10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– I have to announce that I propose to issue a writ on Monday next for the election of a member to stand for the electoral division of Eden-Monaro, in the
State of New South Wales, in place of the Honorable Sir Austin Chapman, deceased. The dates for the election will be fixed as follows: - Date of issue of writ, Monday, 25th January, 1926; date of nomination, Wednesday, 10th February, 1926; date of polling, Saturday, 6th March, 1926; date of return of writ, on or before Tuesday, 23rd March, 1926.
Mr.R. GREEN.- I understand that the Commonwealth. Government is interested in the boring for oil in Papua by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.Is it a fact that oil has been found in commercial quantities by the company in Papua ? If so, in what way, if any, will the Commonwealth benefit by this discovery ?
– The Government has up to the present time received no advice confirming the alleged discovery of oil in Papua.
EXPERIMENTS by Dr. Smalpage.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he can give the House an outline of the arrangements made with Dr. Smalpage in regard to the supply of serum for the treatment of tuberculosis. Do the Government intend to establish an institution under the control of Dr. Smalpage for the treatment of patients as soon as a supply of his serum is available?
– Arrangements have been made by which Dr. Smalpage will cany out certain experiments, and produce a certain amount of serum at the Government laboratory. It is intended to place this in the hands of a number of physicians, who will select special cases of persons suffering from tuberculosis, in which it will be tested over a period of some months. I believe that no serum will be available for two, three, four, or possibly six weeks. In view of the importance of the matter, and the number of questions which have been asked by honorable members on the subject, I think it will be advisable if early next week, with the permission of the House, I make a statement on the matter.
Alleged Slight to Sir John Monash,
– During one Corio election I wronged Sir John Monash by a false accusation. Will the Prime Minister say whether his attention has been called to a paragraph similar to that which I bring under his notice, concerning the failure to invite Sir John Monash to receive Field-Marshal Allenby. If so, and a wrong has been done to the gentleman referred to, will he make inquiries and inform the House who is to blame for what has occurred ?
– The paragraph to which the honorable member has drawn my attention had not previously come under my observation. I shall have inquiries made, and shall let the honorable member know the result later.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral, with reference to cases which have been pending for many years of claims against enemy countries, or by enemy countries against citizens of Australia, in respect of enemy goods seized during the war, whether he can tell me the present position, and whether he can do anything to expedite their settlement, especially in connexion with the South African Prize Court.
– As the merits of each of these claims depends upon its own circumstances, it would be impossible to give a general answer which would apply to all. In some cases claims are based upon, grounds which appear to be sound. I shall have inquiries made and ascertain whether it is possible to supply information which will be of value to the honorable member.
– Before accepting tenders for the construction of the new Post Office and Commonwealth Bank buildings in Brisbane, will the Minister for Works and Railways see that the fullest consideration is given to the use of Central Queensland granite and marble as well as other Queensland materials in those buildings.
Mr.HILL- The matter is now under consideration. Mr. Murdoch is absent in one of the other States, and I have not been ableto getinto touchwithhim. I understand that even if tenders are aace.pted under the (present specifications, it willbepossible to make alterations in favourofthe tuseof Queensland stone if that isfound to be desirable.
– In view of the extraordinary large number of absent votes polled at the recentFederal election, makingit obvious that.a great many persons must have neglected to transfer their names to electoral divisions to Which they had moved, and to avoid prosecution under the Compulsory Voting Act, voted as absent voters, will the Prime Minister cause the returning officers to make the strictest scrutiny ofthe absent votes with a view to seeing that the personsrecording themareproperly enrolled inthe divisions in whichtey reside?
– Ishalldiscussthe subject Taised with the Minister for Home and ‘Territories, who controls electoral matters.
Mr.JACKSON.- In view of the defect which has developed in one of the cables between the mainland and Tasmania, I ask the Postmaster-General whether there hasbeen any undue delay in the delivery ofcablegrams dispatched to or from Tasmania.
– The Department is doing itsbestto handle all the cablegrams betweenthe mainland and Tasmania with the one cable still available. If that is found impracticable, we shall use other means, probably wireless, to transmit messages.
Motion (By Mr. Bruce;), by leave, agreedto -
That unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet forthe dispatch of business at 3 o’clock on each Wednesday afternoon, at 2:30 o’clock on each Thursdayafternoon, andat 1.1 o’clock on each Friday morning.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether his Department has yet supplied wirelessreceiving sets to lighthouse-keeperson the Australian coast and thecoastofTasmania?
– Wireless sets were supplied to certain lighthouse stations, but they had to be withdrawn. Action is now being taken to supply certain isolated stations withwireless telephones,It is not proposed to supply wireless listeningin setstolighthouse-keepers.
Mr.GREGORY asked the Minister for Trade andCustoms,upon notice -
Willhe lay on thetablethe report ofthe
Tariff Boardin connexion with the gazettal of lubricants under the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act?
– A copy of the report of the Tariff Board referred to by the honorable member will be laid upon the table of the library.
asked the Ministerfor Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he secure a report from the Picture Films Censor as to -
– The answers to the. honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1. (l) No film entitled “The Smart Set” has been examined by the Commonwealthh Film Censor, but on19th August, 1925, a picture named “The Fast Set” was passed by the Chief Censor. Probably this is the film to which the honorable member refers.
In passing or rejecting a film the Censor does not take into account its entertainment value.
Sale of Building Sites
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether’ the reclassification of the Papuan Public Service promised last Parliament has taken place; if so, when?
- Mr. E. C. Kraegen, Commonwealth Public Service Inspector, South Australia, whose services were made available by the Commonwealth Public Service Board of Commissioners for the purpose of reclassifying the Papuan Public Service, visited the Territory in October and November last. This officer is at present engaged on the preparation of his report and recommendations..
– On the 14th January, in reply to the honorable member for Indi (Mr Cook), I promised to have inquiries made regarding the possibility of the lifting of the embargo on the import of Italian broom millet.
I now desire to inform the honorable member that representations were recently made by the employers and employees engaged in the broom-making industry that the prohibition of the import of this millet deprived the broom industry of certain varieties of millet essential to the making of brooms, and that a sufficient supply of those varieties could not be obtained from Australian-grown millet. It was urged that the prohibition should be modified to permit of its importation under adequate, safeguards, so as to prevent the possibility of the introduction of the European cornborer pest to Australia. The only method regarded by the Health Department as being entirely safe and practicable is the disinfection in a vacuum steam process of all imported millet. A preliminary inquiry has, therefore, been made through the Consul-General for Italy to ascertain whether the Italian Government would undertake to carry out this disinfection before shipment, and give reliable certificates that this has been done. When a reply to this inquiry is received, the question as to whether importation of Italian millet under these safeguards may be permitted will again be considered.
The following papers were presented: -
Canberra - Memorandum (dated 21st December, 1925) by the Chairman, Federal Capital Commission, on the subject of the transfer to Canberra.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1925, No. 219.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Trentham, Victoria, for Postal purposes.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance No. 1 of 1926- Auctioneers.
Northern Territory Representation Act and Commonwealth Electoral Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 5. /
Port Augusta-Oodnadatta Railway to Alice Springs - Plans, books of reference, estimates, and other information in connexion with proposed railway extension.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 2.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Hill) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and His Majesty’s Government of the State of South Australia.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hill), by leave, agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the extension of the Port
Augusta railway by the construction of a railway to Alice Springs.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That he have leave to- bring in a bill for an act to amend the Crimes Act 1914-15.
.- I hope that before the House grants leave to the Attorney-General to introduce such a very important measure as I understand this to be, it will insist upon an explanation of its purpose.
– The honorable member should welcome it.
– I may welcome it; my attitude will be governed by its contents. There are many directions in which the Crimes Act should be amended. For instance, I have a lively recollection of Tasmanian potatoes having been allowed -to rot on the wharfs of Sydney because the importers were not prepared to sell them at a reasonable price to the people of New South Wales. The Crimes Act might very well be amended %o deal with people who deal with foodstuffs in that way.
– Would the honorable member also deal with the people who declare foodstuffs “ black” ?
– I must know the purpose of this measure before I shall consent to its introduction. We have proof of the lengths to which this Government is prepared to go to stifle popular liberty at the bidding of the people represented by honorable members opposite. If the Government is introducing a measure to provide for the punishment of unlawful bodies which are trying to upset constitutional usage and undermine the constitution and the stability of the British Empire, I shall be prepared to help them. But if this bill is, as I suspect, a deliberate and craftily planned attack upon trade unionism, I will not agree to give leave for its introduction. When trade unionism was founded in Great Britain its pioneers were persecuted, jailed and transported. But, after years of struggle and . trial, the unions were established and were able to proceed with their mission to better the conditions of the workers. To-day, under the guise of an attempt to combat communism, a sinister scheme is afoot to undermine trade unionism. I shall oppose the bill tooth and nail. If the Government proposes by cunning’ and crafty methods to undermine trades unionism, and to allow those interests which it represents to work their own sweet will on the workers of this country, I shall strenuously oppose the bill. On the other hand, if its object is to deal with persons who stand for unconstitutional methods, I shall not oppose it. I make these few preliminary remarks as an indication of what the Minister may expect if he, attempts to proceed with the bill, whose object is to attack trade unionism in this country. Before the Minister obtains leave to introduce the bill, the House should compel him to give some explanation of it, and some indication of the proposed amendments of the Grimes Act.
.- I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). It is a very simple thing to place on the noticepaper a motion for leave to introduce a bill to amend the Crimes Act, but every one knows that the Government is endeavouring to cover up the mess made last Parliament by some members of the legal fraternity on that side of the House. Those honorable members then made a holy mess of their endeavour to preserve the Empire, and now the Government is asking for leave to introduce a bill to amend the Crimes Act. As instanced a day or two ago, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has been put in his present position in place of another gentleman who had not done his job properly. We, therefore, expected that the AttorneyGeneral would at least inform the House of the objects of the bill, and whom it was to include, and to give an assurance to honorable members that there was no intention whatever to interfere with what would be termed by that side of the House wise and sane trade unionism. We should have the assurance that this bill will not go any farther than the last Parliament intended to go. In spite of our protests the bill will no doubt be passed with the. aid of the Government’s brutal majority, and, perhaps, of the “ gag.” It was admitted in this House last week that a public servant of the Commonwealth, holding a fairly responsible position, was an advocate and organizer of the Fascisti Society. We know nothing of the aims of this Klu Klux Klan of Australia, and before introducing the bill we should ascertain whether this society will be amongst those which are to be dealt with under it. It is most immoral for this Government to foster this society, or to allow one of its public servants to belong to a secret organization. I wish now to refer to the “ guffaw,” or satirical laughter, that occurred when the honorable member for Dalley said that he was prepared to protect the Empire, in the event of any attempt being made to destroy it. That is what the great majority of the Labour people in Australia desire. I believe in the Empire, and in keeping it intact. I have never said one word calculated to affect the stability of the British Empire. I said, a day or two ago, that there was no flag like the Union Jack, and that, as far as I was concerned, it was above all others. This party refuses to be dragged at the heels of Great Britain in its foreign and imperial policy, and because of this we are told by honorable members opposite that we are not loyal to Great Britain. As a matter of fact, of the soldiers who fought in the Great War, the great majority would be relatives of those represented by honorable members on this side of the House. Indeed, 98 per cent, of the people in Australia are of British extraction, and love the land of their forbears. These people cherish the sentiment which inspires the lines -
Breathes there aman with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Honorable members on this side of the House stand for the Empire as much as any on that side of the House, but we do not stand for the brand of imperialism that honorable members opposite wish to force upon us. I hope the object of the bill is not to destroy the trade unions of Australia, which has been built up by our workers at great cost and sacrifice to themselves. The principle of trade unionism is accepted and supported by the great majority of the people, and therefore no attempt should be made to interfere with it in any way to the detriment of the workers.
.- I rise to oppose the motion, which is merely an attempt by the Government to cover up its misdeeds. There is no need for the proposed bill. Under the Crimes Act and State acts we have sufficient power- to deal with breaches of the law. Any government that attempts to interfere with the liberties of the people is on dangerous ground. Since Magna Charta much has been done to improve the conditions of the British race, and we should be chary of accepting any proposal by the Government to alter or amend’ our laws in a way which will imperil what has been won. I am sorry that a comparatively young man like the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) is asking for leave to introduce a bill of this nature, particularly because quite recently he appeared in court for the ship-owners, in their prosecution of Walsh and others.. In his legal practice his best clients have always been persons of wealth, such as ship-owners. He does not expect much business from working, men. One would have thought that Australia would, produce nien with nobler ideals than those we have reason to ‘ expect, to be expressed in the Crimes Bill.- It is depressing to think that in these so-called enlightened days- men may be prosecuted for exercising the liberty which their great grandfathers, grandfathers, and even fathers, secured at the cost of much suffering. I can well remember what my own father suffered for his trade-union principles. Australia has- done & great deal- for the AttorneyGeneral, and he ought to be ashamed to bake any part in placing on our’ statutebook legislation of the character now contemplated. I trust that even yet wiser counsels may prevail, and so prevent the introduction of this measure. During the election campaign the working class in our community was roundly abused. It- might have been assumed, from- some of the campaign speeches, that it is a crime to do hard manual work. Only those who are born with a. silver spoon in their mouth appear, in- the judgment of some honorable^ members, to possess any rights. As this bill has been designed, to apply to only one class of the community, it will be useless for those who intend to support it to say that they believe in a free and democratic Australia. All the States have passed legislation to authorize the punishment of persons who make seditious speeches, or incite the people to disobey the law, so there is no- reason for Federal action.
But for the stupidity of the Government in forcing the deportation measures through the last Parliament, the AttorneyGeneral would not have moved this motion. My honoured Leader (Mr. Charlton) was severely criticized during the election campaign, and . so was his party.’ People asked why the Labour party did not do this or that; but the Labour party is not prepared to sacrifice the great humanitarian ideals for which it has stood ever- since its formation. It would forego the privileges and emoluments of office- rather than sacrifice- its principles. Can honorable members imagine me assisting the British shipowners to reduce wages? If either my party or I myself had taken, or allowed any other party or person to take, a move with that object, honorable members opposite would never have ceased to condemn us. We could not stand by quietly and see’ the British seamen being ‘ thrown to the wolves. To reduce the British seamen’s wage’s after they had left their home ports- was wicked, cruel,- and unjust, not only to the seamen themselves, but to their’ wives and children also. I can well remember the great fight of Samuel Plimsoll against the British ship-owners in the days’ when they regularly sent to sea vessels’ that were nothing but coffin ships. We cannot expect the Attorney-General to support the seamen against the ship-owners, in whose pay he has been within the lastfew weeks. He .cannot change- his ground in a few days, unless he is the most marvelous Minister we have had in Parliament. I wish the Government to understand definitely that I shall resist this proposal with every ounce of my power. During my long career I have endeavoured to improve the standard of life in Australia, and to make this country the best in the world. Seeing that such a great deal has been accomplished in that direction without revolution, bloodshed, or destruction of property, we should nob, at this period in our history, when free education has made the democracy more intelligent than ever -before, fear to allow our people the fullest possible liberty. We regret sometimes that* the flow of immigrants to Australia is not stronger. The fact of the matter is that the people of Great Britain have observed the tendency of Australia towards conservatism. Having lived under Conservative governments all their lives in Britain, they have no desire to , come to Australia Icer more experience of the same .character. Notwithstanding the result of the election, the (Government would be wise to let well :alone.. ‘There is mo more necessity .for legislation of this description than there is justification .for attempting to imprison or punish people who have the courage of their convictions, and “express their opinions in a lawful way. 3?he world has progressed only because of the determination’ of men who suffered for the stand they took in matters affecting the welfare of the people. When first we spoke in the Domain, ‘in Sydney, in favour of old-age pensions, the outcry which resulted made us wonder whether we had done something for which we deserved to .be shot ; and when we advocated preference to unionists, the press of Australia went nearly mad. To-day, no newspaper in Australia dares to employ on its reporting staff a man who is not a member of the Australian Journalists’ Association. What is the reason for this special legislation? Special legislation to punish any particular class in the ‘community in order to benefit another has always been attended with failure ; it has not made for .progress. I nope that the Attorney-General will realize the seriousness of iis contemplated action, and will not .allow himself .to be led. blindly ,DY those with whom he associates. His duty is to bring forward, .not class (legislation, but measures the passing of “which will benefit <the whole community. The proposed Crimes Bill is purely class legislation. Had the views of the High Court sheen known before polling day, many honorable members now -sitting on the other side would have received no parliamentary ‘salary (this month, as they would not have been elected as members of this House. While -I have little doubt that the Attorney.General, fearing that unless he obeys those who advocate, this legislation he may be deposed from (has ‘high office, will act as (they desire, I ‘nevertheless advise him to -consider how serious a thing it is ito bring forward legislation which is in the interests of one class of the community only. He should remember that the existing laws in Australia are sufficient “to punish -adequately any evil-doers in our midst. The introduction of a bill of ‘this nature will do more harm to Australia than ‘any good that it can possibly accom plish. It will proclaim to the world that Australia contains a number of persons whose character is such that they are unfit to remain in the country, whereas we all know that that is not so. If the Attorney-General is -honestly ‘of the opinion that existing conditions “in Australia justify the introduction of :a measure of this nature, he should .acquaint this House with the facts. Probably the pearls of wisdom which have fallen from honorable members on this side will have the effect of causing him to pause, and to satisfy” himself as to ‘the necessity for this legislation. This bill is framed to injure trade unionism in. Australia, and to prevent trade unionists from giving .expression to their honest opinions. The people of Australia are not in favour of robbing Australian citizens of the right of free speech, yet that is the object of this measure. I hope that the Government will yet see the wisdom of withdrawing the bill and of dealing with .evildoers in our midst under .the existing legislation, which is adequate for the purpose. .Should it not do so, I hope that honorable members will ,be guided .by the principles .of moderation ,and justice^ =and will prevent such a measure from being placed on .the statute-book.
– The procedure which is customary in introducing measures of this nature has been /followed on this occasion. At a later stage, when leave to introduce the bill has been obtained, I purpose giving honorable members full information .as ito ‘its contents, hut I -take this opportunity of saying that it will ‘comply with the requirements mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), that it will deal with the attacks which have been made on the Constitution, and that it is designed to assist trade unionism. Accordingly, the honorable member should give it his support.
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 ‘revenue be made for the purposes o’f a -bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the State of Western Australia.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Latham do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– Imove -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In moving the second reading of this Bill to grant a sum of £450,000 to assist the finances of Western Australia this year I may say that the difficulty of the problem facing the Government is evidenced by the fact that the Royal Commission which was appointed to go into the whole question of the disabilities under which Western Australia suffers as a result of entering the Federation failed to arrive at a unanimous decision on the matter or to indicate one single remedy for the troubles from which Western Australia is suffering. All the commissioners agreed that Western Australia does suffer from disabilities, but they disagreed as to the degree of those disabilities, and the methods which should be applied to remedy them. From the beginning the financial disabilities under which Western Australia has laboured as a result of her entrance into the federation have been frankly recognized. In the convention discussions before federation was consummated the position of Western Australia was debated at great length. Finally a special section was inserted in the Constitution, Section 95, which provided that for the first five years after federation the Western Australian Parliament should have the right to impose a Customs tariff of its own in addition to the uniform tariff of the Commonwealth, and so collect revenue to enable the State to properly adjust its finances.’ That was done by Western Australia for five years, and sums varying from a maximum of £233,000 down to £77,000 at the termination of the period fixed for the special arrangement were collected by the Western Australian Government from the people of that State to assist it in balancing its finances. Again in 1910 when the present per capita arrangement was arrived at it was agreed by the Commonwealth and also by the States that the special position of Western Australia should be recognized and provision was made that not only should Western Australia receive the per capita grant in accordance with the general arrangement applying to all the States, but that she should also receive a special payment over a period of 25 years commencing with £250,000 inthe first year with gradual reductions of £10,000 each year until the grant was extinguished. It was provided that that payment should be contributed to, not only by the Commonwealth Government, but by the Governments of the other States as well. That arrangement has been given effect to, and at the present time Western Australia is receiving under it something like £100,000 a year, of which £50,000 is contributed by the other States and. £50,000 by the Commonwealth. At the time. when the capitation agreement was made providing for an annual payment bv the Commonwealth of 25s. per head of the inhabitants of each State it was anticipated that there would be a continuous and steady increase in the population of Western Australia, and that because of its huge size and great resources which were less developed than those of the other States it would, in the course of time, be in a very good position indeed. Unfortunately the position of Western Australia has not improved as was anticipated. Whereas in 1911-12, the first complete year of the operation of the per capita payment agreement, Western Australia received something like 10.3 per cent, of the total moneys paid by the Commonwealth to the States under the agreement, in 1925-26 it is estimated she will receive only 7.47 per cent, of the total payment under the agreement because her population has not increased at the same rate as that of some of the Eastern States, and because of the reduced amount payable to Western Australia under the 25 years’ arrangement to which I have already referred. The financial difficulties of Western Australia must be quite obvious to any one who has studied the annual financial statements furnished by the various Governments of that State. The direct effects upon the finances of Western Australia, and also the indirect effects on the finances through the effect on industry generally due to its entrance into the Federation, have received recognition at the hands of independent bodies and independent inquiries. For instance, when the Tariff Board, in 1924, was sent to Western Australia to examine the position there, it reported : -
Whatever additional cost the policy of protection may add to the price of goods and material imported by the Australian consumers, the citizens of the eastern States gain, as a compensating advantage, the presence of a large production and manufacture. Such is not the case with Western Australia, which is so placed that at present it has to bear whatever burden may arise under the protectionist tariif without reaping any of the accompanying advantages.
It went on to say -
It has been claimed by the critics, and it will be conceded by the Tariff Board, that the position into which the secondary industries of Western Australia have drifted is most unfortunate. The Tariff Board is further satisfied that the situation has been growing steadily worse since the Colonial Treasurer (the Hon. H. P. Colebatch) made his statement in 1918. The Tariff Board is satisfied that it is wrong to blame the tariff for this position alone. Western Australia’s remoteness from the other States, and the continually increasing cost of transport, coupled with the impracticability of manufacturing on a large scale from lack of capacity to compete on competitive terms in eastern State markets, is in a great part responsible for this backward state of secondary industries.
We have from this independent board a definite recognition only not of a direct influence on the finances of Western Australia, but an indirect influence also, due to the fact that her industries did not expand and prosper in the same way as those of the eastern States. It can be taken for granted that the disabilities of Western Australia are admitted by the’ governments of all the States. The Western Australian Disabilities Commission recognized the disabilities under which the State laboured, but each commissioner suggested different methods of overcoming the difficulties that have arisen and of remedying the disabilities. Mr. Entwistle, for instance, frankly says that, in his opinion, secession from the Commonwealth is the only cure. Mr. Higgs, as his method of helping Western Australia, suggests that we should give the State control of her own tariff for 25 years, and that at the same time the huge area in the north-west, which she has to develop, should be handed over to the Commonwealth for creation into a new State, thereby securing additional Western Australian representation in the Commonwealth Parliament. Mr. Mills, the third commissioner, said that neither of these two remedies will meet the case, and he suggests a money grant for the next 25 years. Mr. Entwistle admits the impracticability of secession as a remedy of Western Australia’s great difficulty, because he does not believe that it is possible to bring it about, and he, therefore, allies himself with Mr. Higgs in the presentation of a majority report, which states -
That the State of Western Australia shall, during a period of 25 years, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, have the absolute right -
to impose its own Customs tariff as in pre-federation days, provided the State of Western Australia shall not impose higher duties upon the importation into the State of Western Australia of any goods produced or manufactured in or imported from other States of Australia than are imposed on the importation into the State of Western Australia of the like goods produced or manufactured in or imported from other countries;
to impose its own Excise tariff.
The amount of money to be contributed by the State of Western Australia to the Federal expenditure of the Commonwealth in excess of Federal income tax, land tax, and probate duties, &c, to be determined by negotiation between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the State of Western Australia; or, in case of disagreement, byan arbitrator, who shall be a citizen of the British Empire.
That is the recommendation of the majority of the commission. The third commissioner, Mr. Mills, definitely disagreed with this recommendation on several grounds, and it is worth while, for a moment or two, to examine the commission’s report and findings.
– It should have been called the “ Disagreement Commission.”
– The issues raised are very far-reaching indeed. Mr. Mills points out that to carry out a policy of this nature would practically nullify the Federation; that one of the main reasons why Federation was consummated was to secure interstate freetrade and make Australia a nation, in essence as well as in name. Without interstate freetrade there is no question that the Federation would be very much weaker than it is at the present time. He points out that not merely on the larger ground of national unity and national destiny should the matter not: be settled in the way suggested, but because the ultimate effect of the State having control of its ownstariff and utilizing it in the way suggested must be to improve the position of the State treasury at the expense of the taxpayers of the. State. He says -
At present Western Australia presents the picture of a prosperous people and an imperfectly filled State Treasury. With a Western Australian tariff operating against the rest of Australia and a Commonwealth tariff operating against Western Australia, the picture would probably be one of a less prosperous people and a fuller State Treasury.
If one looks back upon the history of Western Australia’s connexion with the Commonwealth he will see that Mr. Mills’s contention is borne out by what accursed in the first five years of Federation, when Western’ Australia enjoyed the privilege of imposing a tariff of her own. To permit Western Australia to impose a tariff on goods from the other States would practically abolish interstate free trade. During the five years in which Western Australia had actual experience of a tariff of her own, she raised various sums of money and, in one year, as I have said, as much as £233,000, but she raised that revenue from her own people, who had to pay extra prices because the tariff she imposed upon goods admitted to. the State meant higher prices charged by the retailers of those goods to Western Australian consumers and, indirectly, the money came out. of the pockets of her own people. Under this system, Western Australia would herself be paying to put her finances in order, andI think it is the desire of this House and of Australia generally that she should be helped. from outside. The suggestion that she should impose her- own. tariff would: leave her just where she is.
– But under it she would be able tobuild up her industries.
– Coming to the procedure suggested by the report of the majpnity, of the. commissioners, it is that Western, Australia should impose her own Customs tariff as in pre-Federation days, provided: no higher duties were imposed against goodsimported from the other States than, against goods imported from outside Australia, andwhen she has done that the amount of money to be contributed by Western Australia to the Federal expenditure should be determined by negotiation between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia, and, in the event of disagreement, by am arbitrator who must be a citizen of the British Empire. The only difficulty about that is that when one examines what is spent by the Commonwealth in Western Australia for all purposes, including, old-age pensions, postal services, navigation, and the various activities carried out by the Commonwealth, it is found that itamounts to £745,000, more than the Commonwealth receives from Western Australia from all sources.
– Not including Customs, receipts.
– Yes, including them. It is true, however, that the Under-Treasurer of Western Australia contended that the State contributed’ in revenue £298,000 more from all sources! than was expended on behalf of the State. The Commission, however, having examined the figures placed before it, regarded the divergence of opinion on the point as hopeless. When this question has been examined the prices which rule in Western Australia have always been overlooked. That. State at present Gnjoys interstate freetrade, which some say is detrimental to certain of her industries. Whilst that may be so in the case of some industries, it is an advantage in the case of others In the suggestions made there is nc id’ea” in the minds of a majority of the members of the commission that thereshould be any subvention from the Commonwealth. In fact, it is suggested that an arbitrator should be appointed by the Imperial Government to determine how much should be returned to the; Common wealth for generalservices rendered. If the. Western Australian Government were to impose a tariff high enough to enable its State finances to be adjusted, it would have to be sufficiently high to raise more than the Commonwealth is raising in Western Australia at present. If- the. protective tariff at present imposed is doing. Western Australia any harm, it would seem that if a larger amount were. colleeted under an increased tariff it would be more harmful, becausethe extra money would have to come out pf the pockets of the Western Australian people. This proposal of a separate tariff is really that of the chairman of thecommission, because Mr. Entwistle supports it only as he regards secession as impracticable. He looks upon this proposal as a half-way house. On the other hand, Mr. Mills, another member of the commission, points out the disadvantages associated with the proposal, . and I think the information I have given disposes of it fairly completely. I believe that there is a general feeling throughout Australia that Western Australia should be assisted financially to enable her to develop her huge resources without eventually penalizing her people. For that reason the Government has decided upon the payment this year of a financial grant. All the commissioners agreed that if secession and a higher tariff were impracticable, a money grant should be made Available. Two of the commissioners suggested the payment of an annual grant of £450,000 for ten. years, including the present additional grant made by the States and the Commonwealth over and above the per capita payment. The recommendation of Mr. Mills was the payment of £300,000, which would also be inclusive of the present payments. TheRecommendationsdiffer widely as to the amount to be paid, and neither isaccompanied by any definite reason as to why the particular amount has been specified,. To give an opportunity to ascertain what should finally be done, theGovernment has decided, as it istoo late to go into the matter very extensivelyduring this financial year, to propose the grant provided for in the (bill, and recommended by the majority of the Commission, namely, £450,000. Whether that amount isthe right one or not can only be determined by looking at the financial position of Western Australia during the past six or seven years. In the five years priorto 30th June, 1924, the average deficit of theState was £544,000, but duringbhe last financial year 1924-5, the deficitwas reduced to £59,000. The UnderTreasurer of Western’ Australia, however,stated that that reduction had been accomplished only by getting theCom- monwealth Government to collectthe income taxation earlier. Nevertheless, the State Government this year budgeted for a deficit of £98,00.0, but provision has also been made for additional expenditure amounting to £490,000.
– Is the Western Australian Government taking the proposed Commonwealth grant into consideration’?
– No. At the time the amount of the Commonwealth grant had not been settled. There is one aspect of this question which needs to be borne in mind by the people of Australia and by the members of this House, and that is that the Commonwealth is only able to pay money to the peopleof one State after collecting itby taxation imposed upon the whole of the people. Even a special grant to the people of one State who are themselves not contributing their full quota on the per capita basis, must come out of the pockets of the rest of the taxpayers of Australia,
– Are the Western Australian authorities asked to applythis money to the reduction of their deficit or are they given a free hand?
– The money may be applied to such purposes as the Parliament of Western Australia approves.
– Then you are paying this large sum of money, althoughthey have a smaller deficit this yearthan they had in former years.
– We are not granting the money for thereduction of any specified deficit, but, as Western Australia under our protectionist policy has not increased its population and prosperity as rapidly as hav.e theother States, we have adopted this policy, not merely for the purpose of adjusting its finances, but also to enablethe State Government to assist in makingthe State more prosperous and to enable it to carry on its work moreefficiently. The Commonwealth Government, howewer, cannot find money in unlimited amounts, and we think, therefore, that the time has arrived for considering the position not only of Western Australia, but also of Tasmania, and the whole questionof the financialrelationship of theCommonwealth and the States. The only way in which this relationship can be placed on a proper basis is to have a fulldiscussion of the whole position, and to drive home the factthat in allsystems of subsidy such as this it is the people of the other States whoare contributing.
We must ascertain whether the method adopted at present for the distribution of excess Commonwealth revenue is the best one to adopt. If we consider the per capita system we must admit that it is not the most satisfactory method. Operations over the last fifteen years prove that it is not completely satisfactory. Some grants which have been made, as, for instance, that for the maintenance of main roads, have not been given solely on a per capita basis, but on a per capita and area basis combined, and there is no doubt that some other basis than mere population should be devised in connexion with future grants. Therefore the Government has invited the representatives of the States to meet it in conference during the present financial year in order to deal with the whole question of the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States, so as to see if some scheme more equitable and general in its application cannot be devised under which those States which have a comparatively small population but enormous resources will be able to develop more rapidly than at present.
– Could not something be done in the matter of land tax ?
– That was attempted by a Labour Government fifteen years ago, but without much success. Another matter upon which I wish to touch is raised by the suggestion of the Chairman of the Commission as to what should be done with the country forming the northern part of Western Australia.
– Has the Government any proposal for succeeding years ?
– I am not putting any forward at present. That will be dealt with at the conference between the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States. The whole question which will include the subject of financial assistance to Western Australia, Tasmania, and any other States which may happen to be in a financial position similar to that of Western Australia will then be considered. This is simply a grant for one year. The financial relationship of the Commonwealth and the States urgently calls for reconsideration and revision, and is a matter to which the Government propose to give attention at the earliest pos sible moment. In the meantime, it is essential that provision should be made to enable Western Australia to carry on this year. The State has been promised this money, and the measure has been submitted to enable her to obtain the grant.
– Is this amount to be paid annually for ten years ?
– No; for this year only.
– When was the promise made?
– As soon as the Commission’s report was available a promise was made by the Prime Minister, but when the report was presented there was insufficient time to go into the whole question. The Commission raised certain constitutional questions, in addition to the financial question, and the Prime Minister stated at the time that a grant would be made for one year, and later the whole subject would be dealt with in a comprehensive and satisfactory way.
– The State deficit for last year was only £80,000, but the Commonwealth is offering a first payment of £450,000.
– This proposed payment is inclusive of the grant of £96,888 already provided for by the Surplus Revenue Act so that the net increase in the payment to Western Australia under this bill will be only £353,112. The position of the northwest was placed before the Commission by many witnesses, including Messrs. Collier, Scaddan, and Miles, and others who held, or had held, official positions in Western Australia. Most of them’ stated definitely that it was impossible for the State to undertake the development of the whole of its huge area. That evidence is corroborated, to some extent, by the statement in this morning’s newspapers that the Government of Western Australia is applying for £10,000,000 of the migration money made available to the Commonwealth by the British Government, for land settlement schemes in the southern part of the State alone. The Chairman of the Commission, in his report, dealt at length with the position of the northwest. I do not propose to discuss his arguments at this stage, but I think that when the Northern Australia Bill, which was before another place last session, is re-introduced, it will afford a favorable opportunity for the full discussion of the future of, not only the Northern Territory, but also north-western Australia. The decision of Parliament in regard to that measure may affect materially the future attitude of the Commonwealth towards Western Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. A. Green) adjourned.
– I move -
That this bill be now read a second time.
In presenting his budget for the present financial year, the Treasurer indicated that the Government proposed to allocate a portion of the surplus for the financial year 1924-5 for the encouragement of prospecting for precious metals. This bill is designed to give the Government power to put that intention into execu tion. The Commonwealth Year-Book states -
The value of production from the mineral industries is now considerably less than that returned by the agricultural or the pastoral industry; nevertheless, it was the discovery of gold in payable quantities that first attracted population to Australia, and thus laid the foundation of its nationhood.
The extent of the mineral resources of Australia cannot yet be regarded as completely ascertained, because large areas of country still await systematic prospecting. It is well known that in recent years there has been a serious decline in the mining industry. The reasons which have been advanced for this decline are - (1) high cost of production; (2) deterioration of ore values in existing mines; (3) inadequate machinery; (4) high freights; (5) high treatment charges;
Unfortunately, the general decline which has characterized Australia’s gold output for a number of years has not yet been arrested by any discovery of new fields of importance. Unless new rich fields are discovered, or more economical methods of production can be devised,the return to normal of the price of gold will have a very depressing effect on the industry. The allocation of £15,000 to the Northern Territory provided for in this bill will, it is hoped, result in a revival of interest in its mineral resources. Since he Commonwealth took control of the Territory the development of the mining industry has been encouraged by the payment of subsidies to prospectors and others engaged in the industry, the erection of Government batteries, and the organization of Government prospecting parties. In recent years, however, Government expenditure on mining in the Territory has been comparatively small. Under the provisions of this bill the Government will be enabled to extend a greater measure of encouragement to the mining industry there. The allocation of £25,000 to the States should materially help to stimulate the search for new fields of precious metals. This sum will form a very valuable addition to the assistance extended to mining by the various State Governments, which expended the following sums in aid of prospecting during the financial year 1924-25: - New South Wales, £7,500; South Australia, £2,122 ; Western Australia, £5,888; Queensland, £4,600; Tasmania, £880; Victoria, £21,241; total £42,231. Thisbill authorizes the Government to supplement those payments by £25,000, plus a further amount of £l5,000 for the NorthernTerritory.I feel surethatthe bill willcommend itself totheHouse.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [4.40]. - I think the bill will meet with the general concurrence of “honorable members. To a remarkable extent the development of Australia is attributabletothediscovery of minerals, particularlygold. In 1851., when Hargraves made his worldfamous discovery of alluvialgold in New South Wales,the population of Australia was only 437,665, but in a decade it increased to 1,168,149. For many yearswe have “been painting all sortsof alluring pictures ofthisland of goldenopportunities in order to attract settlers fromoverseas, but agreat discoveryof gold would not only cause a considerablemovement of our existingpopulation,but would mean a tremendous influx of people from other partsof the world . Ihave nodesire to criticize the administrationof the State mining departments, butI think that much more might have ‘been done by them toencourage researchinto the problems which hamper the development of the mineral industry. There are in Australia manyrefractory ones, which because of the combination of metals and their chemical composition, are difficulttotreat. If some process wereinvented forthe economical treatment of these ores,gold mining would receive a great stimulus. These arerefractory ores in the Avoca district, and in a great number of our other mining fields in Victoria. I wellremember that a trial shipment of about 2 tons was taken from a mine at Percydale, near Avoca, by a German named Captain Freyburg, and sent toGermany. It was treated there and yielded about 2 oz. of gold, a fair percentage of silver, and a percentage of copper as well. That mine xemains to-day as it was 30 years ago. What puzzles me is that with the decline of the production of gold throughout the world, we have not been able to obtain machinery to work refractory ores profitably.
– Those ores would not be refractory. There must be antimony in them.
– “ Refractory ores” was the term applied years ago. Every one-knows that in Australia to-day there is farmore gold than was ever taken out of it.
– It would cost itoo much to recover the gold.
– Surely inventive geniuses are to foe found ito devise improved machinery. It is well -known that although Broken Hillwas openedup forthe production of silver, yet leadproduction there has been a far better proposition. The adoption of improved methods and machinery at the Broken Hill field has enhanced its valuebymillions of pounds.
– That has come about by the application of science to industry.
– That is so.The operation of theDe Bavay process resultedinthe gain of millions of pounds to Australia. If investigation and research were applied to the gold-mining industry, surey better results would accnue. On the building of developmentalrailways largely depend the opportunities presentedfor exploiting our mineral /resources. I believe that in Central Australia will be found valuable mineral resources. In a few years’ time we shall be discussing the ultimate route of the North-South line,and therewill be a pull to divert it into Queensland and New South Wales. The development of our mineral resources will mean an increased! population,and in constructing the NorthSouth line w.e must consider the possibilities of mineral discoveries in the Northern Territory land Western Australia, -as well as in western Queensland and western NewSouth Wales. Some years ago I suggested to the Minister then in charge of the Northern Territory that if we wished to attract population tothe Northern Territory it would be necessary to discover a good mining proposition, and therefore it would pay the Government to subsidize properly organized prospecting parties to search for mineral deposits there. I support the bill, because we need to develop Australia - a wonderful country, with marvellous resources, Ther.e has been a serious decline in the mining industry of Australia, and something should be done to try to place it upon a more stable and scientific basis.
.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was quite right when he said that there had been a decline in the mining industry in. Australia,, also when he pointed/ out. the: wonderful value and development of gold-mining in. Australia) and’ still more, so when he- emphasized the necessity of; applying- science to industry to~ obtain better results. I give credit to the Government for. bringing in. the bill), because I believe that its object isto. stimulate the mining, industry ; but it is a moot question, whether the Government, is on. the right track, and whether any, advantage will accrue by spending £50,000 in assisting prospecting. Of course, some honorable members advocate sending out prospectors to try to discover minerals-.. I speak- with confidence as one with- nine years’ experience as Minister of Mines in “Western Australia, and I know that the wonderful mineral wealth of Australia is undoubted.. We have wealth in gold, silver;, copper,, tin, zinc, lead,, and almost every class of metal known to the world. Up to 1922 the value of our production of gold was £613,000,000. From 1918 to 1922 the production- of silver and lead amounted m value to. £14,244,5’38’. The value of the total production, including coal, was £1,034,000,000. Those are marvellous figures, and there is no doubt in my mind that we shall make further discoveries- similar to those of the past. We must recognize that Australia, has been well prospected so far as surface indications of reef or outcrop areconcerned. The question arises whether we should get greater value by scientific research or by sending out prospectors. In 1907 I visited. Pilbarra concerning the construction of a railway there. I. made extensive inquiries,, and my report showed that up to that time 60,000 tons of ore had. been treated, and 120,000 ounces of gold’ obtained, an average of 2 oz. of gold to a ton of ore. The geologist’s report showed that there were thousands of square miles of tin-bearing country. with reefs’ outcropping,, showing tin in the face of the outcrop. Men who were miningfor tin when it was worth £90 to £95 a ton earned £7, £8, and £10 for three or four day’s work. There were wonderful’ deposits of copper in that country. Soon after my return I was furnished with’ samples of silver-lead obtained 150 miles east of Marble “Rar. I was told1 that two- or three parallels reefs* showed for a distance of 40’ miles. The samples were extraordinarily rich, containing 60 per cent, of lead andi a fair- proportion of silver. I. brought these under .the notice of Hans Irvine, who was a member of this House at the time> and asked him to try to take up the proposition, but no one would look, at it. Owing to its inaccessibility, the. cost of working the mine properly would’ be too great. I believe that some persons are now taking up this holding and’ trying to obtain capital to develop it. At one time I urged upon the Government a proposal to offer a prize to any one developing a scheme which would enable us to harness the tides,, and generate electric, power. In the north we have a fall of from 18 to 30 feet, the: current running between the islandsand the coast at from 8- to . 10 miles an hour. I- suggested that we should1 examine1 the question of harnessing the tides and1 generating- electric power. Efforts’ in thisdirection have Been made in Great Britain. I remember’ seeing in a newspapersome time ago that the French- Minister for Mines was trying to install such a plant along the coast of France. Wewrote to him, and were informed that,, although the idea was almost- as- old as civilization, the French were still experimenting with it. If electric power could be developed by these means, it would enable this enormous latent wealth- to be developed. Rich mineral country exists* f.110111 the. Kimberleys almost to. Onslow. In conversation with men whohad been out prospecting, in the. Northern Territory,. I was informed, that there are enormous deposits of. silver-lead ore within, reasonable distance of Darwin,, but they could not be profitably worked owing to the cost of production.. I myself-, with the. honorable member for- Wakefield (Mr. Foster),, put a little money into a silver, lead, and. copper deposit 18.0 miles north of Alice Springs, but, up to the present, there has been no possibility of working, the mine on a large scale. Of course, with railway connexion and cheaper methods of production, the mine could be profitably worked, but it would cost a great deal to construct a railway- there. The discoveries in the past have mostlybeen made from surface indications. What is needed is thorough geological? and penological’ work, and then, have it well advertised throughout the world..
– Government, assistance is required.
– We have had too much Government interference in industries. We want to encourage capital into the country. We have produced over £1,000,000,000 worth of minerals here, and it is possible that our richest mine has yet to be discovered. At present mining throughout Australia is suffering severely. Our output has dwindled to a surprising degree, and unless we can do something to counteract the high cost of production it will continue to dwindle. In 1901 the number of miners employed in Australia was 113,400, and in 1923 it was only 54,700. In other words, Australia in 1923 had less than half the number of men employed in mining that she had 22 years ago. I am not sure whether my figures include coal miners. If they do the position is all the more serious. In my earlier days at Kalgoorlie Iestimated that one miner supported four or five other people. Western Australia’s position in the mining industry is lamentable. In 1901 she employed 20,800 miners, but in 1923 the number had decreased to 6,500. That is due, in my opinion, principally to the high cost of production, although, of course, it is contributed to by the fact that a lower grade of ore is now beingworked. Production costs have increased steadily for many years. The position of the mining industry in Queensland is also serious. The Mount Morgan mine, which has ceased operations, formerly produced three-quarters of Queensland’s output of gold and, speaking from memory, about half of her output of copper. By providing employment for 1,400 people it used to maintain a thriving town. The value of the output from it was about £2 10s. per ton. Ore in sight when the mine closed down was about 50s. per ton value, which would show a profit in America, where wages were higher than here. Yet the State Government subsidized the mine to the extent of £40,000, and the company incurred heavy losses. Those figures are my recollection of a statement I read in the press eight or niue months ago. The value of the production of the Great Boulder mine two years ago was 80s. per ton. which showed that the company was extracting its richest ore, and leaving its low-grade deposits, which, under ordinary conditions, would be crushed. The high cost of production has compelled the closing down of many mines in all the States which, under reasonable conditions, could profitably market their low-grade ores. I realize, of course, that the Commonwealth Government, by allowing certain exemptions in income taxation to those engaged in the gold-mining industry, has relieved the position a little; but the general paralysis of the industry remains. It is strange that although the Government subsidizes companies boring for oil, it collects in duty on machinery imported for oil boring almost as much as it pays in subsidies. High duties are charged on all imported mining machinery, timber and other mining requirements. Owing to the favorable position of the lead market the Broken Hill mining companies can at present afford to pay high prices for imported Oregon, but if the price of lead drops very much they will be in difficulties. To a mining company producing 10,000 or 12,000 tons of ore a month, an increase of ls. per ton in production costs is serious. It may mean all the difference between profit and loss, and it certainlyis sufficient to prevent the profitable working of low-grade ores. Indeed, now, many companies are sacrificing their low-grade ores, and simply working the high-grade stuff. The cost of production in the mining industry has increased 50 per cent, in the last few years. I am not foolish enough to suggest that that is due solely to the duty on machinery or timber, or even on all imported requirements. It is due to increases all round. Iron, steel ropes, and in fact every mining requirement has increased in price tremendously, and so have the foodstuffs and clothing required by the working people. Under reasonable conditions the Mount Morgan mine would still be working, but the high cost of production compelled the management to exploit its high-grade ore, andthen to close down. The unsatisfactory position of the gold mining industry has also been contributed to by the withdrawal of the gold premium. Copper mining has been seriously affected by the fact that cowper hasb een at a low price for several years, fortunately, lead is now bringing a good price, and lead mining is profitable. Even if miners, by reason of the encouragement given them by the passing of this measure, are induced to go prospecting, they will still be in an unsatisfactory position, for the various taxation departments will doubtless continue to claim more from them than ought fairly to be asked. I have known prospectors to become insolvent because of the claims of taxation departments. Both Federal and State authorities levied taxation on the full value of the shares which a taxpayer may have in mining propositions, notwithstanding that they may be yielding no income whatever. I am glad that the Commonwealth Government has relieved the position to some extent. As things are, even if a prospector should ultimately discover an ordinary deposit of low-grade ore, it will be useless to him, for he will not be able to get capital to develop it. Unfortunately, we cannot induce the investment of capital in mining propositions, and this is essential to the prosperity of the industry. I shall not. oppose the passage of this bill, but in my opinion the Government would do a great deal more for the industry if it provided £10,000 or £15,000 to be spent in the compilation of a reliable general work on the mineral resources of Australia, and the issuing of periodical bulletins to keep the work up to date. I do not suggest that a Commonwealth Geological Department should be created, for all the States have Geological Departments; but the Government would be well advised to obtain the services of a thoroughly qualified and widely experienced geologist to coordinate the work of all the State Departments and edit a general publication on our mineral resources. The mineral exchanges throughout the world would welcome such a work, and it would be invaluable to universities and technical colleges. I am sure also that the various mining journals would make good use of it. I well remember reading a brochure in which the history of the Mexican mining industry was traced over a period of 150 or 160 years. The Mexican Government, it was stated, endeavoured to encourage mining by establishing schools of mines and providing bursaries. The industry was in an ‘unsatisfactory con- dition, however, until about 1880. At that time, a Minister in charge of the Mines Department, after expressing his surprise that this, the most speculative of all industries, should be the most restricted, set to work to remedy matters. Conditions were made much more liberal, and the wonderful mineral resources of Mexico were exploited with great advantage to the country. In my opinion, we could do nothing better than to advertise our resources and encourage capital to come here to develop them. Far too little is known abroad of our great mineral wealth. If our potentialities were advertised in the mining exchanges of the world, capital would soon be available for developmental operations. A comprehensive Australian geological work properly circulated abroad would undoubtedly lead to great mining developments here, and would do a thousandfold more good to the Commonwealth and the States than the expenditure in prospecting of ten times the amount covered by this bill. “We ought to remove without delay many of the harassing restrictions that are at present imposed upon mining operations. In some pf the States a company which had spent as much as £100,000 in a mining venture would be liable to the loss of the whole of its property if it failed, for a single day, to carry on operations. While I was in charge of the Mines Department in Western Australia I introduced legislation to give mine-owners the right to cease operations after a certain expenditure for six months. The measure was strongly opposed, but it was passed. Now nobody would think of suggesting its repeal. Everybody realizes its advantage to the country. A great deal was done, during my term as Minister, to encourage mining operations. Prospectors were helped, mining companies were encouraged to carry out additional developmental work, and State batteries were established which crushed millions of tons of ore. I question now, whether those batteries did not do more harm than good to the industry, for when rich patches of ore had been worked out by the prospectors, they abandoned their mine. Australia requires capita] for mining purposes. If our resources were advertised in the proper quarters, I have not the slightest doubt that sh6 would get it. Investors in the mining industry would welcome properly prepared general scientific information on our mineral resources. They would form companies, commence developmental operations, and so, once more, taring prosperity to mining in Australia.
.- It is quite unnecessary to repeat or enlarge the arguments of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). His special qualifications and long experience of the mining industry entitle him to speak with authority on the subject. My object in rising is to accentuate one point that he made. The passing of this Bill can lead to very little progress. The gist of the measure is in clause 5, sub-clause 3, which, reads-
Any advance under this act should be made upon such conditions and subject to such terms as are prescribed.
This bill is similar to many measures which have come before us during recent years, in that its full effect can only be known when the regulations made under it are published. The conditions under which this grant will really be made will depend upon the regulations which are to be issued by the Minister. All that we know now is that a sum of money is to bc allocated to assist in prospecting for gold. We do not know the terms under which it will be made available. Will it be made available by way of a subsidy on the capital already invested, or will a free grant be made to otherwise penniless men who may be prospecting in the wilds of Australia? We should know these things. The success or failure of this measure will depend largely upon the regulations which as yet are not drafted. It is a pity that during recent years so much legislation in which the working out of the details has been left to departments has been introduced. Honorable members know the difficulty of altering regulations which have been published. I have protested against legislation of this kind in the past, and I now make a further protest. The system which makes it possible is wrong.
– What alteration does thi* honorable member suggest?
– The bill should be more* carefully prepared; some of the ways in which it is proposed to make the grant should be stated so that this House could have an opportunity to discuss them. In stead of that being done, the whole of the details are to be left to departmental con trol. The honorable members for Swam (Mr. Gregory) and Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) have pointed out directions in which assistance should be given to the gold-mining industry. The honorable member for Maribyrnong spoke of the necessity for research, and for expending some of the £40,000 to encourage the development of resources which so far have been found unpayable. I contend that in the mining industry there is already a sufficient inducement for the investment of capital provided that the margin of profit is sufficient. Gold-mining is a purely business proposition. The speculative element involved in it must be rewarded by the prospect of an adequate margin of profit. Gold-mining is a languishing industry in Australia to-day, because the margin of profit which prospectors may reasonably expect is too small for the risk undertaken. That margin of profit has been diminished by the actions of ‘he Legislature of this country. Frequently there has been no recognition of the fact that whereas some mines yield handsome profits, others represent considerable losses to those who have invested their money in them. That it is necessary for the Government to introduce legislation providing for the making of grants of this nature in order to encourage prospecting is a grave reflection upon past legislation. It is a tragedy that an industry which, if unhampered, would attract speculation, is, by reason of legislation, no longer attractive. This artificial stimulation of the industry will not result in one penny being added to the profits derived from the mines or in any new mines being worked. The granting of this money may stimulate prospecting and result in the discovery of metalliferous -ores, but it will not encourage the development of the mines after their discovery. The only way in which to make this expenditure of any real or permanent value to the country is to remove those burdens with which the industry is now handicapped, and make possible a reasonable margin of profit on the working of gold-bearing ore when discovered.
.- While I congratulate the Minister oh the information which he made available to the House when introducing this bill, I should have liked, to bear how it is intended to disburse the £40,000 which it is proposed to expend to encourage gold-mining in Australia. I consider that some responsible person should be appointed to advise the Government regarding the distribution of the grant. As pointed out by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), the really effective part of this legislation will be the regulations. I should like the Minister to inform us whether the money is to be paid by way of a grantor as a subsidy. For many years, subsidies have been paid by the Mining Departments of the various States to encourage the mining industry. Victoria has paid over £1,000,000 as subsidies to prospectors; the sum expended by New South Wales exceeds £500,000; and varying sums have been paid by the Governments of the other States for the same purpose. So far as Queensland is concerned, I do not know of one instance in which the money so advanced has been refunded. That is a matter of considerable importance, and T hope ttav when the bill reaches the committee stage the Minister will give us some information along the lines I have indicated. He has given good reasons for the decline of the gold-mining industry throughout Australia. In the Gympie district of Queensland, a mine, which before the war was paying dividends on a yield of 7 dwt. to the ton, is now idle because,owing to the great increase in the working costs, a return of 1 oz. to the ton is now necessary to make it a paying concern. The Government should act cautiously in this matter. Although the Treasurerhas been able to announce handsome surpluses for some years, that money should not be given away unnecessarily. I should prefer that it be expended in other directions than that indicated in the measure before ns. That there will be many applicants for a share of this £40,000, I have no doubt, and for that reason I urgd the Govern- ment to appoint some fullyqualified person to advise it before any grants are made.
– I understand thatthe money is to be given to the different Statr. Governments, which will then disburse it.
– That is news to me; the Minister did not say so in his speech. I do not think that much good would be accomplished by that means. Already the Mines Departments of. the various
States are making advances to encourage mining. The distribution of £40,000 among them would merely relieve them of some of their financial responsibility. In my opinion, the Government could find some better way of expending this large sum of money than that which has been indicated in the bill now before the House.
.- I wish to emphasize the necessity for coordination between the geological departments of the various States. This lack of co-ordination has robbed Australia of valuable advice whichotherwise would have been available for our guidance in the matter now before us. Some time ago a parliamentary committee, of which I was a member, investigated amatter which is very closely associated with gold mining, and its members came to the conclusion that it was essential that the geologists of the various States should be brought together in conference with a view of devising some common plan for a geological survey of the Commonwealth. That conference was held, but, in the absence of a satisfactory scheme of finance, very little of a practical nature was accomplished. I agree with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) that a little more consideration of che manner in which this money is to be disbursed would reveal a better way than to indiscriminately parcel out the £40,000 among those persons who may in the future be prospecting for gold. I agree that the men who are engaged in prospecting for gold are worthy of every encouragement; but, as members of this House, it is our duty to see that the public funds are expended to the best advantage. I believe that, if the recommendations of the committee to which I have referred were considered in connexion with this measure, they would assist materially in determining the lines on which it should be framed. I strongly urge that a sum of money be set aside for a complete geological survey of the Commonwealth, and that there be closer co-ordination between the mining departments of the various States. Such co-ordination can be obtained if the Commonwealth will grant sympathetic and practical assistance.
Mr. G. FRANCIS (Kennedy) [5.301. - Every one who desires the advance of Australia must welcome the introduction of such a bill as this. Its purpose is to revive the languishing mining industry of the Commonwealth; but there are difficulties in the way, and it is questionable whether the measure really goes to the root of the matter. The Minister who introduced it referred to eight reasons given by a select committee in New South Wales for the decline in the mining industry, and these included inadequate machinery and high cost of production. These reasons are really one and the same, because high cost of production always accompanies the use of inadequate machinery. There are, however, other circumstances not referred to by the New South Wales select committee which have a tremendous bearing on the matter dealt with. Whilst the cost of mining supplies and materials has gone up tremendously the value of gold has not increased in like proportion. For this reason, if new gold mines are to be profitable they must be so rich as to cover the vastly increased cost -of production to-day. It is questionable whether such mines exist, or have ever existed. For one mine that has paid dividends the operations in twenty at least have involved the loss of the capital put% into them. Apart from the fact that mining has not been profitable, there are two very potent factors which have been the cause of many low-grade mines being closed down. There are thousands of tons ‘ of ore available which cannot be profitably treated until there has been a very great reduction in mining costs. Wages are, of course, a large part of mining costs, but I should like to say that I do not believe that miners have ever been adequately paid for the work they have done and the risks they have undertaken. One thing which is detrimentally affecting mining in Queensland - and I speak particularly for Charters Towers, Cloncurry, the Etheridge, Croydon, and the Chillagoe field until it became a Government concern - is the high cost of workers’ compensation insurance. A few years ago it was possible to insure with private companies against claims for compensation for an annual premium of something like” £3 10s. per head. The Queensland Government established a monopoly, and made it compulsory to insure with the Government office; and, whilst in the case of private companies it was possible to insure for a month, a quarter, or half a year, and pay a premium accordingly, a full year’s premium has to be paid in each case to the Government institution, amounting to not less than £12 per workman per year. That is a new tax added to the mining industry in Queensland, and, as a result of it, those in charge of many mines are ceasing operations.
– Does not the State Insurance Office assume increased liabilities?
– No; it assumes practically no increased liability. Another most important factor to be considered is the lack of industrial stability. There are few inducements to put machinery into a mine if there is but a small prospect of its development having an uninterrupted run. There has been a very great falling off in gold production in Queensland. In 1915, the value of the gold produced was upwards of £1,060,000. In 1916 it dropped to £913,000, owing, largely, to the number of miners, truckers, mullockers, and millhands who went .to the war. The production continued to show a steady decline in value until 1920, when it amounted to £648,000. In 1921 there was industrial trouble at Mount Morgan, with the result that, whereas in the previous year Mount Morgan produced 90,716 fine ounces, it produced in 1921 only 17,494 fine ounces. As something like 47 per cent. . of the total gold production of Queensland is derived from Mount Morgan, the total production for the year dropped from £648,000 to £214,000. The value of the production went up again ‘ to £378,000 during a year of comparative industrial peace, and it dropped again, in 1925, to £188,000, largely owing to f urther trouble at Mount Morgan. The history of mining ii: Queensland, for the last 25 years at least, has been a history of reefing, and there have been a good many cases of the existence of refractory ores. These have been sufficiently rich in gold contents to make their treatment under normal conditions a reasonably profitable proposition. But as refractory ores require special treatment and special machinery of heavy tonnage, many mines have been unable to carry on. We have to consider that this is not a bill relating to precious metals alone. In many of the mines of North Queensland, and of Queensland generally, copper is associated with gold, as it is at Mount Morgan. They are situated, however, at a considerable distance from a railway, and the high transport and high-living costs necessarily involved are prohibitive. I would say that in North Queensland alone there is a quantity of gold, silver, and industrial metals of incalculable value which has not yet been touched or even scratched. There are thousands of square miles of metalliferous country almost unpopulated, and not likely to be populated until we can be perfectly sure of industrial peace. It is not the miners, mullockers, and other men working in the mines who are responsible for industrial unrest, but the people who are misguided enough to call themselves leaders, and are referred to as union bosses. These, perhaps for purposes of their own, create disturbances in mines, and unfortunately the men follow them blindly. Men who would work and could produce a high output have not been allowed to do so. It is usually in connexion with a mine that is a little “sick,” and where a company is struggling and battling to pay its way, that these industrial disturbances are promoted. So far as’ I know; no prospecting for gold has ever been unaccompanied by the discovery of fairly valuable deposits of baser metals. It would be an excellent thing for Australia if prospecting were encouraged, notwithstanding the disabilities to which I have referred; but I suggest that, even if we do discover fresh mines, that will not restore the mining industry to its former prosperity because of the conditions to which I have referred. ‘ In the circumstances, although I shall support the bill, I hope that some more comprehensive measure may be introduced later, and before that is done the whole matter should be fully and carefully investigated.
.- Permit me, Mr. Speaker, on this the first opportunity I have had of addressing the House, in this new Parliament, to congratulate you on the high position which you hold. Prom what we know of you, I am sure that you will give every member of this House a fair deal. I am pleased that the Government has brought in a bill which has for its object the encouragement of prospecting for metals, but I say at once that the amount set aside by the measure for the mining industry is altogether inadequate, and mining will benefit very little, if at all, from its passing. I do not wish to be a captious critic, because, to a certain extent, the Government is on the right track; but the amount proposed to be placed at the disposal of the mining industry of Australia is only £40,000, and of this amount £15,000 is ear-marked for the Northern Territory. Such a. sum is not likely to greatly stimulate thefurther production of gold. The Minister in charge of the bill has mentioned various sums that have been paid in the shape of State subsidies. Those sums were for prospecting alone, and the figures are altogether misleading when we consider what the different States have actually paid to assist the gold mining industry in other directions as well as in prospecting. In Western Australia alone advances have been made in aid of mining work, equipment, mining machinery, prospecting and boring. The amount set aside for these purposes by the State with a population of only 370,000 is about £100,000 for last year.
– This bill relates only to. prospecting.
– I am aware of that, and the amount proposed to be set aside by the Government is only £40,000, of which a considerable sum is ear-marked for the Northern Territory. The Government proposes to set aside only about onethird of the amount voted for the assistance of the industry by the handful of population in Western Australia. I hope that this measure will not be regarded by the Government as. compensation in the slightest degree to the gold mining industry of Western Australia for what it suffered during the war. The agitation for a gold bonus was fairly familiar to honorable members who were here last session. The demand for it on behalf of the mining industry is Australianwide and is based upon justice. Prom August, 1916, to January, 1919, sold to the value of £15,000,000 was taken by the Commonwealth Government at pre-war prices, and this involved a loss to the gold producers of at least £3,000,000. The actual profit made by the Federal Government amounted to only a few thousand of pounds, but .its action placed the Commonwealth in a. positiou to expand its note issue enormously in order to meet thefinancial obligations of the country in carrying on the war.
– The Commonwealth Bank derived the advantage.
-Yes. At that time it was necessary to stabilize our finances, and, in consequence of the large quantities of gold placed in the vaults of the Commonwealth Bank, an inflation of the note issue was possible. This assistance to the Government and, indirectly, to the people of Australia was given by an industry which had had to submit to an increase of over 200 per cent, in the price of many of the commodities it required. I do not intend to labour the question of a gold bonus at this juncture, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) stated at Ararat on 28th October last that the matter would be dealt with by Cabinet, and probably referred to a Royal Commission of specialists. The production of gold in Australia, although it is les3 than it was a few years ago, is an important factor, as £2,500,000 worth was produced last year, of which Western Australia contributed over 70 per cent. The assistance proposed in this measure is not great, but it is a recognition of the Government’s intention to assist the industry, and to that extent it is welcome. The speech of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) shows that he is fairly conversant with the gold-mining industry, but the decline in the production of gold is not, as he suggests, due to any lack of effort on the part of the gold miners. Even if the miners at Charters Towers have, as he says, lost time owing to industrial disputes, the same cannot be said of the men at Kalgoorlie and other important mining centres in Western Australia, who, notwithstanding the conditions under which they work, have not lost more than one week at a time. Mining at a great depth, such as is being undertaken at Mount Morgan and Charters Towers, becomes expensive, particularly when the ore is refractory. Although probably 600 miners in Western Australia, many of whom are working at a depth of 3,000 feet, are suffering from miners’ phthisis, and, according to the medical authorities, are endangering their health, they have always observed the awards of the Arbitration Court. In many cases they consider that they have not had a fair deal. I do not think that the honorable member for Kennedy would, for political purposes, wilfully malign the men to whom he has referred.
– I said it was not the men who were responsible, but the agitators.
– I would be neglecting my duty if I failed to state that the men employed on the Western Australian gold-fields have always observed the awards of the court, even when, as the judge stated, the rates were not based on the cost of living, but on what the industry could stand. Manyof these men are receiving less than is being paid to miners at Broken Hill, who work under much better conditions. The Mount Morgan Mine is, unfortunately, approaching the condition of the mines at Ballarat and Bendigo. The ore is too extensive to treat, . and mining ismore difficult owing to the increased cost of commodities. The miners’ wages have nothing to do with the decline in the gold production of Western Australia. I can only repeat that owing to the embargo placed on the export of gold produced in Western Australia, and the purchase of gold by the Government at pre-war prices, a loss of £2,0130,000 was incurred by the gold producers of Western Australia. It is to be hoped that a bonus on the gold produced will be paid, and that justice will be done to the goldmining industry during the present session.
.- I congratulate the Government upon its desire to endeavour to stimulate the gold-mining industry, but I do not possess the optimism displayed by the Minister in charge of the bill. It would be preferable to use the money to be provided under the measure in endeavouring to locate a rich - I say rich advisedly - gold mine. I could, without the . assistance of £40,000 proposed to be paid, show the Minister deposits in Western Australia in which millions of pounds worth of gold can be found in low-grade shows and which were worked when the miners’wages purchased as much as they do to-day. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G.
Francis), the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) have referred to the cause of the decline in gold mining. I have before me the report” of the Western Australian Disabilities Commission showing the value of gold produced in all the States from 1903 to 1924 inclusive. The decline synchronizes with what has been termed the high standard of living in Australia. The figures over this period show a marked decline in the production of gold i n every State. It has been shown by the honorable member for Kennedy that the value of gold has not increased, but the cost of production and the cost of living have increased considerably. The figures for 1903 are- New South Wales, £1,080,029 ; Victoria, £3,259,482 ; Queensland, £2,839,801; South Australia, £28,665; Western Australia, £8,770,719; Tasmania, £254,403; Northern Territory, £69,801; or a total for all the States and the Northern Territory of £16,302,900. For 1924 the figures areNew South Wales, £87,002; Victoria, £312,746; Queensland, £445,617; South Australia, £3,664; Western Australia, £2,258,440; Tasmania, £20,841; Northern Territory, £3,273; or a total of £3,131,583. The decline for the last ten or fifteen years has been gradual, and it must be apparent that with a continuance in the increased cost of production, gold production will eventually cease. There are a number of lew-grade deposits in Australia containing millions of pounds worth of gold, but under our present policy of high protection it is impossible for them to be profitably worked. The Western Australian Disabilities Commission considered the position of the gold mining industry, and recommended the payment of a gold bounty of 20s. an ounce. That is merely a palliative. If it is considered desirable to stimulate the gold-mining industry, the payment of £40,000 as provided iu the bill will be found inadequate. I intend to support the bill in the hope that a rich gold mine may be discovered.
.- I am very pleased to know, that my freetrade friends intend to support a proposal which means, in effect, the granting of a bounty to the mining industry. Like most men who have invested in mining I have lost more than I have gained by it. Honorable members have referred to the cost of gold production. Many of the increases are in no way attributable to the tariff. Even in my own electorate there are many rich mines which have been closed as a result of an all-round increase in operating costs. For instance, the price of firewood has increased from 83. to 28s. a ton. The cost of mining props has increased accordingly; whilst -the royalty levied on timber by a State department has advanced very considerably ; in fact, in Queensland, it is greater than the former cost of the timber itself. I regard this proposed grant as a move in the right direction; if the expenditure of this £40,000 results in the discovery of even one good mine it will have been amply justified. The money to be made available under this measure should be handed over to the State Governments, to be used by them in accordance with the advice of experienced officers. The State mining departments know which mines and districts are worth prospecting. Most honorable members know of a few mines in their own districts which might well repay additional testing.
– Why do not private capitalists develop them?
– Whilst the price of gold has remained almost stationary for the last 30 years, the cost of winning it has increased so considerably that mining has ceased to be attractive to capitalists. If a Federal grant of a few thousand pounds leads to the discovery of one rich lode, the outlay will quickly be repaid to the Australian people. I know of mines in my own electorate on which the expenditure of a few thousand pounds might lead to the discovery of a new lead. Sometimes merely a few feet of driving or sinking or the expenditure of a few hundred pounds stands in the way of the discovery of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth, of ore. In different parts of Victoria, and, doubtless, in other States, are mines which experts are convinced are worthy of further exploration. In some districts the water supply is very costly, and assistance in the provision of water might lead to big mining developments. This proposal dovetails with the Government’s main roads policy for the development of rural Australia. In all States at all times the prospector has been the most important factor in the discovery of gold, and I hope that in the regulations to be made under this measure his claims will not be overlooked.
– In Western Australia the ordinary prospector is not now of much account. The conditions of prospecting to-day are very different from what they were some years ago.
– The prospector should be encouraged, and I believe that even in Western Australia he will play an important part.
– The honorable member does not know enough about Western Australia to justify him in expressing an opinion.
– Unlike the honorable member for Perth, I am not an authority on everything, but I have some knowledge of the gold-mining industry, and because of that I urge the Government to get the co-operation of the State Departments of Mines, arrange for the further prospecting of certain mines, and provide ‘ for assistance to the individual prospector.
.- I had not the advantage of hearing the Honorary Minister move the second reading of the bill, but the speech to which I have just listened prompts me to utter a few words of caution. To make this grant available for expenditure upon existing mines will be to waste it, but we should encourage prospecting for gold as far as possible, for the gold mining industry has done much to develop Australia. I had personal experience of the gold rush to Western Australia, and I say without fear of contradiction that the rapid development of that State in recent years is the direct consequence of the gold discoveries. As the mining industry declined, men who had been attracted to the West from other parts of the Commonwealth turned their attention to other industries and rapid expansion followed. I believe that further discoveries of gold in that State are possible, and the Commonwealth should assist genuine prospectors who are prepared to test the back country. They should be rewarded according to the new discoveries they make. Probably half the existing mines are showing a loss, and they offer little prospect of success. Therefore, the Government would be ill-advised to throw away the people’s money in the form of grants to those enterprises. There is no part of the
Commonwealth in which this assistance should be more readily given than in the. Northern Territory. ‘ It would be an inducement to prospectors to go there, and, if they discovered payable deposits of gold or other metals, settlement would be promoted.
– We are setting aside £15,000 for the Northern Territory.
– I am glad to hear that. Such a sum, though not large, will be an inducement to experienced miners to go out and prospect.
– I have had no experience of mining, but Having listened to the remarks of some of the supporters of the Bill, I doubt whether this form of assistance will be effective. All the speakers have emphasized tEe fact’ that while the cost of production has increased the price of gold has remained stationary. The proposed grant of £40,000 will not remedy that state of affairs. If the existing mines which have Deen sunk to great depths have become too expensive to work and unhealthy for the miners, the country would be benefited by their closure. Mines that show little profit and endanger the health of the workers are of no advantage to the community. Do honorable members propose to reduce the cost of production by lowering wages ?
– At least one speaker said that no miner had ever been sufficiently paid for his labour.
– But he qualified his statement by saying that the miners were led by agitators. Any money made available by the Commonwealth for the assistance of mining should be expended in the Northern Territory. As a member of the Public Works Committee I visited the Territory and heard evidence of a vast extent of highly mineralized country, ana prospects of rich discoveries of ore. A mere £15,000 will not materially help mining in the Territory. Let the State Parliaments go to the assistance of the mining industry within their own borders, and let the Commonwealth concentrate its expenditure upon the Northern Territory in the hope that mineral discoveries will attract population’ thither. Western Australia and Queensland have an immense area of territory, and in time they will become greater than Victoria, and, possibly, New South Wales. The majority of the miners in this country are only wasting their energy trying to produce gold, because the cost of production is more than what is obtained for it. Their labour is therefore misdirected.
– Does the honorable member suggest altering the price of gold?
– No. The Government is, perhaps, anxious to carry out its pledges to the country, and is therefore proposing to expend £40,000 to develop the mineral resources of Australia. It is a mere drop in the bucket. Most of the mines are worked out and are not paying dividends.This money will be spent merely to assist the shareholders. The grant should be confined to prospecing for new minerals in the Northern Territory, to assist in attracting men to the mining fields there. A discovery of mineral always attracts population. A township soon follows, and after it has been established for a number of years the people enter upon farming and other vocations in the vicinity. The development of our mineral resources in the Northern Territory will greatly assist in its settlement. The country is highly mineralized, and has never been thoroughly prospected. I believe that some of the richest silver mines are yet to be found there. I hope that the Minister will bring down to this House a comprehensive policy for the development of the Northern Territory.
.- I have little or no knowledge of mining, and although some honorable members may wonder at my audacity in rising to speak on the bill, I do so because judging by the doleful tales told us by the honorable members who are familiar with the gold-mining industry, ho assurance is given that we shall receive value for the money expended on it. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) gave the impression that the passage of the bill would mean giving every little gold show or mine a fillip to spend somebody else’s money.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– The honorable member made that suggestion, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) advised the Government not to accept the honorable member’s advice. I should not care if the gold-mining industry petered out to-morrow. Gold is one of the most useless metals that we produce, and by its constant juggling the people are kept in thraldom. Its use as personal adornment is unnecessary. In its production thousands of men have died from miners’ phthisis, and although it is claimed that the discovery of gold has been responsible for the progress of certain countries, yet I contend that, if gold had not been disr covered, that progress would have come about by other means.
– It was the discovery of gold in Victoria that put that State ahead of South Australia.
– That is so according to values expressed in gold, but £40,000 expended in developing our agricultural resources would produce real wealth and be of some value to the people.
– Few countries have become great purely through agricultural development.
– I know that Great Britain and other countries owe much of their progress to the development of coal and other deposits, but I am looking to the time when the general prosperity, health, wealth, and happiness of the people will be promoted, not by such a bill as this, but by the introduction of legislation to break up large estates through which railways have been built at considerable cost, merely to benefit the large landholders. I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) respectins the best method of developing our immigration policy, but he failed to put forward any comprehensive scheme. I give credit to the Western Australian Government for its sound and sensible policy of settling; people on the land to produce the valuable commodities that are required by us. Manufacturing industries, quite apart from mining, will make any country great. Australia is too far situated from the centre of the world to attain the position that is today occupied by Great Britain and America. It must become self-contained to compete with other great countries. The Government’s policy is to develop the mining industry, but I doubt whether anv result will accrue from the expenditure of such a small sum of money. T once visited the Lancefield mine, situaated in the dead heart of Australia. On every projection of that mine was a thick settlement of dust, and it occurred to me that a large quantity of dust must of necessity be breathed in by the miners. These men were living like blacks in humpies. They would become good citizens if they were producing something of value, something to make Australia selfcontained and prosperous. If the Broken Hill mine petered out to-morrow the surrounding country would be of no use, excepting for grazing cattle and sheep. The miners would have to leave the town to obtain work elsewhere. Coolgardie is an example of what would happen.
– The. pastoral country there is better than at Broken Hill.
– The Coolgardie country would be better develoDed by the water scheme pushed on by the late Lord Forrest. I take exception to the encouragement of the gold-mining industry. I quite understand that all other metals are useful, and that we must pay the cost of their production. I should like honorable members opposite to experience the life of the miners, from the cradle to the grave - men who reach the grave much more quickly than those who live in cities and agricultural areas. I suggest that the Government, instead of introducing this bill for the benefit of the goldmining industry, should give encouragement to other avenues of development in the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Like some other honorable members, I had no intention of discussing this measure until the mining industry generally became the subject of the debate. That must inevitably occur whenever the successful prospecting for minerals is under discussion, for it is of importance to know what has happened when precious metal has been discovered previously. For a time, it was my fortune - not for any merit of my own - to be a director of the biggest copper-mining company in South Australia. I refer to the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining and Smelting Company, which carried on successful operations for 60 years, and was the first mine in Australia to pay more than £1,000,000 in dividends. About three years ago it ceased operations, notwithstanding that is was worked on extraordinarily sound lines. It was run not only in the interests of the directors or the shareholders, although, incidentally, they both profited, but consideration was always given to the welfare of the thousands of persons who were employed by it. The sliding-scale method of paying wages was adopted many years before arbitration courts were established. Three scales were in operation to determine the wages of the employees. Speaking from memory, the first scale came into operation when copper was £60 a ton ; the second when it was £75 a ton ; and the third when it was £90 a ton. The management realized that it was a good thing to give the employees a distinct interest in the success of the mine, and one method by which they did it was to regulate the wages according to the price of copper. I do not wish to extol this company unduly, but I make these statements to show that nothing was overlooked that was likely to make the mine a success. The machinery which was obtained from time to time was always of the first quality, thoroughly competent managers were engaged, and the welfare of the employees, in addition to the sliding-scale arrangement, was always carefully considered. Special concessions were given in regard to housing and stores, and adequate provision was made for sports. Under these methods the mine was a great success for 60 years, and I venture to say that its employees were as satisfied as those of any mine in Australia. I was on the board of directors when war was declared, and one of its first actions after the news was published was to interview the State Premier to see whether it would be possible to continue mining operations. Its chief object in doing so was, not to carry on the mine for the benefit of the shareholders, but to provide work for the employees. It realized that there was a serious likelihood of the employees being thrown out of work. I mention these facts primarily because of the suggestion that is frequently made by honorable members opposite that capitalistic concerns are never actuated by any motive but the making of dividends. I know that the fact was different in this case, for I was one of the. directors. The board was in doubt as to whether it would be possible to dispose of its products. It had endeavoured in peace time to sell its copper to the British Government, but without success. At the outbreak of the war the copper was going to Germany. That market disappeared at once, and the management might have been compelled to close down the mine, because it had no market. I am glad to say, however, that later a contract was entered into with the British Government, which took the whole of the copper which was produced during the war period, and used it for munition making, although it was thought, at one time, to be unsuitable for that purpose. There is every reason to believe that a large tonnage of ore could still be rained, but increases in wages and in the cost of all supplies, among other causes, have obliged the management to close’ the mine’. Another contributing factor was that, as the ore had to be mined at a greater depth than in the early years of the mine, it was more costly to win, for operations had to be concentrated on a few shafts that had been found to be successful. Still another factor was that the ore was yielding a smaller percentage of copper all over than formerly. The average was 3 per cent, to - 3$ per cent., and there were no “ nuggets.” For many years after the establishment of the Arbitration Court, the employees of the company did not avail themselves of the opportunity to approach it. They felt that, in the circumstances, it was in their best interests to carry on under the existing conditions, Eventually, they did approach the court for an award, and from that time the end was in sight. Copper, as everybody knows, dropped in price almost as soon as the war ended, and it has continued to drop since. I gladly make the acknowledgment that, as copper continued to fall in price, the employees did what they could to assist the management to carry on. They realized that their interests were involved in the success of the mine, and on one occasion, at least, an arrangement was made with the approval of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, by which the miners were able to take less wages than those prescribed in the award. Notwithstanding even this, it became impossible to carry on, and the mine closed down. Quite apart from the fact of my being a shareholder, I very much regret this, for I am sure that much more copper could have been extracted under favorable conditions. However, it could not be expected that operations would be carried on at a permanent loss, so work had to cease, and the water had to be let into the shafts. The history of the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining Company has been repeated in other parts of Australia. I have described it simply to illustrate the difficulties that face mining companies which are obliged to deal with low-grade ores. The mine has been a valuable asset to the Commonwealth. It has produced great wealth and enabled good wages to be paid to many thousands of employees. The copper that was won from it was most useful during the war time, and also for long years of peace. In addition to all that, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) knows very well, it caused a large agricultural district to spring up all around the mines. I have not very much, to say about the bill, but I must confess that I cannot understand how the Minister will administer it. Clause 5 reads that the Minister may “ make advances to assist persons or companies engaged in prospecting for precious metals in the Commonwealth.” I should like to know the method by which he will make the advances. Will he select the most reputable .person dr company, according bo actual character, or will he take into consideration the districts in which the prospecting is to be done? If the first method is to be adopted, I only- wish to point out that not every one gets his deserts in this world. The very best individual or company is not by any means certain to be the one that will find gold or silver or any other precious metal. Bv the way, clause 2 of the bill reads - ‘
For the purposes of this act, “ precious metals “ means gold and silver .and such other metal as the Minister, by notice in the Gazette, declares to be a precious metal.
Why should it be left to the Minister to decide which is a precious metal? One would have expected a list of precious metals to be given in the bill. Certainly it should not be the responsibility of the Minister to determine the matter. If the individual or company to receive assistance is to be determined by the. particular part . of the Commonwealth in which operations are to be carried on, it must surely be obvious to honorable members that very little will be achieved by attempting to spread £40,000 over the whole of the continent. My own opinion is that, if there is any likelihood of successful prospecting being carried on, the Government will not be approached for assistance. There will be plenty of capital available to exploit a likely proposition. The mining magnates, if that term pleases honorable members opposite, and capitalists generally, may be trusted to invest their money wherever there is any possibility of a return. Perhaps we are acknowledging the greatest merit of the bill when we say that it is, to a certain extent, an appeal to the sporting instincts of the Australian people. But is that a sufficient basis on which to appeal? Is the Government justified in making available £40,000 on the mere possibility that gold, silver, “ or such other metal as the Minister declares to be a precious metal “ may be discovered ? One can never tell what will result from the search for precious metals, and it is possible that the expenditure of this £40,000 may mean the discovery of some new field. ‘ Nevertheless, I feel that the chances are very greatly against such a result. I urge the Government, if it still intends to proceed with this legislation, to enact it for one year only. If it then finds that the results are not up to its hopes - I do not say its expectations - it would be an easy matter to leave the discovery of precious metals in the future to individuals or companies.
– It is pleasing to note the reception that has been accorded to this measure by honorable members on all sides of the House. I wish to make it clear that the Government does not propose to expend any of this £40,000 to place any existing mine on a profitable basis. As I pointed out in my introductory remarks, the bill is intended only to assist in prospecting for new fields; but many honorable members who have spoken appear to have misunderstood the position. Some very valuable suggestions have been made, but they, for the most part, referred to mines which have become unprofitable, and are not working to-day. It has been stated that £40,000 is a very small sum with which to encourage the mining industry, particularly as of that amount £15,000 has been set aside for the encouragement of mining in the Northern Territory. While it may not be a large amount, I feel certain that it will encourage people to go out in the search for precious metals. The history of Australia shows that civilization has followed the prospector.
– The search for gold has assisted to fill the cemeteries of Australia.
– All pioneers must accept risks. If it were intended to assist those mining companies wnich are in financial difficulties, a sum much greater than £40,000 would be required.” Last year the Governmen£s of the various States expended £42,000 in encouraging prospecting; of that sum £21,000 was expended by Victoria.
– The £21,000 paid by Victoria was to assist in the working of deep-level mines.
– It is necessary for new fields to be discovered, and there is little doubt that if systematic search were made, they would be found in the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) pointed out that there are considerable areas in Western Australia as yet practically unexplored in which there is every likelihood of minerals being found. A good deal has been said regarding the basison which this money is to be paid, but no suggestion of value has been made by the honorable members who have spoken. The Government proposes to seek the cooperation of the States in this matter, as their experience should provide valuable data on which to base a practicable scheme. The money might be used to pay prospectorsto search for precious metals, or in providing them with the necessary equipment, or with rations.
– Could not the money be used as a reward instead of as a subsidy ?
– That is a matter for the Cabinet to decide. Australia was discovered by precious metals; the discovery of gold placed her on the map, and as a result of that discovery her population more than doubled in ten years. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) stated that gold had much to do with the discovery of Western Australia, and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) showed that between 1851 and 1861 the population of Australia more than doubled as a result of the discovery of gold. Many of the questions which have been raised can be dealt with in Committee. The Ministry appreciates the re- ception given to the bill, and will give earnest consideration to the suggestions which have been made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I did not realise when the Minister rose that his speech would close the debate on the second reading of this bill. I desired to make some remarks concerning it. I do not know why the Government, which has just received a mandate from the people to give effect to certain legislation, should waste time over a paltry measure of this character. It is proposed to provide £40,000 to develop the mineral resources of Australia, and of that amount £15,000 is to be set aside for the Northern Territory ! At one time Victoria paid £200,000 a year to assist prospectors, but even the expenditure of that large sum did not assist the genuine prospectors, as the whole of the money went to a few. companies. Nor did it result in any new fields being opened up. The grant which this bill proposes to make will have no better effect. The Government is only playing with this question. I represent a constituency in which some of the first gold discovered in Australia was found. To-day there are no mines in that district; I hope that there never will be any. The Ballarat district is now making greater progress than when gold-mining was flourishing there. Victoria to-day is paying for her gold-mining activities. Thousands of men have died before reaching the age of 40 vears as the result of the diseases they contracted while working in Victorian mines, and thousands more have developed miners’ phthisis. If the Government has received a mandate from the people to do certain things, why is it wasting time on a paltry measure of this kind? This legislation is an interference with the rights of the States, each of which has its Mines Department, and to the State Governments belong the control of mining in Australia, with the exception of the Northern Territory. I can imagine the scramble that there will be for this money -about £4,000 for each State! That amount will be necessary to pay departmental expenses; no one outside the departments will get one shilling of it. The Government, fresh from the electors with a programme of important work before it, apparently has nothing better to bring before us than a measure to provide a few officials with a few additional pounds !For £4,000 it would be difficult to induce two miners to go out into the ranges. The idea is absurd. Mining in Victoria has been killed because of the operations of the men who elected honorable members opposite to this Parliament; I refer to the members of the various stock exchanges, the market riggers, and those who sickened the genuine investors. The miners themselves have no desire to sea mining revived in this country, as they realize that there are many other ways of obtaining a living than by seeking for gold, which, when discovered, is of no value to the world. During the election campaign Government supporters made many promises, but I do not remember having heard of the proposal to grant £4,000 to each State to assist in prospecting for gold. If the Government desires to carry out its election pledges, why does it not introduce a measure to make available £2,000,000 . per annum to provide good roads, or one to assist the workers of Australia to obtain homes? Does the Government intend to establish a new Federal Mines Department?
– We have one already.
– I have not seen any sign of it.
– The honorable member should visit the Home and Territories Department.
– That is only a miniature Mines Department. The Government is only playing with this question. It says, in effect, to the various States, “ Here is a few thousand pounds for you; see how you can squander it to the best advantage.” If the Government were sincere in its desire to discover precious metals, it would come forward with a proposal for the expenditure of £500,000, in which case it is possible that some result would accrue, as doubtless Australia contains many minerals besides gold. I should have no hesitation in supporting a measureof that character ; but for Parliament to be asked to deal with a paltry proposal such as this, which leads nowhere, is, I consider, a waste of our time, for which the Ministry is deserving of censure. Prior to the election the
Ministry tallied economy, but here is evidence that it is prepared to squar der £40,000. The only reason for the introduction of this measure is that it will give the Government more time to prepare legislation along the lines of the mandate it received from the electors on the 14th November last.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Defiuition of precious metals) .
– I ask the Minister whether the Government, when preparing this bill, took into consideration the inclusion of gems. In New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland there are some very important opal-bearing tracts. Many of those fields have been fully exploited and are now practically worked out. The opal-bearing area spreads from White Cliffs into Queensland, and the Stewart Range opal field extends towards the Northern Territory, where, I have no doubt, opals will later be found. I urge this amendment in view of the languishing nature of the industry for the winning of precious gems, because the White Cliffs and Lightning Ridge fields are practically worked out. If it is the desire of the Government that mining of all kinds should be assisted, this measure should provide assistance for prospecting for the discovery of opals and other precious stones. Will the Minister accept an amendment including precious gems in this bill ?
– I could not accept such an amendment in the bill now without consideration, but I shall undertake to bring the honorable member’s suggestion under the consideration of the Government.
– I am afraid that that would not be of very much use. I intend to propose the amendment of this clause so that it shall read -
For the purposes of this act “ precious metals” and “precious gems” means gold and silver and gems and such other metals and gems as the Minister by notice in the Gazette declares to be precious metals or precious gems.
To test the opinion of the committee on the amendment, I move first -
That after the word “ metals “ line 1 the words “ and precious gems “ be inserted.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
For the purposes of this act there shall be established in the books of the Treasury a Trust Account which shall be known as the Prospecting for Precious Metals Trust Account and that account shall be a Trust Account for the purposes of section sixty-two A of the Audit Act 1901-1924.
.- This is the clause which provides for the establishment of the fund from which payments are to be made under the bill. I should like to endorse some remarks which have previously been made. There is a consensus of opinion in Australia that before any great amount of money is expended in the search for metals, gems, or petroleum, the establishment of an Australian geological survey is necessary. I understand that the Government has had this matter under consideration.
– Yes. It is dealt with in another bill to be submitted.
– I understand that that bill deals only with the search for petroleum; but a proper geological survey is likely to disclose not only the absence or presence of petroleum, but that of a number of metals and gems. A conference of State geologists and others, including some university professors, was called to deal with this subject, and formulated a plan which, I understand, was submitted to the Government. Such a plan has, I believe, been published, but I do not know if honorable members have been supplied with a copy of it. Information was obtained by the Public Accounts Committee, and certain recommendations, based on evidence obtained by the best geologists in Australia, were made to the late Govern ment. This subject’ may be discussed iv connexion with another measure to be in troduced in relation to the search for petroleum. I trust that the Government has not lost sight of the recommendations made to a previous Administration, and if . it cannot act upon them I hope it will formulate others so that Australia may be able to obtain the benefit of a thorough geological survey.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Advance from Trust Account).
– The bill, as drafted, does not commit the Government to any definite policy in the disposal of the grant. The Minister (Mr. Marr), in reply to the second-reading debate, said that the Government proposed to co-operate with the States ; but it would appear that this proposal involves merely the duplication of a State activity. The Minister stated that last year £42,000 was paid by the States in the form of subsidies. If this bill is passed, does it mean that approximately £82,000 will be available next year? In my opinion, the sum provided in the bill will be practically thrown away. I would prefer to see the whole amount expended in the Northern
Territory, where some good might be done with it. if it is to be apportioned between the six States, it will mean that about £4,000 will be available to each of the States, which will be a mere drop in the bucket. While the Government has a majority to carry the bill, I trust that the Minister will induce Cabinet to give the matter further consideration. I am in favour of the Government offering a reward for the discovery of precious metals in any part of the Commonwealth, as the discovery of gold, for instance, is quite a different matter from the discovery of oil. A bonus of £50,000 to the discoverer of oil in payable quantities is really of little value to the prospector. It is an historical fact that the discoverer of the Gympie field, which produced tens of millions of ounces of gold, received only an ordinary reward. Will the Minister explain whether the amount to be allotted by the Commonwealth to the States is tobe in addition to the sums already made available by the States? I am opposed to the bill in its . present form, which leaves everything to regulations, and is, in effect, giving the Government a blank cheque. If the Government intend to pass the measure, I suggest that the whole amount be used for prospecting in the Northern Territory, or that it be specifically provided that the Commonwealth grant shall be spent in addition to any subsidy offered by the State Governments.
.- I support the contention of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), as I cannot see how the expenditure of £3,000 or £4,000 in any one State will be of any advantage. I think there must be some sinister motive behind the bill. I have heard a good deal concerning prospecting grants paid to partially-defunct companies, and of £10,000 being distributed in directors’ fees, leaving little or nothing for actual prospecting work. As the honorable member for Lilley has pointed out, this money will be of no advantage to prospectors. If the sum is allocated in the manner suggested, the State Governments will reduce the amounts which they usually set aside for prospecting work. The State Governments usually provide sums ranging from £10,000 to £50,000, but if the Federal Government is to make money available for prospecting, the
States will not move in the matter. It would be better to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Lilley, and expend the whole amount in the Northern Territory. There must be some motive behind the proposal, and probably the Government wish to benefit some of their friends associated with broken-down companies that are the curse of Australia. The Government cannot be submitting this proposal with the idea of fostering the mineral industry or of assisting legitimate prospectors. Precious metals arc still available in payable quantities in Australia. There is a large quantity of gold at Ballarat, but there is a lot of earth on top of it. If the Minister persists in proceeding with the bill, and wishes to assist those who are searching for minerals, he should adopt a different policy. Large deposits of gold or of other precious metals have been discovered, not by companies, but by prospectors. The companies only come in after a discovery has been made. If the honorable member for Lilley is prepared to test the committee on the question whether the whole of the amount shall be expended in the Northern Territory, I shall support him.
.- I do not think many honorable members support the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) in regard to a sinister motive of the Government.
– Is the honorable member interested in a company?
– No. I do not think there is any necessity for the bill; there is not much in it. There is no need for a special bill in order to provide money for prospecting in the Northern Territory, as it is only necessary to place a sum on the Estimates for that purpose. Is it the intention of the Government to apportion the £25,000 between the States for the purpose of assisting prospecting? Sub-clause 3 of this clause provides that advances shall be made upon such conditions, and subject to such terms, as are prescribed. Does the Government intend to charge interest, and is it proposed to impose conditions?
– It is a gift.
– The bill provides that the money shall be allotted to the States subject to such conditions, and upon such terms, as are prescribed. If it is a gift it should be. so stated. The Minister did not explain whether the grants were to be controlled by the department or handed to the States. Is the money to provide outfits for prospectors? Is any interest to be charged, or is it to be a gift? If it is proposed that the department shall handle money and impose conditions uponevery prospector who receives assistance, it is the most stupid proposal I have heard of. An application for assistance may come from Queensland or from north-western Australia, and it would be impossible to supervise expenditure. My experience in connexion with similar grants has been that very little advantage has been derived by prospectors. If the Government is determined to go on with the bill, the Minister should explain the points I have raised.
.- As I was under the impression that those who have spoken on this measure had a knowledge of mining, I listened for some time to see what I could learn. Some years ago, when I was connected with the Parliament of New South Wales, I came in contact with a squatter who made a friend of me, and asked me to give him some assistance in the matter of parliamentary procedure. He told me that, after reading the speeches of members as they appeared in the daily press, he felt that he was in the company of statesmen. He was not a member of Parliament very long, however, before ho discovered that those interested in mining always had a few stones in their pockets from a mine which they wished to float into a company, and had not repaid money they had borrowed before they were looking for further financial assistance. In travelling from Port Darwin to Brock’s Creek, as I had the privilege of doing some years ago, I learned from Mr. Mathews that there were mines in the Northern Territory controlled by English companies, which, after they had been abandoned as unprofitable, divided £17,000, whilst the unfortunate men working them were deprived of their livelihood. I saw Cornish boilers out of commission, and also miles of iron and cable wire which had been used in connexion with the sinking of trial bores. From Brock’s Creek to Pine Creek we inspected numerous shafts which had been worked by Chinamen to water level and then abandoned, but we were assured that they still contained plenty of gold. The same conditions were found between Pine Creek and the Katherine River. The only two industries by which the Northern Territory can be developed are mining and cattle raising. If I were a young man, I should not hesitate to seek my future in the Territory. The gloomy pictures painted by honorable members of the Country party are not justified, and their only effect is to belittle Australia in the eyes of people abroad. The Territory is capable of providing sufficient cattle to supply the whole of the Australian market and leave a large surplus for export. The miner is the best pioneer of development, and my experience of miners as a class is that they are essentially honest. I support the contentions of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), because I am satisfied that he has outlined the only means by which the Northern Territory can be developed. There is plenty of land there for everybody, and the Government would not be acting unwisely if it transferred people thither from the States. Settlers in the Territory must be equipped with experience of Australian conditions; the Government would make a mistake if it attempted to settle immigrants there.
– The proposed grant will not be apportioned to the States, or administered by them; it will be administered by the Commonwealth, and the co-operation of the States will be sought only in the supplying of information regarding mineral areas and their experience in the payment of rewards and assistance to prospecting parties.
– Is this money to be applied to the assistance of prospectors ?
– Yes ; but if a proposition is made by a State, or a company, or an individual, -and the Government is satisfied that it is reasonable, it will give the applicant financial backing.
– Will the Commonwealth deal with individual applications?
– Yes. The applications will be handled by departmental officers, but every item of proposed expenditure will be submitted to Cabinet for approval. The Government has no intention to parcel out this money recklessly. The honorable member for Lilley suggested that this money should be paid only as rewards for discoveries. The Government does not believe in that policy; it holds that the discovery itself is a sufficient reward; but if a few men form a party to prospect a particular area, the Government may make a contribution to defray the cost of their outfit and expedition. If they discover a payable field the whole amount which this bill will make available will be small in comparison with the probable fruits of their find. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) advocated that the whole of the Commonwealth expenditure should be concentrated in the Northern Territory. Some honorable members spoke as if great deposits of metals of all kinds, can be seen outcropping throughout that country. But what would be the use of spending £40,000, or even £1,000,000, in assistance to prospecting in the Northern Territory while there is no means of transport there? The Government believes that the first essential for the development of the territory is the provision of railway facilities.
– Will the Government carry, the railway right through from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek?
– The Government hopes to occupy the Treasury bench long enough to see Darwin connected by rail with Adelaide. I hope the committee will agree to the clause as drafted.
.- The more the Minister says, the more he convinces me that this proposal is a mistake. I am genuinely alarmed by his statement that the Home and Territories Department will attempt to administer the expenditure of £25,000 in the various States. Anybody who has had experience of mining will agree that that is a hopeless proposal. The honorable gentleman is quite mistaken when he says that the discoverer of a gold-field does not need a reward. I have never known a wealthy company to undertake prospecting, except in respect of existing mines. Mineral discoveries are usually made by individual prospectors or fossickers, who need financial backing for the development of their finds. There is a vast’ difference between oil prospecting and gold prospecting.. The gold prospector has always to look for financial support to develop a mine or a field that he regards as promising, and very often he misses the reward of his discovery. After what the Minister has said, I am more than ever convinced that this money will be thrown away. Rather than that the Commonwealth should attempt to disburse this money through the Home and Territories Department, I would prefer it to be spent on the construction of roads or in the remission of taxation of mining companies. The- Government will be rushed with thousands of applications from all parts of Australia, and the Home and Territories - Department will not be able to deal with them without recourse to the State departments, which will not have a direct interest in the wise and economical expenditure of the money. It would be preferable to hand this amount over to the States to be expended by them in their own discretion on a £1 for £1 basis.
– That is the only way in which the fund can he economically administered.
– Yes. I am sorry that Ministers did not take counsel with honorable members in regard- to this proposal, because I am loath to see £25,000 of public money absolutely thrown away, as must happen under this proposal.
.- -The State Governments have experts and departmental organizations to advise them in regard to mining matters, and if the Commonwealth subsidized State assistance to prospecting on a £1 for £1 basis the money would be utilized more judiciously than this £40,000 will be if it is administered by a Commonwealth department. I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to adopt that suggestion, A fund of £40,000 contributed by the Commonwealth and supplemented by £40,000 from the States would help the mining industry considerably, and I am satisfied that such expenditure would be more justified than many other past disbursements have been
.- The Honorary Minister should pay heed to the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). It is obvious that if the Home and Territories’ Department is to administer the fund it will be inundated with applications from all parts of Australia for assistance to prospectors, and it will not have the means of inquiring into the bona fides of the applicants. It will be bound to refer each application to the State authority concerned, and if the Minister intends that- his department shall deal with all requests it is almost certain that the only successful applicants will be those who have the support of a friendly member or Minister, and others more deserving will be overlooked. The State mines departments have efficient administrative machinery and staffs of experts qualified by knowledge and experience to report on each application and the prospects of the money being wisely expended. I suggest that the clause should be amended by inserting after the words “ advances to “ the following words, “ to the States and to the Northern Territory to”. The clause would then read -
It will be very foolish if the Government attempts to consider in Melbourne applications for prospecting grants that will be received from all over Australia. The Homes and Territories Department will have to rely upon the 5 tate Mines Departments for information. Why not follow the practice that is now carried out in connexion with grants for main roads? Grants are made by the Commonwealth for expenditure on roads that are approved by the State Main Roads Boards. In Queensland, the local authorities make their recommendations to the Main Roads Board. which considers them and recommends to the Commonwealth what roads should be built. Iu th at way the Commonwealth utilizes the machinery of the State Governments.
– The main roads are built alongside railways, and the country districts are given no new roads at all.
– That is not so. Though some roads have been built alongside railways, it is not fair to say that all are. The honorable member will quite understand that if the Commonwealth were to decide what roads should be built, it would need to appoint an army of public servants and a Main Roads Board, which would overlap the State boards.
I ask the Minister to accept- the suggested amendment.
– I have come to the conclusion that the draftsman when drafting the bill had a different idea from that of the Minister. I feel satisfied that before the bill was prepared it was proposed that the £25,000 should be allocated to the States on such conditions as the Minister thought fit. It is preposterous for this Government to attempt to administer the prospecting grants, and in that matter I agree with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). If a prospector living in Queensland or Western Australia applies to the Commonwealth for assistance to obtain camels, a horse and dray, or a prospecting outfit, and his application has to be referred back to the State, the delay will be so great that the prospector will give up. all idea of assistance and obtain work elsewhere. The whole idea is preposterous and absurd. Western Australia has a Mines Department and a mining engineer. When an application is received, the engineer makes an investigation and recommendation. If the application is from .the northern part of the State, he asks either the magistrate or some local officer to report on the bona fides of the prospector requiring assistance. The present proposal seems to me to’ be utterly absurd.
– Why did the honorable member vote for the bill?
– If the honorable member had been here, he would know that I have already made a suggestion to the Government. I suggested the issue of monthly or half-yearly bulletins of the potential mineral wealth of Australia as outlined in the geographical reports submitted to the Institute of Science and Industry. This would certainly do more good than the bill. I urge the Minister, if the bill is passed, not to administer it from Melbourne.
.- J hope that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) will not press the amendment, because if carried it will to a large extent cramp the opportunities of the Government to assist persons to prospect for precious metals. Sections 2 and 3 of clause 5 and clause 6 give the Government power after the pasage of the bill to subscribe by regulation and otherwise the best method of dealing with applications for assistance. The Government could, under the bill as it now stands, do all that is contemplated by the amendment, and, in fact, much more to assist prospecting. If this work were to be carried out solely by the States there would be no opportunity for the Government to investigate carefully the effect of this legislation. No similar measure has previously been before Parliament. If the amendment is not pressed the Government will have an opportunity to assist prospectors immediately, but if the bill is defeated, some time will elapse before it is again introduced.
.- The amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has a great deal to recommend it. The distribution of the Commonwealth roads grant has been relegated by this Parliament to the States, because their departments are better fitted to administer the grant. In all the States prospecting grants are made available from time to time. I have endeavoured to get the Minister to agree to incorporate in the bill precious stones such as- sapphires, opals, diamonds, topaz and other Australian gems. Take for instance the case of the Lightning Ridge opal miners. After considerable negotiation £300 was made available by the State Government to develop a new field. A number of men were employed there until the money was expended, but during that time a certain quantity of opal was found. In the heart of South Australia is a large tract of country which can easily be prospected, and notwithstanding that the Government is obsessed with the idea of encouraging prospecting for gold and other precious minerals. I suggest that some attention should be given to the beautiful gems of Australia. We have no departmental machinery by which the claims of precious metal miners, say at Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie, may be dealt with. What Commonwealth officers are in a position to judge of these things? Should not this work be- carried out by the States in view of their long experience in administering prospecting grants? There is no doubt what the bill means. The Minister may upon application from persons or companies make available certain sums of money after he has been convinced of the bona fides of the applicants. How will the Minister ascertain whether a person or a number of persons, a company or a syndicate, is entitled to a grant? That can be ascertained only by State machinery. I, with other honorable members, strongly urge the Minister to make grants available to prospectors, companies and syndicates through the existing State machinery.
.- I ask the Minister to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), with a further amendment, which I shall indicate. Previously when I rose to speak on the bill , I said that I did not approveof the Commonwealth making advances that would simply take the place of State subsidies. The least harmful method of expending the money would be to hand it over to the States, but not as a grant. It should be handed over on a £1 for £1 basis, as in the case of main roads grants. If this were done some good might result. It is hopeless for the Commonwealth Government to attempt to deal with applications for assistance in prospecting for precious metals. I suggest to the honorable member for Capricornia that he include in his amendment the words “on a £1 for £1 basis,” paid by the State Governments.
.- I am prepared to accept the suggestion made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). I move -
That after the words “ advances to “ the following words be inserted “ to the States on a £1 for £1 basis, and to the Northern Territory to.”
The clause will then read -
The Minister may out of the moneys standing to the credit of the trust account, make advances to the States on a £1 for £1 basis, and to the Northern Territory to assist persons or companies engaged in prospecting for precious metals in the Commonwealth.
The Minister should accept the amendment. If his statement that this money will be advanced by the Commonwealth Government direct to the applicant is correct, another Government department must be created, for none of the present departments have suitable machinery to make the necessary investigations into the applications. The creation of another department will mean additional and unnecessary duplication.
– I did not say that the money would be advanced by the Commonwealth Government direct to the applicants.
– Then the honorablemember for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), and the Government supporters as well as myself are labouring under a misapprehension. The money ought to be spent by the State Mines Department on a £1 for £1 basis, in the same way that the money voted by the Commonwealth Government for road work is spent through the State Roads Departments. If the Minister has misled the Committee he ought to put himself right. We certainly understood from him that applications would be dealt with by a branch of the Home and Territories Department. The Mines Departments of the States could spend the money most efficiently.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) will realize that there is no need for his amendment if he reads carefully sub-clause 3 of clause 5, which is as follows -
Any advances under this act shall be made on such conditions and subject to such terms as are prescribed.
All the states are at present endeavouring to encourage prospecting, in the hope that a new discovery of gold may be made. The Government proposes to have regulations drafted to provide that the money shall be spent by the States. It is intended that each State shall receive an amount equal to the sum it spent on prospecting in the previous year. The sort of assistance we propose to give is similar to that which is being given at present. The individual prospector will send in his claim for assistance to the State Mines Department, just as he is doing at present. The intention of the Government is to assist the States in the work that they already have in hand.
– Then why not put it in the bill instead of in the regulations?
– In my opinion the intention of the Government is clearly expressed in the bill. We have no intention whatever of establishing a new department. If the honorable member for Capricornia insists on the insertion of his amendment clause 5 will be a most com plicated piece of drafting. I assure hon- orable members that the Government hai no other intention than to work through the States. I dislike reviewing unpleasant history, but it will be remembered that the efforts of the Commonwealth, to administer the wire-netting advances were anything but satisfactory. We do not propose to risk another experience like that. The machinery of the States will be used to carry out the provisions of nhu measure.
.- The Prime Minister’s remarks have convinced me of the necessity for the amendment. It is extraordinary that we should get two different statements from the Government. The honorable member in charge of the bill said definitely that although he would not handle these applications personally, the officers of his department would do so. The Prime Minister has now told us that the whole matter will be dealt with by the Mines Departments of the States. If that is what is intended, why should it not be definitely provided for in the bill ? Either the Prime Minister should have instructed his Assistant Minister accurately, or the Assistant Minister should have known the mind of the Government better. Honorable members on the Government side of the committee^ as well as honorable members of the Opposition were in a quandary as to what the Government really intended.
– There is no doubt whatever about the intentions of the Government. I am quite prepared to report progress to allow the clause to be re-drafted, but I think it unnecessary to do so. If we can make it more definite still, that the advances are to be grants-in-aid to the States, I am prepared to do it.
.- I am glad that the Prime Minister is willing to meet my wishes. It should be distinctly stated In the clause that the advances will be made to the States and not direct to the applicants. The Assistant Minister certainly gave us to understand that although he would not handle the applications personally his officers would do so. I am. glad to have the assurance of the Prime Minister that that was not intended.
.- I should not have made a contribution to this debate were it not for the fact that this bill is one of a group of measures that, in my judgment, vitally affect the fundamental relations of the Commonwealth and the States. At least half a dozen measures of this kind are listed to come before us for consideration. Although this is the least important of them, I feel that I should fail to discharge my duty if I did not remind the Government that there has been no request from any prospector in Australia, or from any State Government, that the Commonwealth should provide this money. The Government is asking us to agree to its functioning in a sphere which hitherto has been regarded as belonging exclusively to the States. There is a clear line of demarcation between the functions of the Commonwealth and those of the States As there has been no demand whatever for this measure, I am not very much interested in it. The prospector, as a matter of fact, is as dead as the dodo. He, too, is extinct. If it was proposed to provide this £40,000 to assist applicants in bad times, I might feel disposed to vote for the bill, but, in the circumstances, I must vote against it.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This short measure seeks to ratify the agreement made on the 18th September, 1925, between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia. That agreement: has relation to the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910, and provides, as will be seen from clause 4, that - “ (a) The Commonwealth will, at its own expense, construct as a portion of the Transcontinental Railway to be constructed pursuant to the agreement in the schedule to the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 of the
Commonwealth, a railway whose northerly terminus shall be at Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory. (&) The said railway may be either - (i) a railway on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, extending to Alice Springs from Oodnadatta; or (ii) a railway on a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, extending to A hee Springs from a point on the Kalgoorlie to Port A”ugusta Railway, east of Tarcoola. The agreement also provides that the Commonwealth will, at its own expense, construct a railway of 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge from Port Augusta to Red Hill; that the State will, at the expense of the Commonwealth, provide a third rail on the railway between Red Hill and Adelaide which will admit of the Commonwealth Railways rolling-stock travelling through to Adelaide; and that the Commonwealth will, at the expense of the State, provide a third rail from a point near Port Pirie to Red Hill.
The ratifying bill may, therefore, bo divided into two main sections, namely - (a) The construction of a railway to Alice Springs, and (6) the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, and the provision of a third rail so as to enable Commonwealth trains to run into the Adelaide railway station. The agreement is very complete, setting out the rights and privileges of the Commonwealth and the things required to be done by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, on the one hand, and the rights and privileges of the state and the things required to be done by the South Australian Railways Commissioners oh the other hand, It is provided, further, that, subject to Due necessary approvals and consents being ratified by the parliaments of the Commonwealth and the State before 30th June, 1926, and subject also to any interruptions of work or other circumstances not within the control of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth undertakes to have the railway to Alice Springs, either from Oodnadatta or from a point on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, open for traffic on or before the 30th June, 1929. The route of the railway to Alice Springs, as well as its gauge and all other matters connected therewith are, under the agreement, to be determined by the Commonwealth, regard being had at all times to the development of the country, the cost of construction, and the estimated revenue from the railway.
It is not proposed at this stage to submit to honorable members definite proposals in connexion with the line to Alice Springs, or in regard to the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, and the other proposed works associated therewith. The railway to Alice Springs will be the subject of a bill which will come before the House almost immediately. The whole question of the route of the line, and the estimates of. cost in connexion therewith, will then be open for discussion. The proposals in connexion with the Port Augusta to Red Hill line, and the provision of a’ third rail to Adelaide, will also, following upon an investigation by the Public Works Committee, be placed before Parliament for consideration. I would urge honorable members to postpone the expression of their views in regard to the route of the line to Alice Springs, and other matters associated with the construction of that line, and also in regard to the proposals in relation to the Port Augusta to Red Hill line; until the bills in connexion therewith are presented to the House. The adoption of the agreement will in no way affect the consideration by Parliament of the proposals in regard to these two matters, which are subject to parliamentary sanction before the works can proceed. Regarding the railway to Alice Springs, it will be seen, by going back to the agree ment between the Commonwealth and South Australia, dated the 7th December, 1907, which was afterwards incorporated in the Northern Territory Acceptance? Act, that the Commonwealth, in consideration of the surrender of the Northern Territory, agreed that it should construct or cause to be constructed as part of the transcontinental railway a railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect with the other part of the transcontinental railway on the northern boundary of South Australia proper. It will also be seen that the State, in consideration of the covenants and agreements by the Commonwealth, agreed, at the time of such surrender, to authorize by legislation the Commonwealth to do all. that should be necessary to’ enable the - Commonwealth to make surveys,acquire . the . necessary land, and to construct, or cause to be constructed, a railway in South Australia proper from any point on the Port Augusta railway to a. point on the northern boundary line to South Australia proper from any point on the Port Augusta railway to a point on the northern boundary line of South Australia proper to connect with that part of the transcontinental railway to be built in the Northern Territory from Port Darwin Southwards to the northern boundary of South Australia proper, and to maintain and work such railway when constructed. This agreement, which was made many years ago, did not fix the time within which the railway had to be built, nor did it, according to the legal advisers of the Commonwealth, definitely define the route that should be adopted. Previous Governments have dealt with this question, and for many years the South Australian Government and the people of South Australia have been clamouring for the railway to be built. Shortly after this Government assumed office, it was decided that the question of the NorthSouth railway should be settled, and the agreement embodied in the Bill, which definitely provides that the railway to Alice Springs shall be constructed pursuant to the agreement contained in the schedule to the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910, is the result of several conferences between the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia. “Without going further into the subject of the actual route of the line at the present stage, I mention that the adoption of the agreement will definitely settle the route for the main North- South line as against the route advocated from Maree through Birdsville. The construction of the line proposed in the agreement will be a compliance with the agreement entered into- by the two Governments as far back as 1907, and incorporated in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910. It is in part-redemption of the original promise by the Commonwealth to the State to provide a North-South railway. The inclusion in the agreement of a provision for a through railway from Port Augusta to Adelaide, is an acknowledgment of the urgent need for the better utilization of the transcontinental railway. This railway, built at a cost of approximately £6,400,000, is set between two narrow gauge systems, and until connecting rail ways, built to standard gauge, have been provided, it can never fully serve the purpose for which it was constructed, nor give a reasonable return to the people of Australia commensurate with the outlay. This proposal will at a later date be presented to the House in detail. I shall, at this stage, merely state that the object of the proposal is to overcome many of the difficulties experienced in connexion with the working of the East-West railway, and to enable the Commonwealth trains to run direct from Kalgoorlie to Adelaide, instead of stopping, as at present, at Port Augusta. The comfort of the passengers from the west will be greatly increased thereby, and the transport of mails, goods, and livestock will be considerably accelerated.
The agreement is submitted for the favorable consideration -of honorable members.
It may not be out of place to point out at this stage some of the advantages of the proposed railway between Adelaide, Red Hill, and Port Augusta. It would reduce by 70 miles the length of the journey between Adelaide and Port Augusta, and the time occupied from eleven and a half to six and a half hours. It would permit of passengers and loading being conveyed direct from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie, a distance of 1,240 miles, obviating the delay and expense at present incurred in transhipment at Terowie and Port Augusta. It would curtail by from eight and a half to nine and a half hours the time at present occupied in the train journey from Adelaide to Perth. It would enable livestock from the trans-Australian railway to be conveyed from the place of loading to market in one vehicle, thus bringing about the delivery of stock in better condition. With the existing line livestock for Adelaide has to be transhipped at Port Augusta to 3-ft. 6-in. trains, and again at Terowie to 5-ft. 3-in. trains. It would permit of livestock being conveyed from Port Augusta to Dry Creek in from ten to twelve hours. With the present line 25 hours elapse between the departure of livestock from Port Augusta and their arrival at Dry Creek. It would provide a line on which on each train 85 per cent, more loading could be carried from Port Augusta, arid 54 per cent, to Port Augusta. The existing line via Terowie rises at a couple of points to a height of 2,000 feet, while 011 the proposed line via Red Hill the highest point would be only 455 feet. It would accelerate the mail service to and from Western Australia; the outwards English mail would leave Melbourne and Adelaide later and the inwards English mail would be delivered in Adelaide on -Fridays instead of on Saturdays, and would arrive in Melbourne in sufficient time to enable delivery to be effected on the first round on Saturday morning instead of on Monday. It would be sufficiently revenueproducing to at once pay working expenses and a considerable portion, if not the whole, of the interest. It would permit of the quotation of a through rate to Adelaide for Northern Territory live stock instead of adopting South Australian rates for a portion of the distance. For reasons already mentioned, it would afford some measure of relief for the disabilities under which the trans-Australian railway is at present worked. It would increase the revenue from the trans- Australian railway by approximately £37,000, due to the stimulation of the through traffic which would be obtained, for reasons already mentioned. It would permit of stores and materials required for the trans-Australian and Northern Territory railways being conveyed in Commonwealth trains from Adelaide, thus minimizing the expense at present incurred in freight charges. I submit the agreement for the favorable consideration of honorable members.
– The Minister has mentioned many advantages, but is he not going to give the cost and the estimate of anticipated increased revenue?
– I shall give that information in moving the second reading of the bill dealing with the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lacey) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for the extension of the 3 ft. 6 in. railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and for all matters i:i relation to the running of such a line. As I explained to honorable members when submitting the bill for the ratification of the agreement entered into with the Government of South Australia on 18th September, 1925, the ‘ construction of the line referred to in the bill now before th.House will be a compliance with the agreement entered into between the Government of the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia on 7th September, 1907, which agreement was incorporated in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910. In consideration of the surrender of the Northern Territory the Commonwealth agreed that it would construct, or cause to be constructed, as part of the transcontinental railway, a line from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect with the other part of the transcontinental railway at a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper. The Government of South Australia, in consideration of the covenants and agreements by the Commonwealth, undertook that it would, at the time of such surrender, authorize by legislation the Commonwealth to do all that was necessary to enable the Commonwealth to make surveys, acquire the necessary land, and to construct, or cause to be constructed, a’ railway in South Australia proper from any point on the Port Augusta railway to a point on the northern boundary line of South Australia proper, to connect with that part of the transcontinental railway to be built in the Northern Territory from Port Darwin southwards to the northern boundary of South Australia proper, and to maintain and work such railway when constructed. It will, therefore, be seen that the Commonwealth, when passing the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910, gave a clear undertaking that the line would be built, but did not fix the time within which it was to be built, nor did it, according to the legal advisers of the Commonwealth, set out the route that should be adopted. Under the agreement of 18th September, 1925, which has just been submitted to the House, the Commonwealth undertook, subject to necessary approvals and consents being ratified by the Parliament of the State before 30th June, 1926, and subject also to any interruption of work from cir- cumstances not within the control of the Commonwealth, that a rail way from Alice Springs either to Oodnadatta, or a point on the Port Augusta railway will be opened for traffic on or before the 30th June, 1925. Steps have been taken by the Government to ascertain which is the best and most economical route to adopt, taking into consideration the possible development that will occur as the result of the completion of the line, and the traffic to be provided for. In 1920, the Government of the day arranged for the matter of the extensions in and to the Northern Territory to be considered by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The committee submitted its report on the 5th October, 1922, details of which can be seen in Parliamentary Paper No. 76 of 1922. An extract from the Committee’s report reads: -
Briefly summarized, the recommendations of the committee are: -
To extend the existing railway to Daly Waters, on the understanding that it is to form part of an eventual line from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal.
That a light low-level line be constructed from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
That these lines be regarded as forming sufficient railway development for the Territory for many years.
That when the time arrives for the construction of a through transcontinental railway line negotiations be entered into with South Australia to permit of an alteration of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act. of 1910, by which such line may be constructed by the route then shown to be best in the interests of Australia.
Mr.Foster. - Does the Minister call that honoring the agreement?
– I think the Government proposes to honor the agreement.
Mr.Foster. - That is not doing so.
– The extension of the railway to Daly Waters was dealt with by Parliament in 1923, when it was decided that the existing railway from Darwin to Emungalan should be extended southwards to Daly Waters, a distance of 160 miles. Tenders have been called for the 160 miles of railway, which, when completed, will bring the extension southward from Darwin a distance of 360 miles. When the line is completed from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, there will be, in all, 778 miles of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line, and there will then remain only 600 miles to be laid between Daly Waters and Alice Springs to complete the whole of the north-south railway from Darwin to Port Augusta. The Government has caused a survey to be made of the suggested route from Kingoonya, on the east-west railway, to Alice Springs, and has had an estimate prepared of the cost of constructing a railway between these two points, and also of the cost of the proposed extension of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. A survey covering this proposal was carried out many years ago. The estimated cost of each proposal is as follows: - Extension of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, 60-lb. rails, ruling grade of 1 in 80, £1,700,000; from Kingoonya to Alice Springs, 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, 80-lb. rails, ruling grade 1 in 100, £4,500,000. Both estimates arefor unballasted and unfenced lines. As a result of close consideration of the whole of the facts, bearing in mind the wide difference in the estimated cost of the two proposals, and the estimated traffic to be catered for the Government has definitely decided in favour of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, which is embodied in the bill now placed before the House for the favorable consideration of honorable members.
All the information required in accordance with the provisions of section 59 of the Commonwealth Railways Act, including plans, book of reference, estimates, &c, have been placed on the table. In addition, each honorable member has been supplied with a statement showing the estimated expenditure and revenue under the different bases for each route, together with plans showing the route followed by theparty, of which I was a member, which recently visited the Northern Territory. Later I shall take the opportunity to explain these different proposals and the basis upon which the revenue and expenditure has been estimated. In considering the matter, honorable members are requested to bear in mind the nature of the country and the conditions which exist in relation to water supply, rainfall, &c, and the possible extent of the country’s development for sheep and cattle raising, and also in connexion with mining. Whilst very optimistic reports in regard to the carrying capacity of the country have been circulated, my observations during a recent visit to the Northern Territory, and the information gleaned from men engaged there in pastoral pursuits for years, points conclusively . to the fact that it will be many years before the development of the country will tax the carrying capacity of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line. The report show3 that most of the country throughwhich the line will pass will carry stock feed in varying quantities. My visit to the Territory convinced me that most of the country could, from the point of view of feed, carry cattle and, in parts, sheep. The great drawback, however, is the difficulty of obtaining suitable water for stock, and it is this factor which largely determines the carrying capacity of the country. Until the water supply on the various holdings in the Territory is developed, until wells or dams are provided at suitable distances, it is useless to expect any considerable increase in the carrying capacity of the country. I was furnished with abundant evidence of the difficulties ex-: perienced by pastoralists in this connexion, and of their inability to utilize to the fullest extent the areas held by them, owing to the fact that water is not obtainable at suitable distances apart throughout their holdings. The result is that the country in the vicinity of the wells supplying water is eaten out, whilst large areas which are not supplied by wells are carrying feed which to all intents and purposes is useless. Whilst this is a serious difficulty so far as cattle are concerned, it is on most holdings an absolute bar to the stocking of runs with sheep, which require at least one well or watering place for every 16 square miles of country, or, roughly, 50 wells for every 1,000 square miles of grazing country. Between Kingoonya and the opal fields, stock water has been found at depths ranging from 60 to 100 feet, but even in that locality it is not available at frequent intervals, if honorable members will consult the small maps in their possession, which are copies of the larger one which I have before me, they will see a red line which shows the route taken by the party which visited the country under the leadership of the Premier of South Australia (Mr. Gunn). They will also notice the area north of Kingoonya between Kingoonya and Mount Stuart or between Kingoonya and the opal fields - a distance of approximately 130 miles.. In that area a large number of wells have been put down, and water found at depths ranging from 60 to 100 feet. They are nearly all shallow wells.
– What sort of water?
– It is mostly good water, but it is only available in certain areas.
– Stock water, or water suitable for domestic purposes ?
– Really good stock water. Wells have been put down by the South Australian Government south of the opal fields, and good water has been obtained.
– In how many cases?
-In a number of places south of the opal fields, between Mount Eba and Bon Bon station.
– Not many.
– In a number of places. North of the opal fields water is almost unprocurable. The blue line on the large map, which extends to the west of Oodnadatta and extends slightly beyond the western survey, shows the extent of the great artesian basin. Water has been found in some places at great depths near Oodnadatta, but very little west of that place or west of the western survey. On the other hand, water in very small pockets has been found adjacent to dried watercourses. In fact, almost the whole of the water north of the opal fields, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has said, is in soaks. From Mr Eba to Bon Bon station water is obtainable near the surface. To the north of the opal fields wells or bores were sunk, and Mr. Keith Ward assured me that four of them were duffers. One was carried to a distance of 1,300 feet, and in another the water was so salt as to be unsuitable for any purpose. The inability of settlers to fully utilize their holdings on account of this difficulty was brought prominently under my notice at Wintinna station, west of Oodnadatta, where the lessee, Mr. Underdown, informed me that fourteen duffer wells had been put down by him to a depth of 100 feet, each of which, of course, cost as much as a successful well. Almost the whole of the wells in the area along the route outlined in red on the map were sunk on the banks of dry watercourses.
– Is there any evidencethat, if wells had been sunk to a greater depth, water would not have been found?
– Outside the known artesian basin, which extends approximately 100 miles west of Oodnadatta, water has not been found.
– Has the area been prospected at greater depths?
– Yes; for fifteen years.
– I emphasize this point in order to indicate clearly to honorable members that the only means by which the country can be made fully productive is by the discovery of water at reasonable intervals and depths. For stocking with sheep, water supplies at close intervals and vermin-proof fencing are essential. North of Kingoonya the rainfall is, approximately, 8 inches, and gradually diminishes until west of Oodnadatta it is 5 inches. Thence northwards it gradually increases until at Alice Springs the average fall over the last 45 years has been about 11 inches. Unfortunately, although the average rainfall may be 5, or 8, or 10 inches, there is occasionally a period of two - or three years during which no- rain falls.. When we visited Todmorden Station, there had been no rain of value for two and a half years, and stock were -dying, in all directions, largely owing, to the fact that the water supplies ,were so far apart that stock coming into the wells ate out the- feed for a considerable distance about them, until eventually, after they had filled themselves up with water, they were too exhausted to get back to the- feed and perished near the wells.
– Could not other wells be sunk between the existing ones?
– Many other wells have been put down away from the dry watercourses. During our party’s visit to the Territory we found wild dogs more plentiful than rabbits, but indications were not lacking that rabbits had. been there in countless millions at some time, probably during a wet season. That being so, it is obvious that if the country is to be developed to carry sheep it will be necessary to not only sink wells at frequent intervals, but also to divide the holdings into small vermin-proof paddocks. In regard to- the area to be held by lessees, nothing less than 500 square miles is of any value. In fact, I was told that not less than 1,000 square miles is a living area, and I believe +hat to be so. Between Kingoonya and the opal fields the country is fairly good and would, I estimate, carry about 30 or 40 sheep to the square mile if water were provided and the holdings were made vermin-proof. Immediately north of the opal fields there is neither water nor feed. Extending 50 miles west of Anna Creek to a point opposite the opal fields is an area, estimated to measure 50 miles long by 30 miles wide, of the poorest country I have ever seen. The country between Kingoonya and the opal fields is already served by the East- West railway, and cattle raising could be carried on- with advantage from the railway for another 100 miles to the north. But from the opal fields to a point opposite Oodnadatta, and 50 miles west of that centre, there exists some extremely poor country. For the first 160 miles north of Oodnadatta the Western survey runs parallel with die eastern survey at a distance of approximately 50 miles; this distance ta.per3 at the- northern end as the two routes converge. Between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs the eastern route will serve the country just as effectively as would the western route. That area lying between Oodnadatta and the opal-fields is so poor that it does notwarrant a railway. The opal-fields near Kingoonya are already catered for by the East-West line, and for that reason no railway line, either 4 ft. 8^ in. or 3 ft. 6 in., should follow the route of the western survey. Before examining this country, I fully believed that the western route was. the better, but after an examination of both routes I. had to admit tha t the western route* was no better than the eastern route. The only difference between the two, to a keen observer, is that on the eastern route the country is badly eaten out along the stock route, while the western country is quite fresh.
– The eastern route would be affected by travelling cattle.
– That is so. I shall now explain to honorable members statement No. 1, which shows five different bases on which we tried to. form an estimate of receipts and expenditure. It contains a coloured map showing 50,900 square miles in blue, 56,600 square miles in pink, 49,600 square miles in green, and 24,800 square miles in brown. The area on the left-hand side of the centre line, coloured blue, is 100 miles wide, and it is assumed that half of that area is suitable for sheep. The area coloured pink is also 100 miles wide, and the whole of that area along the western survey would carry sheep and cattle in certain proportions. The country on the eastern side of the line does not extend so far back; consequently we have taken into consideration an area only 50 miles wide coloured brown, and an area of 100 miles coloured green. It was estimated that the carrying capacity of that country would be equal to, but no better than, that on the western side of the route, but we found when making our excursion west of the western survey, that the land did not improve as was expected. On “A” basis, the area coloured blue would carry 40 sheep to the square mile; brown, 30 sheep; pink, 4 cattle; and green, 3 cattle. That basis was taken out in connexion with a report made to the Government by W. H. Easton, W. Williams, J. McBride, and T. E. Day. In that report they said -
The whole of the country carried such an abundance of good top feed, practically every shrub being edible for sheep.
I should like honorable members to notice the following sentence - “ and has such excellent supplies of water.” I ask any one who has travelled that country to say that it has excellent supplies of water.
– Who arranged for the inspection ?
– This report is dated 2nd October, 1924.
– Did the Commonwealth make the appointment for that inspection?
– Yes; I think it was during the honorable member’s term of office. The report continues -
That under capable management and proper improvement and judicious stocking, that is stocking the country according to its carrying capacity, and not according to water supply, it will safely carry an average of 40 sheep to the square mile. That condition would render the country practically drought-proof.
This report is available to honorable members. In it is given the route over which these men travelled, and I presume they meant that the whole of the country was capable of carrying 40 sheep to the square mile, had an abundance of water, and was well supplied with feed. The first basis has practically been drawn up on the estimated carrying capacity of the country, but I consider the estimate altogether too high. According to “ D “ basis,, which accords with my opinion, half the area coloured blue would carry 30 sheep to the square mile, and the other half lj cattle; half the area coloured brown would carry 30 sheep to the square mile, and the other half lj cattle; the area coloured pink would carry lj cattle; and the area coloured green lj cattle also.. That is considered a reasonably safe basis. Personally, I should not be prepared to recommend the House to accept any basis other than “D.” It will be seen that similar bases have been prepared for the Kingoonya to Alice Springs route. I might mention that the map of four colours shown in the statement represents an area twice as large as the State of Victoria. The bases are the same for both routes. I come now to the working expenses for both routes. I propose to take the “D” basis as being the one upon which we are putting the line forward. That shows that the working expenses are £85,300 per annum; the interest on construction £247,500, and on rolling-stock £11,878, totalling £344,678. The estimated revenue from the line is £177,137. The loss would, therefore, be £167,541.
– What will be the chief source of revenue?
– Principally stock, but later, as development occurs, there would undoubtedly be some sheep. Taking into consideration the profit on the Port Augusta-Kingoonya section the loss would be reduced to £80,665. On the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs line, on the “D” basis, the working expenses are estimated at £51,880; the interest on cost of construction, £93,500 ; and the interest on rolling stock, £11,701; which make a total of £157,081. The estimated revenue is £65,097’. The loss from this line would therefore be £91,984. If the profit on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta section be allowed for, the loss would be reduced to £18,178. The whole of these estimates of revenue are for pastoral products only. I received a letter to-day, however, which I think it only right to read to the House. It is from Mr. John Claffey, the secretary of the Central Australia Silver-Lead and Copper
Mining Co., of Adelaide, is dated 19th January, 1926, and reads -
Herewith I have pleasure in enclosing you short report of work done on Home of Bullion Mine, Barrow Creek, up to this date.
The work on this mine, by the way, cannot possibly be done properly without railway facilities. It costs £17 a ton to pack goods from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, to say nothing of the extra distance to Barrow Creek. Neither the pastoral nor mineral wealth of the Territory can be exploited without a* railway. The report that Mr. Claffey refers to is as follows: -
This property, which is known as the “ Home of Bullion “ Mine, is situated about 20 miles east of Barrow Creek. The main lode, which is about 500 feet long with an average width of about 10 feet, has two shafts sunk on it. The first shaft sunk on the property was put down on the eastern end of the lode where the formation on the surface was about 12 feet wide. When this shaft reached a depth of 50 feet, a cross-cut was put in, and proved the lode to have widened out to 26 feet, and to have considerably improved in value. This shaft was then continued down to a depth of 95 feet, when water was struck. The shaft was refilled to prevent the water from rising, and a crosscut was put in the lode at 90 feet. When this crosscut had got into the lode for a distance of 16 feet, a cavity was run into which - was 17 feet square. This cavity, or blow, was literally lined with carbonate of lead, and looked like a cave of stalactites. On account of the size of this cave the shaft had to be abandoned, as it was impossible to get timber large enough in the district to timber up and make the drive safe to work in. 500 feet further west on the same lode another shaft has been sunk to a depth of 50 feet, and a crosscut has been put in at that depth and has proved the width of the ore to be 30 feet. These two shafts prove the lode to be about 500 feet long, and to have widened out from 12 to 30 feet, and the lode is widening out at the rate of about 1 foot for every 6 feet sunk, and is getting richer with every foot of sinking done. We are now standing off the lode at the eastern end, and sinking a vertical shaft, in which we expect to cut the lode at a depth of 150 feet. This shaft is now down to a depth of 90 feet. In addition to the main lode, wo have a parallel lode which is 750 feet south of the main lode.
This parallel lode is not as long as the main lode, but is much wider on the surface, being in places over 40 feet wide. Only one shaft has been sunk on this parallel lode, and that is down to a depth of 95 feet.
At a depth of 50 feet a crosscut was put in and proved the lode to be 28 feet wide.
When this shaft has been sunk another 5 feet, making the total depth 100 feet, another crosscut will be put in to prove the width of the lode. This ore body is also widening out and getting richer for every foot of sinking done. The whole of the ore is gossan carrying good copper, lead and silver values.
Everything depends on the quality of the sulphide ore to be met with after we pass the water level. Sulphide ore may not come in until we reach a depth of 200* feet.
Nothing but the pick and shovel will prove the value of the mine. While it is impossible to forecast the future, it is only reasonable to suppose that with ‘ such long and - wide unbroken lengths and widths of ore widening out and getting richer for every foot of sinking done - that they will continue to widen and get richer, until sulphide or primary rock is reached.
If that does happen - and there is no scientific reason why it should not - then this mine will rank as one of the rich mines of Australia.
– If that report is correct they have another Broken Hill.
– The Broken Hill people say that it is another Broken Hill.
– I know nothing whatever about the mine, or the quality of the ore although I have seen some samples. We have not taken into account in our estimated revenue any possible mineral development, although it is quite probable that valuable deposits of mineralswill be discovered in Central Australia. Tremendous difficulties face every settler who goes there, and that must be so until railway facilities are provided. Wirenetting, wire, ploughs, household furniture, benzine, and, in fact, everything, has to be camel packed from Oodnadatta -to Alice Springs at a cost of £17 a ton. As we were travelling north from Maryvale we met a mob of 350 cattle, which included stock as fine as I have seen in any part of the Commonwealth. They would have done credit to any lucerne fattening district. They were then somewhere in the vicinity of Deep Well. We saw them again four days later, and they were still on the track, not having reached Maryvale. As a result of their four days on the road they had depreciated quite £2 per head. On arrival at Alice Springs we found- that about 800 head of cattle had been mustered from the outside stations to be sent to Oodnadatta, but, when it was found that water and feed between Alice Springs and Oodnadatta were unobtainable, they were all taken back to the runs whence they came. Some of those cattle were four or five years of age, and it would probably be another two years before they would again be in the same condition. We also’ explored the Burt Plains, immediately north of the Macdonnell Ranges, and that is splendid country. On these plains, which are about 30 miles wide and 300 miles long, I saw some splendid cattle, which I should have been proud to own.
– Were they well-bred cattle?
– They were mostly Herefords. Many of them had calves at foot, half as big as their mothers. They were all fat. Although I had heard a good deal about Mitchell grass, I saw very little of it; but the pastures there must be very nourishing to. produce such stock. North of these plain’s we entered mulga and spinifex country, which is not of such good quality. At Ryan’s Well we found country suitable for sheep. We saw a flock of 700 sheep, mostly merinos, which had been raised with difficulty. They were shepherded by blacks. Most of them had lambs at foot.
– Those sheep produced 8 lb. of scoured wool each the previous year.
– I should hardly have thought that. The Government is satisfied that an extension to Alice Springs of . the .3-ft. 6-in.-. railway at present terminating at Oodnadatta will meet all the requirements of the country for the next 50 to 100 years. A 4-ft. 8-Hn. fine from Kingoonya to Alice Springs will not be warranted during that period, and in view of the heavy additional cost involved in connexion with the construction of a line of that gauge, the interest charges on which would be very heavy, the Government has no hesitation in recommending to the House the adoption of the proposal set out in the bill. It is confidently anticipated that, with the new engines now being installed on the Oodnadatta ‘line - they have a hauling power 50 per cent, greater than that of the old engines - the requirements of the country will be fully met. Those honorable members who visited South Africa recently travelled over railways of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge only. I saw there the heaviest, trains I have ever seen. The trucks were mostly of a capacity of 50 tons, with a tare of from 20 to 25 tons, while the Garrett engines in use there are much heavier than any in Australia today. All the traffic on those railways in. wood, coal, and maize is carried over a 3-ft. 6-in. line, mostly in 40-ton trucks.
– Does the Government propose to construct the permanent way similar to that of the South African railways ?
– No; our estimate provides for a 3 ft. 6 in. line, which will carry all the traffic . which is likely to be placed upon it for the next 50 years. In the country which this line will traverse holdings will have to be much greater than in Victoria and the greater portion of South Australia. It will require an area of f rem 500 to 1,000 square miles to- provide a man with a decent living.. I emphasize that this is not a small man’s country. The fact that one man owns a large area frequently saves his cattle from starvation. When he holds an area 50 miles by 20 miles it frequently happens that on one portion of his holding a thunderstorm will provide good feed, whereas on tho opposite end of the run his cattle are almost starving. By removing them to the area which had benefited from the rain they would be saved. Some of the country on the Finke River is excellent, and, with water, will grow anything. Unfortunately, there is no water, and no hope of storing it there. The Finke River runs from its source to its outlet about, once in every five years. Sometimes a refresher comes down the river and follows its course for a few miles. Otherwise the country is waterless. Our only justification for the construction of this railway is the nature of the country north of Alice Springs. When the through line from Alice Springs to Adelaide is constructed the existing local rates for goods and livestock will be abolished. At present one rate applies on the line from Oodnadatta to Port Augusta or Quorn, and another rate from there to Adelaide. Those rates have made the cost of transporting livestock to Adelaide very heavy. Under the proposed arrangement, with the line completed from Alice Springs to Port Augusta, and the standard gauge line brought into Adelaide, it will be possible to have a through rate per truck of livestock from Alice Springs to Adelaide which will not be greater than the existing rate from Oodnadatta to Adelaide. That means that a journey 300 miles longer will cost practically no more.
– What does the saving amount to 1
– The charge for a truck of eighteen beasts is about £29 from Alice Springs to Adelaide.
– How many changes will be involved 1
– One only. Livestock will be untrucked at . Stirling North, near Tort Augusta, and again placed on the train and sent to Adelaide, which place it is expected they will reach in a reasonable time and iu first-class condition. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Yates) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 January 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260120_reps_10_112/>.