9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Before we proceedwith the ordinary business of the day, I desire to submit a motion expressing the regret of this
House at the death of Mr. Warren G. Harding, the President . of the United States of America. On Friday last, immediately upon receipt of the news, the House adjourned out of respect for the memory of the late President, and also as an expression of our esteem for a sister Democracy which had been so suddenly and tragically bereft of its head. I. indicated then that I intended to convey to -the Government of the United States of America the sympathy of the people of Australia with them in this loss, and on Saturday I Bent the following cablegram to that Government: -
I wish to convey to you the profound sympathy of the people of Australia at the death of President Harding. In him we felt that Australia and the Empire had a friend.. His last speech’ was typical of t]ie great, peaceloving democracy which had chosen him as Us first citizen. Through that speech ran the spirit - of peace and international brotherhood. It Rave Hope ‘to a world weary of strife that America would, under bis guidance, lend its powerful, aid to the establishment of a court for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.
To his lasting credit will stand the conception and achievement of the Washington Conference. HU prompt action probably averted war, and removed from the mind* of the people of at ‘least, three great nations immediate dread of fierce competition of armaments.
We extend ‘ our sympathy as a sister democracy to the people of the United States. We feel that we Have lost one who spoke the thoughts and expressed the hopes of the great masses of our citizens. We deeply mourn his lose, but be has not lived in vain.
The message, as honorable members will note, stresses the great service which the late President Harding rendered to the cause of universal peace. He was a man of great simplicity of character, and his life was dedicated to that worthy cause. The Washington Conference will stand as a memorial to his efforts in the cause of humanity. In officially opening that Conference in ‘ a few significant words he gave expression to the aspirations of the United States of America, which in this matter axe also those of the great Democracy of .Australia. He said -
I oan speak officially only for our United
States. Ona hundred millions want frankly lees of armaments and none of war. The task which he commenced is still unfinished. It is for us to keep his memory green, and by applying ourselves tq the work which he so ably beg’an, pay tribute to his memory. If the policy which he advocated be carried into effect., the world will turn with confidence to its task of rebuilding shattered Europe, and a new hope will dawn for millions.
In honouring the memory of a great man who has played an important part in tho affairs of the world, one may forget at times the personal sorrow of those whom he has left behind him; but I am sure it is the wish of honorable members that we should place on record the sympathy which we feel for. those who were near and dear to the late President in bis lifetime.
We should also, I think, endeavour to draw from bis life some lesson for our own future conduct. I am Burn that there is nothing we, or any of the great Democracies of the world, could do that would render a greater tribute to his memory than to further the policy of universal peace which during his lifetime he laid down for the United States of America. I move -
That this House, agrees to the following resolution: -
WeT the members of the House’ of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, express our deep sympathy with the people of the United States in .the death of weir President. Wb grieve that this great citizen should have been struck down at a time when the world had need of has counsel, but trust that the example of his life will stimulate to still greater efforts all those who labour in the cause of universal peace.
.- I desire to associate myself with the Prime Minister in supporting the motion which he has submitted to the House. On behalf of the Australian Labour party, I desire to express profound regret at the passing away of President Harding. He was a man who held the respect of the whole civilized world, and the people of its different countries owe a. debt of gratitude to him for his humanitarian action in convening the recent Washington Conference for the purpose of insuring peace in the Pacific, and his further efforts to promote a World’s Court for the purpose of dealing with in’ternational affairs, and thus preventing war. I can well imagine his feelings of joy when tho Conference decided to reduce naval armaments, and I regret he was not spared to further his great ambition of establishing a World’s Court. Let us see that his efforts have not been in vain,, and hope that the leaders of all nations will carry on this noble work, sparing no effort until the desired goal is reached. The late President’s death illustrates, too, plainly how difficult and arduous is the work of the men who guide the destinies of the world in these days of strife and turmoil. It is an unenviable task, and many who were engaged in it have sacrificed their lives in the performance of their duty. The people of America and Australia are bound together by a strong bond of friendship which I trust will never be weakened. Their interests are our interests, their loss our loss, and so to-day we stand with them mourning the death of one who was dear to us all. The world, with its crushing burdens and its serious post-war problems requiring solution, can ill afford to spare such men, and it was indeed tragic thatjust as the late Mr. Harding appeared to be on the road to recovery we should be stunned with the news that he had passed to the Great Beyond. The ways of the Almighty often pass our understanding, and we can but bend our heads in reverence and murmur,” Thy will be done.” To Mrs. Harding and our kindred overseas we offer our sincerest sympathies, and hope they may be comforted by the knowledge that the late President devoted his talents to an endeavour to pave the way for the world’s peace.
– I assume the unanimous concurrence of all honorable members in the motion. I shall be glad if they will record it by rising in their places.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– Will the Prime Minister have printed the evidence and findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the loss of the Sumatra, in order that members may have an opportunity to peruse them?
– I will look into the matter to see what can ‘be done.
– I call attention to the statement which has appeared in the press, that discontent has occurred on board the cruiser Adelaide. I ask the Minister for Defence to cause inquiries to be made into the matter, to see whether there is any truth in the statement.
– I shall call the attention of the Minister for Defence to the matter when he returns.
Appointment of Mr. Ennis
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
No. 2 and 3. See reply to No. 1.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he is in a position to afford further information in regard to my question of 20th July, having reference to Lieutenant Miller establishing an aerial service from Adelaide to Yorke’s Peninsula, and such being used for conveyance of mail matter?
– No official advice has been received as to whether the proposal for the aerial service in question has yet been finalized; but, in the event of such a service being established, consideration will be given to its use for the carriage of the same class of mail matter as is carried by other aerial services.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available to the honorable member in a day or two.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
In what proportions was the amount of £588 spent on the maintenance of the Federal members’ rooms in the capitals of the various States during the financial year 1922-23?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The amount spent on the maintenance of the Federal members’ rooms in each State capital during the financial year 1922-23 was as follows: -
Appointment of Doctors
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice- -
In view of the urgent necessity for bush doctors in the Northern Territory, and the fact that there is only one doctor with the right of private practice in the Territory, will the Minister immediately consider the appointment of one, two, or more of the 190 doctors said to be unemployed, with a view to attending to the medical requirements of settlers in theoutback portions of the Territory?
– The question of increasing the personnel of the medical service of the Northern Territory Administration is at present under consideration, with a view to special provision for inland work and the extension of private practice. The Department is not in possession of information regarding the 190 doctors said to be unemployed.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
-The following information has been furnished by the Public Service Board: - 1.Eight.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will furnishthe following information: - (a) The list of names of lessees whose land tax it is proposed to cancel; (5) the value of the taxable interest held by each lessee; (c) the amount of tax to be collected in each case.
– The information desired will take a considerable time to prepare, but an effort will be made to get the details.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the number of the staff (permanent and temporary) in the Sydney mail branch as at 30th June, 1922?
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, has furnished the following information: -
Ninehundred and ninty-one officers.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - . Coogee, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Fairfield, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at Richmond, New South Wales.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 3rd August (vide page 2131), on motion of Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament - namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- I agree with those honorable members who have called the Budget a complicated and clumsy attempt to camouflage the figures presented to this Committee, by trying to bury items relating, to various sums of money so that they cannot be found and connected with the proper subjects. I do not propose to follow them in their analytical and detailed criticism. I shall deal only with three or four of the main subjects which the Budget brings under notice. The first of these is the control of the ex-German Mandated Territories. I have had the opportunity to visit those territories, and possibly I have seen more of them than any other honorable member of the Federal Parliament. Although the Government have appointed a Board to deal with expropriation matters, I do not think that it will be able to deal satisfactorily with the real trouble. I read the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) regarding the work of the Expropriation Board and of the Administration. He pointed out that there were only three places where duplication existed in connexion with the medical services. A person having no local knowledge of New Guinea might regard that statement as a very satisfactory one; but when honorable members are informed that the three places mentioned are the chief centres of the Territory, they will realize how misleading the statement was. Owing to the dual . control there, numerous difficulties arise when the Director of Medical Services, on behalf of the Administration, attempts to do any solid work inconnexion with his Department. I was taken by that gentleman to one of the big centres known as Madang, on the mainland, and we inspected a site that the Administration needed for a hospital for white people. The Administration was unable to obtain it because the Expropriation Board wanted to keep it for one of. its officials. The building was quite suitable for hospital purposes, and only required slight alteration. We then proceeded to the hospital provided for the white inhabitants. There had been heavy rain the previous night, and the floors in every ward were covered with water. Yet this leaking building had to be used for a hospital for white folk because the other building, which was in a better position, was being used by some official. On visiting head-quarters at Rabaul, one sees medical dispensaries belonging to the Administration on one side of the street, and a similar establishment under the direction of the Expropriation Board on the other side. There is evidently a duplication of work that is entirely unjustified. It is high time for the Government to determine whether the Administration or the Expropriation Board shall have charge, so that . the matter may be settled finally. I was informed by an official that a law case was threatened, owing to the difficulty of ascertaining whether certain properties belong to the Board or to the Administration. Under the Administration there are Departments relating to natives, works, lands, health, and other matters. I came to the conclusion, from my investigations on the spot, that the Expropriation Board should be abolished, and the Administrator and. his officers be given complete control. A good deal has been written in the press concerning the condition of the plantations since the Commonwealth has been administering this Territory. Attempts have been made to deny the truth ‘of the articles, but, having read most of them,and having seen the things complained of, I can only substantiate what has been said in the press. I noticed that the plantations everywhere were falling into a state of neglect, and they certainly did not reflect credit upon the Australian administration on behalf “ of the League of Nations. In one place, I saw heaps of coconuts rotting on ‘the ground, with the young plants growing out of them, and the drier on the plantation was idle. Similar conditions were observed in other localities. The photographs that have been published accurately portray the condition of the neglected plantations. When efforts are made by amateurs to manage plantations, when experts should be employed, the results are bound to be disastrous. I have nothing to say against employment being given to returned soldiers, but they cannot be expected to make a success of such work if they are totally inexperienced. I question whether the returned men are , getting adequate instruction and the fair treatment that they should get from those conducting the operations of the Expropriation Board.
– Are the plantations deteriorating?
– In many cases they are; but I do not say in all cases. While the report of the administration of the Mandated Territories shows that the production of copra is increasing beyond what was obtained when the Germans were in occupation, I could find no evidence of one coconut tree having been planted since the Commonwealth took over the Territory. During the war and previously - I am not holding any brief for the Germans - the plantation holders were allowed to plant fresh trees. Some of these young trees are now coming into bearing, and any increase of production at present will be due, not to the efforts of the Commonwealth, but to that fact.
– There has been no attempt to plant ; our object has been -to maintain the productivity of the plantations.
– Then why mislead the people by referring to the increased production ?
– Many of the trees that were not bearing before are now reaching fruition.
– That is the position. The increased production is not due to any recent planting.
– It was never intended to plant.
– Do the Government intend to do anything?
– We are incurring expense in the maintenance of these plantations.
– I complain that money, is being wrongly spent,’ and in many respects wasted. Money is spent in patching up vessels like the Sumatra; and later I shall have something to’ say concerning, not that particular matter, but something of a similar nature that requires investigation. When at Manas I received a deputation . of returned soldiers. From what I then gathered, the returned soldiers, or others, who speak out of their turn to the officials of the Expropriation Board are sent down south. Anywhere in these islands one can find from ten to twenty of these officials being moved from place to place. The first duty of this Government is to put. the whole of the hospitals under one control, so as to prevent the recurrence of cases like that at Madang, where inadequate hospital facilities are provided for white people.
– The honorable member means that the control should be in the hands of the Administrator.
– Yes. Under the conditions which at present obtain, ‘the country which was formerly known as German New Guinea is not the most healthy part of the world in which to live. Only recently three or four of the white people there died from the worst form of malaria, that known as blackwater. This shows how necessary it is to have, not only hospitals, but also properly qualified medical men, to control and to keep in touch with these hospitals. The medical men who are there now - and I have not a word to say against them - do their best. They have studied medicine to a certain extent. The natives call them “ little doctors.” These men have little more than first-aid knowledge, and they study when opportunity occurs. In the outposts of these Mandated Territories no other medical assistance but that of these “little doctors “ can be obtained. There are no patrol boats for the conveyance of residential doctors from one station to another, though there ought to be a boat at Rabaul for urgent work. Unless much of this mismanagement isi corrected at the earliest possible moment, Australia’s administration of the Man- dated Territories will “stink” in the nostrils of the people of other nations. To enable returned men to successfully manage these plantations, the Expro priation Board should arrange for them to attend a proper school for tuition. There are trading stations all over the Mandated Territories. Some of the returned soldiers there wish to take up these. A returned soldier who had a trading station, was told by one of the members of the Board to relinquish it. These stations are supposed to be tendered for, and a certain rate is paid for copra. The result of this action on the part of the Expropriation Board is that throughout the Mandated Territories in almost every case the trading stations are in the hands of Chinese and a few Malays. A case brought under my notice was that of a Samoan woman who had married a German. She had been trying to keep things going, but the plantation was taken from her and given to a Malay woman. Why was not a returned man given a chance? I presume that we were not given a Mandate over ex-German New Guinea Territory for the purpose of extending the employment of Chinese in preference to our own returned soldiers. I do not say that our returned men are filling the bill in every instance, but if they are encouraged to go into that tropical country, it is only fair that they should be given a fair chance to make good. All who are acquainted with plantation life know how important it is that the grass between the coconut trees should be kept down. As the plantations are long distances apart, the managers and men require horses if ever they are to have a chance of visiting’ a neighbour. These animals, when grazed in the plantations, perform a very useful service. They keep down the grass, which otherwise would have to be cut by Chinese or native labour. Nevertheless, the Expropriation Board, on 30th June, 1923, issued a notice to the effect that any employee who desired to keep a privately-owned horse on a Board plantation, would be required to pay an agistment fee of 10s. a month. If this is not profiteering, I do not know what it is. Imagine charging an employee £6 a year agistment, when, as I have shown, the grazing of a horse in a plantation saves considerable expenditure in keeping the plantation clear of grass and weeds. The men must have horses, because in many cases they are 7 or 8 miles away from the nearest neighbour, and 30 miles from a doctor or chemist.
– Who imposes that charge ?
– The Expropriation Board, which is administering the plantations taken over from the Germans. I understand that the Government have appointed an accountant to inquire into the Board’s administration on the financial side, but I believe that it is generally acknowledged that,under the present administration, the plantations, so far from paying, will show a loss of anything between £500,000 and £2,000,000 before the work is finished.
– Is the Board doing any new work?
– No, the Board is dealing only with the expropriated properties. In most cases returned soldiers have been appointed managers, but an exception is Mr. Jolly, brother of the present Chairman. The whole administration is a bungle. I cannot see how the plantations can be made to pay under the present mismanagement. Considerable expenditure is urgently needed for the repair of sheds for the drying of the copra on the different plantations.
– What about the shipping arrangements? Are they satisfactory?
– Towards the end of the war there was some trouble, but it is now possible to ship copra viâ Australia, or by vessels trading with the East. The trouble seems to be due to the lack of trained men in charge of the plantations. The present Administrator has been there for only about eighteen months, and, within the limits of his authority, he is doing what is possible to improve the situation. His system of education for the natives must command the admiration of those who know anything about it. He has established technical and primary schools in certain centres where they are necessary, and in other directions he is doing all he can to improve matters. Rabaul is situated right in the corner of a bay, and as it is surrounded by mountains, naturally it is very hot. The Germans went to a great deal of trouble to plant four rows of shade trees in the streets of the old town. I found that many of these trees had been chopped down. I asked the reason, and was told that it was necessary, because a telephone system had to be installed. That is the military way. Everything must be sacrificed to its requirements. A few of the branches of those trees could have been lopped off to make room for the wires, or they could have been put underground, or they could have been put in some other place. That did not suit the authorities, however, so these valuable trees, which had taken years to grow and which were much needed in that tropical country, were cut down.
There is great need for a really good patrol boat. A Government official showed me a boat on the stocks which, he said, was sold for £600 to a Japanese shipbuilder. The buyer repaired it, and I understand that he wants £1,800 for it. The Government has now ordered from this man some patrol boats not half the size, for which it will pay £1,000 each. Those boats will be no bigger than an ordinary motor-launch, such as one would hire for a pleasure trip. I am not quarrelling about the price; it is the smallness that I complain of. There will be room for the captain and the engineer, but where will a prisoner, be put, if one has to be carried on them ?
– Where will the boat patrol ?
-From island to island. They will have to do open sea work. A boat of proper size could be used to bring in native prisoners, and to do other odd jobs which are necessary. The Germans had a boat for this purpose which we captured during the war. That boat - the Una - is lying in Sydney Harbor. It is attached to the Navy Department; but why should it not be ‘used for the purpose for which it was used prior to the war? There is no doubt a great need for a properly equipped patrol boat.. Let me give an illustration of the need. While I was in the islands, two natives were arrested for murdering another native. The Judge who had to conduct that and other cases in the islands., is compelled to board the passenger steamer travelling by a circuitous route round the whole group of islands. The trial was fixed to take place at Madang. The boat arrived there at nine o’clock one night. The trial had to be com pleted in time to allow the Judge to board the boat the next morning, and continue his circuit. Therefore, a start was made as soon as the boat arrived. I do not know whether those men were guilty or not guilty, but, at least, they were entitled to a fair trial under reasonable conditions. They did not understand a word of English. Their language was interpreted by one of the police boys attached to the Court. They were defended by a Government official. No doubt he tried to carry out his duties to the best of his ability. I am not condemning him. But the whole business had its humorous side. Although that officer, doubtless, endeavoured to do his best for the men, he said to me, “ My multifarious duties will include assisting to hang these men if they are found guilty.” I think that illustration shows as much as anything the need for a proper patrol boat on which the Judge and his officers, and other administrative officers can go from place to place as necessity arises and discharge their duties under decent conditions.
– A trial like that is a disgrace to this Parliament.
– The Judge could not help it.
– We should make better provision for him to do his work.
– These men are doing the best they can in the circumstances. They endeavour to find out the truth.
– But they had to finish the trial in time to catch the boat next morning.
– The recital of these facts will be sufficient, I hope, to make the Government realize the need for a proper patrol boat, so that persons who are engaged in important public business in the Territory may be able to visit the various parts of the islands and discharge their duties in a proper way.
I shall now discuss the Post Office Estimates. The last honorable member who spoke in this debate complained bitterly that more money was being spent in the cities than in the country. I do not propose to go into the figures again, but I think credit is due to the present Postmaster-General for trying to make a change in this regard. The proposed reduction in the postage rates, however, will apply to the community in an unfair way. The large business people and newspaper proprietors of the different States are the only ones who will benefit materially by the suggested change. It is unfortunate that throughout its history the Post Office has been regarded as one of the least important public Departments. We make a great mistake in not realizing that the Post Office business means a great deal to the social side of life in the country. Instead of regarding the Post Office as one of the least important Departments, it should be regarded as almost our most important concern. I regret that it has been used as a taxing machine, and that its profits are, from time to time, paid into general revenue.
– That is the only constitutional way of dealing with the profits.
– Then the Constitution must be altered. It is impossible to say to-day whether our postal system is paying or whether it is not paying.
– We have been able to tell in the last twelve years whether it pays or not. We were not able to tell prior to that.
– Only an estimate can be obtained. The way we carry on the postal business has its humorous side. Post Office moneys are paid into the general revenue. Then, later, if a new Post Office building is wanted, the PostmasterGeneral must go cap in hand to the Treasurer and ask for some of the money to be returned to him. Postal inspectors are sent out to inspect sites. They draw up sketches of what they want, and make estimates of the cost. These are sent to the Works Department, and the whole matter is gone over again, and this Department submitsplans and specifications. All this not only means delay and confusion, but it also means duplication and added cost. It is the worst possible way in which we could deal with the matter. Nobody would ever run his own business in such a fashion. The Postal Department should retain its revenue, and the profits should be spent on increasing the usefulness of the institution.
– What about the erection of new buildings?
– Buildings should be erected through the Postal Department.
– Would you have the Department pay the capital cost of new buildings ?
– I do not see why not. If the people do not pay directly through the Post Office for the buildings, they have to pay through some other taxing department. Every other business has to bear the capital cost of its business premises.
– Do you think the Post Office should borrow money direct?
– It should borrow its share through the central channel.
– That is exactly what we are doing now.
– It is the only proper way to do the business. The Post Office should certainly be a separate Department. It should retain all its profits, and should use them to extend its operations. I wish to discuss a phase of the operation of the Navigation Act. I do not intend to touch the aspect into which the Select Committee is now inquiring. The position in regard to pilots in the various States requires consideration. The conditions differ in the various States. I shall speak more particularly from the New South Wales standpoint, because Iam more conversant with the affairs of those officers. These pilot services are to be taken over by the Commonwealth. The officers engaged in them now have been in the State employment for many years. They have contributed to a superannuation fund to enable them to secure pensions on their retirement. Some of these officers will reach the retiring age within five or seven years, and unless the Commonwealth Government makes some provision for them they will have to lose the benefit for which they have already paid. There is a danger of a complicated situation arising, and the Government should consult the State authorities with the object of arranging that the money paid by these officers when in the State Service shall be credited to them by the Commonwealth.
I desire to reply to some of the arguments advanced in regard to the trade preference sought by Canada and other parts of the Empire. I have always been prepared to support the granting of preference to the people within our own Empire, but we ought to be sure that those people receive the benefit of that preference. The present arrangement with Great Britain is far from satisfactory. We stipulate that there shall be 25 per cent. of British manufacture in any article on which the British preference is allowed, but the result is that the people of Britain do not receive the full benefit of that preference. If all the yarn required for clothing factories’ were imported from Germany or Belgium, and converted into tweed in England, the British workman would not receive all the benefit that he should get. Some little while ago the steel and iron furnaces of Britain were idle, while the rolling mills were busy rolling blooms imported from Germany and Belgium, and were supplying material for the manufacture of goods sent to this country under the British preference. While I am quite prepared to see preference granted to our sister Dominions, provided that the benefit of it is passed on to the people of those Dominions, I do not propose to agree to reciprocal arrangements, such as are proposed with Canada, so long as the conditions obtaining in Britain to-day continue. The requirement of 25 per cent. of British manufacture should be substantially increased, and I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), when he reaches Great Britain, will make sure that the goods receiving this preference are for the greater part at least of British manufacture. I recognise, of course, that Britain must import raw material. I travelled through Canada during the war, and since then the difficulty of the position of which I complain has been accentuated. When Australia opens the door for preference to Canada, it should not open it also to the United States of America. Most of the factories in Canada are merely branches of parent factories in the United States of America. It will easily be seen, therefore, that in giving preference to Canada we may also be giving preference to the United States of America. Whatever our differences on Tariff matters may be, we should remember that Australia has spoken emphatically in favour of the benefits of our Tariff being received by the people within bur own Empire.
I intend to say a word or two concerning the latest act of the Government in handing back to the States several powers in relation to direct taxation.
– I was told last week that the Government had not handed back those powers.
– They are certainly going in that direction. It seems to me that they intend to hand back those powers for a certain purpose.
– We are not going to hand back any powers. Our policy is to have one collecting authority.
– The Treasurer has played so many parts in the political life- that he really does not know where he stands. He says that he is going to have one collector for each of the six States : but such taxpayers as merchants and federated trade unions, . who do an Inter-State business, will have to supply two income tax returns as previously. What is at the bottom of the whole matter is that the Government desire to give back this special field of taxation to the States. It means giving the States the only field of taxation that the Commonwealth has from which to pay the war debt - apart from the Customs revenue, to which the man with the biggest family contributes most heavily. The Government are taking a retrograde step that it was never expected any Government would dare to take. If an arrangement was to be made with the Statesto have one collecting authority, then that collector should have been the Federal Authority. The proposal does not overcome duplication in the collection of taxes. The Treasurer is at the head of the “new States” movement. The leaders of the people once declared that under Federation the States would diminish in power, and that government in Australia would become more federal as the years went by. But the present proposal’ of the Government is a step in the opposite direction. Australia is being strangled to-day owing to the overlapping of sovereign rights. The Government, instead of stepping out of the groove, is prepared to vacate a field of taxation and return it to the States, while the Treasurer is going through the country advocating the formation of new States, which would further complicate legislation. Although twenty-three years have elapsed since Federation was established, we now have a Government ready to belittle the Federal ideal by returning to the States a field of taxation that properly belongs to the Commonwealth.
– There has been no power of taxation handed back. We have only asked the States to collect the money for us.
– The reply is a mere quibble.
– The States will collect the tax, but the Commonwealth will enact its own taxation laws.
– There should be a single process instead of the present duplication of effort. The Labour party has always tried to carry out the promise made to the people when Federation was brought about. If the electors are ever asked on a straight-out issue whether they prefer to be governed by one Parliament or by seven, there will be an overwhelming majority in favour of having one Parliament. Ministers profess to be on the side of those who brought Federation into being, but if those whose portraits hang in the Queen’s Hall could speak, they would tell them that they are not doing what they promised to the people of Australia.
.- Owing to indisposition I have had the misfortune, during the last few weeks, to miss many interesting discussions which have taken place in this Chamber. I feel myself to be privileged in being able to take part in a Budget discussion, because the Budget figures, presented annually by the Treasurer, are really the balancesheets covering the whole of the Commonwealth’s operations for the twelve months. It is, of course, impossible in one speech to deal with all the details that are contained in the Budgetpapers. Statements of savings or of increased expenditure necessarily are spread over hundreds of pages of figures, and it is not within the compass of any honorable member to make complete comparisons in the time at his disposal. Further, many complications exist in the presentation of the Treasury accounts, and they do not lessen the difficulty that honorable members have in making accurate comparisons from year to year. The method of presentation of the Budget figures, too, does not give one an easy bird’s-eye view of. the financial position of the country. It appears to me that the traditional methods of the first decade of Federal finance are being continued in the third decade, irrespective of the revolutionary figures that have obtained during the second decade. comprising the war years. The late Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) made considerable progress in the direction of simplification . in the presentation of accounts, and the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has followed that excellent example. I should like to see a further simplification in order that the “man in the street could, with little trouble, and in not too long a time, familiarize himself with a summary of the financial affairs of the country.
In the course of the remarks that I have to make upon the Budget itself I shall not attempt to give any detailed dissections; I shall deal with a few aggregate figures and one or two principles affecting some of the conclusions that have been arrived at by the Treasurer in connexion with financial matters. Generalizing on the Budget speech of my honorable friend, I am of the opinion that he has presented to the country a financial statement that gives evidence of economy and of some savings, and a very considerable attempt to simplify and cheapen the cost of government. In the presentation of his accounts, however, I think he will probably agree that he has followed Departmental, rather than business, methods. I agree with the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that an excessive expenditure is shown in the financial year which ended last June, and that the estimate for the current year is considerably under what it is proposed to expend. Compensation to taxation officers amounting to £200,000, grant in aid of main roads development amounting to £500,000, loans for the purchase of wirenetting totalling £250,000, are stated to have been spent last year. Advances to the Fruit Pools amount to £500,000 ; but I hope we will have a considerable set-off against this when the financial year is ended.
– That will be a dead loss, I am afraid.
– The figures at present show that the whole of the money advanced to the Pools is a loss; but there will be a contra account when stocks are sold. The sums which I have mentioned amount to over £1,500,000. I contend that at least £1,000,000 of that should have been deducted from the expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1923, and should have been added to the expenditure for the current year. That would have given a total expenditure for last year of about £62,700,000, disclosing a surplus at the end of that year of £8,500,000 instead of £7,500,000; and the addition of £1,000,000 to the estimated expenditure of the current year would have made that expenditure £63,000,000, which would have resulted in a deficit upon this year’s operations of nearly £1,000,000 instead of a surplus which it is estimated will be £47,000. However, it is only fair to say that,, taking the two years together, the final estimate of the honorable gentleman will not be affected by what, in my opinion, is quite a wrong presentation of the- figures covering the two years. Of course, it is reasonable and natural that a Treasurer should look a little to the future. A few other figures, which I propose to analyze will, perhaps, show the direction in which his mind has been working, I hopei that my honorable friend mli remain, a Minister for many years. I believe he is actuated by absolute honesty of purpose in connexion with the public affairs of Australia. He- certainly possesses industry, and I believe that he desires to give a fair deal to all sections of the community. We all know that- the present Treasurer was lately the Leader of the Country party. We know that he has been, that he is - and I take it he always will be - generally desirous of improving the conditions of rural people. 1 notice that nearly the whole of the special appropriations for this year are directly for the benefit of country people. The meat export bounties aire being renewed. There is an- item of £500,000 for main roads development - -which, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) has stated is not to be devoted to the making of speedways between the capitals nor to better roads from one big town to another, but exclusively to the development of new means of transit and communication out-back for the benefit of those who for so long have been deprived of those facilities. There is a further item of £250,000 .L - Mie purpose of giving loans to impecunious farmers to enable them to buy wire netting. Then there is at least £500;000 on account of Fruit Pools, for the benefit of another section of the primary producers. I have no quarrel with piling up the expenditure this year for the benefit exclusively of the country popu- lation, because I think that each and every one of us should do his best to prevent the population from drifting to thecities, and thus make the production of Australia as high- as we possibly can. I hail with a great deal of satisfaction most of the legislation that is forecast in the Budget; for instance, the expedition of the work at the Federal Capital, the attempt to co-ordinate State and -Federal borrowing, and to bring us into line with the States in a sensible way regarding the issue -of future tax-free loans. There is also the proposal to have a Board of Directors to manage the affairsof the Commonwealth Bank. I suggest that that Board should not be merely an internal Board consisting only of bank officers, but should have on it also some of the best men to be found outside who are not bank officers. I approve of practically almost everything that has. been done by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to obtain .simplification, in regard to income taxation. Our Federal Taxation Department was evolving into a persecuting machine in relation to many sections of our taxpayers. The .complications became so great that. I say unhesitatingly that the administration of that Department, owing to the incidence of the most complicated income taxation laws in the world, was in grave, danger of breaking down. What is proposed by the Ministry ? During the speech of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), I heard one or two interjections to the effect that the Treasurer proposed to dispense with the power to collect income tax. I do not understand the matter in that way at all. What is contemplated is a simplification of the trouble that taxpayers are put to in having to fill up duplicate forms under the operation of all sorts of complicated laws. I am very glad that the Ministry have proposed the collection of the Federal tax by the State authorities. Where individual incomes do not go outside the ambit of any individual State, a person will make his Federal return to the State taxation authorities, and they will collect on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. Where part of an individual income is derived outside the ambit of one State, that is, from two States or more, a taxpayer will have to make his Federal return to the central Federal office as he has to make it now. In order to give the>
Federal income tax officers some sort of a chance to get up to date in respect of the administration of complicated laws, the Government propose to alter the incidence of the company tax in this way in lieu of taxing undistributed profits up to 2s. 5d. in the £1, they propose putting a flat rate on all company profits of1s. in the £1, irrespective of whether distributed or not. There is some controversy!, as to whether that will mean an increased imposition upon companies. The New South Wales Treasurer has stated that there will be an increase of taxation. It may be that there will be, on the average rate throughout the Commonwealth, a very slight increase, but the simplification that will be brought about, if the Government’s proposals are carried, will be worth a great deal to the commercial community. I do not think that the Treasurer has gone far enough in allocating the £7,500,000 surplus that he will have at the end of the year. I agree that, after a reduction of taxation during’ the last financial year of about £3,000,000, which, of course, is also continued in this year; after the large special appropriations that have been made, particularly for country residents; and after the increase of the old-age pensions to be paid from revenue, there will be little room this year for further remissions oftaxation. But in my opinion surpluses should not be hoarded. They are created by the extra prosperity and purchasing power of the people or some abnormal conditions that do not often or always recur. They are in reality extra taxes paid over and above the amounts expected, and following the British precedent, I should like to see an Act passed by this Parliament that would apply any surplus in any financial year to a reduction of the national debt. There are two measures, I understand, that are hardy annuals in the British Parliament - the Army Bill and the Surplus Revenue Bill. I think the Government have made a mistake in this Parliament by copying the wrong Act. I agree with the view of theLeader of the Opposition, that the profits from our note issue should be applied to the reduction of the national debt. The profit is made out of the credit of the people, and should be applied to a reduction of their indebtedness. I want to say a word or two upon the incidence of a Bill recently passed in connexion with the reduction of the national debt and the treatment of the loan proposals of this Parliament. To my mind it is quite wrong in piling up debts in spite of the Sinking Fund Act that we have passed. In other words, I do not think it sound finance to increase our liabilities year by year when we have just placed an Act on the statute-book whereby our constituents and theelectors of Australia think we have started to pay them off. On the 1st July, 1921, the total gross debt of this Commonwealth was £400,000,000. On the 30th June, 1922, a year later, our gross indebtedness, less cash in hand, was about £410,000,000, cash in hand sufficing, roughly; for the loan expenditure of the year. On the 30th June last our gross debt stood at £411,000,000, the cash in hand of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 having been spent. Next year, according to the figures brought down by the Treasurer, the gross national debt will stand at £420,000,000, so that in spite of a great deal of talk and the Act placed upon the statutebook to provide a sinking fund to pay off the national debt, we have actually increased, or shall have increased, our debt by the end of this financial year by £20,000,000 in three years.
– Shall we not have assets off-setting the increase of the national debt.?
– We shall have a few more assets. The Treasurer sets out his loan proposals as amountting to £19,000,000. With some of these proposals I have no quarrel, but I do protest against such items as ship construction being included in loan proposals both this year and last year, when at least 50 per cent. of the value of the money we are spending has already been written off.
– Later, that is to beentirely separate account.
– A separate account is sometimes very convenient, but I believe in considering the nation’s finance as a whole. I am also under the impression, from the way the loan proposals have been presented, that part, if not all, of the assisted passages of immigrants will be paid for out of loan funds. If this sort of thing goes on, and we have a loose method of finance in connexion with our loan proposals, then any impecunious or extravagant Treasurer can, while carrying out the Sinking Fund Act to the letter, if he follows the precedent set during the last few years concerning loan proposals, easily place us on the road to financial destruction, because he can increase the debt at a very much greater rate than that at which it is being paid off ; at the same time he need show but few assets. In view of the enormous indebtedness of the Commonwealth, as shown by (he Treasurer’s figures, it would be as well to repeat some of those fine principles which were laid down in the Budget brought in by my right honorable friend the Prime Minister, when Treasurer, last year. These principles, which were derived from the Brussels Conference, stand good to-day. They were quoted as a guide for our financial future. One of them was that unproductive and extraordinary expenditure should not be entered into, and that productive expenditure should be limited. An analysis of the Budget will show that this is not being so carefully done this year as it was last year, and to that extent we are falling from grace. Another principle was that loans should not be raised for recurrent ordinary expenditure, and loans which are required for capital purposes must be met out of the real savings of the people. It seems to me, in respect of the loan position to-day, the proposals of my honorable friend, the Treasurer, for their renewal, and the various State manoeuvres “ or requirements, that we are not paying for loans required for capital purposes out of the savings of the people, but are going across the water to “ sponge on the old man.”
– The “ old man “ will look after himself.
– I believe he can ; but I shall show that while this has been going on, the net result has been merely the encouragement of unwanted imports into Australia. To that extent, I think that the more we owe to ourselves and the less we owe abroad, the sounder will be our economic position. We are still a large debtor nation abroad, and the signs of the times seem to indicate that the national debt willbe largely increased. At present we require about £25,000,000 a year to pay the interest upon our borrow ings - Federal, State and municipal. So as to keep out of further debt, our exports must exceed our imports to the extent of £25,000,000. In order to pay our way, to pay interest upon our debts abroad and to prevent running into fresh debts, the surplus exports to Britain must average £25,000,000 every year. The financial policyof this Commonwealth should be to bear in mind that when our exports exceed our imports, and credits over our normal requirements are being piled up in London, the incidence of the exchange between London and Australia is such as to place a premium upon the export of goods from London in order to balance our London credits. It should not be beyond the wit of, say, the Government, the Commonwealth Bank, and the Australian registered banks to devise a scheme whereby the huge importations here could be checked by applying surplus Australian credits in London to the reduction of our public debt there, and to bring over the balance, as it were, of a certain amount of public debt abroad to internal loans. There is both banking and national profit in the furtherance of this idea. I am convinced that with no surplus credits in favour of Australia in London there would be fewer surplus imports to Australia. With our large production of raw products and our ability to export heavily to the Mother Country, advantage ought to be taken of the position to reduce our debt abroad rather than to place a premium upon the importation of certain goods into Australia.
– And what aboutreducing the overdraft in London?
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection. It reminds me that the international debits and credits can be paid only in goods, gold, or securities. We all know what is the position of America to-day and what it was before 1914. During the four or five years of the war the excess exports from America to Europe were - I am speaking from memory and subject to correction - approximately £4,000,000,000 for the period, or $20,000,000,000 in gold. Europe could not pay this huge debt in gold, goods, or even in securities, and, as a result, America now holds most of the world’s gold. In addition, she has bought back most of her own securities, that prior to the war were held in Europe, and is creditor to England to the extent of about £1,000,000,000 and creditor also to other allied nations in a similar amount. This is the net result of an excess of American exports over imports during the war years. So it is with Australia’s debits and credits. In the case of the Mother Country, our debits can only be paid by exports of goods, gold, or securities. Therefore, to the extent that we diminish imports and increase exports, to that extent shall we have credits in London for the payment of our debts there.
There are only two other matters to which I desire to refer, and with one of them you, Mr. Watkins, dealt this afternoon in a very lucid and exhaustive manner; I refer, of course, to our Mandated Territories. If we are not very careful, and if the Ministry does not face its serious obligations, it is extremely probable that international, as well as national, trouble will result. We are only the custodians, for the League of Nations, of those territories, and we have certain obligations with regard to them. The Government should endeavour to clean up certain matters that have been referred to, and should also give Parliament a balance-sheet in connexion with the expenditure incurred. From all’ I have been able to learn, I should- say that the debit against the Mandated Territories is considerably over £1,000,000, and the muddle there should be cleared up.
The Fruit Pool affects a section of the fruit-growers, and thousands of worthy people who are dependent upon the industry. In my opinion, the ill-considered action of the Government during the past three years has seriously affected that section of the fruit-growing industry which produces soft fruits for preserving purposes.
– Does the honorable member mean the State Governments?
– No; I am referring to the Commonwealth Government. The losses will have to be faced, and, if necessary, wiped off by this Parliament. We cannot allow the accumulation of the last two years’ fruit to prejudice the marketing of the coming fruit crop. We must, if possible, get it out of the way, or earmarked in some shape or form. In this way we may bo able to simplify the problem of finding a market, outside the ordinary trade channels, for approximately £100,000 worth of soft fruits of the coming crop. If a policy of peddling the accumulated surplus from week to week, and month to month, is continued, the growers, the canners, and the distributors will not know where they stand. The whole fruit trade will be in a chaotic condition until there has been a clean up.
I congratulate the Treasurer upon the industry which he has evidenced in the preparation of the Budget. I am convinced that Australia wants diligent and efficient administration. It is satisfactory to know that there has been a decrease in the cost of administration. We do not want so much to pile up legislation as to make a determined effort to reduce the chaotic results of war administration to reasonable post-war orderliness. I believe the Treasurer is prepared to give us a fair deal all round. I hope he will insist on getting value for all money expended. In my opinion, he is on right lines in endeavouring to reduce what many people think is an overstaffed Public Service by valiantly trying to get rid of the duplication of Federal and State activities that has grown up in recent years. I do not agree with his allocation of the surplus. The only bright feature is the knowledge that onethird of the amount is to be set aside for the payment of war gratuity bonds, which, in effect, is a reduction of the national debt. I hope that at the end of the year he will not require the £2,500,000 mentioned for the equalization of taxation.
With regard to money required for defence, I urge that the defence of Australia should consist, not so much in “ forming fours “ or the glitter of military pageants as in doing all that is possible to insure the manufacture in Australia from our own raw products of our own munitions of war. I am not sure that this is being done. I am not quite clear that I can support- the proposed reduction of the sulphur duties. I certainly will not do so unless there is some countervailing bonus or subsidy to insure the production in Australia, and from our own sulphur, of all the sulphuric acid that may be required for our future needs, because sulphur is the basis of all munitions of war.
I trust that the Ministry will be able to find some via media with regard to this important matter. Nothing else will suffice.
– That is what is actually proposed.
– I am unaware that, as yet, any definite proposition has been made to meet the situation as I have stated it, beyond the announcement that a bounty will be given in lieu of the duty. If a bounty is given it must be adequate to insure the manufacture of all sulphuric acid from our own sulphur.
– That is what it is intended for.
– I press this view upon the Government, and I hope they will realize the importance of encouraging the manufacture of sulphuric acid in Australia.
– Unfortunately, we have no. sulphur in Australia.
– We have no free sulphur it is true, but we have it allied with pyrites, and it should be our duty to see that this industry is sufficiently encouraged tq meet all our probable, needs.
I have spoken a little longer than I intended, but my remarks have been directed, I hope, towards encouraging the Ministry to set out upon a policy of keeping our credit within the country.. I am sorry that the Treasurer’s loan proposals have not attracted greater attention from the investing public. I think we can afford to give slightly better terms to our own people than to investors abroad. It would be all to the’ good if ‘we could spread Australia’s indebtedness amongst hundreds of thousands- of people in this country; because, then we would not require tq send surplus exports overseas to pay interest upon loans raised there.
– Does not the honorable member think that £5 9s. 3d. is good interest?
– At the moment i’ am not arguing what is good or what is not good interest; I am indicating a policy which, I believe, must be adopted if we are to place Australia in a sound financial position. I am convinced1 that the only possible way in which we can face the future with equanimity is to pay off as much as we can abroad and shift the balance on to the- shoulders of our own people.
.- I must express my disappointment at the decision of the Government with regard to the increase in the old-age and invalid pension allowance. Since we have such a valiant champion of the old-age pensioners in the Ministry in the person of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) I was hoping that the increase would be at least to £1 per week. I say this in all earnestness, because in my State I have had many talks with old-age pensioners who have made repeated requests to me to do what I could to get the pension increased to more than £1 per week. Therefore, I am disappointed that the increase has not been to at least £1 per week. This additional 5s. per week would have meant approximately £1,750,000 additional expenditure. No doubt members of the Ministry thought this would be too great a burden for Australia, but I think it is the least ‘ we’ could do to ease the lot of those pioneers who helped to make this country what it is. I remind the Government that many applicants for pensions are mothers and fathers of lads who lost their lives in the war. A little, more sympathy to these poor souls would be more in keeping with the spirit of the promise made to the boys who went abroad. I am dissatisfied because the Government does not intend to make the increased pension payable until September. Why should not the extra amount be paid from 1st July? The extra money that would thus go on to the pensioners would be very usef ul to them. Had we been dealing with ‘a militant organization the payments would doubtless have been made retrospective. Because the old-age and invalid pensioners have no organization behind them the Government has determined not to pay the increased pensions until 1st September. I ask the Treasurer to consider even now whether he cannot make the payments .retrospective from 1st. July. It is not very much to ask of him.
Certain reductions proposed in our postal charges will reduce the postal income from the handling of commercial papers; merchandise, and other classes of. mail matters, by £930,000 a year. I believe that we should make our Public Service as up-to-date and. as cheap as possible, but we shall make a mistake if we authorize any reductions in postal charges, at present. That £930,0.00 could be well spent in improving the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications in the country districts. There is plenty of room for improvement. Instead of relieving big business concerns, insurance companies, and other commercial bodies from contributing this amount to our postal revenue, we should ask them to continue paying the present rates so that the income , could be used to improve general facilities in the country. The Government should consider the wisdom of expending more money on wireless installations. To my mind wireless, telegraphy and telephony have passed the experimental stage. They could be used with grea’t advantage to the people outback. Just .as: the: members -of the Australian. Imperial” Force travelling across the ocean were glad to receive’ wireless messages, of events at home- and on the battlefield, so people in our outback country would appreciate wireless facilities’ which would afford them news of happenings in the capital cities and abroad. The Government propose to borrow £5,000,000 and to make it available to the States which enter into an immigration agreement. I believe the Government’s immigration policy is nothing more nor less than a cheap-labour “stunt.” An amount of £500,000 is to be provided for passage money. I point out to theGovernment the prevalence of complaints on the part of welfare officers and other immigration workers in Australia about the lax methods which are evidently adopted in England in selecting migrants. Many immigrants infected with venereal disease have come into Australia. I have urged for years that we should enforce a stricter examination of immigrants. “While I was in England I wrote to a member of this House and suggested that a strict examination should be made in England to ascertain whether persons proposing to emigrate to Australia were infected with venereal disease, tuberculosis, or other infectious diseases. We have sufficient difficulty now in coping with disease and illness in this country. We should not accentuate the trouble by bringing other sufferers here, who may ultimately become a burden on the taxpayers and expose our kith and kin to contamination. Considerable efforts are being made by various organizations to develop- a big system of child immigration. The Barnardo Boys’ Homes, the “ Dreadnought “ Boys’ authorities, and’ the Salvation Army, particularly, are taking steps in this direction’. I agree with the policy of bringing to our shores lads who, eventually, will grow into acceptable Australian citizens by receiving proper training, and by the inculcation of true Australian sentiments, but I ‘ protest that the authorities who have this work in hand do not provide a proper system of supervision of the boys and girls .who are sent out to our farms and stations. State children -.receive- miserable, and shocking treatment at times, although there is some form of supervision now. The Barnardo boys, and other children, who are being sent, here as immigrants, are not protected by any form of supervision. We have- taken care that the bush workers shall be given proper housing conditions and fair wages. Our wharf labourers- cannot be compelled to carry a heavier weight than the Chapman sack of 200 lbs. We provide protection for other -workers also. Surely it is reasonable that some supervision, should be provided for the boy and girl immigrants who take up work in our country districts. Some of them will doubtless be sent to selfish employers, and will be compelled to do more than should be expected of their weak physical frames. I urge the Government to create some machinery to insure a proper supervision of these young people. Many of them are orphans and have no one to look after their interests. The least we can do is to see that no unscrupulous employer takes advantage of them. I anticipate from the remarks of Sir William Wyndham, of the British Immigration Delegation, which visited Australia, that we shall receive many more child, immigrants. That gentleman remarked, in a press interview, that 400,000 boys left school each year in England with no prospect of getting work. It was these boys that they all desired to see absorbed in Australia. That indicates clearly that the members of that delegation contemplate sending a good many of those 400,000 children to Australia. The Australia House authorities have not only failed to carry out a proper system of medical examination, but they have also failed in other respects. The result is that we are not only getting immigrants with diseased bodies, but also immigrants with diseased minds. The Commonwealth immigration agents are apparently selecting “ crooks,” and sending them to Australia. Articles which have appeared in the Daily Guardian reveal what is being done. One article was headed -
British magistrates are helping Australia to solve the problem of immigration.
The article stated -
That is not a rash unconsidered statement; it is proved by the action of a Croydon (England) magistrate, in actually remanding a dangerous criminal, so that arrangements could be made to send him to Australia.
Is the Commonwealth to become a dumping ground for criminals from the other side of the world ? The article proceeds -
In all probability that crook is in Australia to-day. His name is Walter Power, and he is twenty-one years of age. A report of his trial appeared in the London Evening News of 24th February last.
This is how the Nevis puts it - “ A present for Australia “ -
Emigration for young man whom police think dangerous : -
Walter Power, of Tatsfield, well dressed, described by the police as being “ very dangerous,” was charged with stealing a magneto and a dynamo worth £18. His father said that early in life the young man had been “ crafty, and consumed with Overwhelming vanity.” The accused man was said to have served several sentences for housebreaking ; on one occasion he was carrying firearms, and on another he had a dagger. He was remanded for arrangements to be made to send him to Australia.
Does the Commonwealth Government intend to remain idle while things of this kind are being done ?
The defence proposals of the Government are worthy of consideration by all the members of this Committee. It is disappointing that so much time is being taken up in our national Parliamentin discussing defence proposals. After the success of the Allies in the Great War one would have expected a reduction in expenditure on naval, military, and aerial activities. The tendency, however, is in the other direction. It is proposed that we shall spend £553,000 more this year than we spent last year on defence. That is most disappointing to me, and, I believe, to all returned men who are members of this House. Not only is it proposed that, we shall spendso much more money, but the Treasurer has also told us that £2,500,000 of our accumulated surplus is to be set aside as a reserve for defence. We do not know how that money may be spent.It would be much better for us to spend it in some way that would make for the material welfare of the people than to talk so much about war, and to put it aside to be spent in defence. Peace is not likely to be achieved by preparations for hostilities that all nations profess to be desirous of avoiding. Australia has led the way in many reforms, and why should it not set an example to the other nations in the cultivation of the arts, not of war, but of peace ? I do not say that Australia should be left without any defence; but, instead of devoting huge sums to preparations for war, we should set about the task of scientifically organizing our industries. If war broke out suddenly, Australia would be in a sorry plight. Governments in the past have spent vast sums of money on armies and navies; in the future they should build schools, colleges, institutes, and hospitals. The vision of some present-day statesmen does not extend beyond battleships, submarines, and aeroplanes for attack and defence purposes. Some honorable members imagine that we should fear Japan, but I contend that a more real peril is presented by tuberculosis, cancer, and venereal and other diseases. It is proposed to spend £121,000 this year on the promotion of public health. I think that amount is slightly less than was spent last year in that direction. No serious attempt has been made to carry out proper research work for the purpose of discovering cures for cancer and tuberculosis. The Government should undertake such an investigation, if it were only for the sake of the tens of thousands of returned men in Australia who are suffering from tubercular trouble. The Government, however, seem to imagine that a nation’s greatness is represented by the number of its battleships and aeroplanes rather than by the health and happiness of its people. A much larger sum than £121,000 should be made available for the Department of Public Health.
It would be too much to expect the Government to increase the maternity allowance. When that measure was introduced some years ago by the Fisher Administration, children’s clothing was much cheaper than it is at present, and inasmuch as it has been thought necessary to increase invalid and old-age pensions, owing to the high cost of living, it would be consistent and fair to increase the maternity allowance.
I urge the Ministry to hesitate before appointing a Board of Directors for the Commonwealth Bank. It would be well advised if it allowed the management to proceed along the smooth lines that it followed under the reyime of the late Governor, Sir Denison Miller. If it is decided to have a Board of Directors, I hope the Government will realize that there are officials on the present staff of the Bank quite capable of undertaking its management. Sir Denison Miller was a man of vision, and he provided the nucleus” of the staff he regarded as necessary to make the Bank the great success it has undoubtedly proved. The Government should not go beyond the present officers when searching for members of the proposed Board.
I hope that the Government will not allow some second-rate defeated political candidate, or a person of that class, to represent Australia at the British Empire Exhibition, but that a member of the Government, who will truly represent the people, will be chosen. There are -a number of aspirants for the honour, and I trust that the Government will not for a moment ‘ contemplate the appointment of any person who could not worthily represent the Commonwealth.
Honorable members who are interested in the development of the Northern Territory will be glad to know that the Government propose to attempt to stimu- late settlement there. Attention should be devoted to the suitability of the Territory for the growth of cotton and flax. In 1919, 72 acres of cotton were under cultivation in the Commonwealth, and in 1920 166 acres; but in 1922 there were 7,000 acres. Just as the acreage of cotton cultivation has increased in late years, so would that of flax if given proper encouragement by the Government. I understand that a gentleman named Strachan has been endeavouring to obtain a refund of his out-of-pocket expenses in connexion with fostering the flax industry, and I trust that the Government will favorably consider his claim. Great advantage would be derived if that industry could be established profitably in the Territory, because we import flax products to the value of £2,000,000 per annum. In 1921 there was scarcely 1,000 acres under cultivation, and not more than 45 tons of flax and 180 tons of linseed were produced in Australia. The industry should be developed sufficiently to enable the Commonwealth to meet its own requirements of linseed oil. At present we import £500,000 worth of linseed every year. Linseed cake is a valuable fodder for cattle. We could manufacture linengoods, and the by-products would be useful for the manufacture of twine. The cotton and flax industries, if successfully established, would enormously increase the wealth of Australia.
Australia is the greatest wool producer in the world, especially of the higher quality wools. It is strange, therefore, that we have not yet realized the full value of this industry. Great Britain, France, the United States of America, Germany and Japan must wonder at our shortsightedness in not having taken full advantage of our position in this respect. For the last ten years we have exported 56,279,179 sheepskins with wool ou them, and we have exported only 116,000 without wool. Instead of manufacturing the wool in Australia we have been sending it to Britain, France, Japan, tb* United States of America and Austria, and the work of manufacture is done in countries where cheap labour obtains, instead of profitable employment being found for Australians. In 1921-22, 7,270,660 sheepskins, with wool, wereexported from Australia, and 116,553. sheepskins without wool. This is clear evidence of the manner in which work ia being sent out of our country.
I want to impress upon the Government the desirability of imposing an export duty on sheepskins. For forty yean the fellmongers have been trying to obtain such a duty, but have failed. In this connexion it is interesting to remember that India has placed an export duty on goatskins. Dun’s International Review states -
There has been considerable feeling expressed regarding the export duty of 15 per cent, imposed by India on shipments of raw hides and skins. An exemption has been made in the case nf the British Empire, where a rebate of 10 per cent, is permitted. The United States imports from India vast quantities of goatskins, and the 15 per cent, export duty imposes a considerable burden on
American tanners of glazed kid in the face of the British Empire preferential. India’s action in taking this step has attracted widespread attention in the United States, and is being considerably discussed.
India, therefore, has taken action in its own interests, where Australia has failed to do so. The following statement is taken f rom the Argus of 6th July last : -
Cotton and Wool.
London, 4th July.
Sir Henry Whitehead, who isthe proprietor of mills at Bradford and elsewhere, and who, dining the war, was a member of the Wool Board of Control, has written to the press emphasizing that the Empire’s resources should be developed for the mutual benefit of all parts of the Empire. “ In theforefront of such a policy,”he says, “ stands the development of wool production, particularly merino, because Australia, New Zealand, and South Africabold a practical monopoly of it. I also strongly favour the development of cotton-growing in Australia, and consider that steps already taken in that direction constitute one of the most promising enterprises yet undertaken. There seems no reason why Australia should not grow all of the cotton required by the Empire. When the Empirehas a monopoly of any raw material an export tax should be levied on shipments to countries outside the Empire. The Imperial Conference ought to consider the important question of the unification of the law ofcommercial banking practice.
I do not think that there is any necessity to labour this question, because honorable members must realize the foolishness of the policy that is being adopted by the Commonwealth at the present time in breeding the sheep and sending the skins to foreign cheap-labour countries, there to be worked up and afterwards placed on the English market, eventually finding their way back to Australia. It would be much better to have the whole of the skins treated in Australia. It is not consistent for the Government to import workers, and to export work. During the years 1915 to 1920 we exported to the United States of America 306,000,000 lbs. of wool, valued at £20,282,786. The textile industry in the United States of America is the second largest industry, and its dimensions have increased by 433 per cent. during the last twenty years. An American Wool company, with a capital of £18,000,000, which operates fifty-nine mills inthe United States of America, has arranged to take an option on the output of thirty-five woollen mills in Austria, Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, and other countries, the American company undertaking to provide the raw material for those countries. That company will buy the rawmaterials in Australia, and ship them to central European cheap-labour countries, where they will be made into cloth and marketed in Britain, and possibly in Australia. The treatment of sheepskins, the removal and washing of wool, and the preparation of basils for the market, is a business in which the Commonwealth should lead everycountry. Protection from outside competition is found by imposing a duty at the port where goods come in. It seems quite reasonable then to ask that protection from inside competition be given by imposing a duty on certain raw material going out. We have raw materials in abundance. Instead of employingour own people in handling the skins in Australia, those skins are shipped abroad in millions in order to feed the industrial activities of France, Germany, Japan, and the United States of America. It has been said that not one ounce of wool should be exported from Australia. I am not prepared to go as far as that although by doing so we should havethe precedent set by England from 1660 to 1825, which absolutely prohibited the export of wool during that period. It is pleasing to note that throughout Australia , there is a settled policy with regard to the establishment of country woollen mills. It will not be sufficient to have a chain of woollen mills from Western Australia to Queensland. It will be necessary, also,to keep our products in Australia and have the wool manufactured here. If we had woollen mills throughout the country districts it would be necessary to have also wool scouring works. Many men would thus be given employment, and instead of workmen being concentrated inthe capital -cities they would be found useful employment in country towns. Those honorable members opposite who are pay- ing so much attention to the question of defence cannot do better than increase our population by providing a greater amount of work in Australia. Some honorable members fear that our next fight will be with Japan. For many years before the war Australia exported to Germany, metals, of which our soldiers got the benefit from 1914 to 1918. The same thing is happening in regard tosheep, skins, hundreds of thousands of which are being sent to Japan, the wool being worked up and sent back to Australia and other British possessions as cloth. That is undesirable. The. honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) has stated that there is a great market in .Japan for Australian cloth. That honorable member has stated -
A leading Australian commercial, man in Yokohama informed me that he could sell unlimited quantities of Australian manufactured woollen goods, and also suitings, ‘but that the only supplies that could he obtained were of English manufacture from Australian wool.
Will any honorable member attempt to defend that sort of thing? Yet we do not show ourselves ready to grapple- with the situation.* The following is a message from a New South Wales source: -
The wool report issued by Schute, Bell and Company for Riverina circulation refers to a suggestion that Australia should impose an export duty on w.ool purchased here for export to foreign countries. It is explained that advantages accruing to French and other Continental manufacturers through the depreciated exchange are militating seriously against Bradford mills, as foreign buyers are able to outbid -them at Mie English sales, and yet be able and allowed to land the manufactured article in England at a lower cost than Bradford could profitably produce.
I have received from the secretary of the Wool and Basil Workers Union, Botany, New South Wales, « telegram, in which he informs me that 75 per cent, of his members are out of work. The position is very serious. I hope, therefore, that the Government will consider the advisability of imposing an export duty on sheep-skins.
I trust that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) will take into consideration my representations regarding the vote on account of public health. The amount proposed is altogether inadequate. The Institute of Science and Industry also is to be provided with only £15,000 for investigational purposes. If we are to do anything towards encouraging primary production and enabling our primary producers to grapple with the many pests they encounter, it will be necessary to provide for investigation a greater sum than £15,000.
.- I think that, taking everything into consideration, we can compliment the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) upon the Budget.
We have had the usual amount of criticism from our friends opposite, but I suppose, we must expect that. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) stated that honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House had urged that a vigorous policy of immigration should be undertaken. We do favour such a policy if we can get the right kind of man - the man who will make good from the survey peg. I heard, also, the statement made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that hundreds of thousands of sons of farmers were willing to go on- the land, but were unable to get it.. If honorable members would advise those young farmers to go to Queensland or to Western Australia they would find that in those States there is available land which is equal to any that can be obtained in the other States. Queensland can absorb fifty times as many young farmers as the other States can send. In the Northern Burnett there are no fewer than from 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 acres of land, some of which is ready and some of which is being got ready for farmers. The railways are being extended through those areas. When I was in the Queensland Parliament scores of young Victorian farmers settled upon the land in my electorate, and I have not heard a single regret expressed at their having done so. They have- all done well, and are likely to continue to do well. There are better chances for men in Queensland, because the land is so cheap and produces so abundantly in good seasons. There are other portions of my electorate containing millions of. acres of land suitable for closer settlement, but the railways are not yet constructed to those areas. I shall deal with the question of railways in connexion with the settlement of immigrants in Queensland and in the Northern Territory. In dealing with the Northern Territory we cannot shut our eyes to the necessity for providing for the producers the best possible means for obtaining access to markets and for procuring the necessary stores, wire netting, &c, as cheaply as possible. There is no need to construct an expensive railway when the same purpose can; be served by a connexion with the nearestavailable railway. We have, in Queensland, 400,000,000 acres of unalienated land, and 7,063 miles of railways, State and privately owned, which is 1,558 miles, of railways more than has any other State in the Commonwealth.
– Under a Labour Government.
– Unfortunately, since the Labour party has been in power, nothing like the same progress in railway construction has been made. I admit that the Queensland Government are constructing railways, but they are not doing “it anything like so rapidly as did their predecessors. According to the Commonwealth Statistician’s Bulletin No. 14, New South Wales has 5,470, Western Australia 4,413, Victoria 4,374, and South Australia 2,411 miles of railway. Queensland has about 1,500 miles of seaboard, and in carrying out railway construction the Government adopted a policy of decentralization. They opened up ports on the coast, and ran railways from those ports out westwards. The length of railway from Brisbane to Quilpie is 621 miles ; from Brisbane to Cunnamulla, 604 miles; from Rockhampton to Longreach, 428 miles ; from Rockhampton to Yaraka, 582 miles; from Townsville to Dajarra, 582 miles, about 100 miles from the Northern Territory boundary; from Townsville to Winton, 568 miles; from Townsville to Cloncurry, 481 miles, Cloncurry being about 1£M miles from Camooweal; from Cairns to Forsayth, 1C3 miles; and in the Gulf of Carpentaria, from Normanton to Croydon, 94 miles. The intention of all’ Queensland Governments has been to link up these various lines at certain points not far from the Northern Territory. The present Government are, perhaps, not carrying out that policy as rapidly as one would like, although I admit that there have been difficulties in the way in respect of finance and other matters.
Great Britain, which at present has 1,500,000 persons who are unemployed, should help us considerably in carrying out our policy of immigration. If the British Government granted us one-half of what it costs them annually to provide for these men, and gave us preference on our exports to that country, we could absorb them in our industries without their becoming in the slightest degree a burden upon the .Commonwealth, or swelling the ranks of the unemployed in our cities. These men could bo satisfactorily settled in Northern
Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia, where the bulk of the land i’s held by the Crown. Although there are large tracts of country available in New South Wales, much of the land of good quality is held by private owners, who require higher prices than the States. I am a staunch supporter of the White Australia policy, but if this is to be a white man’s country, it is essential that the Federal Government should as rapidly as possible encourage the growth of population in Australia. Is it reasonable for Us to expect the League of Nations, the British Empire, or other nations to support a policy which keeps out of Australia the surplus population of certain other countries while «we hold enormous tracts of unpopulated country and do not encourage immigration? In the Commonwealth we have a bigger territory than the United States of America, which to-day has a population of 112,000,000. I feel sure that, in future, Australia will be able to maintain a population of 120,000,000. We must not lose sight of the fact that we have a seaboard of 12,000 miles, and that is a serious matter from a defence point of view. If the northern portion of Australia is settled, it will largely assist in the protection of our great seaboard. May I suggest to the Treasurer, and through him to Parliament, that ho should immediately obtain up-to-date information as to the most, advisable way of settling the northern portion of Australia. A Board should be formed <-of five highly qualified men, representing railway surveyors, pastoral inspectors, land surveyors, and experts, to report upon the effective settlement of the northern portion of Australia and the best means of marketing its future products. Such experts would be able to give reliable information which I am sure would be acceptable to the House. I am not advocating this policy from a parochial point of view at all, but from the broad Federal stand-point, because I believe its adoption would be in the interests of the Commonwealth. It is the duty of all honorable members to do everything possible to assist in the development of the Northern Territory. It would be absolutely useless to induce people to take up land there without insuring adequate supplies of wire netting, to keep out vermin, and ascertaining the possibilities of marketing the products and granting adequate facilities. It would be a very grave mistake, for instance, to encourage Northern Territory settlers to go in for cattle-raising without first finding a market for them. Arrangements should, I think, be made with the British Government to give preferential Tariff treatment to meat, &c., so that British settlers and others on Northern Territory lands would be in a position to compete on favorable terms with Argentine producers. I do not suggest that any hardship in the shape of high prices should be imposed upon the people of Great. Britain, and especially those in poorer circumstances ; but I think that, as a business investment, it would pay the British Government to give us preference which, if regarded as a subsidy, would, after all, be infinitesimal in comparison with their present expenditure to provide for the maintenance of the vast number of unemployed in the Mother Country.
On the question of railway extensions in the Northern Territory,.I emphasize the value of the 3-ft 6-in. gauge for developmental purposes.
– It has opened up Australia.
– The honorable member is quite right. In Queensland we should never have been able to open up such an enormous area of country for settlement had we adopted the broad gauge for our railway system. And the same may be said ofWestern Australia. To illustrate what I mean I may state that the length of Government railway lines in Queensland is 5,800 miles, built at a cost of £42,520,000, compared with 5,116 miles of standard gauge railway in New SouthWales, built at a cost of £83,790,000, or practically double the cost of the Queensland lines. It will be seen, therefore, that had the broader gauge lines been built in my State we should not have been able, with the limited amount of money at our disposal, to build more than about one-half the length of existing lines, and, as a result, a great deal of country now occupied would not have been opened up for settlement. Shortly after I entered the Queensland Parliament, and before the railway lines were extended so far out west, I asked what area of country was untenanted owing to the absence of railway facilities. After some delay I was informed that the area was 137,000,000 acres. At that time leases were falling in, and were not being renewed. Those pastoral holdings were cut up into areas of 10,000, 20,000, and 30,000 acres, and as a result of the promised railway facilities, every one was taken up without any trouble. The Government should consider the advisability of connecting the 3-ft. 6-in. railway in the Northern Territory with Camooweal, to give pastoralists of the Northern Territory the benefit of railway transport to a number of ports on the eastern coast.
In connexion with the forthcoming Empire Exhibition, it would be a good plan, I think, if the Government could arrange for a number of settlers who have made good on limited capital to visit Great Britain and lecture on the possibilities of land settlement in this country. In my own electorate I know of many men who, a few years ago, took up land with only about £10 of capital. Today, as a result of thrift and industry, they are in affluent circumstances. If one or two of them could be induced to revisit Great Britain under an agreement they would be able to demonstrate, in the agricultural districts of the Mother Country, what they themselves have been able to do, and what thousands of others have done also.
– Have they been growing sugar-cane ?
– Not one of the men I have in mind has been engaged in sugar production ; they have been farming on country similar to the North Burnett land, of which a large area is available for dairying, cotton-growing, maize and other production. * The latest statistical bulletin dealing with Savings Bank deposits is convincing evidence of what may be done by an industrious and thrifty person in Australia. It shows that the total deposits on the 30th June; 1922, were £162,273,233, representing £47 10s. l0d. per depositor, or £29 2s. l0d. per head of population, which earned in interest in 1922, £5,595,000. What other pioneering country has been able to do anything like that? The people who banked this money were not the proprietors of industries; they were industrialists and rural workers. The importer, the merchant, the manufacturer, the squatter, the farmer, and such men do npt put their money in the savings bank. Their experience enables them to fmd a more profitable investment.
– Millions of that savings bank money has been used to develop the land. That is how the workers help the farmers.
– In addition to the money placed in savings banks, large sums have been invested in life assurance companies and in friendly societies.
The Government proposes to provide £5,500,000 for immigration purposes. If that money is wisely spent we shall settle thousands of families on the land. In course of time they will become affluent and will share in the burden of taxation. It is proposed that £250,000 shall be made available for the provision of wirenetting. That should be a great help to the man on the land.
– Where is the wirenetting to be obtained?
– It is to be manufactured in Australia.
– You will find that it will be imported.
– The Government will see, I feel sure, that all that can be manufactured locally will be used. Some honorable members object to the establishment of a naval base at Singapore. I do not adopt that attitude. Australia is far distant from the markets of the world, and all our produce must be carried by steamers to those markets. We need adequate protection for these vessels. We cannot afford to spend the enormous sum which would be necessary to provide that protection. If Great Britain is prepared to spend it, I think we should be agreeable to do all we can to- help her in other ways. This country owes a great deal to Britain. We have only to look back fourteen years to- realize that. ‘ In those days the Japanese newspapers were full of what they called “ the dog-in-the-manger attitude of the Commonwealth Government. They pointed out in their press and otherwise that we had a territory larger than that of the United States of America, and. that we had only a handful of people on the land. They said we had not purchased this country or secured it by war, but that we had taken it away from the black man because he was no* utilizing it. They pointed out that though we were not utilizing the country we objected to the Japanese coming in here. A great deal of publicity was given to matter of that description in the Japanese press. It was stated that Japan had a population of 60,000,000 and had no outlet for her people, yet we prevented them from coming to Australia. Shortly after that time what is known as the “ Port Arthur question “ came into prominence. Japan wanted to go to war with Russia, because Russia had broken, her agreement in respect to Port Arthur; but she was not willing to go to war until she could find some big Power which would stand behind her in case a second Power joined with Russia. At that time Great Britain showed her friendship with Japan,, and it is because of that friendship that Japan safeguarded our troopships at sea, and the position that we hold and enjoy to-day is also due to it. The friendship of Great Britain for Japan is a protection to us. Things may be different some time, and I ask honorable members what would be the position if the ships which convey millions of pounds worth of our produce » across the sea were held up in mid-ocean. We must face the possibility of such a situation arising, and prevent the chance occurring of high freights and insurance rates on our exported products. Some honorable members are prepared to say, “Wait and see what happens.” It is no use doing that. We must be prepared. We all believe that we should do all we can to avoid war, but that does not mean that we should place ourselves in the hands of any Power which cares to attack us.
It is a good thing for Governments to be able to reduce taxation in any form. It is proposed now to reduce the postage rates from 2d. per half-ounce letter to l£d. per. ounce letter. I sincerely trust that this proposal will not in any way interfere with the provision of funds to enable the men on the land to secure better postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities.
– Who will get the advantage of that reduction?
– Every one who sends a letter through the post. The Government should safeguard the interests of the men on the land. They should not have to suffer by reason of this reduction.
– They will have to suffer.
– I do not know that. We realize that if large business firms, which spend considerable sums of money in postage, have extra charges placed upon them they, simply pass on those extra charges. If the firms have not to pay so much postage they will not charge it.
– But they will not take it off now it is on.
– They cannot pass on a. charge that is not made. I feel sure that in the Treasurer we have a man who will see that the interests of the people on the land are safeguarded. We cannot expect to settle this country if we deprive men on the land of facilities which people in the city enjoy. Unless we settle that enormous Territory, God help us ! We shall never be able to hold Australia with a mere handful of people.
.- One can hardly expect a satisfactory Budget to emanate from this composite Government. You, Mr. Chairman, have probably heard the fable of the painter who attempted to produce a picture of exquisite beauty by a composite method - selecting beautiful features from a number of models, a brow from one model, a nose from another, a mouth from a third, and so on until he had achieved a monstrous incongruity, and I think that is an apt description of the present Ministry. In the last Parliament some members of the Government were totally opposed to the policy of the Nationalist party. Either they were insincere formerly, or else they have been prepared to bury their political opinions and accept office at any price. According to a great English statesman, finance is government, and government is finance. The present debate, therefore, must be regarded as one of first importance. From the point of view of finance the party to which I belong has a very creditable record in the administration of the affairs of Australia. When the Labour party had control of the Treasury, the administration was carried on with a due regard to economy and prudence, andthe Labour party had a surplus at the end of each financial year. We hear that Labour Governmentsare not fit to be allowed to take control of the country’s affairs, but I maintain that the Labour party has in ‘ the Federal’ sphere proved itself highly competent to govern. It has placed on the statutebooks some of the finest measures enacted by any Government. In Queensland the Labour party, in the face of great opposition, was successful at the polls in 1915, and I think the Labour Government in that State is the only Ministry in the world that has not been defeated since that time.
– They have not a majority of the votes.
– Yes, they have. I shall come to that aspect later. Labour was successful also in 1918 and in 1920. Throughout Australia it was stated that Labour could not win because of its inability to handle financial matters, but, as a matter of fact, finances of no State in Australia have been more carefully husbanded than have those of Queensland during a particularly trying period. The Government of Queensland recognised that large developmental works were necessary, and that loan money would have to be spent. When honorable members representing the “big business” interests of Flinders-lane proceeded to form a Government they considered it desirable to call in the assistance ofthe Country party. I regret that the Budget and the important Bills that have to come before Parliament are to be disposed of at a break-neck speed. There is no good reason why these matters should be hurried through merely to enable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to attend the Imperial Conference. Why should not the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) be left in charge of the House? It seems that the Prime Minister is not prepared to trust the leadership to the Treasurer. It is the duty of honorable members on both sides of the Committee to protest against the early closing of the session, which will prevent discussion of the many intricate and vital problems that ought to be considered. We know that the Treasurer has a number of pet schemes that he wishes to have placed on the statute-book, and surely, when the Prime Minister goes to England the Treasurer would have a unique opportunity to prove his ability as a leader. One could hardly expect a Government composed of Free Traders, city merchants, doctors, agents and farmers to arrive at a uniform policy, or one that would meet with the approval of people outside. Some members of the Ministry are prepared to sacrifice all the political principles that they espoused in the last Parliament, so long as they may draw their Ministerial salaries.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– Before the adjournment for dinner, I was referring to the attitude of members of the alleged Country party before the elections and their subsequent adoption and carrying on of the Nationalist policy which they had condemned before the electors. Many of them said that they would not be seen dead in a 40-acre paddock with certain members of the Nationalist party. But when the opportunity came to improve their position the sincere and enthusiastic farmers’ organizations outside to whom they owed their return were not given the consideration they expected from their representatives. They supported the Country party, believing that its members would honour the promises they made on the hustings and their definite statement that they would not coalesce with the Nationalist party, but would stand on their own and fight in the farmers’ interests: Because of the definite promises made by the Country party candidates certain electorates, which had for many years consistently returned Conservative and Nationalist representatives turned down those tried and trusted men and. elected men who they believed would support a different policy altogether. We find that the men who were elected to oppose the policy of the Nationalist party by every means in their power have been supporting that policy, whilst those who espoused it at the elections were defeated at the polls. Who have changed? Are they those who were returned as Country party members and are now supporters of the Composite Government, or are they such men as Mr. G. H. Wise and others I could mention who appeared before the electors as consistent Conservatives? It is clear that the alleged Country party representatives are those who have changed. They gave up their principles because they had a chance to secure office. The Country party is really non-existent in the Federal sphere to-day. That can be discovered from the legislation that has been recently under consideration. One has only to go through the list of Bills on the business-paper to note the absence of a number of the cherished measures of the Country party because of their domination by Flinders-lane and the great commercial interests. The farmers have become a secondary consideration. The alleged farmers’ representatives were put to the test in this House on Wednesday, 11th July, 1923, when the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) submitted an amendment to provide that there should be a direct representative of the primary producers of the Commonwealth on the Commonwealth Shipping Board. The only members who voted for that amendment to give the farmers of Australia an opportunity to be represented on the Shipping Board were the Labour members sitting on this side of the House. Allthe honorable members on the other side, Country party and Nationalist party alike, voted against the amendment, and the farmers were thus denied a repre-. sentative on the Shipping Board, who would be able to see that exorbitant freights were not charged on their products. We had several complaints from certain honorable members opposite in the last Parliament that freights on the Commonwealth Shipping Line were excessive and should be reduced. But when they were given an opportunity to put a representative of the farmers on the Shipping Board to watch the farmers’ interests they failed in their duty. They voted to save the Flinders-lane Government. Honorable members on this side alone put up a fight in the interests of the farmers, because they are prepared to give a fair deal to all producers in the Commonwealth. On the 26th July, 1923, the Country party member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) moved an amendment on the motion for the second reading of the Tariff Board Bill to provide for the creation of a Tariff Board of three members representative of the manufacturers, the primary producers, and the public generally. That amendment went to a vote, and the honorable” member for Swan and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) were the only two on the other side prepared to cross the Chamber and vote with the Labour party in’ favour of the amendment.
– I was paired for that amendment.
– That may be so, but the honorable gentleman will not deny that the honorable member for Swan and -the honorable member for Perth were the only members on the other side who voted with honorable members on this side in support of that amendment of vital interest to farmers.
– Three of the best men on the honorable member’s side voted against the amendment.
– “With- two exceptions, all the members of the Treasurer’s party voted against it. Honorable members opposite do not like what I am saying, but they must take their “gruel.” The farmers throughout my electorate were asked to vote for the Country party candidates at the last election, and they should know where alleged Country party representatives stand when they are put to the test. In the last Parliament,’ whenever the fate of the then Administration was at. stake, a sufficient number of Country party members voted with the Government to save them from the people. That kind of camouflage is carried on still, but in a more acute form to-day, because the Country party has been absolutely swallowed up by the Nationalist party.
– The honorable member would like to believe that.
– The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) knows quite well that what I am saying is true. He must have read* some criticisms by farmers’ associations of the Composite Government and its danger to farmers’ organizations throughout Australia. I recall a motion moved by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) in the present session, to the effect that 4s. per bushel should be guaranteed to the farmers for their wheat. When the motion was submitted the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), speaking no doubt for the Country party, said that they did not want 4s. per bushel; but I have seen letters from two constituents of the honorable member for Hume, saying that they did not agree with what had been said by the honorable member for Echuca.
– From two men.
– They were expressing the opinion of the farmers belonging to their associations in saying that they did not agree with the attitude taken up by the Country party members in this Chamber. They thanked the honorable member for Hume for submitting his motion, and honorable members on this side for their advocacy of a better deal for the wheatgrowers of Australia. In the last Parliament the honorable member for Hume submitted a motion that the butter producers of Australia should be guaranteed for their exportable surplus butter a price which would not be less than the world’s parity, but all the Country party members voted against that motion. When that test was applied by the honorable member for Hume, the so-called Country party .members failed to respond to it.
– What can they do, tied up as they are with the Nationalists?
– Exactly. But I am pointing out that they secured election to this Parliament by saying that they would have absolutely nothing to do with the Nationalist party, that they considered Nationalist members worse than Labour members, and would not support the Nationalist party’s policy any more than they would support the policy of the Labour party. When we find such a conglomeration as we have on the other side, it is no wonder that a hotchpotch kind of a Budget should be submitted by the Treasurer. In perusing the Budget, I find that we- are told that the surplus for the year was £1,020,150, making the accumulated surplus £7,475,276. Nothing is said as to the way in whichthat surplus was arrived at. No credit is given in the Budget to the Australian note issue. It is hidden from the eyes of the public that the Labour party was responsible for the Australian note issue, from the profits from which the present Government have been able to take over £1,000,000 into revenue, thus making their surplus possible. The Labour Government, when they established the Australian note issue, did so believing and intending that the profits from it would go towards the reduction of the national debt. That party came in for a good deal of criticism when the measure was before the House. Itwas very severely condemned by the then Opposition, and I think it was Sir Joseph Cook, then Leader of the Opposition, who referredto it in mostcontemptuous terms, and described the notes as “ Fisher’s flimsies,” saying that people would be able tobuy thousands off them for a few pence in a few years.
Mr.Austin Chapman. - Why condemn us for what Sir Joseph Cook said ?
– Because the same old Conservatives have composed the party on the other side for the last ten or twelve years. They have all along been men of the same political type, thinking on similar lines, and tied by the same outside influences, the influences which the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) said a few nights ago were such that he could not grapple with them, even in connexion with affairs at Canberra. In the words of the Melbourne Age, a Conservative newspaper, honorable members opposite are controlled by a secret National Union outside, that supplies the money to “ pay the piper and calls the tune,” to which honorable members opposite have to dance. On page 2 of the Budget statement, -we find the revenue for 1922-23 is augmented from the note issue fund to the extent of £1,072,894. If the profits made from the note issue had been used for the purpose for which they were intended by the Labour party, that is the reductionof the national debt, there would have been a deficit for the financial year just closed of approximately £52,743, accordingto the figures I find in the Budget.
If the Treasurer, had not been able to utilize profits made out of the note issue, no doubt he would have found some other way of manipulating the figures in order to present a balance-sheet that would meet with the approval of the commercial interests. By such juggling of figures as he bitterly condemned before he gained office, the Treasurer has managed to show that expenditure is diminishing, and apparently he desires to be able to present a Budget next year which will show a further reduction in expenditure. To that end, £1,301,000, which is estimated to be expended in the current financial year, was debited against the accounts of last year. That amount comprises: - Purchase of wire netting,£250,000; advance to States under the Main Roads’ Act, £500,000 ; advance to Fruit Pools, £551,000. Had that expenditure not been debited to last year, the Treasurer would have been obliged to estimate a deficit of about £1,000,000 instead of. a surplus in the current year. The Leader of the Country party, before he became Treasurer, severely condemned the adoption of such practices by the then Treasurer, who is his present Leader (Mr. Bruce), but some members readily forget all their cherished ideals and views of political economy if by so doing they may reach the Treasury bench. A comparison of the expenditure for the year ended 30th June last,with the figures for 1913-14, shows an alarming increase. The expenditure out of revenue in 1913-14 was £23,160,733; in 1918-19, £45,119,681; . and in 1922-23 £63,700,485. The rate at which the public debt of the Commonwealth and the States is increasing is alarming, and every student of political economy must realize that a prudent financial policy is essential to the future welfare of Australia. The Commonwealth debt at the present time comprises-:- War debt, £362,692,000; other debts, £48,300,000; total, £410,996,000. The public debts of the States are: - New South Wales, £190,000,000; Victoria, £109,000,000; Queensland, £85,000,000; South Australia, £60,000,000.; Western Australia, £54,000,000; and Tasmania, £22,000,000, making a total for the States of £520,000,000, or £930,000,000 for Commonwealth and States. I mention the Queensland public debt because some honorable members say that that State, merely because the Labour party are in power there, has the greatest public debt of all the States in the Commonwealth. . The figures I have quoted prove that that is not so. The Budget shows that £260,000,000 of the Commonwealth debt will mature in the next seven years, and the most prudent administration is necessary if this country is to be helped out of the financial morass into which it has been led by past Nationalist Governments. It is necessary to prevent a repetition of past waste and extravagance, and such scandals as the purchase of fourteen wooden ships for £2,000,000, ten of which, purchased at a cost of £800,000, were sold privately to some individual for approximately £15,000. We must avoid such waste and maladministration as occurred in connexion with War Service
Homes, and the purchase of the saw-mills at Canungra and Beaudesert. Those mills cost the people of the Commonwealth over £500,000, but were left idle for eighteen months, and many hundreds of men were consequently thrown out of employment. A Government of the same political complexion as that of the Ministry now in power was responsible for all that bungling. The mess has not yet been cleared up, for I have yet to learn that these saw-mills have been sold. Not long ago they were advertised for sale, and no doubt we shall discover later that they have been sold at a sacrifice, and that some individuals have made good bargains, as Lahey and Brett did when they obtained £463,000 of the people’s money for saw-mills that were worthless to the Commonwealth Government. “We must avoid also a repetition of such bungling as theKidman-Mayoh shipbuilding contract, which cost the Commonwealth many thousands of pounds. The Nationalists were responsible for that transaction also, and I understand that the money due to the Treasury by the contractors in accordance with the decision of the Courts has not yet been paid.
– That must wait till next year.
– Yes ; but if an old-age pensioner were overpaid he would be expected to refund the amount out of his 15s. per week, in contributions of.1s. or 2s., which he could ill-afford. The same remark applies to war widows and others who are dependent upon pensions, because their breadwinners were lost in the war. Whilst advocating that economy should be practised in future, I do not say that there should be parsimony in the administration of the public finances. Parliament in co-operation with the States should pursue a developmental policy that will give employment to thousands of men, and make available to the sons of Australian farmers millions’ of acres of land that are urgently required for settlement. I have known as many as 700 applications to be received for one block of land in Queensland, and there is always an excess of applications for every block thrown open for selection in certain parts of Western Queensland, particularly the central-west and southwest. I agree with the words of Henry
Higgs, C.B., the well-known writer on national economy, who said -
Economy is the wise management, husbandry, or administration of resources. Parsimony requires no prudence or sagacity, no power, combination, or judgment, but a blind policy of stinting everywhere. Expense, and great expense, with prudence may be an essential port of true economy. .
It is possible that the Treasurer, who out of politics is a very estimable citizen, but as a politician is inexperienced in finance, might deem it his duty to practise parsimony instead of economy, thus stinting the country of the money required to develop it by the construction of railways, buildings, and roads, and the provision of telephonic, telegraphic, and postal services, to induce men who are desirous of going upon the land to go into the remote parts of the continent. The Labour party has no need to be ashamed of its record in Federal finance. In 1909 a Labour Government had a surplus of £450,000; in 1910 an anti-Labour Government had a deficit of £650,000. The Labour Government in 1911 showed a surplus of £1,837,000; in 1912 another surplus of £2,261,000; and in 1913. a third successive surplus of £2,650,000, but in the following year the Liberal Government had a deficit of £1,400,000. There is a significant contrast between the deficits of the two anti-Labour Governments and the £7,000,000 of accumulated surpluses for which Labour Administrations were responsible. Instead of hoarding the present accumulated surplus of over £7,000,000, the Government should use £2,000,000 of it in increasing the old-age pensions by 5s. instead of 2s. 6d., as the Treasurer proposes, and apply the balance to the reduction of the national debt. The increase promised to the old people is quite inadequate. Anybody who studies the finances of the Commonwealth must recognise that an endeavour must be made to reduce the public debt. The Labour party does not advocate repudiation of the public debt, as some honorable members opposite declare we do; we believe that the Government should do everything possible to wipe out that burden in the briefest possible period. More could have been done in that regard in the last financial year. Honorable members opposite say that the members of the Opposition are the only ones who regard the Budget as unsatisfactory, and it is well, therefore, to quote an independent authority, lest people reading Hansard - and I find that a great many people do read Hansard - should think that the objections to the Budget are merely the opinions of those of us in this House who are opposed to the Government. This is what the Age of 8th July said regarding the Budget : -
Expressions of disappointment with the Federal Budget were general in the city yesterday. After Dr.Earle Page’s stout declarations of economy and the urgent need for a reduction of both taxation and expenditure, it was considered that he had egregiously failed to grasp his opportunity, even allowing for his inexperience, and for the fact that he had only been in charge as Treasurer for one-half of the financial ‘year.
– What is the honorable member reading?
– I am reading from an anti-Labour Conservative authority to show that my views of the Treasurer’s Budget are not the views of Labour members only. In the same issue of the Age there were telegraphic reports from Sydney saying that great disappointment with the Treasurer’s Budget speech had been expressed there. Members on the other side of the House do not like the facts to be published. Some of the people of Queensland have adopted what those honorable members would call “the horrible custom” of reading Hansard, and I want them to know what Conservative newspapers right on the spot think of the Budget.
– Is the honorable member in order in reading an article from the daily press dealing with a matter now before Parliament?
– The honorable member is not quoting from an article bearing upon the present debate, but from a newspaper report of another matter. He is therefore in order.
– I now resume the reading of myextract from the Age -
For the Ministry tohave levied crushing taxation sufficient to yield an accumulated surplus of £7,000,000 was regarded as being quite unjustified; to withhold this huge sum from its legitimate purpose as a vitalizing influence in commerce and industry was indefensible, while to continue the same crippling rate of taxation was condemned as placing the Ministry in the same class as the spendthrift Administration it had suceeded. The need for industry and enterprise being relieved from the throttling grip of the tax-gatherer is held to be more urgent to-day than when Or. Earle Page posed as the champion of economy last year and the year ‘before, and it is a keen disappointment to many that he has so abjectly failed, to translate his words into actions.
Before the present Parliament expires, a great many people who earnestly and conscientiously supported the Treasurer as Leader of the Country party, will find that he has not fulfilled all the promises he made. Whatever his personal views may be, he now finds himself in the meshes of “ big commerce.” He finds himself associated with one of the captains of industry - one of the leaders of the great middlemen and commercial magnates of Australia, whose interests are not identical with those of the struggling farmers whom I can picture to-night in the backblocks of Queensland, New South Wales, . and the other States. The men on the land have not received a fair deal from Conservative Governments, and they have to seek the services of honorable members on this side to put up a fight in their interests. They recognise that we are free and untrammelled and not controlled by those wealthy interests that subscribe to the mysterious National Union, which is behind the Prime Minister and the Treasurer.
It is disquieting to find figures in the Budget speech disclosing a falling off in the value of Australian exports. In 1921-22 Australia’s exports, . according to the Budget, were worth £127,846,000, and in 1922-23 they were worth only £117,778,000,representing a falling off of a little over £10,000,000. In 1921-22, wheat to the value of £28,644,000 was exported, but in 1922-23 the value had declined to £8,508,000. And so with butter, of which £7,988,000 worth was exported in 1921-22, and £6,134,000 worth in 1922-23. If one accepted the word of Conservative newspapers, one would think that the only part of Australia which was becoming less prosperous was Queensland, and that the reason was that a Labour Government was in power there. Bulletin No. 10, prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician, for the quarter ended December, 1922, shows that inNew South Wales, for the year 1920-21, there was an excess of imports over exports of £20,000,000. This means that the State of New South Wales paid £20,000,000 more for goods imported than it received for goods sold to other countries. Victoria, the allegedly prosperous State, had an excess of imports amounting to £23,000,000. Queensland had a surplus of £4,000,000 worth of exports over imports. That gives the lie direct to the traducers of Queensland. I am satisfied that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is not afraid of the security of his property in Queensland. He would not dream of selling out his interests there and migrating to Victoria. He knows that there is greater prosperity in. that State under Labour rule than there is in Victoria under a Conservative Government.
– My property is freehold. The Labour Government has a system of perpetual leaseholds.
– Leasehold has been a great boon to Queensland. The honorable member when he speaks of freeholds reminds me of one of the hindrances to development in Queensland. Along the railway lines of that State there are many thousands of acres held by the descendants of people who settled there fifty or sixty years ago. Those holdings were purchased for nominal sums, and should, if possible, be resumed for closer settlement, the Government, of course, paying due compensation to the owners. When a sympathetic Government was in power people took up hundreds of square miles of freehold, and obtained leaseholds at peppercorn rentals. I am glad that, the Queensland Government is now about to resume 700,000 acres of sheep country in the south-west of Queensland. What for? Not to hand it over to a Labour union, or any other organization, but to make it available to the sons of Queensland farmers and workers. That land would not be available in the ordinary course of events for a great number of years. For every block of sheep country available in Queensland to-day, there are, approximately, 700 applicants. It is nearly as hard to draw a block of Queensland sheep country in a land ballot as it is to draw a winning ticket in Tattersalls sweepstake.
– There is plenty of sheep country available “ out west.”
– At places like Longreach, which is 800 miles by rail from
Brisbane, or Clermont, which is between 650 and 700 miles by rail from Brisbane, or Winton, 900 miles from Brisbane, there are hundreds of applicants when a block of land is thrown open for settlement. Only one man can obtain it, and the others have to go on the already overcrowded labour market. Many of them are forced to go into unsuitable occupations, and probably never get suitable land. The Labour Government of Queensland proposes to throw open 5,480,000 acres of land for closer settlement purposes. In connexion with the great Northern Burnett scheme, the Government are resuming about 3,000,000 acres for closer settlement purposes.
Mr. Corser interjecting,
– These continued interruptions must cease. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) was listened to in silence by the Committee, and he must now refrain from interjecting.
– Surely I am entitled to correct a wrong impression.
– I have a suspicion that the honorable member for Wide Bay is opposed to the Burnett lands scheme. In fact, I am told that he is.
– That is not correct.
– I believe the honorable member used his influence to prevent the Commonwealth Government granting a loan of £2,000,000 to the Queensland Government to build necessary railway lines and roads, and to make a survey of the country. I had the pleasure recently of travelling with the Premier and the Governor of Queensland over the land included in the Dawson Valley scheme. We went through pastoral country which is held to-day by probably not more than twenty-five people. We saw hundreds of miles of beautiful country on both sides of the Dawson River. The Queensland Government hope, by throwing open 1,000,000 acres of that land for closer settlement, to have thousands of small farmers - fruit-growers, cotton-growers, ‘ and graziers - rearing good Australian families, where only twenty or thirty people live now.
– If they have any sense, they will not grow fruit.
– No doubt, full consideration will be given to the prospects of marketing the produce. I agree with the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), that in certain parts of Victoria, and probably in Tasmania also, too many people have taken up fruit-growing. The jam manufacturers offered very low prices - in fact, less than the cost of production - for thefruit, and certain fruitgrowers have been deluded into blaming the sugar industry for their inability to find markets for their fruit.
– The Government engaged an American firm to dispose of our fruit.
– Yes ; and it incurred great losses. It is the duty of the Government to endeavour to find markets, not only in the East, but in other countries. In the Dawson area an area of 1,000,000 acres is to be made available. On the north coast railway approximately 300,000 acres, and at Palmerston 180,000 acres, are to be thrown open for closer settlement, whilst in the Clermont Capella district 300,000 acres are to be made available for cotton-growing. In the south-west of Queensland 700,000 acres of sheep country are also to be resumed. I quite agree that those pioneers - some of whom are still on the properties - who went out into these districts were hardworking, and deserving of every consideration, and I would not favour their land being resumed without reasonable compensation being granted by an independent Court. The Labour Government will give that protection to them. I mention these facts, as one frequently reads newspaper statements to the effect that everything in Queensland is retrogressive because a terrible Labour Government is in office. In the year 1914 the dairying industry in Queensland was worth £2,390,000, and in 1921 £7,000,000. In 1914 the agricultural crop in Queensland was worth £5,670,000, and in 1921 it was valued at £10,500,000. In 1914 the primary industries generally in Queensland were worth £59,000,000, and in 1921 £68,000,000. In 1914 the number of owners cultivating land in Queensland was 22,000, and in 1921 24,500. In 1914 the number of cattleowners was 39,700, and in 1921 48,700. These figures prove conclusively that the dairying, agricultural, and other industries have made rapid progress, and that the number of land-owners cultivating their property, and also the number of cattle-owners have increased to a remarkable extent since the Labour Government came into office. These figures should effectively refute the statement that the LabourGovernment is ruining the northern State, and that if Labour Governments were returned in other States or to the Federal Parliament their administration would be detrimental to the best interests of the community. I have already shown the success which attended the financial efforts of a Federal Labour Government - that its work was carried out with due regard to economy, and that it was able to show a substantial surplus each year it was in office. Comparing the years 1921-22 with 1920-21, according to the Commonwealth Year-Book, we find that New South Wales showed a decrease in exports of £5,000,000, Victoria £200,000, and South Australia £3,000,000; whilst Queensland showed an increase of exports over imports of £2,400,000. These figures are in addition to those which I previously quoted. The Producers’ Review of 10th January, 1923, which is the official organ of the United Cane-growers’ Organization of Queensland, the Farmers’ Union, and the Graziers’ Association of Queensland, states -
A study of the CommonwealthYear-Book 1921-22 yields interesting results. Queensland factories pay the highest weekly rate of wages in Australia, viz., £4 16s. 8d. The average working hours are the lowest in Australia, namely 45 - 52 per week. We would naturally expect that on such figures industries would suffer. However, the output per employee is the greatest in Queensland - the sum of £364 per annum. New South Wales comes next, with £322; and South Australia last, with £262.
That information is published in the farmers’ official organ, and the figures quoted show the remarkable results achieved when a Labour Government is in power. The organizations which I have mentioned are not tied to the wheels of any political chariot. The editor of the publication is an able man, free to express his opinions in the interests of the farmers, regardless of any political party.
– The honorable member should quote figures from the AuditorGeneral’s report.
– I have quoted reliable information taken from the Commonwealth Year-Book, and it indicates what we might expect when Labour gets con- trol in the Commonwealth. I shall now dealwith the figures quoted in the Budget in relation tothe PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which is utilized by practically every one in Australia. In a country electorate, such as the one which I have the honour to represent, a great many people are requiring additional postal and telephonic facilities, and it is therefore my duty to criticise the policy of the PostmasterGeneral when I think that the work of his Department isnotbeing carried out in the best interests of the Australian people. I gather from the Budget that in 1922-23, £2,510,346 was spent on additions, new works, and buildings, and that for 1923-24 the amount to be expended from revenue on the construction and extension of telephone lines is £220,000, and from loan £2,980,000. A sum of £729,366 is also to be spent on new buildings, and £82,400 on new sites. As a representative of a country district, and as one who is anxious to assist in giving the people privileges and concessions to which they are entitled, I sayunhesitatingly that this total amount of £4,011,766 has not been fairly allocated.
– If a heavy expenditure is involved in the construction of a new exchange in Sydney, the country residents also benefit.
– A big exchange may accommodate perhaps 100,000 city subscribers, but there are only a few trunk lines from that exchange to the country. Provision has been made for the expenditure of £157,130 in Sydney, and only £145,761 in the other portions of New South Wales.
– The honorable member should quote the South Australian figures.
– I intend to show that the Postmaster-General has not treated South Australia at all fairly. Provision has been made for the expenditure of £122,279 in Melbourne, and the suburbs, and only £82,000 in other portions of Victoria. Taking these figures into consideration, it will readily be seen that preference is given to the cities.
– That is absurd, as 54 per cent. is to be spent in the country and 46 per cent. in the cities.
– According to the source from which I am quoting, a total of £96,530 is to be spent in Adelaide and the suburbs, and £10,027 in other parts of the State. Can any one say that that is a fair allocation of expenditure?
– The honorable mem ber’s figures are altogether wrong.
– They are from the Estimates, and are quite correct. They have not been “rigged” in any way. The honorable member is a Country party representative, and surely he does not object to my putting up a fight in the interests of those who work so laboriously on the land in the back-blocks. Surely he will assist me in, my endeavour to sea that additional postal, telephonic, and telegraphic facilities are provided to enable these people to keep in touch with civilization.
– The honorable member . for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is not prepared to do it himself.
– Does the honorable member for Swan intend to remain silent ? The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) when speaking the other day said, “These men on my right are quite dumb. We hear no voice from them at all.” I am quoting these figures, but some honorable members do not like to hear them. In Perth and suburbs, a sum of £68,606 is to be expended on new works and buildings, and only £17,129 throughout the rest of the State. Taking the States I have mentioned, £444,545 is to be spent in the cities, and £254,927 in the country.
– The honorable member is referring to the proposed expenditure onnew buildings.
– I went very carefully through these figures last night, and the amounts I have quoted are correct. Doubtless some honorable members will endeavour to prove that people in the country are receiving a fair deal.
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) is absent for the moment, but he can easily disprove what the honorable member is saying.
– I am not going to allow the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to force his views down my throat. I. have been hampered in my endeavour to . secure better postal and telephonic facilities for country residents, and I do not intend to remain silent. If certain members of the Country party have been brought to heel, and have to support a policy which they denounced so bitterly when appealing to the people that is their look-out. I intend to remain true to the principles I advocated on the public platform. Approximately 14,000 people are waiting for telephones. The Government intend to reduce the postal rate from 2d. to1½d., and I ask honorable members opposite if such a reduction is likely to be of any benefit to those living in the country districts. They know very well that it is not. The average farmer writes one letter a fortnight - sometimes not that - whilst the warehouse proprietors of Flinders-lane probably despatch 2,000 letters in the same period. This concession will be one of great magnitude to business men, but infinitesimal in its advantages to the worker or struggling farmer who may write only halfadozen letters a year. Honorable members opposite may contend that the reduction will lead to a greater number of letters being written, but experience and statistics do not support that view. I find that the total number of letters posted for delivery in the Commonwealth after penny postage was conceded in 1910-
– Who first reduced the postage?
– It was the Labour Government which first introduced penny postage.
– All the Labour party did not support it !
– That is so, but all honorable members opposite will support the present reduction, because it is in the interests of the great commercial men and traders who are “ running “ the Government to-day. Thousands of people are waiting for telephone lines in the country and cannot obtain them, because the Department regards such extensions entirely as business propositions. I have in mind an application made by certain people at Frenchmen’s Creek, about six miles out of Rockhampton, for a mail delivery. The reply they received was that if they were prepared to subscribe £20 towards the expenses of the service, it would be granted. It is absolutely wrong to ask people, who are struggling for an existence on the land, to put their hands into their pockets to such an extent before they can obtain a mail delivery once a day. In the city the great commercial houses and business-men have two deliveries a day, and experience no difficulty in obtaining every postal facility.
The conditions no doubt, are similar in all the States. However, I was about to point out that in 1911, the year after penny postage was enacted, the increase in the number ofletters as compared with1910 was 14 per cent.; the increase in 1912 as compared with 1911 was 3 per cent.; the increase in 1913 over 1912 was 4 per cent.; and the increase in 1914 over 1913 was 3 per cent. These figures do not disclose any abnormal increase. In 1912, there were 456,000,000 letters posted, and the average number per head was 96; in 1920, when twopenny postage prevailed, there were 546,000,000 letters posted, and the average per head was 104. This shows that more letters were posted at twopence than at one penny. I wish honorable members to bear with me while I read a letter from Mr. R. H. Edkins, the executive officer of the United Graziers’ Association of Queensland,showing what he thinks of the way in which people in the remote parts of Australia are treated by the Department. That gentleman is opposed to me in politics, but he agrees with me that the reduced postage will militate against the chance of those people receiving the increased facilities that are their right, while it will afford relief to warehousemen and commercial men generally to the extent of thousands of pounds per annum. I am here to fight the cause of the people who are doing the real developmental work of Australia, and,in carving out a home for themselves in the bush, are prepared to face all sorts of disabilities and disadvantages. Their interests must be safeguarded, and I shall certainly do my best to see that the Government does not fail in its obvious duty to them. Mr. Edkins writes -
I desire to call your attention to what is considered, by those living in the district affected, as a serious injustice, viz.. that in some of the more remote areas of this State the resident land-holders have to subsidize their mail services.
As an illustration,I have before me the cases of the Clio-Richmond and Army DownsRichmond mails. In both these cases the Department refused to pay sufficient for the services, with the result that no one would tender at or near the price offered, and the only way the settlers could secure the services was by making up the balance required.
I think you will recognise that it is in the best . interests of Australia that these remote areas should be pioneeredand the country opened up for settlement. This generally entails upon those undertaking this type of settlement a good many hardships, and the only meansby which the disabilities of the pioneering life can be modified and the settlers kept in touch with the trend of things in the centres of population is by the mail service.
It is therefore very discouraging to find the Government,who should be giving every encouragement to this class of settler, penalizing him by requiring him to subsidize these services.
When the Postal Department was not a paying concern there might have been some justificationf or such a policy, but that cannot be said to be the case at present, and I certainly think that while there is any surplus revenue available, every consideration should be given to the cases above mentioned.
I would specially draw your attention to the fact that when the postal service to these remote districts was under State control, the residents were not called upon to make up any deficiency in revenue which such service might entail.
Inbringing this matter under your notice, I desire to point out that Western Australia and South Australia, and the western districts of New South Wales, are also interested in the present policy of the Postal Department just as keenly as Queensland is.
That is from a well-known opponent of the Labour party, and a supporter of the Government. He is prepared to give his views freely and fairly, as he does in the letter I have just read.
I should now like to touch on the question of repatriation. We are told in the Budget that £1,188,000 will be required for general repatriation purposes, and that the war expenditure on account of pensions, repatriation, and so forth for the year just closed amounted to £30,100,472. That is a very substantial sum. I admit that the Government are beset with difficulties in this work of repatriation. As an ex-member of the Queensland Parliament, I am fully aware of the troubles experienced by the Land Settlement Department in giving satisfaction to the soldier settlers. The State Department, however, is greatly hampered because the Commonwealth Government will not increase the advance of £625 to these settlers. Two years ago, the Queensland Minister of Lands came to Melbourne, and proposed that the loan shouldbe increased to £800. These loans are made for building, fencing, and other improvements, and for the purchase of implements and live stock, and the amount sanctioned is found to be quite insufficient. Proper provision is not made for boring for water, and many of the settlers have had to spend considerable sums out of their own pockets. Others have had to leave their farms for want of water. The men are urging an increase in the loan, but the Minister of Lands in Brisbane cannot do anything because of the attitude of the Commonwealth Government. Truly, £625 is a very small sum with which to provide a house, fencing, live stock, farming implements, and improvements generally, and one wonders how the settlers manage. Owing to this cheese-paring policy they are not able to develop their lands in the way they should be developed, and as they could be if the advance were £800. I have been amongst those men, and I know them. I appeal to the Treasurer to afford the assistance they desire. Previous Treasurers have been applied to in the same way, but nothing has been done.
The War Service Homes Administration has been putrid; at any rate, it left room for a great deal of improvement. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) so ably presented the case in a very fine speech the other day that I shall not now go into the subject at length in the few minutes remaining at my disposal. I gather from the Budget that £2,158,141 is to be spent on War Service Homes this year, and I trust that the Treasurer, during the Prime Minister’s absence, will see that the Minister in charge has the business thoroughly “ cleaned up,” and the Department put on a proper footing. I trust that’ the Government will get rid of the sawmills in Queensland which were purchased by the. Department at the cost of half-a-million of money and afterwards closed down, with the inevitable result of causing unemployment. I hope, however, that the sale of these sawmills will prove of advantage to the Government. At any rate, care ought to be taken, that some friend of this “composite “ Ministry does not become the lucky purchaser at a price unduly advantageous to himself. We remember the secret sale of Commonwealth wooden ships, when £10,000 was paid to the Government, and a profit of £100,000 made by the purchasers, and we also remember the sale of the Geelong Woollen Mills. I have always held that the War Service Homes should be supplied to the soldiers at the statutory price.
– That is a sacred obligation.
– It is. Many of these men -decided to purchase homes, believing that they would obtain them for £800. When overhead expenses are added, however, the home frequently costs £1,000 or more. I know that there has been a writing down of the cost of returned soldiers’ homes, but it has not been satisfactory in Queensland, and we heard from the honorable member for Reid that it has not bee.n satisfactory in other States. In Queensland, one man has a home valued at £820, and the next-door house, of the same type, also occupied by a returned soldier, is valued at £85$. These anomalies’ continue under the administration of the Department,, and from beginning to end the returned soldiers have not been given a fair deal.
– And they can. get no satisfaction from the Government.
– That is so. When they appeal for redress, they are told that consideration will be given to their complaints in due course. Time goes on, and nothing effective is done to remedy their grievances. I hope that the whole matter of War Service Homes administration will be carefully gone into.
I desire to touch briefly on the question of national insurance. It is a matterof very great importance to Australia, and I should like to go into the subject very fully, but I have not time to do so to-night. In the brief time- at my disposal I want to say that I do not think any one can object to a proper national insurance scheme for the whole of Australia;, so long as it is so framed as to have due regard for the people intended to be benefited- by it. Large weekly payments should not be demanded. The purpose should be to help struggling people, and the scheme should not be such as would render it an ineffective competitor with private insurance companies. We should not be bound by precedent. Let us establish the best and most comprehensive scheme on record. Any Board or Commission appointed to consider national insurance should have on it a representative of the industrial workers of Australia, because they are the people who are most vitally concerned. The Government should have the courage not to hide behind the report of any Board or Commission. They should come down to this House- with a Bill providing for a national scheme of insurance. Why should we, as legislators paid £lj000 a year, each delegate our powers to any one else or hide behind the reports of Commissions? I know that the Government would like to say, “ This is what the Commission recommend. We are not experts in this matter, and we have acted on the report and recommendation of the Commission.” But I say that it is the duty of the Government to take the responsibility in their own hands and introduce a National Insurance Bill. No time should be wasted. I am wondering whether the Government intend to continue the maternity allowance and old-age and invalid pensions, if they introduce a national insurance scheme? No information has been given on this- matter. I am satisfied that the people of Australia will not stand for the abolition of old-age and invalid pensions, or the maternity allowance.. We know that the -Government desire to abolish these payments, but they dare not do so. The British National Insurance Act was introduced in 1911. It provides for a contributory system. We know that in Germany there is a very fine national ‘ insurance scheme. It .was the first great scientific experiment of insurance on a national scale. In Germany the contributory payment and benefit are in proportion to wages, so that the higher class of workman pays a high contribution and secures a very substantial benefit. With certain exceptions, all employed persons in England between the ages of sixteen and seventy, unless employed otherwise than by way of manual labour at a rate of remuneration exceeding £250 a year, are required to be insured. The ordinary weekly rates of contribution payable are 7d. for men and 6d. for women, 3d. of which is paid by the employer and the remainder by the employed ‘ person. The Queensland Labour Government is the only Government in Australia that has tackled the questions of State insurance and unemployment insurance. Its schemes have been very successful. There is an Unemployment Insurance Act on. the Queensland statute-book, but it is not correct, as the Argus says, that, as the result of what it describes as the “ Loafers’ Paradise- Bill,” thousands of men are going to Queensland from the other States to live on the Government of that State. Before a man can benefit under the Act referred to, he has to be a contributor to the fund for six months. He can then draw payments for fourteen weeks, if he is out of employment; but if any job is offered to him in the meantime and he refuses to accept it, his allowance from the unemployment insurance fund is stopped. Thus the statements made concerning “ The Loafers’ Paradise Bill “ in Queensland are maliciously untrue. The Queensland Act is the first attempt by any Government in Australia to deal with the matter of unemployment, just’ as the State insurance scheme established by the Labour party in the northern State is the first attempt made in Australia to establish State insurance on a big scale. In the six years during which the State Insurance Department has been established in Queensland, profits have been made amounting to £300,000. It is not the object of the Department to make huge profits, but whatever profits are made remain in Queensland, and are distributed by way of loans to workers for homes and to men on the land to develop their properties. The Queensland Government, by its insurance scheme, has saved the insurers no less than £200,000. They have reduced the gross rate of fire insurance premiums by 331/3 per cent., and increased the payment to workers for accident insurance from £400, previously paid by private companies at death, to £600, from £400 to £750 in case of total incapacity, and in case of accident from £1 to £3 10s. per week: It has enabled miners suffering from phthisis to secure weekly payments, and their wives andchildren to be cared for. These benefits have been conferred by the Labour party’s Insurance Act in Queensland. These measures show what has been done by Labour in one State in Australia to deal with these questions, which are of transcendent importance. They should be considered from the point of view of the great mass of the people who would benefit from them. If a Commonwealth insurance scheme had been established at the time the Queensland scheme was established and had met with similar success, the profits would by now have amounted to £2,000,000, and the insurers of Australia would have been saved £6,000,000. These estimates have been prepared after careful consideration by the State Insurance Commissioner of Queensland. What is required is a national insurance scheme for the assistance of the poorer people, but I am doubtful whether any party other than the Labour party, which is free and untrammelled, will be able to place on the statute-book of the Commonwealth a national scheme of insurance that will be a formidable competitor with the various’ insurance companies which throughout Australia are making enormous profits at the present time by excessive charges. We on this side would welcome a great national insurance scheme which would tend to make the lives of the workers, the housewives, the aged and infirm, and the poorer people of the community brighter and happier than they are to-day.
– I should like, at the outset, to refer to a few remarks made by the last, speaker, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). I can hardly imagine that the honorable member desired to be absolutely impartial inhis statement regarding the Postal Department. I do not think that he wished to convey to the people of Australia thefacts as set out in the Budget. I find that the telephone and telegraphic expenditure amounts to £3,850,000, and that 54 per cent. of that amount -is to be spent in the country, as against 46 per cent. spent in the cities.
– How did the honorable member find that out ?
-Perhaps if the honorable member who interjects had been as diligent as he might have been, he would have made the same discovery. I find that £729,000 is to be spent on buildings, and that ninety-one of those buildings are to be erected in the cities, and 183 in the country districts. If the amount to be expended on buildings is added to the proposed expenditure on telephones and telegraphs this year it will be found that the proportion of the expenditure in the country is greater than that in the cities. That is a clear statement of the facts as set out in the Budget.
– The honorable member has. not given the figures. Let him quote the figures from the Estimates.
– I have given as much information as was given by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). Honorable members will find that the figures I have given are approximately correct, and represents fair statement of the case. The honorable member boasted that wages are higher in Queensland, and hours of work shorter than in any other State. He said that in South Australia wages were lowest and the hours longest. The honorable member’s attitude seemed to me to be like that of a’ young man boasting before his poor relatives because his father had left him’ a fortune. Queensland representatives come here with their jaws hanging down claiming assistance from the Government of the Commonwealth to develop industries in that State. They ask for substantial support for the development of the sugar industry, and say that if a duty of £14 per ton is not imposed, the industry will die. The people of South Australia who work longer hours than the people of Queensland and for less pay have assisted to bring about the satisfactory conditions in Queensland of which the honorable member boasts. Western Australia loses its reciprocal trade with Java because it is compelled to support Queensland interests.
– Is the honorable member opposed .to the duty on bananas?
– I am opposed to it. The honorable member comes down here and adds insult to injury by boasting of the prosperity of the State from which he comes, though it is due to the people of the other States being taxed to protect Queensland. By close examination of the facts it will be found that Western Australia suffers severely because of the support it’ is compelled by Commonwealth legislation to give to Queensland industries. We never, in Western Australia, imported banana’s from Queensland or Fiji, because it was not convenient to do so. We sent our apples, grapes, wheat, and flour to Java, and naturally we reciprocated and imported from Java the few bananas we wanted, but now the Western Australian ports are closed to them. Java gives free entry to our apples and grapes, but when Western Australian people seek to buy from them a few bananas they have to pay an impost of 8s. 4d. in order to support a Queensland industry. Every State in the Commonwealth should receive fair consideration. It is not right that people in one portion of the Commonwealth should be able to secure support for their industries, whilst industries in other States have in consequence to languish. Here is a case in point. Mauritius required two shiploads of hardwood. Western Australian companies quoted for the contract and would have succeeded in getting it if the ships coming for the timber could have brought cargo. But the ships would have been required to come in ballast, and the people in Mauritius wrote expressing regret that they could not accept the Western Australian tender because the timber would have had to bear the freight both ways. If Western Australia could have bought Mauritius sugar at 2Jd. per lb., instead of paying 6d. for Queensland sugar,’ it could have made a good sale of hardwoods. But it was not allowed to do that; it was penalized in order to protect the Queensland sugar industry, and insult was added to injury when the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) boasted of the prosperity of the State he represents.
I compliment the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) “upon the Budget which has been submitted to ‘ .the Committee. It gives effect to many of those principles which he, and other members of the Country party, urged when we were not in office. That must be admitted by anybody who compares the speeches made in the last Parliament with the actions which have been taken by the present Government. All parties in this House have for years told the electors how absurd it is to have two taxing authorities, each levying from the same people upon different returns. No definite action was taken, however, until this year, when the present Treasurer submitted a scheme to the Premiers of the States. I understand that the only obstacle to the complete acceptance of that proposal is the fact that this Parliament did not accept the averaging system which was proposed by the Country party last year. Had that been done, the present difficulties in the way of making calculations and adjustments to meet both Federal and State ^requirements would not exist. However, I, as a taxpayer, am delighted that shortly it will be. necessary for me to submit only one income tax return.
– Has that not been so in Western Australia for some time?
– Owing to the difference in incidence between the Federal and State taxation laws, the single return is more complicated and troublesome than were the two separate returns. That disability, however, will disappear if the proposal put forward by the Treasurer is adopted, although some little inconvenience may be caused for the current year. In the preparation of my own income tax return I employ an accountant, who first submits the return to the State Taxation Commissioner. Obviously, there can be only one correct figure to represent a taxpayer’s income, but although the authorities do not question the correctness of my balance-sheet, I am assessed by the State Department on an amount £500 more, and by the Federal authorities, £1,000 more than is shown on the return properly prepared by the accountant. The preparation of dual returns is both harassing and expensive. Frequently more money is paid to an expert to prepare a return than is actually paid in taxation. Any Government that has a real care for the people will take into consideration their convenience. That is being done by the Treasurer, and I am glad that a simplification of the present system is imminent. It will make possible economy in administration, with the result that although more money will reach the public exchequer the taxpayer will be put to less expense.
I am glad also that the Government have decided not to continue the taxation of leaseholds. Leaseholders pay rent according to a contract made with the Grown, to whom the property belongs, they make the land productive, and if they make an income in excess of a certain amount they pay income tax. In Western Australia if the leaseholder earns from his lease a big income he is taxed by the Commonwealth and States to the extent of nearly 10s. in the £1.
All parties in the Commonwealth have recognised the advantage to be derived from the adoption of a uniform electoral roll for Commonwealth and States. That is a reform that can be accomplished more easily than can the creation of one taxing authority, and I hope that the
Government will, at the earliest opportunity, come to an arrangement with the States in that regard.
Whilst I am glad that the Government have agreed to increase the old-age pension by 2s. 6d. per week, I welcome even more the liberalization of the conditions.
– The honorable member would not if he were an old-age pensioner.
– I would. As long as I have a kick in me I shall want to do some work. If in my old-age I should not be worth a full day’s pay, I hope I may still get half-a-day’s pay for halfaday’s work. Idleness is opposed to the enjoyment of life. The conditions governing the old-age pensions in the past tended to make a man lazy, because if he worked and earned money he was penalized by a reduction of his pension. There are many jobs upon which elderly men can be employed with advantage to themselves and the community, and if they earn a little with which to supplement their pension, and make their lives a little more comfortable, why should the Government quiz and penalize them? Surely an old man is entitled to earn a little more for himself and his “ old woman.” Besides, his labour is creating wealth, and if his effort is debarred, the efficiency of the community is reduced. That is a shortsighted policy. I am glad that the Government have opened their hearts to the amount of an additional £1,2,00,000 per annum.- I do not think that the proposed payment of 17s. 6d. will enable the pensioner to buy more than the pension of 12s. 6d. did. Who is to blame for that?
– The Government.
– I do not think so. The economic policy of Australia results in a continual increase of wages and other costs, and naturally the old-age pensioner, finding that the cost of living has advanced, requires a little bigger pension. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) referred to the Savings Bank deposits, but the best criterion of a country’s progress is to be got by a comparison of its imports and exports. If the exports are not greater than the imports the country is living on its capital. The honorable member and I are agreed on that point, but I entirely differ from him in regard to the best method of increasing the exports. The Commonwealth’s imports exceed its exports by £13,000,000. Our secondary industries have been given a fair chance to develop, and I assure the honorable member for Martin that if, in order to reduce the imports, the high protection method adopted in the past is continued, the exports also will be more than correspondingly reduced. That has been pointed out very clearly. Even the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) blamed the Government for a reduction in the exports of wool, wheat, and butter. Our exports will continue to decrease if we cripple our primary producers with inefficient secondary industries which bring no wealth to this country. If secondary industries could be conducted with advantage to this country, I would hail them as readily as any man. I find that Protectionists on both sides bolster up Combines, while they criticise capitalists. They create and build up capitalists, although they deny that they do so. Every manufacturer who calls out for a high duty gets it, whether or not his industry is serving Australia. It is encouraging when we find that the chief Australian newspaper, the Age, which advocates the bolstering up of industries by a high Tariff, publishes articles like the following:
COMBINES AT WORK.
Soaring Cost of Living. Will the Government Act?
Is it not time that the Commonwealth Government took definite and decisive action to curtail the vicious profiteering which is being practised ? Almost every branch of trade concerned with the supply of necessaries of life to the public is under the domination of Combines, which seem to have a direct dispensation to plunder the people at their own sweet will. Throughout the city and suburbs- indeed, throughout the Commonwealth- there is such a marked similarity between the basic prices charged that householders have long since come to the conclusion that prices are arbitrarily fixed by associations of manufacturers, wholesale merchants, and retailers, which peremptorily forbids members to sell below the ordained rates. This deplorable condition of affairs is a legacy of the war. It should have died with the war, but, instead, it has continued to flourish without exciting the attention of the Governments, which are supposed tobe the guardians of public rights and interests….
It is a “legacy of the war.” . Manufacturers acquired a taste for high profits, and naturally the wage-earners asked for increased wages. As a result, the cost of living increased. Thus Australia is kept in an artificial condition, except only in regard to those commodities which we export, the quantities of which, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Forde) said, were declining. Naturally they will decline. The producers of those’ commodities are handicapped by the artificial loading, of which even the Melbourne Age, thank God! is complaining. One honorable member said that the duty on sulphur should not be removed. It has been shown distinctly that fruitgrowing is no longer profitable,but some honorable members would, nevertheless, ask the fruit-grower to pay to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and the Electrolytic Zinc Company duty on a component part of an important fertilizer.
– I voted with the honorable member for the removal of the sulphur duty.
– And I have no doubt that the farmers in the honorable member’s constituency will applaud him for it. There was a day when there were probably more Free Traders than Protectionists in this. House. Australians are supposed to be “sports,” but when any honorable member from this side tries to direct attention to the effect of certain legislation, honorable members opposite guffaw and try to prevent him making his remarks. I, and those who think with me have a right to state our case in Parliament. The State of Western Australia - a portion of which I represent - is suffering severely, and is handicapped in its business, by certain loads that have been placed upon it. The built of the handicap is imposed in the interests of secondary industries in the eastern States. If honorable members of the Labour party would listen to what I say, and, if they do not agree with me, would argue solidly, I should not object. I am open to conviction ; but laughing and jeering will never convince me. I mentioned the other day an incident which I shall now repeat, even at the risk of being accused of tedious repetition. The machinery manufacturer is protected. I went to the office of a manufacturer in Melbourne and asked him the price of a certain machine. He said, “ £105 on rails.” I replied, “ Very well, place me one on rails, Fremantle.” He nearly fell over, and said, “ That is in Western Australia ; the price there is £121.” I had to pay that price to support a. factory in Victoria. The -Victorian farmer is a competitor of mine, but I am handicapped, as against, him, by having to pay £16 more than he has to pay for that machine. I suppose I should not speak of the operation of the Navigation Act, for that is now the subject of an inquiry, but because of heavy freights on the. coast Western Australia is, in effect, farther from the eastern States than from England.
– Who is to blame for that?
– I lay the charge at the- feet of the honorable member for Maribyrnong: (Mr. Fenton) as a unit in the party that brought that about. By removing the competition of oversea shipping lines he assisted to give the Australian shipping companies an opportunity to combine. Competition is the soul of any business. Australia is encouraging inefficiency. Vs soon as these Combines find they .’are .not making sufficient profits, that the increased wages demanded by the wage earners cannot be paid, and that farmers and others will not buy their machinery, they demand that the Tariff wall shall be raised still higher. Instead, they should put their shoulders to the wheel and make an attempt to compete even with at least the white nations of the world by modernizing their plant and adopting up-to-dat. methods. They should say, “ We are as good as any white people. We can bo effective. We will show it.” The workers should say, “ If we get these wages we will make the output.” If the workers would only give a reasonable output their wages would be worth something to them. Their wages are no better- to-day than when they were half the amount!’ It is they who, by encouraging Combines, arc causing the high cost of living. Let us get down to business. I suggest that the Government, at least on this occasion, should take some notice of the Melbourne Age, and cause a close inquiry to be made.
The manager of Messrs. F. H. Faulding and Company, wholesale druggists and chemists, of Perth, which firm has- recently erected a modern factory in that city, said-
Our industries still require the greatest assistance and support from the Government and the people of the State if they are to pull through. A3 far as imports from .overseas are concerned, if we cannot manufacture goods of equal quality at a lower price than the imported article loaded with the present Federal Tariff, we had better give up manufacturing altogether.
That is the opinion of a manufacturer. It is apparent from that statement that the manufacturers in Perth have not formed a combine,, and I trust that at no distant date legislative action will be taken to provide that the citizens of Australia who live behind the Tariff walls we have built shall not be fleeced as some are to-day. My idea of how the Treasurer could put Australia on the right road to prosperity is that he should encourage this country to manufacture only those things which can be manufactured with advantage to Australia, and allow our natural resources to be developed to the greatest possible extent. We want more people in this country. We have plenty of and for1 them to till. There is room for closer settlement, but, if Federal and State Governments think they can settle people on the land to grow and market commodities at a higher price than is charged for them in any other country, they are greatly mistaken. It cannot be done. If a man takes up a 640-acre block in its virgin state, he must have £400 available- at -the start to provide vermin-proof fencing. There was an increase of 150 per cent, on fencing material in 1914. It costs £5 an acre to fence a 10-acre Monk, and, unless a settler does make his block vermin-proof, it is no good to him in rabbit-infested areas. Parliament did have the common sense to remove the duty on wire netting. Wire netting in Western Australia cost £28 a’ ton in 1914. It is £64 a ton today. A close, impartial inquiry into the operations of the Tariff would be of advantage to Australia. The question should be honestly investigated, because we want to export more than we import. By manufacturing at an excessive cost we shall merely crush the export trade that we have, until ultimately we shall be able to sell nothing to- any one except foolish Australians. That is the whole argument in a nutshell. I recognise that this country, burdened as it is with a debt incurred during the war, must have a revenue Tariff, but a revenue Tariff should be placed upon those articles the taxing of which will not hamper the development of this country. Other, countries seem to have the wisdom to consider this point when framing legislation. Sixty-one countries have either a very low Tariff, or no Tariff at all, on agricultural machinery and implements of production. They do not hobble the man that runs the race. We in Australia put the heaviest of all duties on those things which are necessary for the natural development of the country. It requires little research on the part of honorable members to ascertain that the main items of produce which bring wealth to Australia are wool, wheat, and gold. It would be hard to check the supply of wool because the sheep produce it irrespective of the conditions which may be imposed on the industry. The shearers, for instance, demand £10 per week whether wet or dry, but even that would not seriously affect the production of wool. Gold has been of even greater importance to Australia than wool, but what is affecting the development of that mineral industry to-day? Quite apart from the increase in wages, the duty on mining machinery and mining tools has made it quite impossible for low-grade mining” shows “ to be properly developed. If the cost of living in Western Australia were reduced wages would also be lower, and those engaged in the mining or other industries would not be any worse off than they are today, as the purchasing power of money would be the greater. With commodities at a lower cost, and a reduction in wages work would be plentiful, and there would be no occasion for men to vainly walk the city streets in’ search of employ- . merit. The tendency to-day is to continue in the vicious circle by increasing the price of commodities and then raising wages, or vice versa, to enable people to purchase what they require. As the speed at which this course is taken is accelerated the position becomes worse. Whilst we are producing at high prices our competitors are turning out similar products at lower rates, and consequently we have no overseas market. The local demand is easily met, and our surplus products cannot be disposed of.
– Are the Government responsible?
– No; it is the result of the policy which the honorable member supports. I am glad that as far as possible money is being kept in Australia, but in a young country additional capital brought into the country can be wisely expended. Large financial institutions such as the Australian Mutual Provident Society are investing considerable sums in Government loans, and consequently comparatively small amounts are available for developmental purposes. If the money deposited in savings and other banks is invested in Government loans, very little is available for developmental purposes, and the progress of the country is seriously retarded.
– Is the honorable mem ber in favour of tax-free loans?
– No. During the time the Government have been in office they have done remarkably well,- but there are matters which still require their urgent consideration. I noticed a cable from London to-day to the effect that the port lighting and other dues at present charged are very detrimental to Australian trade. Naturally the dues imposed by the Harbor authorities are included in the freight, which makes the rates to Australia much higher than they would otherwise be. According to the report, these charges have not been reduced since the termination of the Avar to the extent that they have been in other parts of the world. When excessive dues are imposed in Australia, vessels naturally dodge these ports, and I trust the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) - if this , matter is under the control of his Department - will give it his early consideration. In reducing the postage rate from, 2d. to l½d. I hope the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) will first see that the provision of adequate postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities in country districts is not retarded. The money to be expended on telephonic communication should be allotted on an area as well as on a per capita basis. The principle was adopted by the Government in the recent provision of £500,000 on the £1 for £1 basis for the construction of main roads, a portion being allotted to the States on a per capita basis, and the balance on an area per State basis. Western Australia for instance, is about twelve times as large as Victoria, and if Western Australia is to be properly developed, telegraphic and telephonic facilities must be considerably extended, particularly in the outback country. I do not wish the residents of the metropolitan area to be deprived of their dues, but those residing in country districts should have equal consideration. If six people living in a group in Victoria are entitled to telephonic connexion, a similar number in Western Australia living in a group should be afforded equal facilities.
– Are they not allowed that privilege?
– No. In Western Australia the allotment, it appears, is made on a per capita basis, and, therefore, facilities cannot be made available on the same liberal scale as in other States. Those who are forging their way ahead in the more remote parts of the Commonwealth, and producing commodities which bring us wealth, should not be deprived of the advantages enjoyed by those living in the metropolitan area.
– The grouping for telephone purposes should be in inverse ratio to the area of a State. The larger the State the smaller the group.
– Yes. The Post and Telegraph Department should be conducted to render a service to the community, and not to produce profit.
– Simply because one out of 112 members of this Legislature decides to go to Europe, and move within the charmed circle of the British Cabinet, Parliament has to go into recess. What a “ fool game “ this is in the opinion of the people outside. The members of this Parliament are paid £1,000 a year, and some of them give full-time, some half-time, and others quarter-time to their duties. If all parliamentary candidates were asked whether they would, if returned, give the whole of their time to their political duties, the answer would be a unanimous “ Yes.” I desire to have the electoral law amended so that, when a candidate signed his nomination paper, he must declare whether, if elected, he would give full-time, half-time, or quarter-time to his duties. We all know what the answer would be. We are getting into the bad habit of the House of Commons, with its 680 members, of conducting the business with four or five members in the chamber. As for the silly, fossilized House of Lords, there three are a quorum to manage the affairs of the British Empire. On one occasion it was proposed that this rule should be rescinded, but the proposal was rejected by a majority of 133.
The Prime Minister is going to England, but I ask whether he represents the people of Australia. If a vote were taken in Melbourne and suburbs, which contain half the population of the State, I venture to say that the right honorable gentleman would not be allowed to go. It is, perhaps, the first time in the history of Parliament, that one man in a Parliament of 111 has had the power to stop all proceedings. It is possible that the right honorable gentleman wishes to go Home to “ make his bow,” and give his lady the opportunity to do the “ kick back “ before Royalty. I cannot understand why Australia has all this paraphernalia in England. We have Australia House, which has cost £1,000,000, and in that house there are men who, because they “kowtow “ to a Minister, may get their salaries increased by £1,000. One of these officials had the audacity to insult, perhaps the greatest sculptor we have, Mr. Mackennal. I do not like the statue that has come into our possession ; at any rate, I hate a statue with a skull on the top of it. It is a present which, however, represents £3,000 in commission, and it was buried in the cellar. Yet the official responsible for that has had his salary increased by £1,000 a year. To the credit of the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M; Hughes), I may say that he sent Mr. Mackennal a letter of thanks when I called his attention to the matter. It would pay Australia if we swept away the whole six Agents-General and the High Commissioner. I have no objection to Sir Joseph Cook, who was once wise enough to see the value of a suggestion I made that we should enter into an agreement with Germany based on the then . value of the mark as related to the £1 sterling. When the mark was . 1,000 to the £1, 1 suggested that we should take £5,000,000 worth of goods per annum from Germany, goods that were not manufactured in Australia. I pointed out that in 1913 there came into Australia from Germany £19,000,000 worth of goods, none of which was manufactured here. I conT tended that in this way we should wipe out the whole of the war debt that will lie like a curse on the future citizens of Australia. On that occasion, in answer to an interjection from the Government “ corner, I said that I did not propose that we should make any profit on the goods, but that all profit should be handed to the people. Such an arrangement would have found freight from Europe for all time, and kept our Commonwealth ships filled to their capacity. Sir Joseph Cook said that the suggestion was worthy of consideration, and so it was.
I suppose we must forgive the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) for the miserable pittance he has handed to the old-age and invalid pensioners. I should not wonder if, in future, the honorable gentleman is known as the “ Half-crown Treasurer.” I have no objection to Lady Bridges; she lost her husband at the Front, and he was a good man, whom I knew personally. Lady Bridges had good reason to mourn her loss, but she was given £4,500. 13 any such provision made for the widow of John Smith or Harry Brown ? It cannot be asked for all the widows of the men who died at the Front - women who loved their men as much as Lady Bridges loved her man. Then that champion parasite of Australia, the late Sir Samuel Griffith, who received from the State of Queensland and the Commonwealth some £90,000 in the course of his life, was granted a pension, of £5 a day. His was, perhaps, the keenest legal intellect in Australia, and he took the high position of Chief Justice, knowing that no pension was attached to the office; but when it suited him, he held out his hand and cadged £5 a day. I have never been able to ascertain how much, in addition to salary, Sir Samuel Griffith received by way of allowances. I may say that it was my lips in this House that paid him the praise he deserved for his translation of the work of the great Italian poet, Dante Alighieri. I was “ one who expressed my willingness to devote an equal amount to what I paid
Dr. Maloney. in income tax to his assistance if he had lost all his money by unfortunate speculation. However, compare the liberality in these two instances, with the niggardly addition to the invalid and old-age pensions. The Prime Minister, by his action the other day, robbed me of my opportunity to get a vote on my motion in favour of destitute allowances. The Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) did me the honour to move the adjournment of the debate, and that, as honorable members know, was only a polite way of shelving an awkward question. I am sure that neither the Treasurer, nor any other honorable member, if a vote were taken whether the old-age pension should be increased by 2s. 6d. or by 5s., would dare to vote for the smaller sum, for the simple reason that ‘our creators, the people, would remember our action. We must not follow all the old precedents of the British Parliament. It gives me the “ pip “ to think that, until the war occurred and forced the position, no Britisher was given a vote because of the fact that he is a human being, and now the ladies of England are not given a vote ‘ unless they are thirty years of age ! I believe I was the first member of Parliament to introduce a direct Bill to confer female franchise. When I did so, I was met with jeers, sneers, and cat calls, but I have lived to see the greatest opponents of that measure crawl to obtain the votes of women. I shall be as persistent with my motion for a destitute allowance as I was in regard to that other, and I trust that I may see carried into effect a proposal I have previously made that a motion placed on the noticepaper may go to a vote without debate. That would be very useful, because it is often desirable to know to whom one may look for support. On the first attempt I made in the Victorian Parliament in favour of female franchise I had only the assistance of .the late Lieut.-Colonel Smith. I did not think we would get very far with the matter, but we tackled it session after session, and I lived to see it carried into effect through the kindly action of the late Sir Thomas Bent. I have mentioned here an unfortunate case of ‘a lady who for thirtythree years has been a sufferer from double congenital dislocation of both thighs, and who is not allowed to draw the invalid pension because she was a year and a few monthsover the age of three years when she arrived in Australia.. If she had been only throe years of age on her arrival she would, under the Act, bo entitled to the pension. She brought her case under the notice of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who did his best for her without success. As a last resort she has applied to me, and I am now appealing to the Treasurer on her behalf.If she had not been permitted to come to Australia that would have been more just, but it is an absurdity of red-tape that she should be denied the invalid pension because she was a little more than three years old when she arrived in Australia.
The great question at the present moment is the question of war. I have never advocated war, and never will, because behind every soldier I see the women and children who suffer. More human beings - men and women and children - died as a result of the last war than were actually killed in the fighting. When the great President of the United States of America, who has just left us, called together the Washington Conference, I be lieve that the sun of peace rose, as the sun sometimes does on a morning in winter or autumn, with its light hidden to some extent by clouds; but I also believe that that sun of peace will yet find its noon in a burst of glorious sunshine. The calling together of the Washington Conference was not, in my opinion, the late President’s greatest act. I believe he did more to promote peace by his statement cabled here only a few short weeks ago, that in the next war there will be not only conscription of life, but conscription of Wealth. That will do more to prevent war than will the conscription of life. Is it not infamous that to-day the children of the men who paid the supreme sacrifice at the Front are helping to pay the interest on our war debt, whilst the commercial magnates . of Flinders-lane and other rich men have made fortunes? I shall always thank Sir Alexander Peacock for the publication, not by name but by numbers, of a list of persons who have made fortunes. There was a list of from one up to 250, during 1913-14, 1914-15, and 1915-16; and in one case which I worked out - and the figures for which I had verified by the “Warden of the
Melbourne University Senate, in order that I might be quite accurate - it was shown that a man had made profits at the Tate of 2,000,000 per cent. I asked the present Prime Minister to publish the names of all persons in receipt of incomes of over £5,000 a year in the Commonwealth. I made this request in view of the fact that the salary paid to our King and Emperor, the Queen, theRoyal Princes, every sailor, from the admiral commanding to the humblest man on deck, and every soldier, from the officer commanding to the private, every Prime Minister, every Cabinet Minister, every Speaker, and member of Parliament, and every policeman, is publicly known. The Government was not courageous or wise enough to give the names I called for. If they had been given I should next have asked how much they held in tax-free bonds. Any honorable member who goes into the figures will know that a man with a large income of, say, £10,000 a year, will be receiving not 3, 4, or 5 per cent. when he invests his money in bonds free of income taxation, but will be receiving from 10 per cent. up to 25 per cent., because the higher the income the higher the rate per £1 of income tax. If a man’s money is invested in bonds free of income taxation, he escapes that taxation. I want to be fair, and perhaps the Treasurer will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the last Commonwealth loan placed on the market is to be the last free of income taxation.
– It is not to be free of Commonwealth taxation, but will be free of State taxation. It is the last loan to be issued on those terms.
– I commend the Government for that decision.
It “ gets my goat,” as the Americans say, that Parliament cannot go on with its work because the best-lookingman in this House is going away to England. If we did meet in his absence we should miss his handsome features; but surely there are other members of the Government who, as old politicians, axe able to lead this House? I ask leave to continue my remarks on the resumption of the debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Dr. Earlepage) agreed to-
That the House,at its rising, adjourn until half-past 2 o’clock, p.m. to-morrow.
House adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230806_reps_9_104/>.