9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at2.30 pm., andread prayers.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice-
Whether he will supply the particulars of sanatoria established by the Commonwealth Government for the treatment of tuberculosis, phthisis, and other pulmonary complaints?
– The answers, to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:-
asked thePrime Min- ister; uponnotice -
Whether the announcementmade by the Premier(Sir Henry Barwell)of South Australia, to the effect that it is proposed to broaden the narrow gauge railway lines of South Australia into a gauge of 5. ft. 3 in., meansthe failure of the proposals ofthe Commonwealth Government to effectunification of the railway lines between Perth and Brisbane ?
– No intimation has been received as to the intentions of the South Australian Government in this matter.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice-
– It is undesirable to adopt thecourse suggested by the honor- able member; but the whole subject is receiving the attention of the Government.
Mr.C. Frost’s Land Application
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the reason forthe reported long, delay in dealing with the application for land in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, made in 1918 by Mr. Carl Frost, a Norwegian and a naturalized British subject, who complains that he has suffered great loss and hardship because of unfulfilled assurances repeatedly given to him; during the last five years, that his application would receive immediate consideration ?
– The New Guinea LandOrdinances came into operation on the 21st December last, and if Mr. Frost has made an application for land in pursuance of the provisions thereof there is no reason why it should not be dealt with. Inquiry is being made of the Administrator in regard to the matter.
asked the Prime. Minister, upon notice-
Will he make inquiries throughout the States, and give the information to the House as to-
Dr. EARLE PAGE (for Mr. Bruce). -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In viewof the continuous requestsby the
Central Wool Committee for the payment of £398,000, plus accrued interest, for wool sold to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, which payment was promised by the late Prime Minister, is it thepresent Government’s intention to honour such promise.?
– The Prime Minister is not aware that the late Prime Minister promised to pay £398,000. When the amount payable under the late Prime Minister’s promise has been ascertained to the satisfaction of the Government, the question of payment will be immediately, considered.
The following paper was presented: -
Nauru - Agreement between the British Aus tralian, and New Zealand Governments, signed at London, 30th May, 1923, supplementing the Agreement of 2nd July, 1919, relating to the administration of Nauru.
Ordered to be printed -
Meat Export Bounties Act - Return of subsidies paid on beef and live cattle exported from the Commonwealth.
Formal Motion to go into Committee. of Ways and Means.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
– I move -
That all words after the word “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the Government take immediate steps to effectively overcome the present unemployed difficulty affecting the general taxpayers and returned soldiers.”
I submit the amendment because I believe it is time that the Commonwealth Parliament took some definite action to remedy the present parlous condition of affairs in this country. I refer especially to. the position of many ex-soldiers in Australia to-day. I am not unmindful of the fact that a few weeks ago, when the necessity was pointed out to him, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) stepped into the breach and invited this House to vote £500,000 for main roads development in order to enable the State Governments to undertake works which might give relief to the unemployed. That amount was only a drop in the ocean, but, in my view, the grant is not being effectively expended. The onus for its expenditure has been thrown upon the State Governments, and, whileI agree as to their obligation to see that the people of their different States are fully employed, if they do not effectively carry out that obligation, it is for this National Parliament having made the grant to give direction as to how the money shall be expended and that its expenditure shall be speeded up by the State Governments, or else to take the matter into its own hands. It is asserted that we should adopt a policy which will lead to Australia being populated, but we should make it plain to the rest of the world that we can employ all the residents of Australia before we invite others to come here. Such statements as we see in the press, and such exhibitions of dire poverty as are to be witnessed here today, are a very bad advertisement for Australia. Only yesterday in the press there were pictorial representations of the condition of the unemployed in this State. They raided the public office of one of the organs of the press in this city to demand that a fair account of their position should be presented to the world. The police had to interfere, and the unemployed then repaired to the right place, in my opinion, and we saw a number of them asembled outside this building. They, however, do not by any means indicate the extent of unemployment and distress in this country. However, those men rightly looked to this Parliament for some alleviation of their position. I submit my amendment with a desire that some definite action shall be taken by the Government for the relief of the unemployed. I have recognised the obligation of the State Governments in this regard, but as the first step was taken by this Parliament to provide a means by which the unemployed might be relieved, we should go further if the members of the State Parliaments will make no effort to put Australia in the proud position it should occupy in view of the wealth produced in this country and the bountiful seasons it has enjoyed for many years past. Speaking generally, Australia to-day ought to be in such a position that there should be no hungry or unemployed man in it. That would be its position if its affairs were properly managed. I might not have raised the question to-day were it not for the spur of a paragraph which appeared in last night’s Melbourne Herald. We are sometimes prone to overlook facts in our immediate vicinity, but when they have been manifested to us, we are lacking in our duty if we ignore them. It is a bad advertisement for Australia that such conditions of unemployment should exist. I refer honorable members to this paragraph regarding what has occurred in the biggest city in the Commonwealth, the capital of a State rich in primary production -
Destitution is rife among a large number of unemployed in Sydney.
During July the Salvation Army supplied meals in the Domain to an average of more than 200 a day.
Elsewhere the Army has provided meals to 100 workless diggers each day, and in another quarter a month’s meals amounted to 44,120.
To carry on this work the Army is now appealing for funds.
The Commonwealth is disgraced by the parading of such facts before the world. The most distressing portion of the paragraph is the reference to the 100 workless diggers. I should not take much notice of the paragraph if it were not the record of a religious charitable organization. I do not think that the Salvation Army would misrepresent the position, and presumably that information was gleaned from Army officials. Having regard to the promises that were made to the Australian soldiers who risked their lives overseas, we shall be lacking in our duty if we allow such conditions to continue. I direct my appeal more particularly to honorable members opposite, because there are few amongst the members on this side who are returned soldiers. Many members opposite owe their position in the House to the fact that they are returned soldiers. They were elected either because of gratitude for what they did during the war, or because the people thought that by returning ex-soldiers to Parliament the needs of the diggers would not be lost sight of. I do not say that there are not even amongst the diggers many who are unemployable, or cannot keep employment for any length of time, but there was a time when all those men were regarded as heroes and were probably kissed by the ladies before they went forth to risk life and limb. After what they have done and suffered allowances must be made for them. They have gnawed hard biscuits which they wouldnot tackle to-day, they have lived for months on bully beef, they have lived in dug-outs and been wet through for days at a time, and, worst of all, they have been “ chatty.” I ask any honorable member who thinks that these men have been repaid for what they did to set alongside the record of four years’ service the return that is being made to them by their country. We are not interpreting the sentiment of the Australian people or honouring the promises that were made to the soldiers during the war. Something better can be done for our soldiers, and if Australia is to maintain the reputation which these men won for her on the battle-field there must not be an employable digger out of work. Only a few weeks ago, on a Friday morning a deputation of Victorian diggers asked me to arrange for them an interview with the Prime Minister, so that they might state their own case. As I had to leave for Adelaide I left the matter in the hands of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr.McNeill), who subsequently informed me that he had not been successful in arranging for an interview. But I stress the fact that the members of the deputation were returned soldiers who were asking that the promises made to them before they went overseas should be honoured to some extent. They told me that they were married men who did not want charitable doles; they desired work so that they could earn enough for themselves and their families. Is that anything less than any married man in Australia is entitled to ask for? I do nol; believe in preference for returned soldiers. When a man places a price upon his services they are no longer given voluntarily, but this Parliament cannot adopt that point of view; it made promises and pledged itself to do certain things. I am afraid that those- promises are already receding into obscurity with a rapidity too great for the credit of Australia. I hope that the Government will not be recreant to the trust imposed in them, but will indicate how they will meet the obligations towards the soldiers which were undertaken by the Commonwealth during the. war. Here is another illustration of injustice to returned soldiers. In the Age this morning appeared this paragraph-
Sydney. - At Parramatta Court on Tuesday eviction orders were made against five returned soldiers who are occupying warservice homes at Lidcombe and Wentworthville. Proceedings were taken owing to the occupants being in arrears with their payments. They explained that they were out of work.
That indicates a very serious position. Cannot we stand behind those men and give them an opportunity to make good in civil life as they did in the military sphere? They won the acclamation of the whole world; their doings on active service showed that they were not rotters. But now, on their return to civil life, owing to the economic condition of the country, they are unable to get work, and are being evicted from their homes. I suppose they will have no option but to join the great throng of hungry and uncared for men who can look for relief only to the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations.
– -That promise has not been honoured. The trouble is that we get too many platitudinous answers, which are not followed by actualrelief . This problem of unemployment is a big one, but it should notbe too big for the House to grapple with.
– Would it not be better to have a general discussion on this matter on the Estimates for the Repatriation Department ?
– I am afraid that would not be satisfactory. This question of unemployment of Diggers would be mixed up with somany other issues that a clear-cut discussion upon it would beimpossible. It is necessary to provide on the Estimates for the employment of the general taxpayer. I am moving this motion in order that there shall beno across currents which will affect the questionof providing employment for our unemployed soldiers. I want a clear answerfrom the Government. Let them outline,if they will, what they intend to do, so that we shall be able to judge in three or four months’ time how their operations have panned out. If honorable members mingled with these men their hearts would bleed because of the distress which they are suffering. I have here a pamphlet on Socialist lines which was issued to the unemployed soldiers. It has been written out of the bitterness of spirit caused by the inadequacy of our present social system to deal with the position. Let us get down to what are called “ tin tacks.” If a man is prepared to work, why should he not get work? There is something wrong with a system which will notallow a man to feed his children. What inducement is offered to aman to marry and bring children into theworld if he iscompelled to live in the constant dread of their starving? They are bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, and theirsufferingsaffect him more keenly than anything else. That is what makes Bolshevists - it breeds the spiritof revolt. Shall I give a little illustration which I once heard Mr. Crawford Vaughan give ? A Maori woman in New Zealand ceded to the Crown her rights in certain land. In twelve months’ time she returned to the Lands Office and wanted her land back. The Lands Office, in an elaborate explanation, told her that having signed a certain document, and received a quid proquo, she had no further right in the land. She was not as dense as they thought she was. She said, “ I quite understand all that. I did cede my right to my land, and I do not want any more for it; but I have come for my babe’s land.” She had a baby in her arms which had been born in the interim. She could not sign away the birthright of her unborn child, and she recognised that fact. Fundamentally that is right. Even though we have given a gratuity to returned soldiers; even though we have given them very liberal pensions in some instances; even though our provision compares more than favorably with that of other countries - if we have not done all that we should, we have not fulfilled our duty.
– If the honorable member would give us some definite lead we might know where we stand.
– The policy of the Labour party is not acceptable to the supporters of this Government. We might suggest that national works be undertaken which would absorb the unemployed. But even though it would do away with degradation and poverty in the cities, we should be told that we must not interfere with private enterprise, andthat the duty of a Government is to govern and not to trade. Will the honorable member suggest what the duty of the Government is?
– Has not the honorable member some ideas of his own ?
– It is very difficult to make suggestions to a party which does not think as I do. During the 1914 drought, when people were being fed from the Trades Hall, in Adelaide, I suggested that theGovernment should resume every foot of land that was not being used in the fruit-growing country in the hills, put men onclearing, fencing, and planting, and give them the opportunity of taking up that land when that had been done. I said that the land would be made profitable, because rain was bound to come that year or the next. Had my proposal been adopted, the hills would have been cleared, and instead of growing blue-gum, ti-tree, and other natural woods, wouldbe a splendid asset to the State. The ideas of honor? able members on this side are totally foreign to those of honorable members opposite. If I made a suggestion it would be pooh-poohed. I hope that the Government will evolve a scheme under which men can be profitably employed. I do not desire that the men should be given a starvation wage merely in order to feed them. A man’s labour must not be taken for less than its value because he happens to be in a hole. The present position is a menace to Australia’s good name, and a disgrace to this House.
I shall deal now with the sacrifices that the men made overseas. A lot of men moy be unemployable because of the sacrifices they made. Their health may not be what it was when they left Australia. I know of one or two such cases. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has asked me to suggest the manner in which the position can be met. Let me ask that honorable member what sacrifices were made by the people who profited out of the war. Thousands of men made sacrifices in life, limb’, and health. They are now making further sacrifices in that they are unable to obtain work. I shall quote the Treasurer’s advertisement of his loan proposals, and ask honorable members to state what sacrifices have been made by the wealthy class in the community. To sacrifice is to give away something one can ill afford to give. Many who contributed to War Chest funds, soldiers’ funds, and so forth, sums of £50 and £100, more than recouped themselves with a week’s business. It will be remembered that the late Lord Forrest once said that money is a good soldier, and part of the- fighting job ; but what sacrifices did those with money make? Not one penny of the loans then raised is to be repudiated; the. money is as sound and stable now as the day it was subscribed. But are the soldiers who went to the war in possession of all they had when they left our shores? I await a reply from honorable members opposite as to the sacrifices made by the wealthy ? In the Age of this morning there is the f ollowing : -
” Extraordinary though it may seem, investors in the new Commonwealth loan- will get an even better deal than they did when the loan was originally floated in 1018, when money generally was much dearer than it is to-day.
Thus speaks the Federal Treasurer. *’ Any person who holds seventh war loan 5 per cent, bonds, redeemable on 15th September next.” says Mr. rage, may convert it into the present issue at the same rate, but in addition, will receive a cash bonus of £2 for every £100 converted. Considering the nature of the security offered, this is a remarkably handsome interest rate to offer at a time like the present, when interest rates on Government securities are steadily declining. People arc attracted to commercial ventures which hold out attractions of higher interest rates, but, after all, security is the first essential, and there is no comparison whatever between the security of a Commonwealth Government bond and that of any commercial enterprise, no matter how alluring it may seem. “ Interest on a Government bond is paid every half year as surely us the sun rises and sets, and the bonds are negotiable. There is another aspect of this loan which should appeal to the prospective investor, and that is the question of freedom from State income tax. This exemption will make a big difference in the case Of many thousands of investors.”
That is the other side of- the picture of the “ sacrifices “ made. “ As surely as the sun rises and sets,” the interest comes home as a result of investment in war loans. What is the Treasurer going to do for the men who really did the job? - the men who, if we are to believe all that is said, and there is a modicum of truth in it, saved Australia for the War loan investors ? An obligation rests on us- that we cannot dodge, and the longer we try to evade it the greater the menace and disgrace. I shall make only one other quotation, and it is from the Treasurer’s “ latest.” I really do not know where the honorable gentleman got the idea, because I fancied that the late Lord Forrest and Sir Joseph Cook had exploited almost every avenue in search of money. It is in the- form of an advertisement which has the appearance of a draught or ludo board, and beats the intimation, “ It is your move next.” I say that it is the Government’s turn to move. A white square is inscribed, “ There is no better security to be had in Australia than a Commonwealth Government bond.” But the “ Diggers “ have the bond of the Government; they have the promise that when they came home they should not be losers by the sacrifices they made overseas. What is that bond worth to the soldiers- to the starving man with a wife and family to support? No doubt, the returned man may have medals which he may pin on his chest, but how does this help him in his trouble? He may glory in the fact that his bravery has been so rewarded, but of what good is that to him if he has not a full stomach? It is often said that men “ fight on their stomachs,” and that the best way to deal with a man is “ to feed the brute.” The soldier ought to be fed, not by way of taming or governing him, but as a right to which he is entitled. I hope honorable members realize the seriousness of the position. It is not a subject on which to make speeches merely for the sake of getting them into Hansard. If it be thought that that is what I am doing, I hope that every word I am saying now may be struck out of the record. The time has arrived when we here should honestly earn the money paid us. I do not say that honorable members do not endeavour to do so, but it is for us to produce a result that is a credit to Australia. Our first need is a fully employed and populous Australia - a happy and contented community. That state of affairs can only be brought about by definite measures which will meet the case of the unemployed soldiers, and also assure the taxpayer that, in return for what he pays, the Government will do its duty towards him. There is, as I say,a great responsibility on the Government, and I challenge it to say definitely and clearly how it intends to meet it.
. - I congratulate the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) for having once more drawn the attention of the Government to the seriousness and importance of the problem of unemployment. During this session this matter has been referred to, not once, but scores of times, by members of the Opposition, and ample demonstration has been given of the great need for grappling with it; but we have been replied to by the Prime Minister and his colleagues with what might be described as “ insulting courtesy.” The Government, he says, deprecates all reference to unemployment, and suggests that in calling attention to it we are injuring the good name of Australia. I regret, indeed, that the Government has not yet realized its political responsibility on this question, which quite overshadows that of Empire defence and relationships. This country will never be secure while thousands of people are walking the streets in a heart-breaking search for work. There are not only hundreds of soldiers, but thousands of civilians at present involuntarily idle, their predicament, in many cases, being the direct result of the Government policy. So far from providing any remedy, the Government has aggravated the evil by selling the Geelong Woollen Mills, and by its retrenchment proposals. If the new taxation scheme is given effect, several hundred officers of the Department will be thrown on the labour market. Then, again, the Government’s shipbuilding activities have been curtailed, and hundreds of mechanics discharged from Cockatoo, Williamstown, and elsewhere. The Treasurer’s attention has also been called to the retrenchment going on in the Repatriation Department. Men who have been employed there ever since the Department was established to grapple with the problem of repatriating returned soldiers have had their services summarily dispensed with. I asked the Treasurer whether compensation would be paid to them. He evaded the question by saying that it would receive consideration when a. considerable number of men had to be dismissed. If compensation is to be paid, surely men who have already been dismissed have as much claim for compensation as men who may be dismissed twelve months hence. The general policy of the Government is undermining our economic security and destroying any prospect of happiness for the working class. The Government is spending £250,000 to bring immigrants here, notwithstanding that the ranks of the unemployed in every city contain deluded immigrants. The members of the composite Ministry regard this matter with cynical indifference.
– Nobody has done that.
– The answers given to questions asked by honorable members on this side of the House justify my statement. Ten days ago I asked the Prime Minister whether he would take steps to make available various patriotic funds to relieve distress amongst returned soldiers. I am still waiting for an answer to my question. The urgency of the matter justifies me in thinking it should have been answered before this. Those lockedup moneys should be made available for the purpose for which they were raised. The Labour party has a definite policy on unemployment. It is opposed to the payment of charity doles. It desires the Government to follow the example of the fisher Labour Government, and embark Upon a progressive policy of public works. The constructional work at Canberra, the Northern Territory railway, the extension of our postal facilities, and the continuance of an adequate ship building programme are; all works which could be put in hand. A large percentage of the unemployed are trained artisans, whose services should be utilized. It is an economic extravagance that they are permitted to remain out of work. Honorable members on the Government benches talk a great deal about communism and anarchism, and various other “isms,” which they hurl at the heads of members on this side. I assure them that the unemployment problem in Australia is the best propaganda for these doctrines. A general condition of social stability can be assured only by eliminating ‘ the causes of social discontent. One of these causes is unemployment. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) referred to the War Service Homes evictions. Such evictions are occurring in my electorate, as well as in other parts of the Commonwealth. The only reason, in a large number of cases, why the soldiers axe unable to pay their rent is because they are out of work. Honorable members on the other side cannot say that we have ever placed any obstacle in the way of the Government relieving unemployment. Last night we assisted in pushing through the Works Estimates. We have been told that the Government have spent £500,000 on main road work. That is only a drop in the ocean when it is compared with the amount that has been squandered by the maladministration of the Government. It is a very small amount by comparison with what the Government propose to spend on immigration. It is a national tragedy, and a national disgrace to Australia, that people should be brought here from overseas when the Australian labour market is in its present state. Such a policy reflects the short-sightedness of the Government. We should not be spending money in that way. We should remember that charity begins at home. We should insure that our own people have work provided for them before we bring other people here. I trust the Government will realize that the people of Australia are clamouring for a pronouncement of its policy on this question.
.- For thirty-five years I have been actively engaged in trying to help the unemployed. When I mentioned the matter in this House recently I thought the Prime Minister lacked sympathy. When the position was brought directly under his notice, however, he delighted me by acting with a promptness that I have not seen equalled in all those thirty-five years. , Naturally he said he would like to communicate with the Acting Premier of Victoria (Sir William McPherson), whom I undertook to telephone. I learned that he had left Parliament House for home on account of ill-health. Sir Alexander Peacock, who was in charge, had left the House, and I was asked to telephone Sir William Mcpherson’s private residence. I did so. I said to .the person who answered the telephone : “ Dr. Maloney is speaking. The Prime Minister of Australia is waiting at Federal Parliament House to speak to Sir “William McPherson. Will you ask him if ho is able to communicate with Mr. Bruce.” I was told that Sir William McPherson was sufficiently well to receive a message, and also to come to the telephone. About three-quarters of an hour afterwards the Prime Minister told me that he’ had not heard from the Acting Premier. I said, “ Good God, is that so? I will telephone him again.” The Prime Minister said, “ Never mind ; I will do what you want.” Thus within an hour and three-quarters 150 men were given shelter from a bitterly cold night. I may explain to honorable members that, owing to the kindness of the people of Melbourne, we had been able to give the unemployed ls. each, but even then they were not able to obtain accommodation. In consequence of the Prime Minister’s prompt action, 150 men were given shelter that night, and up to the present about 300 -men have benefited by it. I have attended this afternoon a deputation to Mr. Lawson, the Premier of Victoria, who has been equally sympathetic. If these two sympathetic men will get together, I have no doubt that the position will soon be under control, at all events, in Victoria. The Rev. Mr. Yeates is the best clergyman I have met in thirty-five years 3o far as sympathy for the unemployed is concerned. He is doing all that a man can do. There is no sectarianism about him, and his every effort is directed to the reliefof the hungry and the homeless. He is really beingover-taxed. There are so many who, in this cold weather, are in need of clothing that I should like the press to take a note of the suggestion that any persons who have clothing to spare should send it to the Rev. Ainslie Yeates, of St. John’s Mission,in Latrobe-street. When we were asked to make an appeal on behalf of the returned soldiers, we did not do so, because there are two associations whose officers said they were able to, deal with them., and we thought it right to take upthe relief of the whole of the unemployed, including returned soldiers. Any one who read last Saturday’s Herald or Sun, will have noticed a, case mentioned by Mr. Harper. I should like to say that during the war I asked that all collections for the Red Cross and other purposes should be under the control of the Audit Department That suggestion was brushed aside. We do, not know what sums of money were fraudulently taken from those collections. Thefts of the kind were hard to prove, but in some cases they were proved, and punishment meted out to these who kept subscriptions intended for the soldiers. If Christ, in choosing twelve apostles chose one J udas, it is not tobe wondered that there should be an occasional bad man amongst those who are. entrusted’ with collection boxes. When Mr. Harper had three witnesses in a particular case he should have telephoned to the Unemployed Committee, and I certainly would have given in charge the man of whom he complained, and would have had him prosecuted. He should have known that I would not sign such a document as he referred to. No member of the Unemployed Committee would put his signature to such a document, yet Mr. Harper rushed into print with his story, and he allowed the whole of Saturday morning to pass without communicating with any member of the Committee . There is no greater curse to humanity than unemployment. The unemployed difficulty has repeatedly to be brought under the notice of this and otherParliaments. I say that ifsome statesman were to arise, whether an orator or not, who could devise, ameans to prevent unemploy- ment, hewouldmakehismark, and his name would be honoured for all time. Why should we not have a national system of insurance against unemployment. We know that men out of employment become hungry, but the landlord’s, knock is heard every Monday morning, and the batcher, the baker, and the grocer must he paid, and clothes wear out. Nothing could be more pitiful than the position in which the wivesof unemployed men are placedwhen their children are asking for bread. They have to bear the heaviest burden of unemployment.. I have nothing but praise for the action of the Prime Minister, and I believe that Mr. Lawson will be equally sympathetic. I should like to make an appeal to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) in connexion with this matter. I understand that there are a number of secondhand overcoats in the Defence Department stores. Would it not be a splendid thing to give some of them to the men who are going to work on country roads? It is colder inland on the big flats than it is in Melbourne, and the men would greatly appreciate the gift. So faras Victoria is concerned I believe that we are now on the straight road to relief of the situation.
– I should like to say a few words on the amendment. I know that I am speaking to honorable members who are fortunate enough to be in receipt of a regular allowance paid each month. Many of them are. independent of this allowance and it is perhaps difficult for them to appreciate the misery and worry the unemployed are experiencing at the present time. I rise to support the amendment, not merely, in the interests of unemployed returned soldiers, but also in the interests of their brothers and fathers who are. out of em- ployment. Unemployment is one of the most serious problems confronting us. We have been asked to make suggestions, and I suggest that, instead of the Prime Minister advocating the regular holding of Imperial Conferences, and. insisting upon closing this Parliament, to permit him tovisit the Old Country, it would ha better that Parliament should remain in session for the remainder of the year to deal with these pressing domestic problems. We could decide upon a progressive policy of developmental works in the Northern Territory,and other parts of tha Commonwealth, and. might make pre vision for the fostering of new industries, and the support of those that are languishing at the present time. Instead of adopting this course., the Government is hurrying through its. programme of legislation in order that Parliament may go into, recess- at the earliest possible moment. It is regrettable that five years, after- the cessation of hostilities we should have in our capital cities returned soldiers shaking collection boxes in the faces; of the people passing by. That is; a severe reflection, not only upon the Commonwealth, but upon all of the State Governments, because of their failure to deal with the question of unemployment. Several questions have. been, asked in this Chamber om the subject, and tlie Prime, Minister has replied, that it is u,o.fc a, Federal’ matter, but one for the State. Governments.. If. wa go. to the State Governments, they say that, it is a matter for the local, authorities. I claim that it, is- as much the. business of the Commonwealth Parliament, as. of State Parliaments, shire, councils, or municipal councils. The supplying of sufficient, men, for defence purposes is; admitted to. be the. concern oi this, Parliament, yet not the providing of; work for the, citizens of the; Commonwealth^ and of making the lives of our people more happy,, prosperous-, and contented! Even; to the present ‘ short- session wei are, being asked to consider a number’ of defence measures, and in my view our time would be better occupied in authorizing developmental works throughout the- Commonwealth. We have, thousands of immigrants coming to our shores, but none should be brought here until this National Parliament has devised ways and means to. absorb their labour* on arrival. At the present time we are importing workers; and exporting work. That is not logical’, nor is it in the. best, interests of the country. I hope to have; an opportunity later in the session to bring several’ striking instances of this under the notice of honorable , members. I suggest that the Government should proceed with the. YassCanberra railway. We have a strong advocate iu the Minister fox Trade and Cus- toms; (Mr.. Austin, Chapman), of. the transfer of the- Seat of Government to Canberra, and I suggest that, the honor able gentleman, should exert all. the. influence he possesses to have the YassCareberra railway taken in hand at the earliest opportunity. In Sydney we have at present 300 returned soldiers who are being fed and sheltered. I read re>rcently of the case of a returned man who, after looking all day for employment without success^ returned earlier than usual to his place of rest in the, Sydney Domain. When he got there, he saw a number of school children who were having a picnic. He waited until they left the place, and then collected the crusts and other remnants of their food in. such a. way as to give the impression that he was merely lounging about. Such things should not be possible in Australia. A proposal has recently been submitted in the New Zealand Parliament for the payment to unemployed returned soldiers of 30s. per week until they are found employment. The Commonwealth Parliament should follow the lead of New Zealand and provide, for unemployed returned soldiers. They did all that could have been, expected of them, and it is the duty of this- Parliament now to see that not only returned men, but. their wives and children also shall be given consideration. No, more important matter could receive the attention of this House than the. relief of unemployment. I would rather be considering- proposals for public works to .relieve unemployment than by wasting time in- discussing whether the provisions of the British Army Act be included in an Australian Air Force Act, and which should on no account be applied to our Air Force. I hope that the Government -will face- the position’, and that instead of bringing forward- proposals for increased defence expenditure, they will make more money available for works to develop- this grand country.
.- I support the amendment. If it is possible for the Government within the ambit of its powers to remove the deplorable state of affairs brought about by. unemployment in all the large centres of Australia, it is its paramount duty to. do so. No doubt we shall be. told, as we have been told before, that unemployment is a matter to be dealt with by the. State Parliaments. According to. the strict letter of the Constitution, it probably is a matter primarily for the consideration of the State Governments, but I submit it is also the duty of the National Parliament to do anything possible to mitigate the evils of unemployment. The trouble is not confined to any one State, but, in any case, distress in one part of Australia must affect the whole of Australia. Misery like that brought so painfully under our observation in Melbourne from day to day is to be found in all the big centres of population. It may be difficult to say off-hand what ameliorative measures are possible, but something surely can be done by this Parliament. Just before I entered this Chamber to-day I was interviewed by a strong, smartlooking young man, whom I had never met before, but he was able to satisfy me that he came recently from Hobart, which is in my constituency. He isan unskilled labourer, and being unable to get work in Hobart, he had come to the larger city of Melbourne, in the hope that greater opportunities would present themselves. “ But,” he said to me, “ I have practically no soles to my boots. I walked the streets last night, and I have not had any food to-day. For God’s sake give me a few shillings with which to buy a secondhand pair of boots and some food.” In these individual cases one does what he can, but they are only typical of thousands of others in the big cities of Australia. When one knows that men who are anxious to work can not get employment, and are without food or shelter, the question at once suggests itself - Is this a National Parliament? Does it control the big revenues that flow into the Treasury coffers every day? Is it in possession of a big surplus ? If it is, it is its duty to alleviate the existing state of affairs. I believe that the unemployment to-day is worse than it has been at any time during the last twenty years. I join with the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) in hearty appreciation of the relief so promptly given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) a few weeks ago. Relief given promptly is given in double measure. This is no party matter; no honorable member on this side of the House wishes to make political capital out of unemployment. Perhaps the relief given at the instance of the Prime Minister might be extended. The man who interviewed me to-day is typical of hundreds of others who are stall without food and shelter, and will have to walk the streets of Melbourne and other centres to-night. I ask the Government to deal with this problem as one of urgency, and to endeavour to provide at once some employment to which men can be drafted. Pending the finding of employment, the Government might be able to help by providing shelter in the manner suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne. The amendment is not moved with the intention of embarrassing the Government, but because we believe that this Parliament should do whatever it can to alleviate the terrible conditions existing. 1 hope the proposal will be received by the Government in that spirit.
.- This question is of the greatest importance, and honorable members should take the opportunity of suggesting to the Government any possible means of alleviating the distress existing amongst the unemployed all over Australia. I think the distress is more acute in Melbourne than in any other place I have visited.
– We see more evidence of it in Melbourne because we are constantly here.
– Reading the Conservative newspapers before coming to Melbourne, I was under the impression that there was not so much unemployment in Victoria as in Queensland, where the industries are seasonal, but seeing thousands of men in Melbourne out of work, homeless, and having to parade the streets at night, I have come to the conclusion that unemployment is more rife in this city than in any other. As the Government have a surplus of £7,000,000, it is not beyond their power to do something to alleviate this distress. It is all very well to say that it is the function of the State Governments to deal with the problem’ of unemployment. Having been for five and a half years a member of a State Parliament, I know that the State is directly interested in this question, but the Commonwealth Parliament, also, is indirectly interested. The Commonwealth draws its revenue from all the States, and it has greater resources of revenue to draw upon than have the individual States. Surely it is possible for this Parliament to evolve some scheme of building national roads throughout Australia. The Commonwealth has a surplus of £7,000,000, and is, if necessary, able to borrow money. It is, therefore, in a position to do more in the construction of national highways. It is true that recently this Parliament agreed to a Bill which made available to the different States £500,000 for that purpose, but that amount was a very small contribution towards the solution of the great and pressing problem of unemployment.
– The trouble is that the money is not being expended now.
– If that is so, the Prime Minister should communicate with the State Premiers, and urge that the money be expended. At a time when unemployment was rife in Queensland the State Government launched the Northern Burnett closer settlement scheme, which will mean the settlement of 5,000 men. The then Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) practically promised that £2,000,000 of loan money would be made available by the Commonwealth for that work. Mr. H. S. Gullett, the Commonwealth officer then in charge of Immigration, inspected the Northern Burnett district, and reported that the land was most suitable for closer settlement, and advised the CommonwealthGovernment to make available the necessary loan money. The Commonwealth Government refused to provide the money, and in consequence Mr. Gullett resigned his position, and denounced the attitude of the Government. The Queensland Labour Government recognised that work must be found for unemployed soldiers and others, and Mr. Theodore was compelled by the callous conduct of the Commonwealth Government to resort to the New York money market for a loan. He got it. To-day upwards of 1,000 men, returned soldier and others, are engaged on the Northern Burnett work. They are able to earn an honest living, and maintain their families in comfort. Their earnings mean increased trade, and everybody benefits to some extent through the work that is being carried out. The Commonwealth Government could not say that those Crown lands were unsuitable for closer settlement, yet they rejected the recommendation of their own expert, Mr. Gullett.
– The honorable member does not suggest that there is no unemployment in Queensland.
– I admit that there is some, but because a Labour Government is in power in that State . 3,000 unemployed from other States have flocked into Queensland in three months. The Queensland Government are to-day employing 3,000 men on railway construction. Others are coming into the State in search of employment. Many men think that if they can only get the money to pay their railway fare to Queensland they will be sure of employment, but the State has its limitations, and it cannot absorb the unemployed from all parts of the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, the State Government are making an effort to provide work for all who need it. Approximately 1,000 men are engaged on the construction of main roads. The Commonwealth Government could show more sympathy for the States by making loan money available, and granting assistance towards the construction of national roads. The matter should not be trifled with. It is a big national work, on which the expenditure of £500,000 is altogether inadequate. To build the roads required throughout Australia as main roads and feeders to the railways, it is necessary that we should have a huge expenditure. It would lead to closer settlement, and provide the necessary conveniences for the country dweller. The Commonwealth Government are in a better position than any of the States to obtain loan money. I mentioned the refusal of the Commonwealth Government to help Queensland to open up the Northern Burnett lands. I had occasion to write to the officer in charge of the Land Settlement Department in Queensland for certain information regarding the Northern Burnett, which I know well, because it is in my constituency. This is the reply which I received -
Referring to your telephonic message of this morning regarding the Callide Valley. Upper Burnett, and DawsonRiver scheme’s. I am enclosing for your information extracts from reports and details of the classification of the first two areas. The surveyors are now engaged in the subdivision of the land into suitable portions, and until the whole of their designs are received it cannot be definitely stated how many portions willbe made available, but the land is generally speaking, of a very high quality. However,it can be safely estimated that at least 5,000 settlers can be settled under these two schemes with reasonable assurance of success. As will be seen by the lists, the total area classified was 2,495,001 acres, but further areas of land, which are to be dealt with within the benefited area, will bring the total up to 2,800,000 acres.
That was a great national scheme for the purpose of settling 5,000 settlers. For every one man who is settled on the land, employment is created for three men in the cities. The Queensland Government had this big scheme on the tapis for some considerable time, endeavouring to get the necessary loan money. It recognised that if it settled 5,000 men in the Northern Burnett by building a railway line from Many Peaks to that district, employment would be created for 15,000 additional men in the cities and elsewhere. The Queensland Government appealed to the Commonwealth Government, of which the Prime Minister was Treasurer, and was refused what it asked for. I warn the Government not to treat callously big national projects originated by the States, because there happens to be in power in a particular State a Government of a different brand of politics from its own. Mr. ee. S. Gullett was fearless enough to say at the time that he believed the only reason why the Queensland Government was turned down was that it was of a brand of politics different from the Commonwealth-Government. Mr. Gullett was not a Labour man. I believe that he was big enough for his job’, however, and he realized that the proposal which emanated from the Queensland Government was a good one. He was greatly annoyed because the request for a loan of £2,000,000 was not granted by the Commonwealth Government. Too much delay occurs in carrying out public works that have been approved by this Parliament. Some considerable time ago approval was given to the carrying out_ of certain works in the Rockhampton district. Although to-day returned soldiers and other workmen are out of employment in Central Queensland, while works already approved are not being carried out. I have in mind the proposal to erect a new post-office at Yeppoon, a seaside resort to which thousands of people go at Christmas time. The present post-office is not fit for use as a stable. The same condition exists in Springsure. It was decided about nine months ago to establish a dump septic tank in Rockhampton at a cost of £1,200.
Nothing has been done to carry out ‘that work. There is another direction in which the Government can assist men ‘to obtain employment in Central Queensland. A considerable number of men were employed in the marble industry there, and because the Government would not. give the necessary protection to that industry -‘-a protection which the owners of the marble quarries deemed to be necessarythose quarries have been closed down, and the men have been thrown out’ of employment. This affects the marble quarries throughout Australia.
– The same thing applies to other industries in the different States.
– Probably other’ industries have been closed because they have not been given protection which would prevent the dumping in Australia of the foreign article. The dumping in Australia of the Italian marble has crippled the marble industry in central Queensland. The request of the Ulam White Marble Company and the Ulam’ Carrara White Marble Syndicate was that, the provisions of section 8 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act should be applied to Italian marble importations, both rough and finished. Practically no notice was taken of that request. A representative was sent from Queensland - four and a half months ago, and met the Tariff Board. That Board’, it is true, had been considering the matter. I sent a telegram to obtain the ‘latest figures, and I understand that those figures are now in possession of the Customs Department. The quarries in central Queensland were opened five or six years ago. They have an unlimited supply of the best quality marble. ‘ A considerable sum of money has been spent on machinery and equipment. Up to 31st December, 1920, the company could not cope with the demand for its marble. Orders were received from different parts of Australia, ‘ because at that time the -Italian marble was not being imported to the same extent as it is to-day. Following the depreciation in Italian currency, however, Australian firms found that it paid them better to purchase the Italian sawn slabs than the Australian blocks. The matter would wear a different complexion if the Queensland marble were not of sufficiently good quality.
Laboratory reports on the Queensland snow-flake marble were submitted by Professor H. C. Richards, Doctor of Science, University of Queensland. He said that the central Queensland snow-flake marble was equal to marble from any part of the world. Surely a marble of that high quality should be given such protection as would safeguard it in competition with the Italian marble, which in many cases has been used as ballast on boats coming to Australia. The owners of the marble quarries in central’ Queensland considered it necessary to submit their article to a sculptor for examination and trial. Mr. Harold Parker, the well-known Australian sculptor, said that that marble was all that could be desired, and that it was -quite suitable for sculptural purposes.” Sculpture, it is said, imposes the severest test to which marble can be put. This central Queensland marble has been used in some of the biggest buildings in Australia, including the bar of the Hotel Sydney. If the provisions of section 8 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act were applied in order to offset the depreciation in exchange* between . Italy and Australia, the central Queensland quarries could operate,’ and a number of workmen would be givenemployment. That applies also to the South Australian quarries. There are, in; South Australia, quarries which were turning ,out marble, but the owners wrote, to the central Queensland companies-, - and - said that they also -would have to. close down, as they could not cope with the Italian marble that was coming into Australia at such a low price. The Melbourne Age on 26th June, 1923, said -
Australians will wonder why we are again extensive importers of Italian marble while some Australian quarries have practically ceased operations, and why some deposits which are known to be of exceptional valuehave not been exploited.
I have made several representations tothe Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) and to the Tariff Board. I strongly exhort the Tariff Board to come to an early decision in the matter. I have received from the representative’ of the central Queensland Quarries the complaint that four and a half months have elapsed since he came to Melbourne to place his view before the Tariff Board, and he has not yet received a definite answer from the Board. This is a letter which I received from the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, at all times, has met deputations in a very sympathetic manner. I believe he yet will give them what they desire, because he favours protection. The letter is dated 21st June, 1923, and reads -
Sear Mr. Forde,/ -
In connexion with your letter of the 1st June, having further reference to the protection under the Industries Preservation Act of the Queensland marble industry, I desire to inform you that the necessary Inquiries .in this matter are not yet quite completed.
I anticipate being able to deal with the matter very shortly, and will then advise you further with regard thereto.
Those figures show that the value of marble, coming into Australia is increasing. They really do not give any indication of the quantity, because, on account of the depreciation in Italian currency, a considerably greater quantity is coming in now than at any previous time. Of course, for a time the central Queens.’ land marble quarries, in order to obtain orders, sold their marble at less than cost price. They could not continue. Since then. those concerned have been waiting for the application of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, and the quarries have been closed down. The Commonwealth Government, I think, should come to the assistance of an industry that will give employment to a considerable number, of men. This company obtains many of the Australian orders for marble, although there is a certain amount of prejudice against Australian marble, woollen goods, and other, articles. That innate prejudice must be broken down. It is due, I suppose, to an idea that Australia is incapable of producing as good an article as is produced in other countries. In the cemeteries of Queensland I have seen marble tombstones of Queensland stone which, in the opinion of experts, and in my own opinion, is equal to that produced anywhere in the world. That being so, it is the duty of this National Parliament to build up this and other industries so as to afford the fullest v employment to our citizens. I have indicated the way in which the Commonwealth Government might be able to provide employment for men who, at present, are idly walking the streets of Rockhampton. The Minister for Works and Railways might also consider the advisability of spending, not £500,000, in assisting the States to carry out necessary works, but even £5,000,0.00. As a representative of a young State - and my experience is that of other country representatives - I .can say that the roads which now lead to and feed our railways are not fit for the use of the public. These roads, however, have to be used by women and children, and out-back farmers, and what is an expenditure of a few millions when the result would be feeders to railways, proper main and Inter-State roads, and the lessening of the present extensive unemployment? It is a disgrace to a democratic country like Australia that numbers of our citizens should be walking the streets and sleeping in the parks. We must minimize this misery and privation wherever possible, and build up a healthful Democracy that will be a credit to this enlightened century.
– I appreciate the spirit shown by the majority of honorable members who have taken part in this debate, and particularly by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). I assure those honorable members that we on this side are in thorough agreement with them when they say that the unemployment prevailing in some centres is most regrettable. I do not propose, as was suggested by one speaker, to shuffle oil” responsibility by saying that the question is one for the States. Undoubtedly, the States have their responsibilities; but I frankly recognise, and I think I can speak for the Government, that the Commonwealth has some responsibility towards unemployed returned soldiers. We all regret that there are any returned soldiers unemployed ; but when we realize that some 400,000 men enlisted for the war, it can be realized that the ratio of unemployment amongst them is, perhaps, less than we are apt to think at first glance. The unemployment amongst returned soldiers is much less in Australia than in other countries. It has been suggested that the Government immigration policy is accentuating the unemployed evil. Perhaps the most effective answer to that is the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), that one settler on the land gives employment to three persons in the city. If that be so, obviously, the solution of the unemployed difficulty, which is principally encountered in the capital cities, is to put more people on the land.
– Yes; and provide markets, for their produce.
– We all agree as to that. The’ honorable member for Adelaide blames the social system for thi?, trouble, and I think I can agree with him. We all recognise the imperfections of the present system, but even the honorable member should not, in less than six months, chide the Government for not revolutionizing the social system. The honorable member for
Capricornia referred to the inadequate amounts provided by the Main Roads Development Act. Perhaps more money could be spent in this direction,’ but, in fairness to the Government, I must point out that the amount, small as it is, is larger than any voted before for this purpose by any Government.
– Why not establish a precedent?
– We have already established a precedent by initiating a scheme for a permanent main roads policy for Australia, and we hope that in the future it may be possible to devote larger sums to the purpose. I trust that our initial effort to found a national roads system will bo continued and developed by this or some other Government.
As the representative of the Government on the present occasion, I must refer to a regrettable sentence uttered by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), in which he charged the Government with “ callous indifference “ to the unemployed. We have already provided £500,000 for main roads, £1,500,000 for the Northern Territory railway extension, and last night a sum of £681,000 was voted for now works. Then a Loan Bill, to be introduced .immediately, will provide £19,024,000; and altogether the expenditure proposed is greatly in excess of that of any previous Government. The best and most practical way of giving effect to what honorable members desire is to get to work on the Estimates. I quite recognise that what is proposed may be regarded as a temporary expedient. It does not permanently deal with the question of unemployment ; but, as indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech, it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into and report on a permanent scheme of national insurance against sickness, unemployment and old age. Even honorable members opposite will admit that this is a most difficult problem to solve. Notwithstanding that insurance against unemployment has been initiated in other parts of the world, the whole question is found to bristle with difficulties. This proposed Royal Commission will make a thorough investigation, and, it is hoped, will evolve a scheme that will set an example to the whole world.
– Will it be a Parliamentary Royal Commission, or a Commission composed of persons from outside?
– The details will be announced in due course. I do not care, on the spur of the moment, to definitely commit the Government to the personnel of the Commission.
– On the personnel may depend whether there is a delay of a year or two.
– That may be; but the object of the Government is to grapple with the question and lay down a permanent policy, which we earnestly hope in time will provide against unemployment. The Government look confidently to honorable members opposite to give this Royal Commission the best of their knowledge and assistance, so as to make any scheme proposed a success. I suggest that the motion should be withdrawn, and that we get to work on the Estimates, thus relieving the present situation.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is, unfortunately, absent at the moment, but, on his behalf, and on my own, I must express appreciation of the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne. That gentleman gave a very effective reply to the charge of “ callous indifference “ levelled against the Government, when he reminded the House of the action of the Prime Minister a little while ago in taking steps for the relief of the unemployed such as the honorable member, in his thirty-five years’ experience of public life, had never seen taken before.
– I do not wish to criticise the Government unduly, but I must remind the Minister (Mr. Stewart) that we are faced with a very serious problem. When we have got into recess nothing can be done to relieve the situation, and in this connexion I should like to make a practical suggestion. If it is imperative that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) shall go to England to a Conference on Empire affairs, I suggest that the Minister for Works and Railways, and the Treasurer, after the House rises, have a conference with the Minister .for Works and the Treasurer of each State with a view to facilitating the national works discussed at the Conference of Ministers. We have been told that a great national work is the unifi-cation of the railway gauges. This must be accomplished some time, and every year’s delay adds to the cost. Then it has been decided to remove the Seat of Government to Canberra, and I suggest that, instead of compelling, as at present, travellers to change at Goulburn, a railway line, which has been surveyed from Yass, and for which all the plans and so forth are ready, should be proceeded with. Over such a line the material required at the Capital could be carried, and it would be a great convenience to honorable members and others. I may say that there are no engineering difficulties to be encountered in the carrying out of this work. We have passed a Bill authorizing the construction of a railway in the Northern Territory, and, as all the plans are ready, this work might also be taken in hand. We are not the only people who are afflicted by an unemployment problem. The United States of America, Germany, Great Britain, and almost all countries are suffering in the same way. The problem has been caused by post-war conditions. We are a young country, however, and we need a vigorous, developmental policy. All the men. in. Australia who are anxious for work should have work provided for them. Like the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), I represent a city constituency. The most painful duty I have is to meet men in Sydney who ask: me to obtain employment for them. The men tell me that they have wives and families. Very often their wives are in poor health.
– And very often the men are hungry.
-I know that most of the cases are genuine. I cannot find employment for the men.I suggest to the Treasurer that he should call a Conference of the Treasurers and Ministers for Public Works in the various States, and that he and our Minister for Public Works should meet them, and discuss ways and means of coping with the unemployment that exists. It, is our duty to try to alleviate distress. The Imperial Conference may be of great importance to the Empire as a whole, but such a Conference as I have suggested may be of much greater importance to humanity in this part of the world. Many great national works could be put in hand. It may be argued that difficulty will be experienced in making financial arrangements. The Commonwealth would be the security for any money borrowed. We could borrow money from ourown National Bank. The money would go out of the bank, but the workers who received it in wages would not hoard it up; it would remain in circulation. Seeing that this country is clamouring for development, and . people everywhere want railways, roads, and improved postal facilities, we should have no difficulty in finding an abundance of work for the unemployed. Honorable members know that there is a shortage of houses in all our large cities. I am not against immigration, but I am against bringing people to. Australia when we cannot find houses, for them. That is a cruel procedure . Possibly a conference such as I have suggested could agree upon a comprehensive housing scheme. I shall not press; the Minister to push on with the constructional work at Canberra, because I believe he is anxious to do as muchas possible there. Hundreds of men could be employed at Canberra.
– If the railway you suggest is built, where will its revenue come from ?
– Canberra is a growing city. The line would develop the country between Yass and Canberra. New South Wales has undertaken to construct a railway from Yass. I suggest that the Government should ask that State, to push on with the work.
– Do you propose that the Government shall construct its own section ?
– The railway from Canberra to our boundary has been constructed. I desire that the New South Wales Government shall complete; the line from our boundary to Yass. I am not complaining about the way the Minister for Works is carrying on activities at Canberra. I believe he will employ as many men there as he can.
– I will do that.
– I trust the Government will give consideration to the desirableness of calling a conference such as I have suggested toconsider some practical plan to find employment for the men. who are now crying out for work. If it does that, it will merit the best thanks of this country.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
National Debt Sinking Fund Bill. Beer Excise Bill. Excise Bill. Distillation Bill.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 26th July (vide page 1668), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament - namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- I congratulate the Treasurer on having brought down the Budget so early in the financial year. It is the first time within my recollection that the Budget was before us in July.. Last year it was brought down in August, but the Estimates were not discussed until a very much later period. I presume that the Estimates will be discussed early this year in -view of the declaration by the Prime Minister that it will be necessary for him to attend the Imperial Conference. I make another protest against the closing up of Parliament. The passing of these Estimates will permit this House to be closed until the end of June next year, if the Government so desire. If that happens it will at least be on “record that the Labour party voiced its objection to that course. It is serious that at such a disturbed period as this the Parliament should be closed for a protracted period. We, on this side of the ‘Chamber, protest against such a course. I make my protest So that it will be known ‘what attitude the Labour party adopted if complaints are made later’ about the length of time that Parliament was closed. The Ministry is in a fortunate position. With the exception of two of its members I believe they dM not anticipate that the administration of affairs would be in their hands. The circumstances arose in consequence of the decision of the people at the last elections. The Government is fortunate also in having control of an overflowing Treasury. When we dealt with the Budget last year, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who was Treasurer at that time, considered that a deficit would result from the year’s transactions, and that it would be necessary to take moneys from Trust Funds to meet it. In place of a deficit we find a very largesurplus. The surplus should be greater than it actually is, in -my opinion. The position denotes that something is wrong. It was never anticipated when we passed the Tariff last year, that we would receive such a heavy yield from Customs. The intention, in passing the Tariff, was to establish our own industries. It was thought that the establishment of our industries would diminish our Customs revenue. The opposite result has occurred. Judging by the first month of this year the heavy return from Customs continues. This might be due to causes over which we have no control. It might be due, to some extent, to the depreciation of exchange in different countries. Whilst I congratulate the Treasurer on the early introduction of his Budget, I regret to say that I am unable to congratulate him on the manner in which it is presented. It is very unsatisfactory, and does not compare in this regard with the Budget presented last year by the present Leader of the Government (Mr. Bruce). I find it very difficult to follow this Budget. Instead of commencing with revenue, completing his consideration of it and then dealing with expenditure, the Treasurer has jumped from revenue to expenditure and back to revenue again. That is very Unsatisfactory. In some cases the figures are not set out, and one has to search the Estimates in order to find them. If honorable -members will look at last year’s Budget they will find that after a short summary the last Treasurer dealt with revenue and exhausted the subject, and then dealt with expenditure. I do not profess to be a -financier, but I believe that in presenting a Budget the Treasurer should deal with revenue and complete the subject before he deals with expenditure, so that honorable members may know from the Budget the exact financial position of the Commonwealth. If honorable .members will look at the Budget now under consideration, they will find that page 1 refers to expenditure ; page 2 to revenue ; 3 to expenditure, and page 4 to revenue. Page 5 refers first to ‘expenditure, then to revenue, and then again to ‘expenditure. Page 9 refers to revenue. This makes it a very puzzling Budget to follow. May I remind the Treasurer that last year, in this Chamber, he complained of the Budget presented by his present Leader. He said -
It has been arranged in such a way as to make it very difficult to trace the actual position last year, as compared with this.
I say that that objection applies with greater force to the Budget - now under consideration. We have a table setting out- that in 1913-14 the revenue was £21,741,775, that in 1922-23 it was £64,720,635, and the estimated revenue for 1923-24 is put down at £61,943,250. The excess of revenue in 1922-23, over the estimate, was £5,152,385. Thi3 was very largely due, as I have already said, to the Customs revenue exceeding the estimate by £5,241,770. The annual revenue during the period from 1913-14 to 1922-23 increased by £42,978,860. That is a very large increase. The expenditure, including war expenditure, during 1913-14, was £23,160,733; in 1922-23, £63,700,485; and the expenditure estimated for the current year, 1923-24, is £61,896,098. If we consider the expenditure, not including war expenditure, the figures are as follow: - 1913-14, £23,160,733; 1922-23, £33,600,013; and for the current year there is an estimated expenditure of £34,245,416. The Treasurer, on page 6 of his Budget, takes credit for the reduction of expenditure to £61,986,098. The figures relating to expenditure not included in war expenditure, which I have quoted, are not- set out, and I have had to work them out from the Estimates. If we consider the estimated expenditure, not including war expenditure, for 1923-24, £34,245,416, we shall find that the Treasurer’s figures show, not a reduction of expenditure, but an estimated increase of expenditure to the extent of £645,403 for the current financial year.
– The biggest increase is to cover the increase in the amount of old-age pensions.
– That may be so; but I am pointing out that it is not apparent from the Budget. I admit that the Government propose to increase the amount of the old-age and invalid pension, but that should have been set out in the Budget, so that those reading it might know what was intended. Last year a properly tabu lated statement was supplied in the Budget speech, as honorable members will see if they look at page 8 thereof. The expenditure out of revenue for 1922-23 exceeded the estimated expenditure by £1,426,792. The Treasurer says on page 3 of this Budget that that was due to a number of things, including losses on Fruit Pools, £312,000. So far as I can gather that amount has not been paid.
– Those are old losses, as I pointed out in my preliminary statement on the 5th July.
– I have information that this amount has not been paid.
– It has all gone out of - the Treasury.
– I have been informed that the amount has not been paid. The amount for Fruit Pool advances, £551,000, I am told, has been paid. The Treasurer says that the whole amount of £863,000 has been paid. I may be wrongly informed; but I should like the honorable gentleman to look into the matter. The Treasurer mentions another item to account for the excess expenditure for 1922-23 over the estimate - compensation to officers of the Defence and Income Tax Departments, £250,000 - a portion of the amount to be for this year. I ask why expenditure which is to be incurred in this financial year should be charged up against last year. If it were not charged against last year a greater surplus would be shown for that year. It would appear that this course has been followed in order that the Treasurer may be in a better position at the end of the current financial year than he would if these items were charged against expenditure for the year. It would be interesting to learn something about the £250,000 which is to cover compensation to ex-officers of the Defence and Taxation Departments. We passed legislation last year to secure compensation to retiring officers of the Defence Department. So far as I know the expenditure on the Income Tax Department will be continued as at present until some arrangement has been made between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments. Should any compensation be paid to officers of this Department, it ought to be a charge against the current year, and not against last year.
– Exactly similar provision was made in. last year’s Budget to cover compensation to officers of the Defence Department.
– I am complaining that that does not present the finances in a proper light.
– Many of the officers of the Income Tax Department are to be absorbed by other Departments, and compensation to them will not be necessary.
– We do not know what will happen. At the end of the financial year we will know what amount has been paid under this head, but we cannot know now. It is problematical. We have a right to know what revenue we receive during the financial year, and the actual expenditure incurred, so that we may strike a balance. The Treasurer does not, in this Budget, give us that information. He charges against the last financial year sums which will be paid in the current year, and that, apparently, is to place him in a better position at the close of the current year. The right course is to show the actual revenue and actual expenditure during each financial year. Provision is made in the Budget for the purchase of wire netting, and is included in last year’s expenditure. I have reason to believe that of the £250,000 provided for this purpose, £50,000 of which was for the Northern Territory, not one penny was expended last year. If that is so, why should it appear in the Estimates pf Expenditure for the last financial year if the object is not to reduce the amount shown as a surplus for that year? The vote of £500,000 for main road development remains to be expended this year, but it also is charged by the Treasurer to the expenditure of last year.
– The appropriation was made last year.
– That may be so, but we know that the expenditure of the grant will take place this year. Last year we voted for the same purpose a sum of £250,000, and in connexion with ihe subject of unemployment I directed the attention of the House some time ago to the fact that some of that amount remained unexpended. I was told that it would all be expended up to the end of June last, but if we look at the Estimates we will find that the whole of that vote has not yet been expended.
– Only £30,000 remained unexpended at the end of June.
– That is £30,000 out of a vote of £250,000 which should have been expended last year. That has to be added to the £500,000 recently voted for expenditure this year.
– We are starting earlier this year.
– Yes, but my complaint is that these amounts are charged by the Treasurer to last year’s expenditure, though we have not yet spent a farthing of the money. They should be charged to the expenditure for this year. The Treasurer has included the following in the expenditure for 1922-3 which should be included in the expenditure for the current financial year : - Fruit Pools, £312,000; wire netting, £250,000; main roads, £500,000; and portion of the amount of £250,000 compensation for retired public servants. These sums amount to over £1,000,000, and the whole of this expenditure, which will be paid during the current year, is charged by the Treasurer to last financial year. That is only trifling with the position. Parliament is entitled to know what expenditure is incurred and what revenue is received in each year. If a Treasurer takes advantage of a good financial year to debit to it expenditure that will be incurred in the succeeding year, he is guilty of manipulation to deceive the Parliament.
– The position was made quite plain in my speech and in the Budget-papers.
– My conclusion is based on a careful study of both the honorable gentleman’s speech and the Budgetpapers. Inclusive of the compensation to be paid to retiring officials, about £1,000,000 was wrongly debited to lastyear’s accounts. The proper course is to charge estimated expenditure to the year in which it will be incurred. The Treasurer should not, because there is a certain surplus in hand, make heavy charges against it in order to improve the Budget for the current year.
– If he does, a fair comparison between expenditure and income is impossible.
– Exactly, and Parliament does not know how to regulate its taxation.
– The honorable member contends that the surplus for last year should have been greater by more than £1,000,000.
– Yes, because last year’s accounts are debited with expenditure to be incurred in the current financial year. Had that expenditure been properly debited, the Treasurer would have been obliged to estimate a deficit instead of a surplus at the end of 1923-24.
– The Government have adopted that course in order to make it appear that they are reducing expenditure.
– I do not know why it has been done. War expenditure on account of pensions, repatriation, &c, in 1922-23 was £30,100,472, or £1,236,692 less than in the preceding year. The Treasurer has given no indication of what amount will be expended in the current financial year. This liability should be gradually diminishing. The Treasurer must offset against the extra £1,000,000 to be expended on account of old-age pensions the saving in respect of expenditure upon war pensions, repatriation, &c. The Estimates show an estimated expenditure of £27,650,682, or £2,449,790 less than in 1922-23, but that amount does not appear in the Budget speech. The expenditure out of loan money, in 1922-23 was £7,146,643, and in addition loans to the amount of £7,109,420 were redeemed. In the current financial year the estimated expenditure from loan, is £18,945,622, including £9,000,000 te- b» expended by the States upon, land settlement and immigration. In the expenditure of £7,146,643 last year is included £217,944, “Contributions to the States for road construction.” The Prime Minister stated in the House on the 22nd June that up to that date £214,044 of the £250,000 voted by this Parliament last year had been expended, and that by the end of the financial year the- full appropriation would be exhausted. As a matter of fact, over £30,000 of the amount was still unexpended on. the 30th June. That amount and the £500,000 to be expended this year by the States on road construction -should not . appear- iu> .last year’s balance-sheet, which is thus loaded to the amount of £750,000,, although only £217,000 was expended.
Upon immigration £5,000,000 is to be made available for advances to- the States, and £500,000 to provide passage money for assisted immigrants. Last year £199,483 was expended on assisted immigrants, in addition to £35,402 for salaries in London, and £33,158 for salaries in Australia. The number of assisted immigrants brought to the Commonwealth for that expenditure was 24,305. On the same basis of cost per head, the £500,000 appearing in the Estimates for the current financial year should be sufficient to pay the passage money of 60,000 assisted immigrants. That expenditure will be in addition to the £5,000,000 to be advanced to the States for immigration and land settlement. We have debated the immigration question very often,. Honorable members opposite approve of immigration, and urge that a vigorous policy be undertaken, but we have to ask ourselves whether, if immigrants are introduced in such large numbers as these proposals indicate, we shall be able to absorb them: To-day there are thousands of unemployed in every State, and their number is being increased daily. It is generally admitted that the conditions are becoming worse, and that there is little hope of improvement. In view of these circumstances, are we justified in expending such large, sums of money upon bringing others to Australia, unless we know that we can place them satisfactorily. Perhaps the proposals would be justified if there were a proper method by which these people could be absorbed without interfering with the employment of those already here. But an expenditure of over £5,000,000 upon immigration in the current financial year cannot be justified, when thousands of Australian citizens are unemployed and walking the streets, especially when there is no fixed policy for the settlement of new arrivalsAssisted immigrants are usually nominated by friends already in this country; they expect to follow the usual city avocations, and help to swell the ranks of the unemployed. The £5,000,000 will be expended under an agreement made between the British Government, the Commonwealth Government, and the State Governments, each accepting a third of the liability. After five years the State Governments will be required to pay the interest on the capital expended. The immigrants who come to Australia under that scheme will be in addition to the assisted immigrants. It is doubtful whether the larger scheme will succeed unless* it is operated on a better basis than any past scheme of the kind has been. Whilst, people in this country are advocating immigration, and the Imperial
Government is desirous of getting rid of its surplus workers, no adequate provision is being made for giving the new arrivals a chance of making good. The statement has been made from time to time that Western Australia has a better immigration system than has any other State ; yet we read in the newspapers last week that a number of immigrants stowed away on a ship leaving Western Australia because they had found the conditions in that State unsatisfactory.
– The immigrants may have been unsatisfactory.
– I admit that; but there is something wrong somewhere. Either the Western. Australian scheme was unsatisfactory, or the immigrants were not suitable for land settlement.
– I think the latter was the case.
– If that is so, there is a defect at the London end.
– I think there is.
– Then steps should be taken to rectifyit. The Commonwealth officer in charge of immigration in London is Mr. Percy Hunter, who is receiving a salary of £1,500 per annum, plus an allowance of £500. Yet he was electioneering in Australia last year, and taking sides in politics. He was active in connexion with the Federal elections, and also helped in State elections.
– He did not help me.
– Nor me; in fact; he did all he possibly could in opposition to me. That is well known to honorable members.
– The statement is not a fact merely because it is well known to honorable members. It is not a fact, in any case.
-Does the honourable member say that Mr. Percy Hunter did not participate in the Federal elections?
– He was very active at election time, and seemed to be playing a prominent part in the campaign; in fact, the press published certain stater ments from him which had a direct bearing on. the elections. Was that part of his job as Director of Immigration? The right honorable member for North Sydney will agree with me that we donot pay Commonwealth officers high salaries to become political partisans. Mr. Hunter’s place was in the Old Country, and his duty was to organize the Immigration Branch, which seems to be in a state of chaos. Many complaints have been made that unsuitable immigrants have been sent to the Commonwealth.
– Under whatever scheme we adopt there will be a. certain percentage of failures.
– I do not say that it is possible to have no misfits, but I complain that there are far too many. The present system of paying a bonus for every immigrant accepted is undesirable. It has frequently been stated that the cost of bringing immigrants to Australia, and settling them on the land, is £1,000 per head. That means that the £5,000,000 to be appropriated this year will provide for the introduction of 5,000 immigrants. That is a big amount to pay for 5,000 new arrivals, having regard to the accumulated debt of the Commonwealth and the States.
– Does not the honorable member mean 5,000 families?
– The statement has been made that itcosts £1,000 per head to bring immigrants to Australia and place them upon the land. It must be admitted that that is, a very heavy expenditure on each settler. How much would it cost to have 20,000 or 30,000 people settled on the land ? That is distinct from assisted immigration.
– Even at the figure mentioned by the honorable member it will be cheap.
– I do not know that it will.
– It will be cheaper than war.
– If it would prevent war, I would be with the right honorable member every time, but I do not know that it will. I do not intend to argue that their settlement will not do a lot of good. The only question to be considered is whether it will be too costly.
– The estimate of £1,000 , per immigrant does not refer to passagemoney only, it includes all the expenses of settlement on the land.
– That is what. I have said.
– This money is. spenton public works and in employing the men. A man is given a definite guarantee that he will be given twelve mouths’ employment on public works to enable him to settle on the land.
– The agreement provides for the people, to go on the land - and receive certain training. That is to cost £1,000 for each individual. It is very expensive, and it is doubtful whether it will prove successful. It is necessary to have proper selection in England. People should not be brought to Australia who are not adapted to land settlement.
– When that money has been spent, Australia will have, in addition to the immigrant, the asset of the public works which he has created.
– What public works is the immigrant going to create?
– Roads and irrigation works.
– No; that will be additional, and will be carried out by the States.
– Employment will be given to the local people.
– I am quite prepared to admit that by putting in hand public works employment will be given; but that cost is not included in this figure. The honorable member shakes his head. If he looks at the agreement, he will find that I am stating a fact. The public works referred to by the right honorable member for North Sydney are not included in the immigration vote. Then there is the question of soldier land settle- ‘ ment. The Government expect to receive this year from the States interest amounting to £1,300,000. The Treasurer is providing £4,000,000 for land settlement, and £3,000,000 for the construction of War Service homes. I take it that that £4,000,000 will be advanced to the States to enable them to make provision for land settlement.
– That is for soldier land settlement.
– Of course. Some of it may bo expended in settling British soldiers who -come to Australia. I understand that the construction of War Service homes in South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia has been placed in the hands of the State authorities. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has stated that the adoption of the contract system instead of the day-labour system has made it impossible for any home to cost more than the amount sanctioned by law. I hope that the Government will see that homes constructed in the future do not cost more than the amount sanctioned by law. Most of the homes built under the old regime were built by contract, and cost more than the contract price. Defects were discovered in the buildings after the men had entered into possession, and alterations were found to be necessary. The question now is whether the soldier should bear the additional cost. I have been informed that the homes that are being built in Victoria at the present time are unsatisfactory. An honorable member has had a look at some of them, and he tells me that care will have to be exercised if we are not to have a repetition of that which occurred in connexion with the construction of war service homes in the past. The total expenditure on war service homes last year was £2,252,536. This year it is intended to spend a. larger sum. I believe greater latitude should be given to those who desire to build. If a man has a block of land which, from his point of view, is well situated, he ought to be permitted to build on it. I do not think he should be compelled to go to some other place because there happens to be a group there. The group system has not given satisfactory results.
– The men should be permitted to buy a house which is already built.
– Those who have made the best deals are those who have been permitted to make their own choice from houses already built; because they obtained them more cheaply. I know quite a number of men who bought homes for £300 or £400, while their mates had to pay £800 or more. The homes they purchased have proved quite satisfactory. We must remember that in the big majority of cases it is necessary to give a mortgage, as the men have not the ready .money. The principal and interest have to be paid out of their earnings, and if they are faced with the task, of paying back £800, they find it very difficult to meet their obligations when they are depending upon a daily or a weekly wage. If a man can obtain a house for half that sum, and it suits him, why should he not be allowed to do so? All we want to do is to give a man a chance to get a home. If the Government were protected in regard to the value of the property, nothing more should be required.
– That was the policy of the Department for a time, but they shut down on it.
– I know they did. There are cases of men who have £200 or £300, and desire to purchase a house costing £700 or £800. They want to borrow from the War Service Homes Commission at 5 per cent., instead of paying other persons 7 per cent, or 8 per cent.
– They can get it for 5 J per cent, from the State Savings Bank.
– Not in New South Wales. Why should they not be allowed to save 2 per cent.? The Commonwealth obtains the money at that rate of interest, and would not be losing anything by letting the men have it at the same rate. There are many things in connexion with war service homes which require closer consideration than they have had. I know that the Minister and the Government are endeavouring to do everything possible to meet the position. We must be very careful to see that we do not err as we did before. Every provision should be made to enable the returned men to take full advantage of the Commonwealth’s offer to lend money to them.
What is the present position with regard to the finances? The revenue for 1922-23 was £64,720,635, and the expenditure, £63,700,485; the surplus at the end of the year being £1,020,150. I have already said that it ought to have been over £1,000,000 greater than that, because certain commitments which should have been included in this year’s expenditure were charged against last year’s. The accumulated surplus at 30th June, 1922, was £6,408,424, and the total surplus now is £7,428,574. The estimated surplus at the end of 1923-24 is £47,152, making an estimated surplus on 30th June next of £7,475,726. If the expenditure to which I have already referred had been charged to this year, instead of there being an estimated surplus of £47,152, a deficit would have had to be forecasted, amounting to over £1,000,000. The Government’s action was dictated by a desire to make the financial position easier during the incoming year. That should not be permitted. To my mind it is a very serious thing. Each year should stand on its own. Last year, when referring to the Budget introduced by the present Prime Minister, Dr. Page said -
In this Budget a clever device has been employed to disguise the fact that -it will provide for a deficiency of £2,700,000 on the actual statement of the year’s finances.
The honorable gentleman is using the same clever device for the purpose cf making the position easier during the incoming year. I urge him to look up the speech which he made last year.
The Treasurer proposes to reserve £2,500,000 of the surplus for defence, and £2,475,276 to meet contingencies which may arise in relation to income taxation. I should like to know what is meant by holding this reserve of £2,500,000 out of the surplus for Defence. Surely it is not in view of something happening abroad that may require such an expenditure. Quite a different view in regard to surpluses is held by the Prime Minister, who last year, when presenting the Budget, said -
It is now necessary to direct the attention of the Committee to the question how this surplus should be dealt with.
It can be left intact as a safeguard against a future falling off in revenue; it can be employed for the reduction of debt, or it can be used for remission of taxation.
To leave it as a provision against a future falling off of revenue is, in my opinion, economically wrong. A fundamental principle of national finance is that the State shall only take out and keep out of the hands of the taxpayer the amount necessary for the meeting of the current disbursements of stable government. The retaining of a large unemployed surplus is unjustifiable, and must tend to economic waste. The Government are, therefore, faced with the problem that they are not justified in retaining the surplus estimated to be in hand at the end of tlie current financial year, and must recommend to the Committee what they conceive to be the best method of dealing with the accumulated funds in hand. Two alternatives have to be considered. They are, either to employ tlie amount for the cancellation of debt or for the purpose of reducing taxation.
To employ it for the purpose of reducing the national debt would not, I believe, be employing it to the greatest advantage. Provision is being made for the redemption of the national debt on a definite basis, and very little additional benefit would be gained by the employment of the accumulated surplus for this purpose.
The Government believe that such, part as can be employed prudently should be used for the purpose of reducing taxation.
T think all students of economics are agreed that nothing curtails development, hampers trade and industry, and reduces the standard of living of the people more than crippling taxation. In comparison with other countries of the world, our taxation is not excessive, but, having regard to our particular cirsum-stances, it is having a disastrous effect. We are a young country with illimitable natural resources, but no great accumulated wealth. A hurden which could lightly be borne by an old country with its great capital resources is one which might strangle the future development of a young nation.
Here we have the present Prime Minister saying definitely what, in his opinion, should be done with regard to a surplus, and we find the Treasurer acting in quite a reverse Way. No explanation is offered, though of course we may get one later. I cannot quite see what is meant by the statement of the Treasurer that £2,475,276 of the surplus would be held to meet contingencies which may arise in relation to taxation. It may be that the money will be required to pay off men in consequence of retrenchment of officers of the Taxation Department. Altogether, the statement of .the Treasurer is not clear in regard to the expenditure and revenue of last year, and the estimated expenditure .and revenue for this year. The whole statement appears to be so framed as to make the position more advantageous for the Treasurer in the .coming year. There should have been no surplus anticipated this year, but rather a large deficit, and a much larger surplus should have been ‘declared last year.
Now I wish to deal with the national debt. The gross debt on 30th June, 1923, was £410,996,316, and the net national debt £335,371,461. The remainder includes money advanced to the States for soldier settlement, Sta., and it will be agreed that quite a large amount of that will never be recovered. Not only in Australia, but in every country, national debts are growing apace, .and it is doubtful whether ‘the world can stand the strain. Every country has a heavy burden in its interest bill. Much ‘of the borrowing was unavoidable owing to the war, but now we ought to be most careful in adding to the national debt, and I do not know that we are as prudent as we might be. Quite large loans are being raised at the present time, and, though a sinking fund is provided, we must not lose sight of the fact that the debt is being added to all the time. All future loans will add to the difficulties of the position, and it is hard to realize just where all this will lead if the greatest care is not taken. It may be that there will be imposed a burden that we are .unable to carry. Everybody desires the reduction of taxation, which would ‘be a good thing if it were possible, but we are always face to face with .a heavy national debt, which is increasing each year, judging by the expressed intentions for the future. I have here a table showing the debts of certain countries engaged in the war: -
These figures are staggering. Every country in the world to-day is practically overwhelmed with debt, and unless all precautions are taken there seems to be no escape from further trouble. None of us believe in repudiation, and I hope no one will ever suggest such a thing. At the same time, we are confronted with the position shown in the table I have quoted, and, if we do not put our house in order, no one can say what may happen. Probably in ten or twenty years from now, in view of the additions that are being made, Australia’s interest bill will be double or over what it is to-day. This requires the gravest consideration by public men.
– The actual debt is not £934,000,000.
– I suppose the honorable member is allowing for our activities?
– There are reductions to be made.
– Yes, as shown in my return. The total redemptions and conversions during the year amount to £46,583,727. For the present conversion loan we are paying practically 5½ per cent interest, or an increase of ½ per cent, on the previous rate. It is admitted that, with the flotation at 98, the interest amounts to £5 9s. 3d., which is near enough to justify us in calling it 5½ per cent. This is a distinct increase on what we were paying in war time. If we could borrow money during the war period at 5 per cent., it does not seem a good bargain to pay £5 9s. 3d. at the present time. There was a general feeling, in which I shared, that after the war period the rate of interest would be lower ; yet we are compelled to pay more. This means that, as our existing debts mature, we shall, on conversion, have to pay interest at a higher rate. Leaving out of consideration any fresh debts, our liability will be increased as our present debts fall due, as quite a number do within the next few years.
– And a very large number of State loans also mature.
– That makes the position worse. At the present time, the States as well as the Commonwealth are on the money market, and no one can estimate the ultimate cost to the country. The Treasurer recently placed a long dated loan on the market at £99, but he did not succeed in obtaining more than £17,000,000. People were not prepared to lend. To make up the remainder of the loan then asked for, we are floating another loan at £98 per cent., which means, as I have said, £5 9s. 3d. per cent. It may be news to honorable members that our last loan, of £17,000,000, cost much more to float than loans floated during the war. It cost £183,635, which is a tremendous sum. I do not think that that loan was advertised as much as the loans during the war. I do not blame the Treasurer or the officials for that. In war time, the newspaper proprietors gave prominence to the loans because they thought that by so doing they were helping the country to continue fighting.
– They were well paid for what they did.
– I think a good deal was done that was not paid for. The £26,000,000 loan floated at par in 1920 cost £109,318. There is a big difference between the cost of the two loans. It is serious, because we do not know where it will end.
– It is really the discount that makes the difference.
– The fact remains, however. How much would such increases amount to in, say, five or six loans? If this continues, it will add considerably to our debt.
– We had better start talking compulsion. We got the money when we did that.
– The loan of £10,000,000 floated in 1921 at £96 per cent, cost us £52,860. It is staggering, therefore, to contemplate the large increase in the cost of the last loan.
– Were those loans floated through the Commonwealth Bank?
– Yes. The increase in the cost of floating loans will amount to a colossal sum in a few years. We do not know what the loan now being floated will cost.
– The Government were illadvised to give the first conversion loan such a long term.
– I believe that was a mistake. It is all very well for the Government to say, “We have a loan maturing ; we must renew it or raise fresh money to pay off the holders.” This Parliament must consider the conditions. If the present conditions continue, the scheme recently agreed to in this House, by which a sinking fund is to be established for the redemption of public debts, will not do what is expected of it. That scheme was prepared to meet existing conditions, but those conditions appear to be departing. It is becoming more difficult, instead of easier, for us to get money.
I shall refer now to the tax-free loans. The Treasurer, at the recent Conference of Ministers, made a proposition on this matter, but we do not know whether any settlement has been reached. It seems remarkable, after the promise made at that Conference, that tax-free loans are being floated to-day in New South Wales.
– A loan is being floated in South Australia on similar terms.
– I understand that the Conference agreed that it was desirable to discontinue the exemption from taxation of loan money, because the States and the Commonwealth were losing about £2,000,000 a year over the practice. Yet the Commonwealth Government themselves are placing a loan on the market, the subscriptions to which will be free from State income tax. When shall we begin to makesuch money taxable?
– The States agreed to start on the 1st January next. We could not get them to agree to an earlier date.
– Loans should be subject to taxation.
– Of course they should. The competition between the Federal and State Governments is responsible for the present position. There should be only one borrowing authority in the Commonwealth, and it should be the Commonwealth Government. That body should borrow sufficient for the requirements of both Commonwealth and State Governments. That is the only way in which we can eliminate the present competition.
The figures respecting the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are noteworthy. In 1913-14 the revenue was £4,511,307; in 1922-23 it was £9,792,273, an increase of £5,280,966. That is a very large increase for a decade. The estimated revenue for 1923-24 is £9,697,966. The estimated expenditure for 1922-23 was £7,642,704 ; the estimate for 1923-24 is £7,997,131, an increase of £354,427. We propose to expend £3,941,766 of loan money in this Department.I am glad that the Government intend to improve postal facilities. There is great room for improvement, especially in the country districts. We can afford to make these services more effective. I believe that if the service is run on sound business lines it will pay for itself. The Minister proposes to reducethe rate of postage on ordinary letters from 2d. per½ oz. to l½d. per oz. That reduction will benefit the commercial community to a much greater extent than it will benefit the ordinary individual.
– Business men will get more out of it than all the others put together.
– That is so. The ordinary man writes only a letter or two a week. We propose to relieve him of½d. in the cost of postage. The business man, however, will gain the advantage of½d. and also an advantage in weight. He can make his letters up to an ounce. He will thus secure an advantage of 2½d. for each letter. The letters of an ordinary man are rarely over half an ounce in weight.
– Unless he is writing to his sweetheart!
– Of course, I make that exception. The honorable member is quite right. Both he andI passed through that stage years ago, though I suppose we still have our recollections of it. No reduction is contemplated in the cost of telegrams. We increased the rates in his Department to assist revenue during war time. It is proposed that the charges shall remain as at present. I am glad that the Government intend to attempt to improve postal facilities in both city and country. The reductions it contemplates making in the charges will not apply equally to all sections of the community.
The expenditure in the Treasurer’s Department this year is estimated to be £336,840 less than in 1922-23. The Treasurer allows a saving of £259,632 owing to the expected removal of duplication in levying and collecting State and Commonwealth income taxes. That is a doubtful proposition. We cannot say what will happen on the matter. The saving may or may not be made. So far as I can see, the Commonwealth Government will still require a Taxation Department, though, of course, that will depend entirely on the terms of the agreement which is made. I cannot see how we shall avoid having to keep a, staff. There is evidence of considerable dissatisfaction in New South Wales with the proposed method of taxing companies. To-day I read a statement by the Treasurer of New South Wales (Mr. Cocks) in which he said that the proposal made by the Commonwealth would mean a 50 per cent, increase in the taxation levied on companies.
– That is absurd.
– I read the reply of the honorable the Treasurer, and noticed his remark that Mr. Cock’s statement was absurd. The Treasurer of New South Wales based his opinion on a calculation he made on figures supplied by a company with which he is identified. He proved his contention.
– As a general rule that will not be true.
– The statement indicates that the present proposal is unsatisfactory. We do not know what the result of the negotiations will be. Honorable members know that the taxation returns should have been made by the general community at the end of July. The forms have not yet been issued. If the practice of previous years has to be followed this year, the saving estimated by the Treasurer will not be made. When the Treasurer was in opposition to the Government, he said there were too many officers in the various Departments. He wanted the numbers reduced, and the hours of work increased. So far as I know, the men employed have sufficient work to keep them busy, and are interested in their work. I am informed that the hours of public servants have been altered since the Treasurer took control of the Treasury. I am sorry if that is true. I know of no justification for such a course. In spite of that, there is talk about dismissing men.
I come now to the old-age and invalid pensions proposals. The Government intend to increase the pension to 17s. 6d. a week.
– Can they spare it?
– The honorable member, may well ask, “ Can they spare it.”
– The Minister for Trade and Customs used to advocate £1 per week for pensioners.
– We have done things; but you have only talked about doing them.
– The Government also intends to permit pensioners to earn up to 25s. a fortnight. We are told that £2,500,000 of the accumulated surplus is to be placed in a reserve fund for defence. We do not know for what purpose that money may be used. I suggest that it would be far better to use £1,000,000 of that money to increase the old-age and invalid pensions to 20s. a week. One of the first things Ave should do is to provide a reasonable pension for the aged and invalid people of this country.
– The Government has made a beggarly compromise.
– In the last few days, I have received a number of letters about the proposed half-crown increase. I would not like to read to honorable members some of the statements made in those letters. All the writers ask that the pension shall be raised to at least 20s. Many anomalies exist under the present Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, and some of these are dealtwith by the amending Bill which has been introduced. I believe that the Treasurer should go further than the Government have proposed. If the honorable gentleman’sargument in the Budget, that the old-age pensions should be increased to 17s. 6d. to cover the increase in the cost of living, is sound; it should apply to every other provision of the Act, and the pensioner should be allowed to hold property to a greater value than at present, and to increase the amount which the Act permits him to earn. The Treasurer proposes to allow an increase in the earnings of pensioners, but he makes a distinction between single and married men, which I do not think should be made. They should be continued in the relative position they occupy under the existing Act. The increase of 2s. 6d. in the old-age pension will involve a further payment of £1,136,000 per annum; if the amount of pension were increased by another 2s. 6d., the extra amount involved would be £958,444; and the total extra amount then payable would be £2,094,444. That is the amount of expenditure which Would be involved if we increased the pension to £1. In my opinion, that might very well be provided for out of the surplus of £7,000,000, and it should have been one of the first considerations of the Government in dealing with the surplus. I expect the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) to give us his assistance in this matter, because he has consistently advocated the claims of old-age pensioners. With regard to national insurance and the maternity allowance, the Government propose to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the question of national insurance; and to ask the Commission to inquire also into the operation of the maternity allowance, with a view to incorporating in the national insurance scheme a system for rendering more effective pre-natal and other assistance to mothers. The Treasurer said that the Government will also ask the Commission to consider the possibility of associating the existing machinery of friendly societies with any administration created in order to curtail administrative costs. I want to say that I do not think there is any necessity for such a Commission. I believe that too many Commissions, and too many Boards, are appointed by this House. The appointment of the proposed Commission would only hang up the matter. It isnot likely that Parliament would receive a report from the Commission for the next two or three years.
– Yes; we shall.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to remember how long we had to wait for a report from the Taxation Commission, though, when it was appointed, it was understood that it would report within a reasonable time. With regard to some of these questions we have already passed legislation. I remind the Treasurer that a conference of ladies held recently in Melbourne - and they should know more of the subject than men - was favorable to the maintenance of the maternity allowance.
– The conference represented all shades of political opinion.
– That is so. The women of this country believe that the maternity allowance should not be interfered with. National insurance is a part of the Labour party’s platform. We are pledged to a system of national insurance against sickness and unemployment. If a satisfactory scheme is submitted by the Government, it will receive ready support from this side. The appointment of a Commission of inquiry will not give us a satisfactory scheme.
– Why not? There will be representatives of the honorable member’s party on the Commission.
– If the intention were to appoint a Commission of people from outside this House, possibly of insurance agents, who might be supposed to have special knowledge of the matter, I fear that they would unconsciously be biased against the Government taking up the business of insurance, and we could not expect to get the best results from their inquiry. If, however, the intention is to appoint a Committee of members of this House, and to give the Committee the assistance of an actuary, that will be quite another matter.
– What sort of Commission would the honorable member suggest ?
– I am personally against the appointment of a Commission. I have come to the conclusion that the material at our disposal is sufficient for our purpose. The Government might, during the recess, employ some trusted officials to go into the whole question and frame a Bill which could be presented in this House next session.
– It is a very big job.
– That is so, but there is a long time in which to do it. This Parliament will be in recess for eight or nine months. The party on this side has made insurance against unemployment and sickness a part of its platform. Probably the Government, knowing how popular it would be, took this idea from our platform. That certainly has been the experience of the past.
– We took it from our own.
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman and his party took it first from the platform of the Labour party. Whether this idea has been cribbed from our platform or not, it is well known that from time to time legislation which has been popularized by the advocacy of the Labour party has been adopted and given effect to by Governments representing other parties. Where legislation on proper lineshas been submitted to give effect to our views, we have always supported it, because we stand by our principles, irrespective of the political party proposing their enactment. I hope that what the Government propose to do in this connexion will be done quickly, and that they will be able to evolve a scheme which willmeet the case of the thousands of unemployed we have to-day, who have to be supplied with shelter and have to depend on public charity, where they have homes, to keep them going until they secure employment.
Referring to repatriation, the Treasurer said -
It is anticipated that, including payments from the Trust Fund, the sum of £1,188,000 will be required for general repatriation purposes during the financial year - a reduction of £371,231 compared with the expenditure of the previous year.
I find that there are some 7,141 trainees still being dealt with, and I should like to know whether these are men who have recently been placed in training or have been receiving training for some years. It must be evident that if these men have been trainees for some years and are not now efficient, it is unlikely that they will ever be efficient, and it is a question whether the expense of training should be continued on their account. We have, of course, to provide for these men. We pay pensions to returned men who are incapacitated, and these men are getting pensions, but the additional expense incurred in giving them training may not be justified if it is shown that they have no chance of making good. If the men who are still in training have only recently been given training, I have nothing to say against continuing to assist them in this way.
– That is so.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s assurance at once. I have not one word to say against giving these boys a chance in life. I was anxious only to know whether it was necessary to continue this form of expenditure. The reduction in the amount to be provided from revenue for repatriation purposes is put down at £371,231, as compared with the expenditure for last year. That, again, will place the present Government in a better position than the Government was in last year. The expenditure on this account should be a continually decreasing amount. It is right that it should be less this year than last year. In connexion with our expenditure on war services, the Commonwealth should gradually be getting into a better position because of its reduction, and, consequently, the Treasurer should be able to reduce taxation in some directions without in any way impairing the soundness of our financial position. In connexion with vocational training, it is very pleasing to note that up to 30th June last, no less than 21,518 men had completed their training, and found employment. That is very satisfactory indeed, and I hope that it will be possible within a reasonable time to find employment for those who are still undergoing this training.
The total defence expenditure - excluding war expenditure - for 1922-23 was £4,336,845, and the expenditure estimated for this year is £4,890,585, less amounts estimated to remain unexpended at the close of the year - ordinary votes and appropriations - £300,000, and new works and buildings, &c, payable from revenue, £100,000. I do. not quite see why these amounts are included in the Estimates if it is not expected that they will he expended. There may be some good reason for it, but that reason has not been given. We are increasing the defence estimates this year by £553,740, the difference between the expenditure of last year and the estimated expenditure for the current year. In addition, there will be the £2,500,000 reserve from the surplus for defence to which I have already referred. So that the total estimated expenditure on defence for this year amounts to a very large sum of money. I do not know whether the time has not arrived when we should take the whole question of defence into consideration. It has been debated here during the last three or four days. I have stated that, in my opinion, the military forces no longer represent our first arm for defence purposes. Yet the Government continue to regard them in that light. I think this may be due to some extent to the fact that when a certain system has been adopted, and men have been placed in responsible positions to give it effect, they give advice upon which the Minister concerned acts. It is well known that many men who returned from the last war, who were well qualified to accept responsible positions, refused to accept positionsoffered to them because, under the system of the Defence Department, they would be subordinate to individuals who had never left Australia at all.
– Some men who obtained commissioned rank on active service are to-day non-commissioned officers.
– The reason for that is difficult to understand. But we seem to have got into a certain groove, and those at the head of the Defence Department appear to wish us to continue in it. Is it not natural to expect that, through the Minister, high officers will endeavour to influence this House to a course of action which is to their own advantage? The war disclosed that the training which we had been giving to our Military Forces for twenty or thirty years was not at all suitable for present day warfare. The principal requirement of infantry nowadays is ability to use the rifle, the pick, and the shovel. The whole defence system should be inquired into, so that if it should continue to be necessary to provide for the defence of the Commonwealth the utmost value may be obtained for the money expended. Such expenditure must not be continued in a haphazard manner. The time has arrived for an inquiry as to what expenditure should be incurred in connexion with air services, which I believe are now our first line of defence.
– Has not the Defence Council been inquiring for some time?
– I do not know what has been done by the Defence Council, but the results are not satisfactory. I do not agree with the views of the Inspector-General, LieutenantGeneral Chauvel, in regard to military expenditure.
– Sir BrudenellWhite and Sir John Monash also are members of the Council.
– The big military men in every country are directing the Parliaments regarding the system of defence to be adopted; but we cannot continue in the present easy-going fashion, blindly voting £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 every year for defence. We must first discover what are the fundamental principles of defence in the light of modern developments, so that we may build up a systemwhich will give us the maximum result. I do not know whether we shall get the best results from spending £2,000,000 on the military arm, another £1,000,000 on the Air Services, and still another £1,000,000 on the Navy. Despite the lessons taught by the war, we are still following the old system of defence upon the advice of the same officers. An introduction of new blood is required. To-day we are expending more on defence than we did prior to the war, notwithstanding that last year Parliament reduced the defence estimates considerably. It is useless to vote money for defence if we do not know what return we are to get for it. The Commonwealth requires £1 worth of value for every £1 expended, and it cannot get that unless the defence scheme is put on a proper footing.
– It is very hard to ignore the advice of men like Sir Brudenell White and Sir John Monash.
– I am not a military expert, and I know it is difficult to act other than upon the advice of responsible officers ; but I remind the Committee that it was upon the advice of these experts that Australia floundered along for so many years, only to find, when war broke out, that it had not been expending money to the best advantage. Notwithstanding the fact that last year we discussed the necessity for combining the Duntroon Military College with the Naval College at Jervis Bay, because of the extravagant cost of training cadets, the two establishments are to be continued. Why ? Because the head of each is anxious to keep his own college independent. That spirit permeates the whole Service. We cannot continue placidly assuring ourselves that because so-and-so recommends a certain policy it must be right. We must have the fullest inquiry. We must get expert knowledge. We cannot afford to be content with the advice of two or three men who have been at the head of the Defence Department for years. We shall not be justified in increasing the defence expenditure by over £500,000 until we have evolved an up-to-date system. We do not know by whom the money is to be expended or to what purpose it is to be applied.
– If I am any judge, £1,000,000 will be put into the Singapore Naval Base.
– It may be that the £2,500,000 that is being carried to reserve is to be applied to the Singapore
Naval Base. I do not wish to impute motives, but when the Committee is asked to apply £2,500,000 of the accumulated surplus to a reserve fund, we are entitled to know what is intended, and whether . the money is to be applied to the Singapore” Base or any other project of the kind.
I have already dealt briefly with the income taxation. From the war-time profits tax the Treasurer estimates to receive £250,000 this year. Whether or not that, money will be received it is impossible to say, but ample time has been given to those taxpayers who are indebted to the Commonwealth in respect of this tax to discharge their liability. Although that impost no longer operates, anticipated receipts from it still appear in the Estimates, lt is time that all these dues were paid.
Last/ week this House agreed to a Bill for the construction of a railway in the Northern Territory, and I believe that some of the money which is to be voted for immigration purposes could be expended there to greater advantage than in some of the States. This Parliamentwas wise in deciding to give representation to that portion of the Commonwealth, for the honorable member for the Territory (Mr. Nelson) has already done much to enlighten the House regarding the possibilities of his constituency. He has told us that there is much good country that can be settled, and I believe that we could with advantage apply portion of the immigration vote to the establishment of people there. Money could be made available to maintain the new settlers until they become well established. But the greatest aid to the development of the Territory would be the encouragement of mining. In the past, insufficient attention has been paid to that industry. No industry will populate a country so rapidly as will mining. We have been told many times that there are in the Territory good mineral shows that could be profitably worked if machinery, water supplies, and transport were cheaper. Parliament would be acting wisely if it placed upon the Estimates a sum of money for the encouragement of mining. When gold was discovered in Western Australia, we were told that the country was not fit for a white man, but people from all the otherStates of Australia flocked there. It. was not long before the populations of
Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie numbered many thousands. In later years as the mines began to “ peter out,” some of the mining population returned to the States from which they had come, but others who had been fortunate enough to accumulate some money, settled upon the land in Western Australia, and that gave the first big impetus to the wheat-growing industry in that State. If payable mines can be developed in the Northern Territory there will be a large influx of population in a very short time, and land settlement will follow. I urge the Government to give consideration to a policy for the encouragement of mining in the Territory.
The Government propose to appoint a Board of Directors to control the Commonwealth Bank. The late Sir Denison Miller managed that institution very successfully without the assistance of a Board, but if a Board is to be appointed I hope it will consist of men already in the service of the Bank. I believe that some of the higher officials obtained sufficient training under the late Governor to enable them to acquit themselves creditably if they should be appointed to the directorate of the Bank. If it does, the men who are appointed should have- no connexion, either directly or indirectly, with any other institution. To insure the success of the Bank, the Board will have to be clear of all outside influence. The Bank has a big future, but it should be extended more rapidly. Persons in my electorate have been endeavouring for years to get branches established in certain districts. It will be to the interest of the Bank to make those extensions. By doing so, it will become a much greater institution than it is at the present time. Regarding the note issue, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) admits that the profits for 1913-14 were paid into revenue. He claims that the money was formerly used for public works, and that now it is used for public works and the general purposes to which the Consolidated Revenue Fund is applied. A Labour Government passed the Note Issue Act, and made it clear that the profits derived from the note issue should be ear-marked for the purpose of reducing the national debt, not to meet expenditure on public works.
It is pleasing to note that the market for our primary products has remained buoyant during the last few years. I hope that that state of affairs will continue. There is, however, evidence ofa declining market. That will make a vast difference to the financial position of this country. It was the trade which Australia carried on abroad in connexion with primary products that enabled it to weather the storm during the recent disturbed “period. There are indications that wheat is going to be much cheaper. I shall be sorry if our farmers have to suffer. If they do, their sufferings will be reflected in the conditions of the country. We shall have to look for markets other than that provided by Great Britain. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), no doubt, will use his .best efforts in England to secure preferential trade arrangements, but it must be patent to everybody that the exportable surplus of the Commonwealth should have an outlet elsewhere, than in Great Britain. We are endeavouring to settle persons on the land, and it will be necessary to secure other markets for that which they produce, as the local demand will not be sufficient to absorb the additional production. The public men in England are situated differently from the public men in Australia. In England there are 1,500,000 persons unemployed, and the number is being augmented every week. The great cry there is to get cheaper goods. The people do not possess a very large purchasing power. How can we expect to obtain preference for our goods if the purchasing power of the people in England is not sufficient to enable them to buy those goods? England can obtain meat from the Argentine much more cheaply than we can send it from Australia. This House must, therefore, insist on every endeavour being made to open up fresh markets in the East and elsewhere. It is necessary for us to adopt a broad outlook and provide for the future requirements of the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– When we have congratulated the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) on introducing his Budget so early, we have offered him every congratulation possible in the circumstances. I am not exaggerating when I say that the arrangement of the Budget calls for little commendation. I admit .that it is the Treasurer’s first Budget, and that a Budget is not easily compiled, in view of the mass of figures and facts to be dealt with. The arrangement of which I complain makes this Budget infinitely more difficult to understand than any previously delivered, at all events, within my political experience. On attempting to wade through this Budget, the fact that strikes us is that the expenditure is first presented, though we might reasonably expect the revenue to be given priority, so that we could know exactly where we stand. Such would be the method to be looked for on the part of a Government that calls itself a business Government. The impression I got was that the Budget is like a clergyman’s collar - back to front. I have taken the trouble to read through the speech made by the Treasurer when, as Leader of the Country party, he criticised the Budget speech delivered by his predecessor, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) last- year. The Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Charlton) has quoted some of that speech of the Treasurer, and I propose to quote more of it. I- know it is not pleasant to the Treasurer to be reminded of utterances made under circumstances entirely different from the present. Then the honorable gentleman was on the eve of an election, and, as the Leader of the Country party, prepared to smite hip and thigh the Treasurer of the day, to whom he was bitterly opposed, not only in regard to the arrangement of the Budget, but in regard to everything political on the face pf the earth. In the Budget before us, the Treasurer has done the very thing he condemned in his predecessor. He then said -
Throughout comparison -is made between last year’s expenditure and the estimated expenditure for this year, so .that it is difficult to ascertain exactly the difference between the estimated expenditure this year and .the estimated expenditure last year.
He went on to point out what the results would be, but this part of the speech I need not quote. What the Treasurer does on the present occasion is to compare the estimated expenditure of 1923- 24, the current year, with the actual expenditure of 1922-23, and by that means to show a decrease of £1,804,000. Had he done what he said his predecessor should have done, he would have compared the estimated expenditure for the current year with the estimated expenditure of last year, in which case the difference would have been, not £1,804,000, but only £469,595. No doubt the present Prime Minister will remember how, as Treasurer, he was placed on the “grid-iron” and denounced by his present colleague, the Treasurer of to-day; nevertheless, the present Treasurer, like his predecessor, is able, by adopting the same means, to show a big difference between the expenditures of the two years.
– Although the Treasurer has been changed, the Secretary to the Treasurer remains.
– Yes, the same staff is there, and also the same arrangements, although the Treasurer told his supporters in the country districts that if his party were returned to power, there would be a complete reformation in the administration. If the items referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) were charged to this year’s expenditure instead of last year’s, the £469,595 would dwindle by the deduction of£250,000 for the purchase of wire netting, £312,000 to meet the losses of the Fruit Pool, and other items.
– The £312,000 has been spent.
– Has the £551,000 mentioned as advances to Fruit Pools been spent?
– It has been passed.
– The Treasurer says that the £551,000 has been passed, but I want to know if it has been spent. My own impression was that the £551,000 advanced to the Fruit Pool was not spent last year. I can see that the Treasurer is not quite sure on the point, but I am taking the lowest figures, which the Leader of the Opposition says he has checked. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition included in his figures the £500,000 on account of roads, but according to my calculations £1,262,000 is charged to last year’s expenditure which should not have been so charged. Therefore, taking the estimates of expenditure for both years, what the Treasurer shows as an estimated lessened expenditure of £469,000 for this year, should really be a deficit of £800,000. The Treasurer does not deny this. An examination of the speech delivered by him last year when he was criticising the proposals of his predecessor shows that he had adopted the very methods he then denounced. He cannot say that I have acted unfairly in making my deductions, because I have adopted the procedure which he said should have been adopted last year. The Treasurer may have good reasons for doing as he has done. If so, he will probably explain them later. I assure him that the House and the country will await with interest any explanation he can make.
– Are you suggesting that the losses on the Fruit Pool were not incurred, or that advances were not made, last year ?
– I am not saying that they were not incurred last year. At present I am not concerned about when they were incurred, but about when they were paid. The items which I say have been wrongly dealt with by the Treasurer total £1,262,000. I am curious to know the purpose of the Treasurer in acting as he has done, because he vigorously condemned these practices. He was especially critical of his predecessor for carrying forward a large surplus. I remember that he propounded “fourteen points “ in his speech.. He had a great deal to say about the crushing burden of taxation which the people were carrying. He considered that the surplus should have been used to remit taxation. He has not given effect to the principles he expounded last year, but is following the methods of his predecessor. He accused his predecessor of having acted as he did because he was on the eve of an election. Perhaps the Treasurer is hoarding up surpluses so that when the eve of another election comes, he may be able to do as his predecessor did. Last year the Treasurer said -
The remissions of taxation which the Treasurer has made seem to be only electioneering baits, but they have been well distributed. Some of them I welcome, not because they are electioneering baits, but because they are only a tardy meed of justice to the public.
On looking for reasons why the Treasurer has acted as he has on this occasion, I am forced to wonder whether he has in mind the practices which he so recently condemned.
– He has followed his predecessor closely so far. Are we not to think he will follow him all the way ?
– One is naturally led to that conclusion. He hai followed his predecessor in the arrangement of the Budget, and also in the method of presenting it to this Committee. Probably he will follow him still further. I hope for his own sake that it may not be so. I again remind the Treasurer of the remarks he. made last year about the crushing burden of taxation which the people carried while the Government had a huge surplus at its disposal.
– I think the Treasurer will move that Ronsard be burned so that it may not be used against him.
– A suggestion of that kind has been made. I remind the Treasurer, also, that last year he and his followers agreed with the Labour party’s move to raise the income taxation exemption to £300 for married men. They also supported our endeavour to make the exemption for each child £60. For times like these, those were not unreasonable propositions. On that occasion the Treasurer said -
I should have preferred to see the injustices and anomalies of the present taxation remedied before remissions were made in the income and other taxes. Most important of all, I should have liked to see greater concessions given in respect to children than we have been able to extort from the Government.
When I recollect such remarks as these, it strikes me as queer that the Treasurer does not give effect to his own wishes now that he has the power to do so. He may have reasons for not doing it. It is very early in the political life of the Treasurer for him to have to eat his own words. It is a pity, for the sake of the Treasurer, that his speeches cannot be destroyed, to prevent them from rising up as ghosts in his path. His actions in respect to’ this Budget have been a great disappointment to honorable members on this side of the Committee, and also to the people generally, for his actions here are not in accord with his speeches in Parliament, or on political platforms outside. He told us last year that what the Treasurer of the day claimed to be a surplus was only a fictitious surplus. He proceeded to show us by what process of reasoning he reached that conclusion. A similar analysis of the statement he presented to us last week proves that he also, has only a fictitious surplus’. The Leader of the Opposition showed that moneys had been taken from the profits of the note issue, to make the position appear to be as the Treasurer presented it. That is an entirely wrong course. Instead of a surplus, we really have a deficit of some thousands. Australia has not had a real surplus since the last Labour Government was in office. I say that emphatically. In 1914-15 we had the highest expenditure on record up to that time- £15,000,000 - and the Labour Government of the day was roundly condemned for its alleged extravagance. If we exclude all war expenditure from this year’s figures, we find that the ordinary expenditure will amount to about £33,000,000. I am quite prepared to admit that circumstances have changed. Nevertheless, the expenditure now is 125 per cent, more than it was in 1914-15. When the Fisher1 Government was in power in 1908-9, we had an actual surplus of £450,000.
– There were no war pensions to be paid then.
– I have admitted that circumstances have changed; but the honorable member should admit that many sources of revenue are now open to the Government which were not open to Labour Governments. In 1909-3910, when an anti-Labour Government was in power, it converted our surplus of £450,000 into a deficit of £650,000. Then we had three years of a Labour Government, and in its first year there was a surplus of £1,800,000, in the second year the surplus was £2,261,000, and in the third year it was £2,650,000. Then in 1914, before the war, the then anti-Labour Government reduced Labour’s surplus again by £1,400,000, thus showing a deficit for the year of that amount.
– In fifteen months.
– Yes. I pass over the war period, because it is not fair to institute comparisons with that period. I find that in 1921-22 the deficit of the anti-Labour Government was £209,000. Last year there was an actual deficit, excluding, amongst other things, the profits on the note issue - which should not have been taken into revenue - of over £4,000,000. The Treasurer may have some explanation and defence for including in revenue profits from the note issue, but they should not be regarded as revenue. Profits from the note issue were never applied by the Labour Government responsible for it to any purpose other than the liquidation of the national debt. I think it was the year before last that, for the first time, profits from the note issue were used to bolster up the revenue for the year.
– That was done by Sir Joseph Cook.
– I think he was the first to do that. The only actual surpluses we have had in -this country have been under Labour Governments, and the so-called surpluses of anti-Labour Governments have been fictitious. It can be said, and it is just as well to say it here, that, while showing surpluses, Labour Governments did not sit down on their job. They carried out the work for which the people sent them here, and it stands to-day as a monument to the capacity of Labour to manage the affairs of this country. They were responsible for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank and the note issue.
– And proper defence arrangements?
– Without going into the question whether the arrangements made were proper in the opinion of the honorable member, he will admit that Labour Governments did provide for the adequate defence of this country. We built our own Fleet in Australia. In passing)- it is interesting to recall the condemnation poured out from every party opposed to Labour on the Commonwealth Bank and the note issue. Every one is familiar with the references which were frequently made to “ Fisher’s flimsies.” It is interesting, if not amusing, to consider, in this connexion, how the people who condemned the note issue take the profits from it and call it revenue. We passed an Act the other day called the National Debt Sinking Fund Act, to redeem £250,000,000 of war debt floated in Australia. The Government propose to redeem that debt by putting half the profits of the Commonwealth Bank into a’ fund amounting altogether to an annual sum of £1,250,000 for the purpose of liquidating the debt in fifty years. They made this proposal without acknowledging that the source from which the money is to come is an institution established by a Labour Government in this country. It is interesting to consider the possibilities of the note issue and the Commonwealth Bank. I do not think that I shall be charged with exaggeration when I say that the accumulated profits of the Commonwealth Bank amount to £5,000,000. I am entitled to say that, in view of the savings which the Commonwealth has made in the flotation of loans through that Bank, the accumulated profits from its establishment amount to more than £10,000,000. The Bank as the agent through which our loans were floated made a charge of about 8s. 6d. per cent., whereas previously private banks had charged for the flotation of loans about £2 8s. per cent. In the flotation of loans the Commonwealth Bank has saved this country about £6,000,000. If we add that amount to the accumulated profits of the Bank we can say that its profits to date have amounted to between £10,000,000 and £11,000,000. The profits on the note issue have amounted to about £10,000,000. The profit of the Commonwealth Bank last year was roughly £197,000. Half the profit amounted to £9S,653. If we add that amount to the estimated net profit on the note issue for the current year - £1,180,000 - we have a total of £1,278,653. I find that the annual payment necessary to redeem, in fifty years, the £250,000,000 of war debt floated in Australia would amount to £1,250,000. As half the profit of the Commonwealth Bank, and the annual profit from the note issue amount to £1,278,000, that is £28,653 more than .is necessary to liquidate the whole of the war debt raised in Australia within the period fixed by the National Debt Sinking Fund Act. This shows what these institutions mean to the people of this country, yet when they were established they were condemned throughout the length and breadth of Australia by the party opposite.
Returning to the Budget, I tell the Treasurer, as the Leader of the Opposition has told him, that he is taking a wrong course in regarding profits from the note issue as revenue, though I admit that that was done by his predecessor.
If the honorable gentleman has it in mind to grant any relief to the people of this country, now is the time to do it. He Should not wait until the next election. We know that if surpluses are heaped up there may be an opportunity later. to offer baits of the kind which he condemned his predecessor for offering. I remind the honorable gentleman that the people are calling out for relief now, and this is the time to give it to them, and not two years later. I come to another phase of the Budget which I regard as very important, particularly from the point of view of the Treasurer and the party he lately led in this country. We know that the Treasurer and his supporters condemned the previous Government for spending so much money in city areas, whilst the country districts were starved. We had a constant repetition of the platitudes that the man on the land was the backbone of the country, and that if country interests suffered it would be bad for every one. In view of their condemnation of the previous Government, we might have expected that these critics would translate their criticism into action when their colleagues secured influence in the Government of the country.
– Did the honorable member really expect that?
– No ; I did not.
– Then the honorable member is not disappointed.
– I am extremely disappointed that the criticisms of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and his colleagues have not been translated into action. If the honorable member will look at the new works proposed, and, I presume, he has already done so, he will, as a country member, be keenly disappointed at the neglect of the country districts, and the building up of city interests, which he condemned so eloquently in the past Government. Turning to the Postmaster-General’s Department, I find that in New South Wales, for new works to be constructed from loan, the total expenditure proposed for city areas amounts to no less than £244,429, whilst the amount provided for country areas is only £58,462. I am informed that the position is worse in South Australia^ and Queensland representatives tell me that the same thing applies to that State. These figures show an alarming disparity between the expenditure proposed in city as compared with that for country areas. I have never sought” to pit the country against the city, because I have always recognised that the two are interdependent. If the country prospers, the city prospers. There must be equitable distribution of public expenditure, but the balance has always been against the country. I have heard that complaint made by members of the Country party for years past. To-day, that party is in office in association with the Nationalists. Three country members hold the three important portfolios of Treasurer, Minister for Works and Railways, and PostmasterGeneral. The Country party’s influence in the Cabinet is overwhelming. Contrary to the statement in to-night’s press, that one man in the Cabinet “ rules the roost,” country members tell their constituents that they “ rule the roost,” and they boast that their representatives hold the three most important portfolios. That being so, country people will be keenly disappointed, not only at getting no relief from taxation, but also at finding that the great bulk of the money to be appropriated for new works will be spent in the cities.
– The honorable member’s colleagues should be proud of that, because most of them are city representatives.
– The number of members on this side representing country constituencies is as great as is the number of country representatives on the Ministerial side.
– Two members on this side represent more square miles than are represented by the whole of the members opposite.
– Quite so; the interjection of the honorable member for Echuca (.Mr. Hill) was unfortunate, for the comparison he instituted certainly favours this side of the Committee. Moreover, we represent the country effectively, .and we can claim that when Labour was in office the distribution of public expenditure did not show such a disparity between city and country as is revealed by the Estimates now before the Committee. When we again occupy the Treasury bench - as we shall do very soon if the honorable member for Echuca and his colleagues continue their present tactics - we shall interpret the wishes and needs of the people in the country better than the present Government are doing. I am certain that, if a Labour Government were in power and submitted to the House Estimates such as these, the honorable member for Echuca would, parade them before the people in the country in illustration of Labour’s neglect of the man upon the land.
The Government propose to spend upon immigration during the financial year £5,500,000. Representatives of country constituencies will not deny that there are hundreds of thousands of sons of farmers who are willing to go on the land but are unable to get land. The present Government claim to be sympathetic with the aspirations , of the people in the country, but it is remarkable that so much money can be found to settle immigrants from overseas when the sons of farmers are unable to get the land they want, and which they would be able to use effectively. In the cities, workless and houseless people are sleeping in the parks, although they are able and willing to work. Deputations of unemployed wait upon Ministers almost every day, but the Government practically turn a deaf ear to their needs, while, at the same time, proposing to spend millions of pounds in bringing additional people from overseas. It is little wonder that we read pitiful tales of stowaways who are anxious to leave Australia and return to the country from which they came. The worst advertisement that the Commonwealth can have is the dissatisfied immigrant who returns to the country of his birth and says that it is impossible to do any good in Australia.. The Labour party is not opposed to immigration. Australia is capable of maintaining many more millions of people, but the proper way to populate the country is to first provide for the people who are already here, and to see that those who want land are able to get it. This country might derive a very profitable lesson from the experience of Canada. For some years, Canada has been stimulating a flow of immigrants to its shores, but to-day there is a steady efflux of people from Canada into the United States of
America. For many years, the United States practically closed its doors to immigration, and it was impossible for new arrivals to gain admission except upon very stringent conditions. The result is that to-day America is so prosperous that the people are flocking into the country from Canada. The Manchester Guardian, which will be accepted as a reliable authority, says -
A Western member of Parliament, who arrived recently in Ottawa, tells of being on a train carrying thirty families from Alberta, bound for Oregon and California. Another related how a party sitting in a prairie farmhouse had reckoned up forty families who bad left the neighbourhood within the year. It is also reported that hundreds of families have moved south from Victoria, B.C. On the Atlantic coast there is a steady, stream of artisans from industrial centres like Amherst and Halifax to the New England States. In Ottawa, bricklayers, plasterers, and painters have become almost extinct by emigration. It is said that in some trade unions, one-third of their membership has gone to the United States. One estimate says that the movement is now proceeding at the rate of 10,000 a month, and reached a total of more than 100.000 in the past year.
The article goes on to quote a statement by Mi-. Ashdown, a former President of the Canadian Colonization Association. This man, who is on the spot, and should know what he is talking about, said, “ We do not want to be running after new settlers until we have satisfied the dissatisfies men who at present abound in this country.” That lesson might be taken to heart by Australia. Until we have satisfied the dissatisfied -men in this country we should not launch any great scheme for bringing new settlers to these shores unless we first make such provision as will give them a reasonable chance of going upon the land or insure their absorption in other employments.. It may be said that criticism of this kind means opposition to immigration of any kind. I repeat that we, on this side, are not opposed to immigration, but these who are interested in the effective peopling of this country cannot shut their eyes to the fact that immigration will be a failure if people are brought here in thousands, only to be disappointed.
– No matter what opportunities are given to some people they will not be successful.
– That is so, but it cannot be said that the sons of Australian farmers would not be successful if they were given the opportunity to select land for themselves. I know of one block of land in New South Wales, for which, a few days ago, there were 260 applicants. That occurrence is typical of what happens elsewhere.
– Does the honorable member know that the sous of farmers in Victoria have gone in scores into my electorate and done well upon the land?
– I am very glad of that tribute to the beneficial results of Labour rule in Queensland. It is a fact that people are constantly leaving Victoria for a State in which a Labour Government is in power.
– That happened before the Labour Government came into power .
– The honorable member may explain away the fact as best he can, but I am glad to have his indorsement of my own knowledge, that there is a considerable migration of people from New South Wales and Victoria to a State controlled by a Labour Government. Later I shall quote facts and figures which explain the reason for this migration.
Iturn now to the old-age pensions. The Government have an accumulated surplus of £7,000,000, and to the aged people who pioneered this country and are responsible for what it is to-day, and whose lives honorable members opposite promised to brighten, the Treasurer proposes to give an extra 2s. 6d. per week. The old people have a right to expect a little more, judging by the speeches which have been made from time to time by honorable members opposite. I wonder whether this extra 2s. 6d. has the indorsement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) ?
– The difference between honorable members on this side and honorable members of the Opposition is that we dothings.
– On 17th August, 1922, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) submitted the following motion in this House -
That in the opinion of this House old-age and invalid pensions should be increased to One pound per week.
The pension is not £1 per week, therefore my honorable friend is not doing that which he advocated. Speaking to the motion (Hansard, page 1489), he said -
To-day £1 a week is not more than was 10s. a week fourteen years ago. The Commonwealth is rich enough to be able to afford to look after its poor people and invalids a little better than it does to-day. We are not keeping them half alive upon the present basis of payment. What is the use of our affirming that the principle is right if we are going only half way to honour it?
The only interpretation that canbe placed on that statement is that the payment at that time should have been 30s. instead of 15s.
– Does the honorable member believe that it should be 30s. per week?
– I am quoting what the Minister said. I presume that he believed it when he said it. I ask the Minister, did he believe it ?
– Yes, I did. The honorable member is not game to say what he thinks.
– The Minister cannot say that he is doing that which he believes to be right. If he can see his way to persuade the Government to make the payment £1 per week he will secure the hearty support of honorable members on this side, and his action will be in keeping with the admirable speech he made in 1922.
I congratulate the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) on his sudden conversion to Socialism. He proposes to have a system of national insurance. He must have been reading the Labour platform. For a Government that denounces Socialism, and says that it is going to make trade flow through its normal channels, this Government is doing remarkably well. I am very pleased that it is going to introduce a scheme of national insurance. It is not proposed to get rid of the Commonwealth Bank, the Note Issue, or the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers; on the contrary, those socialistic experiments are to be added to. The only concerns of which the Government have disposed are the Geelong Woollen Mills, which were making a profit for the people of this country, and the Saddle and Harness Factory. One naturally asks himself, “Why is it that the woollen mills have thus been singled out?” It was said that the Government were considering the interests of the merchants of Flinders-lane when they disposed of the woollen mills. One is led to believe that there must be some truthin that contention when it is found that that is the only activity from which the Government propose to retire. Although most of the criticism in regard to the sale of the mills has been levelled against the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), the Treasurer and other members of the Government will not be able to escape the bad odour. It must not be thought that this matter is dead and finished with. The tenders were closed, and they were re-opened. Senator Guthrie, in another place, said that he was allowed to learn the details of the first tenders. The Government appointed the Munitions Board to value the mills. The Board placed upon them a value £112,000 in excess of the sum which the Government received for them.
– The conditions were very different; they were more risky.
– The conditions were different; that is the most serious point. Has the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) forgotten that, after tenders were closed, the rate of interest charged to the purchasers was fixed at £ per cent, less than the rate stated when the tenders were first called; that, instead of being charged 6 per cent., they were charged 5-J per cent. ;_and that the time for payment was extended from five to ten years? Will the honorable member say that that was a proper thing to do? Nobody can countenance such action.
– Was not that a matter on Which negotiation took place after the tenders were opened?
– That was done after the tenders had been closed, .and one tender had been accepted. The lucky tenderers received these extra concessions at a time when nobody else was able to benefit by them. A deposit of only one-tenth of the purchase price was required to be put up, instead of onethird, as was stated when the tenders were first called. This is one of the most serious transactions I have known to be conducted in Australia, and I shall be surprised if there is an honorable member opposite who is prepared to countenance it. One cannot be said to beexaggerating the position if he states that there is something in the assertion that the Government got rid of these mills in the interests of the merchants of Flinderslane. No other construction can be placed on the transaction. When one sees the Government maintaining existing socialistic enterprises, and proposing to launch out in others, one is reminded of speeches that are often made in this House against the only Labour Government in Australia. The one thing above all others for which honorable members opposite condemn the Labour Government in Queensland is its State enterprises. We ‘are told that the Labour Government of Queensland is going to rack and ruin, and, incidentally, ruining the people of that State. The latest official report of the Commonwealth Statistician discloses1 some very interesting statistics, which belie that statement. According to the report, the table of deposits in the Savings Banks for 1922 shows the average amount per depositor as follows: - New South Wales, £52 ls. 2d.; Victoria, £46 4s. 5d.; South Australia, £40 16s. lOd. ; Western Australia, £34 9s. 4d.; Tasmania, £35 2s. 7d.; and Queensland, £57 8s. lOd.
– South Australia should be the highest on the list. The honorable member has turned the table of figures upside down.
– The honorable, member does not say that the Commonwealth Statistician is unreliable?
– No; but the honorable member is incorrectly quoting the figures. I shall show him the correct figures tomorrow.
– I invite the honorable member to do so. I suppose the honorable member has been roused to anger by the fact that South Australia is next to the lowest on the list. If any one is to blame it must be the bad Government of South Australia. The same report of statistics shows that the cost of living is much lower in Queensland than in any other State, and wages are higher. The Brisbane correspondent of the Age, after the last Queensland elections, gave his reason why the Labour party, after a long term of office, had again been returned to power, with the renewed confidence of the people. This is the tribute he paid to Labour legislation : -
It was due to the deliberate satisfaction of the majority of Queenslanders, and particularly small farmers, shopkeepers, artisans, clerks, and seasonal workers, with the broad results of Labour rule.
He includes farmers, clerks, and artisans. That is the best tribute that can be paid to the all-round character of Labour’s policy when put into practical effect. We stand, not only for the worker of the city, hut also for the people of the country. No one will deny that at the recent elections the Queensland Government obtained the majority of the votes of the farming community. I believe I am correct in saying that that majority was greater than that which was obtained in the industrial areas. This is not confined to Queensland. Only a few days ago we read the result of an election in the United States of America, where a Labour farmer candidate was returned to the Senate by a majority of 40,000 votes. That proves that the movement in politics to-day is for the farming community to link up with the Labour policy. That was the first election of any importance since the return of President Harding. It goes to show that wherever the Labour policy has been in actual operation for any length of time, the man on the land is able to realize its great advantages. Reverting to the subject of Savings Banks deposits, the Finance Bulletin No. 13 of the Federal Statistician has just been handed to me. I refer the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) to page 68, which confirms the figures which I quoted.
We could not expect the Government to present a satisfactory ‘Budget, because they are unable to come to any understanding as to policy. On the hustings they abused one another. The present Treasurer did not have a good word to say about his predecessor. When criticising the previous Budget, he accused the then Treasurer of window dressing, and of electioneering. The Country party at the recent elections fought the’ then Government, and smote them hip and thigh. Having expressed on the hustings an entirely different opinion on many great questions of the day, they returned to this Parliament, and the two opposing factions formed one composite body. It is no wonder that they are unable to agree on a definite line of policy. What should we have expected if Moses and Satan had been set the task of drawing up the Ten Commandments? The same position arises here. We have two contending parties who are unable to bring down a satisfactory Budget. Nothing else could have been expected. I congratulate the Treasurer upon the early appearance of the Budget ; but, unfortunately, nothing more can be said by way of commendation. People outside of this House will be extremely disappointed, since there is no relief from the heavy burden of taxation. The people in the country districts expected a great deal from a Government which contained so many members professing to represent country interests, and they will be greatly alarmed when they find that the majority of the new works will be carried out in the city instead of in the country. I trust I am not misrepresenting the Treasurer in what I have said of his Budget methods; but, in any case, he will have an opportunity to reply. He has, as I see it, adopted the very course he condemned in his predecessor, and he must expect that candid criticism he merits.
..- When speaking twelve months ago on a previous Budget, I likened the then Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) and Prime Minister (Mr. W.’ M. Hughes) to two Scriptural characters. I said that the use of an accumulated surplus of £2,500,000, right on the eve of an election, to placate practically every section of the community, could not have had its origin in the then Treasurer - that, although it was the voice of Jacob, the hand was the hand of Esau. By that. I mean that such political trickery could hardly come from the then Treasurer, but must have come from the gentleman who is now the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). After reading the present Budget, and comparing its trickery with that of the previous Budget, I would, if I may go to the Scriptures again, say, that the mantle of Elijah has fallen upon Elisha. There is no need for any explanation; it is self-evident that the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page)- has adopted largely the ideas of his predecessor, and budgets along almost similar lines. The feature that first, struck me is a statement in regard to the note issue. Owing to the cunning way in which that statement is made, I hardly know whether I have to give credit for it to the Treasurer or to the Treasury officers. It reads thus -
A profit was earned on the note issue in 1913-14, but it was not carried into the revenue account.
That is correct -
The profit on the note issue, however, really was used to meet the expenditure of the Commonwealth.
That insinuates or suggests that the profit on the note issue in’ the past has been used in the Consolidated Revenue. Why mention it in that way unless there is that inference ? But, originally, it was not so used.
– It was explained clearly that the money was used for new works, and the way it was used was set out.
– That is just what is not explained. Of course, all moneys the Commonwealth obtains, whether out of Consolidated Revenue or fromloan fund, are used in some form or other for the expenditure of the Commonwealth. The speech goes on -
Under an elaborate system of bookkeeping, the money was transferred from the Notes Fund to the Loan Fund, and, to legally complete the transfer, the Treasurer sold Treasury-bills to himself. The Treasury-bills were regarded as assets of the Notes Fund. When the note issue was transferred to the control of the Commonwealth Bank, the Treasury-bills, amounting to more than £7,000,000, were cancelled, and thus the abolition of a peculiar system of bookkeepinghas come to be understood by some asa redemption of public debt to the extent of £7,000,000.
I ask the Treasurer whether the profits from the note issue were previously used for the redemption of the public debt. If he says they were not, I shall simply refer to his own Budget, which distinctly states -
The Commonwealth loan redeemed out of accumulated interest, less expenses, earned by the Australian Notes Fund, £7,780,524.
That is what the Treasurer, or his Department, says, not what “ some “ people say. I wonder at the rather specious language used -
The present method of carrying the earnings of the note issue direct into the revenue account is shorter and simpler.
I like that. Would it not be more honest to say that the method of carrying the earnings of the . Note Issue into revenue account helps to create a surplus ? - ‘
The only difference between the effect of the new method and that of the old one is that the earnings formerly were used for public works, whereas they now are used for public works and other general purposes of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
What impression would that convey to an ordinary man? It would convey the im pression that the money was used previously, and is used at the present time, for the self -same purpose. That is not correct, although it seems to be the impression intended to be conveyed. The fact is that the profits were before used for the reduction of the nationaldebt, while to-day they can be used for public works, or for the purpose of creating a surplus. Unlike some speakers on this side, I contend that if the Treasurer had not taken this profit from the Note Issue, he would have had a deficit for the present year. His surplus for the present year is £1,020,150, and the profits from the Note Issue are £1,072,893. Thus it is very clear that the Treasurer has adopted the practice introduced two years ago by Sir Joseph Cook, and followed last year by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), of paying the profits of the Note Issue into Consolidated Revenue. If he had not done so, he would on this occasion, have shown a small deficit instead , of a surplus. I know we have passed a Bill that makes possible the course to which I allude, but I think it is unfortunate that that course has been adopted. I prefer the other method whereby £7,750,000 has been paid off the national debt. In the measure that was recently before the House for the funding of the national debt, and its gradual extinction in fifty years, there was a sum mentioned of something like £1,250,000 to be paid annually into a sinking fund. We were under the impression at the time that that was a decided advance, but, seeing that the profits of the Note Issue were previously used each year for the reduction of the national debt, and are now to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue, it seems to me that we have taken a retrograde step.
I am pleased to observe that there is to be an increase in the old-age and invalid pensions. I am prepared to give as much credit as is due to the Government for this reform. I think much more of the Government for increasing the pension by 2s. 6d. than I should had it not increased the pension at all; but, in view of the large accumulated surplus, it would not have been undue generosity had the pension been made £1 instead of 17s. 6d. per week. I also commend the Treasurer and the Government for the removal of the anomaly in connexion with the old folks who are housed iu our different State homes. . . With other honorable members, I have fought for this concession for a considerable time. Now the aged inmates of the homes, if they will not receive quite as much as if they were resident outside, will be placed in a more equitable position. The ruling will no longer hold that if a person goes into a home before applying for a pension it will be no use applying for one subsequently.. Such persons found themselves on quite a different footing from that of the ‘Other inmates who had applied for a pension before seeking shelter in the homes. For the future all inmates will receive an allowance of 6s. a fortnight, and that Is only as it should be.
I hope the Treasurer will move slowly in regard to the proposed new arrangement for the collection of the income tax. I can understand the desire of the Government to reduce expenditure in this connexion, but I remind them that the change they contemplate is great. I hope that before this matter is settled the Government will satisfy itself that the State officers are capable of handling this business as efficiently as the Commonwealth officers do it. We should move carefully, and make haste slowly, lest we have regrets later on. The proposals are not yet definite, so my word of warning is timely. I have spoken to some of the officers in the Federal Department. Honorable members may say that they are interested persons. I do not wish to reflect on the State officers, but I must say that we have very efficient Commonwealth officers in South Australia. Thorough inquiry should be made to ascertain whether the State officers will be able to handle this business in addition to’ their present work. I doubt whether people will find it as advantageous to have only one form on which to furnish their taxation returns as they expect it to be. Unless more uniformity is secured in the Federal and State taxation measures people will find the form to be quite as complicated as. it is. now. I do not say that the one form will, be as bulky as are the two forms, but certainly it will be more bulky than either the present Commonwealth or State form. I have no praise for the Government because it has reduced the postal rates. Naturally a proposal to reduce charges will find favour, but, in my opinion, the time has not arrived when reductions should be made in postal charges. We have an accumulated deficit of £5,934,353 on Post Office operations. That deficit has accumulated gradually. It would be time enough to reduce rates when this deficit had been wiped out. Parliament proposes to expend £9,000,000 of loan money to place the Post Office on a proper business footing. Some of that money has been spent, and the remainder of it is still to be spent. I understand that when all this money has been expended the Post Office will be on such a footing that it will be expected to continue a permanently payable concern. Those views have been expressed frequently by members on the other side, particularly by a few gentlemen who failed to secure their return at the last election. I believe that the surplus of £1,500,000 from last year’s operations should have been used to reduce the accumulated deficit of former years. Under present circumstances it is altogether wrong to reduce the postal charges. I object to the reduction also because it is largely a concession to one section of the community. Who has been crying out for this reduction ? Is it the farmer ? It is not. Is it the fruit-grower, or the artisan, or the manual worker ? It is not. The press, which has the loudest voice in this country, the big business men, the land agents, the commission agents, and the legal profession have been urging the reduction, and the benefits from it will largely go to the business section of the community. The reductions will operate to the detriment of the country districts. We may not feel the pinch while loan money is to be had to carry out new works. But after that money has been expended we shall find it very difficult to obtain increased postal facilities for the country. I advise representatives of country constituencies to get all they can while money is available. If the Post Office is not a paying concern when the loan money has been spent, honorable members will find it very difficult to increase the rates. It is always easier to lower the rates than it is to increase them. We have difficulties even to-day in securing proper postal facilities for the country. The figures quoted by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) showed plainly that more money was being spent in the metropolitan area in New South Wales than in the country districts. It seems to me that the preponderance of expenditure is always in the metropolitan area.
– That is not so. The Postmaster -General -will give you the full figures when he speaks.
– If the Treasurer takes that attitude, ‘ I shall quote the figures for South Australia.
– If you look at the figures which .deal with telephone and telegraph works, you will see that £2,900,000 is to be spent in the country.
– I have been unable to find figures which distinguish between country and city telephone expenditure, but so far as new works and buildings are concerned, I find that in South Australia £96,530 is to be spent in the metropolitan area from loan money, and only £10,027 is to be spent in the country.
– That ‘is what you get from representatives of the Country party.
– I must say that I expected something different from a Ministry nearly half the members of which represent the Country party. I claim, however, that only three members of the Ministry are really country men. I deny that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) was a member of the Country party. I also deny that Senator Wilson is a representative of the Country party. He was never in the Caucus of the party. He left the Farmers’ and Settlers’ party in South Australia as soon as he was elected to Parliament. The three representatives of the Country party in the Ministry are the Treasurer, the Postmaster-General, and the Minister for Works and Railways. Those three gentlemen surely should be specially concerned about the needs of the country.
– Does that £96,000 include the expenditure on the Adelaide General Post Office?
– Tes. The figures may be satisfactory to metropolitan members, but they are not satisfactory to me. I ask the Postmaster-General to give attention to this situation.
– The figures you quoted are for works and buildings only.
– That is so. I cannot find what amount is provided on the Estimates for telegraph and telephone construction. The Postmaster-General may urge’ that the cost of trunk lines should be charged against the country. I do not agree with that. I must be honest to the Postmaster-General, and admit that more trunk line telephones are being established in my district than in any other part of South Australia.
– You are grumbling about the city man getting so much, but what about yourself?
– I am troubled because the country is getting too little.
– Three or four telephone exchanges are being erected in Adelaide at present. An expenditure such as that will not occur again in twenty years.
– Probably the PostmasterGeneral is unfortunate in halving to spend large sums of money on the city, That does not alter the fact that he knows the needs of the country anc! should look after them. I ask him to imagine for a moment that he and I have changed places. I believe if he were here, and 1 were in his position, he would criticise me just as I am criticising him, because the disparity between the expenditure in city and country is so great.
– Does the honorable member suppose that because I am a representative of the Country party I shall penalize the cities ? I shall give the cities a fair deal.
– That is the proper course. My point is that, although there are three representatives of the Country party in the Ministry, less money is to be expended in South Australia for works and new buildings in country districts tb an was expended by the purely Nationalist Government.
– The country has more telephones to-day than ever in its history.
– I grant that. I wish to be fair to the Postmaster-General. He will remember that, in my last speech on this subject, I gave the Government credit for granting to users of country telephones more liberal terms than they had previously enjoyed. I have acknowledged to-night that I have been successful in obtaining a large number of trunk line telephones in my district. I remember that approval was given for the connexion for Notts Well with Blanchetown, and for Naidia, Bakara, and
Netherleigh to be connected with Swan Reach. Those places are right out in the Mallee, and places of that, description need telephonic connexion. I am not arguing that nothing has been done for the country. What I say is that £96,530 is to be spent in new works and buildings in the metropolitan area in South Australia as against £10,000 in the country. The Postmaster-General may consider that it is a fair thing to charge the full cost of trunk line telephones against the country districts. I resist that proposition. Trunk line telephones are as great a benefit to the business men and the community generally in the city as they are to the people in the country. I will grant that the Postmaster-General may count the cost to be fifty-fifty as between city and country: but I will not admit that the whole cost should go against the country. At least half the expenditure should be placed against the metropolitan area. They are used by city firms nearly as much as by country residents. I am prepared to admit that spur lines running into country districts are used, perhaps, to the extent of 90 per cent, in the interests of country residents. I have been led to refer to these matters because I am opposed to the proposed reduction in postage rates. I am afraid that when the loan money placed at the disposal of the Post and Telegraph Department has been expended this year and next year, the result of the reduction of the postage rate will be to prevent country districts securing consideration for their claims for telegraphicand telephonic connexion.
– The honorable member knows that the money will be paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and we cannot use it.
– I understand that that is the position; but I have also been given to understand that the intention in providing £9,000,000 for the Post and Telegraph Department was that it should be carried on as a business concern, and that future extensions should come out of the profits of the concern. I know that that statement was made by the last Treasurer (Mr. Bruce).
– There is no reason why future extensions should not be provided for out of loan money. We have made provision for a special sinking fund, in the case of diminishing assets, to redeem debts by the time the assets have gone.
– I have noted that.
– There is nothing to prevent a continuance of that system.
– That, to some extent, lifts a load from my mind. I wish to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral a telephone extension which it has occurred to me might not be provided for if the course which I have suggested were followed. There is a place called Mar am a, on the Peebinga line, a line which, by the way, was due to the agitation of South Australian politicians, who expected to make money out of its construction. On this line a train is run only once a week, which will show what a frost the thing has been . There is a train and a mail only once a week to Marama, where worthy settlers are battling against great disadvantages. An application was made to the Postmaster-General for a telephone line of about thirteen miles in length to Marama. An inspector was sent out and he turned down the proposal. I went to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Adelaide three months ago in connexion with the matter, and he said he would refuse to go into it again until next November. I am afraid that the reduction of the postage rates will, when the Department has expended its loan money, make it much harder than it has ever been before to secure the construction of suchlines as that applied for by Marama.
The next matter about which I wish to speak is that of debt reduction. Of all the signs that are ominous at the present time there is none more so than the everincreasing national debts of nearly all the countries of the world. We heard the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) trying to tie the Labour party up with the Communists. I suppose he thought there was something awful behind that, because I do not think that in saying what he did he desired to serve the Labour party. Other honorable members have referred to Bolshevists, Anarchists, and Nihilists; but if I am asked to say what I think is most likely to overturn the present social system, I say that it is the ever-increasing national debts. I remember that the increase of the debts is not, as some people would have us believe, a result of the war. We can go back; before 1914, and it will be found that, in nearly every country,, there was an everincreasing national debt. I say, as any man who considers these things must’ say, that unless we tackle this problem, we shall find that we are slowly but surely moving into a position destructive of the present social system. Its destruction will come when the interest bills that have to be paid on the national debts will represent such a drain on production that those engaged in production will be discouraged. When that position becomes acute, we shall be on the verge of chaos. I am aware that there are members of the Labour party who say that we have no need to worry about the national debt, but I cannot accept that view. Just as with the individual, if he is in debt, the proper thing for him to do is to economize, and by every means possible, get out of debt, so, in my opinion,, it is with the nation. I am glad that honorable members on the other side agree with me in that. Honorable members who hold, perhaps, extreme views, say, “Do not worry about the national debt. Let it accumulate. If we have a big national debt, there will be no war.” I wish I could believe that; but I do not believe that a big national debt will prevent war. There are others who say that the workers do not need to worry about the national debt because those who are more highly paid bear most of the taxes. Any man who argues in that way loses sight of the fact once very eloquently stated in this Chamber by the present! Speaker (the right honorable W. A. Watt), when he claimed that all taxation gradually filters down through the various strata qf society until it reaches the manual ‘labourer. I believe that to be true, and that, if we have a heavy national debt, most of the interest must indirectly be wrung from the manual worker. That is why I wish to see our national debt reduced. The Treasurer, in his Budget statement, says that the -reduction of the national debt for the past, year was £5,074,193. I am wondering where the £2,288,637 loan money used by the Post and Telegraph Department during the past year came from. Did it come from money borrowed in the previous year? I ask the question because the Treasurer has said that no loans were raised during the past year.
– That amount will come from balances of loan money.
– I wanted information on that point. Looking at the loan proposals for the present year, I find that, according to the Budget, we shall have to float new loans to the extent of £18,944,622, or, roughly, £19,000,000. That must mean, iu the coming year, a very considerable increase to our national debt. The Treasurer proposes to use the accumulated surplus to the extent of £2,500,000 for the redemption of war gratuity bonds, and to find £1,500,000 for sinking fund out of revenue, or £4,000,000 in all, for the reduction of the national debt, and the indications are that during the coming year that debt will be increased to the extent of at least £14,000,000. I hope that the Government will give this matter their very serious consideration.
– Of the amount to which the honorable member has referred, £9,000,000 represents loans to the States.
– That is so; and we hope that, ultimately, that money will come back to the Commonwealth. Still, it represents an increase of loan money; and, whether it is entered in the books of the States or the Commonwealth, the interest - must be borne by the same people. In view of the fact that there is likely to be an increase in the national debt of £14,000,000 during the coming year, I wonder more than ever why a reduction in postage charges should be proposed. I think that the Treasurer should have used mote of the accumulated surplus of nearly £7,500,000 than he proposes to use for the reduction of the national debt. His intention is to use £2,500,000 for the redemption of war gratuity bonds. That will be a reduction of the national debt, and I am glad to know it. He proposes to use £2,500,000 as a reserve for defence purposes, and another £2,500,000 for contingencies. It should be remembered that the accumulated surplus has been gathered over a period of years daring which our national debt has been increased by over £300,000,000. In the circumstances, I consider that it is altogether wrong on the part of the Treasurer and the Government not to use more of the accumulated surplus for the reduction of the national debt. The Treasurer’s speech showed that in the next three years loans to the amount of £119,073,228 will fall due, and require to be converted. The recent conversion loan was not as successful as it might have been. I think the Treasurer and his officials must have been unduly influenced by interested persons when they gave the first conversion’ loan a currency of twentyfive years, having regard to the fact that when the original loan was placed on the market there was a great deal of talk of compulsion, in consequence of which, no doubt, many people invested in it. Naturally, when these persons were asked to convert their holding into a loan with a twenty-five years currency they would not do it. The Treasury, in fixing the term of twenty-five years, must have been advised by the insurance companies or other interested bodies who desired to invest their funds in long-dated stock. If there should be a failure in connexion with the present loan - I hope there will not be - the blame will lie mainly at the door of the Government for having in the first place courted failure by ‘giving the first loan such a long currency. I am very pleased to note, however, that the Treasurer is wide-awake to the necessity of arriving at some understanding with the States with regard to the flotation of loans. It is rather significant that the South Australian Government, which for twelve months had not been taking any money into the Treasury on short terms at 5 per cent., should, just at the time when the Commonwealth was about to go upon the market, have started to advertise for money upon those terms. Having regard to the fact that £119,000,000 worth of Commonwealth debts alone will mature in the next few years, I was pleased , to hear -the Treasurer state that he had been consulting with the States and that from the 1st J January, 1924, a council representative of Commonwealth and States will control the flotation of loans. I am delighted to know also that from the same date neither the Commonwealth nor the States will issue tax-free stock. I agree with the Treasurer that considerable disabilities have arisen out of that system of finance. I did not expect such an arrangement from the present Government, and much less from a Government like that headed by Sir Henry Barwell in South Australia, because such action is not favoured by the wealthy. However, I gladly commend the Federal Treasurer for his decision to abolish tax-free stock, which has been proved in the past to entail many disadvantages.
– I would not have taken part in this debate, but for the remarks made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) in regard to an alleged disparity between the distribution of postal expenditure in the country and in the cities. I regard the Budget delivered by the Treasurer as very satisfactory, and I congratulate him upon its early presentation to the House. The estimated expenditure upon telephones and telegraphs during the current year is £3,850,000, of which 54 per cent, will be spent in the country, and 46 per cent, in the city. The disparity in that instance is greatly in favour of the country districts. ‘ Upon postal buildings £729,000 is estimated to be expended during the current year. Of the new buildings ninety-one will be in the city, and 183 in the country. It is perfectly true that the larger amount of cash will be spent upon the city buildings, and in Adelaide alone new buildings will absorb £87,000. It must be obvious, however, that in the big cities postal buildings must be larger and more expensive than those in the country. If, however, ninety-one buildings are to be erected in the cities, and more than twice that number in the country, the latter is getting its fair share. If the proposed expenditure upon public buildings is added to that contemplated upon telegraphs and telephones, the total will be found to be very largely to the advantage of the country. The ratio of the total country expenditure to that of the total city expenditure will not be as 54 to 46, but it will be only slightly reduced, because, whereas the expenditure upon telephones and telegraphs amounts to millions of pounds, the total disbursements upon buildings will be only £750,000. The honorable member for Angas complained that the benefit of the reduction of the postage rate to 1½d. will be reaped by the cities. It is quite true that a reduction in postage will benefit the city more” than the country, but we must in fairness realize that a reduction of the annual rental on telephone lines in country districts is foreshadowed. If a benefit is being given to the city, some benefit is being given to the country districts also. A rather gloomy picture was painted by the ‘honorable member for Angas because of the fact that so much of the proposed construction is to be from loan money. But we need not fear loan expenditure for developmental purposes upon works more or loss permanent when there is a sinking fund to extinguish the debt.
Another feature of the Budget which is of particular interest to people who live in the country is that £250,000 is to be set aside for the purchase of wire netting, which is to be sold on very easy terms. Some people may think that wire netting is too unimportant a subject to be dealt with by a National Parliament, but the damage done by rabbits and dogs .is a national calamity, and anything which can be done by this Parliament to assist people in the outback country to deal with such vermin will indeed be for the benefit of the country as a whole. Of the total, £50,000 is to be expended in the Northern Territory, and that should be of great assistance to the stocking of the holdings with sheep instead of cattle.
Another source of satisfaction to the people in country districts is the announcement of the intention to discontinue the duty upon sulphur. That article is a necessary for many industries, and members of the Country party have long held that the placing of a duty upon a basic constituent of superphosphate is an unfair imposition upon tlie primary in’dustries. The abolition of this duty will mean a direct reduction of Ss. per ton in the’ price of superphosphate of 38 per cent, quality, and a reduction of 6s. per ton on phosphate of 22 per cent. A definite undertaking has been given by the big manufacturers of superphosphates that their prices will be reduced by those amounts. The sulphuric acid industry in Australia will not suffer, because a bonus is to’ be paid to compensate for the removal of tho duty upon sulphur. The difference between a bonus and a duty lies in the fact that, whilst the industry concerned is equally safeguarded, the burden of its protection is borne by everybody instead of by only a few who are unable to pass on the increased cost. The primary producer has to sell his products in the open markets of the world, and take for them what he can get.
One feature of the Budget is the estimated enormous decrease in the expenditure in the Treasury. ThiB has been rendered possible by the avoidance of a certain amount of duplication in the collection of taxation. The Leader of the Opposition expressed doubt whether it would be possible to effect the saving that has been estimated ; but if reasonable uniformity on the part of the different States is arranged, it should be a comparatively simple matter to collect both Federal and State taxation by the one authority without substantially increasing the present expenditure. It is just as easy to send out a hill for ls. as it is to send out one for 6d. A largo bill does not entail more handling or more postage than a small one, and it means very little more work. The work of tax collection can be more easily done by one Department than by two.
One proposal which is gratifying to every honorable member, whether he represents a country constituency or a city electorate, is the proposal to increase oldage pensions from 30s. to 35s. per fortnight. It has been said by some honorable members opposite that the increase should have been greater than is forecasted. I remind honorable members that, fit the time when a Labour Government increased the pension from 20s. to. 25s., the cost of living was estimated to be 28s. 3d. On the present occasion the estimated cost of living is 34s. 3d. So that, while the previous increase did not raise the pension to an amount equal to the cost of living, on the present occasion it will be raised to. a point slightly above the estimated cost of living figure. It is a matter for congratulation that tha Government has seen fit to increase the pension after having been only six months in office. Another point worthy of notice is that practically all the anomalies are to be removed; it is not to be merely a matter of increasing the pension rate. In future it will be possible for a pensioner to earn 25s. fortnightly, instead of £1, without being penalized. In the case pf a married couple it. will mean a possible total income of £6 per fortnight, instead of £5.
– All women do not work.
– It will be permissible for the husband to earn twice as much without being penalized, because, whatever he may earn, the amount will be divided by two. So it will be possible for a married couple to have a total income of £6 per fortnight. It has been suggested by some honorable members that the increase promised is, to a certain extent, niggardly, and that it might have been greater. To honorable members who suggest that, because of the surplus we have, the increase ought to have been greater, I point out that it would then have been a case of living, not on income, but on capital; because that surplus represents capital, and not income.
– That surplus is accumulated revenue.
– Accumulated re venue is not annual revenue, but can be regarded as capital. If we broke into that wo should be breaking into our capital. The estimated excess of income over expenditure during the current year is £47,000, which demonstrates that we are running matters as finely as possible. The increase will cost something over £1,000,000. While, personally, I would be willing to give the utmost amount possible to the pensioner, I realize that, with an expected surplus of only £47,000, it would be impossible to go beyond the point indicated, and that the utmost is being done, having regard to prudent finance. It is also particularly gratifying to learn that the Government intend to appoint a Commission to go into the question of insurance against sickness, unemployment, and old age . Such a scheme as that, if well worked out, should be of inestimable benefit in the future, and place the whole matter on a far better plane than it is on now. I believe that such a system works out well in the Old Country, where the employer, the employee, and the State contribute towards an unemployment scheme.
I do not desire to detain the Committee further, having risen mainly to refute the statement made by some honorable members that more money was being spent on postal facilities in the cities than in the country.
House adjourned at 10.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230802_reps_9_104/>.