available for those who desire to settle on it. We believe that, if you make the conditions in Australia such that there will be plenty of work for everybody, with provision against unemployment, so that a man, his wife, and little ones, will not be brought to starvation at any time by reason of unemployment, you will secure the best class of immigrant without spending any public money in bringing them out.
– The conditions are very much better here than they are anywhere else.
– The Government would be justified in adopting such a policy. We are not, by any word or deed, going to support a policy of immigration whilst so many of our own people are unemployed.
– Do you believe there ever will come a time when there will be no unemployment?
– There may be times when some men will be unemployed; but provision should be made insuring such unfortunate men at least sufficient to keep their wives and children in decent comfort. Do we ever look at that side of the question? I venture to say that we do not. We are constantly harping on the necessity for populating the country, yet every day we are doing our best to prevent the best immigrant coming along - because working men cannot maintain big families. If we held out encouragement to them we would be in a very much better position in regard to population .
I have referred to what I consider to be the three most important matters that appear in this speech.
I shall not take up the time of the House by discussing to-day many other proposals that are set out. We shall have other opportunities to deal with them during the session, unless the Prime Minister, in order that he may attend the Imperial Conference, resorts to measures to stifle debate. The responsibility for any such action will be upon him and those who support him. They may not appreciate that fact now, but they will do so when they come once more face to face with the electors. It was the resort to similar tactics in the last Parliament that led to a great deal of muddling. We pointed out the danger, but the Nationalist Government disregarded it with the result that when they went before the people-
– They were “fired.”
– Exactly so. The people at the last general election showed by their votes what they thought of the late Administration. The present Government is following even worse lines than those chosen by their predecessors. The proposal to close down the Parliament at the end of a ten weeks’ session is an illustration, and yet another example is to be found in the action taken with regard to Major Oakley, the Chairman of the Tariff Board. Never before in the history of this Parliament, so far as I am aware, has the chairman of an important Board been summoned before a political party to be castigated or, at all events, criticised. The Prime Minister, in reply to a question put to him by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), 3aid that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) asked that Major Oakley should be sent to Sydney to have a chat with him in regard to certain matters. May I ask the (Treasurer how many members of his party were present when he interrogated Major Oakley? Was he alone, or was Major Oakley interrogated at a meeting of the Country party, over which the Treasurer presided? The honorable gentleman will not reply to my inquiry; but it is well known that Major Oakley was called on to appear before a meeting of the Country party. Had the Labour party, when in office, required heads of Departments to attend their meetings from time to time because they did not approve of action taken by them in their administrative or judicial capacity, -we should have been condemned, and rightly so, throughout the length and breadth of the country. The action of which I complain was most pernicious.
– They will be summoning the Judiciary before them later on. ,
– Perhaps so. The Tariff Board has judicial powers. It was appointed to carry out certain important functions; but we find that in the discharge of its duties it is to be interfered with because the party led by the Prime Minister and that led by the Treasurer cannot see eye to eye with it. What happens ? The two parties from which the Government is drawn have a difference of opinion. Cabinet having formulated a certain policy, we have the spectacle of the Prime ‘Minister explaining to a meeting of the Nationalist party what the Government have decided to do, and inquiring whether any exception is taken to it, while the Treasurer, his right-hand man, makes a similar explanation to a meeting of the Country party. The Country party thereupon proceeds to find fault with the Government, and, in order to reconcile the two factions, the Country party - the– smallest in this House - is allowed to arrogate to itself the right to call before it the Chairman of the Tariff Board and to question him as to his official acts. The Country party, although, it comprises only some fifteen members of the Parliament, has been allowed to “run the show.” The Prime Minister fears, apparently, that it would do so completely if Parliament remained in session during his absence in Great Britain. He proposes, therefore, that we shall close down after a ten weeks’ session. He is afraid of what might otherwise happen.
– Does the honorable member blame him? .
– Having regard to what happened to Major Oakley, there would appear to be some reason for the honorable gentleman’s fears. The Country party may believe that it can unite’ with the Nationalist party and yet preserve its separate entity, but it is quite impossible for it to do so. The people of Australia will judge it by its actions. Members of the party may claim that this is a composite Government; but, whether they like it or not, it is known throughout the country as a Nationalist Administration. There is no escape from that position. The two parties represented in the Government cannot remain separate entities, and in the effort to do so they will probably bring upon themselves serious trouble. I can well appreciate th’e reluctance of the Prime Minister to go abroad- while this state of affairs exists; but it is a bad thing- for the country that because of it Parliament should close down for months. By the grace of the honorable gentleman we are to be allowed ten weeks within which to deal with the many proposals set out in the Governor- General’s Speech. What have we to do? We have first of all to deal with the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, which in ordinary circumstances would occupy our attention for at least three weeks. We have then to pass a Supply Bill. Having regard to the time that we have been in recess, the grant of Supply should take a week. That having been disposed of, we shall have to deal with the Budget and the Estimates. The Estimates must be passed before the Prime Minister leaves for the Imperial Conference.
– The Government will probably rush them through during an all-night sitting.
– The Estimates, covering an expenditure of £50,000,000 or £60,000,000, will probably be rushed’ through the House during a twenty-four hours’ sitting.
– What are we now doing? Are we doing anything?
– Yes. Honorable members on this side of the House are putting before the country the actual position. When the honorable member lias been a member of this Parliament for a. little while longer he will appreciate the importance of such a step as we are now taking. The business which I have just detailed - the ordinary business of the Parliament - cannot reasonably be dealt with in less than ten weeks, to say nothing of the consideration of tha agenda for the Imperial Conference, and the numerous Bills foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech which we are to be asked to pass this session.
The Prime Minister tells us that the Government will meet the Parliament as soon as possible after his return from England. He expects to be back about February next, but he may not return until April or May of next year. No one can foresee what may happen in connexion with the Conference. No one can say that the Prime Minister may not be compelled to remain in England for a very considerable period. - The Parliament may remain in recess until this time next year. I would particularly impress upon new members the fact that once the Appropriation Bill is passed the Ministry will be free to govern this country by administrative acts - they will be able to do as they please, behind the back of ‘ Parliament, just as they have been doing during the last three months. We have imposed upon us a great responsibility, and I appeal to honorable members opposite not to permit the Government to close the session, as proposed, in August next. If that is done we’ may not meet again until May or June of next year. It is our duty to see that the business of the Commonwealth is properly carried out. The well-being of the community is in our hands. It is expected of us that we shall, amongst other things, carefully look into the national finances and the general administration of the Commonwealth. Why should we, merely for the sake of getting into recess, give the Government freedom to act as they please for seven or eight months? But for the fact that the Supply already granted will run out by the middle of next month, I do not believe that the Government would have met the Parliament as soon as they did. It was a matter of compulsion. This is proved by a statement made by the Prime Minister. He has said on many occasions outside this Chamber that, Australia requires a complete rest from legislation. He would prefer apparently that there should be no Parliament sitting.
– Hear, hear !
– Then what does my honorable friend come here for? Is it to do nothing ? Judging by the honorable member’s interjection he comes here to do nothing, and he is doing it well.
I have shown what the position is. The Government intend to shut up this Parliament. They intend to obtain Supply which will enable them to carry on until July of next year. The Parliament may or may not meet before then, but in the meantime the business of the country is to be carried on by administrative acts such as we have had during the last few months. The Government have been giving away the assets of this country at less than their value, and giving away the powers conferred upon this Parliament under the Constitution, which they have no right to do. May I assert again that the time is not far distant when the people of this country will put an end to this sort of thing. They -desire larger not smaller powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. They realize the necessity for true economy, and believe that . the existing State Parliaments should be practically wiped out. There should he a Commonwealth Parliament, and, in addition, provincial councils or bodies, to be called by what name honorable members please, endowed with power to deal only with matters referred to them. In this way only shall we secure true economy in this country. Instead of following the trend of public opinion, the present Federal Government are endeavouring to set the clock back. Though the powers which we now enjoy are insufficient and inadequate, the Government are prepared to surrender them in order to appease the different State Governments. They would give these powers to the State Parliaments and allow the Commonwealth to flounder along as best it can. So far as honorable members opposite are concerned, there is no necessity for legislation by this Parliament. Everything is safe in the hands of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, and we should leave to them entirely the free administration of the affairs of this country. The Government is composed chiefly of men of very little parliamentary experience.
– But a great deal of honesty.
– I say nothing about their honesty. We are all honest, I hope. I do say, however, that a few months ago the Prime Minister himself never expected to be in the position which he now occupies.
– Hear, hear!
– He has never done much to- justify his appointment to such a position.
– That is not like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton).
– I speak of things as I find them. In my opinion the Prime Minister acted wisely in giving up the position of Treasurer. This is supposed to be a business Government, and the Prime Minister is assumed to be a business man. If we are to be guided by the statements put before the House before we went to the country at the last elections, they show how many errors business men can make in connexion with the administration of public affairs. I repeat that the present Government is composed chiefly of inexperienced men. We can quite understand that they have not had sufficient experience to enable them to take more than a parochial view of great national affairs. As a consequence, they are prepared to whittle away the powers of the Commonwealth as they are trying to do.So far as honorable members on this side are concerned, when we are called upon to face the country, we will fight the Government on their proposals for the amendment of the Constitution if the agreements at the Conference with the State Premiers are taken so far. Hitherto, I have known nothing to come out of a Premiers’ Conference, and I have yet to learn that anything will come out of the Conference that has just been held. If any action is taken on the proceedings of that Conference to secure the consent of the people to the proposals which have been made, we shall see whether they are prepared (to permit a Government like the present to whittle away the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament without a mandate from them. I move -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : - “ but we consider that your Advisers no Longer retain the confidence of this House owing to their attempt to limit the rights of the Commonwealth with regard to constitutional powers, with special reference to financial and industrial matters, also for the unsatisfactory arrangements made in connexion with immigration.
– The present Commonwealth Government have been in office and have been carrying on for some four months. I expected, and almost hoped, that to-day we would hear some of our sins exposed, because that might have served to indicate for us the path which we should follow in the future. I have not heard anything at all of that nature. We have listened for some time ‘to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who undoubtedly occupies an embarrassing position. I am very sorry for him. He had to riseand attack the Government, and we have listened to his attempt. I do not think that any impartial person could come to any other conclusion than that he had a very poor case, and that there was very little that he could say. I believe that honorable members on his own side are fully aware that that is the position. Apparently most of them were a little reluctant to hear the honorable gentleman’s very poor case put forward, and they consequently stayed away. I think that, on the whole, it was wise that they did so.
Another thing which I think was demonstrated by the honorable gentleman’s remarks is the fact that the first part of his speech must have been prepared some considerable time ago, and would have been delivered on a previous occasion but for the unfortunate circumstance that the honorable gentleman was unable to be present in this Chamber. I am sure that the whole of the members of this House are very glad to see him here to-day.
Honorable Members. -Hear, hear!
– We congratulate the honorable gentleman upon his restoration to health, and sincerely hope that he will continue to enjoy it. The first part of the speech he has made to-day is, as I have said, obviously a speech which he should have made on a previous occasion. There was nothing in it but an attempt to criticise the coining together of two parties on this side that ‘had taken place. ,The honorable gentleman must be regretting now that he did not have an opportunity to deal with that matter very much earlier, when he might have had some chance of making a little headway. Four months have gone by since the members of those parties came together, and they are now working harmoniously and in the most admirable spirit, and are doing very useful work for Australia. The Leader of the Opposition is too late now in his attempt to interfere with what has been clone. He might have had a chance before the parties had really got together and settled down to work, but I assure him that he is too late now. I sympathize with him upon having to return to that subject at a time when he cannot hope . to achieve” anything by his references. The next matter to which the honorable gentleman had to return was a criticism which I thought he would have the discretion not to make in view of the parliamentary experience he claimed for himself, when referring to our lack of it. He made this criticism some time ago when searching for something to say about the Government. He has referred to the appalling spectacle of Ministers rushing from one State to another, visiting different parts of the Commonwealth when they ought to have been sitting down in the Capital formulating their policy. I imagined that he would have grasped by this time that that criticism of the Government is one with which 99 per cent, of the people of Australia totally disagree. The people of Australia entirely indorse what the Government have done, and appreciate our efforts to obtain, at first hand, a little knowledge of the problems which affect different parts of this great continent. This criticism by the Leader of the Opposition seemed to me amazingly stupid, even from his own point of view, when it was first used, and it is extraordinary that he should repeat it now.
– You will do me the justice to admit that I raised no objection to public men going about the country - I think they should do so - but in your case, when you asked for an adjournment to formulate a policy, you should have formulated one.
– I fully appreciate the difficulty that confronts the Leader of the Opposition. I quite realize that he had to try; to have something reported in Hansard at that stage; but, with the utmost respect, I must say that I do not think he helped his case in the very least, but rather made it a little worse.
– What I said would not go into. Hansard, because it was not said here.
– I suggest that the interjection went into Hansard as, I say again, it was designed to do, and I repeat that the honorable gentleman only makes his case considerably worse when he now states that Ministers should ordinarily travel about, but that this ‘being a new Government, we should have framed our policy first. That is only to say that he has no desire that members of a new Government, with ‘ all the responsibility on their shoulders, shall know tha Commonwealth as a whole. I welcome this criticism, though I do not’ agree with the honorable gentleman; and I .may say that the members of the Government are entirely unrepentant, and in the future propose to do exactly as in the past, and see’ Australia for themselves.
Another point raised by the honorable gentleman was that the Premiers’ Conference need not have delayed the meeting of Parliament - that the Conference could have been held while we were in session. But he seems to completely overlook the importance of the questions that had to be dealt with; he does not appear to see that those questions had to be considered before the Government could put; its policy before the country- The first problem that Australia is concerned with, and one in which the people are more interested in than, I think, any other, is how to get rid of the present overlapping and duplication that exists between the Commonwealth and the States. At that Conference the main object of nearly every proposal put forward was to achieve that result, and substantial advance Avas made with regard to a great number of questions.
I shall have to deal with the Premiers’ Conference at some little length, but as the points that were raised by the honorable gentleman in his direct motion of noconfidence cover questions handled at that Conference, I shall turn to them when I am replying to what he has actually said. There are, however, a few other matters which I should like to bring before honorable members before coming to those three specific points. The honorable gentleman referred to the statement made that this is to be a session of ten weeks, and he drew’ pictures of legislation being rushed through without proper consideration, suggesting that that would have to be done, or no business would be effected. I wish at once to clear the honorable gentleman’s mind by pointing out that there is a programme laid down which we are going to carry out, and that we propose to give ample time for proper consideration and discussion of every measure.
– What you think is proper time !
– I assure the honorable member that the Government have no intention to prevent discussion, or to rush measures through without opportunities for thorough consideration, but, at the same time, we refuse to have the whole programme held up by opposition and obstruction to every proposal made.
The honorable gentleman also said that there is much business to justify this House in continuing to sit on beyond the time proposed. The Government have outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech what it thinks should be done, and what this country desires shall be done at this moment. That programme the Government Will carry out, and when that had ‘been done, there would be no advantage in the House sitting and trying to find something further to do. I have on occasion said, and it has been quoted by the honorable gentleman, that what this country desires now is not a mass of new measures placed on the statute-book. That statement I repeat noW, for I believe that it represents the opinion of the people of this country. They desire that certain measures shall be passed, and we have indicated what measures, in the opinion of the Government, should be passed and put into operation. All this the Government propose to do ; but Ave are not going to try to gain a reputation for ourselves as a Government which has passed innumerable measures. That has too often been the basis on which Governments have claimed credit for themselves - Governments which have passed many measures, and have not paid quite sufficient attention to the quality and merit of the work done. Our desire is to concentrate on what is important to Australia in her development and progress, and Ave desire only to pass those measures, and no more, which will truly advantage the country to-day. I can assure honorable members that in thistenweeks’ session Ave shall put our programme through, and that Ave shall afford’ reasonable time for the discussion of all measures. We shall introduce our financial proposals at the earliest possible date in the new financial year, and time for the full consideration of those proposals and the Estimates will be given. The Government are determined to put this programme through, and in coming to that decision, Ave are certain that we are carrying out the wishes of the people of Australia to-day.
I have now to refer to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition on the question of defence. He said, as he has said so often, that the object of his party is peace - peace, apparently, at any price. That seems to be what is at the back of the honorable gentleman’s mind ; he gives no consideration to facts as they are, but utters platitudes about the League of Nations, and the attitude of men throughout the Empire. He talks stuff about war, and the desire for war on the part of certain individuals; in fact, he is turning Australia’s defence and safety into a question purely of party tactics and party politics. That, I think, is an extraordinarily unworthy attitude for the Leader of a great party in Australia to take up at the present time.
– Why are you always yelling for Avar? The party of Avar!. War mongers !
– There is ever this cry that the party on th’is side is a war party ; and that cry is designed to deceive the people. Not the slightest interest is taken by the party opposite in Australia’s safety, and, in their attitude, they are only misleading the people. They tell the people that Ave need do nothing, that we are safe, and they are ever trying to make political capital in this way. I say, without hesitation, that this is a most unworthy attitude for honorable members opposite to assume. It is a matter for which the people would never forgive them if, unhappily, this .country should be plunged into some great crisis such as occurred in 1914. The Leader of the Opposition, in an attempt to make it appear that be had given some thought to this subject, talked about the League of Nations. I know just as much about the League of Nations as does the honorable gentleman. Possibly, I know more; because I attended one of its sessions, and I have seen it at work. No one in Australia has a greater belief in the League than I have, and no one is more certain than I .that, some day, it will function as it was intended to. I would- like to remind the honorable gentleman that upon my return to Australia, after attending an assembly of the League, I told the House what I thought on the subject. Since then I have travelled up and down Australia giving the people my views of the League and stating my belief in its future greatness and possibilities. But while I believe all that I have said about the League, I would be recreant to my duty to Australia if I expressed tho opinion that at the present time the League of Nations can insure the safety” of Australia and the peace of the world. It cannot do anything of the sort. With three great nations like the United States of America, Germany, and Russia outside, the power of the League must inevitably be somewhat limited. I hope that, in the not distant future, these three nations will be members of the League, which will then become the power for peace it was expected to be. It is regrettable that responsible men should endeavour to bring the whole question of Australia’s defence into the realm of party politics. The people of Australia must clearly understand the position, and know where they stand.
I do not propose at this stage to deal with the Imperial Conference, as it is linked up with the question of Australian defence and the naval defence of the Empire. Another opportunity will be given to debate this subject when the agenda of the Imperial Conference is before tho House. I have given honorable members opposite an assurance that the agenda will be submitted in time to permit of adequate discussion. I repeat that promise now. The agenda of the Economic Conference will also be placed before honorable- members at the proper time, and, therefore, there is no necessity to discuss it now. But I do want to impress upon the people the paramount importance of these Conferences to Australia. I also; want to stress the fact that the Government believe it is imperative that Australia should be represented at those gatherings: The Leader of the Opposition is entirely wrong when he suggests that Parliament must go into recess at the end of ten weeks merely because I am going to attend the Imperial Conference. Parliament is going to close at the time- fixed because we believe the legislative work outlined can be done in the time allotted, and there is no reason why we should sit longer. Obviously, it is very undesirable that Parliament should be in session when the head of the Government is away. My honorable friend pointed out that Parliament had remained in session on other occasions when the Prime Minister had been absent from Australia. That was perfectly true during the war period. It was necessary then. To-day it is not. It is the custom in all the States, when Premiers are absent, for Parliament to remain in recess. Two of our State Premiers have been visiting Great Britain on important public business, and are still absent. Naturally, they left when their Parliaments were not in session. If ithad -been possible to hold the Imperial Conference later I would have been only too glad. I did my very best to have the opening date fixed for 1st November. South Africa desired the Conference sittings to commence on the 1st September, and eventually, after considerable discussion by cable, the 1st October was fixed as a compromise between the two dates. That is the position. The Conference must open on that date, and members of the Ministry are quite definite that it is desirable that Parliament shall rise prior to the departure of those who are going to represent Australia at that gathering. We have submitted our programme, which embraces those measures which we believe ought to be passed. It is intended to translate them into legislation within the limits of the session, as
I have suggested. We also propose to give ample opportunity for reasonable discussion of all measures to be introduced.
My honorable friend .touched on the question of old-age pensions, but naturally had very little to say on that matter, as the Government have made certain provision in t’hat direction. He touched also on the Commonwealth Bank, and again had little to say, so there is no necessity for me to follow him in a discussion on that subject. But when he came to the particular matters on which he based his motion of censure he had a good deal to say. On the question of double taxation, for instance, he told the House that the Government had no right to whittle away the powers of the Commonwealth. In reply, I would point out that we have whittled nothing away. We are retaining for the Commonwealth every power that we ever possessed; but for a period of five years, in order to obviate duplication, we undertake not to collect taxation in a certain field. We are not giving up any rights at all. That is the first point which I want to get clearly into the minds of honorable members and the people. But knowing that the people want to get rid of this duplication, the ‘honorable gentleman felt that he would be in a somewhat embarrassing position if he advocated any course of action that would perpetuate it, so he suggested that the object sought for could be attained in some other way. He proceeded to show that it was quite a simple matter, and t’hat there need be no difficulty at all. He ‘brought into the argument the suggestion made by the Royal Commission that if the Commonwealth and the States would pass uniform income tax assessment laws the whole difficulty would be solved. That, of course, is most desirable. If we could have such. . a uniform law all duplication would be done away with; but, apparently, the honorable gentleman forgot .to tell the House that we have been trying, steadily and consistently since 1916, to do this. We have had conference after conference of Premiers and income-tax officials, but up to the present not the slightest headway has been made. The real fact is that it is an absolute impossibility to get a uniform taxation law with the States ‘and the
Commonwealth both functioning in the field. Even if the Commonwealth gave up this field of taxation, the States themselves would never be able to agree, to a uniform taxation covering the Commonwealth. The only way in which the difficulty could be overcome would be for the whole of the income taxation to be taken over by the Commonwealth, and levied by the Commonwealth.
– That is what the Royal Commission recommended.
– Not that it should be taken over. The position in regard to this matter has to be considered very closely. There are a number of ways in which we could achieve what we are attempting, and the simplest is that the Commonwealth should take over the whole work of collecting income taxation, and that the Commonwealth Act should be the only Taxation Act. The objection to that proposal is that we cannot do it under the Constitution, and the States would never agree to it in any circumstances. Another proposal is that the Commonwealth should completely discontinue collecting income taxation and hand over the responsibility to the States. We are not going to do that, and we could not consider it for a moment from a .financial point of . view. Another is that both The Commonwealth and States should continue, to function in the field in which we are operating to-day, but ‘that the Commonwealth should ‘be the only collecting authority. That would mean a certain advance; but .we ‘have to remember that if we had only one collecting authority the problem would npt be solved unless we had uniform taxation laws for the Commonwealth and the States. Mr. Speaker, when acting Prime Minister and Treasurer, made an offer to collect taxation for the States at one-third of the cost then incurred, but the States would not agree. A. similar offer has been repeated at other Conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, .but the States’ representatives have been opposed to the scheme. When Treasurer, I went into the matter full of confidence, and said that, although others had tried and failed, I was sure- it could be done. ‘ I” conferred with State Treasurers, to whom I made proposals, and met every objection they brought forward. I said an agreement could be drawn up which would safeguard every right of the States at that time, and I proceeded so far with one State that I felt sure my proposal would be adopted. At the last moment, however, the representatives of that State declined to go on, but had they accepted the scheme I believe all the other States would have come into line. 1 did everything in my power to provide an agreement suitable to all.
– But you did not use the big hammer.
– I could not, because we have not the power. Another method would be for the States to collect for the Commonwealth. That has been suggested; but, unfortunately, even if the Commonwealth agreed, there would be insuperable difficulties in the way, and no economy could be effected even if the pro,posal were adopted. The Commonwealth Government have to levy taxation on individuals in Australia, a great number of whom are deriving incomes in more than one State, which means that we have to aggregate such incomes in the central office. The States could collect for the Commonwealth only on taxable incomes derived in one ‘State ; and could not help us to collect taxes from those whose incomes are derived in more than one State. All these schemes have ‘been tried, and have failed. The duplication of taxation is, of course, costing a very large sum in administration, and is also causing a great deal of difficulty and embarrassment to taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth.
– And also expense.
– Yes; particularly to the taxpayers who have to secure paid assistance in preparing their returns. We were faced with the problem of ascertaining some way out of the difficulty. We tried all the methods I have mentioned, and saw that it was impossible to get results from any. We also realized that the Commonwealth Government are to-day collecting a large amount of revenue by direct taxation, ‘which is being paid over to the States, which are also levying direct taxation; and in this direction there appeared a possible solution of the difficulty. If honorable members will refer to the Budget, they will see that on one side an amount of £7,000,000 odd is paid oyer by the Commonwealth to the States in the form of per capita payments, and on the other is an amount for taxation we are levying, and which we- have to pay out. That seemed to present the possibility of a solution. We, therefore, submitted certain proposals to the Conference, which I will briefly indicate, but which need not be stressed. We suggested that the Commonwealth should discontinue taxing incomes under £2,000, and, having allowed the States a larger arena in which to collect taxation, should discontinue the per capita payments. That proposal the States would not entertain. The States’ representatives then suggested that we should relinquish taxation on incomes altogether; but they realized that, in such circumstances, we would not be able to raise sufficient revenue to meet our obligations. They were, however, prepared to enter into an arrangement under which the States would subsidize the Commonwealth. As soon as that proposal was put forward - notwithstanding that we met to come to an amicable arrangement in conference if possible - I clearly stated that it was useless for us to go further with it. The Commonwealth could not entertain such a proposal, because, had it been adopted, the whole Federal spirit would have been completely destroyed. There are times, too, when some of the States would not be in a position to make an annual contribution to the Commonwealth in consequence of drought and general depression. There are many reasons which might make it difficult for certain States to pay a subsidy to the Commonwealth, particularly when there might be direct antagonism between the Commonwealth and an individual State. Such a proposal, I am sure, the Commonwealth Parliament would not consider for a moment. Eventually, another proposition was submitted by the Commonwealth, which has the advantage that it completely disposes of any duplication as far as individual taxpayers are concerned. . . The original scheme was that we should not collect on incomes under £2,000, which would dispense with the duplication of taxation on individuals receiving less than that amount ; but it was subsequently proposed that the Commonwealth should vacate. the whole field of individual income taxation, and should levy income taxation only upon companies, allowing the widest possible interpretation of the word “companies.” In exchange for the Commonwealth vacating that field of taxation we pointed out that the States would no longer receive the per capita payment, and must forego the interest payments on transferred properties. The figures which the “Leader of the Opposition has given are not of much assistance. He has quoted the year when the income tax collected by the Commonwealth amounted to £16,000,000, and his figures related to collections, and not to the assessments for the year, which is a very different thing. According to .the best statistics we can get for the present year, the probable assessments amount to £13,100,000. The honorable member also forgot that he was dealing with the collections for the year before the Commonwealth had reduced its income tax by 10 per cent., increased the exemption to £200, and increased the deduction for children from £26 to £40. Comparing the field we are vacating with the payments to the States, of which we shall be relieved, the approximate loss to the Commonwealth will be £1,500,000, against which a saving of £400,000 in administrative costs must be set off. But all these figures will be given to the House in greater detail at a later stage, when the financial effect of the agreement will. have, to be reviewed by honorable members. For the moment, I am merely giving a broad outline of what is likely to happen. There is no need for the Leader of the Opposition to fear (that une. Commonwealth’s finances will be hopelessly embarrassed. The figures have been considered very carefully, and the Commonwealth’s requirements for the next five years have also been fully weighed. The proposals are for five years only, and one can easily see how the Commonwealth’s financial requirements may be met over that period
The honorable member also appeared to be very anxious as to whether the proposals had been acceptable to the people. I think they have been found acceptable. The only persons who have shown any grave distaste for them are those whom the honorable member suggests are delighted with them, the people who have very large incomes. From this source there have been strong representations that they do not like the arrangement, and would prefer not to have it put into force. .
The honorable member suggests that the effect of the agreement with the States would tse to take the burden of income taxation off the big man and place it on the small man. He has produced no evidence to show that this is likely to happen. As. a matter of fact, there is no possibility of such a position arising unless a State Treasurer of .his own volition deliberately brings it about. There is no intention, at this moment, of altering the revenue from taxation. It is no.t intended to raise more or less money than is already collected from the people of Australia. The present position will remain except that duplication will be avoided and administration costs will be considerably reduced. It rests with the Treasurers of the States to levy their taxation in a manner which is just to all the people. There is nothing in the proposals that will shift the burden from the big man and place it on the small man, or will place any taxpayer in a different position from that which he has occupied in the past. Federal Ministers, who. already have a great number of responsibilities, cannot be held accountable for what may be done by State Treasurers.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about this question as if he knew all about it. He said, “ Look at New South “Wales with its flat rate of ls. 3d. in the £1 on the big man and on the small man. What will happen there?” New South Wales has a graduated scale of tax which runs from ls. 3d. to 2s. 6d. in the £1, and there is no reason why the State Treasurer should not alter his graduations by increasing them.
– He could also lower the exemption. ‘ In fact, he says he must do so.
– I will deal with that aspect a little later. The State Treasurer can alter his graduations and deal with the position in any way he likes in order to bring about the same measure of justice that has been achieved while the Commonwealth has been imposing this form of taxation. Indeed, if he is a wise and able Treasurer, it is quite possible he may bring about an even greater measure of justice than the Commonwealth has afforded. The honorable member says that Sir Arthur Cocks, the Treasurer of New South Wales, declares that the income tax exemption will need to be lowered to £150; but Sir Arthur Cocks has made quite a number of other statements. He declared at the Premiers’ Conference that the Commonwealth’s proposal would throw on the States a burden which they could not bear, because in the area which the Commonwealth was vacating the States could not collect the amount which the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation was able to collect. For instance, he pointed out that the Commonwealth aggregated the incomes of individuals earned in several States; and as the State Governments would not be able to do this, he said it would mean that the difference between what could be gathered by the State, collecting only from the individuals on their earnings in that State, and what the Commonwealth could collect, when those individuals’ incomes earned in several States were aggregated, would amount to £2,000,000. In the peak year mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, the total amount collected by the Commonwealth from aggregated incomes of individuals and partnerships, was £2,176,000. As Sir Arthur Cocks declares that £2,000,000 of that amount will disappear, the States will, apparently, only be able to collect £176,000 from the individuals contributing this £2,176,000. Incidentally the Treasurer of New South Wales went further, and said that this loss which he spoke of would occur in New South Wales only. If we take the figures for the whole of the States, the difference, at a very outside estimate, should not exceed £300,000, and if it amounted to £400,000 it would be perfectly amazing. In face of these facts, I do not think we can attach much credence to the assertion that the income tax exemption will have to be reduced in New South Wales to £150.
– Would not the rich man. escape under a lower rate?
– Yes; but each State can alter the incidence of its taxation in order to bring its revenue into line. There is not the slightest need to throw an extra burden on the people with lower incomes. It is only a matter of altering the incidence of taxation, and the necessary adjustment can be made. The Commonwealth has taken this fact into account in determining the field that it is prepared to evacuate. In the calculations at the Central Office we have gone on the basis that the States cannot collect as much tax as the Commonwealth has done, because the States cannot aggregate incomes, and we are, therefore, prepared to make a payment to bring into line any . States that may be at a disadvantage on that account. The whole idea that there is any intention to remove the burden of taxation from the rich classes, and place it upon the poor, is perfectly ludicrous. It is not proposed to raise more taxation, and it is merely for the State Treasurers to adjust the incidence of their taxation so that it will fall fairly and equitably on individual citizens.
– Was the Federal income tax not imposed for war purposes ?
– It will be necessary for me to deal with another phase of the question in order to answer the honorable member. Prior to Federation, the States were collecting their own Tariff revenue, but when the Commonwealth was established we gathered in the whole of the Customs revenue. At that time the Commonwealth did not require for its own purposes the whole of the money collected. Its own expenditure was then very small, and an arrangement was arrived at by which three-fourths of the Customs revenue was handed back to the States. That arrangement was observed for ten years. In 1910 the position was reviewed, and the payment to the States of three-fourths of the Customs revenue terminated. The States were given 25s. per capita in substitution for the old arrangement. The States wished that the payment of the 25s. should be maintained, not merely for a period of ten years, but for all time; and the question was submitted to the people of Australia at a referendum. The people refused to indorse the arrangement desired by the States, and declared that the payment should be for ten years, or until the Commonwealth Parliament otherwise determined. From 1910 to 1920 the payment of 25s. was made to the States, but three years ago the arrangement expired, and the Commonwealth is now no longer under a legal obligation to pay the per capita grant. Another aspect of the question is the moral one, and we have to consider whether the Commonwealth is under any moral obligation to continue the grant. The basis of the payment in the first place was the fact that the Commonwealth had no obligations of a national character to meet, but since then the war has been fought, and the Commonwealth has borne the whole of the war expenditure. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) pointed out, the Commonwealth expenditure last year to meet direct war obligations was £31,000,000. That figure will be reduced in future, but it will not be curtailed as much as most people seem to think. For many years it cannot be lessened to any substantial extent. There is a sum of £20,000,000 required annually to meet interest and sinking fund upon our war indebtedness. Loans have been incurred for no other purpose than Australia’s direct war efforts, and this expenditure must go on for many years. We also have a payment of £7,000,000 for soldiers’ pensions. This liability will continue for a long time, and cannot be materially reduced. At present it is actually increasing, because Australia has the most generous system of soldiers’ pensions of any country that was engaged in the late war. Even the children of disabled soldiers are’ entitled to pensions when they come into the world. The provision for pensions for soldiers and their dependants involves an expenditure of something like £27,500,000. It has also to be remembered that there was an expenditure last year of some £2,000,000 for repatriation. This amount will obviously be reduced as the soldiers are re-established in civil life, but there are Certain payments - of a diminishing character, certainly - which will continue for some time under the obligations we have shouldered. The amount under the heading “ Other war expenditure “ will eventually disappear, but for many years the Commonwealth’s liability in respect of direct war obligations cannot be less than £27,500,000, and it will probably’ be between £28,000,000 and £29,000,000. Our war obligations have come upon us since the days when the Customs duties not required by the Commonwealth were paid to the States, and the Customs revenue for the last five years has not been sufficient to balance our direct war obligations. For the next five years our war obligations will be as great as, if not greater than, at present, and therefore we are under neither a legal nor a moral obligation to pay the per capita grant to the States out of the Customs revenue. Such payments have been made out of the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth.
– Do you say .that the ‘ money was not paid from the Customs, but from, the Consolidated Revenue?
– That is the position, and undoubtedly the Commonwealth is entitled to cut off the per capita payments. It cannot be claimed that these payments have been made from Customs revenue. The fact is that the Customs revenue is needed to meet our war obligations, that being our primary source of revenue under the Constitution, and that the Commonwealth is making the per capita payments to the States from income taxation raised from the same taxpayers as those upon whom the States are levying income tax. It seems that the Commonwealth is raising money and handing it over to the States, thereby creating a duplication by occupying the same field and taxing the same taxpayers. The scheme under discussion will get rid of that. We are not giving away more than we can afford, or any money that the Commonwealth needs for its own requirements. We are not relinquishing the right of the Commonwealth, under the Constitution, to levy direct taxation in the form of income tax. We are adopting merely a temporary arrangement, for a period of five years, in order to evolve something which the people of Australia greatly desire. It is certainly the first time that there has been any prospect of abolishing the duplication, or that a practical plan to that end has been before us. The proposal has not the characteristic, which the Leader of the Opposition tried to allege, of shifting the burden from the rich to the poor man. That statement was made purely and simply for political purposes. There is no truth in it, and if such a result came about, it “could only be by the deliberate act of the State Treasurers in not properly apportioning the incidence and burden of taxation.
The next question with which my honorable friend dealt was the efforts that were made at the recent Conference to bring about an improvement in the industrial position. The honorable gentleman did not devote himself in the least to the industrial question itself, or to the troubles from which Australia is suffering owing to the duplication and overlapping of authority in the industrial field, but he merely offered a few remarks with regard to State instrumentalities, and contended that the trouble could be overcome by the Commonwealth acquiring full industrial powers. That is what some people are always saying, but we have to try to realize that our job is to do something constructive, and to attempt what can be actually accomplished. Three attempts have been made to induce the people of Australia to make this change, but they have not made it, and will not make it. Because the honorable gentleman cannot get what he wants, he proposes, as a constructive statesman, to sit down and do nothing, while the duplication and confusion continue interminably. That may, if he please, be his attitude,but it is not the Government’s. We have been instructed by the people to do something to solve this problem, and we are certainly going to try to do it. I venture to say that the effort made at the Premiers’ Conference was a sincere and earnest attempt to overcome the difficulties, and I very much regret that we were not able tobring the States into line and achieve what was in our minds. A most difficult and unfortunate position exists. We have the most appalling overlapping of jurisdiction in the whole of our industrial legislation, and no man knows where he is. We have the Commonwealth Court and the State Courts functioning over the same field, and even over the same industry. When an award is given by a certain Court, one of the parties to it may think that there is a chance of getting more from another Court, and immediately takes steps to appeal to it. With the employer, as with the employee, there is hopeless uncertainty, and nobody knows where and when finality can be reached. Such a condition of affairs is certainly bad for Australia. The honorable gentleman says that our proposals are “whittling away the Commonwealth powers.” As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth has very limited powers in the industrial field. It is hamstrung under the Constitution, and has no real power. We have no effective industrial powers even in the sphere in which we operate. Our position is almost a hopeless one. This “ whittling away,” in which we are said to be indulging, provides that we shall have full industrial power in our own sphere. That is the basis oil our proposals. We do not want to proceed with any scheme unless we can obtain for the Commonwealth full industrial power inthe sphere in which we operate.
– The honorable gentleman is proposing to give away some of the powers that the Commonwealth now possesses.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I am inclined to think that I am not getting much opportunity to say anything. I have only started to speak on the subject, and ought to be given a chance to say what I wish to say. We are demanding full industrial power in the sphere over which we are to operate, and unless the Commonwealth can obtain that, it will be useless to attempt anything. We could have obtained it by means of a reference from the States. They have the power to do it, and could have given the power to us. The greatest difficulty was experienced in defining the respective spheres of operation of the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth Government maintained that there were many spheres in which the Commonwealth should function, and in which its industrial legislation should prevail; the contention of the States was that the only industries over which the Commonwealth should have control were those in which the employees, in the ordinary course of their employment, migrated from one State to another. That would have limited our jurisdiction to the shearing and shipping industries. There are obviously other industries which, owing to their basic character, have to be considered. There is, for example, the coal-mining industry, which should be controlled by the Commonwealth. Rather than achieve nothing, and come back to the position in which we have been for many years, of asking the people to sanction a change, to which they would not agree, we made an attempt to come to an arrangement with the States by which we could define areas within which the Commonwealth and the States would each have full industrial powers. We did not get as far as we hoped, but we have made a start in trying to define which industries should legitimately be controlled by the Commonwealth and which by the States. We are still continuing negotiations with the States, and if we can arrive at a basis of agreement, I think, for the first time in our history, there will be a prospect of getting the people, at a referendum, to agree to a proposal to so alter the Constitution as to remove the confusion which has been created in our great arbitration system.
– There is no need to alter the Constitution ; the Commonwealth already has power to deal with InterState disputes. You want to restrict the Commonwealth Arbitration Court’s jurisdiction to a certain class of dispute.
– No; what about a common rule? What can we do with the present Commonwealth power of industrial legislation, by which we are limited and hampered at every point? That is the difficulty we were endeavouring to overcome at the Conference. The only suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition was in regard to State instrumentalities. The sum total of his remarks was “ Do not remove State instrumentalities from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.” There is a great difference of opinion in Australia on that subject. The problem has to be solved, or confusion will continue indefinitely. The honorable gentleman knows that a great number of State servants are supporting him because he has stated that he will not allow them to be removed from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. When the leader of a great party - particularly one which claims that” it stands primarily for the interests of the working men- has no more constructive suggestion to offer-
– Where is the constructive policy of the Leader” of the Government? We ask that the public servants be allowed to retain the rights they enjoy under the Constitution.
– That is a very poor attitude to take up.
– It compares favorably with the ridiculous attitude of the Leader of the Government. The honorable member will become the most unpopular Prime Minister that Australia has had.
– Order !
– You are a bumptious man.
– These interjections must cease. The honorable member for Hunter is out of order.
– The attitude of my honorable friend does him very little credit.
– The Prime Minister’s attitude does him very little credit. He is the most bumptious man who has ever sat in this House. He wants an Imperial title and then he will be satisfied.
– The honorable member must cease interjecting; otherwise I shall name him.
– I am sorry that a little heat has been introduced into the proceedings. Some things have to be said, and the annoyance caused by the statements I have made is due to the fact that they are infinitely true.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) had a great deal to say about immigration. Summed up. his remarks amounted to this - “ We as a party are against immigration.”
– You know that I never said that. You will say anything.
– You know that you are not quite fair.
– The statements of the Leader of the Opposition mean that he is against immigration. He says that if certain conditions are complied with, he will favour immigration, but upon analysis his remarks mean nothing except that the Labour party are against immigration.
– It is the duty of the Prime Minister to analyze the statements of the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member need not fear that I shall not do that. The honorable gentleman states that we should not introduce any more people until every nian now in the Commonwealth is employed. He knows perfectly well that [that ideal condition has never been reached by. any country.
– Will you make provision for those who are unemployed?
– Unfortunately, there will always be unemployment, and the best corrective is the development of our vast areas by bringing more people to Australia. Immigration is the most important problem with which we are faced’ to-day, and my honorable friend is dragging .this great Australian question into the gutter of party politics, and misleading the people. If the honorable member’s policy of hostility to immigration were adopted, development would be retarded and’ disaster would result. The leaders of the Labour party in Australia to-day should emulate the courage shown by the Labour leaders in other parts of the world, and make the people realize how imperative it is that we should settle the land and develop its resources. The problem of filling our empty spaces and providing employment for all would then be solved. It has to be solved, and it will be solved much more easily with the co-operation of the whole of the people of Australia than when immigration is being resisted tooth and nail by one great party. The honorable member has stated that the unemployment difficulty should bo solved before any further money is expended in bringing immigrants to the Commonwealth, and he has endeavoured to show that the policy now being pursued is having disastrous effects. He stated that we were populating Australia with “ derelicts,” and he quoted statements by Mr. Garden, a newspaper report-of a case in Hobart, and an unconfirmed statement by a Welsh immigrant. The honorable member has merely a newspaper report as the foundation for his statements. He does not seem to mind what he says. He adopts the story of a Welshman, and assumes it to be true.
– Does the Prime Minister say that it is not true?
– It is not for me to say that it is not true ; it is for the honorable member to prove that it is true. Unsubstantiated newspaper statements of this kind should not be quoted in the House; if they cannot be confirmed, the honorable member is doing Australia the greatest dis-service in quoting them. In regard to the persons whom the honorable member described as “ derelicts,” and inmates of mental asylums, every precaution i3 taken at Home by the Australian authorities to insure that no mentally or physically incapacitated or otherwise undesirable person emigrates to Australia.
– You are making a rotten job of it.
– We are doing everything in our power to prevent such’ happenings. When, the other day, I met the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) at Newcastle, I suggested to him the action which the Government proposed to take, in order that he and his party might satisfy themselves and the country that everything possible” was being done to prevent undesirable people coming here. The honorable gentleman will agree that he did not display very much sympathy with the proposal.
– No. I shall show no sympathy with immigration until we have found employment for our own people.
– That is exactly the attitude which the honorable gentleman took up - a very improper attitude, I suggest. He does not believe in immigration until we have found employment for our people. He says that we are bringing out here undesirable immigrants. Surely, if he cannot get the whole of his own way, it would be better that he should fall into line with us, and assist in making certain that only the best class of immigrant is brought out.
Let me deal with the contention that we ought not to bring people out here until we have found employment for every one’ of our own citizens. We cannot proceed in that fashion. If we do not ‘bring people here, Australia’s future will ‘be a very doubtful one. There are no doubts in my mind regarding what pur position will be. To-day. we are living in a world which has not reached the stage that wars have ceased and when a strong nation will no longer prey upon its weaker brother. Undoubtedly, if my friend’s policy were adopted, and wars continued in” the world, we should be left absolutely defenceless. That being the case, somebody would be sure to dispossess us of Australia. Perhaps the honorable gentleman is right; perhaps we need not continue to defend ourselves; perhaps the League of Nations is as Strong as he claims that it is.
– I said. ‘‘that it wasweak because men like you were not doing your work properly in regard to it.
– There may be some things with which the honorable member can charge me, but a lack of enthusiasm for the League and a charge of not doing my best cannot ‘be numbered amongst them. Supposing that I am wrong and that the honorable gentleman is right;- supposing the League of Nations is as powerful as he says it is, and that’ the days of wars are over; that the world will be governed by justice and right. The League of Nations would be the very first people to interfere with Australia. Does my honorable friend know that the League of Nations already has considered the question of the distribution of the raw materials of the world ? Does he know -that it has discussed the question of how Australia’s wool should be distributed amongst all the countries of the world; does he realize that under such an arrangement Australia would have no say in regard to its destination? That would be the position if the League of Nations were the guiding and governing force in the world ; and from the stand-point of keeping this country for the few people who are in it, our position would be worse than it is to-day. If it became the predominant factor in the world, the first thing for which the League of Nations would ask us would be an account of what we were doing to develop this country. Conceivably by that time there might be 6,000,000 people in this, a country greater in extent than America, which is carrying a population of 110,000,000 people. The League of Nations would tell us that we must throw our doors open to the members of every race and every nationality, and there would be no possibility of our resisting such a decree. If the League of Nations came to us and said that we could not keep this wonderful undeveloped country for the exclusive enjoyment of a few people, that it had to he used for the benefit of the whole of civilization, and we protested against such a decision, we could be silenced by the question, “ How did you get this country in the beginning?” We would be told that we took it from the black man because he could not develop it properly; and, as we ourselves could not develop it, it must be made available for- the whole of civilization.
– If you make the conditions good the people will come here and you will soon have your necessary population.
– The honorable gentleman ought to know, if he does not, that the conditions in Australia are incomparably better than they are in any other part of the world.
The only other point to which I want to refer is the statement of the honorable gentleman that we ought to make the land available. I remind the honorable gentleman that that is a matter for the States and not for the Commonwealth.
– You could put on a tax and break up the large holdings.
– The States control the land. Very great efforts are ‘being made by all the States to-day to do that which the honorable gentleman suggests should be done. It is doubtful whether some of the States are not proceeding so rapidly as to endanger their chances of achieving that which they desire. Quite apart from those lands which, we are told, should be split up and converted into smaller holdings, a policy with which I am in entire sympathy, we have a very great undeveloped area in Australia. 1 think that we would be well advised to concentrate on that side of the question, with the object of seeing whether we cannot open up those areas and give the opportunity to settlers to go there. I remind the honorable gentleman that, notwithstanding the fact that a Labour Government was in power in New South Wales for a considerable time, and that in Queensland there has been a Labour Government in power for ;a considerably longer period, the millennium has not been brought about in those States. The sovereign, simple remedy which the honorable gentleman suggests does not really exist; it is a difficult question, and it is one that requires the greatest amount of careful thought.
Save for a few general observations, those three were the only points on which the honorable gentleman touched in his attempt to find something with which he could attack the Government. I venture to suggest that he did not make out a case at all. In regard to taxation, ha did not bring forward anything to support the contention he put forward. He has not been, able to bring home to the Government any misdeed or neglect. For that reason alone his effort has been such a feeble one that I really do . not think anybody will seriously regard it.
.- One is somewhat surprised to find the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) assuming the attitude of a supercilious nabob, and couching his reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in language that is not likely to promote good feeling. If the honorable gentleman wishes to carry through* his ten weeks’ programme, he will have to mend his ways. Throughout his speech he assumed the role of a schoolmaster, speaking in a way that suggested that he was familiar with all things and that the Leader of the Opposition, on the other hand, knew little or nothing. At the outset, he declared that the Leader of the Opposition had had nothing to say, but later on he admitted that the honorable member had had a good deal to put before the House. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister occupied more time in replying to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition than was taken up in giving utterance to them. It is obvious that during this session we are going to fight with bare knuckles. The gloves are off. The Prime Minister has thrown down the gauntletand has to-day taken up a stand that is calculated to give rise to the very keenest opposition. It is all very well for him to lay the flattering unction to his soul that the time has passed for the Leader of the Opposition to stress the point that two differing sections of the House have fallen into line behind the Government, but I am convinced that before he boards the steamer that is to take him to England he will have had from some of his professed followers exceptionally rude reminders of the truth of my Leader’s contention. I make no complaint of the fact that the two parties have come together; their performances so far have been in actual keepingwith our predictions. I and others of the Opposition have spoken of the Country party as an unimportant joint in the tail of the Nationalist party. They may think that they are preserving their separate entity, but if they do they never made a greater mistake. As Comrade Dunstan said at the recent Farmers’ Conference, they will be laughed at if, when they again face the electors, they declare that notwithstanding that they have joined with another party to carry on the government of the country, they are still a separate entity. Some of the very members of the Country party who denounced the Nationalist Government because of the support it received from Flinders-lane and various fiduciary institutions, jumped at the first opportunity offered them to join with the Nationalists in the formation of a composite Government. Iunderstand that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), drew himself up to his full height of almost 7 feet and used exceptionally vigorous language in his opposition to the proposal that they should join with the Nationalists in forming a new Administration, yet we see him to-day eating like a lamb out of the hands of the Prime
Minister. The lions of the Country party have now become as little lambs in the Nationalist fold. I am glad that this is so, and I compliment the managers of the Nationalist party on the result of their conference with the representatives of the Country party in regard to the formation of the present Government. One of them, who is present this afternoon, emerged from the conference with a smile on his face more expansive than that of the tiger in the well-known lines -
There was a young lady of Riga,
Who went for a ride on a tiger;
They returned from the ride with the lady inside,
And a smile on the face of the tiger.
The Nationalist party may well smile, as they do to-day, knowing that they have politically swallowed what was known as the Country party.
The people have reason to be alarmed at the existence of an Administration which is so inept as to play into the hands of the big financiers of this country by placing on the market a conversion loan of £38,000,000 with a currency of twenty-five years. This, in itself, apart from anything else that the Government have done during the recess, should be sufficient to arouse the suspicions of all sections of the community. There has been no public condemnation of its action in this regard,but there is much yet to be said, and the Prime Minister will come out of some of the political conflicts in this House in a far more bedraggled state than that in which he is likely to emerge from this debate. The loan closes to-day, I understand, so that I shallnot prejudice its chances of success by any statement I may make. I do not hesitate to say that it is one of the worst financial proposals ever submitted by a Government claiming to be out to secure economy. It hands over to our large financial institutions for twenty-five years a big interest proposition. The Treasurer - part of the tail of the Nationalist party - Has expressed pleasure at the interest displayed in the loan by the stock exchanges and the banking and insurance companies of Australia. It is only natural that they should be keenly interested. Complaint is made that the smaller investors are not coming forward, but the fact is that, whereas they cannot afford to do so, the big financiers can.
The small farmers, the workers, and the middle-class people of Australia fear that the Government are jeopardizing their rights and privileges. Undoubtedly with such an Administration in power their liberties are in danger. Is it reasonable to expect from such a Government either a progressive policy or sound administration? In season and out of season we have advocated the amendment of the Constitution, and it is somewhat amusing to hear the Prime Minister inquiring, in reply to our demands, “ What am I to do in the face of the opposition of the State Premiers?” What have other Prime Ministers clone when confronted with like opposition? From the very inception of Federation, fighting, more or les3, has been going on between the Commonwealth and States’ Governments, but hitherto every Prime Minister has been able to resist the attempts of the State Premiers to encroach upon the powers of the Commonwealth. The present Prime Minister alone has failed to do so. The present Government have bowed down before the image of State rights. Honorable members will remember that the State Premiers met before the Conference with Federal Ministers took place. I can. quite imagine those knowing men, some of whom have held office for a number of years, saying, “ There are a number of ‘ greenhorns ‘ - in office in the Federal Government now. This is the chance for which we have waited for twenty-three years. We must stick out now until we get what we want.” The State Ministers fought other Commonwealth Governments and Prime Ministers for twenty-two years in vain, but the present weak-kneed Federal Government at once gave way and bowed to the image of State rights. They have given way to the State Governments not only in connexion with taxation and high finance, but are prepared to hand over to them the very limited industrial powers we have at the present. time, and to do so if they can by secret negotiation’s. We can never look for true economy in Australia until the Federal Parliament occupies the supreme position, and delegates powers to State provincial councils taking the place of the existing State Parliaments.
– What I suggest is not Unification, and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) must know that it is not. I suggest what the honorable member has himself advocated when on this side of the House. I have heard the honorable member advocate the same thing from public platforms. That is the only method by which we can secure full financial and industrial control. The Prime Minister made a great deal out of the’ fact that State Ministers were prepared to allow the Commonwealth a free course in regard to industrial arbitration, but I will remind the honorable gentleman of what was said . by one of the keenest men who has occupied a position in State politics in recent years. I refer to Mr. Holman. Whilst he was Premier of New South Wales he showed a jealous regard for State rights, although he was a Labour man part of the time and part of it a sort of composite individual. He was prepared to fight for State rights in many cases, but in connexion with industrial matters he said that to bring about the peace that is essential for industrial concerns in Australia, the Federal Parliament should have complete industrial power. That was the utterance of a statesman. Mr. Justice Higgins has expressed the same view. Sir William Irvine, the present Chief Justice of Victoria, whilst occupying a position in this House in opposition to the Fisher Government, agreed that if there was to be industrial peace throughout Australia”, it was essential that there should be one power controlling industrial affairs. The Prime Minister has come into Federal politics only recently. I am not going to say that he will not achieve distinction. It is not my business to hand out bouquets to the honorable gentleman this afternoon, or, indeed, at any time in the future, in view of the speech he has made. It seems to me that he would do well to learn something of the history of the struggles that have taken place between the States and the Commonwealth in tho past. He is the head of the first Government of the . Commonwealth that has bowed to the claims made by the State Governments. Just as the honorable gentleman and his fellow Nationalists must have smiled when they swallowed the Country party, so the State Ministers, with the exception, perhaps, of Sir Arthur Cocks, of New South Wales, must have smiled at what they got from the Commonwealth Government at the recentConference. It was a splendid State
Rights Conference. What right had a Premiers’ Conference to assemble in Melbourne or any other city in Australia to confer with the Prime Minister of Australia in any but the ordinary business way? What right had they to create a super-Parliament, at which they were able to say to the Prime Minister, ‘ ‘ Here is your programme, bring it before your Parliament, and as you have a majoritycarry it into effect.” The holding of the Conference was an acknowledgment that the Prime Minister and his Government could not meet this Par’liament until they, heard what the State Premiers had to say in regard to certain matters. It was one of the weakest positions ever assumed by any Prime Minister of Australia. I have stated Mr. Holman’s opinion in regard to the control of industrial matters, and that Sir William Irvine agreed with that opinion. They had both appeared in the Courts in connexion with industrial legislation, and they knew what they were talking about. They contend that the Federal Parliament should be supreme in industrial legislation. I can quote from memory, though perhaps not the exact words, what Mr. Justice Higgins said on the subject When I mention the name of Mr. Justice Higgins it will be admitted that, whether in the industrial or other Courts, he has always held the balance as fairly as it was possible to hold it, and has shown himself to be one of the most just Judges who has ever occupied a seat on the judicial Bench. He expressed the opinion that there is nothing that creates so much dislocation, or gives rise to so much dissatisfaction, as that men performing exactly the same work in different States should receive different rates of wages. The conflicting decisions given by State and Federal. Courts have been the cause of much industrial irritation. The Prime Minister’s proposal has not solved this question. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman has read the criticism of Iiia proposal by the Victorian AttorneyGeneral. One of the most severe criticisms of any proposal put forward by a Government was that made by Sir Arthur Robinson in referring to the industrial proposals of the Commonwealth Government… No one will say that Sir Arthur Robinson does not understand the subject, and yet he actually ridiculed the Commonwealth proposals. In a few words his verdict was that they were absolutely unworkable. Yet the Prime Minister would have us believe that the proposals in connexion with industrial matters which he laid before the Premiers’ Con.ference will solve all the difficulties that have confronted us in the past. Instead of that being so, one of the gentlemen who conferred with him, and one amongst those most ready to grasp additional power for the States, ridicules those proposals. I put the opinions I have quoted before the Prime Minister. He claims to know everything in regard to arbitration, as well as other matters with which the Commonwealth is concerned; but, as one comparatively new to politics in Australia, he might defer to the opinions of men who, in my judgment, know a great deal more of this subject than he does. Honorable members on this side are against any limitation of the powers of the Federation. I have said here before, as well as on the platforms of the country, and I will say again, that the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament must continually increase, while the powers of the State Parliaments must continue to decrease. Otherwise, how is the government of Australia to be carried on? What did General Smuts say in regard to the South African Constitution ? In an interview with a newspaper representative as long ago as 1910, he said, “ We have avoided the mistakes of the Australian Constitution : Ave have assumed powers which make the National Parliament supreme, whilst Ave have delegated certain powers to provincial councils.” It is true that he was dealing Avith a comparatively small population, but Avith a country comprising a very large area. The Union, of course, covers an immense territory, and, while Ave need not copy the South. African Constitution in every detail, no doubt something like it is needed in Australia if Ave are to have a true National Parliament, Avith true local government in the States. That end is to be attained by a vote of the people, but the Prime Minister would have us believe that Ave have reached our limits in this direction, and should make no further effort to amend the Constitution. Four or five years ago Sir William Irvine, in this House, said that the Constitution fitted Australia as a coat clothed a man for whom it had been made years before - that it fitted so tightly as to split at every seam.
– Does the Prime Minister say that the Constitution is good enough as it is?
– The Prime Minister said that- he had exhausted every possible method of securing other means than those now proposed of dealing with industrial matters. I shall not say that the honorable gentleman has the ability but not the courage to do what is required, b.ut I may put it in another, and, perhaps, a ruder way, though still within the Standing Orders, by suggesting that he knows what ought to be done, whereas his masters outside order him not to do it. Looking at the long li3t of their administrative acts, the one prominent feature is the fact that this Government are the absolute tools of the moneyed classes of the country. That being my conviction, and the conviction of my party, how can we accept from the. Government a statement such as that made this afternoon? However, we do not intend to accept the statement. As to the overlapping and duplication as between the Commonwealth and the States, I do not say that the best possible arrangement has been made in Western Australia, where there has been an attempt to simplify taxation and other returns; but if one step can be taken towards simplification in a State with a certain measure of success, why should not the Commonwealth try it on a more extended scale? I am sure that no one on this side of the House is in favour of the multiplication of returns, or the duplication of electoral rolls, and so forth; but it seems to me that it would be an easy matter for an arrangement in this regard to be made. The Prime Minister has recently vacated the position of Treasurer, and, notwithstanding the rosy picture he painted to-day, I ask him and his supporters how they propose to “ pay the piper “ in’ the coming years if, by diminishing our means of taxation, we have diminished opportunities to raise revenue.
– By a little economy.
– I suppose the honorable member means the stoppage of public works and the throwing of people out ‘of employment ?
– That is not economy.
– I quite took it that that was the kind of economy suggested ; at any rate, if public works are stopped, and unemployment is caused, honorable members opposite will have achieved what their masters told them to achieve. The Commonwealth has spent £400,000,000 or over ; and on what ? Was it used to build railways, construct water conservation works, or lent to the States to be used in revenue-producing developments? No; for the most part the money has been thrown away in powder. It was a large insurance for our safety, but the money is gone, and we have hardly an asset to show. The only asset we hold in respect of money advanced to the States is the transferred properties, representing £9,000,000 or £10,000,000. How different is the position of the States. I do not say that all the money borrowed by the States has been spent upon reproductive works. There are some people who would have us believe that our education systems are not reproductive; but really they represent tl.e finest and most reproductive expenditure we can undertake. Beyond that, however, the States have their railways,, water conservation schemes, and quite a number of other State instrumentalities that yield constant revenue. There are men of the same political opinions as mine who sit in the State Parliaments, but, unfortunately, they have been attacked by the microbe of State rights, and it is those men we have to convert to our view. No man or woman, having regard to the present position, can view with equanimity the proposition laid down by the Prime Minister at the Conference with State Premiers. The Commonwealth needs all the revenue that it can raise, because it has now a great deal more to do than in the past. The Commonwealth, for example, must carry out certain public works, and help to develop the country. We have lent the States £500,000 for road construction,. and1 there are great schemes for which it is essential that the Commonwealth should find, tine funds, since they will never be carried out by the States, notwithstanding that the people are clamouring for them. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has pointed out - and this is the kernel of the question - we have allowed the State Rights crowd to filch from us certain of our, rights’ of taxation. I cannot conceive of any man, who, seeking election to this Parliament, would be prepared to indorse the proposition laid down by the Prime Minister at the Conference, ^ and again this afternoon. Such a proposition is against the very Constitution that we are sent here by the people to administer to the best of our ability; to act as the Prime Minister suggests would be to practically tear leaves out of our charter. If the people thought there was a danger of a majority in this Parliament limiting in any way its powers, or interfering with our constitutional rights-, candidates who supported such limitation or interference would have very little chance of success. Such Federal candidates would be told that if they were prepared to hand over further powers to the States, and thus belittle the National Parliament, they had no right to seek seats in the latter; they would be told that they must rid themselves of local jealousies, and enter the Federal sphere in a true Federal spirit, and do their full Federal duty. The States have been successful in this regard, simply because there is a weak Government in. power. Ever since Federation became a fact there have been these attempts to aggrandize the States at the expense of the Commonwealth. For over twenty-two years successive Governments have withstood the pressure of State requests, and it has remained for the present Government, in 1923, to accede to them, and to hand over to the States .privileges which up to the present have been enjoyed by the Federal Parliament under the Constitution. The Government, of course, have their majority, and they say that what is proposed is all right. But I remind them of what happened as a result of legislation passed in 1909. In that year, notwithstanding a chorus of protest from this side of the House, the Government of the day put certain measures on the statute-book. Parliament went to the country in the following year. During that election campaign- members of the Labour party explained to the people what had been done, and declared that, if returned to power, they would immediately take steps to repeal certain of the measures that had been passed. The people responded. They gave Labour a majority in both Houses, and, as a result, the legislation passed in 1909 was repealed. Let me quote for the information of honorable members what the Leader of our party (Mr. Charlton) had to say in respect of the industrial situation during the election campaign last year-
Vested interests believe that, aided by unemployment, and by the Governments, they can break the working-class organizations and reduce wages below the standard. They desire the abolition of the Court, and their Governments move to the desired end. Federal servants have been removed from the general Court to a special Court, and from this special Court more and more are being eliminated. The effort to remove State employees from the shelter of the Arbitration Court has been defeated by the High Court. The Victorian State Government, on behalf of itself and other National and State Governments, is sending Mr. Owen Dixon to the Privy Council. If he loses, the Commonwealth National Government will come into the open with an amending Bill to exclude all State employees from the Arbitration Court. The Bill is already drafted.
– And Mr. Owen Dixon lost his case.
– Yes. The Privy Council practically told him that he had no standing.
– He was informed that Australia was governed by its own Parliaments, not by the British Parliament.
– It. was tantamount U that. The Privy Council told Mr. Dixon’ that he had no standing, and, in effect, that he should mind his own business. It was upon the strength of the declaration made by our Leader that Labour candidates were returned in such strength at the last election. What followed in 1910 will happen again. Much of the legislation that will be placed upon the statutebook this session and, perhaps, in succeeding sessions, if the Government live so. long, will certainly be repealed when the Labour party return to power, because we shall then have a mandate from the people to repeal it. We shall not go behind the backs of the people, but, as in 1910, we shall restore constitutional government. On the occasion to which I refer, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) was most emphatic in his declaration that, as soon as the Labour party were returned to power, they would take steps to repeal the legislation that had been placed upon the statute-book in the preceding year by the Fusion Government. But we shall do nothing without the approval of the people. If, as a result of a division in this House we were able to displace the Government, we should not expect to carry on except after an appeal to the people, and receiving from them in no uncertain terms a mandate to do so. I could, if I wished, refer to a long list of acts of maladministration committed by this Government, but perhaps that would not come within the compass of this amendment. Some honorable members may not attach much value to an expression of opinion from this side of the House, but I can assure them that some weight willbe attached to it in other parts of the world, and that possibly it will influence some of the decisions to be recorded elsewhere.
The Prime Minister this afternoon emphasized that Australia must be represented fit the Imperial and Economic Conferences. The object of the latter, as’ we are all aware, will be to bring about a system of preferential trading between the component parts of the Empire-
– It will be a waste of time.
– Of course it will. The Prime Minister might just as well think he could shift the Rock of Gibraltar by dancing a highland fling on the steamer as it passed through the strait as that he will be able to induce the British Government to reverse their traditional policy, because the Government of Britain, like the present Government, are under the influence of the financial interests. It is not at all likely that they will give heed to the Prime Minister’s plea for preference for Australian commodities when so many millions of British capital are invested in the Argentine. There was a golden opportunity of giving effect to thisprinciple quite recently in connexion with the contract for meat supplies for the British Army. I shall interrogate the Prime Minister as to his own action in regard to that matter, and, if possible, ascertain what he did to advance the principle of preference for the Australian product.
Sitting suspended from 630 to8 p.m.
– It is rather amusing to read some of the statements made by members of the British Cabinet on reciprocal trade or the development of the resources of the Empire. I shall quote a few lines from a speech delivered by Mr. Amery, Secretary to the British Admiralty, who occupies an official position in which he is ableto exercise influence in the direction of giving trade to overseas Dominions. I do not ithink I am incorrect in saying that Mr. Amery was one of a British parliamentary delegation which visited Australia a few years ago, and that he possesses the advantage of being somewhat conversant with Australian conditions. Several of the members of that delegation have since been Cabinet Ministers in British Governments, and I can readily recall some of the speeches they delivered in Australia, in which they indicated in unequivocal terms that when they returned to Great Britain they would do their utmost to advertise Australian goods, and see that Britishers, at any rate, made reciprocal arrangements in the matter of trade. Mr. Amery, a few weeks ago, gave expression to sentiments such as these, “ Our certain hope of recovery from the effects of the war lies in developing the resources within the Empire.” To be logical, one could not express such an opinion and fail when the opportunity arose to give Australia as well as the other Dominions her share of trade. But what is it that has followed ? It is amusing to read in recently published statements that the Imperial meat contracts have been placed with Argentine producers. Such actions lead one to believe that the British Ministers do not intend to give much consideration to Australian producers. It would require the wisdom of Solomon and the eloquence of Demosthenes to make them alter their methods of dealing with trade within the Empire. I do not wish to depreciate the actions of those who live in the Old Land, but it is well known that although the Armistice was signed as late as November, 1918, German Christmas toys were being sold in the West End of London immediately after. Ever since that time the British people have been trading with foreigners in preference to their own people. It therefore seems futile for the Prime Minister to endeavour to induce the British people to enter into reciprocal trade arrangements with Australia or any of the other Dominions. I believe the time of the Prime Minister would be better utilized in other efforts. He referred to the League of Nations, and claims to be one of its champions. He is a believer in its principles and the rules laid downfor negotiations between the nations. The honorable gentleman, however, endeavoured to belittle the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and asked if this side of the House would agree to the wool produced in Australia being distributed, according to the wisdom of the delegates to the. League. That was the bogy he raised in answer to the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) would indorse the opinion of the Prime Minister concerning the League of Nations. It is the attitude of certain statesmen in Britain, in Australia, and other countries, toward the League that the Leader of the Opposition deprecates. The League may not be able to achieve its highest ideals at the outset; but there is no reason why its operations should not be encouraged, and an endeavour made to reduce armaments in order to secure the peace of the world.
– Great Britain has given evidence of her intention to reduce armaments.
– That is true; and, as Great Britain has done so, there was little necessity for the Prime Minister to speak as he did to-day. It is very strange that other nations who are in a less perilous position than Great Britain are not prepared to do as she has done. Britain has given a good lead to Australia, and one which, I hope, will be followed by others. The nation in the East which is so frequently referred to has also made reductions in armaments, and to a greater extent than some of those who wish to foster the war spirit are inclined to give her credit for.
The Prime Minister has also complained because a protest has been uttered against Parliament going into recess within ten weeks, and, in justification of the intended action of the Government, he mentioned the fact that the Premier of New South Wales (Sir George Fuller) and the Premier of Victoria (Mr. Lawson) are at present abroad because the Parliaments of their States are in recess. Those gentlemen selected a suitable occasion to go away, and expect to return to Australia and meet Parliament at the accustomed time. We have been awaiting an opportunity, which up to the present . has been denied us, of discussing the financial position of Australia. Even in a session of six months, we would hardly have sufficient time to deal with the whole of the financial problems confronting us. We could not have that privilege during the war because important measures had to be rushed through. The war spirit prevailed, fabulous sums were spent, and we were prepared, in a sense, to allow important matters to pass with very little discussion. But now the Parliaments of all countries are looking closely into financial questions and studying keenly every item of expenditure. Surely the Commonwealth Parliament is not exempt from this responsibility. It is, therefore, our duty to remain sitting sufficiently long to investigate thoroughly all financial proposals put forward for the benefit of Australia. Those honorable members who are prepared to allow the discussion of the financial position of the Commonwealth to go by the board, simply because one member of this Parliament is anxious to get away to Europe, are not mindful of their duty, and are recreant to the trust reposed in them by the people. The British House of Commons will be sitting when the Imperial Conference and the Economic Conference are held, yet the Commonwealth Parliament is expected to go into recess. In any case, the British Government will not dare to hand over to Australia the contracts it has given to foreign countries in whose finances the people of Great Britain are so deeply involved.
– Give him, at least, the chance.
– What is said here will be known on the other side of the world. For the first time in the history of the British Parliament the Opposition proper in the House of Commons is” composed wholly and solely of Labour representatives, led by Mr. Ramsay Macdonald; but the Labour party in this Parliamentis in an even stronger position.
Australian factories which a little time past were going full steam ahead are now working only for a limited time, because unpatriotic Australians prefer to buy the goods manufactured by other than Australian workmen. Lady Northcote, wife of a former Governor-General, being an American by ‘birth, knew what it meant to “ barrack “ for one’s own country and buy goods produced in one’s own country. When she was in Australia, she set a splendid example to the women here by urging them to do as she was doing and buy goods made of Australian material . It is to our lasting disgrace that we have not followed her advice. We are told that our Tariff revenue is bounding. That simply means that the Tariff is no longer protective. The Treasurer would not- be enjoying this huge revenue were it not for the fact that so many Australians prefer to buy foreign goods made most likely under miserable sweating conditions instead of providing employment for’ Australian workmen under decent labour conditions. If we could only create an Australian sentiment in this respect, we need not care a snap of the fingers for our Tariff; even our farmers would be found purchasing goods made in Australia in preference to those made in other parts of the world. If I had the opportunity I would make our Tariff truly protective. I would prevent any goods from coming here. One is not more than twenty-four hours in the United States of America before he realizes that the people there are prepared to stick up for their own country and to purchase goods made by their own workmen to a far greater extent than we do in Australia. If we copied their example there would soon be more employment in Australia and more contentment in industrial circles than is evident to-day.
Obeying the dictates of the State Premiers, the Government are seeking to paddock off at least 150,000 or possibly 170,000 persons employed in State instrumentalities by preventing them from approaching the Federal Arbitration Court. Why should these men be shut out of the Federal Arbitration ‘Court? The great cry of those who fought for a universal franchise and democracy was “ greater privileges for the people.” Yet here, in this supposed enlightened country, we have a Government which is prepared to take a retrograde step, and say that tens of thousands of men and women have no right to approach the Federal Arbitration Court. The position is anomalous, to say the least of it. If action is ta’ken to deprive these employees of their rights, there will be great trouble. Were any honorable member opposite prevented from exercising his privilege of going into one of the Courts of justice in order to ‘have a wrong redressed, he would be the first to protest against such ill-treatment; but the present Government are prepared to so tinker with the industrial situation as to play into the hands of private employers, and take away a right which the employees of
State instrumentalities have been declared by the High Court to possess. Among these employees aTe the railway men, and no body of men is doing a finer work .than they in assisting to develop Australia. Their employment takes many of them far from the centres of population. They are required to live in isolated spots, where the facilities for the education of their children are of the most meagre character. Australia is developing on quite socialistic lines, and there is an increasing army of employees of State instrumentalities, such as railways and tramways, municipal councils, water and sewerage Boards, fire brigades, and harbor trusts. There will soon be quite an army of men employed in Victoria in connexion with the Morwell electricity scheme, and this State, which has been described as a cabbage garden, will be the home of .one of the finest socialistic ventures yet undertaken in Australia. Day by day the employees in State instrumentalities are increasing in number, and the total is bound to grow. The demands of these men must increase, and any Government which tampers with their rights and privileges will suffer for it at the ballotbox.
I join in the expression of regret at the death of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank (Sir Denison Miller). The people may not have obtained from the Bank all that they desired. Had the war not intervened, and had the Labour party remained in power, a system of rural credits would have been in full operation ere now. One of the principal proposals of Mr. King O’Malley, who took a foremost, part in the inauguration of the Commonwealth Bank, was the introduction of rural credits, and the Labour party believed in the scheme.
– His party turned it down.
– Not at all. The honorable member has been so long out of the Labour party that he forgets the good things it has done.
– The party turned the Board down.
– The Board was intended to be so constituted as to take over all the State Savings Banks in Australia. Notwithstanding the assurance contained in the Governor-General’s Speech, I am inclined to think that the Board tobe appointed to control the Commonwealth Bank will be of a political complexion. There may be one or two exceptions, but most of the Boards appointed in recent years have had a strong political bias, and I fear a continuance of the evil. The wires are already beingpulled in connexion with the appointment of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and Ministers know it. Honorable members are being communicated with on the matter, and influence is being brought to hear to place on the Board a set of men who will do their level ‘best to give the Bank a setback, and allow the private banks to regain the sway they have enjoyed in the past. There havebeen attempts to belittle the services of the Commonwealth Bank.
– By those who fear it.
– There are some who do, The latest figures issued show that since 1912 the Bank has made a profit of over £4,000,000, of which amount £2,000,000 has been placed to the reserve fund, and £2,000,000 to the redemption fund, which can be used either to redeem debentures issued by the Bank or to redeem Commonwealth loans. A consider- , able portion of Australia’s debt of £400,000,000 was built up during the war period, and the Commonwealth Bank had control of the flotation of thebulk of the loans raised, thereby effecting a saving to the taxpayers of £6,000,000 compared with the charges that would have been incurred if the private banks had floated the loans. That makes a total gain of £10,000,000- £4,000,000 in profits, and £6,000,000 that has been saved. Those are only two of the main items; more could be enumerated to show the great benefit that the Bank has been to Australia. Mr. Anderson, a member of the Board of Directors of the London Branch of the Bank of Australasia, speaking when the Bank was established, said -
I speak as the member of the Board of a private bank. J am going to say this : if the Commonwealth Bank is properly managed, it should obtain a position in Australia similar to the Bank of England in the British Islands.
The Bank, assisted, no doubt, by the effects of the War, has become the bank of banks in Australia. It has fulfilled
Mr. Anderson’s prediction in a remarkably short space of time, and, because of that fact, there is not the same danger of financial collapse and disaster in this country as there was- in days gone by.
The Prime Minister spoke to-day of “ varying and conflicting Arbitration Court decisions.” In order to remedy that condition of affairs, he proposes to make the decisions even more varying and conflicting. I have cited Sir Arthur Robinson’s view that the arbitration proposals of the Prime Minister would produce “confusion worse confounded.” The States will not accept thePrime Minister’s proposals, or, if they accept them, will so emasculate them that their sponsor will not recognise them when he sees them. ‘ The two men who know more about industrial conditions and arbitration’ in Australia than any one else are the exPrime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and a former Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Holman), both of whom once belonged to the Labour party. While Mr. Hughes did not go so far as to say that all industries should be under the sole control of the Commonwealth, Mr. Holman, although a strong advocate ofState rights, has said that all industrial powers should be handed over to the Commonwealth. These two men stand out as knowing mountains more about the - subject than is known by those who are dabbling with the arbitration problem today. Members of the Labour party know, and the Australian trade unions know, that the Federal Arbitration Court has promoted industrial peace and contentment, and has been more successful than any other institution in the attempt to regulate industrial affairs. That being so, why should men try to tamper with it to-day? They are only confusing the industrial issue. They are sowing seeds which will produce an abundant harvest of trouble in the future.
The Bank of New South Wales is another example of a successful bank. It has been in operation for seventy years, and has come through good and bad times. It is one of the oldest banks in Australia. During the last six months forwhich figures have been published it made a net profit of £432,000, which is the largest profit it has ever made in its seventy years’ existence. The total profits from 1914 to March, 1923, amounted to £5,433,000. This is another important institution with whichthe Government intends to tamper, although it stands out conspicuously as a monument of splendid financial achievement.
The Prime Minister was most deliberate in his remarks about immigration. He spoke in terms that have not been indulged in by the most desperate Prime Minister that has ever preceded him. He had no warrant for the language he used. He said emphatically, “ The Labour party of Australia is absolutely against immigration.” It is not, nor is the British Labour party, from whose ranks immigrants will to a large extent be drawn. But the British Labour party has said -
When oversea Dominions have provided for their own people, and’ found them employment, we realize that some of our surplus population must go.
Mr. Robb, Minister for Customs in Canada, said in the course of an interview -
We will first of all supply land and give employment to our own returned soldiers and our own Canadian people, and when that has been done, and they are fully supplied, we will then open up with a vigorous immigration policy.
That is the proper way. The State Governments to-day, with one exception, are prepared todo their level best to flood this country with any type of immigrant, because, like the . Commonwealth Government, they are under the thumb of the great financial institutions. Is it contended that what the Leader of the Opposition has said is not true ? Is it not known that in scores of cases young fellows have been sent into the back country to slave for a mere pittance? This “land of gold and glory,” as it was painted to them by emigration agents and the representatives of Australian Governments, has proved to them a land of disappointment. “When they find the picture much more drab than it was represented to be, they naturally feel dissatisfied. What is doing most harm to the immigration policy of the Government ? It is not the Labour party’s opposition, but the letters which dissatisfied immigrants are sending home, and the accounts which are being given by others who have returned to their native country. Is it any wonder that the British Labour party is saying that until Australia is prepared to provide for its own people, and make room for those who wish to come across the seas, it is averse to indiscriminate immigration ? The State Governments, at the behest of employers, are obtaining immigrants, and as a result of the influx of the new arrivals they hope to see a reduction of wages, a lowering of the standard of living, and the creation of chaos in the industrial world. Among the Britishers who arrived five or six years ago are many who are sadly disappointed. In some cases three families are living in one small house. These men know the facts, and they tell their friends in England that so far as land, houses, and employment are concerned, there are not opportunities for the numbers of people who are coming here. It is of no use our blinking the facts. We on this side’ of the House state the true position merely to warn the Commonwealth and the State Governments of the consequences of what they are doing. What would happen if, in the financial year ending on 30th June, 1924, we bring in 20,000 or 30,000 people, and 10,000 of them cannot find employment? It would result in a great slump in the very scheme which the Government and its supporters heartily applaud. We are merely saying what Mr. Robb, the Canadian Minister for Customs, who is not a Labour man, said. Houses, land, and employment should be provided for our own people first, and when that has been done we may launch a vigorous immigration policy. I have letters from young men, some of them returned soldiers, who are trying to obtain land. They have to enlist the sympathy and support of a Federal member to approach the State Lands Department for land, and even then they cannot all get it. These men are suitable settlers and do not need any special training. Some of them are sons of farmers, and they know the work thoroughly. It is very unfair to bring competitors from Great Britain to this sphere of activity when our own farmers and returned soldiers are not receiving their just dues. Depend upon it, if the Government carry out their present intention in regard to immigration, there will be a big row, not only in this House, but outside.
– There will be a bigger row if. the Government do not carry out their present immigration policy.
– Of what is the honorable member afraid ?
– I am not afraid of anything.
Mr.- FENTON. - From a defence point of view, Australia has never been in a better position than it is now.
An Honorable Member. - It has never been worse.
– Why was General Allenby superseded in ‘his administration of Egypt? Simply because he was a soldier, and the cry was for a civilian. He was, no doubt, an excellent soldier, but was una.ble to minister bo the wants of civilians. The men who took part in the great World War, and witnessed the bloodshed and carnage which resulted, should be amongst the first to give effect to the Gospel of Peace, not only in Australia, but in every part of the world. That will be the attitude adopted by the Prime Ministers at the Imperial Conference, with the one exception of Australia’s bellicose Prime Minister. If th~e Leader of the Government persists in his views, he will meet with a snub at the Conference. A cartoon published to-day depicts two or three very stout gentlemen seated before a hamper, representing the Commonwealth’s taxation proposals, and remarking appreciatively, “ This is the best hamper Bruce has yet given us.” I agree with the remark. This session should be devoted to a discussion of the financial position of Australia, and if the Prime Minister persists in his intention to limit the session to ten weeks, it will be a slur upon the Ministry and upon the party that accedes to such a demand. Such a procedure will be absolutely unwarranted.
.- - By the grace of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) Parliament has met, but only for a limited time. A more conceited Prime Minister Australia has never had. He presumes that Parliament cannot carry on during his absence from Australia ; apparently the other seventy-four members are not capable of conducting the business of the House. The only possible excuse I can imagine for such an attitude’ is that he is afraid that the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) will usurp the leadership of the Government in his absence:
– -We would then have a better man in the position.
– There are better men on this side of the House, and I would be quite content to give the Leader of the
Opposition an opportunity of leading the Government. The financial position of Australia should be the foremost question in the. minds of members of this Parliament and those who are desirous of placing Australia in the position it should occupy. It is impossible for Australia to realize its destiny while the present Ministry remain in power, controlled by influences represented by the Melbourne Club and other like institutions. The Government of to-day are dominated in exactly the same way as the Victorian Parliament was dominated some years ago by the Melbourne Age. Mr. Deakin, when writing the biography of the late Mr. David Syme, said that no Government was formed nor Minister appointed without previous consultation with Mr. Syme. To-day the Government of the Commonwealth are similarly governed by certain influences in Melbourne and thefriends of the Prime Minister. During the last few months I have asked several questions in this House with a view to awakening the Ministry to a sense of their responsibilities. I asked the Treasurer whether the Government would give honorable members an opportunity of dealing with the war loan obligations, and the only reply I received from the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) was that he would be very pleased to look into the whole matter. I- asked the Treasurer, also -
I do not think any member of this Parliament knew what the amount was, or the extent of the loan indebtedness. I . do not think even the members of the Government themselves knew. These are the figures -
The discharge of this debt is arranged for in an agreement which provides for an annual payment of 6 per cent, upon the original indebtedness of £92,480,156. This payment covers interest at the rates stated. The balance of the payment is applied towards the redemption of the debt, which will be extinguished in 1956.
I have arranged the figures in the form of a balance-sheet: -
In 1921 Sir Joseph Cook was Treasurer. Reading the financial journals which came out from England, I began to be alarmed regarding the loans which were being floated in London. I asked Sir Joseph
Cook to furnish a statement setting out the position. The following table will supply honorable members with the details of the loans floated in 1921 : -
I do not think any better illustration could be offered to emphasize the necessity for taking immediate action to deal with the question of our loan indebtedness.
During last year I asked whether the Government were prepared to allow Parliament to deal with the question of the
Commonwealth loan indebtedness, and whether they would submit to this Parliament particulars regarding conversion of the loans. I was told that it was not usual for a Government to make public details regarding loan transactions. The action which I wanted the Government to take was Dot unusual: similar action has been taken by statesmen in Great Britain, where the first successful loan conversion was made in 1749. I was not asking that anything should be done which would affect detrimentally our loan transactions. I was prompted to make that request, because I had in my mind the associates of the present Ministry. We judge men by the company they keep, and I am justified in judging the Ministry by the company they keep in dealing with the financial interests of Australia. During the progress of the Great War I again and again brought under the notice of the Government that whereas Great Britain was setting apart 33 per cent, of her actual income from all sources to defray the cost of carrying on the conflict, we in Australia were’ doing nothing in that direction. I urged that the example of the Motherland should be followed. The Nationalist party was in power when the War-time Profits Assessment Bill was introduced, and the Labour party endeavoured to induce the Government to take steps to compel those who, as the result of the war, were making huge profits, to contribute a proportion of these gains towards the cost of the war. It is useless to deny that great profits were made in Australia during the war period. In one year we raised over £80,000,000 over and above the ordinary revenue. That huge sum of money was distributed amongst the community, and so out of the unfortunate circumstances of war, many became phenomenally rich. A new aristocracy was created in Australia, and honours were bestowed so freely that even a theatrical man was knighted for running a vaudeville show. A knighthood, indeed, became so cheap that the average citizen came to look upon a knight much as he would look upon a mongrel in the Street. There was a time when honours Were conferred on men only for rendering great service to the community either in the political arena or in the field of science, art, or literature. In those days honours conferred upon a citizen by the King were regarded with the utmost respect; but, to-day, practically no respect attaches to them.
Coming to the question of loan conversions I find that the first attempt to convert the national debt of Great Britain was made by Sir Robert Walpole in 1714.
Walpole was not very successful, but another conversion scheme carried out by Henry Pelham, in 1749, was very satisfactory. I suggested in the House that the Government should follow the example set by Pelham, who, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1749, was the first to secure the passing of legislation providing for loan conversion. I urged the Treasurer of the Commonwealth to take similar action with regard to our .war loans, but my suggestion was turned down, doubtless because I was a member of the Labour party, and was considered, therefore, not to be socially the equal of honorable members opposite. A British Parliament, composed largely of Tories, in 1749 passed a Bill introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer providing for the conversion of about £58,000,000 of 4 per cents. The terms were that for one year the rate of 4 per cent, should be continued ; then for the next seven years the interest payable should be 3£ per cent., and thereafter 3 per cent., with a proviso that the Government should not be at liberty to pay off any part of the loan without giving one year’s notice. That measure was agreed to by a British Parliament, amongst the members of which were many men connected with the banking and other financial institutions in Lombardstreet and Threadneedle-street. They were patriotic enough to realize that the working section of the community should not be bled in order that the national war debt might be paid off. Gladstone in 1853 endeavoured to carry out a further conversion scheme, but was not very successful owing to the fact that at the time events were rapidly leading up to the Crimean War. In 18SS, Mr. Goschen carried out a large and successful loan conversion. He grouped the whole of the 3 per cents., amounting to £558,000,000, and by Act of Parliament consolidated them into new stock to bear 2^ per cent, until 1923, and thereafter 1 per cent. The position in Australia is wholly different. Honorable members opposite are not prepared to allow this Parliament to deal with the national finances, which are the very groundwork of all our responsibilities. A failure of our finances throws thousands of people out of work ; yet we are told that it is wrong that Parliament should deal with loan conversions. I have in mind tonight, not loans raised ‘for carrying out of reproductive works, but war loans - money raised for war purposes, which vanished in the smoke of battles that depleted our manhood. Mr. Goschen in making his conversions received some assistance from the fact that he converted many of his loans into 2½ per cent. consols, and the Savings Bank took up a large number of these consolsand held them for some time. I repeat again that the whole of these operations were carried out with the sanction of the Parliament of the country. I have referred to these loan operations in Great. Britain in order to put an object lesson before the members of this Parliament. I desire that they should have more respect for the Parliament and the position they occupy, and should realize better than they appear to do what the people of Australia have sent them here for. I hold the opinion that present members of Parliament are not as big men as were some who have gone before them, and do not reach the standard of parliamentarians of some years ago. I have been troubled in mind for some time by the fact that, although loans are falling due, there is a total indifference displayed by the Government and their supporters as to what the result may be, and what are their responsibilities in this connexion. I thought that honorable members would have awakened to the fact that the time has arrived when our financial position, so far as loans are concerned, is a matter worthy of their serious consideration. The loan that is at present uppermost in my mind is the conversion loan of £38,723,590, In connexion with this loan, a bonus is being given by the Government. It is higher than that paid during the war period. I do not know why. Surely £51s. 5d. per cent. should satisfy the most greedy individual who has money to lend to the community in view of the fact that.it represents a War Loan conversion. It is not as though the money were being borrowed to be invested in some commercial enterprise which might be liable to go into liquidation. A gilt-edged security is offered, and yet interest and bonus during the twenty-five years, which is to be the duration of the loan, will amount to £49,619,845 or nearly £2,000,000 more than the actual amount of the loan itself. The operation is set out in form of a balance-sheet, as follows : -
I think it is fair to ask the Government why they have proposed to extend this loan for twenty-five years. Such a course would not have been followed in any other part of the habitable globe where parliamentary government is in operation. For this £38,723,590, we will pay in the twentyfive years £4 9,619,845, and when we have paid that amount, we shall still have the £38,723,590 to pay. Why is this done? The only conclusion to which I can come is that it is due to the influence exerted by the insurance companies. I know that the Prime Minister is likely to have a social acquaintance with Mr. Garvan, Mr. Meeks, and gentlemen like them, and this loan of £38,000,000 is only being taken up by the big insurance companies. The smaller people do not know why the loan should be for a term of twenty-five years, and I cannot understand it, unless it be that the unfortunate Treasurer, being new to office, has been surrounded by these people and they have led him astray. There can be no other excuse for what he has done. Every statement I have made on this subject is based upon the actual facts. I do not know why the Treasurer should not be as well informed as I am on this subject. I am” only an ordinary individual. I have not had the same opportunities as the honorable gentleman. I have no clerks to obtain information for me, and I did not receive a University education. When I went to school, schools were carried on by private enterprise. I have to obtain my information from trade and financial journals, and this is what one of them says -
The average bank rate of interest in London during last year was £3 13s. per cent., as against £6 ls. 5d. , per cent, in 1921 and £6 14s. 2d. per cent, in 1020. The average in the second half of the year, according to calculations made by the Statist, was substantially below that for the first half.
Even the trade and financial journals supporting the views of honorable members opposite point out the fact that in two years the average rate of interest fell from 6 per cent, to 3 per cent. , and yet the Commonwealth Treasurer offers £5 ls. 5d. per cent, for twenty -five years to satisfy insurance companies and such institutions that have money to lend. I have obtained some further information which may be of value to the Treasurer from an Australian financial journal. ]t is not a Labour journal, but one which will probably be found on the tables of clubs in Melbourne. No doubt the Governor-General receives it, and probably the Speaker glances at it occasionally, seeing that he takes an interest in public companies. This journal made the following statement in April, 1923: -
Mortgages are being quoted by some institutions, banking and others, at a rate that would not have been looked at some months ago, but there has not been any relaxation hi the matter of rigid exaction with reference to the soundness of ‘backing offered for that class of accommodation.
It will be seen that there is direct evidence that the ^bank rate has gone down in such a way as to justify my strong opposition to the flotation of this loan for twenty-Ave years, to the benefit of persons who are interested in financial institutions. At the present time there is what is known as a Finance Committee in connexion with the Treasury, and all the three members of that Committee are connected with public companies, for their services to which they receive large emoluments. Doubtless those services are faithfully rendered, and I ask, How can these men defend the interests of the Commonwealth when the interests of their own institutions are involved ? No doubt, those institutions benefit by the advice these gentlemen give the Treasurer, and I do not see how we can expect anything else. I know they are respectable men and good citizens, but, as a- public man, whatever may be my opinion of their social and other qualities, it is my duty to represent the people. The figures and quotations I have laid before honorable members are, I submit, sufficient in themselves to compel this Parliament to deal with the finances, and not allow secret diplomacy to have control over millions of money. We have such transactions as borrowing £38,000,000, paying £49,000,000 in interest, and then still owing the original loan ; and that is a condition of things that cannot be allowed to continue. In 1925 we shall have £49,000,000, and in 1927, £72,000,000, falling due, and I ask whether we shall then do the same as in the past. We are not fit for our jobs as representative men in a legislative body, with the destinies of Australia in our hands, if we allow such financing to continue. In December, 1922, the population of Australia was 5,634,352, and our total debt was about £850,000,000. This Ministry is certainly going on very rapidly, and it is distinguished by two outstanding features - excess of borrowing, and the desire to destroy Commonwealth activities which have within them the possibility of combating the profiteers, as shown in their action in regard to the Geelong Woollen Mills and the Federal shipping. Mr. Lawson, the Premier of Victoria, and Sir George Fuller, Premier of New South Wales, both went to London in their official capacity, and I suppose our own Prime Minister is filled with the desire to do the same thing. No doubt, when the Prime Minister does arrive, he will be invited to the Carlton Club, the Reform Club, or the Athenaeum Club, and given a fine dinner amid magnificent surroundings. Under, such influences he will be, as it were, hypnotized, and then the company will begin to talk about borrowing money. Under such conditions Australia must suffer. It is said that Sir George Fuller is anxious to be “ Baron Fuller, of Blow Hole,” a noted place near Kiama. Lord Forrest, who was elevated to the peerage only a very short time before his death, was a nice old man whom I loved ; but he was ambitious, and thought more of being a lord than of anything else on earth.
– Will it be Lord Bruce ?
– No, I think it will be another title for the Prime Minister ) hia name is Stanley Melbourne Bruce, and probably he would like to be the “ Duke of Melbourne.”- These visiting Premiers are really canvassers; they have nothing to sell, but they, are seeking money, and in so doing are inflicting untold injury on Australia. It is hard for us to realize what evil is done by these means. I knew London well in my youthful days, and 1 can appreciate what the effect of such visits must be on the interests of this country. Had we had in power a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who knew their business, they would have told the Premiers’ Conference that this National Parliament will wake up to the responsibility the people placed in their hands when Federation was established, ana that the Commonwealth Government and Parliament must be the only governing power in Australia. The Premier or South Australia, Sir Henry Barwell, was knighted for making the suggestion, when at -Home - a suggestion with which I do not think many honorable members will agree - that a’ barbed wire fence should be placed across the northern portion of Australia, and any race, however objectionable, allowed to settle beyond that fence. There seems to be no other reason at all why that gentleman should have been knighted.
– He promised to do away with the Arbitration Courts.
– That is a small matter compared with the maintenance of our White Australia policy. I remember that when Sir Henry Parkes, as Premier of New South Wales, placed a poll tax of £100 on Chinese, .there was quite a turmoil on Circular Quay, numbers of men, each armed with a lump of wood, being prepared to meet the immigrants. The Chinese were on the ships in the harbors, and I asked Sir Henry whether he intended to prevent our stopping Asiatic races from entering this country of ours - whether he would like his daughter to bring home to tea on a Sunday one of the Chinese as her young man. “Would you like a Lascar for a soninlaw?” I asked. He replied, “ Jack, I certainly would not.” “ Then,” said I, “ you should not do anything that would make it possible for any girl to put her father in that relation.” That would be the result of any departure from our White Australia policy. Either the white population would be driven out of our northern areas or they would be dragged down to the level of the coloured and Asiatic races. Any attempt in this direction must be sternly checked. The authority of State Governments must give way to the will of the National Parliament. The responsibility is on us to see that the already burdensome public debt of nearly £1,000,000,000 is not unduly enlarged. Are honorable members aware that the public debt of this country, State and Federal, represents a mortgage of about 10s. per acre of the whole continent, including swamp lands, lakes, rivers, mountains, and unproductive waste areas?
The recent Conference of Ministers was a farce. Its decisions have been ridiculed on every hand because the representatives of the various States are what were known in the early days of Federation as “ Little Australians,” whose vision does nob extend beyond the buttons of their waistcoats. Do they realize, I wonder, that in every ten years the Commonwealth has to provide £270,000,000 by way of interest on its public debt and still has the debt to pay? In view of our financial position, it was extraordinary that the Prime Minister should surrender this right of direct taxation to the States. I can only come to the conclusion that he is prepared to allow the burden of Customs and Excise duties to fall upon the poorer sections of the community, whose contribution to the Consolidated Revenue in this way would equal that of a man with an income of from £7,000 to £10,000 a year. The attitude of the Government in regard to our finances is in marked contrast with the course adopted by Mr. Stanley Baldwin, Chancellor of the British Exchequer, who recently announced that owing to unexpected reductions in expenditure there would be a surplus of £101,000,000, which would be applied to the reduction of the National Debt, and that next year it would be possible to reduce the debt by another £50,000,000. The Commonwealth Ministry, it appears, are content to take 10 per cent, off the income tax, and to submit a proposal to borrow £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 to extend the facilities of the Postal Department. And as the result of secret negotiations in connexion with the conversion of loans, substantial benefits are to be conferred upon a limited number of insurance companies and other financial institutions.
I enter my strong . protest against the introduction of sectarianism during the last election campaign, and the suggestion that I and other members of my party were not fit to sit in this Parliament. No one is so vile as the man who would sell himself and his principles for position, place and power. In connexion with a measure brought forward in the Parliament of Great Britain, a Mr. Johnson drew attention to the Commonwealth Bank which until recently has been under the control of Sir Denison Miller. In the death of that gentleman, Australia has lost one of her most able men, and in writing to his widow I said that I found it difficult to express my sympathy with her in her bereavement, and in the loss which Australia had sustained in consequence of his death. A few months ago a gentleman named Mr. Williams, connected with a British banking institution, wrote to the Associated Banks of Australia in an endeavour to get them to use their influence in getting the Austraiian note issue increased to overcome the difficulty in meeting payments for the excess of imports over exports. The communication was brought under my notice, and I was astounded to think that there was a possibility of the note issue being used for such a purpose. I mentioned the matter to the late Sir Denison Miller, who said, “ West, no such tricks will be played by those gentlemen.” The Government propose to appoint a Board to control the Commonwealth Bank, and I presume the members of that Board will consist of men who are occupying important positions in connexion with existing financial institutions. Naturally they will consider the interests of the institutions with which they are directly concerned.
– The honorable member is, of course, aware that the note issue has been under the control of a Board for some time.
– Yes, and apparently all that Board has been able to do is to substitute, for what was generally regarded as a serviceable note, a miserably insignificant production. The Commonwealth Bank is a magnificent institution, out it is to be regretted that its services have not been utilized by the various State Governments. Queensland, which is the best governed State in the Commonwealth, and consequently the most prosperous, does its business through the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), when a member of our party, and I conferred with Mr. Fisher in an endeavour to arrange that the whole of the States Savings Bank business should be absorbed by the Commonwealth. It was suggested that if that were done, the Commonwealth should not interfere with the State Savings Banks’ existing mortgages, and that 70 per cent, of their income should not be touched by the Commonwealth. If the State Governments transacted their business through the Commonwealth Bank there would be no occasion to issue bills until loans could be floated ; yet notwithstanding the concessions that could be obtained by the States, there are unfortunately men who cannot realize the advantages that would be derived if such a course were adopted. I have already referred to the action taken by Walpole, Gladstone, and others, in connexion with the conversion of loans. I have not referred to the liabilities of the States, because they have assets in the form of railways, water conservation works, and other schemes ; but have confined my remarks more particularly to war expenditure, which is not reproductive. In order to meet the interest on loans amounting to £92,000,000 floated in England at 6 per cent., every man, woman, and child in Australia will have to contribute at least £1 per head for thirty-three years. In addition, we shall have to pay interest on the last loan conversion amounting to £49,000,000. During the war Australia depended on raising loans for the payment of its war expenditure instead of devoting Customs revenue to that purpose. Great Britain set us an example of how war expenditure could be met out of revenue, and even to-day, although that country is not as prosperous as Australia, whatever surplus is obtained is employed in reducing the national debt. I hope that when the Prime Minister goes to London, he will not follow the method adopted by Sir George Fuller and Mr. Lawson, and attend the dinners arranged by the underwriting firm of Nivison and Son. The head of that firm, who was at one time a clerk in the London and Westminster Bank, has in less than ten years been able to buy in succession a baronetcy and a peerage. I know that it costs tens of thousands of pounds to buy a baronetcy - Heaven only knows the cost of buying a peerage. Drastic steps will have to be taken, even to the extent of enforcing criminal penalties, recommended by a British Parliamentary Committee to remedy- the evils of the system of awarding titles. I can foresee the day when this Parliament will be asked to decide by a vote whether any Australian in the financial world or in any other sphere is justly deserving of having a title bestowed upon him by the King. I think that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth loans should be launched by the Commonwealth Bank. The credit of Australia in the eyes of Europe and America is so substantial that this can be done. I believe that the people of Great Britain and America would feel that they were getting better security for the money they were advancing when they realized that the whole of the credit of the people of Australia stood behind the Bank that was asking for subscriptions to a loan. The investors of the Old World are not fools. They look into all these investments with a view to seeing the possibility of the repayment of the money they advance. Australia is better known to-day than it was when I was a boy. When I arrived here my mate was a tailor, who had left his mother in London. She wrote out to- him, “ William, I do not know what you are doing in Australia, because I understand the blacks wear no clothes.” The people of Great Britain know more of the potentialities and possibilities of Australia since Australia’s sons played their gallant part in the recent war. A nephew of mine, who saw Australian soldiers in London, wrote out to me, saying that the Australian . troops were so well dressed and had so much money to spend that he thought they must all be officers. The impression our troops made in London is such that there is no doubt we could raise our loans through the Commonwealth Bank and save millions of pounds in doing so, although it might deprive Sir Henry Barwell and Sir George Fuller of a few dinners. This is a subject I have often endeavoured to get honorable members to take into earnest consideration, but there is no limelight shining from it. The man who deals with the financial position gets no publicity. I do not blame the reporters; they are all good fellows, but when they take their reports of my speeches to their offices it is a case of, “ Oh ! West said this !” and the blue pencil deletes my remarks. The people cannot get a true record of the financial position of Australia, because the press will not place the actual facts before them.” When in- Mr. Fisher’s time the Labour party tried to raise war loans in Australia, it was met with the strongest opposition from its political opponents, but it succeeded in establishing the Commonwealth Bank and the note issue, and it inaugurated the flotation of loans within the Commonwealth. The Labour party is the only political organization that has made a serious attempt to deal with the financial problem, and no improvement of the present position will be brought about until that party is returned to office. The Labour party alone can awaken the people of the Commonwealth to the true situation. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), in seconding the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, advocated a number of socialistic schemes, although he would strongly resent their being described as such. He asked for cheap fruit freights and railway fares, and, no doubt, he wanted the Government to bear the cost of the concessions. What is the difference between that and Socialism ? It would be fairer to afford practical help to the unemployed.
I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is anxious to go to London to attend the Imperial Conference, but in view of the many troubles besetting the British authorities at the moment, such as the unemployed problem and the difficult political situation, Mr. Bruce could better serve the interests of the Empire by remaining at home and trying to get his Government to put the affairs of Australia on a firmer footing. Canada’s slogan is “ Canada for the Canadians,” and that Dominion is likely to be determined in its requests, because it has an American frontier, whereas Australia is an island continent.
I fear that the League of Nations will be unable to achieve much. It would be necessary to have Germany, France, and the United States of America amicably co-operating in its deliberations in order to obtain satisfactory results. Personally, I have more faith in a league- of the English-speaking races throughout the world. If these acted conjointly they could, with their control of the seas, and their numerous outposts, reduce the chances of war to a minimum. Such a combination appeals to me as more likely to benefit the world than any attempt to pacify races in southern Europe with widely divergent aspirations. These nations are fighting with one another at present, and I see little hope of bringing about peace between them under any agreement in which their word would be of value.
I am afraid the Prime Minister has left it open for people to suppose that he is eager to bring the present session of Parliament to a close because he is determined to do nothing, and does not wish Parliament to do anything in his, absence. I have gathered that impression in the light of his deeds since he has come into power. He is the leader of a composite Government. It has been difficult to bring the component parts together, and it is almost impossible to understand their respective points of view. The majority of the members of the Ministry are interested in land investments, and they are Tories from head to foot. I sometimes sympathize’ with the Prime Minister in the awkward position in which he finds himself. The new members on the other side of the House are. no doubt meekly supporting the Government because they are anxious to retain their seats for the next three years. They are afraid that if they went before the electors too soon they would be rejected.
– What about the immigrants the Government are bringing out ? Mr. WEST. - As a resident of Australia, and a member of the Labour party, I hold out my right hand to any Britisher who comes to this country. Many new arrivals have called at my home, and I willingly do anything I can to help them. There are placards in Australia and England which read, “ Place immigrants on the land “ - a cruel thing for any man to advocate who knows the conditions. I was in New Zealand in 1874 when, under the immigration scheme there, they were bringing out from 500 to 1 , 000 people per month. They did not merely dump them down on the wharf, . as we do, for “ thimble-riggers “ and rogues to defraud. They made provision for their proper reception ; their luggage was taken off the steamer, and put in a placeof security, and they themselves were put under cover until such time as they could find their footing. In Australia immigrants are sent up the country, where they are employed by farmers and pastoralists, who make no provision whatever for housing them. I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and in the course of our travelling we have been to almost every part of Australia. In a certain shire the council gave us afternoon tea, and perhaps something thicker. 1 was asked to say a few words. They did not know I was going to say what I did say. I asked the shire president whether he wanted any immigrants. He said, “ We can” find employment for a couple of mechanics immediately.” I told him that mechanics were always married men, with one or two children, and I asked him where they could stay. He said, “There is a lean-to in the back yard of the hotel, which a man could have for 30s. or 35s. a week.” 1 told him that his wife did not marry him to live 200 miles away from him in a strange country. If a man went there to work he would have to spend 35s. a week for a lodging, and another 35s. to keep himself out of mischief at night, to relieve the monotony of his existence and prevent him from becoming silly. What would his wife in Melbourne receive at the finish) To induce immigrants of character to go to the country districts, the people there’ must, first of all, build proper habitations. Some time ago I was at Cairns when a strike was in progress. I was asked to use my influence to settle it. It appeared that men from the south who had been in that State’ had earned big cheques, and, while waiting in Cairns for their boat, had “ painted the town red,” so that by the time the boat arrived they had very little money left. In that State there are’ thousands of acres of fertile land, which does not even need ploughing ; it is only necessary to throw the seed at it. Proper provision should be made to induce men to go there with their wives and families. In Belgium and France fifty years ago they had community settlements, in which five or six families lived in close proximity. . In this way some of the loneliness of country life was removed. No man should be compelled to take his wife to live where the next-door neighbour is 20 or 25 miles away. The man who favours immigration wants cheap labour,. or he is a property-owner who wants to have five persons wishing to become tenants of his property, so that he car raise the rent every week. I desire people of my own race to come to Australia.I love them. No people on earth have done so much to advance civilization aod spread it over the world.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Yates) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at itsrising, adjourn until to-morrow at 11 o’clock a.m.
Debate on the Address- in -Reply.
, - I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
From the remarks I made this afternoon, during the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, there was an omission which I regret. I had intended to refer to the speeches made by the mover and seconder of the motion, but unfortunately failed to do so. I sat in the House and listened to the speeches, and I was very much impressed with both of them, notonly for the matter which they contained, but also for the precision with which they were delivered, and for their brevity. Both these members, in their maiden speeches, did themselves very great credit, and it augurs well for the future of this House when wo have new members who can acquit themselves so well on their first appearance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 June 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230614_reps_9_103/>.