9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Commonwealth Railways Bill.
– The following communication from the Prime Minister of the Dominion of New Zealand, addressed to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has been received: -
Dear Sirs, - 1 beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 14th July forwardinga bound copy and several loose copies of resolutions agreed to and speeches delivered in both Houses of Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia relating to the death of the late . Prime Minister of New Zealand.
I desire on behalf of the Government, Parliament, and people of New Zealand to express deep appreciation of the tributes paid to Mr. Massey’s services to the Empire and sincere thanks for the kind messages of sympathy in the great loss sustained by the Dominion.
I propose to arrange for this correspondence, together with a copy of the resolutions and speeches, to be laid on the tables of both Mouses nf the New Zealand Parliament.
Introduction - Tariff Board’s Report
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs, in view of the rumoured early presentation of a tariff schedule, has he yet made any arrangement, in accordance with his promise, to make reports of the Tariff Board on the items dealt with in the proposed revision of the tariff available to honorable members when the new tariff schedule is pre- sented.
– Not yet. The matter is receiving the consideration of the Government.
– I ask the Minister whether it is true that copies of the Tariff Board’s report have been covertly circulated amongst some members of the House of Representatives within the last few days? If so, will the honorable gentleman inform the House why such members have been so favoured?
– The report has not been circulated to my knowledge. In respect of an inquiry by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) last Friday, I wns informed a day or two ago that the copies of the board’s report were ready, and would be distributed to all honorable members.
– They were distributed. I got mine yesterday.
– I ask the Minister if he has made the announcement in the public press that he would place a tariff schedule upon the table of the House this afternoon ?
– I have not.
– Has the Minister seen a paragraph in the newspapers to the effect that a schedule amending the tariff would be tabled this afternoon? If so, will he take steps to discover how the paragraph originated, in order that the revenue of the country may be protected ?
– I did see the paragraph. I can only reply to the honorable member with full knowledge that no information on the subject has emanated from myself or the Trade and Customs Department. It must be obvious, however, that if the newspapers guess long enough they will guess right in time.
– Will the Minister intimate to the House, the people of Australia, and particularly the manufacturers, when he intends to bring down a tariff schedule in order to develop Australian industries?
– I hope to bring down a tariff schedule during this sitting.
– Is it a fact that copies of the tariff schedule are being made available in all the States simultaneously with the placing of the schedule upon the table of this House? If so, is the statement which appeared in the public press correct, and from what source was the information which it conveys obtained ?
– The methods ordinarily adopted by the Customs Department in connexion with a change in the tariff are being followed, and no one who understands anything of the matter requires to be told by the press that, before a tariff schedule can be brought down to this House, the whole of the collectors throughout the Commonwealth must be provided with copies of it, to be in a position to put it into operation the next day.
– I wish to ask the
Minister for Defence a question in reference to a returned soldier who enlisted in 1914, served for four years, and has just been sent out from a rest home. I am informed that he will not be admitted into a repatriation hospital unless he signs a document to the effect that he admits that his illness commenced before the war. Cannot the military hospitals attend to a man who fought for liberty and his country for four years, even as an act of grace, and without confronting him with such an ultimatum?
– No member of the Australian Imperial Force is eligible for admission to a repatriation hospital unless his disability is due to war service, or he is required to attend such hospital for observation purposes. If the honorable member will give me the name of the soldier to whom his question refers, I shall make inquiries and ascertain why he is not permitted to enter a repatriation hospital.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if he saw the report in the Argus of Monday last of the extraordinary progress made by the Wellington Woollen Mills, in New Zealand. Will the honorable gentleman try to induce the Tariff Board to make available to this House some information showing why these mills have made such progress and the conditions generally applying to the woollen manufacturing industry in New Zealand?
– I did not notice the paragraph referred to. I shall look it up, and, having perused it, shall give a further reply to the honorable member’s question.
– Can the Prime Minister state the names of the States that have accepted the migration agreement?
– Up to the present I have received no official communication on the subject from any of the States. I understand that Victoria has definitely decided to accept the agreement, and that practically all the other States are on the point of notifying the Commonwealth of their acceptance of it.
– In view of the extraordinary conditions now prevailing in Queensland, will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House what steps are being taken to ensure the carriage of mails in that State?
– All reasonable steps are being taken to maintain a mail service in that State. We have been in touch with the Queensland Government to obtain its assistance in giving a motor service on some of its lines, but, so faT, that has not been accomplished.
-Can the Treasurer give the old-age pensioners any idea when he is likely to carry out his promise to increase their pensions?
– I have already informed the House that the payment of the increased pension will depend upon the passing of the National Insurance Bill.
New Zealand Tariff
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 -
– It is not possible to furnish the information sought, because to do so would divulge the business of an individual company.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I would refer the honorable member to my previous reply to these questions.
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1. (a) The carriage of passengers and mails has not been discontinued over the whole of the air route between Adelaide and Sydney, but the operation of a regular service over the Cootamundra-Sydney portion of that route has been suspended, partly because of the prevalence of adverse weather conditions during a great part of the year and mainly in order to shorten the period taken in transit by passengers and mails by utilizing the night express train services between Cootamundra and Sydney. (b) The new agreement requires the contractor to maintain a service between Adelaide and Melbourne (via Mildura-Hay), in addition to services from Adelaide to Cootamundra (via Mildura-Hay), from Broken Hill to Cootamundra (via, Mildura-Hay), and from Broken Hill to Melbourne (via Mildura-Hay).
Albion and Newmarket, Queensland
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Exemption of New Guinea and Papua
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the action of the Government in exempting New Guinea and Papua from the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act, will he consider the advisability of exempting Tasmania from the sections of the act relating to coastal passengers?
– While the Navigation Act enables trade between the Territories and the Commonwealth as a whole to be exempted from the coasting trade provisions, no such power exists as regards the trade between the various States. Section 99 of the Constitution, it may be pointed out, prohibits the Commonwealth, by law or regulation of trade, giving preference to any one State, or any part thereof, over another State, or any part thereof. There is no such restriction in respect of Territories.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is not wholly available at present, but will be furnished later.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the cost of producing products of the crude oil -
What is the cost of distribution from Refinery -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: 1 to 6. I have no information on these matters. I could only obtain it by inquiring from the directors of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited; but that company is a trading corporation, and, except where the public interest seems to require it, it is not expedient that Ministers should be the medium for asking for information about details of the business of the company. 7. (a) To the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. £375,001, but no contribution has been made to the AngloPersian Oil Company, which has simply been reimbursed for cost of work and labour done in connexion with oil exploration in Papua, New Guinea;
The Kurumba has been used on a few occasions at a fair market rate of freight.
Payment to Institutions
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 28th August, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) asked the following question: -
Whether the Minister for Defence will have prepared an alphabetical list- (a) of all men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force; (6) of all men who died on active service?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
– On the 25th June, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following question: -
What is the total value of all orders for materials, equipment, machinery, armaments, &c, placed overseas for the various Commonwealth departments since 1st January, 1923?
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the value of all such orders* amounts approximately to £5,000,000. This sum covers purchases of articles which were either not procurable in Australia, such as patented articles, publications, goods not produced or manufactured in Australia, or in regard to which the Australian article was unsuitable or too high in price.
Payment for Holiday
– On the 14th July, in reply to a request by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), I promised to inquire into the question of payment to employees at the Commonwealth Dockyard in respect of the fleet holiday. The honorable member’s request was immediately brought under the notice of the Commonwealth Shipping Board, who have now advised me that, in continuance of their usual policy, and in accordance with the practice of other employers, the Board will only pay wages in respect of the Fleet Day holiday to those employees who are entitled to payment under their respective awards. As the Shipping Board has been entrusted by Parliament with the management of the dockyard, and is expected to carry on work on the ordinary business lines observed by similar undertakings, the Government does not propose to interfere with the decision of the Board.
– On the 21st August the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) asked the following questions : -
I now desire to inform the honorable member that I am in receipt of the following advice from the Australian Commonwealth. Shipping Board : -
Manufacture in Australia.
– On the 19th August the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : - 1.. What is the average number of workmen employed in the manufacture of wire and wire netting in Australia?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The following papers were presented : -
Inscribed Stock Act - Dealings and Transactions during year ended 30th June, 1924.
Meteorology Act - Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules 1925, No. 118.
New Guinea Act- Ordinances of 1925 - No. 34- Laws Repeal and Adopting. (No. 3).
No. 35 - Quarantine.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Post master-General’s Department -F. S. Dalrymple, J. Wetherill.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment..
.- I move-
That; for the remainder of the session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall have precedence of all other business, except on that Thursday on which, under the provisions of standing order No. 241, the question is put “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair.”This resolution shall take effect as fromthe beginning of the next day of sitting of this House.
Honorable members will remember that in the early days of this session a sessional order was agreed to, which provided that private members’ business should take precedence on every Thursday afternoon. It is, however, apparent now that, unless the House sits at least one additional day each week, it will be impossible to allot so much time for the consideration of private members’ business. The Government believes that it will meet the convenience of honorable members if one Thursday in three is devoted to the business of private members, and that business comes on for discussion on every Thursday on which, under Standing Orders, the question “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair “ has to be put. During the next few weeks a number of financial measures will be brought before the House, and ample opportunity will thus be afforded to honorable members to bring forward any matter which they think should be discussed. It is proposed to introduce a Loan Bill almost immediately, as well as another Supply Bill.. We have also the full budget debate in prospect, and the general Estimates to be dealt with, so that I think that honorable members will agree that in the circumstances the motion is a reasonable one.
.- It is not my intention to oppose the motion, as I desire to assist the Government in getting its business through this House. I consider, however, that the right honorable gentleman is making a mistake in permitting private members’ business to be dealt with on every third Thursday, which is grievance day. It is possible that occasionally on that day no grievance will be brought forward, and the hour or two which, under the motion, will then be available for the discussion of private members’ business will not be sufficient to secure finality in regard to it. Therefore the time might better be devoted to the consideration of government measures.
I desire to take this opportunity to voice an objection to our present procedure which I have held for a long time. In every Parliament, some honorable members are successful in getting placed on the business-paper certain notices of motion, which remain there, and prevent other honorable members from discussing the subjects with which they deal, even though these may be of great importance. The right honorable gentleman would confer a benefit upon honorable members if he abolished private members’ day for the remainder of the session. That would enable the Government to get a greater amount of work done, and would permit honorable members to place before the House legitimate grievances which cannot now be dealt with if they concern matters covered by motions of which notice has been given. At times, very important matters need to be ventilated, but if we attempted to refer to them whilst they were the subject of a notice of motion, you, sir, would rule our remarks out of order. It will be a farce to devote only a couple of hours on every third Thursday to private members’ business upon which it will be absolutely impossible to reach finality. It would be far better to clear all notices off the business paper, and . allow honorable members to discuss, as opportunity offers, any question with which they desire to deal.
.- As a supporter of the Government, 1 do not wish to oppose the motion. I realize that Ministers are anxious to bring before honorable members many important measures, and I wish to do what I can to - assist them. But I have upon the notice-paper a very important motion in favour of the institution of day sittings in this Parliament. I believe that that proposal has the enthusiastic support of honorable members on both sides of the House; but whilst the motion remains upon the notice-paper it cannot be discussed under the heading of “ grievances.” I should like you, sir, to advise me as to the proper course to pursue in order to have a vote taken on the matter.
– I shall inform the honorable member later of the course that I consider he ought to take.
.- I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has considered it necessary to move this motion, especially as I have upon the notice-paper a motion that has no party significance, but which involves a .question that affects every soldier, and every soldier’s wife and children. I have received from many soldiers’ organizations letters requesting me to push the motion to a division if the Government is not sympathetically inclined towards it. It would be an absolute farce to attempt to bring it f forward on grievance day, as no finality could then be reached. My desire is to remove the possibility of medical men bringing hardship upon any soldier who offered his life for his country, D7 finding that an illness from which he may be suffering was latent in him prior to enlistment.
– Order ! I do not think that that matter is strictly relevant to the motion before the Chair.
– I mention it as an argument against the motion. I want the Prime Minister to clearly understand that the motion is not directed against him or his Government. I have taken this action on behalf of men who, I think, have been greatly injured by members of the medical profession. My motion reads -
It is the opinion of this House that no soldier who was accepted after passing such examinations should be refused any rights under the- War Pensions Act for himself or his dependants through certain present medical experts giving as their opinion the causes arose from pre-war causes.
It is also the opinion of this House that all men who offered their lives, and passed the above scientific examination, should be considered perfectly healthy men from that date.
I was of the opinion that the Government would accept that motion, and that the House would carry it unanimously. If the Prime Minister can, out of his sympathy for the soldiers and their dependants, state that, if necessary, he will introduce an amending measure framed in such a way as to give effect to the terms of my motion, I shall have nothing more to say. He will then have” made me a happy man. Every honorable member who has a sense of. justice must admit that that would be the right thing to do.
– I have no alternative but to oppose the motion, because there is upon the notice-paper for consideration to-morrow a motion standing in my name, and if the Prime Minister’s motion is agreed to, private members’ business will not be discussed again until the 10th September. I understand that the passing of this motion will have the effect of sending my motion to the bottom of the list of private members’ business. Thus, this motion, from my j>oint of view, is moved at the worst possible moment. It will come into effect as from to-morrow’s sitting - the day on which I would, in the ordinary course of events, move my motion. My motion is of a strictly nonparty character.
– As the Government has decided that it will not allow any private members’ motions to be carried, what is the good of the honorable member moving one?
– I would point out to the honorable member that the Leader of the Opposition has intimated that on this question he will support the Government. A motion similar to mine was carried unanimously this year in the House of Commons. It relates to a matter in which there should be something like uniformity throughout the Empire.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to traverse the merits of the question raised in his notice of motion.
– I am giving reasons why, in my opinion, it is most desirable that my motion should be proceeded with.
– So far as those reasons traverse the merits of the question, they will not be in order at- this juncture.
– I do not think that the merits of the question .are involved in the fact that a multitude of women desire this motion to be carried. It is a matter which is of very great importance to a large section of the Australian community. Beyond saying that, I do not wish to deal with the merits of the question. It would be easy for any one to point out that it is undesirable, unless there are urgent reasons to the contrary, that private members should be totally prevented from raising questions of public importance.
– I remind the honorable member that even if this motion is carried, grievances can still be discussed every alternate Thursday.
– If the right honorable gentleman will give me an assurance that mv motion will be discussed, and that a vote will be taken on it, I shall be satisfied; but failing that assurance I can only see that the carrying of the motion now before the House will almost preclude the ‘ possibility of a vote being taken on my motion. It does not appear to me that there is any necessity for the Government’s action so early in the session. When the -Nationality Bill was before the committee of the House recently an amendment on the lines of my motion would have been disallowed, because the question was already set down for discussion in the notices of motion. The matter was referred in the House to the honorable the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Littleton Groom), who expressed his sympathy, and 3aid that if necessary the Government would bring in an amending bill to put the law in proper form. The possibility of an amending bill seems to have vanished into thin air in view of the motion now submitted by the Government. This matter was brought before me by a non-party organization; and I hoped to submit the question to honorable members in the form of a strictly non-party motion, which would, appeal to both sides of the House.
– I have given notice of. a similar motion.’
– The honorable member for Boothby will see that it is not - and I think he will agree that it ought not to be - possible for honorable members, when discussing a general motion such as that now before the House, to make distinct references to the merits of a particular motion. I have prevented honorable members from doing so on many former occasions. The question now being discussed is whether private members’ business shall take precedence only on certain Thursdays.
– I accept your correction, Mr. Speaker, and apologize if I have broken the rules of the House - a thing I did not intend to do. In the circumstances, it appears to me that the only consistent non-party course for me to take is to vote against the Prime Minister’s motion. *
. - I endorse the view of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). All the motions of which notice has been given by private members are important, not only to the honorable members concerned, but also to the citizens of this country. For the Prime Minister to say that we can discuss such matters on the afternoon of every third Thursday is absurd. It would be far better to wipe out honorable members’ business altogether, and let us know definitely that our rights are at an end.
– I agree with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) regarding the motion that stands in his name. It has occurred to me that a certain amount of justice might be done to those honorable members whose notices of motions will be sacrificed, if those who have notices for definite dates prior to the next grievance day could be given precedence. I realize the difficulty that faces the Ministry, and the necessity that exists for curtailing debate ; but it is a great pity that non-party matters of great importance should not be dealt with. We have no definite assurance from the Government that a matter such as this can.be discussed and disposed of.
– I do not care whether the Government carries this motion or not. The motion is probably the first intimation of the clearing of the decks for an early appeal to the people. I am greatly surprised that honorable members opposite have not decided these little differences between themselves in caucus, for it is usual for them to arrange beforehand whether their little hobbies shall be discussed in Parliament. Evidently they are not quite united, but they will be united when a vote is taken, even if it is taken this afternoon. The carrying of this motion will not prevent honorable members from moving the adjournment of the House to call attention to matters of urgent public importance, and I intimate to the Minister for Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse) that if he does not expedite matters in his department there will be serious trouble. A returned soldier in my electorate has been trying for seven weeks to get a reply to a communication sent to the department.
– That is not relevant to this motion.
– I am sorry that I am out of order. There is a notice of motion on the business paper dealing with old-age pensions. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman), who placed it there, has been conspicuous for his consistency in voting against increases in the old-age pension. One would expect him this afternoon to object to the abolition of private members’ day, and to urge the Government to allow him to move his motion, so that old-age and invalid pensions may be paid as from the date of the Treasurer’s budget announcement. I should like to see his notice of motion removed from the business paper, so that we could deal with the question.
– Is that why he put it there - to prevent the subject from being dealt with?
– I do not know, but I judge him by his actions. He is always ready to advocate the increase of old-age pensions, but votes against it. To-day he is acquiescing in the Prime Minister’s proposal to abolish private members’ day. I ask him to move that his notice of motion in regard to old-age and invalid pensions be discharged from the paper, so that the House may have an opportunity to discuss when the increase should be payable.
.- The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) professes to be very anxious that old-age pensioners shall get an increased payment as soon as possible. The best way to give effect to his desire will be to deal promptly with the budget, and so let the Government know that Parliament approves of the proposed increase. I am anxious that the business of the country shall be proceeded with. The Government is bringing forward proposals that are of great importance and call for the fullest discussion. I say without intention to offend anybody that a good deal of time has been wasted this session. A grievance day every third Thursday should afford ample opportunity for private members to ventilate their grievances. The financial position is very serious, and I hope that the Government will afford the House the fullest opportunity to discuss it and the amendment of the tariff, without having to sit all night. We have the assurance of the Government that as soon as the budget is disposed of the increased pension will be paid.
– We have no such assurance.
– The honorable member for Swan is not in order in discussing that matter. Old-age pensions are not before the House.
– I hope that the Government will persist with this motion, and that honorable members will be satisfied with one Thursday in every three weeks for the- discussion of grievances, thus leaving more time to deal with important Government business
.- I support the request of the Leader of the Opposition that the Prime Minister should arrange for all private business to be struck off the notice-paper. I placed on the paper one motion, not as a mere placard, but in order that it might be discussed, and voted upon. On Thursday last it was called upon just three minutes before the time allotted under the Standing Orders for the consideration of private business expired, and I could only briefly submit the motion without advancing reasons in support of it. I asked the Prim© Minister to allow the discussion on it to be resumed at a later hour of the sitting, but he did not do so. Now it is at the bottom of the business paper. Apparently the Government is determined that I shall not be able to ventilate the subject. Even if the session should last two or .three months longer it will not be reached, because all other private motions will take precedence of it. If the request of the Leader of the Opposition is granted and my motion is struck off the notice-paper, I may have an opportunity in some other way to get the matter to which it relates discussed before the end of the session.
.- I have been in this House long enough to have formed the opinion that every session has a strong family resemblance to each preceding session, especially in regard to discussions of this kind. I cannot undertake the responsibility of saying at once that I am opposed to the motion of the Prime Minister, for the very obvious reason that if I defined my position thus early in my observations he would probably move, “ That the question be now put.” It is a wonder that he has not done so already, but let me count my blessings one by one, and proceed. I express my modified sympathy with the honorable members for Lilley and Boothby in regard to the position in which they find themselves. There is nothing so much calculated to develop opposition to the operation of the “gag” in all its forms as being prevented from saying something when one has something to say. That does npt often happen to honorable members opposite. Either they rarely have something to say or they are rarely prevented from saying it. Those gentlemen who, with so much enthusiasm and so little chivalry, support Ministers every time they move to prevent honorable members on this Bide from discussing important matters, now declare themselves aggrieved because some limitation is to be imposed upon their opportunities for speech.
– I assume that the honorable member is talking upon the motion.
– I thought that for once in my parliamentary career my remarks were distinctly relevant, but I accept your direction, sir. This is a motion intended to limit the right of private members to originate matters, and have them discussed here. To that extent it takes away from the prerogatives of the rank and file of the membership of this House. I use this motion and this opportunity to point a moral, and it is that these various methods we have of curtailing debate, and preventing honorable members from speaking, are like two-edged swords, and when honorable members like the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) desire sympathy and support in their opposition to this motion, they should not look to this side, whose members are habitually prevented from expressing their opinions, not only on matters of private or local interest, but also on broad general questions of policy introduced by the Government. I realize that in the last resort all business is Government business, because if the discussion upon a motion takes a turn that is not palatable to the Government, some honorable member on the Government side will move that the debate be ad- journed. The worst that can happen is that on a division with a party vote, the motion, if unsuited to the views of the Government, is rejected. In that sense, all business is Government business. I agree that it is not desirable to limit the right of individual members to voice the views of their constituents, to submit them in the form of motions, and, if possible, to have those motions discussed and carried. We have to remember that every session, as we advance nearer to its close, the Government from time to time takes measures to further encroach upon the rights of private members. These finally find expression in fixing a time for the discussion of a particular bill, or in repeated submission of the motion, “ That the question be now put.” The inevitable result of this method of conducting parliamentary affairs is to create ill feeling and bad temper in the House, and ultimately to defeat the object of Parliament, which is the sane and good-tempered consideration and discussion of public matters. We never have that, because, as a rule, the Government leaves its more important legislative proposals to the end of a session, and then rushes them through with the aid of the closure and the guillotine. That is a deplorable state of affairs, and one which cannot be too strongly deprecated. My final word to the Government is that, although the Prime Minister has been good enough to indicate the various ways in which almost any question may be discussed, over which we may rove at large to express our personal views, that is not of much good if the Government is to be constantly at the mercy of winds which blow outside, and every week, or every second week, comes forward with something which it declares to be urgent, which has been dictated to it, and is outside of its policy altogether. A good illustration of this was afforded by the extraordinary sittings of this Parliament last week.
– That observation is clearly out of order, and there have been some other observations of the honorable member concerning the relevance of which I have been doubtful.
– I, of course, sympathize with the honorable member for Lilley to the extent that it must be distressing to him at a time when he wishes to discuss the advisability of adopting day sittings, that we should be having all day and all night sittings. I thought it right - I hoped wholly in order, and I am glad to find Mr. Speaker was good enough to say that I have been partially in order - to deliver this homily to the Government. It may be that I shall not at any future time during the session find myself in such an equable mood to discuss the conduct of business, and I wish to invite the Government not to provoke the Opposition too much, but to reform its conduct to such an extent as to give honorable members on this side the opportunity to discuss matters fairly - no one desires the opportunity for discussion at inordinate length - and permit us to deal, if not with private, then with Government business without having the closure moved upon us, as I had last week three times in as many minutes.
.- I wish to add a word in support of . what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). There is one motion on the businesspaper which, if not disposed of or discharged from the paper, will continue to hamper and hamstring individuals. I have, on more than one occasion, been asked by old-age pensioners whether I intend to support the motion on the paper in the name of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman). I have candidly told those who have approached me what the motion means, but they will not believe me unless the motion is brought to an issue. The honorable member who has charge of it should make clear whether he is genuine in submitting his perennial motion for an increase . of the old-age pension, because he has constantly voted against motions which, if carried, would have resulted in the increase. The honorable member for Swan made a statement which is not correct. We can have a decision on the matter if the motion to which I refer is put to a division, but not if the matter is merely discussed on the Estimates. In the discussion of the Estimates an honorable member may speak for the whole of the time permitted to him without making any reference to old-age pensions. The Treasurer has not promised an increase in the pension without reservation. He knows that old-age pensioners do no,t understand the verbiage of his budget statement and are not aware that they may have to wait a long time yet before they receive the increase of 2s. 6d. which has been promised to them.
– They are asking when the increase is to be paid.
– Exactly ! It will be agreed that honorable members on this side meet a great many more old-age pensioners than do honorable members on the other side.
-The debate is again drifting into a debate on old-age pensions.
– I desire that the motion in the name of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro shall be dealt with or discharged from the paper. The Prime. Minister should say whether the Government is prepared to enable the House to record a vote on that motion. Honorable members on this side desire to give a direction to the Treasurer as to the date from which the increase should be paid. I am of opinion that it should be paid from the date of the delivery of the budget.
– Order ! The honorable member had better not proceed further on those lines,
– It is the duty of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to make clear what he means by his motion.. Why challenge the Government for depriving him of the opportunity to discuss his motion if he is not in earnest in his professed desire to have the old-age pension increased. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has an important motion on the paper, the subject of which must be discussed at some future time. A new basis for the treatment of incapacitated soldiers must be established. Justice must be done to men who have suffered a penalty in rendering service to the country.
– Order !
– I am getting out of order again; but, before carrying a motion to wipe out the whole of private members’ business, the Government, especially in view of the fact that a rush election may take place, should indicate to honorable members what it proposes to do for the returned soldiers and the old-age pensioners. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has declared time and again his intention to insist upon an increase in the old-age pension, but he has never, so far, confirmed that intention by a vote.
– I think there is the misapprehension in the mind of some honorable members that if this motion is carried all opportunity to discuss motions in the names of private members will be denied. That is not the proposal. Oh every third Thursday, on which the first order of business is the motion, “ That Mr. Speaker do leave the chair,” general business will be dealt with up to 6.30 o’clock p.m. The proposal is not to abolish every opportunity to discuss private members’ business, but only to limit the number of days afforded for its discussion. I hope that the motions in the names of honorable members will come on in due course, and in the order in which they appear on the business-paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mi-. Mackay) invited me to indicate to the House the method by which motions now appearing on the business-paper in the names of private members may be withdrawn. Honorable members should know that private members’ business is of two kinds: - First, notices of motion which are in the possession, not of the House, but of the members in whose name they stand. With respect to these, at the present time and until the end of the session, the honorable member in charge of such a notice of motion may publicly announce its withdrawal, and it will then automatically disappear from the business-paper. The position is different in regard to motions that have been moved. They are in the possession of the House. They have become orders of the day, and their fate must be decided by a resolution of the House. The provision of an opportunity for this has always been a matter for consideration between the honorable members who have initiated such business and the Government that is in charge of the business of the House.
– I move -
That the Schedule to the *Customs Tariff* 1921-24 be amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the Third day of September, One thousand nine- hundred and twenty-five, at nine o'clock in the forenoon, Victorian time, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff as so amended. That, excepting by mutual agreement or until after six months'notice has been given to the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand, nothing in this Resolution shall affect any goods entering the Commonwealth of Australia from the Dominion of New Zealand.
In moving this motion to bring into operation the various proposed changes in the tariff, it is not my intention to enter into any controversy respecting, the merits of primary and secondary industries, or of protection and freetrade. As a business man, I claim that the Government is submitting a thoroughly considered measure of tariff revision in accordance with the settled policy of the country, and I shall endeavour to set before the House the position in the same way as I would if I were a director responsible to my fellowdirectors and the shareholders of a business. After all, we are the directors of the national interests, and every individual in the Commonwealth is a shareholder, and is interested in and affected by the business of the country. Therefore, as the Minister responsible for the duty of laying upon the table of the House the tariff proposals of the Government, I propose to set out the principles which have guided us in arriving at the decisions made. The purposes for which the tariff schedule is created are not always thoroughly appreciated. It is generally thought that it has only two purposes, namely, the protection of primary and secondary industries and the raising of revenue. There is, however, a further important purpose, for in addition to protecting industries and raising revenue, the tariff is the instrument under which agreements are made with oversea countries, in order to provide further markets for our products. There can be no question but that the giving of preference to Great Britain has ultimately led to the granting of preference by Great Britain on some of our products, and my own personal belief is that the present preferences of the Motherland in our favour will be extended in the not distant future. In regard to the trading aspect of the tariff, it may be stated that it has two aims - one direct, and one indirect. The direct aim is to protect industries and provide revenue, and the indirect aim is to provide markets for our exports oversea. The purpose of the tariff now placed before honorable members is the direct one, namely, to protect local industries, and to revise revenue duties in order to give relief from taxation. Because of changes in the law made last October, I should like at this stage to explain the method of arriving at the conclusions respecting the items contained in the motion before the House. When an application is made to the department for a change in any duty, it is referred by the Minister to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. The inquiry must be held in public, the evidence being taken on oath, and under the act the Minister does not take any action on such application until the report has been received from the Tariff Board. On receipt of the reference, and as soon as is convenient, and in accordance with the law, the Tariff Board advertises in the public press the date and subject of the inquiries. When al] desirous of stating their opinions on the subject have done so, consideration is given by the board to the evidence, and the report is prepared. This report is considered by the Comptroller-General and then by the Minister, who submits his recommendations to the Cabinet. The decisions of the Government, which have been arrived at in accordance with this procedure, are now placed before the House. It will be seen that every precaution has been taken to thoroughly investigate all claims made for an alteration of duty. The Government has found that generally speaking, after scrutiny, the recommendations of the Tariff Board can be accepted, but it has not been able to endorse all of them. As the responsible Minister, I have to say that the Government takes the whole responsibility for the proposals that are placed before the House, and I can say, too, with some confidence, that these proposals may be considered by this House with the knowledge and assurance that very great care has been taken in their preparation. Honorable members are aware that the present conditions under which Parliament authorized the Tariff Board to operate only came into being in October last. Between that time and the 30th June of this year the board has inquired into nearly 175 items out of the 430 items comprising the tariff. Some of the inquiries necessitated examining many sub-sections of an item, applying as they do to important basic industries. This involved much consideration as well as patient investigation. While these public inquiries were beng made, work had also to be carried out in connexion with other phases of Customs administration. As an illustiati on of bow strenuous the work has been I would mention that the board, in addition to hearing public representations for tariff alteration, has since last October also reported upon 101 applications for consideration under those items in the tariff governed by by-laws. Applications in connexion with concessional item 174 alone, which deals with machines, machine tools, and appliances. There were 401 applications for concessions in duty under item 404 - minor articles and materials for use in the manufacture of goods in Australia. Twenty-six cases in connexion with dumping duties and the Industries Preservation Act have been investigated. The House will therefore see that a vast amount of work has been done. In addition to the administrative investigations that I have mentioned, other matters have been investigated by the board, involving unremitting and strenuous attention to duty on the part of that body and the officers of the department during the whole of the time that has intervened since the last Tariff Board Act was placed on the statute-book. The. various items that have been investigated include requests for the consideration of many of the sub-sections in the items under the tariff, and with a few exceptions the whole of such requests received to the 30th June last have been investigated and dealt with. It is true that a number of minor applications have not been dealt with owing to insufficient time, but they affect a small number of employees only. It is obvious to honorable members that the legal methods of tariff inquiry necessitate more publicity regarding tariff revision than, was required before these methods were adopted. Consequently owing to the necessity of protecting the public revenue I have refrained from placing proposals relating to reductions of duties before the Tariff Board pending the tabling of this motion. Action will now, however, be taken in the direction required. In this connexion I would remind honorable members that no alteration will be made in the collection of duties on the items it is proposed to reduce until the reductions ai-e ratified by this Parliament. Since we must have a tariff, *our real business is to discover the tariff which will be most equitable to Australia as a whole. From the summary placed in their hands honorable members will see that thirteen items have been readjusted for ohe simplification of administration; that there are 47 proposals for reductions in duty, and 53 for increases in duty. In other words, 113 alterations of the existing tariff are proposed. Among the reductions proposed, that in respect of unground spices will give a relief in taxation to the extent of £26,000. There will be a reduction of £135,000 in connexion with the item silk piece goods; trimmings will be reduced by £50,000, and carpets, household rugs, and similar articles by £170,000. The’ following reductions will also be made: - Cream separators. £20,000: filament lamps, £35,000: toilet combs, £15,000; clocks and watches, £110,000; writing and typewriting paper, £30,000; paperhangings and wallpapers, £20,000; musical instruments, £20,000; and vacuum cleaners for household purposes, £15,000. Those are some of the principal items which show a reduction in taxation. Among the increases proposed by the Government axe some which are substantial. The engineering and metal working industry has been thoroughly investigated, and the tariff on machines and machinery n.e.i., motive power machinery, electrical machinery, and dynamos has been increased from 27£ per cent. British preference and 40 per cent, general tariff to 45 and 60 per cent, respectively. The duties on mining machinery, n.e.i., locomotives, dynamos, n.e.i., have been increased from 27£ per cent, to 40 per cent. British preference, and from 40 to 55 per cent, under the general tariff rate.
– Instead of the mining machinery crushing the stone, the mining industry itself will be crushed.
– Alternating current watt-hour meters are to be protected, because a fine industry has been established in Australia, and is meeting Australian requirements. The duty on rolled iron or steel beams has been increased by the imposition of both a specific and an ad valorem duty. With respect, to .the textile industry, honorable members will notice that the rate on woollen yarns has been increased from. 10 to 20 per cent. British preference, and from 20 to 35 per cent, on foreign goods. The rate in respect of woollen piece goods has gone up proportionately, and an item has been included to deal with importations of shoddy. Substantial consideration, has been given to the woollen, socks and stockings industry, which was in a perilous condition. The proposals in connexion with the manufacture of cotton goods should result in a new industry being established. Screws for wood, screws n.e.i., screw hooks, eyes and rings are to be subject to a tariff of 27J per cent. British and 40 per cent, foreign. Factories for the manufacture of silk yarn and sewing cottons will also be substantially helped. The protection in the case of sheet glass should mean the establishment of another industry in Australia. The same remark applies also in a lesser degree to parts for wireless telegraphy and telephony. The proposals provide for increases of the duties on whisky, gin, maize, glass lamp chimneys, tiles, stone and marble, and toys; while important proposals are submitted in connexion with chassis, assembled and unassembled, with the deliberate object of making available to Australian workmen as much of this work as possible. Honorable members will realize that it is impossible to please every one in connexion with tariff proposals. Most people are inclined to be pleased or displeased in proportion to our personal gain or loss. I claim” that these are- thoroughly considered and business-like proposals. Wherever it has been possible, without injuring established industries, and consistently with the raising of the necessary revenue to carry on the business of government, reductions have been made. These reductions will lessen the cost of living, and give relief from the payment of duty to the extent of, approximately, £750,000 upon articles which to-day must necessarily be imported. Some administrative difficulties that have harassed both the department and the traders have been removed, and wherever it has been demonstrated that it is necessary to protect an Australian industry, action to that end has been taken. Wherever such action has been deemed advisable, the Government has not hesitated to make drastic changes, in order to place some of our valuable basic industries in no uncertain position. The value of the goods imported during the last financial year that are affected by the increase of duties proposed was about £30,000,000. The value of the imports that are affected by the. proposed decreases was £10,000,000. I believe that the Government’s proposals will, within a very short time, result in a substantial increase in the amount of employment available within the Commonwealth. I have gone to a little trouble to try to arrive at some sort of estimate of the effect of these proposals in the direction of providing additional work and wages, and I believe that within two years an additional 25,000 or 30,000 persons will be provided with work by the creation of new, or the development of existing, industries that come within the ambit of these proposals. Assuming that, on an average, four other persons, either directly or indirectly, rely upon every wage-earner, these proposals will result in a reasonably comfortable living being provided for from 100,000 to 150,000 more people. The new duties may, possibly, temporarily increase prices; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the reductions of existing duties will confer a benefit to the extent of £750,000. The total Customs collections in 1924-5 can be apportioned in this way : A sum of £18,500,000 was collected upon goods that, with the further development of our own workshops, can largely be made in Australia. The sum of £3,750,000 was collected in what were, in effect, purely revenue-producing duties. The sum of £5,000,000 was collected from narcotics and stimulants. In addition, the excise duties on narcotics and stimulants amounted to £10,750,000. The total value of the goods imported during the fiscal year 1924-5 was £157,000,000. The value of the free goods imported during the same period was £48,000,000, and of the dutiable goods £109,000,000. The number of United Kingdom free items and sub-items in the present tariff is 275. That number, in the proposed tariff, has been increased to 311. In addition, items 174 and 404, which are included in the proposals that I have placed before the committee, are concessional items, in connexion with which the Minister has discretionary power to reduce, but not to increase, duties, after investigation and report by the Tariff Board. If Australian industry is not interfered with, but if, on the other hand, it is necessary to import machines or materials that cannot be commercially manufactured in Australia, in order to promote either primary or secondary industries here, the Minister may allow such goods iri free from the United Kingdom, and from foreign countries upon payment of a 10 per cent. duty. In these tariff proposals, the Government has maintained or increased the principle of British preference, as it thoroughly believes that, after Australian industry has been served, it is reasonable to conserve, wherever possible, trade with our kinsmen in the Motherland. The full detailed figures for the year 1924-5, giving an analysis of British preference, are not yet available, but a close estimate shows that the value of goods from the United Kingdom, cleared for home consumption, which were admitted free under the preferential tariff, was £27,400,000. Had those goods been subject to the general tariff rates, the duty collected would have been £3,400,000. If the collections had been made at the general tariff rates, the ad valorem duty would have been a little over 12 per cent. The value of goods from the United Kingdom which, during the last fiscal year, were cleared for home consumption, and were dutiable under both the general and the preferential tariffs, was £38,000,000. The duty collected upon those goods was £10,000,000, or a little over 26 per cent. Had those goods been subject to the general tariff rates the duty collected would have been £14,600,000, or a little over 38 per cent. Therefore, on dutiable goods there was a rebate of £4,600,000, and on goods which were placed on the free list £3,400,000. It will thus be seen that this Commonwealth accorded to British goods a preference amounting to £8,000,000 for the year 1924-25, The additional preference that is given to Great Britain by these proposals will mean a further rebate annually of £500,000. British trade with Australia has materially increased on account of the substantial preferences that we have given, which are the most generous in the Empire. The Government is thus showing in a practical way its appreciation of the action that was recently taken by the Government of Great Britain, in extending further preferences to Australian products. The British preference conditions are now before the House, and I think that it will be generally admitted that they will further stimulate bona fide British industry, and, indirectly, free Australian industries from the incubus of unfair Anglo- Continental competi tion. In a few cases preference to Great Britain has been abolished, because, on examination, it was found that the trade in those lines was negligible, aird the foreign duty thereon merely added unnecessarily to tie cost of the goods. Basic industries, such as iron and steel, paper, cotton, oil, and copper and other metals have to be considered from, the standpoint of other industries that use their finished product as raw material. As soon as possible the Tariff Board will continue its investigations in connexion principally with the remaining basic industries of the Commonwealth that have not yet been considered. Tobacco-growing will not be neglected. I regret that a late application by the iron and steel industry did not enable the department or the Government to consider urgent items relating to that industry. It is obvious that tariff changes should first deal with those industries that affect large bodies of workmen. The interlocking of industrial interests must also be considered in any and every investigation that is made. I desire to refer particularly to the engineering and the textile industries. The engineering industry employs 35,000 men, and pays wages amounting to nearly £7,500,000 per annum. Owing to the reduction of wages overseas, and the consequent lowering abroad of manufacturing costs compared with only four years ago, it has been the responsibility of the Government to see that this great industry does not perish, or that our important engineering shops do not depreciate until they become merely repair shops. The same conditions have prevailed, abroad in connexion with the textile industry. The manufacture of textile goods, from the raw material to the finished clothing, is an economic necessity for Australia. There is no industry in which more rapid strides can he made, or where there is a wider field for development, than in the textile industry. Within the last three or four years the manufacture of woollen yarns here has largely increased. With the establishment of the additional mills that the Government hopes to see brought into existence by these proposals, the requirements of our people in woollen goods will very largely be met by using our own wool. Great developments have taken place also in the silk yarn industry. An enterprising firm in Mew South Wales is at present manufacturing silk yarn. The Government’s proposals provide for further encouragement to that, or to any other firm which will import the raw silk, and carry out the manufacturing work in Australia. The expansion of our cotton industry alone opens up a mine of inestimable value to Australia. It is fair to say that an enterprising manufacturer in New South Wales is using Australian cotton mixed with imported cotton to make cotton yarn, from which . he is manufacturing excellent towels and sheeting. I mention this detail because this is the first time cotton piece goods have been manufactured, from the raw material to the finished article, in Australia. This industry the Government is asking the Parliament to protect. Further consideration will be given to cotton, the greatest of all industries in the world, by the Government, and I hope that the consideration will not be long delayed. One of the new industries which it is expected will be brought into operation because of the assistance provided in the motion is that of the manufacture of sheet glass. This valuable industry is under consideration by a strong combination of local interests, and it is expected that, as a result of favorable parliamentary consideration, a - further enterprise of considerable importance will be established. I have already mentioned the duty to assist in the establishment of an industry to manufacture screws for wood, &c. That industry has been established by what is regarded as one of the world’s best manufacturers of these particular goods. There is yet to be considered the development of the great key industry, the manufacture of paper; and this will be dealt with by the Government at an early date. After careful investigation, it is not proposed to disturb the present fiscal position with regard to motor spirit, oils, or road-making materials. Some disappointment, possibly, may be experienced by those interested in the production of timber. Considerable attention has been devoted to this phase of our development, but there are many angles and points of view to be considered. Particularly is this so” with regard to forestry and our internal supply of softwoods. Outside statistics convey the impression that cheap softwoods are not in unlimited supply, and that it is not an unmitigated evil that large importations of the world’s cheap softwoods should continue. The cost of housing comes home to every unit of our population, and it is in my opinion economically wasteful to set our fine, valuable, and limited hardwoods against the world’s cheapest softwoods. Our duty is to economically conserve our much more valuable timbers rather than impose upon cheap softwoods duties that, to be effective, must be much higher than a majority of this House would approve. Further important proposals that represent the establishment of more industries by reputable British or Australian manufacturers, are also made by the Government. These further developments are in the direction of more work and wages for Australian workmen, particularly in connexion with the coming development of the motor industries. I believe efficient and sufficient . production should be at least coincident with effective tariff protection, and investigations have been made to that end. Factory wages and hours and conditions of employment are governed by arbitration court awards. We have no desire to see wages reduced, conditions restricted, or hours lengthened, but to avoid this and to achieve continuity, industries must be assisted to carry on and develop. The proposals made by the Government in this tariff will have that effect. I need scarcely remind the committee that the pioneers of our manufactures have had to face difficulties just as heartbreaking as those encountered by the pioneers who fought out their destinies on. the soil. Most of them beheld the promised land only from afar, and in giving praise to the organizers of industry to-day, we must not forget the meed of praise that is due to their forerunnel’s. I believe that £1 worth of value added to raw materials by the secondary producers is equivalent in economic wealth ,to the Commonwealth to £1 worth of production in any other direction, and that the surest way to keep secondary industries inefficient is to protect them inadequately. Britain is waking up to the economic value of these statements. Recently she re-enacted the MoKenna duties, which provide under certain circumstances for a duty of 334rd. per cent, upon goods, which, if allowed to come into Britain free of duty, would vitally affect some of her own industries. She also has legislation to safeguard key industries, but the difficulties of administration have prevented much practical work from being done in that direction. It is not claimed by the Government that the .proposals submitted complete a thoroughly scientific investigation into all phases of the tariff. There is more work yet to do, and from the experiences I have had since administering the department, I hope we shall be able to rise above and beyond mere party interests, so that urgent items of tariff revision may be considered by Parliament from year to year, or at least more frequently than is done now. The tariff issue would then largely disappear, and the limited proposals that would be necessary from time to time would place Customs administration and tariff revision on a more business-like basis. Such proposals could be thoroughly considered and. discussed by honorable members. Thanks to Government action, the incubus upon our primary and secondary industries caused by the handicaps of foreign exchange is now a. thing of the past. For the full development of our industries, sound banking, and care regarding the economic position of exchange, and new foreign borrowing are, in my opinion, vitally necessary ; and given also reasonable protection in all cases where it is proved to be necessary, and an increasing national sentiment in favour’ of buying the goods made in our own country by our own people, we have three factors working in conjunction with one another that will make it possible for our home industries to develop as we all would like. I should like to see all purchasers of goods consider the continent’s own products, and learn what Australia can do, for we have now emerged from the old tradition that imported goods, merely because they are imported, are better than those made here. It is surprising to me, after my experience of the department I have the honour to control, to observe the excellent quality and low prices of Australian manufactures as compared with many foreign productions. I have had some personal experience of the early days of the imported tradition, but there are now many most estimable leagues and associations educating the people in the direction of a sound national sentiment, and they will, I believe, bring home more and more to the man in the street the fact that it is sound economics to encourage our own productions in our own country. There can be .seen sermons in windows. The Government is in full accord with the gospel of self-reliance and national sentiment, and submits its tariff proposals with confidence to the House. The more work that can be created in new enterprises within the Commonwealth, and the more we can develop present enterprises,, the greater will be the number of new-comers we can place. The scope of Australian industry must be considerably widened before even the requirements of our’ own people can be reasonably met. I therefore submit to the committee these carefully considered tariff alterations, which constitute a business-like’ effort on the part of all concerned to meet many of the urgent requirements of our home industries. The changes proposed are, in the opinion of the Government, in accordance with Australian sentiment and the settled policy of the country, and I hope they will also have the approval of this Parliament and the people of Australia.
Motion (by Sir Littleton Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend paragraph (o) of sub-section (1) of section 12 of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1923.
Bill presented by Sir Littleton Groom, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 27th August (vide page 1794), on motion by Mr. Pratten -
That the application to the Dominion of Canada of the British preferential tariff and the intermediate tariff in the Customs Tariff 1921-1924 or in that tariff as subsequently amended is. to the extent specified in this re solution, desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth. (Vide motion and schedules, page 1789.)
. -The introduction of the amendments of the general tariff will, no doubt, minimize the interest in the Canadian preference proposals, which, however, include items that require careful analysis. 1 am not one of those who are sanguine enough to believe that extensive benefits will result to the Commonwealth from the proposed arrangement with a sister dominion; indeed, I am afraid that, in some respects, the agreement will be harmful rather than beneficial to Australian industries. We know that, owing to the opposition with which the original agreement was received in the Canadian Parliament, the Dominion Government urged the Commonwealth Government to agree to certain amendments, but, so far as -I can see, the difference between the old and the new proposals is merely the difference between .tweedledum and tweedledee. The statistics of the Customs Department show that chassis and motor accessories are imported mainly from the United States of America and Canada. It is a well-known fact that many United States manufacturers are transferring their industries to Canada, and, if the Australian motor business is worth nearly £16,000,000 per annum to manufacturers abroad, it is high time that the industry in all its ramifications was established in this country. But preference even to a sister dominion may prevent the development of the industry in Australia. At the present time chassis are not manufactured in the Commonwealth. The existing tariff was designed to give to Australians exclusively the business of manufacturing motor bodies, but these are still coming in freely from abroad. It has been said that this is largely due to the change from the collapsible hooded body to the sedan type, and that bodies of the new style are being imported from abroad to serve as samples for local manufacturers to copy. Time alone will show whether the local production of sedan bodies develops as did the production of ordinary motor bodies. British and European manufacturers of motor cars regard the mudguards as part of the body, but Henry Ford and other American manufacturers insist that the mud-guards are part of the chassis. The Customs Department should give a ruling upon this , point, so that a uniform policy in regard to mud-guards may be evolved. A few days ago I was in a local factory which is producing these fittings for the manufacturers of a number of continental cars, including the Fiat.
– They are easily made.
– Yes; they are stamped out by hydraulic pressure, and can be produced rapidly and efficiently. Nobody will dispute that the Australianmade body, including the mud-guards, is equal to the product of any other country. If Australian factories can produce mudguards to the satisfaction of the Fiat makers, they surely can satisfy the manufacturers of the Ford car. The production of these articles alone would give employment to a large number of men. Henry Ford is establishing works in various parts of Australia, but we may be sure that, if he or any other motor car manufacturer can economically produce articles in Canada or the United States of America for assembling in Australia, he will do so. The statistics in regard to the value of motor cars and accessories imported during the last three, months are- May, £1,200,000, June, £1,600,000; and July - excluding Victoria - over £1,000,000. A local market that is worth over £15,000,000 per annum is sufficiently large to enable motor cars in their entirety to be manufactured within the Commonwealth. I do not wish to labour the matter. It may be said that, as a Labour member, I speak in the way I have done because motor vehicles are used chiefly by the wealthy, but the motor vehicle has to-day become part and parcel of Australian life. The use of such vehicles has very greatly increased, and I believe I am perfectly correct in saying that, in Australia, we have practically only commenced the use of motor vehicles for the conveyance of passengers or goods. The Minister told us that the proposed preference to Australian goods has been extended to two or three items including fruit pulp and sugar. The honorable gentleman must excuse me for criticizing his action in waxing eloquent about Australia receiving a preference from Canada on importations of sugar to that country. What chance has Australia, so many miles distant from Canada, of competing with sugar in the Canadian market with Cuba and other countries, much nearer to the Dominion, in which sugar is produced under entirely different conditions.
– The honorable member may not be aware that, only a year or two ago, a large quantity of sugar was sent to Canada under the ordinary Canadian tariff.
– There might have been a chance order for Austraiian sugar received from Canada, but I hope the Minister will not rely too much upon that. Because a few orders are received in Australia for sugar, or some other Australian production, we cannot assume that a regular trade in these articles has been established between the two countries. I remember that when the kangaroo brand was placed on Australian butter, and a quantity of butter so branded was placed on the British market, the boast was made that it brought the same price per cwt. as the best New Zealand butter. But that lasted only about a week. I ask the Minister to examine the prices received for butter in Great Britain, and he will find, I am sorry to say, that to-day the difference between the price paid for New Zealand best butter and Australian kangaroo brand butter is from 6s. to 10s. in favour of the New Zealand butter. So we have got back to practically the old position. The Minister may be able to say, as he has done, that under the old Canadian tariff some Australian sugar was sent to Canada, but in dealing with these matters we must consider the conditions prevailing over a series of months or years to be in a position to say whether reciprocal preferences will be of benefit to this country or not. I do not think there is the slighest reason for the sugar-grower, the mill-owner, or the Australian taxpayer becoming sanguine and enthusiastic about the business we are likely to do in sugar with Canada.
– The sugar-growers are pressing for what the Government proposes.
– That may be, but we have to look at this matter from a business point of view, and consider what benefit we are likely to receive from a preference on sugar imported by Canada. I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that the business we are likely to do with Canada in sugar will not be substantial, because we cannot hope to compete in this article with Cuba and other places nearer Canada, where the sugar industry is carrying on under quite different conditions. One other preference referred to by the Minister, with a great flourish of trumpets, was the preference to be given to out dried fruits. In this connexion, I find myself in much the same position as I was twelve months ago when the original tariff treaty with Canada was under consideration. It is well known that the Californian fruit industry is one of the best organized industries in the world. Its organization for production, drying, canning, and marketing is right up to date. I said last year that Australian producers would have very little chance of compering ‘successfully in Canada with the products of the Californian industry. I have with reluctance to repeat the same somewhat pessimistic remarks, and I say now that there is very little chance of profitably marketing our dried fruits in Canada.. I am confirmed in this view by the report of an interview given to a representative of the Argus in Sydney, only yesterday, by a Canadian member of the pre3S conference consisting of representatives of the press in all parts of the British Empire, who are visiting the Commonwealth to meet Australian pressmen. Mr. J. W. Dafoe, of the Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg, said: -
It could be safely said that the highly organized raisin producers of California would not give up the profitable Canadian market without a fight, but if Australia could get the market, it would be a very fine market indeed for them. Canadians would be delighted to see them succeed. To do this Australia would have to put its best foot forward, ship the best goods, and at the outset sell them substantially cheaper than the Americans, because they would be introducing new goods to the Canadian public.
It is as well to look these things fairly in the face. It is claimed that the South Australian dried fruit producers are wonderfully well organized, and our product of this article has been greatly increased, but, I ask, who is going to stand behind our dried fruits producers while they are under-cutting Californian producers in trying to get a footing in the Canadian market.
– Australian producers will have a preference of £14 per ton.
– That may be so, but we have to bear in mind the distance of Australia from Canada and the consequent high freight on Australian products. I will not say that it will be a case of competition between a disorganized body and one most highly organized, but it is safe. to say that there are hundreds of thousands of dollars behind the Californian producers. The
Californian fruit industry is so well organized that the producers can afford to stand out of a profit for twelve months to defeat any serious competitor. In the circumstances, what hope is there for the Australian producers of dried fruits obtaining a satisfactory market in Canada. We know the fight that has had to be put up to get a footing in the markets of Great Britain for Australian productions. We are supreme in the matter of wool and have never had any trouble in connexion with it. As wheat is so universal an article of food we have done remarkably well with our wheat in the markets of Great Britain. Fortunately for us, our butter arrives in the Old Country at a time of the year when it has not to meet much competition from other countries. But in the case of such articles as dried fruits and sugar, I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that there is very little hope for us in the Canadian market. Our producers of dried fruits cannot stand out of profits for a certain time, as suggested by the Canadian visitor I have quoted, in order to secure a footing in the Canadian market, unless someone else provides the money to enable them to do so. They cannot expect to compete successfully with the best organized fruit industry in the world and its financial backing. I notice a proposal for a preference to rubber goods of Canadian manufacture, and I should like to know how that is likely to interfere with an industry that is just being established in Australia. The Minister is better informed than I am of the position of that industry.
– There will be no interference with Australian industry.
– I understand that the Dunlop Company has established works for the manufacture of certain rubber goods, and a preference to Canadian rubber goods will certainly interfere with the local industry for the manufacture of those goods.
– A very substantial duty on such goods will remain under the Government proposal.
Mr.FENTON. - That may be true, but why should we give Canada, or any other country where the industry is well established, a preference on rubber goods when they are manufactured in Australia? We have very extensive rubber plantations in some of the mandated territories, which are practically ours. The raw material of the industry is produced at no great distance from Australia.
– That is raw rubber.
– Yes. There is no reason why we should not treat that raw rubber and manufacture the finished rubber goods in Australia. The possibilities of the expansion of the rubber industry in Australia are immense. I have been informed that if only the tennis players of Australia used exclusively tennis balls manufactured here, the local industry could employ hundreds more men and women than it now employs. The number of employees in the local industry could be greatly increased also if golf balls and other rubber goods which are manufactured here were exclusively used by Australians. I am strongly impressed with the view that we should retain for ourselves the benefits to be derived from the operation of any Australian industry that can produce articles of general consumption at a cost which will enable them t o be retailed to the public at a reasonable price. I should place an embargo on the importation into Australia of any article that could be manufactured locally. I should like also to have some say in the price charged to the public for all articles. We should be very careful, in granting preferences, to see that we do not hamper any of our own industries. We know that Canada is one of the great paper-making countries of the world. It may be that we are not obtaining so much Canadian newsprint as we were previously, but still a preference on this commodity may detrimentally affect the Australian paper-making industry.
Mr.FENTON. - Are we offering Canada certain advantages respecting paper supplies over and above those offered to other parts of the Empire? I am afraid that if we give a preference on newsprint and certain other classes of paper manufactured in Canada, it may later prevent the growth of the papermaking industry here. I have no knowledge of the Minister’s intentions, but any opportunity given to me to help to establish the paper pulp or newsprint industry in Australia will be taken advantage of to the full extent of my voting power and influence. The paper-making industry can be made a truly Australian ore, because all the raw materials are available here.We know a little of that industry because we are manufacturing strawboard, millboard, brown paper, and also finer qualities of paper. I am seriously opposed to any preference, whether it be given to Canada or any other part of the Empire, that will interfere with the establishment of local industries. I regret to say that some life-long protectionists, including journalists, have, ‘ to put it plainly and vulgarly, “ turned dog “ on this proposition. What is the reason for their somersault ? There is one type of protectionist for whom I have no time, that is the one-industry protectionist. The one-industry protectionist is doing serious harm to Australia. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) is in favour of prohibition of the importation of oats, but on all other items he votes freetrade. The Australian paper-making industry should have the support of all sections of the community, including journalists. Certain individuals in their advocacy of a limited protection have brought ridicule upon themselves. I sincerely hope that we shall receive some little benefit from our reciprocal arrangements with Canada. We should do everything possible to bring closer our relations with Great Britain, the dominions, the United States of America, and Japan, but we must remember that charity begins at home, and that we should not enter into a reciprocal treaty that interferes with the protection of a local manufacture which is giving absolute satisfaction. I do not oppose the reciprocal treaty, but I doubt very much whether the optimism of the Minister respecting its beneficial effect, especially on our sugar and dried fruits industries, will be borne out.
– I wish to congratulate the Government for having at last arranged a reciprocal treaty with Canada. I regret that this has been so long delayed because I see in it the possibility of finding a market for Australian dried fruits. I hope that every effort will be made by the Government toencourage this new market. The treaty will greatly benefit many of our primary industries. My only regret is that something has not been done to allow Canadian agricultural machinery to come into Australia under better terms than those applying in other countries. I am sure that that item has not been overlooked by the Minister for Trade and Customs. I also feel quite satisfied that the failure to alter the duties on this item has not been caused by the reluctance of the Canadian manufacturers of agricultural implements to agree to reciprocity. The Canadian manufacturers pay a much higher wage than is paid in the implement making industry in Australia, and yet agricultural machinery there is produced at half the Australian cost. I shall probably have an opportunity of dealing with that subject when the tariff is under consideration. I appreciate the fact that we have obtained reciprocity with Canada. I am glad to see any effort being made to bring the dominions together and to protect trade within the Empire. It is a pity that special efforts are not made, not only in Canada, but also in the other dominions and countries comprising the Empire, to do a little more in the way of bringing about Empire trade. I hope that the Minister will not destroy the principle of reciprocity between the various parts of the Empire, and in this connexion I refer to the regulation which he is attempting to bring into operation to enable him to specify the percentage of British manufacture to be contained in any imported article for which preference is desired. Of course that is the subject of another bill. I hope that nothing will be done by the department to destroy the reciprocal trade that has been built up by treaties between the dominions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of certain sums of money.
Standing orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Sir Littleton Groom do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Eable Page, and read a first time.
– I move- - .
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is for the purpose of obtaining parliamentary approval to the programme of loan expenditure which was recently submitted with the budget. The total loan expenditure included in the estimates is as follows: - Works, &c, £11,105,284; redemption of Northern Territory and Port Augusta railway loans, £76,602; making the total estimated expenditure for 1925-6, £11,181,886. Loan appropriation already exists for a portion of. the contemplated expenditure, and to ascertain the amount now submitted in the present bill, it will be necessary to make the following deductions: - Telegraph and telephone construction, £1,850,404; Grafton to South Brisbane railway, £1,300,000; a total deduction of £3,150,404. That makes the net amount included in the present bill £8,031,482. In June last, a loan bill was passed, by which £2,000,000 was provided for telegraph and telephone construction. The object of that measure was to provide, for the additional expenditure required last financial year, as well as to make funds available in the early part of the present financial year, so that there might be. no break in the continuity of the work, pending the passing of additional appropriations. The amount thus available on the 30th June last was £1,850,404. A special act was passed last session ratifying the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland, to convert to a standard gauge the railway between Kyogle and South Brisbane, and to re-grade and relay the existing railway between Grafton and Kyogle. This act also gave the Treasurer authority to raise and spend for the purposes of the agreement, the sum of £3,500,000. Of this amount it is estimated that £1,300,000 will be required during the current financial year. The following are the chief items of expenditure provided for in the bill: - War and repatriation services, £826,270 - including £620,000 for war service homes, £40,000 for a soldiers’ mental hospital, £100,000 refund to the Imperial Government of amounts received for the hire of ex-enemy vessels and £50,000 in con nexion with transport services, and for certain belated payments in connexion with the expeditionary force which are being paid out of war loans; Prime Minister’s Department - London office, £500; Home and Territories Department; - acquisition of land, loan to the Territory of New Guinea, and Solar Observatory, Canberra, £83,250; Department of Defence - works on Naval establishments and aerodromes, construction of drill halls, ordnance stores, explosives and engineering factories, &c, also purchase of sites, £433,675; Department of Trade and Customs - including £500,000, the first instalment of the loan of £3,000,000 to the States for the provision of wire netting, construction of lighthouse vessels, &c, £593,537; Department of Works and Railways, £1,306,112 - Commonwealth Railways, including £117,000 for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, £345,000 for Northern Territory railways, £83,000 for the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line, and £500,000 for the proposed railways to Alice Springs and from Port Augusta to Adelaide, also expenditure under River Murray Waters Act, &c. ; Postmaster-General’s Department; - telegraph and telephone construction, buildings, sites, and subscription of £200,000 to capital of Amalgamated Wireless and for testing and experimental equipment, £4,358,076; Department of Health - serum and health laboratories, £23,460; Department of Markets and Migration - immigration passage money, £330,000; redemption of Northern Territory and Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway loans, £76,602; a total of £8,031,482. Authority is sought to borrow £8,300,000 to meet the expenditure detailed in the schedule. As it is impossible to state under what terms and conditions the money will be raised, it is thought wise to provide for a margin, of approximately 3 per cent, to cover discounts and flotation charges, so that the amount remaining will be sufficent to provide for the total contemplated expenditure.
– Where will the loan be floated ?
– It may not be necessary to float a special loan. Steps are being taken in the bill to lapse loan appropriations for works remaining unexpended on the 30th June, 1925. Unlike the annual appropriations from revenue, loan appropriations do not expire at the close of the financial year. The result is that there is a large accumulation of live appropriations, many of which cannot now be used. For instance, there is more than £800,000 of the appropriations for post-office buildings remaining unexpended. Owing to the altered method of providing for these works in a composite vote, it is not convenient, or perhaps legal, to use these appropriations.
– Are they not to be credited against the total of this bill? What becomes of the money?
– It has not been spent.
– Has it been raised?
– -No; we have not used the full appropriation yet. There is power to use the appropriations, but it has not been exercised. We consider that it is advisable that each year’s programme should be dealt with separately by Parliament in the annual Loan Bill. The clause referred to causes certain appropriations which have already been made to lapse.
– The proposal is to clean up these matters as far back as 1911?
– Yes. This course is being adopted for the first time > in the present bill. As previously explained, the balance of the appropriation for telegraph and telephone construction granted by Parliament in June last, is being applied to the expenditure of the current year. Loan Act No. 1 of 1925, is, therefore, omitted from the schedule of appropriations to be lapsed. I confidently submit this measure to the House, and hope that it will have a speedy passage.
.- I understand that the object of this bill is- to authorize the Government to raise over £8,000,000, and that it is in accordance with the proposals outlined in the Treasurer’s budget speech. Notwithstanding the Treasurer’s statement in regard to the reduction of the amount of borrowed money, the fact remains that we are borrowing to a greater extent now than before the war. It would appear that we must borrow for everything, and that in no case shall the money be taken from revenue. While I believe that we should carry out a vigorous policy in connexion with the Postal Department, I remember that the Treasurer once urged that that department should be placed on a proper business footing, and that any revenue in excess of working expenses should be expended to further increase the facilities provided by the department. Since he assumed office, the Treasurer has departed from the principles he then advocated. He has done so in this case. If the excess revenue were applied in the manner that I have indicated, it would render unnecessary such heavy borrowing. I do not want to be misunderstood. I repeat that I believe that we should provide the people in the country districts with every possible postal and telephonic facility. I am merely pointing out that, instead of the surplus earnings of the department being paid into general revenue, they should be used to extend the department’s operations, and so reduce borrowing. The Defence Department has also been treated similarly by the Treasurer. At one time, although very little money was borrowed for defence purposes, we were able to provide all that was considered necessary, but to-day it appears that to borrow is the only policy of which the Government can conceive. I should like to have a full statement regarding the amount of money that is being received in the way of repayments in connexion with war-service homes. The revenue from that source should be almost sufficient to do away with the necessity for borrowing further sums to build additional homes.
– The receipts are being utilized in that direction, but they are not yet sufficient to finance the whole of the operations. Compared with two years ago, the expenditure has decreased by £1,250,000.
– These operations are becoming more extensive every year. I suppose that the demand for these homes will show a falling-off at some future period, and the amount returned to the Government may then be greater than that which is being spent. Unnecessary borrowing should be stopped, and surpluses utilized to carry out certain works. There have been surpluses for the last three or four years. Money has simply rolled into the Treasury, but, in spite of all our efforts, the public debt has increased. Apparently we cannot get away from the habit that the nation contracted during the war, of borrowing large sums to finance its warlike operations.
– The Government has to find ,£29,000,000 now for war purposes.
– It would be better to finance from revenue many of the works to which the loan fund is now applied.
.- I regret that the Government has found it necessary to pass the bill through all its stages- at one sitting.
– The bill embodies details that were published in the budgetpapers.
– Honorable members should have a little more knowledge of what many of the works will cost. There is in the schedule that hardy annual “Acquisition of land at Fairy Meadow, New South Wales.” I cannot remember the number of times that that has appeared in similar measures. I am not aware whether the total amount that the Government has bad to pay has been kept secret; but it is a fact that provision similar to this is necessary every year to reduce the liability. Enormous sums are provided annually for the laboratory at Maribyrnong, which, when completed, will prove of very great value to Australia. Can any Minister state what the cost of that work will be? An amount of £83,000 is set down for work in connexion with the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway. I assume that that means that the Government proposes not to proceed with the construction of a further length of the transcontinental railway, but to build up the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and then to continue the construction to Alice Springs. Ministers owe to Parliament the duty of informing them of the estimated cost of any work. That applies particularly to new work. When agreeing to the first appropriation, honorable members would then know to what total expenditure they were committing the country. The Treasurer should promise that in future these schedules will set out, not only the amount that is being appropriated, but also the estimated cost of the completed work. We are sometimes told that a projected work will cost a very small sum, and afterwards find that the expenditure has run into millions of pounds. If we are given wrong estimates, those responsible should be brought to book.
. - When the bill is in committee, will each Minister be present to give honorable members information relating to his department?
– Many of these items should be financed from the revenue account. I do not object to the proposed expenditure, but I believe that w& should try to confine loan expenditure to reproductive works. I take the following as an item to support my contention that only reproductive works should be provided for from loan fund: “Expenditure in connexion with the distribution of medals and plaques,, and other Base Record work incidental to the service and records of members of the Australian Imperial Forces.” There is nothing reproductive about that, and it is not right that loan money should be expended upon it. We do not need to be reminded of the burden of our interest bill. Two years ago I said that we were fast approaching the time when every man, woman and child in Australia would be responsible for £8 5s. per annum to meet the interest bill. Although on the one hand the taxation has been reduced by a little over £2,000,000 annually, on the other hand the interest bill has been increased to the extent of £1,750,000. Whilst the Treasurer lightens a load with one hand, he increases it with the other.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– Imagine an expenditure of £2,000 for the employment of temporary staff, advertisingand other expenditure connected with sales of surplus war equipment and stores being paid out of loan. Every one knows that on the sale of war equipment and stores a considerable sum of money was lost, but it is disgraceful to suggest that the money expended in connexion with the sale should be provided out of loan. One can understand the expenditure of loan money on services producing revenue, but it is difficult to understand the kind of finance which would defray ordinary administration debts out of loan. If this kind of finance is to be continued we shall have ruin staring us in the face. I shall not delay the passing of the second reading of the bill, but I shall emphasize my objections to many of the items in the first schedule when it is under consideration in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
– Amongst the items under the heading of “War and Repatriation Services,” I find that expenditure under the War Service Homes Act 1918-23, is dealt with and the amount is set down at £620,000. I move -
That the amount - War and Repatriation Services, £826,270- be reduced by £1.
I submit the amendment as an indication to the Government that the. committee favours the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the administration of the War Service Homes Commission, and the operation of the War Service Homes Act as it concerns returned soldier tenants or purchasers of homes under the act. In justification of my amendment I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that complaints continue to be made about the way in which returned soldier occupants of war service homes are being treated. Numerous complaints of the harsh treatment meted out to these men have been brought under my notice by the Soldiers’ Fathers Association and by individuals. The Repatriation Commission seems to possess a reserve of arbitrary power which requires close investigation. It has imposed various conditions and has demanded deposits from applicants for homes before they have entered into possession. Certain acts of the administration call for the severest possible censure. I intend to refer to one case which I submitted to the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill). Although it has been dealt with, I mention it to show that there is substantial justification for an inquiry into the administration of the commission. From general information I have received, I have no doubt that there is more than one case of the kind to justify an inquiry.
– I could quote a dozen such cases.
– Many cases of the kind outside my electorate have been brought under my notice, because I have taken an active interest in War Service Homes. I am unable to say whether in many of these cases justice has been done to the returned soldiers. The case to which I shall refer shows that there is room for considerable improvement in the administration of the War Service Homes Commission. A Mr J. Brock, of Sydney, purchased a home through the Commonwealth Bank, the liability subsequently being transferred to the War Service Homes Commission. For some years he maintained his payments, and was a model tenant from the stand-point of the commission, the nominal landlord. After the lapse of a number of years the War Service Homes Commission sent its inspecting architect to inspect the property, which was originally purchased on behalf of the applicant for £565. The inspecting architect reported to the commission that it would take at least £300 to make the house a suitable security.
– Was it a new house when the applicant took possession?
– No ; it was a house bought for the man by the Commonwealth Bank. It was accepted by the bank as sufficient, security for the amount of the purchase, £565. When the man went into possession of the property he signed a contract. He paid £65 down, and received an advance of £500 from the bank, under the conditions under which such advances were made. The inspecting architect of the War Service Homes Commission said that the place was in such a condition of general disrepair that it would take an expenditure of £300 to make it a safe security for the War Service Homes Commission, and he reported that, in his opinion, the repairs should be proceeded with. Following upon this, the commission served a notice on the tenant that he’ must carry out the necessary improvements. The tenant replied that he was a working man with a wife and family, earning only the basic wage, and he could not do what was proposed. The commission said it could not do anything for him, and the man then, asked whether the commission could not increase the capital cost of his home, effect the necessary repairs, and permit him to repay the amount expended by graduated payments over a period of 37 years. The commission would not agree to this, and said that, in its opinion, the home was not a satisfactory security. It was prepared to go so far as to advance £300, which the tenant must undertake to pay back in three years. The man said that he could not do this. The next thing he got was an eviction notice for failing to comply with an order of the War Service Homes Commission. He then brought his case under my notice. The commission then proposed. a compromise on the basis that it would sell the home for the tenant. The tenant asked whether, if he allowed the home to be sold, the commission would give him another, and the reply was that it would not, as it had discharged its contract by already providing him with a home. This man was a good citizen, and there was not a mark against him as a tenant.
– Had he kept up his payments?
– Yes; there was nothing against him. He was placed in a most difficult position. His wife was about to have a child, and his mental distress was such as to cause him a good deal of suffering.
– Does the honorable member know how much the man paid in addition to the deposit?
– He carried out his monthly payments over a period of years. I went to the Deputy Commissioner in Sydney, and protested against what I regarded as callous brutality. I say that advisedly, after due consideration. From inquiries I made I learned that the eviction proceedings were initiated as the result of instructions issued from the central administration in Melbourne. I have no wish to mislead honorable members in the matter, and I inform them that I took the case to the Minister for Works and Railways, and, in writing to_ him, I was very vigorous in my criticism of the action of the central administration of the War Service Homes Department. I suggested to the Minister that the only common sense way to deal with the case was to effect the repairs, necessary and extend the payments over a period of thirty-seven years. I suggested that if the department was not prepared to do that it should sell the home at a profit, as it could do, owing to the enhanced values of property in the neighbourhood, and accept the profit on the sale as a deposit on a new home. After consideration, and I want to give him credit for it, the Minister agreed to my proposal, and the matter was adjusted. There may be scores of such cases in the Commonwealth in which the returned soldiers concerned have not had the foresight to approach their Federal representative and have their complaints properly submitted to the Minister, over the heads of the War Service Homes Commission. In view of the complaints made by the Soldiers’ Fathers Associations, and other bodies, I think there should be investigation into the administration of the commission. I submitted a similar amendment last year, and in 1923 I submitted a motion which resulted in the remission of what was known as the excess costs on soldiers’ homes. Homes were charged for. at more than £800, although the act contemplated a maximum charge of £800. The Government, yielding to representations made, wrote off £200,000, representing the values fixed on the different homes in excess of £800 for each. When that was done, an anomaly was created. Weather-board structures had been valued at £780, and on the same basis buildings constructed of brick were valued at £900. When the value of the brick structure was brought down to a maximum of £800, the value of the weather-board structures was allowed to remain at £780. That is an anomaly which has yet to be rectified. War Service homes are still being erected for returned soldiers. Many of the men who purchased homes were about to marry.
– Does the honorable member know of any returned soldier who was not taken down?
– That is very unfair.
– I wish to be fair and do not intend to criticize the department too severely. Many of the men who purchased homes married, and after a few years had three or four children to support. In my electorate particularly I have seen families of six children in houses consisting of three rooms and a kitchen, which are now quite inadequate. Where such housing conditions exist, the size of a family is likely to be limited, and if it is not the conditions are not conducive to health or morality. It is time the Government yielded to the requests of hundreds of returned soldiers for assistance to enable additional accommodation to be provided.
– Children are the best immigrants.
– Yes. It would be more profitable to spend a few thousand pounds on improving the dwellings in which some families are living than to incur heavy expenditure in assisting migrants to reach Australia. As the request I have made has the support of various organizations of returned soldiers and others occupying war service homes, the whole question should be investigated by a select committee. When I attacked the War Service Homes Commissioner in this House in 1923 I did so with the utmost sincerity. £o far as I know, the administration of Deputy Commissioner Morrell, in New South Wales, is now reasonably satisfactory, but owing to the rulings and instructions given by central administration, anomalies and difficulties arise. I am, however, more directly concerned with improved housing accommodation than with the administration, although I admit that this has improved insofar as the deputy commissioner has been given discretionary power, but where he has been prevented from exercising such power and has had to be guided ‘by rulings from the central administration in Melbourne, the results have been unsatisfactory. The circumstances warrant the appointment of a select committee to fully investigate cases such as those I have mentioned. I could quote many other cases, but I have refrained from doing so to give other honorable members an opportunity to support the amendment.
.- For several years past an item has appeared in the schedule of loan bills for the cost of transport services in connexion with the expeditionary forces, and in this measure an amount of £50,000 is so included. As it is now seven years since the armistice was signed, I ask the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) if it is not practicable to vote one amount to cover the whole of our indebtedness in this direction and thus reach finality?
.- I support the amendment moved by the “honorable member for Reid (Mr. Cole- man). As the site on which a number of brick homes built for returned soldiers by the War Service Homes Commission in my electorate was, as I said at the time, quite unsuitable, they cracked severely and began to tumble down within twelve months after completion. I placed the facts before the Minister at the time and he gave instructions for repairs to be effected by placing cement blocks under the foundations, but owing to the soft nature of. the ground on which they were built, they continued to crack and the steps in many instances fell away. Owing to lack of employment at the time many of the occupants got into arrears in their payments, and some who were compelled to leave their houses are now being pressed by the department for the payment of arrears which range from £70 to £100.
– Who passed such buildings ?
– They were built by the department under the supervision of its own officers. I know of one case in which a war widow was summoned to appear before the court, but the magistrate refused to record a conviction. Notwithstanding this, the authorities are still demanding the payment of the amount which is said to be due. Owners’ who were compelled to leave their properties in the circumstances I have mentioned should not be asked for the payment of arrears, because the houses were in a most unsatisfactory condition when taken over, I do not suggest that the occupants had a just complaint in every instance, but as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has said, there are many cases which should be investigated. I trust that the Government will grant an inquiry into the whole question in order to ascertain how it can be satisfactorily settled.
.- Will the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) explain the item, “Refund to Imperial Government of hire money ir. respect to ex-enemy vessels, £100,000 “ ? When this amount was received, was it placed to the credit of Consolidated Revenue, and if not where was it placed? If it were paid into the Consolidated Revenue one would suppose that it should be repaid out of revenue instead of out of loan money, as is now proposed. It requires some explanation.
– I desire to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) concerning the necessity for an investigation by a select committee into the administration of the War Service Homes Department. The War Service Homes administration in South Australia, although not all that is desired, has been the most satisfactory of all the State administrations. Since the State Bank of South Australia took over the administration from the Commonwealth, some measure of satisfaction has been given to those “who have acquired war service homes. But other returned soldiers, who have acquired homes under Commonweatlh administration, are paying excessive charges for them, and there is a wide disparity in the payments by returned soldiers for their homes. Recently I approached the War Service Homes Department concerning an anomaly of this kind in my electorate. One returned soldier occupies a beautiful cottage of five rooms, for which he is paying less than another returned soldier pays for a most inconvenient home of three rooms with less frontage. This three-roomed house was originally built as part of a group for war widows, but the soldier occupant was given no other choice. He has now been asked to sign an agreement. The position is that if the man removes from this house, or gives up the right to acquire it, he disqualifies himself for any assistance under the War Service Homes Act. When I approached the War Service Homes Department T. was told by the Secretary that the matter was entirely in the hands of the State authorities. I approached the State bank authorities, and was informed that they had no power to give redress to this returned soldier. We should at least have sufficient power in the administration of the War Service Homes Department to be able to rectify what certainly are anomalies. I ask the Minister to look into this case. * It will not be difficult for him to refer to the departmental papers, and I shall be pleased to supply him with any information at my disposal. The growing family responsibilities of the returned soldiers, and the consequent great need for adequate housing accommodation arc sufficient reason for the Government giving the most favorable consideration to the request of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. .Coleman) for the appointment of a committee of inquiry into the administration of the War Service Homes Department.
.- I. should like the Minister to make some statement regarding the first item of the schedule - Soldiers’ Mental Hospital, West Subiaco. This institution has been needed for a long, time, and I am delighted that some satisfactory arrangement has been made with the State Government. The amount stated is evidently for the construction of the building. This work should be pushed on as soon as possible, because it has been long delayed owing to the difficulty of negotiation. I ask the Minister to give his assurance that this work will be treated as urgent. I should like to know what progress has already been made, and when will the soldiers be able to enter into occupation of the building ? Respecting -the amount of £620,000, expenditure under the War Service Homes Act, to be transferred from this loan to trust fund, I think that some of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) are worthy of considerable attention. I agree with much that he said about borrowing money. In many cases, with the exercise of a - little economy, and careful management, money could be obtained from revenue for purposes such . as this. It seems to me a wrong policy to earmark for special purposes the large surpluses we have had from year to year, and to borrow money for what is really one of the established activities of the Government. In many cases the surplus is devoted .to some new enterprise or scheme, and then we have to set to work to borrow for an already established duty of the Government, which, I suggest, should really be a charge upon the revenue. I have previously protested against this practice, because the system under which we are working is tending to extravagance. We have this year budgeted for a prospective surplus of £600,000 odd. Most of us know from experience that a shortage of funds means the more economical and efficient management of the departments. So long as funds are ample and readily obtainable, there is no need to be careful in administration, and the expenditure of money is not studied with the detail and care that ought to be given to it. That has been the experience of every Government and of every department.
– And of every household.
– That is so. It would be far better to try to budget for some of these items out of revenue. It seems to me unreasonable that, with a surplus of £4,000,000 this year, we should nevertheless be floating a loan for £8,000,000 to carry out a number of activities that are really part of the established services of the Commonwealth. Most of the items that we are now discussing are part of war services. We have undoubtedly made a practice of paying for them out of loan. Although they can legitimately be attributed to loan, nevertheless we should strive to minimize our loan expenditure by devoting some of the surplus to this purpose.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), for the appointment of a committee of inquiry into the administration of the War Service Homes Department. I cannot see how the Government could lose prestige by agreeing to the appointment of a committee whose duty it would be-
– To right a wrong.
– To right any wrong, and I must confess that there are many wrongs. Since 1919 there have been periodical complaints about the administration of the Wai- Service Homes Department, and I know of no case that has been satisfactorily settled. The department has endeavoured, as near as possible, to conduct its administration on business lines. There is no need to strike a Jew’s bargain with men who fought for this country, and made great sacrifices in consequence. In my electorate a man who fought in France for three years obtained a war-service home. Although he was unemployed for some time, he entered into his contract, believing that he could honestly carry it out. We do not say that the home should be given to him. All we say is that he should have sympathetic treatment. He lost his employment, and following upon that, his wife became ill and he was worried by the War Service Homes Department for money owing. Finally, he was ejected and is now expected to pay the eviction fee of £2. .1 have been informed that if this man’s case can be proved the department will forgo the eviction fee or wait until he obtains employment. There is not a private contractor or business man in Australia who would not have shown some sympathy for this man. On many occasions allegations of fraud in connexion with war service homes contracts have been made in this House. At Goulburn, where a contractor’s son was the architect, the home was built of bricks that almost could be broken up by the hand.
– I suggest that the honorable member should not discuss that case. It is before the courts.
– I shall not discuss it further. I have no grievance in connexion with the men who succeeded in getting £100 written off their homes ; but I suggest that if that amount can be written off brick houses, £50 or £60 can be written off weather-board dwellings. All these anomalies and complaints should be the subject of a searching inquiry by a committee of this House, as the honorable member for Reid has suggested. It is unthinkable that a returned soldier, with a wife and three or four children, should be expected to be content with & home of three rooms. Provision should be made for additional accommodation if it is required. A very undesirable feature in the home life of our country is being imported into our war service homes settlements. This lack of sufficient accommodation strikes at the very basis of our national life. Because a returned soldier may have contracted with th9 department for a home of three rooms for himself and his wife, he should not be prevented from asking for extra accommodation for members of his family. The adoption of the amendment need not embarrass the Government. All that the honorable member for Reid seeks is an expression of opinion from honorable members and their support for his proposal to have a committee appointed. The Government stands to lose nothing, because if cases of hardship are proved it will be possible to give redress, and where claims are not substantiated nothing will be done.- I hope that the Minister will not object to the proposal.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr.
Coleman) has always shown a keen interest in the welfare of ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force, and I am certain he always endeavours to be fair in his criticism of the various departments having to do with returned soldiers. I am sure, therefore, that the honorable member will admit that since the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) has taken over the administration of the War Service Homes Department there has been a marked im- provement. I speak particularly of Queensland. I am confident that my colleagues from that State will agree with me. I agree with one point raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). Where homes erected by the War Service Homes Department are not large enough owing to an increase in the family of a returned soldier since he entered into occupancy, applications for a second advance should be considered. I support this request very strongly. For the last twelve months I have been directing the attention of the commission to the case of a soldier who, when he took over a home, had one little baby. Now he has two children and they are not babies. He has a very nice home indeed, and has made a beautiful garden. When he complained about lack of accommodation the department suggested that he should close in the verandah. That, of course, was quite unreasonable. The Government would be well advised to consider a second advance in cases of this sort. While there are individual cases that call for redress I feel sure, speaking for my own State at all events, that the position is not nearly so acute as it was, but I would like the Minister to consider the point raised by the honorable member for Reid.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) . Its adoption would not mean taking the business out of the hands of the Government. I say definitely that the foundations of the War Service Homes administration were laid in a slimy morass of bribery, corruption and fraud. Recently I was informed, in reply to a question, that the Commonwealth Bank had purchased 5,179 homes, 987 building blocks, and had erected 1,777 houses, also that the architects’ fees amounted to £48,917. Any decent firm of architects would have done the whole of that work for £500. The man who had authorized the payment of this sum helped to break Colonel Walker, who for a time was War Service Homes Commissioner. His relative, his son, and two cousins were members of that awful firm of architects.^ The payment of this huge sum in architects’ fees was nepotism of a kind never before recorded, in the political history of Australia. Mr. Ashworth, a reputable citizen, exposed this fraud and hypocrisy in the Athenaeum Hall. If the work had been entrusted to the State Savings Bank of Victoria, the large sum paid away in architects’ fees would have been saved, and to that extent returned soldiers would have benefited. . Why was the business of erecting war service homes taken from the Commonwealth Bank in South Australia and handed over to the State department? Why has the Government threatened legal action to make this firm of architects return a large sum of money ? No honorable member can approve of the firm’s action in charging such a large fee. A little time back I exhibited in this House two dirty I.O.TJ.’s given by the head of this firm of architects to a man who had supported him for years. Colonel Walker strongly opposed this claim for £48,917. In a letter to the Auditor-General, he stated -
On several occasions, as Sir Denison Miller mentioned, “ I had interviews with him on the subject, and when requested to pass the various claims submitted by the bank’s architects, I refused, and referred to my correspondence on the subject, also stating that under no circumstances would I permit the employment of architects on a percentage basis.”
The State department which attends to these matters in Victoria has erected many thousands of homes. These have been built in accordance with standardized plans, which any good architect would prepare for from £100 to £250 for the lot. I believe that, whereas more houses have been erected in Victoria by the State department than by the commission in New South Wales, there are less complaints in Victoria. I ask the Government not to take this proposal for the reduction of the item by £1 as a vital issue. Only by carrying an amendment of this character can we achieve our desire for the appointment of a committee of inquiry. I suggest that the Government should invite the opinions of honorable members on both sides. This should not be a party question. In Victoria, a returned soldier obtaining a house from the State Savings Bank knows from the beginning what he will be called upon to pay, but no one can say that with certainty regarding a home erected by the War Service Homes Commission. Only to-day I had a docket placed in my hands, showing that a returned soldier had had his rental raised on several occasions. No money lender is more keen to extract the last 6d. from one to whom he has made an advance than are the authorities administering this department. I am sorry to have to record that as my opinion. Although in the case which I have mentioned the matter was satisfactorily adjusted, and the papers torn up, the next day an account was received for 10s. 6d. for making out the order for ejectment. The soldier, was honest and industrious, but was unable to pay, because of a sad domestic tragedy. His little child had wandered on to an adjoining piece of land and had drunk poison from a bottle left there by some careless person, which resulted in its death. While I should be pleased if by any means the Government could be driven from the Treasury bench, I ask the Minister not to look upon this amendment as a want of confidence motion, but rather to consider it as an expression of the desire of honorable members for a thorough inquiry to be made into this matter by a select committee or a royal commission.
.- It would be unfortunate if tie administration of the War Service Homes Department were to be judged by the remarks that have been made here this evening. I am certain that every honorable member sympathizes with those persons who have suffered because of the way in which the department has been administered in the past, but its administration to-day is a- vast improvement on what it was some years ago. It is true that in the early days of the department some unfortunate mistakes were made, but we know that such mistakes are inseparable from large spending departments, where men who have no direct financial responsibility for their actions are called upon to perform important work. According to a statement issued by the Works and Bailways Department, 12,295 homes were completed by the department to the 31st
March last. In addition, the department assisted in the building of 128 homes, purchased 11,927, and discharged mortgages in respect of 1,863 more. In operations of such magnitude, mistakes are inevitable. If there is room for complaint, it is that the homes have been so costly. In many cases it will be the work of a lifetime to repay the original cost of the homes. One advantage of the system, however, is that the average repayment is less than the usual rent of a house, and the soldier occupant is gradually building up an asset. I feel, however, that I must place on record my appreciation of the work of the department, and of the improvements which have taken place recently in its administration.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), who brings to the consideration of this matter a ripe experience of the life of a soldier and of the deserts of those soldiers who have returned to this country, as well as a measure of sympathy that might well be imitated by the departmental officers. I have nothing but commendation for the Minister at present administering the Repatriation Department, nor have I any unkind criticism to offer regarding the Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Department; but I assure the committee that there will be no appreciable denudation of the flower gardens of Melbourne because of any bouquets that I am likely to throw at those responsible for the administration of the War Service Homes Department in Melbourne. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) pointed out that the department was .engaged in a huge undertaking. On many occasions I have candidly admitted that every allowance should be made for the fact that when we undertook this mammoth task we were embarking upon uncharted seas, and’ that in establishing a new department, with new officers who had little in the way of precedent to guide them, a complicated and difficult task -was being undertaken. I go further, and say that any Minister who attempted conscientiously and faithfully to administer the department in its early stages was deserving not only of patient forbearance, but also of a great deal of sympathy.
– It killed one man.
– I agree with, the honorable member that the administration of this department contributed largely to the death of one Minister. It is when we examine the administration in detail, and refer to specific matters deserving of criticism, that the excuses which responsible officers usually have regarding their administration do not suffice. It was never the intention of this Parliament, or of a grateful country, that the relations between the department and the returned soldiers who had obtained homes through it should be similar to those existing between an avaricious landlord and a defaulting tenant. Many instances have come under my notice of returned soldiers who, owing to circumstances over which they had no immediate control, were in default in their payments, being ruthlessly dispossessed of their holdings, whereas by the exercise of patience they would have been able to overcome their difficulties and pay the amounts owing. I can only refer to their treatment by the department as outrageous. That treatment is the more outrageous when we realize that, when pressure has been brought to bear on the department by members of this Parliament and others, in certain individual cases relief has been granted, whereas, apparently, it would not have been granted had the representation been made only by the men most entitled to be heard - the returned soldiers themselves. The proposal that I am considering is one for the appointment of a committee of inquiry. I think that the time is overripe for such an investigation, as far as Victoria, at any rate, is concerned, and I quite grant that it should be Australiawide. The War Service Homes Department was administered until quite recently by the Repatriation Commissioner. I believe that the retirement of Colonel Semmens has been announced.. Before he retired, he was much too busy mismanaging the Repatriation Department to give the necessary time to mismanaging the War Service Homes Department. The ‘consequence is that, as far as Victoriais concerned, the administration, for all practical purposes, seems to have passed to the secretary of the department - an immature young gentleman whose personal valuation of his capacity far exceeds, in my opinion, what that capacity really amounts to. He addresses himself to soldiers with all that haughty aloofness which comes from the fact that he has never had any experience himself in the field, and which enables him to speak disparagingly of men who have given two, three, four, or more years of active service abroad. Many of these men who are injured in health, and who have excellent records to their credit, have been allotted by this Parliament, on terms which do not .certainly amount to a gift, the poor boon - because, after all, it is no great boon - of small, incommodious, but nevertheless comfortable, dwellings for themselves and their families. If, through not having the inestimable boon of continued employment at full salary in a Government billet, they find themselves in arrears with their payments, they receive peremptory notices, which are followed by peremptory proceedings in the courts and eviction, unless through the influence of interested or disinterested friends the matter becomes so grave a public scandal that it is stopped. Therefore, I repeat that I have not risen for the purpose of casting floral tributes at the feet of those responsible for the administration of the War Service Homes Department in Victoria. I have had occasion to mention this matter on the floor of the house on a previous occasion, when I criticized the Repatriation Commission. ‘ It is sometimes said that a member should not use his position in this House to make statements reflecting upon individuals, which, if made outside, would render the person who made them responsible in the courts of this country for slander or defamation of character. My answer is that under the law of Australia, and the law of British communities generally, and, indeed, under most systems of sound jurisprudence, members of Parliament are given this privilege because it is recognized that it is in the public interest that it should be given. I contend, therefore, that it is also in the public interest that from time to time the privilege should be exercised. My second observation in this respect is that, unfortunately - I think that it does not apply to all governments, but it unquestionably applies to the present Government - when any criticism is addressed to the department, members of the Ministry immediately think that it is their special business to come to the table in this House and make a spirited defence of the departmental officer concerned without taking the trouble to acquaint themselves of the facts, or. at all events, acting merely on the ex parte statement of the officer concerned. Thus not only is the officer well defended, and in that way - although indirectly - heard on the floor of this House, but he is heard through the responsible Minister, who is assumed by the public, especially, to be backed up by a special knowledge of the facts which in truth he does not possess. I may mention, by way of illustration, the scandalous circumstances in the Holland case, which I exposed. I convicted the officers of the most scandalous misrepresentation and suppression of vital facts to the great- injury and detriment of a returned soldier named Holland, who was prevented from enjoying the pension which he should have received, but is now graciously permitted to have an invalid pension only. I now come to the general question of the administration of the War Service Homes Department. When, with that glowing enthusiasm which marked in a special way the patriots of this country, who at all times are ready to make great and vicarious sacrifices or payments through the pockets or skins of other people, the department, in 1918, allotted homes under this act to returned soldiers; the total cost of each was not to exceed £700 or thereabouts. At that time, iu my own electorate, a large number of homes were erected. It is true that they were of simple design, but they were well built at moderate cost, and were in every respect satisfactory. I do not suggest for a moment that the occupants of these homes received any more than they deserved. Perhaps they got less than they, deserved, but they got a great deal more than some of the later applicants for homes. In a certain sense, therefore, those who . returned earliest from the war received the best treatment in regard to their houses,’ whilst those with longer service, who returned at a time when costs had considerably increased, took them over under many disadvantages. In many cases the latter homes were of poorer construction than those formerly erected. Generally the men took them under less advantageous conditions than did those who returned to Australia earlier. When the houses developed defects - as they did in many instances - the occupants who complained were met with the curt reply that they had taken over the homes and must repair them themselves,, whether they had been properly constructed or not.- This treatment has been going on for a number of years. In some cases the rights-of-way were constructed for the occupants, whereas in other cases, despite promises that they would be made, the work has not been done. Moreover, the men have been told that, if the work is to be done, they must bear the cost themselves. Generally the conditions, as far as the quality of the homes and the terms of repayment are concerned, have become more onerous. I contend that they should be equally as favorable now as they were in the first instance. Heed should be paid to the request of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) that reasonable accommodation be provided proportionate to the needs of young families. I did not rise this evening prepared to debate the matter in detail. I was moved to discuss it only by the timely amendment submitted by the honorable member. There is much room for improvement in the administration of the war service homes. There have been, many ancient scandals in connexion with them which I have no desire to revive. To some extent, perhaps; they were inevitable. I sympathize with the Minister in his difficulties, and have never approached this matter from the party stand-point. I am, however, entirely dissatisfied with the local administration, which I consider to be unsympathetic. In relation especially to defaults by soldiers out of work, it is about time the present administration was filtered, and the secretary, who is the chief executive officer for throwing people out of their homes, accommodated in a more congenial office in some landlord’s employ, where he could give full expression to his talent for evicting from their homes persons with much greater claims upon the gratitude of this country than he has.
.- Look ing at the schedule, I think that the Minister in charge should offer some information before asking honorable members to pass , it. There are several items on which, I should imagine, the responsible Minister might well give a few words of explanation. It may be possible to satisfy the committee upon them, but they certainly appear to be most remarkable. I see an item of £50,000 for “ transport services in connexion with Expeditionary Forces, including passage money, hire, fitting, and reconditioning of ships, wages, coal, victualling, and all other expenditure incidental to such services.” Surely these items have been paid. They are war matters, and the war has been over for seven years.
– - Does the Statute of Limitations apply?
– Possibly the money cannot be collected now. There is another item- a refund of £100,000 to the Imperial Government, “hire money in respect of ex-enemy vessels.” Surely we should have an explanation of that. When did the Imperial Government pay us money for such a purpose ; and, if this £100,000 was paid, did it pass into a loan fund, or did the Government pay it into the ordinary revenue? I think that that is an important question. If any refund is justified, it should bemade out of ordinary revenue. I think that there were sixteen enemy ships captured, seven of which were awarded to Australia as prizes. The other nine were detained, and the British Government claimed payment for them. In August, 1923, £107,000 was paid to the British Government on account of exenemy vessels that were captured in Australian waters by” Australians; and in November of the same year a further payment of £197,000 was made. It now appears that the Commonwealth is refunding to the Imperial Government hire money that that government paid for the use of these boats. In order that the discussion may not be prolonged, the Minister (Sir Neville Howse) should state whether that money was paid into revenue account or loan account.
– I ask the committee to reject the amendment. No justification has been given for the appointment of a select committee to make a roving inquiry over the whole of the administration of the War Service Homes Department. I think honorable members will readily admit that during the last three years it has been conceded, both inside and outside this House, that that administration has been satisfactory. Only three or four cases of alleged hardship have been cited as a justification for the appointment of a select committee. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) mentioned the case of a man named Brock. He admitted that justice had been done, but he argued that because there was originally cause for complaint, and he had to take the matter to the department, there might be other similar cases in which soldiers were not able to enlist the services of members of Parliament to have their claims investigated.
– The Minister is misrepresenting my attitude.
– The honorable member said that he believed there were other similar cases.
– I know of other cases, and I said so.
– If that is so, and the honorable member submits them to the Minister, he will receive similar treatment to that which was accorded him in this instance.
– I object to the necessity for soldiers to go to members of Parliament to obtain justice.
– There is no necessity for them to go to members of Parliament to get justice.
– They have to; otherwise they will not get it.
– Honorable members have not been able to show that justice has been refused to any soldier. If the other cases that have been mentioned are investigated, it will be found that the department has adopted a sympathetic attitude. Take the case referred to by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). The applicant had the benefit of a home, and left it when he was heavily in arrears with his payments. He was asked to discharge his liability, but made no reply. The department endeavoured to obtain the arrears, and finally it was represented that there was sickness in the family, and the man was out of work. The department then allowed time for the further consideration of the matter. Immediately representations were made; justice was done. In another case the soldier had sub-let his house, and was actually receiving in rent £ 5 a month ; but he allowed his payments to get into arrears. The department made an eminently fair arrangement with him, under which he was to pay the £3 18s. a month that was regularly due, and £1 a month to liquidate the arrears. Those three are typical cases. The department has thus sympathetically considered every case of hardship that has been brought under notice during this discussion.
– Unless a man is backed by a member of Parliament he stands a very poor show.
– I am sorry that the honorable member is not acquainted with the facts. If he were he would not make such a statement. He forgets that Melbourne is the only place in which members of Parliament are available. It is extraordinary that, with the exception of a couple of instances in New South Wales, practically no complaint has been made by any honorable member from any other part of Australia. The general approval that has been given to the department is evidence that the administration is satisfactory.
– Will the Minister try to explain away the case that I have brought forward ?
– If the honorable member supplies particulars he will obtain satisfaction.
– Mr. Peterson knows the whole of the facts.
– What has the department to gain from doing an injustice ? Nearly every officer in it is a returned soldier. It is ridiculous to suggest that justice cannot be obtained except through a member of Parliament. Let us see what the department has done. To the end of June, 1925, no less a sum than £21,444,000 had been spent upon war service homes in Australia.
– That was not all spent on homes.
– That amount was spent in connexion with the War Service Homes Department. The homes provided numbered 26,909, comprising 13.079 that were built or in which assistance was given to build, 11,950 which were purchased, and 1,880 on which mortgages were lifted. No other country has attempted to do for its returned soldiers what we have done in connexion with war service homes. Australia’s record in that respect is absolutely unique. Honorable members should, have a feeling of pride when they think of what Australia has done for its returned soldiers. Repatriation in the beginning was an absolutely uncharted sea. There was no experience of any other country to guide Australia in drafting its schemes. The nation owes a deep debt, of gratitude to the Minister who worked night and day dealing with the many problems that presented themselves, until his health was undermined and death eventually claimed him. Considering the enormous problems with which this department had to deal, and the hurried manner in which, it had to organize the complete scheme, it is only natural that mistakes should have occurred. The vast area that had to be covered, and the many problems affecting varied types of returned soldiers, would have made it an absolute miracle had some mistakes not crept in. Fortunately, the department has profited by the experience which was gained in the early days, and at the present time its administration is almost entirely satisfactory.
– Will the Minister reply to my complaint regarding the provision of an inadequate house?
– Honorable members may have the idea that the department built an inadequate house. As a matter of fact the man himself picked the house and asked the department to buy it for him. Under the terms of his contract he was bound to keep it in good repair. The department realized that he was suffering a hardship in having got a property which did not fulfil his expectations. It agreed to his selling it, and is now permitting him to obtain another war service home.
– That was not done until I submitted the case to the Minister.
– Until somebody submits these cases nothing can be done. The honorable member admits that when he takes them to head-quarters justice is done.
– Justice was not done in the case of J. Gough.
– No one wishes to perpetrate an injustice. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) referred to the refund that is being made to the Imperial Government.
Certain enemy vessels which were in Australian waters were seized during the war, and the Imperial Government paid the Australian Government for their hire. The money thus received was paid into revenue, and out of revenue the cost incurred in working them was defrayed. When the matter was finally adjusted the vessels became the property of the Commonwealth. There was a balance of £100,000 of the hire money, after an adjustment had been made on the basis of the actual running costs, and it was agreed that that should be refunded, the Commonwealth retaining the ships.
– What does “hire money “ mean 1
– The Imperial Government paid for the hire of the vessels during the war.
– Into what fund was that money placed ?
– It went into revenue.
– Now it is being refunded out of loan account.
– That is because the Government is, in effect, purchasing the boats.
– That is not a refund of hire money.
– The arrangement made provided that there should be a refund of the balance of the hire money after an adjustment had taken place, the Commonwealth to take over the boats.
– Where are the boats?
– They are. now part of the Commonwealth Shipping Line.
– They are the nineteen ex-enemy vessels.
– Some of them. The War Service Homes case mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) was dealt with entirely by the South Australian Government.
– My trouble is that I can get no satisfaction from either the State or the Commonwealth Government.
– The responsibility rests with the State Government. The case has not come before the Central Administration at all; but I will have inquiries made into it. There is no justification for such drastic action as the appointment of a select committee, for the department is now being administered very satisfactorily.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) referred to the first item of £40,000, under the heading “ War and Repatriation Services,” for a soldiers’ mental hospital at West Subiaco. An agreement has been entered into between the Federal Government and the Western Australian Government, by which the Commonwealth will provide suitable accommodation to treat ex-soldier mental cases in Western Australia. A building will be erected at; West Subiaco. When the necessity for using it for Federal purposes ceases, it will be handed over to the State Government. I assure the honorable member that its erection will be pushed forward as quickly as possible. Plans and estimates have been prepared, and the material is being taken to the site. The second item of £50,000, under the heading of “ War and Repatriation Sei vices,” which was referred to by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) and the honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Scullin), is provided to meet costs arising out of a law action. During the war the Commonwealth Government requisitioned certain cargo vessels from the Clan Line, respecting which it thought it was entitled to make certain charges for running expenses. This view was not accepted by the Clan Line, which entered an action against the Commonwealth, and obtained a favorable verdict. The £50,000 is to meet the costs of the action and others in process.
I wish to add one or two remarks to those made by the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) regarding the £100,000 provided for “refund to the Imperial Government, in respect of ex-enemy vessels,” in order that the position may be quite clear to honorable members. After these vessels were placed in our care, we claimed from the Imperial Government in respect of them what are known as “Blue-book Charges,” which amounted to £100,000. Subsequently, under agreement, the Imperial Government presented them to the Commonwealth. It was found later on that we were not justified in making the “ Bluebook Charges “ as between the Admiralty and the owners. We were only entitled to charge running expenses.
– The Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse), says tha’t the vessels were a present, and the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Littleton Groom) said they were purchased. It is an awful mix-up.
– I did not hear him say they were purchased.
– I said it was equivalent to purchase.
– We have the boats, I suppose ?
– Are they tied up?
– Some of them have been sold, and, I hope, paid for. I do not remember any other item respecting which questions were asked.
.- I wish to say a few words on the administration of the War Service Homes Department in Victoria. This Government professes to believe in preference to returned soldiers, but a man named Peterson, who never enlisted, has quite a fancy job in the Victorian branch of this department. I assure the Government that he has very little sympathy with or consideration for returned soldiers. He never loses an opportunity of sending a final notice to any returned man who is a few pounds behind in his payments. For every such notice a fee of 10s. 6d. is charged; I have in mind the case of a man named John Isaac Bullus, in my constituency. He enlisted at the age of 55 years, although he said that his age was only 45 years, and was one of the gamest men who went to the war. He was among the first wounded at Armentieres. I saw him in a hospital in London when he was suffering from shell-shock, and I did not think it would be possible for him ever to return to Australia. However, he did return, and later on secured a home at Ballarat under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act. It is true that he may be somewhat in arrears ; but since he has been in occupation of the house he has paid off at least £100 of the principal, in addition to interest. A fortnight ago he received a final notice, although he had not received any previous intimations from the department, that he was £21 in arrears in his payments; that the bank had been directed not to take any money from him, and that he must vacate his house within ten days, unless he paid the full amount owing. He was charged 10s. 6d. for that notice. In my opinion, that is a scandalous state of affairs. Not a single commercial institution in the country would think of treating a client like the War Service Homes Department has treated this unfortunate man. He came to me the day he received his notice. I tried to pacify him, but did not succeed. The Treasurer (Dr. Page), who is a returned soldier, will realize the state ofthe man when I tell him that when he received his notice he fell in a dead faint in the street, and when I saw him he was in the same dreadful condition that he was in when I saw him in London. I wish the Government to understand that I am not pleading for men who are working and yet will not try to meet their obligations. Bullus is nearly 60 years of age; three of his sons went to the war; and one lost a leg. Should Peterson be permitted to send these notices to men like that? Is it fair they should be charged. 10s. 6d. each time such a notice is sent? I am told that a legal firm in Melbourne send these notices. It would be interesting to know how much they get out of the department. Surely it is not the desire of the Government to evict men who are honestly trying to meet their obligations. There is one way out of the trouble, and that is to give Mr. Peterson the sack. If the Government does that, it will comply with the requests of returned soldiers throughout Australia. Peterson has no right to hold the job. He is not a returned man, and he has not the slightest sympathy with them. When Mr. Bullus received his notice I was able to send £6 down to the department, but I have not received even an acknowledgment of its receipt. I understand that the fee of 10s. 6d. is paid to the department. Bullus deserves far more consideration than he is getting. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) is justified in asking that a select committee shall be appointed to inquire into the administration of this department. We do not want to squander money, for enough has been wasted already. If the Labour party had been guilty of the scandalous waste that this Government has allowed to occur in the war service homes administration, the Age, Argus and Herald newspapers would have charged it with wilful waste and scandalous maladministration; but this Government, .apparently, can do as it likes, and escape criticism from the press.
I intend to support the request of the honorable member for Reid, for we should ensure that this department, at least, is sympathetically administered.
– The charge of 10s. 6d. referred to by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), is made by the department. No private firm of solicitors gets anything out of it.
– I did not suggest that. I said that the department gets the money.
– I (took down the honorable members “words. He said that “ the money went to a firm of lawyers engaged by the department.”
– I said clearly that it went to the department.
– This charge is made by the department, because of the extra cost it is put to in these cases. In the case referred to by the honorable member, no less than six letters were sent out, and not one of them was acknowledged.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I am giving information which has been supplied to me, and which I have no reason to believe is inaccurate. In the absence of any reply to its latest communication, and after a special visit by an officer of the department, the department was obliged to take the course laid down by the act. As the people’s trustee for the millions of pounds invested in these homes, it must take measures to safeguard the public interest, and when large sums of money are in arrears it is its duty to try to get them back. Honorable members must remember that there is a contract between the soldier and the department. In this case, it was only when no reply came from the soldier that the department took action, and only then did he come forward with an explanation. But, instead of treating him harshly, the department made arrangements for him to make up the arrears on terms.
– The Minister is saying what the department has told him, but if is not correct. That is why we want a committee of inquiry.
– The honorable member ought to know that these are facts which I am giving. I am perfectly sure that the information supplied to me is correct. The honorable member cannot deny that terms have been allowed to this man, and that there has been no hardship. It is simply an ordinary business arrangement to recover arrears. In pursuance of its usual policy the department has made no attempt to be unduly harsh.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by £1 (Mr. Coleman’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I should like to know from the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, what is the position with regard to the acquisition ofland at Fairy Meadow, New South Wales, for which a vote of £12,000 is set down. Since the proposal for the acquisition of this land came before a committee of the House or the House itself, ten years have elapsed.
– A law case in connexion with the matter has just been concluded.
– Did it take ten years to hear the case ?
– The Government was not responsible for the delay.
– The purchase of this land was recommended by the Public Works Committee in 1915. It was then considered of practically no value at all for grazing or other purposes, but its value appears to have gone up to £12,000. If the Government had established a cement making plant on the land, many thousands of pounds would have been saved in construction work at Canberra.
.- The site at Fairy Meadow acquired by the Commonwealth is valuable, notwithstanding all that may be said to the contrary. The limestone deposits there are extensive and rich. The owners of the property resisted its acquisition in the law courts, but the Commonwealth Government won the case. The owners of the property claimed upwards of £100,000 for it. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has said an item relating to the acquisition of this land has appeared on the estimates for a number of years, but as a settlement of the matter is now in view it is hoped that itwill not find a place on the Estimates again.
– I am very sorry to find under this heading an item under the control of the department of the Treasurer - “Loan to the Territory of New Guinea for works, £41,075.” In my opinion this should have been a grant in aid and not a loan. I am unable to see how the Territory of New Guinea is to find the money to repay this loan. Its revenue is not increasing to any great extent, and I do not know how it is to pay even interest at 5 per cent. on such an amount. I direct the attention of honorable members to a statement made by Colonel Ainsworth in his report on the Territory of New Guinea.
He says: - “ If the Territory is to progress under any possible scheme of development, it will be’ necessary, for a few years at least, to assist it financially by means of a grant-in-aid - not a loan, as the Territory at this stage of its existence cannot afford to borrow money. The country, if it is to be worth anything eventually, must grow up as a healthy child, and not be brought up as an anaemic one. Put the Territory on its feet economically, and then you may reasonably expect it to work out its own salvation on its own resources. Thesedays no young country, and particularly a tropical country, with its primitive population, can carry out those essential public works which ‘are vital to its economic progress, without financial assistance, and in such cases it is only natural that the necessary help should be rendered by the civilized government responsible for its well being.
I am heartily in accord with these views expressed by the gentleman sent to report on the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. His statements should carry weight. The Territory is struggling financially at present, and very necessary works require to be carried out. I do not see how it is to find even the interest on £41,000.
– It is absolutely absurd to expect the Territory to carry on with its present revenue.
– This vote of £41,000, instead of being regarded as a loan, should be given as suggested in Colonel Ainsworth’s report as a grant inaid to New Guinea. At Rabaul a new wharf is urgently required. According to the report from which I have quoted, £36,000 is to be spent on a new wharf at Rabaul, £2,000 for a new wharf at Kieta, and £5,000 for other new works, which cannot be financed from the ordinary revenue. Those who have visited the Mandated Territory of New Guinea know the primitive methods which the Administration is forced to adopt at Rabaul, because the main wharf there was burnt out some few years ago. Owing to a regrettable disagreement between the Expropriation Board and the Administration as to who actually owns the wharf, nothing has been done to improve existing conditions. The remains of the old wharf are there, and the expenditure of a few thousand pounds would put the wharf into a condition to accommodate vessels for the shipment and landing of cargo. At present great delay is occasioned through vessels having to use a tiddly-winking wharf some miles from the town of Rabaul, at which when one hatch is unloaded the position of the vessel has to be changed to permit of the unloading of another hatch. It is not because New Guinea is a primitive country that primitive methods should be adopted in its administration. I particularly ask that, instead of considering this vote of £41,075 as a loan to . the Territory, it should be made a grant in aid.
– In reply to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), I may mention that already a grant of £10,000 has been made to the Territory of New Guinea for certain purposes, and a further grant of £10,000 is provided in the Estimates, of Expenditure for the current year. The vote to which he refers is an additional amount which is needed for certain works which the Territory could not be expected to pay for out of ordinary revenue, such as wharfs, drainage, hospitals, and bungalows for married men. Because of the condition of the Territory’s finances, this money is proposed to be lent for a term of 30 years, and it is anticipated that as a result of the improvement of the Territory it may be in a position to repay the loan out of its own revenues within the period mentioned.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to correspondence that I have recently had with the Defence Department relative to the Enoggera Rifle Range, situated within 5 miles of the General Post Office at Brisbane. One question that I placed upon the notice-paper was to the effect that on one occasion three live shells fired from 18-pounder guns missed the target and landed in a soldiers’ settlement within a few miles of the range. When the rifle range was originally laid down, the surrounding area was thinly populated, but now it has grown into a populous suburb, and I urge the Minister to do something to remedy the existing conditions. I received a reply from the Defence Department that the matter would be looked into, but I feel that I should be lacking in my duty if I did not draw attention to the fact that the firing of the heavy guns has a pitiful effect on some of the soldiers who suffer from shell-shock. The case is admirably put in the following letter received by me from the secretary of the Enoggera Progress Council : -
With further reference to our former letters re the rifle range at Enoggera, and the reply of the Department of Defence, under date 20th July, in which, inter alia, the following passage occurs: - “ I ain directed to inform you that there is no other suitable artillery range available within rreach of Brisbane.” We would mention that prior to 1914 the artillery .practice was carried out at Tambourine, and also at Harrisville, both of which places aTe over 50 miles from Brisbane. We understand that it is only of recent years that the defence has disposed of the Tambourine area. Your knowledge of Brisbane will, we are sure, place you in a position to agree with us that the statement that there is no suitable artillery range available within reach of Brisbane requires consideration. If the Department of Defence are sincere in the matter of protecting the people of . a thickly-populated area by arranging for artillery practice to be carried out in a more suitable spot further away from the closersettled portion of Brisbane, this association would have no difficulty in supplying them with information in relation to suitable grounds. The city of Brisbane, as you are aware, is surrounded by hills, which form a natural background for artillery .purposes. We would further point out that the alteration in local authority work, with the advent of the Greater Brisbane, this artillery range, in its position within five (5) miles of the G.P.O., is well within the Greater Brisbane area, and should, we think, be well outside of it. We would further mention that the area taken up in Enoggera from a local authority standpointis approximately 1,500 acres, and a reasonable estimate of its value is £300 an acre, so that it is an expensive piece of ground, suitable for closer settlement, that is held for a purpose under these conditions not warranted, whereas it would bc possible to get the same area further out of Brisbane, representing the same advantages at much lower cost to the Defence Department. The sale of Enoggera area, as formerly pointed out, would more than compensate the Defence Department for the cost and the equipment of another suitable area further away from the town. We appreciate your co-operation in the matter, and thank you.
There is no great objection to the rifle range provided that the firing of artillery is stopped ; but, considering the value of this land, I think the department would be well advised in securing another site. I hope that the Minister, through his officers, will be able to find some solution of the difficulty.
– I assure the honorable member that I shall give this matter further consideration and see if some other suitable range can bc found for the necessary artillery practice where there will be no danger to the inhabitants of the locality.-
.- I ask the Minister for Defence to consider the advisability of giving members of rifle clubs some assistance in the form of a liberal grant for the provision of rifle butts, and for travelling expenses.
– That matter will be dealt with under the Estimates.
– The first item under the control of the Department of Trade and Customs is “ Advances to the States and to settlers in the Northern Territory for purchase of wire netting, £500,000.” Although some such provision has been in operation for a number, of years, it has never been availed of by the settlers in the Northern Territory. Those who understand the back country know that before wire netting can be used it is essential that plain wire fencing should be erected. The difficulty is transportation; and if the Government were to include in this item the purchase of plain fencing wire, in addition to wire netting, I am confident that these advances would be availed of by a great number of settlers.
– When we have before us the bill setting out the specific manner in which the advance of £500,000 for wire netting is to be utilized, the honorable member will have an opportunity to suggest any alteration respecting its distribution and disposal. The point that he has raised will receive consideration in the preparation of the bill.
– In view of the fact that the holdings in the Northern Territory, which are all leasehold, are larger than those in any other part of Australia, I should like to know if the advance is to be limited to the holders of large estates or to the smaller settlers?
– The whole of the details in respect of advances for wire netting will be dealt with when the bill is brought down.
.- Under the Department of Trade and Customs is an item for optical and other apparatus. I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs will consider the advisability of providing optical apparatus to enable manufacturers to see the advantages conferred upon them under the; new tariff schedule.
.. - I direct attention to the proposal to erect new post offices at Bulli and Port Kembla, and I should like to know if the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) really means to do something this time. The Bulli post office is a disgrace to the department. If the department were subject to the ordinary law of the land, the Minister would be haled before the court under the health regulations, and required to effect improvements immediately.
– I may tellthe honorable member that a site has been acquired.
– I know all about that. I may also be told that the Progress Association has been trying to get the site altered. Departmental officials have known all along that they were not going to alter the site. I should like a guarantee from the Postmaster-General that the department proposes to go on with the erection of these new buildings at both Bulli and Port Kembla. I do not know whether the delay is due to the fact that the post office at Bulli is in a mining centre, but I intend to raise my voice ‘ in protest until these works are started. I have quite a chapter of complaints to make concerning postal, telegraph, and telephone facilities in my division, and when the general Estimates are before us I shall take full advantage of the opportunity which will then be afforded me to speak at length. For the present I should like an assurance from the Minister that the two works referred to will be started early in the financial year.
– I also direct attention to the urgent need for improvements to the post office at Lismore, which is a large and important town in my division. I believe that £8,000 is to be made available for this work. The public has been inconvenienced for some considerable time. Two years ago parliamentary approval was secured for the expenditure of £5,000, but up to the present nothing has been done. I should like to know if the work will be started at an early date.
Mr. BLAKELEY (Darling) [10.371.- For the last seven years I have been m communication with both the Deputy
Postmaster-General in New South Wales and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), with reference to the condition of the post office at Coonamble. It is a low building, quite unsuitable for the purpose. In the summer employees are expected to carry on their work in the building with an outside temperature of from 105 degrees and upwards. I am sure that if the Minister or any of his predecessors in office had to work at, say, a switch or sorting mails in that building on a mid-summer day, he would immediately set about finding the money for the erection of a suitable building. The town has quite outgrown the facilities provided by the present post office. So congested does the building become that I have actually seen mails being sorted on the footpath. On one occasion, early in the morning, and on another occasion late at’ night I saw that done. The town is now worthy of a more commodious and better building. T hope that when the next Estimates are being prepared adequate provision will be made for a new and commodious post office in that town. I turn now to another matter. About eighteen months or two years ago the department decided to build a post office at Euston. Plans and specifications were prepared, and, I believe, tenders were invited. For some reason the whole thing was dropped, and the people in what is a growing district were informed that the present structure would have to suffice for many years.
. -About eighteen months ago an agitation was commenced for the erection of a suitable post office at Drysdale, and last year £500 was placed on the Estimates for the purpose. As the work is now well in hand I have no cause to complain in that respect, but I point out that suitable quarters for the officers in charge are not being provided in the new building, although the Minister promised me that that would be done. I ask the Minister to be good enough to have inquiries made.
– While I do not wish to delay this bill, because I understand that the Government desires it to go through at once in order that necessary works may be proceeded with, and employment provided for some of the unemployed, I wish to bring before the notice of the Minister a matter affecting the additions to the Elizabeth-street Post Office, Melbourne. To-day I received a complaint that three times during the progress of work, the contractor, Mr. Burns, has reduced thewages of the men employed on the building. I understand that a contractor who receives a Government contract is practically bound to observe certain conditions as to the wages he should pay. I therefore ask the Minister to make inquiries into the complaint.
.- I wish to draw attention to the. need for a new post office at Gladstone, and hope that the Prime Minister, who some time ago visited the town, will support the request. Some time ago the Gladstone Chamber of Commerce made a request for a new building. I supported that request. I also have approached the Postmaster-General and tne Deputy Postmaster-General in Brisbane, pointing out that the town requires an up-to-date building. The present post office has been erected for over 40 years, and, being constructed of wood, has become dilapidated, and no longer worthy of a growing town, in a district which has a wonderful harbour, and is rapidly developing. The meat-works at Gladstone employ between 300 and 400 men, and a new cotton ginnery has recently been established there. The opening up of the Northern Burnett lands by the construction of a railway over the Dawes Range has greatly enhanced the importance of Gladstone and district. I am very disappointed on reading through the list of new post offices to find that Gladstone is not included. I want definite action taken by the Government. I hope that the Minister will favorably consider this matter.
Mr. MAKIN (Hindmarsh) [10.481.- I desire to refer to the long delay which has taken place in connexion with providing Port Adelaide with a new post office. I admit that the Commonwealth Government is not entirely to blame for the delay, as much of the responsibilityrests with a previous South Australian Government. It is, however, unfortunate that, because of the conflict between the Commonwealth and State Governments, Port Adelaide has been so long denied a new post office. I understand that within the last few months negotiations between the two Governments concerned have been conducted on an entirely new basis, and I hope that soon finality will be reached and Port Adelaide given a building more in keeping with the importance of the third seaport of the Commonwealth. I hope that, before many months have passed, an intimation will be made to the House or to me personally, that a satisfactory arrangement has been entered into for the acquisition of the site desired by the citizens. If the matter is brought to a conclusion at an early date it will lead to efficiency on the part of the department and comfort to its patrons. I understand that an endeavour is being made to co-ordinate Commonwealth activities in some central building in that city, and I hope that the movement will be successful. Do the items relating to new buildings at Woodville, Henley Beach, and Semaphore refer to the new automatic telephone exchanges, or do they refer to additions to the present post offices? I desire to bring under the Minister’s notice the urgent need for the provision of a more satisfactory post office at Largs Bay. The present office is a disgrace to the department; a suburb of such importance is worthy of more modern postal conveniences. I hope that the Minister will go into the merits of the case and, if he cannot include a new post office in this year’s works, will make the necessary preliminary arrangements for its erection next year.
.- I desire to make a single observation of a general character upon these items. Many of them are under the heading of additions and alterations. I should like an assurance ‘from the Minister that the alterations referred to are properly chargeable to capital expenditure. This is a loan bill, and I think that ordinary alterations to existing buildings should be provided for out of revenue. I have in mind casual alterations that are required from time to time. Money raised by way of loan should be utilized only for alterations of a very substantial character.
.- The bill provides for the raising of £4,150,000 for post office purposes. This sum, together with amounts previously authorized, gives a total of £6,200,000, of which about £800,000 is set down for new buildings. This means that quite a number of urgent works will have to stand over. I sympathize with the Minister (Mr. Gibson), who must be confronted with much difficulty in deciding which post offices shall be built and which must be held over for the present. However, it is important from the point of view of every honorable member, that these local facilities should be obtained as early as possible. I am among those honorable members who have been disappointed with regard to the requests that they have made. I direct attention to the fact that the request for a new post office at Lutwyche has been before the department since 1919. It cannot be said that I have not urged the matter repeatedly, for I think that this is the third time that I have brought it before the committee, and I have reams of correspondence from the department. I understand that plans for the proposed new building are now in course of preparation, and I hope that the Minister will recognize that a district with a population of 15,000 should not have its postal business conducted in an allowance office in a grocer’s shop. I trust the Minister will see that, within the next couple of months, the work is proceeded with, and the official office opened as early as possible. Had it not been urgent I should not have brought it forward at this late hour.
.- I desire to enter an emphatic protest against the way in which the business of the committee is being conducted. The legislative machinery of the Commonwealth has come to a pretty pass when the Government sets apart a couple of hours for the consideration of a bill involving a loan expenditure of over £8,000,000. This complaint has been made a dozen times to the present Government, but I repeat it. I object to the way in which the business is brought down. The excuse given is that as the Senate has no work to do, this measure must be rushed through to-night. Members, after a long train journey, do not feel inclined to stay up until all hours of the night, and so the bill goes through. We are told that we may have an opportunity of protesting during the discussion on the Estimates, but the fact remains that in respect of measures like this, opportunities of debate and of eliciting information are lost. Honorable members on this side have protested from time ‘to time with regard to the subsidy given to
Amalgamated Wireless Limited, a commercial concern conducted principally for the profit of a few private shareholders. Notwithstanding that the Commonwealth should control the undertaking, it is con trolled by private enterprise. We have protested from time to time about the way in which the money of the Commonwealth has been allowed to be manipulated by a few individuals. I intend to vote against this item as a protest against the way in which the business is being conducted. Had the Government been anxious to give members an opportunity to criticize its financial operations, it would have called Parliament together at least a month earlier than it did. But the Government was not prepared for criticism. Everything possible was done to stave off the day when the Government would have to face this House, with the result that it now brings down and passes panic legislation while serious measures requiring careful consideration are brought forward at this late hour when honorable members are fatigued.
, - I do not propose on this occasion to make a long statement, because the opportunity to do so will be afforded me later. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) referred to the Bulli and Port Kembla, post offices. I admit that those buildings are not all that they should be, but on the Estimatesthere is an amount of £1,766 for Bulli, and £3,760 for Port Kembla, and he can rest assured that the buildings will be erected this year. I was pleased to hear the statement of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), who expressed sympathy for the department, in the difficult task it had to perform. Honorable members must realize the difficulties that confront the department in allocating the money that is voted to the many works that are urgent, and disappointment may be felt by some at their failure to get certain work carried out. We have a building programme, amounting to £800,000 for this year. That is greater by £250,000 than last year’s expenditure. It is proposed that the whole of that sum shall be spent, hut even then many necessary works will have to be held over until next year. We intend to proceed only with those works that are absolutely essential.
The honorable member for . Richmond (Mr. R. Green) referred to the Lismore post office. I admit that delay has occurred in that case, but it is intended to spend £5,000 on that office this year. Tenders have been received for the building at Coonamble, that was mentioned by the- honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), and its construction will be undertaken immediately. I think that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) is aware that the office at Drysdale is almost completed. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to build living quarters in many places. In some other countries there are not even post offices, let alone quarters for postmasters, in certain centres, the expenditure being devoted to the provision of a satisfactory service. We are endeavouring to give as good a service as possible, and quarters may be provided later. The aim of the department is to place single men in charge of offices where quarters are not provided, and to give to married men those offices that have quarters attached. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked me to inquire into the wages that are received by men working for the contractor at the General Post Office. I shall bring that matter to the notice of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), who, I have no doubt, will reply to the honorable member. I shall inquire into the position of the Gladstone post office, referred to bv the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) and the Euston post office, mentioned by the honorable member for Darling. As no provision has been made on the Estimates for those offices, the work cannot be regarded as urgent.
Mr. CHARLTON (Hunter) ^1.6”].- An amount of £330.000 is set down for assistance to immigrants. It is intended to depart from the old custom in regard to immigration, since th’s proposed vote will- he in addition to the amount provided for under an agreement that has been drafted, and, according to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), is on the point of completion. Apparently it has been accepted bv the Governnent. Hit not. s« *ar as I remember by this House. That agreement will place upon the Commonwealth a much greater financial burden than it has borne in the past.
– The amount provided in this bill has no reference to the agreement.
– I have said that. In past years we had only this expenditure to meet. In future the Commonwealth will have to bear a proportion of the interest on £34,000,000 that is to be borrowed over a period of ten years. At the proper time we will discuss the question of immigration and endeavour to place on record the views of honorable members on this side. My sole reason for rising was to point out that we are embarking on a new immigration system which will cost the Commonwealth a much greater sum than it has previously had to meet.We are not justified in doing that until proper arrangements have been made for the absorption of those who come to Australia. No one would object to assistance being given to immigrants if proper arrangements for their reception were made.
First schedule agreed to.
Second schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 September 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250902_reps_9_111/>.