9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Et. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the. chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. GREGORY, as Chairman, presented the report of the Public “Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence, on the proposed establishment of oil depots at Darwin.
Ordered to be printed.
– As the British Government is now engaged in a dispute with Amalgamated Wireless, with which the Commonwealth is associated, I should like to know from the Prime Minister what attitude the Government take up in connection with the whole question of wireless communication.
– There is no dispute between the British Government and Amalgamated Wireless, but a dispute has continued for some time between it and the Marconi Company. The British Government appointed a Committee to investigate the whole question of Empire wireless communication. That Committee has presented its report, and having re:gard to the basis of that report, it has been found impossible to carry out certain provisions of a tender which was accepted for the erection of a reciprocal wireless station. The whole matter has been the subject of consideration between the Commonwealth Government and their representatives on the Board of Amalgamated Wireless. I have also been in constant communication with the British Government to discover, if possible, a solution of the whole question. The position regarding Empire wireless communication has undergone a radical change during the last fortnight, by reason of certain new discoveries which have been made, and which may quite possibly revolutionize the whole system, of long-distance wireless. I have received *a certain amount of information concerning these discoveries from the British Government, but the cable forwarding it expressly requested me not to give any publicity to the actual details at the present moment. I have, however, observed from newspaper reports that certain information about these discoveries is being received here through the ordinary press channels, and I have accordingly communicated with the British Government asking its consent to make public the information sent to me. As soon as that consent is received, I will let honorable members’ know the facts.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways when he expects to be in a position to make a statement to the House concerning the proposed construction of a railway from kyogle to South Brisbane?
– An agreement is now being drafted for submission to the Governments of the States concerned. I hope to have the matter finalized at an early date.
Retiring Allowances of FEMALES
– In connexion with a request recently made to the Prime Minister concerning the retiring allowances of female public servants, the right honorable gentleman promised that the matter would be submitted to the Public Service Board. I should like to know whether he is now in a position to say what has been done?
– I remember the question the honorable gentleman asked me on this subject. Further discussion of the matter has taken place with the Public Service Board, but it feels that the Act, as passed by this Parliament, precludes it from taking action. The Government have, consequently, introduced a provision to deal with the matter in an amending Public Service Bill, which is now before the Senate.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, for the convenience of honorable members, he will arrange that Commonwealth Government Departments shall in future send all replies to the correspondence of honorable members in duplicate, as the adoption of this practice would save an immense amount of work for honorable members in communicating with their constituents?
– I quite appreciate the very great convenience it would be to honorable members if action could be taken in the direction the honorable member has suggested. I should like, however, to look into the matter, and ascertain ‘exactly what might be involved in acceding to the honorable member’s request.
– “When does the Treasurer propose to introduce the Commonwealth Bank Bill?
– The Bill is at present under consideration, and will le brought, down in due course.
Educational Allowances for the Children of Returned Soldiers.
– On Friday last, I brought under the notice of the Prime Minister the decision of the Repatriation Department to dp away wi tb the educational allowances for the children of returned soldiers in Tasmania. I should like to know what action is being taken in the matter, because the decision was to come into force on the 1st June next.-
Mi1. BRUCE. - Inquiries ore being made at the present moment,’ so that I am not in a position to say what action is to be taken in the matter.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions a. as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Agricultural Machinery - Motor Cars
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the average percentage of Customs and natural protection, inclusive of Customs duties, freight, insurance, exchange, and all charges added to invoice cost by the Customs Department in assessing values for duty from consignor in Canada to consignee in Melbourne, per £100 value at place of manufacture in Canada, on the following articles : - Reaper and binder, 6 feet and 7 feet; side delivery reaper mower, 4½ feet and 5 feet; hay rake, 8 feet and 9 feet; grain and fertilizer drill, 15 hoes and 17 hoes, 15 disc and 17 disc; disc plow, 4 furrow?
– The matter will receive attention.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. There is no record of an application having been made under the regulations dealing with this subject for the consent of the Prime Minister to the publishing in a foreign language of the publication referred to. If, however, an application, with supporting particulars, is submitted, the request will receive consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
What progress has been made with the construction and equipment of the Commonwealth Laboratory of Health to deal with miners’ phthisis and other diseases at Kalgoorlie, and when will the same be completed?
– The work is being carried out under the supervision of the State Works Department for the Commonwealth. Expedition was recently urged. I have telegraphed for the information the honorable member desires, and will inform him on receipt of reply. superannuation- act.
Officers in Lighthouse’ Service.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he has yet given consideration to the question of amending the Superannuation Act so as to bring within its scope such members of the Lighthouse Service as were transferred from the State service, and who died before they had completed ten years’ service?
– This matter is at present under consideration, in connexion with a Bill which it is intended to submit to Parliament during the present session, for the purpose of amending the Superannuation Act 1922.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways,” upon notice -
What waa the difference in price per engine between the tender submitted by the Perry Engineering Company, Gawler, South Australia, and the successful tenderers for engines for the Quorn-Oodnadatta railway?
– The difference was £505 per locomotive.
Issue of New 4£d. Stamp - Tenders fob advertising in telephone DIRECTORY
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
When is the 5d. .postage stamp, which was previously used for the registration of letters, but is now obsolete, to be withdrawn, and a new 4Jd. stamp issued for the use of ‘ the public 1
– Instructions were issued for the 5d. postage stamp to be withdrawn on the 1st of May, 1924. A new 44d. stamp has been issued for the use of the public.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, *upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
New Premises in Melbourne.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The regulation provides that the leave is to be without pay if, during the following month, the officer is paid overtime for an equivalent period; otherwise, the leave is granted with pay. This is considered to be an equitable arrangement.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he yet come to a decision on the request made to him hy ‘the recent deputation from the Interstate Dairy Conference for a Commonwealth dairy produce marketing scheme ?
– This subject is receiving the earnest consideration of the Government, and an announcement regarding the ma:Ler will be made as parly as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the description of netting on which dumping duty has been collected?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The agents in Melbourne for the Tasmanian timber supplies arp in touch with the Department. Previous invitations by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for tenders for the particular timbers he required were unsuccessful. The requirements are always notified in the Commonwealth ‘ Gazette, which circulates in all States, and arrangements have been made that, in future, specifications and other particulars will be available in Tasmania.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
American ‘ sob-picture ‘ are common. It is an insult to the average person’s intelligence and a doubtful compliment to a country to say that ‘ the climate is as mild as a mother’s kiss and the soil as kindly as God’s love.’ This phrase is typical of many to be found in the letterpress. To dispel the impression ‘that drought ,Ss common, bits of doggerel, such as ‘ cool creeks flow wherever we go ‘ are used, and settlers are shown swimming in ‘ the big pool at the bend of the river.’ Another inducement for immigration to ‘ God’s own open spaces ‘ is the domestic felicity in the settlements. In those favoured regions ‘ a busy little wife is always seen.’ “
I should like to explain to the Prime Minister that I, personally, have no objection to the climate being described as “ mild as a .mother’s kiss “-
– These remarks are not in order.
– I thought they were not; but I desire to ask the Prime Minister if he has any objection to this beautiful “sob” stuff-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr.R. GREEN asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Has any vessel yet been obtained to replace the Tintenbar?
If not, when does the Minister expect to obtain a vessel ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What number (approximately) of employees in the Defence Department are under the control of the Public Service Board?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Yes. 2 and 3. The Administrator has been instructed to personally investigate these matters, and report thereon without delay.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the-Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the growing importance to Australia of the work of the League of Nations and the International Labour Office, and the need for creating a greater public interest in their operations, he will arrange to have members supplied with the financial reports, brochures, and other publications issued from time to time by the organizations referred to?
– Copies of the official journal of the League of Nations, the International Labour Review (which is the periodical journal of the International Labour Office), and Reports of Meetings of the Assembly of the League and of International Labour Conferences, are regularly forwarded to the parliamentary Library. Budget-statements, financial reports, &c., are re- printed in the official journal of the League.
OPERATIONS of Land Agents.
– On the 14th May “the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) made some inquiries regarding the business being conducted by a land and estate agent who is at present a tenant in occupation of an office at Australia
House, ‘London. I have looked into the matter, and now desire to furnish the following particulars for the honorable member’s information : -
As a result of several newspaper articles regarding activities in London of real estate agents with offices at Australia House, a cablegram was sent to the High Commissioner asking for information on the matter. The High Commissioner replied that Halloran was a tenant in Australia House, and his attention had been called in July last to the advertisements referred to. Halloran had promised to amend all future advertisements. Sir Joseph Cook added that these were carefully watched, and so far as could be seen it was clearly stated that the land was the nearest freehold to Canberra. A further communication was received by mail from the High Commissioner stating that Mr. Halloran presented a letter of introduction and recommendations from members of the Federal Parliament, and Acting Premier of New South Wales, and several other influential gentlemen. A single furnished room on a monthly agreement as from the 30th May had been let” to Mr. Halloran, who, however, applied for a lease for a longer period. In conformity with the Government’s policy, however, that leases should not be granted to firms whose business necessitated propaganda amongst the general public, and whose address at Australia House might give a misleading impression that such address pre-supposed Government approval or supervision, the High Commissioner was advised that the granting of the lease was not approved.
A letter has now been received from the High Commissioner to the effect that though the lease has not been signed, letters which have passed between the High Commissioner’s office and the firm of Halloran and Company are regarded by legal opinion as constituting a definite, agreement for two years with option for a further period of two years, and that Halloran and Company have committed no act which can in law be interpreted as a breach of the agreement. The Government has since cabled to the High Commissioner to take immediate action to correct any misleading impression that the advertisements may have conveyed to .the public, either as to the location of the land offered or the association of the Commonwealth with the advertisements through their being issued by a firm with offices at Australia House. It has been ascertained that the address of the head office of the firm in Australia is “ Mr. H. F. Halloran, Vickery’s Chambers, Pitt-street, Sydney.”
The following papers were presented : - -
Institute of Science and Industry Act - Second Annual Report of the Director (for period 1st July, 1922, to 31st December, 1923).
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1924 - No. 14 - Fisheries. No. 15 - Lands Registration. No 10 - Mining.
No. 17 - ‘Transfer of Land Control. No. 18- District Courts (No. 2).
.- I move -
I submit the motion because I feel that if some action is not taken to counteract the effect of the report of the Public Works Committee on the proposed YassCanberra railway, laid on the table of the House last night, the development of the Federal Capital area will receive a serious set-back. This House should take the earliest opportunity to express its views on the subject, and remedy what otherwise would be a very great injustice. I have no wish to reflect in any way upon the Public Works Committee. Members of that body should not have had the responsibility of deciding whether the line should or should not bo built. This is clearly indicated in clause 26 of the report, which states that both Commonwealth and- State railway officials made it plain that the proposed line was not warranted from a railway point of view, and could only be considered from a civic aspect or as a matter of policy. I say, emphatically, that this House has laid it down, in no uncertain way, that the Seat of Government should be established at Canberra at the earliest possible dato, and that the civic aspect demands that the railway should be built. The Committee should have been instructed not to inquire whether the railway should be built, but to report upon the most favorable route for the line. On the 1st October next, the first sale of Canberra leaseholds will be held at the Capital, and I contend that, unless prospective buyers are assured of railway communication, the sale will be prejudicially affected. The Committee expresses the view that the railway should be brought to the Civic Centre, and that permanent bridges should be built over the Jerrabomberra Creek and the Molonglo River. It is convinced, however, that at present no necessity exists for a through railway from Yass, and that travellers could reach the Capital via Goulburn and Queanbeyan. This will involve an extra 78 miles of travelling. Another suggestion was that a motor road, to cost from £8,000 to £10,000 per mile, should be built from Yass to get over the difficulty. The Public Works Committee quite properly turned that proposal down. I do not think any one would seriously favour permanent connexion with the Federal Capital from the southern line by a motor service. Trains arrive at Yass during all hours of the night, so it is essential that the sleeping cars should be run right through to the Capital area. I doubt .if a good motor road could be constructed for £100,000. Experience in New South Wales and in this State also has demonstrated that a macadamized road will not stand heavy motor traffic, and that the cost of upkeep is very great indeed. That may therefore be ruled out of consideration. The following is a summary of the Committee’s recommendations : -
The term’ nation of a line as near as possible to the 205^-mile point would bring it to a point 10^ miles from the boundary of the Federal Territory area on the Yass side. Although an overwhelming majority of the members of this House decided definitely that the work of the Federal Capital shall be proceeded with, opponents of the proposal lose no opportunity to place obstacles in the way of its accomplishment. I am not suggesting that members of the Committee are antagonistic. The honorable members I have in view are not on that Committee. There is no doubt about their attitude. Only last night, in *the discussion of another measure, I heard an opponent of the Federal Capital proposal alluding to the Territory as a barren desert. It taxes the imagination ofa member of this House - and that,we know, is almost unlimited - to characterize that beautiful country as a barren desert.
– Most of it is.
– A considerable portion of the Territory is a catchment area, and naturally it is more effective because it is mountainous than it would be if it we re beautiful black-soil alluvial plains. It is almost an obsession with certain members that they should do anything to delay the establishment of the Seat of Government at Canberra, notwithstanding the decision of an overwhelming majority of the members of this House. “Myopic, acidulated pessimists,” a term, applied to certain honorable members in another place the other day, appropriately describes opponents of the Federal Capital proposal. They lose no opportunity, in or oat of season, to delay the work. I do not think it necessary to debate the motion at any length.
– The honorable member should endeavour to justify the construction of the suggested railway.
– The Government should proceed with the work without unnecessary delay, because it is their policy to develop Canberra, and that cannot be satisfactorily done until a line from Yass is constructed. Our opportunities at Canberra are unique, particularly from a monetary point of view. I know of a gentleman, very prominent in the commercial world,who would be pleased to take over Canberra with all its liabilities, because he realizes that the assets which will later accrue will be considerable. Landnowworth a few pounds per acre will, in the course of a few years, be valued at so many pounds per foot. It is useless to think that Ave can establish a city unless we provide direct railway communication, and thus facilitate the transport of passengers and goods. An excellent sewerage system is practically completed, and a satisfactory water service has already been provided.
– What return is there from the capital expenditure on the water supply?
– Areturn cannot be expected until the Seat of Government is transferred and the Capital populated. The other day Iwas informed by the manager of one of our largest banking institutions that hewas anxious to establish a branch of his bank at Canberra, and wasawaiting the time when he could select a site. Before very long, it should be possible to install an hydraulic scheme fromwhich power could be generated at a rate even cheaper than is being charged in Tasmania. As a manufacturing centre, Canberra should be attractive, because, apart from other advantages, State taxationwill not be imposed there. An honorable member stated yesterday that he was doubtful if therewas sufficient good land available from which to produce the vegetables thatwill be required by the people whowill ultimately settle there. Thosewho have visited Canberra have seen beautiful vegetables growing at Yarralumla House,which proves that the soil is highly productive. Apart from the land in the vicinity of the Yarralumla homestead there are other areas which equal in fertility the land on the Hunter flats and those at Macquarie, in the vicinity of Bathurst, from which cauliflowers and other vegetables of the highest quality are marketed in Sydney. Attention could be directed to numerous instances in which towns have rapidly developed, and if rail- way connexion is provided, and every effort made to develop the Federal Capital Territory, there is no reasonwhy the city should not expandwith the rapiditywhich characterized the development of many towns in the gold-digging days. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) is doing his best to expedite the development of the Capital, andwe all trust that within two years the Seat of Governmentwill be transferred to Canberra. I commend the motion to honorable members, and trust that when a division is taken itwill be shown in no uncertainway that the development of Canberra is a projectwhich must be proceededwithwithout delay.
– I regret that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has submitted his motion in its present form. It must, I am sure, be quite obvious to the honorable member that the Government have not yet had. time to consider the report of the Public Works Committee. I have only received a copy during the last few minutes, and have not yet had an opportunity to peruse the recommendations it’ contains. Honorable members are aware that the Government are not bound to adopt the recommendations of the Committee; but it is, of course, their duty to study them with the greatest care. In view of this, the honorable member for Macquarie cannot expect the Government to come to a decision on a matter of such importance at this juncture. Reference has been made to the fact that some honorable members endeavour to retard development in the Federal Capital Territory; but the honorable member who submitted the motion will recognize that the present Government cannot be rightly accused of assisting in that direction, as since we have been in. office we have done more to further the project than any previous Government. We have been condemned by some for the unusual activity displayed, but for that we accept full responsibility. We intend to proceed with the development of Canberra, and to transfer the Seat of Government to that city at the earliest possible date. The Government has every reason to believe that the Capital will be developed sufficiently fast to enable the next Parliament to meet there. I hope, therefore, that the honorable member will not press the motion to a vote in the terms in which he has submitted it.
– It would be useless to do so.
– It would be quite unfair, at any rate, to ask the Government to determine a matterwhich they have not had time to consider. The report of the Committee was presented only yesterday, it was printed last night, and it is only now available.
– It is not yet available.
– I ask the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) to allow the Government time to consider the report. He can rely on the active and sympathetic support of the Government in pushing on any necessary work relating to Canberra.
.- If the motion were carried in its present form it would take the Government and the friends of Canberra nowhere. I have no desire to block the progress of any work at the Federal Capital, but I point out that if the Government were to refer the report back to the Committee it would be impossible, on the same evidence that the Committee had before it previously, to bring in a different recommendation from that already made. If the Government is prepared to take the responsibility of constructing the railway, irrespective of whether it will return sufficient revenue, and if it is thought that the building of the line will so enhance the value of the laud as to justify the work, let that be done. In that case, the motion should be amended and made to insist that irrespective of anything contained in the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act, the railway shall be made. If that is the opinion of the Government, I suggest that a Bill be brought in for the construction of the line, and that the House decide whether or not, as a matter of policy, the line shall be built. The adoption of that course would relieve the Works Committee of a great deal of responsibility. The Committee is instructed by Parliament to take evidence and make recommendations which it thinks in the best interests of Australia. It is on the evidence placed before it that reports and recommendations are framed. When the Committee ascertained that the railwaywould cost something like £ 740,000, returning little, if any, it began to consider the possibilities of a motor road. The Committee thought that it would cause a great deal of inconvenience if, on a train arriving at Yass at 4.30 o’clock on a cold winter’s morning, passengers had to transfer from a comfortable sleeping carriage to a motor car. Honorable members would not like that. It was considered infinitely preferable that arrangements should be made with the New South Wales Government to put on special sleeping cars at Albury to run as far as Goulburn, and thence to Queanbeyan and Canberra, so that passengers for Canberra would not be required to leave their berths. This journey would merely occupy an hour and a half more than that over a direct line from Yass to Canberra. When this Parliament is housed at Canberra, and the Capital has been developed, it will be an easy matter, if then found necessary, to construct the more direct line. I cannot see the wisdom of or. justification for spending £750,000 now on a railway that would he anything but remunerative for the first few years; probably for ten years it would not return enough to pay for much more than axle-grease. Most of the people travelling would be using free passes, and surely an extra hour and a half of travelling under comfortable conditions need not be grumbled at. When members have moved to Canberra they will be better able to judge whether or not the larger expenditure is justified. The Committee has recommended that the line, as far as laid by Mr. Griffin, should be utilized. The proposal put before the Committee was to sink the railway and to carry it round the proposed residential area. The Committee rejected that suggestion, and recommended that the present route be followed, but stipulated that the works necessary for the crossing of the Molonglo River and the Jerrabomberra Creek must be permanent. The Advisory Committee had already constructed a permanent road bridge over the Molonglo River at the 1,830-ft. level, but the Committee decided in favour of a solid structure for this railway that would do for all time at the 1,841-ft. level. If the artificial lake is formed the bridge will stand 10 feet or 11 feet above the surface of the water. Honorable members should bear in mind that for the smaller -expenditure of £130,000, the Committee recommends a permanent bridge, with an embankment to the full height, and a sunken railway <it the Civic Centre. Personally, I did not favour a sunken line, but I gave way on that point, and the Committee recommended the expenditure of a little extra mon.y so that at the Civic Centre the railway would be at the permanent level. Very little inconvenience will be occasioned to honorable members from Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia through having to be conveyed to Canberra via Goulburn, seeing that they will have special cars, which will be shunted from one line to the other.
– - Will not this matter be open for discussion when the Committee’s recommendations are before us?
– Yes. I am merely pointing Out that it would be useless to carry the present motion, because the Works Committee on the same evidence could not bring in a different recommendation from that already furnished.
– The honorable member will see that I propose to refer the matter back to the Committee.
– That would be throwing the responsibility on the Committee.
– No; the responsibility would be placed upon the House.
– It would not.
– All the Committee would have to do would be to decide the route.
– Before the Committee can do that, the Railway Department must submit to it plans, specifications, and estimates of cost. The Committee can make no inquiry until that information is given to it.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) suggests what I propose.
– I suggest that if the Government is satisfied regarding the opinion of honorable members, it should take the responsibility of ordering the construction of the line. I do not desire that the report should be referred back to the Committee, with the possibility that the Committee would merely reiterate its views. I have no desire to block the progress of works at Canberra. I was opposed to the expenditure of money on Canberra during and immediately after the war, but no one can say that I have ever offered any ungenerous opposition to it. When proposals are made for the expenditure of public money I have every right to voice my opinions, but I defy any honorable member to say that I have been guilty of anything in the nature of obstruction. The Committee has always endeavoured to present its reports without undue delay. In its report on the construction of Parliament House it submitted a second proposition, so that if the Government could not accept its recommendation, there was an alternative. The Committee had to face the fact that the proposed railway would cost £750,000, and would bring in no revenue. The evidence wa3 to the effect that there was not the slightest chance of traffic between Canberra and Yass, with the exception of that which could be obtained from the small area immediately outside the city. The Committee did not feel justified in reporting in favour of the line, but I see; no reason why the Government, now that tha Committee has presented its report, should not decide, as a matter of policy, to construct the line. This course would save- time as compared with referring the report back.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mahony) adjourned.
Order of the Day (Mt. PRATTEN’s motion, vide page 697) postponed.
Compulsory Military Training : Drills,, Prosecutions - War Service Homes - Exportation op Apples - Duty on Yarn - Tariff Administration - Duty on Wire Netting - War Service Claims - Postal Sorters - Long Service Furlough - Marriage Allowance - DUTY on Bananas. - Eastern Shipping Trade.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I desire to make a few remarks regarding defence. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden), in answering a question submitted by me, said, in effect, that the Department was experimenting in one of the capital cities in the drilling of trainees. This experimental drilling commences early in the morning, and an early luncheon is provided so that the drill finishes in time to- permit the lads to have recreation in- the afternoon. I believe those hours will be ari improvement on the present ones. The existing system is unsatisfactory and very unpopular. When Parliament amended the Defence Act some time, ago, it was the intention of honorable members that the drilling should be done on week days, and that the boys, should have their Saturdays to themselves. Many of the lads have to work twelve days a fortnight. Those engaged in mining work eleven days a fortmight. Saturday afternoon is the only time during the week that they have to themselves. Why we should select that part of the week, when other boys who are not under the compulsory scheme are free to enjoy themselves, for compulsory training I do not understand. ‘ I cannot say whether the- experiment will be! satis factory, but I believe that if the drilling could finish not later than, say, 1 o’clock-
– It should finish at noon.
– Say 12 o’clock, then. This would give the boys an opportunity for recreation in the afternoon!. Some of them might ha-ve to go. 10. or. 12. miles to a cricket or football match,, or to otter” sports meetings. in those cases they would need to be free from1 drill before 1 o’clock. The present system causes many- complaints by the boya While compulsory training is on the* statute-book it should be the object of every one to make it as convenient as possible for the boys. That should be the first aim of the Defence Department. Boy3 should not be* robbed of more time than it is necessary to take from them.
– The proposed alteration might suit those engaged in mining, but not those employed in other industries.
– Those engaged in other industries are drilled in their employers’ time, and are paid for it.
– It would be very inconvenient for banks, for instance, if their employees were drilled on Saturday mornings.
– The suggested alteration would be a big improvement.
I wish to draw the Minister’s attention to the prosecutions that take place under the compulsory training system. I hope my attitude will not be misunderstood. I realize that in connexion with any form of militarism there must be discipline, but I am afraid we are pushing it a little too far. A number of boys have been confined in Newcastle, probably because they did not attend their drills. While the boys are under confinement offences sometimes take place, and prosecutions, one of which wa3 recently brought under my notice, result. I immediately communicated with the Commandant for New South Wales, and told him that it appeared, to me, from information I had received, that it was a case of wrong identification, He sent, my complaint to the officers at Newcastle. I ako got in touch with them on the telephone, and informed them of the facts as I knew them. They decided, however, that the prosecution should proceed. When the case came before the Court the magi-tr-te, without requiring any evidence for the defence, dismissed, the case. He was charged with disobeying the lawful orders of a superior officer, or with some similar offence. It appeared to the Court that he did not disobey orders. He went to a gate to see a friend, and when he was ordered to leave, he left. He went back subsequently, was again ordered to leave, and again left. He was not told to keep away. After I had brought the case under the notice of the Commandant, and he, in turn, had placed it before the local officers, they should have made certain that they had a good case before proceeding with ifc. The boy had to go from Kurri Kurri to Newcastle. His father and a witness had to go with him. This man paid £2 2s. to a lawyer, 15s. to a witness, 16s. for railway fares, besides incurring other incidental expenses. Parents of boys should not be put to unnecessary expense. I have no complaint against any particular officer, because I do not know the facts beyond those I have related. Careful investigation should be made before any youth is prosecuted, and no action should be taken unless it is absolutely essential to prosecute.
I now wish to refer to the War Service Homes. On several occasions I have in this House mentioned the unsatisfactory position of tenants occupying houses on the King’s-road, Adamstown, in the electorate of Newcastle. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and I have of late received many communications from tenants complaining that they have been summoned to Court, where an order has been given for their ejectment. One of the tenants concerned informed me that when these proceedings were first before the Court, the magistrate asked whether to avoid, perhaps, an ejectment order, a settlement could not be effected. The officer for the Department could not see how this could be done, and the case proceeded. It was then pointed out that I had in this House mad© certain representations concerning the unsatisfactory construction of the buildings, which were m a state of disrepair, and that although the Minister had promised to effect the necessary repairs, nothing had yet been done. I do not know whether this statement is correct, but at any rate, it was made in the Court. The magistrate allowed the matter to stand over, to consider whether he had jurisdiction in the case. He eventually gave his decision, with the result that a number of tenants in the electorate of Newcastle had to leave their homes at the end of
JM>. Charlton. the month. Every consideration should be given to the returned soldiers affected bv the ejectment order. In one case a widow informed me that ifc was impossible for her to pay the Department more than £1 a week.
– What is the name of the person in question?
– I think it is Mrs. Deane. Other persons are in a similar position. The honorable member for Newcastle and I have always condemned the site on King’s-road that was purchased for soldiers’ homes. Ifc occupies the worst position in the Newcastle district, and the cost of the houses should be readjusted. No private individual would have dared to build on this land. At the time it was purchased, no inquiries were made respecting the future utilization of the, district. The Government of New South Wales have since erected railway sheds at the back of these homes, and as a result their value has considerably decreased. At Hamilton some houses are black with smoke from the railway engines, . and it is almost impossible to sell them. Last year the district suffered from drought, which affected the foundations of the homes. Owing to the condition of the soil many of the walls cracked, and the end of one brick house fell out completely. The returned soldiers should be able to obtain these houses at a reduced cost, and not be made to suffer because of the blunders committed by the War Service Homes Department. We are not justified in placing hardships on our returned soldiers.
– The Government are not doing so.
– I shall be pleased to hear the Minister later on that phase of the question. By that time, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and I will probably be able to supply additional information. Only last night I received this wire, “ Get something done immediately, because I have to go with goods and chattels on the thirty-first of this month.” This matter is urgent, and I hope the Minister will consider it.
– I wish to refer to the exportation from Australia of apples affected by black spot. A year or so ago, to better organize the fruit industry, and to give a measure of control over the exportation of fruit by the fruit-growers themselves, a Fruit Council was formed, consisting of representatives from the different States. The Council met in May of last year and framed regulations that were brought into force in November last. Three classes of apples were recognized as fit for exportation - special, standard, and plain. There was a good deal of objection to introducing the third class of apple among the recognized qualities on the market, but, eventually, it was agreed to, allowance being made for the unavoidable depreciation of quality which might occur in any large export trade of this kind. The definition of the third class is as follows: -
Apples or pears described as “Plain” shall consist of apples or pears of one variety and one size, free from broken skins, and not seriously blemished or injured by any disease, but fruit slightly blemished by rubbing, black-spot, fungus ‘ or caterpillars, may be exported, provided that the proportion of such fruit does not exceed 30 per cent, (by number) of the apples or pears in any case.
There are other conditions with which I shall not weary the House. Black spot is a fungus disease and may be controlled by spraying methods. Unfortunately, Tasmania, during last season, suffered considerably from this disease. A deputation of Tasmanian growers waited upon the Minister controlling fruit exportation, and asked for relief. This was given by the regulations, which came into force only in November last, being suspended by temporary amendments, the nature of which was rather serious. In addition to the recognized classification of apples, it was decided to have a fourth class comprising a lower quality of fruit still. Permission to export the apples was given even though the black-spot disease was present to the extent of 100 per cent. Honorable members will recognize .the great difference between the amended regulations and the original set. which prohibited the export of apples infected with the black-spot disease to the extent of over 30 per cent. The original regulations also prohibited the export of apples that had more than a specified proportion of the surface of the fruit covered with the ‘ black spot, but the amended regulations gave no consideration to that matter. The only requirement was that boxes containing black -spot apples should be marked “blemished” in special red letters. The Fruit Council which made th& original regulations wasnot consulted about the proposed amendments, which apparently were made with the approval of what has been euphemistically termed the Advisory Committee, though I cannot say whether that Committee recommended thom. What really happened was that three departmental officers who had been employed to draft the original regulations approved by the Fruit Council were asked to approve of the amendments. The Fruit Council itself was not consulted. I can say definitely that the Western Australian representative on the Council received no notification of any proposed meeting. Doubtless it would have been difficult for him to attend a hurriedlyconvened meeting because of the great distance he lives from Melbourne, but I am sure that he would have made great efforts to do so in view of the importance of this matter. Considerable feeling has developed among the fruit-growers of Western Australia because the power and authority of the Fruit Council has been so lightly regarded. A grave error of judgment was committed by not consulting this export body. It should not have been overridden, set aside, or ignored, even under the strongest pretext. It has been stated that in addition to approaching the Advisory Committee, the authorities dispatched a cablegram to the High Commissioner in London to ascertain whether the export of these inferior apples would seriously affect the market for Australian fruit. The High Commissioner replied that he did not think that it would. I consider, however, that the fruitgrowers are the best judges of what will affect the market for their fruit. I do not desire to .be considered guilty of making invidious distinctions when I say that Western Australian apples have been bringing very high prices, and have won a good name for their superior quality, in the London market of late. It is a great pity that anything should have been done to lower the standard of Australian fruit, for such action must affect sales. Regulations of the kind under notice are framed for the express purpose of preventing the export of poor quality fruit, and their enforcement is specially necessary in bad seasons, when the onslaught of disease is particularly severe. Really; those are the only periods for which regulations are required. It is most regrettable, therefore, that in the very first season after the adoption of the regulations they should have been amended. The opinion of the High Commissioner that the export of these apples would not affect the market for Australian fruit has proved to be fallacious, for a cablegram dealing with oversea markets, which appeared in the Adelaide Register on the 12th May, reads as follows: -
Effect of Poor Apples.
Tho Australian apple season _ has so _ far proved disappointing. The prices realized cannot be regarded as satisfactory. The main cause has been the presence on the markets, especially at Liverpool, of large quantities of American apples which have been selling cheap. It is doubtful whether this fruit would have been shipped here hod the quality of Australian arrivals been equal to the high standard of the previous year, but United States growers have taken advantage of the widely-circulated reports about “ black .spot” in Tasmanians, and have sent their poor stuff here.
That report shows that the suspension of these regulations has had a serious effect on the market. Honorable members will recognize that the marking of “blemished” on a case of fruit is a useless precaution after the fruit has been removed from the case and exposed for said It is particularly unfortunate that this poor-quality fruit has been offered for sale while the Empire Exhibition is in progress. Australia needs the best advertisement she can get in London, but this infected fruit is the worst kind of advertisement. I recognize, of course, that it is too late this season to make any effective protest, but I have two reasons for placing the facts before this ‘House. I hope, in the first place, that this experience will be a lesson which will be profitable to us in the future. I trust that the authorities will be impressed by the fact that the export of apples of this class seriously affects Australia’s good name. In the second place, I wish to impress upon the controlling authorities the desirableness of paying proper consideration to the representative men in the different States who have been appointed members of the Fruit Council. Generally speaking, they are busy men, who, in the fruit season, aTe fully occupied in harvesting their own crops. The Western Australian representative, for ins’tance, is a fruit-grower from the south-west of that State. It would have been extremely difficult for him to attend a hurriedly-convened meeting of the Fruit Council at short notice. The same could doubtless be said of the other representatives. Such a meeting of the Council should not be necessary, for efforts to set aside regulations which had been carefully framed to control the export of fruit should not have been made. The regulations were framed only after full consideration had. been given to all the facts. I have no doubt that the amendments were proposed and made effective at the instigation of local interests, and it is a pity that such a thing can be done. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am not making any attack upon Tasmanian fruit-growers. I believe that my protest is as much in their interest as in the interests of fruit-growers in other parts of Australia.
– The Tasmanian fruitgrowers are going out of business.
– They should go out of business if they can grow only black-spot apples.
– They can do better than that.
– Then it is a great pity that they did not feel it incumbent upon them to abide by the regulations agreed to by the Fruit Council. As things are, all the fruit-growers in Australia have been penalized, and the development of the overseas market has been hindered because seriously infected blackspot apples have been exported. I make these remarks in the most friendly spirit, but I certainly think that the applegrowers generally should have received more consideration than has been shown to them in this matter. Once the Fruit Council have met together, and have drawn up regulations for the protection of their industries, those regulations should not be readily or lightly set aside.
– The apple-growers of Western Australia will be in trouble some day, and will need sympathy.
– Considerable damage has been done to the market. It is useless for us to ask for Government control, and then, as soon as proper technical control is established, cast it aside at the first opportunity.
– I desire to bring before the Minister for Customs a matter which is linked up with the drift of people from the country to the cities. In seme of the mining towns, where mining is not so nourishing an industry as in former years, the residents are troubled to know how to retain the present population. In one part of my electorate a number of the townspeople got together, and decided to establish a woollen mill. They obtained on loan from the State Savings Bank the sum of £15,000, and between them they took up 31,000 shares. They then cabled to England for £14,000 worth of worsted yarn. At the time the material was not available in the Commonwealth. After the yarn had been ordered, a duty was imposed on it, and those people have been called upon to pay a tax of about £1,500 or. it. But they are short of money. They did not wait until every share was taken up before commencing operations, and they are working without a profit. Perhaps same members of the Country party cannot understand that.
– Some of us have worked for many years without any profit.
– And some have had large profits. The directors of the company are not accepting any fees, and no one, other than those actually working in the mill, is being paid. The residents are acting in this patriotic manner because of their desire to keep the population of Daylesford intact. When they commenced they had no idea that a duty would be imposed. During the last twelve months the yarn which they ordered has been supplied, and these people are now required to pay an additional £1,500 for it. They are prepared to pay the duty in the future, as they will be able to make financial arrangements to do so, but they request that the levy of £1,500 should be refunded to them. The imposition of the duty is crippling the woollen ‘ industry in that town.
– Did Parliament impose the duty ?
– I think so. While £1,500 may not sound a large amount, it probably means the success or failure of the factory. It should not be our desire to have all our woollen mills established in Melbourne, but, on the contrary, we should give every encouragement to those people who desire to establish mills in country districts. I ask the Minister to give this complaint his most sympathetic consideration.
– Some time ago I had occasion to address a letter to the press of Sydney in connexion with the imposition of a duty on wire netting without the authority of Parliament. My letter referred, not so much to the action of the Tariff Board, or that taken by the Minister upon their advice, as to the viciousness of the system by which Parliament is liable at any time to be overridden by the Minister for the time being acting on the recommendation of the Tariff Board in matters of taxation. I pointed out that this system might lead to very great abuses in the future. At present we are fortunate in having as members of the Tariff Board men who are above suspicion in every respect. But there is no guarantee that that state of affairs will always exist, because where there is opportunity for wrong practices to creep in, sooner or later, through changes in personnel, grave abuses will almost inevitably occur.
– They have disorganized the whole trade of Australia,
– That is another aspect of the matter. My communication attracted the attention of the managing director of Queensland Pastoral Supplies Limited, Mr. A. Hughes, who addressed the following communication to me: -
We read with interest your letter in the Sydney Homing Herald of 1st ‘May. It was recently mentioned in the local papers that one of the Australian wire manufacturers had stated that English wire netting was coming into the Commonwealth steadily for the past twelve months at 25 per cent, below its .market value in England, to which we have replied as per the enclosed letter written in the Brisbane Courier of even date.
We thought it might interest you to have this information.
The newspaper paragraph to which reference was made by Mr* Hughes- is as follows: -
A Sydney paper reported statements that English netting had been sold in Australia 25 per cent, below domestic price. The managing director of the Queensland Pastoral Supplies Co. Ltd., Mr. A. Hughes, writes as under, but it may be pointed out that the authority for the. expressions to which he specially refers was clearly indicated in our Trade and Finance column: - “Last week in your Trade and Finance column you mention that an Australian wire-netting manufacturer had stated that the dumping duty on wire netting was the outcome of long agitation on the part of the Australian works, because English wire netting had been coming into the Commonwealth at 2D per cent, below its market value in England. As one of the largest importers of wire netting in Queensland, and, possibly, in Australia, wo must protest against this statement. On all English invoices it is compulsory to insert the f.o.b. English value alongside the export price We have accordingly examined our invoices for hundreds of miles of British wire netting imported during the last six months, and the variation does not exceed 5 per cent. This difference can easily be expected, as the netting shipped from Great Britain to Australia is usually rabbit, dog proof, and sheep netting, and is shipped in considerable quantities. Such netting used in Great Britain is only for domestic purposes in comparatively small quantities, so it is obvious that for a very large quantity required for export reduced prices would be available. If the Tariff Board has been influenced by the agitation of the Australian manufacturer, and his statement that British netting has been selling 25 per cent, below its market value in England, it shows the necessity for the Tariff Board to take evidence from all parties instead of only from the Australian manufacturer as at present. Then, further - to your remarks, that the largest manufacturer in the Commonwealth is carrying very large stocks and cannot place same, we may state that there are only two manufacturers in Australia, Lysaghts and Hylands, and up till recently both works have required from four to eight weeks to -execute orders. We were compelled to import, because Lysaghts stated they wore not in the position to supply us. The discount to-day for Australian manufactured wire netting is G7i per cent., and 2* per cent, off the list, and the indent prices are exactly the same, and have been for all this year, so it is difficult to sec how dumping oan be construed. The Australian works have apparently once more succeeded at the expense of tho man on the land.”
I state these published facts for the information of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman). It is quite evident that Mr. Hughes knows his subject from A to Z. Apparently the users of wire netting have not received as much consideration as has been shown to ‘ the manufacturers, although there are far more of them. The contention put forward by Mr. Hughes is an eminently reasonable one; it is, that before any recommendation is forwarded to the Minister by the Tariff Board, and before the Minister decides to intervene on behalf of the manufacturers, the users of the product also should be consulted, and their views obtained. I trust that in future full investigation will be made before the Minister decides to interfere with’ the decisions of Parliament in Tariff matters involving the imposition of taxes on any section of the community.
.- The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson has urged that the Tariff Board should make the fullest possible inquiry before sending any recommendation to the Minister; yet in the same breath he admitted that he had no fault to find with the members of that Board. I assume that before those gentlemen decide upon any recommendation they make the fullest possible investigation. I am not acquainted with the facts of this case, but knowing as I do the members of the Tariff Board, I am confident that that was the course which they adopted. I believe that this preference is being earned not by the British manufacturers, but by certain persons in Great Britain who import material from the Continent, and put into it 25 per cent, of its manufacture.
– They are working in the interests of the Belgians and Germans.
– Undoubtedly. That applies not only to wire netting, but to wire rods and other material. The ironmasters of Great Britain have stated that this preference confers no advantage upon them, because those controlling the industry import from abroad, and do not patronize British firms. There are in Newcastle, Melbourne, and Sydney, firms which produce a greater quantity of wire netting and kindred manufactures than Australia requires. It is time that w« looked at this matter through Australian eyes.
I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) about compulsory military training. The whole world is talking peace, and the presumption appears to be that there will not be another war for a number of years. The Government, therefore, should review its policy, and remove from the people of Australia the burden of militarism that now rests upon them. Considerable inconvenience and hardship are caused to many families when the young men are taken away from their civil duties for the purpose of undergoing military training. Homes consisting of six, seven, and eight persons in many cases are dependent upon their earnings, and the 3s. or 4s. a day which they receive in camp is quite adequate to their needs. I should like to see the repeal of the compulsory training provisions of the Defence Act.
Reference has been made to the manner in which a number of War Service Homes have been built. I remember a case in which it was acknowledged that those responsible for the work ought to have received punishment because of the slip-shod way in which it was carried out. Instances of faulty construction in my electorate have been referred by me to the Department. In one district a number of brick houses were built on flat ground which cracked in dry weather. The foundations of those buildings consisted of a sort of asphalt mixed with concrete. I inspected the houses. The front of one house had fallen out, although not twelve months had elapsed since its erection. Others were cracked right through, and caused the occupants to fear that they would suffer injury if they continued to live in them. I obtained a sample of the foundation material and forwarded it to the Minister for ‘Works (Mr. Stewart). He ordered that the houses should be placed in a. good state of repair. While those repairs were being effected, the owners had either to leave the premises or live in constant fear of bodily injury. I have not seen the buildings since the work was completed, but during the progress of the repairs I expressed the, view that the method being followed would not prove effective. Square blocks were placed here and there under the foundations, and it appeared to me that a weakness would still exist. During the period of depression caused by the closing down of the steel works and other industries, many returned men were unemployed, and naturally they fell into arrears with their payments. Now they aTe being evicted from the homes which in such trying circumstances they did their utmost to keep. I do not stand for the young man who undertakes to purchase a house, and then does not try to pay for it. There are, no doubt, a number of such cases, but the great bulk of the men have done their best, and their cases ought to be reviewed. I have here a letter from a war widow, who has sent me a couple of newspaper clippings. She writes : -
In connexion with our having to give up possession of a war service home, in my own case I. have been unable to do any hard work for some considerable time, as tha result of an accident. 1 would be willing to pay a lesser rental, but I cannot pay £1 per week, as I only have my pension to live on.
Hoping that you will bc able to do something for mc.
The Minister should take into consideration the whole of the circumstances. Most of the men- had been out of employment for upwards df twelve months when they went into the homes, and had to put up with all the inconvenience to which they were subjected while repairs were being carried out. In each case where eviction is proposed, a searching inquiry should be made into the circumstances to see whether some relief should not be afforded these people instead of them being turned out of their homes. Prior to the decision to effect repairs, I made the statement that I would not live in one of these homes if it were given to me. It would be an act of justice for the Minister to look into these cases with a view to granting relief to those who are shown to deserve some consideration.
I propose now to refer to a matter which arises from the transfer, under the Navigation Act, to .the Commonwealth cf certain State services. This has been going on in a somewhat piecemeal fashion. The point I wish to make is that the conditions under which the officers affected were employed in the State service should be taken into consideration. I refer particularly to the pilots and boatmen who were under the Navigation Department in New South Wales. Many of these men were in the service of the State for several years. They are now 50 years old and upwards, and are approaching the age of retirement. They have for many years been paying into a superannuation ‘ fund in New South Wales. Under the Commonwealth Public Service Act persons entering the employment of the Commonwealth must insure their lives, but it is preposterous to suggest that a man 55 years of age should insure his life to provide for his retirement at the age of 60 or 65 years. The men to whom I refer have to sacrifice the whole of the money they have paid into the State superannuation fund while in the State service.
– Will they not come under the Federal superannuation scheme ?
– That is what I want to know. I suppose that even if they do, they will be called upon to make payments on the basis of their present age.
– No, they will not.
– The Commonwealth Government should arrange with the New South Wales Government to let these men continue to pay .into the State superannuation fund and receive its benefits on retirement, or else the New South Wales Government should pay to the Commonwealth Government the moneys which these men have contributed to the State fund, so that they might be credited with continuous payments towards superannuation by the Commonwealth. If they are taken over without some such arrangement having been made, gross injustice will be done to p. lots, boatmen, and others affected by the transfers under the Navigation Act. I hope that consideration will be given to the position of these people, and that justice will be done to them.
.. - I wish to comment upon the delivery of mails in Tasmania. I am sorry that the Postmaster-General :(Mr. Gibson) is absent. I should Mice to point out to the Minister representing him that on several occasions quite recently, mails for Tasmania have not been distributed up to time. Mails which left here by the Nairana on Friday reached Queenstown on the same day as mails which left here by the Oonah on Monday. The delay is due to fog in the channel at Tamar Heads. This involves delay in the distribution of mails to every part of Tasmania. I point out to the Minister that it is 62 miles further from .Melbourne to Launceston than horn Melbourne to Burnie. Si is clearly not economical that the mails for Tasmania should be carried on each occasion over the additional 2 miles. The journey is made four times per week, and that represents an .unnecessary journey of 248 miles per week during the winter funning. The Union Steamship Company has to be paid, in increased mail .subsidy, for the extra distance covered by its steamers. I want to know who pays the company for the unnecessary .248 miles per week which vessels carrying the mails have to run, especially in -view of the fact that the mails could be delivered to every part of Tasmania in one day if they were sent direct from Melbourne to Burnie. If any honorable member from Tasmania can suggest a better proposal than I have suggested, I shall be willing to accept it; but “there is no doubt that the present practice »s not business-like. .The little steamer Marrawah left Melbourne on Saturday, went to King Island, unshipped cargo at Stanley, and from there went to Burnie, and the mails she carried reached Queenstown 24 hours before the mails which left Melbourne on Friday by the Nairana. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will investigate this matter, and do something to prevent unnecessary delay in the delivery of mails to Tasmania. Only last week I was delayed for three hours at the Heads owing to the fog to which I have referred, and such delays occur week in and week out during the winter months.
Some references have been made to black spot in apples. Black spot is caused by a continuous wet season, but it does not affect the flavour of the apple. I suppose that we all have some black spot in us, but if it affects us no more than black spot affects apples we have nothing to fear. The apple must Tatura to the earth from which it sprang unless it is consumed within a short period after ripening. The apple industry of Tasmania is languishing mow .for the lack of markets, not because of <the black spot. This industry cannot stand the expense incurred in continuous spraying week in and week out. It is far better to allow the people who are starving in European countries to get .apples at a reasonable price than .to let the apples affected in this way go to waste.
.- I do not ‘know whether the experience oT other honorable members nas been the same as mine, but I can assure .the House that cases which have come under my notice compel me to say that the Repatria<tion Commissioners are not giving to returned soldiers and their dependants tha* sympathetic consideration we might very well expect from them. It is true that their task is a difficult ‘one, but the
Hardest cases they are called upon to handle do not seem to be dealt with sympathetically. I refer to case3 in which men who received injuries at the war, and were, perhaps, operated on, went to work as quickly as possible on their return, and were subsequently unfortunate enough to become ill. Despite the opinion of their private medical man that their illness was traceable to injuries received during the war, the opinion of the medical advisers of (die Commission has been that their disability was not due to war service, and the applicants for assistance have not been able to establish the fact that it was. There are even harder cases in which the returned soldier has died through the illness that has come upon him in the circumstances I have just related,- and has left a widow and children, who are unable to establish to the satisfaction of the Repatriation Commission the fact that the father’s disability was due to his war service. I shall not say very much in regard to the Repatriation Commission, because I understand that the Government propose some changes, but from investigations I have made I gather that the Commission has not made sufficient inquiries into some of the cases that have come under my notice, and that too often the stereotyped reply is given, “ Death not due to war service.” It is a very difficult matter - in fact, it is humanly almost impossible for the dependants of a deceased (returned soldier to prove that his death was due to war service. We all remember the statement made by the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville -Howse), whom we accept as an authority in these matters, that no man who went to the war could ever be the same again. These men were accepted as physically fit; they were injured .at the war, and possibly had to undergo operations during their period of service, and, if after the lapse of years sickness comes upon them and they die, the onus of proving that their deaths are due to war service should not lie on their dependants. That is altogether too harsh a condition to impose, a view which I urge the Government to impress upon the Repatriation Commission. Quite a number of cases of this kind have come under my notice, and in not a single instance -has relief .been obtained <as a result of an application to the Commission. Here is a typical .letter received by me a few months ago- ti wish you to appeal to the Minister for Repatriation on .my behalf, also for my four fatherless children - four boys - for reconsideration to grant me and Children a. pension to help mc ‘feed and clothe them. My husband was a healthy young man when :he went to the war, and was* able to work and keep mc ,and the children comfortably. When he .came back from the war he was a very sick and .crippled man, until “he died and left me and children practically paupers, tit is painful -for me to write this, but it is true, and -I think and hope that the Minister for ^Repatriation will reconsider the Deputy Commissioner’s decision. I am sending discharge for you -to have a look at, hoping you will send it back to me.
I ‘shall hand this letter to the Minister for Repatriation. T ‘find from the. dis charge certificate that this man had two years and thirteen days’ service in all, and one year and 297 days abroad. He was discharged as medically unfit, not due to misconduct. It is inhuman to tell this woman, who is cast upon individual or State charity, that she must 23rove that her husband’s death was due to war service. She told me, when I interviewed her, that no officers from the Commission had come to her to make inquiries. It seems to me that there has been a very incomplete inquiry into this case by the Commission if no officer of the Department has visited her in order to ascertain the facts. I have’ had under my notice other cases entailing some more, and others less, hardship, and I think it a great shame that our people should be treated in this way. If the letter from this widow could not move the hearts of the Commissioners, surely the postscript asking for the discharge to be sent back should have done .so. Although the promises made to her and her children have not been kept, she wants the return of her husband’s discharge,’ which shows that at one time there was a husband to protect, clothe, and feed her and the children. I understand that steps have been taken to form a committee of honorable members to deal with cases :such as this. I trust that it will be given ample power to secure redress. Above all, I urge the Minister to do justice to those who are suffering in the manner I have mentioned.
Mr- STEWART (Wimmera- Minister foi- Works and Railways) [4.401. - The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) was good enough to give me some indication of the cases to which he intended to refer, and although the files kept at the central office a.re not so complete as those in the office of the Deputy Commissioner in the State of New South Wales, still they furnish some information. The honorable member was correct when he said that certain houses to which he referred had ‘been faultily constructed. When he first brought the matter under my notice, ‘by a telegram, in March last, I informed him, also by <telegram, that 1 had had the case inquired into, and had had the defects remedied at the cost of the Commission. The honorable member has ‘not seen the houses since they -were repaired, but he tells us to-day that he understands the repairs are .not satisfactory.
I shall have inquiries made, and if the honorable member’s statement is correct the houses will be put in proper order. However, for the information of the honorable members who have referred to the matter of ejectments, I propose to give some figures regarding five cases which have occurred, all in one group of houses at Newcastle. The first case is that of a tenant named Ball, whose arrears amount to £110 ls. 2d. His last payment was on the 29th May, 1923. The second case is that of a man named Mulholland, who owes £128 lis., his last payment having been made on the 31st August, 1922. The next case is that of a man named Hughes, who owes £80, the last payment having been made on the 22nd June, 1923.
– Are these tenants not in good health?
– I understand that ill health has not been put forward in any of the cases as a reason for the non-payment of rent. The fourth case is that of a man named Alford, who1 owes £101 3s. Sd., the last payment of £2 having been made on the Srd March last. The fifth case, the one referred to by the honorable member for Newcastle, is that of a widow named Mrs. Dean, who owes £122 19s. 4d. There is no record of the date of the last payment. The Department has had the greatest difficulty iii dealing with these people. They will not leave the houses, and they will not pay rent. We cannot allow them to remain indefinitely as occupants, and the only way in which we can get them out “is to apply to the Court for ejectment orders. The occupants force this course on the Commission, trusting by press propaganda, and in various other ways, to enlist the sympathy of the public. I am not insinuating that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) or the Leader of the Opposition “ (Mr. Charlton) are deliberately endorsing action of that kind. I have found both those honorable members very fair in all their ‘ representations, but I have quoted those cases, which are among the worst with which we have to deal, to show how extremely difficult it is to handle some of the applicants. Many of those people refuse to reply to letters, or pay rent, and defy the Department to eject them. We cannot allow them to live rent free indefinitely. In every case of genuine hardship through ill health or other circumstances over which the applicant has no control, the policy of the Department is to extend the fullest sympathy and consideration. While I remain in charge that policy will continue, and if any honorable member knows of a case which warrants special consideration, I shall have it investigated. I promise that, we shall deal sympathetically with every deserving applicant, but I cannot agree to suspend ejectment proceedings where people are deliberately endeavouring to evade their responsibilities. We have dealt firmly with such cases in the past, and shall continue to do so. I cannot, on the spur of the moment, accede to the request of the honorable member for Newcastle, that the ejectment orders be suspended pending a further review of the circumstances, but I shall seek further information by telegram, and if there should be any suggestion of hardship the proposed action pf the Department will be reconsidered.
– I endorse the statements of the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members regarding the hardship that is frequently inflicted on the parents of trainees who neglect their drill. I suppose that while the law remains in its present form, prosecutions must take place, but instances of parents having been unduly penalized are constantly brought before honorable members. The prosecuting officers should be instructed to ask for leniency where it can be shown that the parents are not in a position to pay fines. I know of recent prosecutions in Tasmania in which fines amounting to several pounds were imposed upon boys, and had to be paid by the parents. This punishment falls very heavily upon parents who are not to blame for the boy’s truancy from parades. A common reason why boys will not’ attend the drills is that these take place during hours when other boys are able to enjoy that recreation which youth will have. The trainees absent themselves from drill in spite of parental instruction, but magistrates do not seem to regard the circumstances of the parents, and impose fines of £2, £3, and £5. That policy is bringing into disrepute the system of compulsory training, and is causing many of us who were believers in it to resolve to abolish it at the first opportunity. The recent disastrous war proved that a great deal of the time and money spent in the military training of youths is wasted, because the methods of warfare are constantly changing. No doubt, the law must be administered, but justice could be tempered with more mercy than is shown at the present time
Public servants, after twenty years of service, are entitled to extended furlough, but often they are not in a financial position to take advantage of their holiday. The Grand Council of Public Service Associations, representing all the unions connected with the Public Service, waited upon the Treasurer some time ago, and requested that officers entitled to long-service furlough should receive in advance pay for the period of leave. The Treasurer replied that the matter would be decided after the Prime Minister had returned to Australia.
– I have settled that matter.
– The Treasurer’s decision must have been arrived at recently. I am very glad that he has met the reasonable request of the public servants in that regard.
On the 22nd November last, the Public Service Arbitrator completed the hearing of evidence in connexion with a claim by Federal officers in Tasmania for increased salaries. The award, which was favorable to the officers, was not delivered until the 5th February, because, I understand, the annual vacation intervened. The Act requires that an award shall lay upon the table of the House for 30 days after the assembling of Parliament. Parliament did not meet till the 26th March. That meant that the increases would not be payable before the 26th April, or five months after the officers had, by evidence, established their claim. It is not fair that officers should be penalized by a delay for which they were not responsible, and I ask the Treasurer to consider the advisability of dating the increases from the day on which the hearing of evidence was completed.
.- There is a matter affecting the administration of the Postal Department which I desire to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General. In the past it has been the practice to pay ladies employed in the Department what is known as a marriage allowance when they retired from the Service and were about to marry. This allowance has been withdrawn, lately, and ‘many inquiries have been made as to its reinstatement. It is, I think, desirable that a decision should be arrived at on the point at an early date in order that those ladies to whom this is a matter of considerable importance may know exactly what their position will be.
– I wish to add a few “words to the protest made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) concerning the action of the Government with regard to the export of apples with black spot, which I should be interested to hear explained by the Minister. The honorable member for Perth divided his remarks into two parts. In the first place he inquired what was the authority for the action referred to. I do not wish to say anything about, that. What I am concerned with is the sale of the apples in England. It seems to mc perfectly obvious that even if the export boxes are marked “’ blemished,” that marking, to all intents and purposes, is useless when the apples arrive at the other side of the world. Not one person in a hundred buying apples in England will know if the boxes in which they were imported were marked- “ blemished “ or not. The apples will be sold in shops in the ordinary way, and if people ask their origin they will be told that they are Australian apples. One honorable member, I understand, suggested that even if the apples showed the black spot on the outside, they might still have hearts of gold. I venture to suggest, however, that apples retailed hi England will bo sold on their face value, not on their heart value. It is unfortunate that the Department should have selected this season in particular for the export exemption to Tasmanian growers. I know that the Tasmanian orchardists are in a most unfortunate position, and my sympathies are with them, but I deny the wisdom of the concessions to Tasmania at. the expense of the good name of the Commonwealth so far as the export of. fruit is concerned. I endorse what the honorable member for Perth has said. I hope that a similar course will not be adopted in future, and I trust that “the regulation will be withdrawn as soon as this year’s apple -crop has been disposed of, if not before.
– I support the remarks made by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O ‘Keefe) concerning the position of members of the Postal Sorters Union. As the honorablemember has mentioned, section 14 of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act provides that every award shall be expressed not to come into operation until a future date, not earlier than after the expiration of 30 days after the award has been laid before both -Houses of the Parliament. Sub-section 3 of the same section requires the Prime Minister, within fourteen days after receipt of the award if the Parliament is then sitting, or, if not, then within fourteen days after the meeting of the Parliament, to lay it before both Houses. In the case of the Postal Sorters Union, judgment was given by Mr. Atlee Hunt on the 16th November, 1923. Parliament met on the 26th March of this year, so even if the business had been expedited by the Government the award, could not have come into operation until the 26th April. Had Parliament been sitting when the award Was made, it could have come into operation on the 16th December. It appears, therefore, that the postal sorters’ increments’ have been ‘ withheld for a period of three months and ten days. Members of the Public Service should not be placed in a more difficult position than ordinary ‘ workers. Sir John Gorst, who will be remembered by the older members of the House as a prominent Democrat in . Imperial politics, . laid’ down the dictum that the Government should be a model .employer. .In -this case, the Government should give the members of the Postal Sorters .Union a fair deal. I trust, therefore) that the award will bc made retrospective as from the 16th December last. ‘ It is unfair that the increments which the Arbitrator decided were due to t.hem should have been withheld for so long. I trust that the Ministry will look into this matter and do a simple act of justice to the postal sorters.
Another question to which I desire to direct attention is the position of NorthWest coast settlers in regard to fruit supplies.. We are Protectionists in Western Australia. No doubt the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and also the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) will disagree with me; but, broadly speaking, we are Protectionists in Western Australia. Though we desire to “sec industries’ established in our own State, wo are not altogether jealous of the progress made by the manufacturing industries on the eastern sea-board. But when hardship is inflicted upon a certain section of our people, as in the case of residents in the north-west of Western Australia, we feel that we have a just claim for consideration. The people of Wyndham, Broome, Carnarvon, and other sea-ports of the North- West, are unable to get a supply of good tropical fruits.
– The trouble is that under the Constitution relief cannot be given.
– I know that the Constitution Act prohibits discrimination between one portion of Australia and another, but I am wondering if the Minister for Trade and Customs has authority to make some temporary arrangement to enable our people settled there to obtain the necessary supplies until such time as. we are able to grow bananas and other tropical fruits in the North-West. At present the people are interested chiefly in the pastoral industry and pearl shelling. They have no time for fruitgrowing, even if it were demonstrated that bananas could be successfully grown there. An arrangement such as I suggest would not injure the Queensland banana industry. There are about 6,000 residents in the North- West.
– The honorable member’s remarks apply to the whole of Western Australia.
– No ; we can get fine Australian bananas in Perth or Fremantle at a reasonable price.
– Nothing of the kind.
– We can. If necessary, I could bring some across, with the Perth prices, to prove my statement. In the circumstances, if we can come to some arrangement to enable the people of the North-West to get tropical fruits, I shall be prepared to allow the duty on bananas to stand. The residents there are completely isolated. They rarely get fresh vegetables. The coastal steamer service is not at all satisfactory. Vessels leave Fremantle every four weeks. Even if Queensland bananas could be transhipped at Fremantle and sent away to North-West coast ports at once, they would arrive in a condition unfit for human consumption. An attempt has been made to cater for their needs, but without success. I have had numerous requests and telegrams from people throughout the north-west . of Western Australia asking for this concession. If what I have suggested would, in the slightest degree, injure the banana industry in Queensland or the northern portion of New South Wales, I would not urge the Minister to take action in the direction indicated. Unless the Government are prepared to admit bananas free of duty, provision should be made for settlers in the north-western portion of Western Australia to obtain supplies from Java or some of the Dutch Islands. Some effort must be made to give these people an opportunity of obtaining tropical fruits.
– “ Yes, we have no bananas.”
– It may be a laughing matter to the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), but it is one of great importance to the people whom I represent. As the ports on the North-West coast are within three days’ steam of Java, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) might make some arrangement, if only of a temporary nature, whereby bananas from Java could be admitted free of duty, and thus meet the requirements of many deserving people in that portion of the Commonwealth. My comments must not be regarded as an indication of opposition to the present protective policy of the Government, because I say, “ Good luck to Australian industries,” and trust that they will prosper. I cannot, however, see anything attractive in a- policy which provides lucrative employment for a large number of workmen and substantial profits for manufacturers in some States, whilst” others in an isolated portion of the Commonwealth are deprived of real necessities and benefits enjoyed by those in more thickly-populated centres.
.- The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), I know; realizes that under the Constitution it is impossible for the Minister for Trade and Customs to differentiate between States in the matter of Customs duties. The honorable member, in common with others who recognise the great hardships experienced by those endeavouring to settle and develop that portion of Western Australia, to which he refers, should realize that his best course, in order to achieve his objective, is to join with those who protest against the high duty imposed upon imported bananas. I do not think Parliament, when imposing a duty of 8s. 4d. per 100 lb. on imported bananas, realized the effect of its action. Prior to the imposition of a duty the trade with Fiji was worth £800,000 a year to Australia, and our trade with Fiji was valued at £250,000 a year. Our trade is now practically worthless, because we say, in effect, that we do not want their business, as we are endeavouring to settle people on land worth £100 an acre in Queensland. To do this the people of Western Australia experience considerable hardship.
– What duty does the honorable member suggest?
– I ask the honorable member for Hume to consider the distance between Queensland and the northwestern port3, and to realize the time taken and expense incurred in carrying fruit between those centres. I do not agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) when he saysthat consideration should be given only to those in the north-western portion of the State, because people in the southern portion of the State are equally penalized in thi3 regard. A gentleman engaged in the banana-growing industry expended £3,500 in endeavouring to establish a banana plantation at Carnarvon, and failed. Representatives of Queeusland must admit that the banana is a fruit which deteriorates very rapidly, and, consequently, heavy losses are incurred when consignments are transported a considerable distance. If the Constitution permitted it the Government should admit bananas into Western Australia free of duty, and I am hoping that when the Constitution is amended - realizing how a Protective Tariff inflicts hardship on .all industries in Western Australia - consideration will be given to this aspect of the question. Large tracts of territory in Western; Australia, on which there is room for hundreds of thousands of people, are awaiting development, and the time must come when the Constitution will be. amended in such a way that consideration can be shown to one State a& against another* or special concession* granted to Western Australia. While the Constitution remains as it is at present, the Minister for Trade and Customs, or the Government, cannot differentiate in the matter of Custom* . duties. In the meantime, we are justified in -asking the Government, when giving consideration to Tariff anomalies, to see whether it is possible to make a concession in regard to a fruit, the medicinal and food values of which cannot be questioned. Prior to the introduction of the Tariff, we were building up a fair trade with Java, as Australian goods were exported, and fairly large consignments of bananas were shipped in bulk to Western Australian ports. At times a fair proportion of overripe bananas, which would have been useless if taken to Perth, were sold at reasonable rates on the boats at the different ports of call; but since the imposition of a duty the residents of Western Australia, and particularly those in the “North- West, have had to do without fruit. When the Government are considering the Tariff amendments, I trust they will see if a reduction in the duty cannot be made in order to ‘give these people to whom reference has been made an opportunity to obtain supplies of a commodity which is a necessity, particularly to the young folk.
.- 1 desire to support the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) on behalf of those people in the for North-West, who arc unable to obtain supplies of fruit. I do not think, however, that an exception should be made in their case alone, because if a differentiation could be made the whole State should participate. Prior to the placing of a duty upon imported bananas, a reciprocal trade was in operation between Western Australia and Java; the people in that country were beginning to import grapes, apples, flour, chaff, and other Australian products, and the Western Australian people were receiving in return tropical fruits that could not be obtained from other ports. An attempt has been made to transport bananas from the eastern States to Kalgoorlie, and, although the carriage by rail was fairly rapid, it was not a practicable proposition, as the very quick deterioration and high freight made the price at which they were sold excessive. Even when a limited supply was available at Kalgoorlie, bananas were a luxury, and not a poor man’s fruit. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), we cannot differentiate between States until the
Constitution is amended. Our trade relations with Fiji, although it is British territory, have been .strained. Prior to the introduction of the Tariff, the trade balance of approximately £400,000 was distinctly in Australia’s favour.
The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) read a communication from certain large importers and users of wire netting in which it was stated that the Tariff Board was expected to make full inquiry into both sides of any question it was considering before making a recommendation to the Minister. On the question of wire netting, the Board consulted the representatives of the manufacturers - there were only two - but no consideration whatever was shown to the many thousands who have to use this article. This is an aspect of the matter which the Minister should carefully consider. In Australia we have to contend, not only with the rabbit, an imported pest, but also with the dingo, which is a descendant of dogs brough*into this country by the Dutch 300 or 400 years ago. Both pests are plentiful, and special fencing is required to protect stock and crops from them. The settlers in Australia are inconvenienced, and their lands rendered practically useless, unless fenced against these pests. It is most unreasonable that Parliament should impose burdens on settlers who are endeavouring to combat these pests. The Tariff Board should see that the protection and settlement of our vast areas is of more importance than the protection of the interests of a couple of manufacturers. Settlers are severely handicapped, and it is unreasonable to provide employment for workmen and profits for manufacturers at the expense of the overtaxed settler. During 30 years the rabbits have made an onward march across the continent, and are now plentiful in Western Australia. The Government took the precaution of erecting two lines of wire netting, each about 1,000 miles in length, but these have proved ineffective, and the pastures and crops of the settlers are now being destroyed by rabbits, and in parts of the State dingoes are also destroying stock. Settlers in Western Australia are now spending very, large sums in erecting thousands of miles of verminproof fencing. If wire netting of a satisfactory quality can be made in Australia, and sold as cheaply as the imported article, by all means let our netting be purchased from local manufacturers, but the unfortunate people who require that commodity should not be called upon to bolster up industries that arc far less important to this country than theirs. Poison carts are employed in tl«2 endeavour to eradicate the rabbit. The settlers might as well try to sweep back the ocean tide. Their land must be wire netted if they are to prosper at all. The price of this article is now double what it was in 1914. Since most people cannot afford to purchase it at the present figure, there should bo no hindrance to their acquiring it at the lowest possible price. About eighteen months ago I endeavoured to secure 10 miles of netting. The quotation in the eastern States was £62 per mile, and the lowest price 1 could get in Western Australia was £64. If I find it a bad financial proposition to fence my property with netting at that price’, how much more unfortunate must be the position of young settlers who are called upon to meet such an expense before they have obtained a return from their land? It costs £400 to fence a 640 -acre block. If the Tariff Board had not listened to the views of, I was going to say, the profiteers associated with the manufacture of netting, it would have given different advice from that received by the Government.
.- I should not have spoken at this stage had it not been for the unwarranted attack by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) - both Country party members - on the banana industry. It is evident from their remarks, however conscientious they may nave been, that they are not au fait with the conditions in that industry, which is giving employment directly to approximately 3,200 people, and indirectly to over 10,000 persons, in Queensland. The honorable member for Forrest has referred to certain grievances and anomalies, the blame for which he attributes to the present Government. Yet in every- division in this House the honorable member, who is Deputy Whip to the party opposite, is seen running about, as last night, to whip up supporters to save the Government from defeat. I warn the electors of the insin cerity of certain honorable members, who on grievance day give voice to a lot of meaningless grievances about the wrongs being done to the backbone of the country, but who, when there comes a crucial test on a vital question, are most active in rounding up the supporters of the Government. The honorable member for Forrest has spoken of the awful doings of the Tariff Board. Was he not a party, to its establishment? Did he not by his vote approve of its appointment? Did he not also vote for the appointment of a Commission to administer the Federal Capital Territory, thereby taking that matter out of the hands of Parliament? I appeal’ to honorable members opposite to be consistent, and support the Labour party in its efforts to reestablish responsible government. Let them support by their vote what the Country party used to plead for - the restoration of parliamentary control. I represent an electorate in which there are thousands of banana-growers. Suggestions have been made which, if given effect, would lead to the removal of the protection afforded to the banana industry, with the result that 3,200 growers of this fruit in Australia would be practically ruined because of the importation of hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of bananas from countries where black labour is employed. I be- * lievethis Parliament stands for the protection not only of the secondary but also of the primary industries against the products of black labour. There are 16,000 acres under bananas in Australia. Queensland is the greatest bananagrowing State in the Commonwealth. In 1916-17 the plantations covered an area of 11,795 acres, and in 1921-22 had’ increased to approximately 16,000 acres. The value of the yield in 1916-17 was £232,481. In 1921-22 it was £732,758. Are we to hand that over to Fiji and Java? I say “no.” Today, about 10,000 acres of land1 is under banana plants that have not come into bearing. I admit that there is a temporary shortage of this fruit, but it is due to the ravages of the bunchytop disease in the northern rivers district of New South Wales. That disease has reduced banana production in northern New South Wales very considerably. Next spring, however, the production in Australia will at least be ample for local requirements, even if there is not a surplus. The growers are not receiving undue protection, because up to the 2lst May, 1922, the import duty was 2s. 6d. per cental, or three-tenths of a penny per.lb.., and on that date the rate was increased to1d. per lb. Considering that the growers of oranges and lemons are protected by a duty of1d. per lb., and of apples, pears, peaches, and other fresh fruits 6s. per cental, or¾d. per lb, the banana industry is not undulyprotected. It should be remembered that apples, pears, peaches, and other fresh fruits, including oranges and lemons, are grown much nearer big centres of population than the localities where bananas areproduced. Many of the banana-growers of Queensland are under a great disadvantage on this account. In my electorate,for instance, they have to cart their fruit sometimes 25, 30, and even 40 miles to the nearest, and often a small, railway station. In Fiji, from which the eastern States of Australia obtained all their bananas before the industry in the Commonwealth was built up, the labour is done by imported Indians, whose wages amount to from1s. to 2s. per day, as compared with 12s. to 14s. per day paid in Australia. If we are to maintain a fair standard of living for the people engaged in the industry here, we must give some protection to those who are prepared to employ white men, and who , are bringing up white families. Mr. John Warburton, the Conference Secretary of the Methodist Missionary Society of Australia stated, in his evidence before the Interstate Commission, in 1918.: -
In Fiji, among the Indian coolies, the indenture system hasbeen broken, and the planters will be obliged to give a higher price. Instead ofpaying1s. per day, as the standard now is, they will probablyhave to pay even 2s. per day for ordinary labour.
No true Australian can have any doubt as to the need for the protection of an Australian industry against competition such , as would have to be met from Fiji. As I have already indicated, there will be plenty of bananas after this winter to meet Australian requirements, even assuming that thebunchy-top disease willcontinue to affect the plantations in northern New South Wales. For some time after the duty on bananas was imposed the wholesale price in Melbourne was cheaper than it had been before the duty was levied. Isubmit that the impost is not excessive, and that the Queenslandclimate as eminently suited for the growing ofthis fruit. Parliament should have no hesitation about granting the necessary protection to those who haveestablished banana farmsin the scrub country of Australia,and are endeavoring to make a living under white labour conditions. We cannot allow the Fiji grower to compete unfairly against the Australian grower. The banana industry is promoting land settlement in the tropical and subtropical parts of Australia. If it were not for the banana and sugar industries, we should not “be able to develop the northeastern fringe of Australia as it is being developed to-day. Mention has been made of the fact that Australian exportation to Fiji has fallen off. I admit, to a certainextent, the truth of that, but the circumstanceis not wholly attributable to the fact that Fijians cannot send bananas to Australia. That statement is a pretext for seeking to remove protection from the Australian grower. In 1918-19, Australian exports to Fiji amounted to £443,981; in 1922- 23, they amounted to £352,744. Those figures certainly represent a decrease, but the duty on bananas is not wholly responsible for that, although the imports of bananas from Fiji to Australia in 1917-18 were £125,083, and in 1922-23 were nil. That amount of money has been kept in Australia to tenable the banana-growers of northern New. South Wales and Queensland to make a living byemploying Australian labour. Most of thebanana-growers are struggling men. They are workers from the farms, the railway lines, the mines, and the construction camps, who have put their savings into the business. Many of them occupy leasehold land in different parts of my electorate, where they are struggling to make a living. I would be recreant to the trust placed in me by the people who sent me here if I listened, without protest, to the statements of some of the honorable members who sit on the corner benches. It isa shame that alleged Country . party representatives should come here and endeavour toset onesectionof primaryproducts at the throats of another section. Recently, when I was in Perth, Western Australia, I went to several fruiterers and found that I could huy bananas at ls. 6d. a dozen. Certainly they told me that there was some difficulty in getting continuity of supplies, which was said to be owing chiefly to the inadequate means of transport. I believe that something can be done to provide cheaper transport between Queensland and Western Australia, thus enabling banana-growers to place on the markets of the western State adequate supplies of bananas at a reasonable price. The banana-growers of Queensland are in favour of supplying the wants of the consumers of Australia at a reasonable price, but they object to being exploited. I am pleased to be able to say that owing to the action of the Queensland Labour Government in launching a progressive scheme for marketing farmers’ produce, exploitation by middlemen and sharks who handle the produce is being prevented. When members of the Opposition attack these profiteers and exploiters, who Are filching from the man on the land has hard-earned reward, where are the honorable members of the Country party to be found ? They get behind this Flinderslane Government and support it in bolstering up this kind of thing. I appeal to them not to attack the Queensland banana-growers, but to treat justly the primary producers of Australia engaged in growing fruit, whether in Victoria or Queensland. If their object is to benefit the primary producer, they will come behind the Australian Labour party, which stands for a fair deal for all producers, whether they work on the farm or in the factories.
Mr. PATERSON (Gippsland) £5.51].- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) the urgent necessity that exists for .taking advantage of an offer that has been made to the Government by a British shipping firm to provide a direct shipping service with refrigerated space to Eastern ports, particularly to Shanghai and Hong Kong, at competitive rates. There is an immense trade available to us in China, but we are losing it to America and other countries, because we have no direct shipping service with the East. The population of China is rapidly becoming westernized in “the matter of “both food and clothing, and there is no doubt that Australia could do an immense trade with that country if we had a direct shipping service. We could export to it flour, fruit, butter, leather, and a hundred and one other commodities that we produce. It has been said that the average Chinaman is so poor that he cannot buy our butter, fruit, and other produce; but we are apt to forget that in China the population is so immense - it is something like 500,000,000- that even if only 5 per cent, had sufficient wealth to buy our goods, they, would provide an immense market for its. China is geographically nearer to us than to America, and is our natural market in that respect. It is much nearer than Great Britain, to which we send most of our produce. About twelve months ago I introduced a deputation to the Minister with the object of interesting him and the Government in a proposal Ibo subsidize a direct line of shipping to the East. The trade which we could have built up there we have not obtained, because the shipping service is very irregular. It is also indirect, necessitating transhipments j there is little or no refrigerated space; and freight rates are excessive. The Minister informed the members of that deputation that if we would come forward with a concrete proposal, it would receive sympathetic consideration. A little time ago, I introduced a second deputation, consisting of representatives of the wheat corporation, the flour millers, the fruit-growers, the butter exporters, the bacon curers, the leather . manufacturers, and representatives of many other important interests. We placed before the Minister a definite offer made by William Crosby and Company, on behalf of Ellerman, Bucknall and Company, to provide a six-weekly regular service to Shanghai and Hong Kong for a subsidy of £40^00 a year. The firm also undertook, if sufficient freight were offering, to provide, in return for an additional subsidy of £10 ,’000 a year, a monthly instead of a six-weekly service. The offer included the provision of ample refrigerated space at very reasonable rates, which were particularly acceptable to exporters, and the carrying of ordinary freight at rates not exceeding those prevailing between America and China or Great Britain and China. It was a particularly good offer in view of (the fact that, should anything in the nature of a freight war arise, the firm would have to drop its freight rates to meet the competition. After that second deputation to the Minister one of the Melbourne daily newspapers published articles strongly criticizing the proposals put forward as “ spoonfeeding the producers.” It was stated in those articles that a Japanese firm of shippers was already providing an ample shipping service between Australia and the ports referred to. Although I wrote a letter to that newspaper refuting the published statements, it refused to publish it. I now wish to take the opportunity of saying that there was no foundation in fact for the statements made in the articles. The president of the Export Section of the Chamber of Commerce conducted long negotiations with the Japanese firm in an endeavour to get from it an undertaking that it would provide a regular service with the East. He was unable to obtain any satisfaction. It is incorrect to say that a regular service is being run to the East .to-day by a Japanese shipping firm. That firm, as far as I know, provides no refrigerated space, without which any shipping service to the East is of very Little use. Most of our produce requires to be shipped in cool chambers. Not very long ago, when the question arose whether the Government should subsidize a great secondary industry in Australia - the locomotive-building industry - it did not take very long for the Government to make up its mind that it would be advantageous to Australia to subsidize that industry to the extent of £50,000 on a certain contract. I do not find fault with that action, but if the Government considers it reasonable to subsidize a great secondary industry to the extent of £50,000, and can make up its mind on the point with a certain amount of rapidity, it is extraordinary that twelve months should elapse before it can reach a decision regarding a £40,000 subsidy to provide a shipping service to the East. If it is fair to subsidize a secondary industry it cannot be unreasonable to subsidize a primary industry. A subsidy for this shipping service would not be a direct subsidy, because the exporters of product’s to China could not charge prices in excess of the ruling market rates. The subsidy would merely provide them with a means of getting their produce to the waiting market, where they would have to sell it in competition with the produce of other countries. In view of the remarkable speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) at the Sydney Royal Show recently, when he stated that it was the intention of the Government to earmark a certain proportion of the Customs revenue for the purpose of subsidizing shipping to assist the primary producer, it is incomprehensible to me that the Government should turn this proposal down. I urge the Minister to take advantage of the offer without delay. Doubtless it cannot remain open indefinitely, and further delay may cause it to be withdrawn.
– The Government realize the value of the Eastern trade, and are making full inquiries into the matters that have been spoken of. The subject has also been referred to the Board of Trade. We want information, not from interested parties, but from responsible men over whom we have a measure of control. The request of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) for a shipping subsidy has been before the Government for some time. He probably knows that, since he waited on me with a deputation asking for a subsidy, another vessel has been placed on the Eastern trade route without the payment of any subsidy at all.
– With refrigerated 3pace ?
– I have not the details. The vessel is certainly carrying cargo. The Government are anxious tq encourage trade between Australia and the East with its teeming millions, but a proposal to pay £1,000 a week as a shipping subsidy cannot be dealt with in five minutes.
– Will the House have an opportunity to consider any proposed shipping subsidy?
– That will depend upon the action the Government may determine to take. If that action is such that the Government should shoulder the responsibility for it, we, like any other self-respecting Government, would take that responsibility, for I fail to see how the honorable member for Gippsland draws an analogy between the locomotive contract and a shipping subsidy.
– Both are subsidies.
– I believe that the action, of the Government in placing the locomotive contract in Australia, thus giving employment to Australians, met with the approbation of the great majority of the people. It is extraordinary how various ave the standpoints from which Tariff matters ate viewed. For instance, for placing a dumping duty on wire netting I have been taken to task by the very people who applauded mo loudly and vigorously when I put a clumping duty on South African maize, because that country gave cheap railway freight from the point of production to the point of export. If a dumping duty had not been imposed on wire netting, who would have received the benefit? Not the settler or pastoralist. We know that the Australian wire is the best and cheapest. As a sufficient quantity of wire netting cannot be obtained from Great Britain to supply the Australian pastoralists and the men on the land, the importer is compelled to sell some Australian wire and some imported wire, whether there is a dumping duty or not. The dumping duty takes the extra profit from the importer. I am not quite satisfied of the sincerity and earnestness of the gentleman who says that he is the largest importer of wire in this country, and that the dumping duty is a bad thing for Australia. What would happen if wire netting were not manufactured in this country ? The manufacture of wire in Great Britain is controlled by a combine. We know what happens when there is no competition in industry. At present, thousands of Australian working men, earning decent wages, and consuming the primary products of this country, are engaged in manufacturing wire netting.
– The Government are cutting out competition. Mr. AUSTEN” CHAPMAN. - There is such a thing as unfair competition. Does the honorable member; think it fair to charge £8 a ton more for wire netting iu Great Britain than in Australia? The British manufacturers supply their own customers and then cut prices to get a market in Australia. The honorable member is consistent, because he believes in buying the cheapest article at all time3. I cannot understand any man who does not desire the progress of Australian industries.
– It is in the interest of Australian producers that the Government are asked for the shipping subsidy.
– Does not the honorable member think that we should make thorough inquiries before agreeing to an expenditure of £40,000? Tha Government were wise in delaying their decision, as, in the meantime, an extra boat has been put on the Eastern trade route.
– I do not think refrigerated space is provided on that boat.
– The provision of the extra vessel is a healthy sign. In imposing a dumping duty I simply carried out the law. Section 4 of the Industries Preservation Act reads -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that goods exported to Australia, which are of a class and kind produced or manufactured in Australia, have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry, the Minister may publish a notice in tho Gazette specifying the goods as to which he is so satisfied.”
– I contend that there is no home market.
– Britain consumes 70 per cent, of its own wire netting.
– Nothing of the sort.
– Then the information obtained by the Tariff Board and the Government officials must be wrong.
– My authority i3 a telegram that I received from the AgentGeneral for Western Australia in London.
– The honorable member’s policy is to import goods manufactured across the seas. He advocates the introduction of bananas from’ Fiji, where the natives work for 2s. a day. Without a Protective Tariff, how could we pay white men’s wages? Section 4 of the Industries Preservation Act continues -
Upon the publication of the notice there shall be charged, collected, and paid to the use of the King for the purposes of tho Commonwealth, on those goods imported into Australia, a special duty (in this section referred to as “the dumping duty”). The amount of the dumping duty, in each case shall bc the sum which represents the difference between a fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment and the export price.
In accordance with the requirements of the Act, the question of imposing a dumping duty on wire netting was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. After long and careful inquiry the Board was satisfied that wire netting was being dumped into Australia, and that such dumping was detrimental to the Australian wire-netting industry. This being so, there is no alternative to granting to the Australian industry the protection provided by Parliament in the Industries Preservation Act. If any one is to be taken to task for the dumping duty it is Parliament, since it passed this Act. I suggest to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that, if he objects to the dumping duty, his best course is to have the Act taken from the statute-book of Australia.
– I have tried my best to do that.
– The honorable member’s failure proves that the majority of the people are against him. This is a Protectionist country. Our people believe in a White Australia, the payment of white men’s wages, and the preservation of our industries so that we can provide for our own requirements instead of importing from overseas. To hold this continent we must populate it, and this cannot be done unless we have sufficient industries to keep our men in employment. The imposition of the dumping duty does not affect the price of the netting to the farmer.
– That is nonsense.
– The importers of wire netting charge the farmers the same price as is charged for Australian netting. If an importer imports netting at a lower price than that of Australian netting, he does not pass on the advantage to the farmer - he merely pockets the extra profit.
– What is that statement worth?
– The price of netting in Australia is less than the fair market value in England. This is due to the existence in Australia of wirenetting mills and the payment of bounty on the netting produced. In England the price of wire netting for home consumption is fixed by an association, and if the Australian industry were crushed out, and the trade of Australia left in the hands of the British makers, there is every reason to believe that the prices to Australia would also be fixed by the British association. I can prove these facts to any honorable member who has a doubt about them. It has been said that the demand in Britain for wire netting is small. A very important factor is that the British association gives a rebate of 6½ per cent, for purchases of 250,000 yards (140 miles) for home consumption.
– Has the Minister not received a reply from the High Commissioner? I have already had word from the Agent-General for Western Australia in London.
-The chief point for consideration, however, is not the prices, important though they are, but the capacity of the British mills to supply Australia’s requirements. Their total output is less than that of Australia. Out of their total production, they require for home consumption fourfifths of what they make, only one-fifth or thereabouts coming to Australia. Thus the competition of the Australian mills not only keeps the prices down, but is absolutely essential to an adequate supply of wire netting to the Commonwealth. Without the products of the Australian mills many thousands of square miles of country would be unprotected from the rabbits and wild dogs. Britain does not produce enough wire netting to supply our needs, and if that country were allowed to dump wire netting here, extra profit would be” placed in the pockets of the importers. It would make no difference whatever to the men in this country who need the wire netting. Everybody admits that the Australian-made wire netting is superior to that made in Great Britain. I cannot see that the honorable members who addressed themselves to this subject have any reason for complaint. The amount of money involved is very small, and honorable members should remember the old adage, “ Prevention is better than . cure.” If the manufacturers in England find that they cannot dump the netting in Australia at from £6 to £8 per ton less than they sell it to the people of Great Britain, they will soon cease the practices which necessitated the imposition of this duty. We must think, not only of the farmers and graziers who use wire netting, but also of the 4,000 men employed in the Australian wire-netting industry.
We must think, too, of the men who work in our iron and coal mining, and limestoneburning industries. We must also consider our transport workers. This is a big industry. If we allow wire netting to come into this country at the price the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) wishes to pay for it, what will become of the thousands of employees engaged in the Australian industry? Would he have us close down our coal mines and cease working our iron ore deposits ? ‘ What would become of Austral]’ a if we pursued to its logical conclusion the policy he advocates?
– I would close down those industries before I would kill the farmers.
– We are not doing anything that will kill the farmers. I defy the honorable member to contradict my assertion that British wire netting is sold more cheaply in Australia than in Great Britain. The farmer would not get cheaper wire netting >f we removed the dumping duty. The wire, manufactured in Australia is the best, and is sold more cheaply than the imported wire.
– -“Why should we worry to fight for the importer?
– That is exactly what the honorable member is doing, although I think he does not realize it. I have given the facts, and, they show that he is actually fighting for the importer. ; “
– I am not fighting for him.
– The facts prove that the honorable member is doing so. The farmers and graziers in Australia are getting better and cheaper wire netting than are the users of wire netting in Great Britain. In those circumstances for whom, other than the importers, i3 the honorable member fighting? The farmer is not in any worse position with the dumping duty than he would be without it. The same thing applies to the dumping duty on primary products.
We have heard an eloquent speech this evening on the subject of bananas. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) wishes us to make Tariff distinctions between different parts of Australia. We shall need to alter the Constitution before that can be done. On every occasion when that has been attempted,’ the results have been disas trous. Is it a fair thing for that honorable member to contend that we should let 16,000 acres in Queensland and a considerable area of land in New South Wales on which bananas are being grown by white labour, revert to its original bush, state in order that we may obtain bananas from Java and Fiji, where they are grown by Indians who are paid 2s. a day? We are spending a considerable sum of money in Australia to eliminate bunchy- top, and I think that we shall succeed. Are we to give no consideration to our own people and our own country? Such a policy will not find favour with the people of Australia.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) drew attention fca the desirableness of amending the Superannuation Act. I remind him that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), on the 2nd April, 1924, asked the Treasurer the following question, upon notice: -
Whether he will take early action to have section 36 of the Superannuation Act of 1922 amended in pursuance of his promise in this House while discussing ‘ the Estimates last year, in order to bring in those officers who had been taken over from a State Service, but who had not .been ton years in the Commonwealth Public Service at the date of their retirement or death V
The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) made the following reply: -
It is the intention of the Government to submit a Bill to Parliament during the present session for the purpose of amending the Superannuation Act of 1922. When ‘the amending Bill is being prepared, .consideration will be given to the claims of the officers referred to.
Honorable members know that when the Treasurer promises a thing, it is as good as done.
– I suggest to the Minister that the Government should introduce the Bill early, because many officers who are concerned wish to know how many units they may subscribe for.
– The point mentioned by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) is ,a good one, and the matter will be considered.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) made a request for the remission of duty which had been paid on certain yarn for the Daylesford woollen mills. The case seems to be a hard one, but I am afraid that very little relief can be given, because the yarn was imported after the Tariff had been imposed. It was a deferred duty, and it is impossible in such a case to make a refund. However, I shall look carefully into the matter, and if tho honorable member can show me a way in which relief can be given, I assure him that I will consider the matter favorably. This is a cooperative company, the directors of which receive no payment; and, so far as I know, no dividends have been declared.
With respect to the exportation of black-spot apples, the facts are simple. Tasmania, last season, had a very poor apple crop, and a number of small fruitgrowers waited upon the Government. and asked for relief from restrictions which, if not . altered, would mean their ruin. Honorable members know that on account of the wet season last year many apples were slightly more spotted than usual. It was pointed out to the Government that unless relief were given, many small orchardists would be ruined.
– That is the fact.
– Their representations were considered by the Fruit Council. I have been taken to task by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) because the Western Australian representative on the Fruit Council was unable to attend the meeting. I could not compel him to do so, though I should have been glad had he been there. The majority of the Fruit Council inquired into the circumstances, and recommended that permission be granted to export the apples, because,, in their opinion, no harm would be clone to the oversea> market. In addition to obtaining the. opinion of the Fruit Council, I sent a cablegram to the High Commissioner in London to ascertain whether any serious effects would follow the export of the fruit. I told him that the cases containing this fruit would be marked “ blemished “ so that there ‘could be no misunderstanding, and I also stated that no apples under a certain size, or with broken skins, would be packed. The High Commissioner replied that the market would not be affected by the sale of this fruit if proper precautions were taken in England. Honorable members may be sure that not only were proper precautions taken on the other side, but suitable precautions were taken on this side also. By temporarily amending the regulations the Government gave the small orchard ists in Tasmania an opportunity to save their homes and their orchards, and I do not think that the slightest damage was done to anybody. The exports from Tasmania have been much smaller than usual. That has been due to the bad season, and also to the careful inspection of the fruit offered for export. The difference between last season and a normal season was tremendous, and, in the circumstances, I think that the Government did the right thing. It is not always possible to confine trade within strictly defined limits, and the Government cannot be blamed for giving temporary relief to the Tasmanian growers in respect of the last apple crop, especially as it acted on the advice of the Fruit Council and the High Commissioner. Surely it was proper to act mercifully towards the small orchardists. Up to date, about 47,000 or 50,000 cases of these apples have been sold. I agree that in ordinary circumstances it is dangerous to interfere with the customary trade procedure, but when extraordinary circumstances arise it. is the duty of a Minister to take his courage in his hands, and do what he believes to be best in the interests of an industry. At the same time, I think that we ought to do all we can to maintain a high standard for our exports to England. The most severe criticism in respect of these apples came from an exmember of this Parliament, Mr. Orchard, a Commissioner of the British Empire Exhibition. He condemned our action in unmeasured terms, but I was able to prove to him subsequently that we were justified in doing as we did, and he was manly enough to admit it. He had seen only the condemned apples, and not those we were allowing to go.
– No person who knew the facts could do otherwise.
– If some such action had not been taken by the Government, many small orchardists would have lost their homes and their fortunes. If a similar set of circumstances arose, I would commit the same fault again - if, indeed, a fault has been committed. I think these people were entitled to reasonable consideration, and so are the Australian banana-growers, notwithstanding the remarks of honorable members who favour the importation of Fijian bananas. I suggest to those honorable members that they should encourage the people in the north-west of Australia to grow bananas. I admit that it was unfortunate that the representative of Western Australia was unable to attend the meeting of the Fruit Council which agreed to permit the export of the Tasmanian black-spot apples, but the majority of its members were at the meeting which made that decision. That action prevented the ruin of a great many small orchardists, and the market has not been seriously affected.
– Does the Minister desire to continue his remarks after the dinner adjournment ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I have dealt with all the matters that I can deal with in the time at my disposal, and I am afraid that in so doing I have won approbation from the wrong quarter. If the honorable members whose complaints have not been dealt with will see me at my office, I shall be pleased to do what I can for them.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6. SI to S p.m.
Mr. GREGORY brought up the report of the Committee, together with minutes of - evidence, &c, relating to the proposed provision of wharfage accommodation and shipping facilities at Darwin.
Ordered to be printed.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 21st May, vide page 833) :
Clause 8 (Period of office of Commissioners) .
.- I draw attention to the length of time for which the Commissioners are to be appointed, namely, five, four, and three years respectively. Five years is too long. Three years is sufficient. Before five years have expired, there may be some necessity to change the policy. It would be very difficult to dismiss the Commissioners before their term of office had expired. Unless they are found guilty of wrong-doing as Commissioners, there is no power to get rid of them. If they were dismissed they would have a claim against the Commonwealth. By the time three years have elapsed, we should have some 1 idea of the success or otherwise of, the new system of control. The Government may then see the folly of their action; but if these men were removed from office they would require to be compensated. If the Commission were such a success that we desired to continue it, we could, at the end of two or three years, renew the appointments.
– If we are to attract good men to the position, we must give them some reasonable tenure of office.
– An appointment for three years, with the right of renewal at the end of that period, subject to the satisfactory working of the Commission, would be a sufficient inducement to a good man.-
– There is not the same security.
– Three years is quite sufficient. Many good men enter this House for three years.
– They do not always remain that long.
– This is experimental legislation. We do not know whether or not it will be a success. The Commission may not be. required after a year” or two. I had intended to move an amendment, but I do not want to delay the business of the Committee. I desire, however, to record my disapproval of the long terms set out in the clause.
– If honorable members will look at the next subclause, they will see that the term really is three years. The periods of five, four, and three years apply to the members of the first Commission, but thereafter, the term is to be three years. If the three Commissioners were each appointed for three years only, their terms of office would expire on the same date.
– Then make the terms three years, two years, and one year.
– I think that the Leader of the Opposition will, on reflection, agree that such terms would be too short. The period of five years will apply only in the initial stages. The point raised by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), that three years is too short a term to attract a really good man as the first chairman, is worthy of consideration.
.- The idea underlying the fixing of the terms mentioned in this clause seems to be that the present Ministry expect to continue in office for about two years longer, and that during the following three years their successors will be unable to make any change in the personnel of the Commission. I warn the Ministry, however, that if this party is returned with a majority at the next election, the first session of the new Parliament will be devoted chiefly to repealing the bad legislation of the present Government.
’.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), by his indiscretion, is putting the whole country on its guard. I hope the Leader of the Opposition will not press this matter to a division.
– I have not moved it.
– Man of the first rank would not apply for the position of Commissioner if the term were restricted to three years. I sincerely hope that the clause, as printed, will be passed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 - £1.) A Commissioner or an Acting Commissioner sholl bc deemed to have vacated his office if -
Mr. O’KEEFE (Denison) [8.9). - 1 move< -
That the words “ otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of more thom twenty-five1 persons”, sub-clause c, be omitted.
Sub-clause c of this clause provides that a Commissioner, or Acting Commissioner,, shall be deemed to- have vacated! his. office if- fc); he-, iu any way,, otherwise than as- a member, and in, common with the other members, of an incorporated, company consisting of more than twenty-five persons.-
The purpose of the clause is to prevent any Commissioner, or Acting Commissioner, from having any pecuniary interest in any transaction over which he, as Commissioner, may have control. We should make the clause absolutely safe. It should be entirely beyond the power of a Commissioner to make any illegal profits out of the Commonwealth funds, or to’ take advantage of his position as Commissioner to benefit himself at the expense of the Commonwealth. Subclause c, as printed, defeats the real intention of the clause.
– The same provision appears in many Acts.
– The purpose of the clause is clear. It is to prevent a Commissioner from reaping personal pecuniary benefit from a contract over which he himself, as Commissioner, has control.
– Every member of this House is in the same position.
– But every member of this House will not be a Commissioner. If any member of this Parliament desires to become one of the Commissioners, it is- his plain duty now to vote to pass the clause in such a way as will make itimpossible for him to make profit improperly at the expense of the Commonwealth. As printed, the clause enables a Commissioner, or Acting Commissioner, to reap a monetary benefit from the transactions of the Commission., so long as he does so as a member of an incorporated company consisting of more than 25 persons. Let us examine the position. A man may be a member of a company consisting of 26 persons,, and! may hold 90 per cent, of thi shares. The other 25 members may be simply dummies. Every day we hear of companies where- one big; shareholder has the controlling interest, the other shareholders between them not holding anything like the same number of shares) as he- does. I, ask the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) to give- my amendment serious consideration, because, under the clause as it stands,, any one of these Commissioners might, as a shareholder in a company, be interested in contracts or transactions involving the expenditure of huge sums of money over which the Commission will have control. If, as I assume, it is intended by the clause to prevent such a thing, let u3 do it thoroughly, and let us say that no Commissioner shall be entitled to hold shares in any company, without respect to the number of persons forming it, having business relations with the Commission. Let us say that no Commissioner shall be financially interested in any of the transactions over which the Commission will have control. I do not say that the men who will apply for positions as Commissioners under the Bill would do this kind of thing, but wc should put it beyond the power of the Commissioners to do it. We have already agreed to appoint a Commissioner at a salary of £3,000 a year, and have made provision, for two subordinate Commissioners, who are to be paid by fees an unspecified amount. The subordinate Commissioners may be men deriving largo incomes from their private, business or profession, and’ yet under the Bill they may draw fees amounting to £3,000 a year for their services as Commissioners, though the whole of their time will not be employed in the work. They should be satisfied with that. I believe that just as good men will apply for these positions if we put it beyond their power altogether to be financially interested in any expenditures over which the Commission will have control. The issue raised by my amendment is clear, and I need not further explain it. If it is agreed to, a consequential amendment will become necessary in a later part .of the clause.
– I quite appreciate the object the honorable member has in. proposing his amendment. It, is to prevent members of the Commission having any financial interest in the transactions- which they will control. I cant assure the honorable member that the master’ dealt with) in his amendment was given, very careful consideration. The portion of the clause to which- he takes exception, has: really been taken from the constitutional provision under which we occupy our present positions.. Under section- 44 of the Constitution, dealing with the disqualifications of candidates for election to either House of this Par liament, it is provided that any person shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives who, amongst other things -
Has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons.
With the exception that the word “ Commission “ is substituted for the- word “Board,” the clause is identical with a section of the Public Service Act which we passed last year, dealing with qualifications of members of the Public- Service Board. This is the usual statutory provision in such cases. I have no knowledge of any breach- of the- constitutional provision to which- I have referred! in the history of this Parliament.
– Outside this Parlament. and the’ Federal1 Public Service; many breaches of the kind have occurred?.
– I listened to: the honorable member with a good deal’ of sympathy, because, in common with every other member of the Committee, I desire to prevent such improper conduct as he has referred to.
– I believe that, but the Government has not done so in the clause under consideration.
– If the honorable member will turn to clause 9, which the Committee has just passed, he will find that it provides that-
The Minister may suspend a Commissioner, or an Acting Commissioner, from office for inability, inefficiency, or misbehaviour, or neglect or failure to carry out any of the provisions of this Act. or the- regulations.
– That would not pre> vent a Commissioner, as a shareholder in a company, profiting improperly under a contract with the Commission if he elected to do< so.
– This Parliament will’ be sitting- at Canberra; where the Commission, will Be carrying on its- work, and is it likely that any man worthy of the position: of Minister willi, under Ms very eyes* permit a Commissioner imterested in a- company to make financial profit out of the works carried out at Canberra? I am sure that honorable members will see that the- Commonwealth will bo amply safeguarded by this clause as it stands, in conjunction with clause 9. I have said that this is the customary provision, specifically designed to prevent what the honorable member fears might take place.
.- The Minister has said that he considers the Commonwealth will be sufficiently safeguarded by the fact that tho Minister, under clause 9,’ is given power to suspend a Commissioner, but I direct his attention to what happened only within the last few months in one of tho States of the Commonwealth. The State Government has under its control a very big work, which is being carried out under Government supervision, and by the expenditure of public money. It invited applications for a position very similar to that which one of the proposed Commissioners will hold. The successful applicant, who, by tho way, came from Victoria to the State I represent, secured the position. He was trusted by the Government, who had the power to suspend him. He drew a reasonable salary for his work, and was expected to give his best services. Within a year or so from the time of his appointment, it was discovered that he was secretly interested in some contract. He was the officer whose business it was to recommend the acceptance of certain contracts. Tenders were invited for the purchase of a large quantity of valuable blackwood, on a big area qf land which was being cleared by the Government. It came out in evidence elicited by a Royal Commission appointed by the Government to inquire into the matter, as soon as it got wind of it, that this, official took advantage of the position he held and advised the Government to accept a certain tender. It was found that he was, secretly, of course, a partner of the successful tenderers. He advised the rejection of other tenders that might have been more advantageous to the Government.
– - Was the company to which he belonged the lowest tenderer ?
– I could not say, but the point is that this official was found to be a shareholder in the company that, upon his advice, secured the contract. When this kind of thing can take place, what becomes of the Minister’s argument that the power to suspend is a sufficient safeguard ?
– If tho honorable member’s amendment was carried, it would cut off the greater part of the field to which we must look to secure suitable men for these positions.
– Surely the Committee will not accept au argument like that.
– The same objection has been raised to every amendment suggested by us.
– It might be used in many other cases with far more reason than this. Does the Minister seriously contend that we shall be unable to secure suitable men for the Commission if we do not permit them to be members of companies interested in transactions in which Commonwealth money will be involved?
– I do not say that.
– That was what the honorable gentleman’s interjection implied. He said that my amendment would seriously reduce the . field from which wo might expect applications for these positions.
– That is different from the interpretation which the honorable member put on what I said.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable gentleman. If no stronger argument than that suggested by him can be urged against my amendment, I trust the good sense of the Committee will carry it. I should like to hear the views of some honorable members on the other side. I am satisfied that every member of the Committee is as anxious as I am myself that the men occupying positions as Commissioners at Canberra shall not deal improperly with public funds. The Minister might well accept the amendment and thus make certain that the obvious reason for the insertion of the clause in the Bill is carried out. There are hundreds of companies operating to-day in which there are more than 25 persons and in which one individual may hold a controlling interest by possessing more than half the shares. If the Minister would postpone the consideration of the clause and have an amendment drafted to carry out what the clause really intends - that is, that power shall not be given to any Commissioner to juggle with the funds of the Commonwealth - I would be willing to accept it.
.- As iv matter of fact, tlie provision in the Bill is on the lines of what is provided in the Constitution, but I rise to point out that under the present system of the flotation of companies, debenture-holders are often more concerned in the success of trading firms than are the shareholders themselves. In order to defeat income taxation and probate duties many proprietary concerns have been floated into incorporated companies, the original proprietors becoming debenture-holders entitled to 9 per cent, or 10 per cent, per annum, and a further .division of the profits should the dividends of the shareholders in the year exceed 10 per cent, or 12 per cent. The clause under consideration makes no limitation in regard to the Commissioner or Acting Commissioner being n debenture-holder of a company concerned or interested in any contract made with the Commission.
– It merely deals with shareholders.
– In future Bills of this kind, provision will have to be made to meet the case of debenture-holders of the class I have mentioned.
.-The provision to which exception has been taken has found a place in legislation of this character for the last 25 years. The cases mentioned by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. 0’Keefe) were those in which a dishonest person had done some secret act. If the Commissioner appointed under this Bill is a dishonest individual desirous of doing something wrong, he can secretly transfer whatever shares he may have in a company to his wife and carry on nefarious practices as long as he likes. But let us take the case of a Commissioner who may have a few hundred pounds invested in some trading concern. Should one of the employees of the Commission buy from that firm a few pounds’ worth of goods without the Commissioner’s knowledge, the honorable member for Denison would make the Commissioner guilty of an indictable offence. As I have already pointed out, the man who is actually dishonest could overcome the difficulty of having an interest in any private concern doing business with the Commission by transferring that interest to his wife.
– But if the Commissioner does that he breaks the law.
– The Bill will allow him to do these things without breaking the law.
– No. Eoi- the last 20 or 30 years the same provision has applied, and I challenge the honorable member for Denison to cite a single case in connexion with any Board or Commission in which anything of the sort he fears has occurred. It would be a great mistake to alter .the sub-clause.
.- The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) is to be commended for bringing forward his amendment. It does not follow that, because we have already passed legislation containing the provision to which the honorable member objects, we should keep on passing it. I can remember cases of corruption during past years, although a provision such as this has been in force. But in any case, for a salary of £3,000 wc should get a. man who will, give his whole time to his particular job and who will not concern himself with the operations of private firms with which the Federal Capital Commission may have dealings. The argument of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mv. Stewart) that if the clause is not allowed to stand as printed, the Government’s choice in selecting a Commissioner will be limited, is very weak. The same objection has been raised every time an amendment has been moved. I see no reason why the Commissioners should not be pitt in the same position as a member of a shire council in New South Wales, who is nob entitled to have an interest in any contract entered into with the municipality of which he is a councillor.
– Under the general municipal law of Australia a councillor is entitled to be interested in a contract with such a company as is provided for in this clause.
– I am speaking of the New South Wales law. Cases have been proved against municipal councillors in New South Wales, and those councillors have been expelled from their positions.
– Many have’ not been expelled, and yet there are cases of corruption in New South Wales.
– My purpose is to avoid the possibility of corruption on the part of the person who will occupy . the important position of Chairman of ‘the Federal Capital Commission. He will have unlimited power. Parliament will know very little of what is happening. To say that the Government cannot get a sufficiently qualified man to accept a position at a salary of £3,000 per annum unless he is allowed to be connected with companies that may be trading with the Commission, is to make easy the path to corruption.
– This amendment would also apply to the other Commissioners, who may on’ly be called in occasionally.
– It applies to all the Commissioners, but I am referring particularly to the Chairman of the Commission, who will occupy a very independent position as compared with his colleagues. He will only cadi them in when he requires their .services. He will really dominate emery thing ; lie will really dominate Parliament. Once the Commission gets into working order this House will have very little say in connexion with affairs at Canberra, which is an additional reason for .agreeing to the amendment. We .should clearly provide that the Commissioners must not be interested in companies. Do the Government oppose the amendment .because they have some one in mind for the position of Chairman ?
– I accept the Minister’s word, but one would think that Ministers had some one in mind when they stipulate that he may be a man holding shares in a number of companies.
– The honorable member might as well say that the framers of the Constitution were actuated hy the same motive when .they inserted a similar provision in the Constitution.
– There .are many provisions in the Constitution that need amendment. The worst feature of our (legislation is that the language of one measure is slavishly repeated in another. We work along in the .same old groove.
– This provision in the Constitution has worked very well so far.
– I do not know that it has.. No .one has condemned it more than has the .honorable member at certain times,
– Not .this provision.
– The honorable member has condemned the expenditure of public money where independent power has been given to Commissioners. The Federal Capital Commission will handle a great deal of public money, and I am anxious to prevent any Commissioner being a shareholder in a company.
– The amendment would cut out the Government’s particular friends. They want “ big business men “ for the job.
– My concern, and that of the honorable member for Denison, is to make the Bill as perfect as possible, and safeguard the interests of the public. Can we do so by leaving the clause as it stands? It is. no argument to say that the amendment would restrict the choice of the Government, and prevent them from getting suitable men for the job. It is ridiculous for Ministers to say that they cannot get a suitable man unless he is connected with a number of companies in Australia.
– The honorable member is not arguing fairly.
Mr. -CHARLTON. - My argument is .as fair as that which the Minister has put up against the amendment.
– lt is .a fair argument to ask whether the Minister would give some one £3,000 a year to manage his own business, and at the same time allow that manager to be interested in other businesses which had dealings with it.
– He would not. Whenever corruption has occurred, it has been in consequence of persons who had authority in connexion with Government institutions being pecuniarily interested in private concerns. In connexion with tho War .Service Homes, we have heard of the .Commonwealth having to pay dearly for the association of Government officers with private saw-mills and other businesses. I cannot see why the Minister objects to a fair and reasonable amendment which would improve the Bill, and casts no reflection upon anybody. If there -are no qualified men other than those who are interested in public companies that may he supplying material to Canberra, the outlook for Australia is bad. But I believe that plenty of . capable men are available for these positions, and we should take -every precaution to safeguard -the -public interest. There is no party significance in this Bill, and I cannot (understand why honorable members opposite .so obediently follow the party Whip, and refuse to listen to logic, I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision, and accept the suggested amendment. The draftsmen are very able officers, but it is still possible for the collective -wisdom of the Committee to suggest improvements to the Bill.
[8.491. - The Leader of the Opposition has asked the Committee to be guided by the example of New South Wales in regard to municipal legislation, and I suppose that it T prove to him that the provision in this Bill is in accordance with the New South Wales law, he will be satisfied that we are doing the right thing.
– I said that no municipal or shire councillor in New South Wales can vote on a contract in which he is pecuniarily interested.
– The Local Government Act of New South Wales provides -
A person (who is not it director of n company) shall not bc disqualified for a civic office by reason only of having a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement or trading with the council as a member and in common with the members of an incorporated company consisting of more than 25 persons.
The Local Government Act of Victoria contains this provision -
But no person shall be disqualified ‘ from being or continuing a councillor of any municipality by reason of - ….
being a shareholder or member of any incorporated company consisting of more than 20 persons which has entered into any contract with or done any work under the authority of the council…..
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that a man should be disqualified for membership of the Commission if he were a shareholder in any company doing business with the Commission, and I have shown him that in New South Wales and Victoria there is a limitation of the disqualification. The reason for the limitation is obvious. A company of less than 20 shareholders is more or less in the nature of a proprietary concern, the shareholders in which may have what might be regarded as a direct managerial interest in promoting its welfare. The object of the provisions in the State Acts is to disqualify those men who have a substantial proprietary interest in companies for doing business with the councils of which they are members.. Experience in all States has shown that that is the safeguard that is necessary. The men who framed the Constitution had experience of government in all the Australian States, and:- this- Bill re-enacts the provision which they considered proper. As the Minister for Works and Railways has interjected, it is unwise to limit the area of selection. The two part-time Commissioners will be called in to give advice only at certain periods, and they cannot reasonably be asked to sever their connexion with every company in which they are inter.ested .
– It might pay a man to give his services as a Commissioner free in order to gain benefit for the companies in which he is interested..
– The proper policy is to pay for services rendered. I urge honorable members to adhere to the provisions in the Bill. - It safeguards the interest of the Commonwealth without unduly limiting the area of selection. ;
.-f It is evident that the draftsman hai rummaged the Constitution and State Statutes, and in accordance with the provisions he found therein has framed this Bill. Apparently we are to learn nothing from experience.
– Is not the provision in the Bill based upon the experience of all the States?
– Yes, but whereas the Local Government Act of New South Wales provides that a municipal councillor shall not vote upon any contract in which he is pecuniarily interested as a shareholder in a small company, there is no such restriction in this Bill, and the Commissioners may do as .they choose. We should do something to protect the public interest. The Chief Commissioner should hold no interest in a public company, because, whether the shareholders number five or 5,000, whether his interest be 50 shares or 50,000 shares, there will always be an inducement for him to favour the concern with which he is identified.
.- Some day Canberra will be a big city, and the purchases by the Commissioners will cover the whole field of industry. Therefore, the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition would unduly restrict the area of selection. I am quite sure that some men who are occupying public positions, in which they are absolutely indispensable, have legitimate investments in companies with which they, in their public offices, do business. We expect to have on the Federal Capital Commission representative men from different professions. We shall not get the best men if we limit the choice in the manner proposed. It is hardly conceivable that any leading architect or engineer could be chosen for a seat on the Commission who had not an interest in some big concern that might supply material for the construction of the city. The wisdom of all Parliaments endorses the provision which is contained in the Bill.
.- The clause has been carefully drafted, but it is not possible to provide for every contingency. It is difficult to know where to draw the line. Let me give an illustration. I happen to be a member of a company with a capital of £100,000, but my holding is confined to 100 shares of £1 each. The business of the company is the manufacture of collars, ties, &c. Suppose that, in the course of time I became a member of this Commission - say, one of the two Assistant Commissioners, I presume that two Commissioners will form a quorum, and if I happened to be absent atone meeting at which the Commission accepted the tender of this company for a bale of shirts for the men, I might find myself liable to a fine of £500, or imprisonment for a term of three years, because I happened to have 100 shares in the company.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause (Mr. O’Keefe’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I intended to propose a similar amendment to the second paragraph of the clause, but in view of the division that has just been taken, which I regard as a test vote, I shall not submit it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Appointment of officers).
– I ask honorable members to negative this clause, because, at the proper time, I intend to move for the insertion of the following in its stead : -
The appointment of all officers required for the purposes of this Act shall be made under, and in accordance with, the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922.
.- I congratulate the Minister upon his decision. It is the first time I have had an opportunity of doing so since the introduction of this Bill. We had intended, in the interests of the Public Service, to fight this clause, and probably there would have been a lengthy debate. The clause proposed to take away the rights of public servants by placing them under the control of the Commission. In consequence of the dissatisfaction throughout the Service some years ago, the then Commissioner (Mr. McLachlan) reported in favour of all public servants being brought under the . Public Service Act. I am very glad that the Minister has seen the necessity for the elimination ofthe clause.
Clause 14 - “(l). Subject to this Act and to any Ordinance made in pursuance of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, the powers of the Commission in relation to the Territory shall Include the following: -
– I move -
That after the words “ Crown lands “, paragraph (a), the following words be inserted: - (including lands acquired by the Commonwealth prior to the commencement of this Act which are contiguous to the Territory).”
This is an unimportant provision inserted for the purpose of enabling the Commission to purchase or acquire lands, some portion of -which may be within the Territory, and some portion just over the boundary.
Amendment agreed to.
– I direct the attention of the Minister to sub-clause 4, which reads -
The provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921 shall apply in relation to- works and buildings proposed to be constructed by the Commission in like manner as they apply in relation to public works proposed to bc constructed by the Commonwealth.
I want to be quite clear as to the meaning of the sub-clause. Am I to understand that whenever any proposal has been investigated, it will be submitted to this House for approval, or will the Com-, mission have authority to go on with the work?
– It is intended to observe the procedure of the Public Works Committee Act.
– Then I am satisfied.
Clause 14, as amended, agreed to. Clause 15 consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to. Clause 16 agreed to. Clause 17 -
The revenue of the Commission shall consist . of the . following moneys . . .
.- No provision is- made in paragraph /, or in any part of - the clause, for the keeping of a separate account of moneys borrowed. Possibly the Auditor-General may have power to order that to be done.
– All moneys borrowed should be shown in a separate account, and, as it is advisable to provide in that direction, I move -
That, after the word “ Act “, paragraph (/) the following words be inserted : - “ which shall be shown iri a separate account.”
The paragraph would then read - “ Moneys borrowed by the Commission in pursuance of this Act, which shall be shown in a separate account. . . .”
– Although it is desirable to keep a separate account, as suggested by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), it’ is hardly necessary to specially so provide. As the honorable member has indicated, the Auditor-General would order a separate account to be kept. In view of this, I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment.
– I can assure the honorable member that that will be done.
– In view of the Minister’s statement, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 (Application of Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913-1920).
-I ani not opposing the clause, but I question its necessity, as the Public Accounts Committee has the right to investigate any Commonwealth expenditure. By the creation of a Commission to control work at the Seat of Government, that Committee is not prevented from investigating the cost of such works in the ordinary way.
– It may be a doubtful point, and it is as well to allow the clause to stand.
– I do not want this to be regarded as a precedent, and for it to be thought, in the future, that this power must be expressly stated to enable the Public- Accounts Committee to intervene:’ The Public Accounts Committee can- act of its own- volition, and inquire into any matter of Commonwealth expenditure where it deems inquiry to be necessary. The clause is superfluous.
Clause agreed to. Clause 20- (1) For the purpose of the exercise of any of its powers under this Act, the Commission may borrow moneys to such amount and in such manner and on such terms as the Treasurer approves . . .
.- This clause gives the Commissioner power to borrow money without Parliamentary authority. “We shall be told that the Commission cannot borrow except with the consent of the Treasurer, and then only upon such terms and conditions as, and for the purposes which he may approve. A Commission such as that to be appointed, finding it necessary to borrow, say, £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, may obtain the approval of the Treasurer but not of Parliament. It is known that no public work, the cost of which exceeds £25,000, can be undertaken until it has been referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report; and according to the Act under which the Committee is appointed this House has to approve of such work before it is carried out. But before money is borrowed by the Commission for any work, and before the work is proceeded with, Parliamentary approval should be obtained. If the Commissioners should require, say, £.1,000,000, in order to carry out some particular work, a Bill embodying the necessary authority should be submitted to Parliament. I move - .
That before the word “ For “, at the beginning of sub-clause 1, the following words be inserted : - “ Subject to Parliamentary authority and”.
The sub-clause would then read : “ Subject to Parliamentary authority and for the purpose of the exercise of any of its powers under this Act the Commission may borrow money . . . .” Whichever party is in power, Parliament should be consulted as to the moneys to be borrowed by the proposed Commission.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), as I consider it the lesser of two evils. Personally, I only wish to emphasize the fact that Parliament has no right to delegate its authority as is done in this Bill. What is meant by incorporating in the Bill a clause of this character? The Government are floating a loan of £10,000,000, concerning which we know nothing, and when the Treasurer is interrogated he merely replies that £5,000,000 is required for the redemption of Treasury-bills and a further sum for something else; and so on.
– Parliament had to pass a Loan Bill before that could be done.
– If authority has been given, I know nothing of it. If Parliament, was aware of the flotation of the loan mentioned, why has the Treasurer been questioned concerning it ?
– He must have obtained Parliamentary authority.
– Yes, without Parliament really knowing what that authority connoted. Apparently the present practice of borrowing will continue until the Government come up against a stone wall, which is the only thing that is likely to stop them; and, from my point of view, the sooner they strike it the better. I have raised my voice on numerous occasions against the borrowing policy of the Commonwealth. The Labour party has always had on its platform a plank relating to the cessation of borrowing excepting for public works which will show a sufficient return to cover interest on the capital expenditure and provide a sinking fund. Up to the present, that has not been done in connexion with any Commonwealth loan. A sane financial proposal, and one which was supported by only three members, was that submitted by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) during the war period. If that had been adopted, we would not have had a huge monkey of debt on the back of the Commonwealth, as we have to-day, and we would not be taxing as we are the soldiers who fought for us. The proposal was said to be impracticable. We had, we were informed, to borrow from the capitalists. The honorable member for Bourke suggested that a credit of £20,000,000 should be established at the Commonwealth Bank, which could be operated upon for the purpose of carrying on the war; but no one. considered it workable. Some members of the Labour party did not know that the proposal embodied a principle advocated by their party for many years, and if effect had been given to it we would have financed our war operations out ot revenue, instead of fictitious capital, and emerged from the war practically free of debt. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) says that we cannot dogmatize on the question of finance. “We have got beyond that. Not only the Commonwealth, but the whole world, is in a hopeless bog in regard to finance. The value of the German mark and also that of the French franc has depreciated, and America now holds one half of the world’s gold. Notwithstanding this, it is the intention of the Government to continue borrowing. If we cannot do better than at present, we had better go back to the people and say we cannot conduct Commonwealth affairs on our own money, that we have to borrow, not here where the interest would be paid to our own people, but overseas. There are some, of course, who will say that to borrow locally would place the Commonwealth in very much the position of a snake which endeavoured to devour itself by commencing at its tail. Mr. Andrew Fisher said that he intended to borrow £20,000,000 locally for war purposes. A little later, he met tho financiers, who slimed all over him, and eventually swallowed him. They told him that it would not do to raise £20,000,000 in the Commonwealth in one sum, but that it would be necessary to borrow in instalments of, say, £5,000,000 each. It is on record in Hansard that the present Speaker, who had recently entered this House after holding office as Treasurer of Victoria for some years, then said that, if a loan of £20,000,000 were placed in one sum on the local market, it would disorganize and disrupt the producing interests of this country, as the money was not there to be borrowed. We made a beginning by borrowing £5,000,000 to carry on for a while, a further £7,000,000 was raised within three months, and other larger amounts at comparatively short periods, until £300,000,000 was borrowed in a country which it was said could not contribute £20,000,000, without serious injury being done to industry. The joke of the whole procedure is that we have raised nearly £300,000,000 within ten years, and that the producing and manufacturing industries were never more flourishing than they are to-day, although it was said that a local loan of £20,000,000 would draw from them their very life-blood. If I were to suggest a satisfactory scheme of public finance, it would be rejected by the House, just as was the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) at the beginning of the war. I have always held that the employment of an inconvertible note would be advantageous. The Adelaide Register revealed the truth when it pointed out that it was a good thing that, of the money required for repatriation purposes, £5,000,000 was to be borrowed within the Commonwealth, because, by the time that money had been expended in making provision for the needs of the soldiers, most of it would have flowed back to the banks, ready to be loaned out again. The juggling that is indulged in, under the name of finance, is making millionaires on the one side, and keeping the workers poor on the other. Our opponents tell us that Australia will rue the day when the Labour party attempts to put its ideas on finance into operation; but I say “ Speed the day.” It is now proposed to build a big city, and to give the Commission unlimited power to borrow. This means that the burden carried by the people will be increased in connexion with the building of Canberra. I desire to place on record my protest against the method of administration proposed for a great city that we shall never have.
– I am afraid that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is not fully seized of the wide powers proposed to be granted to the Commission. The clause provides that “ for the purpose of the exercise of any of its powers under the Act. the Commission may borrow moneys to such amount, in such manner, and on such terms, as the Treasurer approves.” Even this Parliament has not such wide power as it is proposed to give to the Commission. Loan money, raised in London, is paid to the credit of the Treasurer, but not one penny of it can be spent until the Constitution has been complied with. Section 83 of the Constitution provides -
No money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law.
But until the expiration of one month after the first meeting of the Parliament, the Go-. vernor-General in Council may draw from ihe Treasury and expend such moneys as may be necessary for the maintenance of any Department transferred to the Commonwealth, and for the holding of the first elections for the Parliament.
The Prime Minister knows very well that before this Parliament can expend any money on the Federal Capital Territory, it is necessary for a message to be received from the Governor-General recommending the appropriation, and for the usual resolution to be carried in Committee of Ways and Means. This Bill, however, makes no such provision. I do not think the Government intended such wide powers to be given to the Commission.
– The Commission is more limited than that.’ It has to submit estimates of its expenditure, and the Treasurer’s consent can be given only within those estimates.
– Under the Bill, the Treasurer can authorize a loan, and allow the expenditure of money without the usual resolution in Committee of Ways and Means.
– The Commission has the power to borrow only within its own estimates.
– I do not desire it to have power ‘ to borrow on the credit of the Commonwealth. If I had my own way, I should confine all borrowing to our own money market. This morning, I asked the Treasurer, upon notice, if it was not a fact that £3,500,000 out of the £10,000,000 loan being raised in London was required to pay interest on existing loans. I obtained my information from a cablegram giving the news published in the London Times.
– That money is being borrowed for developmental works, such as post-offices, asc.
– I do not think there is any Act of the Commonwealth giving such wide powers as those with which it is proposed to clothe this Commission. I suggest that the clause be postponed to enable honorable members to look more closely into its effect.
– I had not the privilege of hearing the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in regard to this clause, but I desire to make its meaning perfectly clear. The clause deals with’ the actual manner in which the money is to be. raised. It gives the Commission power to borrow moneys with the consent of the Treasurer, and on such terms as the Treasurer approves, but, i,t. in no: sense gives unlimited borrowing power to the Commission, apart from the consent of the Treasurer. The Treasurer authorizes the manner in which, and the time when certain moneys can be borrowed. It is a limited power, and it is not the Treasurer who determines and limits the amounts to be borrowed. The only amount that can be borrowed under this clause is the sum provided in the Loan Estimates of the Commission for the particular year under consideration.
– Those estimates are not presented to Parliament.
– A later clause provides that estimates of both revenue and expenditure must be prepared, and submitted to the Minister for approval, the Minister, of course, being responsible to Parliament. The point I wish to make perfectly, clear is that the Commission is not given unlimited power to borrow moneys, with no responsibility, on the part of any one, to Parliament for the action taken. ‘ If, however, it is the wish of honorable members that the authorization of the issue of loans by the Commission shall be subject to Parliamentarysanction, the Government has no objection whatever to such a provision. I stress the point that the estimates of the Commission are to be submitted to the Minister. It would be rather unusual for Parliament to authorize the issue of loans by a Commission’. It would not, as has been suggested, be in accordance with the established practice. The Bill is really one to establish a form of municipal government for the Federal Capital Territory. It is true that there are to be three Commissioners, but control by a number of commissioners is a well recognized form of municipal government. In a number of cities in the United States of America, apart from the particular example of Washington, this form of local government’ is established. Municipalities generally are not required to seek Parliamentary sanction for the loans that they issue. In most cases authority is granted by executive act. The consent of the Governor has to be obtained, and that virtually means the consent of the Ministry. That is what is contemplated in the Bill. The Bill follows the usual practice, and no departure from accepted theory is proposed.
– Will the loan estimates be brought before Parliament before the loans arc floated?:
– No. There is a distinction, here, between Joan and revenue expenditure. Clause 22 provides that estimates must bc prepared, and they will be prepared in the ordinary way as loan and revenue estimates. They must bc submitted to the Minister, and no expenditure can be incurred by the Commission until they have been passed and approved by him. A second safeguard has been included in the Bill, namely, that even when the estimates for loan expenditure have been approved, no loans can be issued by the Commission until the terms and the period for the issue have been approved by the Treasurer.
– How does tho Prime Minister get out of clause 83 of the Constitution, which says that “ No money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law “ ?
– There is no need to “ get out of “ that provision, or indeed of anything, because no money will be drawn from the Treasury. . We are now dealing with the power to raise loans, which will be raised, not. by the Government, but by the Commission. The provision referred to does not apply in this particular case.
– If a loan be raised, will it not be paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and will not the appropriation have to be made .before the money can be spent?
– No. None of those things will be necessary. I rose to speak on this clause because I thought it desirable that the Committee should have a clear explanation of the position.
– There is in . the Bill a further qualification relating to works over £25,000.
– Yes. They must be submitted to the Public Works Committee. The provisions are such as are usual when administrative duties are handed over to what is practically a municipal authority, but if it is the wish of the Committee that the proposed safeguard regarding borrowing - and again I stress the point that this relates to loan, expenditure - should be included in the Bill, the Government is prepared to accept it. To apply the same principle to the revenue estimates would bo to destroy the . basis of -. the . administration, of the Capital by the Commission. The Government doe3 not object to the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.-
Clauses 21 to 25 agreed to.
Clause 26- (2.) In the making of appointments of officers for the purposes of this Act, -preference shall, subject to competency, be given to returned soldiers.
Amendment (by Mr. STEWART) proposed - That sub-clause 2 be left out.
– Does this amendment mean that there will be preference to returned soldiers for the appointment of Commissioners, but not for the appointment of persons to other positions ?
– The provisions of the Public Service Act, which provides for preference to returned soldiers, will apply to other appointments.
Amendment agreed to. -
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 (Notice of action).
.- This is one of the strangest clauses I have ever seen. It is proposed to appoint Commissioners with almost absolute powers of control, but, when any person has a grievance against them, very drastic provisions are introduced to safeguard them. The clause says -
An action shall not be brought against the Commission, or any member thereof, or any officer of the Commission, or person acting iu hie aid, until the expiration of one month after notice in writing has been served on the Commission, member, officer, or person, clearly stating the cause of action, and the name and place of abode of the intended plaintiff, and of his solicitor or agent.
This looks very much like giving a special form of protection to the Commissioners arid their officers which is not given to other residents of the Territory.
– The clause follows the usual practice. Public bodies are given certain statutory duties and liabilities, and it is necessary to ensure that actions Waken against them are bona fide. Questions of negligence iu carrying out works may arise. Notice of action-. must .be given,” setting:;.out the cause of action, so as to enable the statutory body to investigate the matter. The provision in the clause is similar to that in m’any Statutes.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 29 (Regulations)
.- Will the prescriptive right regarding the wages, conditions of employment, hours, < Six., of the Commissioners be granted by regulation by the Governor-General ? If so, is it proposed to include provisions in tho Bill that the regulations shall he submitted to this House?
– The power to make, regulations is set out in the clause. The procedure is defined in the Acts Interpretation Act, so th’at the machinery for the purpose need not to be repeated in every Act. The Acts Interpretation Act of 1904 says that regulations must be notified in the Gazette, . that they take effect from the date of notification, and that they must be laid before both Houses of Parliament within 30 days of the m’aking thereof, or, if Parliament is not then sitting, within 30 days after the next day of sitting of Parliament.
Clause agreed to. -
Amendment (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to -
That the following new clause bc inserted: -
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments. Standing Orders suspended ; report adopted. ; Bill read a third time.
DEPUTY Presidents of the Arbitration Court - Post Office at KENSINGton.
.- I move–
That the House do now adjourn. In submitting the motion, I desire to inform honorable members that arrangements have been made by the Government to extend the tenure of office of the two Deputy Presidents of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration,
Sir John Quick and Mr. N. A; Webb. They were appointed for a period of two years, which expires in June next. The Government have asked them to accept an extension of their term of office for a further period of two years, and I am glad to say that both have agreed to do so.
– Some time ago I received a letter from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) stating that the Postal Department would push on with the erection of the Post Office at the corner of Maroubraroad and Anzac-parade, ‘ Kensington. This is a rising district, and the population has greatly increased. In the Departmental Digest of New Works there is no reference to the establishment of this post office, and I am anxious to know what is holding up the work. There must be some mistake, and I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to inquire into the matter.
. - 1 have made a note of the honorable member’s representations, and shall see that they are immediately placed before Senator Crawford, who is acting for thu Postmaster-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 10.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240522_reps_9_106/>.