10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton
Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. Mackay, as chairman, brought up the report, together with minutes of evidence of the Public Works Committee, relating to the proposed construction of a dam and improvements on theMolonglo River.
Ordered to bo printed.
– I notice that the
Tariff Board is taking, or about to take, evidence in Tasmania on a proposal to impose a duty on potatoes. As I represent the district which produces most of the potatoes grown in Australia, and the best, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the potato-growers of the Bungarce district will he given an opportunity to appear before the Tariff Board?
– I shall consult with the Tariff Board regarding the matter. I have no doubt that every effort will be made to meet the convenience of persons desiring to give evidence before the board. Evidence will be taken by the board in Melbourne, and while I cannot say that it will be prepared to visit particular districts, Victorian growers desiring to give evidence before it will probably not consider it too great an inconvenience to come to Melbourne to do so.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to give the House any information concerning the recently reported flotation of a Commonwealth loan of £6,000,000?
– I prefer not to make any comment on the loan at present. The loan has been underwritten, but has not yet been subscribed.
Conference of State Premiers.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any information concerning the States Grants Bill and the conference of State Premiers just held in Melbourne ?
– I cannot give the honorable member any information about the conference of State Premiers held in Melbourne recently.
– I understand that the Prime Minister has received a letter from some of the surf clubs asking for a Commonwealth subsidy towards their maintenance. Has the right honorable gentleman come to any decision on the matter ?
– No decision has yet been come to.
Transfer of Seat of Government
– In view of the difficulty in securing accommodation which confronts officers of the Public Service who are under orders to proceed to Canberra, and the similar difficulty confronting members of the Federal Parliament, will the Prime Minister put off, for ten years, (he proposed transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra?
– I am afraid thatI cannot meet the honorable member’s wishes in the way he suggests.
Payment to Naturalized Indians
– In view of the Treasurer’s promise to give old-age pensions to certain Indians resident in Australia, I ask when is it the intention of the honorable gentleman to introduce a bill for the purpose?.
– It is not usual, in answer to questions, to indicate exactly when the Government intends to give effect to its’ policy, but I hope that I shall be able to introduce the bill referred to some time during the present session.
Agenda Paper: Locarno Pact
– Is the Prime Minister able to tell the House when the discussion on the agenda paper for the Imperial Conference, and on the Locarno Pact, will take place?
– I hope to be in a position to lay the agenda paper for the Imperial Conference on the table in the very near future, and shall then move that the document be printed. A reasonable period of time will be allowed to elapse between the laying of the paper on the table and its discussion, to give honorable members opportunity to consider it.
– Many of the semiofficial postmistresses in charge of allowance post offices have been in the employment of the Postmaster-
General’s Department for 20, 30, and even 35 years. To all intents and purposes they arc permanent officers, but they do not come under the Superannuation Act, and they are not receiving wages from the department which enable them to put by anything for their old age. I ask the Postmaster-General whether there is any intention to bring these officers under the Superannuation Act, or to make provision for the payment of pensions to them ?
– The officers to whom the honorable member refers are temporary officers. As they are not on the permanent staff, no provision is made for them under the Superannuation Act. I can hardly see how temporary postmistresses could be brought under that act, especially as many of them arc running post offices merely as a sideline to the real business in which they are engaged.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Assuming that the honorable member has in mind assisted migrants, the. following replies are furnished : - 1. (a) 185,030.
No particulars available for years 1914 to 1921. Two hundred and eight-six assisted migrants arrived during years 1922 to 1924
Transfers : Income Tax
– On the 17th June, the honorable member for Mel- bourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions: -
I am now in the position to furnish the following information . -
The following papers were presented : -
Papuan Oilfields - Drilling Reports for January, February, March, and April, 1926, together with Report on Drilling Difficulties, by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, Nos. 73, 74, 75, 76.
Motion (by Mr. Hill) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to ratify the agreement made between the Commonwealth of Australia, Norris Garrett Bell, James Fraser, James Walker Davidson, and the State of New South Wales, to ratify the agreement made between the Commonwealth of Australia, Norris Garrett Bell, James Fraser, James Walker Davidson, and the State of Queensland, and to amend the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act 1925.
Bill presented by Mr. Hill, and read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1926-1927. appropriations - divisional returning Officers - Cotton Yarn - Soldier Settlement - New Zealand Reciprocity : Dried Fruits - Allowance Postal Officials - Cruiser Construction - Lord Howe Island - Raw Cotton - Port Augusta to Red Hill Railway - Tariff Bill - South Australian Woollen Company. - Wine Bounty - Browse Island - Pearling Industry - New Ministers - Apple Bounty - Incandescent Gas Mantles - Sugar Rebate for Small Fruitcanners - Charters Towers Public Servants - Telegraph Messengers - Newcastle Fog Bell - War Service Homes - Community Settlements.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1926-1927 a sum not exceeding £4,046,117.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member will be in order in discussing generally the granting of Supply at the present time, and when the bill is before the committee he will have an opportunity to move any reduction, if he so desires.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means :
– I move-
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1926-27, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £4,046,117.
The amount appropriated by the bill will cover the ordinary expenses of the Commonwealth in the first two months of the approaching financial year. As honorable members are aware, all unexpended balances of appropriations for the current year will lapse on the 30th June next, and after that date no payments can be made for the ordinary services of the departments ‘ until Parliament has granted supply to cover them. The first pay-day in the new financial year occurs on the 2nd July. It is, therefore, necessary to pass this bill through both Houses during the next few days. The bill will provide for five fortnightly pay-days in July and August, and also for approximately one-sixth of the total appropriation of the current year for other annual votes. It is the intention of the Government to introduce its budget proposals within the first ten days of the forthcoming financial year, so that honorable members may be able to consider them at the earliest possible date. The House will thus be in a position to discuss the budget before the supply asked for in this bill has been exhausted. The total amount appropriated by the bill is £4,046,117, made up as follows: - £1,313,942 for departments and services other than business undertakings, and the Territories of the Commonwealth. £1,496,830 for business undertakings. £35,345 for the Territories of the Commonwealth. £200,000 for refunds of revenue, and £1,000,000 for an advance to the Treasurer.
The items in the bill are based on the appropriations for the current financial year. No provision is made for expenditure not already approved by Parliament. The total for ordinary expenditure - £2^846,117 - is slightly less than onesixth of the total appropriation for the services of the present year, one-sixth of which amount would be £3,078,797. The £1,000,000 provided for as advance to the Treasurer is required chiefly for the purpose of carrying on capital works that will be in progress on the 30th June next.
– Will any portion of that amount be applied to new services or new undertakings 1
– No. Provision of money for these works is necessary pending the passing of the Loan Act and the Appropriation Act for additions, new works, and buildings. The chief works in progress are those for postal, telegraphic, and telephonic pur poses. As the financial year will close on Wednesday next, and the position of the finances will be known definitely a few days later, it is not necessary for me to attempt now to anticipate the statement I shall make then.
.- I agree with the Treasurer that it is necessary that Supply be granted before the end of this month in order to meet payments that will be due early in July, and as no new expenditure is involved, there appears to be no ground for objection to the grant for which the Treasurer is asking. But I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to ventilate a few matters. During the last general election a great deal of extra work was occasioned the divisional returning officers by the operation for the first time of compulsory voting. The election was brought on hurriedly, and that increased the difficulties of those who had to prepare for it and carry it through: Many of them were at their posts practically night and day for several weeks, and I am informed that some of them worked as much as 300 hours overtime. I know that the divisional returning officer in my own electorate was working night and day for a couple of weeks preceding the elections, and for a considerable time afterwards. I have repeatedly brought under the notice of the Government the claim of these officers for special consideration, and I am sorry that so far nothing has been done. The latest communication I have received on the subject is the following letter from the ex-Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) : - t Regarding the proposal to grant a special allowance to divisional returning officers for the performance of overtime work in connexion with the recent elections, you will, perhaps, remember that, on 3rd February, the Prime Minister stated that the Public Service Board had advised that the fact that these officers were required to work such overtime was considered when determining their scale of pay and that, in the circumstances, it could not favorably consider any suggestion to pay a bonus.
The Prime Minister, however, intimated that steps were being taken to obtain further particulars with a view to having the matter reconsidered by the board.
Further representations on the subject were, accordingly, made on 16th February, hut on 23rd February, the Public Service Board forwarded a reply adhering to its previous decision.
The matter was again submitted to the board on 24th March in the light of additional information which had been obtained. The board, however, re-affirmed its previous decision.
As this matter has been placed by Parliament under the exclusive control of the Public Service Board, no further action can be taken.
That letter indicates that the Government made representations to the Public Service Board, which has definitely refused to grant the electoral officers additional remuneration for the extra services they performed. It is idle for the board to say that overtime was taken into consideration when their salaries were fixed. When these officers were appointed the compulsory voting provisions had not been inserted in the Electoral Act, and, on an average, only about two-thirds of the number that voted at the last election voted at previous elections. These officers have a legitimate claim to some allowance. Every man should be paid according to the work he does, and nobody will deny that the electoral officers did much more work than was expected of them prior to the introduction of compulsory voting. The forthcoming referendum also will throw upon them additional responsibility and work. Every honrable member recognizes the satisfactory manner in which the electoral law is administered. We are all proud to know that the divisional returning officers are conscientious men, who can be depended upon to< do their duty to the country. It is only just that when they are asked to work a great deal of overtime they should be adequately remunerated.
– A number of the officers dropped out because the work was too strenuous.
– Worry kills; and, for a few weeks preceding and following the election, the divisional returning officers had a very strenuous and nerveracking task. Therefore, notwithstanding the decision of the Public Service Board, I urge the Government to make a special allowance to these men.
I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs the newly-established industry for the pro.ducton of cotton yarn. An up-to-date factory, established in New South Wales, employs a large number of hands, but it cannot expand, or even continue in existence, unless it receives some assistance from this Parliament. Realizing that for the time being the Australian industry is not able to supply local requirements, the promotor, Mr. Bond, has not asked for the imposition of a protective duty, but he has asked that a bounty be paid on all cotton yarn produced in the Commonwealth. The Tariff Board, after holding an inquiry, recommended the payment of a bounty, and according to its report -
The application was lodged by Mr. Rupert Neil McLean on behalf of Geo. A. Bond and Company Limited, Sydney. No witnesses appeared to give evidence against the request. Tile application was based on the grounds that assistance is necessary to enable the company to thoroughly establish the industry of spinning cotton yarn, and to follow on with the naturally related industry of weaving cotton piece goods, such as calicoes, duck, shirtings, linings, zephyrs, towellings, and towels.
The report further states -
The Tariff Board, upon visiting the works of Geo. A. Bond and Company, found an uptodate factory, well equipped, and with almost unlimited provision for expansion. Over 400 employees were at work at the time of the board’s visit. The yarn was being spun from the lint, and was being woven into towels, calico, canvas, and duck. The board was very much impressed with the whole of the undertaking, and is satisfied that Bond and Company have started what should become in the future a very great secondary industry, consuming large quantities of Australian and Papuan grown cotton, as well as cotton from overseas.
The board made the following obsevations on the value of the industry : -
The prospective value to the Commonwealth of the cotton industry is becoming more and more apparent. It is” expected that this year there will be an increase over last year of 1,000,000 lb. of ginned cotton lint, and this additional quantity should represent a value of about £125,000 when spun into cotton yarn. There is, however, an almost unlimited scope for the industry, as the value of imported cotton goods is around £12,000,000 per annum.
The board’s recommendation, which is what principally concerns this committee, was -
That a bounty of 6d. per lb. be paid on cotton yarn spun in Australia provided that not ‘less than 50 per cent, of suitable cotton grown in Australia, Papua, or the Mandated Territories of the Commonwealth be included in the yarn, but this recommendation is made subject to the regulations under the Bounty Act providing that if the Minister is satisfied after report by the Tariff Board that 50 per cent, of such suitable cotton is not available bounty may be granted on the yarn even though containing less than 50 per cent, of cotton grown in Australia, Papua, or the Mandated Territories of the Commonwealth.
A large quantity of cotton is already being grown in this country, and we all hope that it will increase. One way to increase it is to establish in this country industries to work up all the cotton grown. The factory of Messrs.’ Bond and Company is up to date. When the last tariff was under consideration in 1921 - Mr. Massy Greene was then Minister for Trade and Customs - the firm was promised that if certain conditions were observed it would be given assistance. The promise was not fulfilled on that occasion, but the firm continued to expend money on extending its business in anticipation of protection being provided in the tariff schedule recently passed by this committee. Members of the firm have told me that it is impossible for them to continue to manufacture cotton yarn unless the Government assists thom. This industry is worth encouraging, for by establishing it an important Australian primary product “will be used in an Australian secondary industry. After such a report from the Tariff Board, which, was appointed to advise the Minister and Parliament on the tariff, it is difficult to understand why nothing has been done. Do honorable members think that this industry should be strangled in its youth, instead of being encouraged to develop into something strong and virile? I am speaking on this subject now so that the Minister may have an opportunity to inform the public of the Government’s intentions. Unless we encourage secondary industries we shall not obtain full benefit from our primary industries. Large quantities of Australian raw materials are sent abroad every year and returned to this country as manufactured products. Surely the time has arrived- when we should manufacture our own raw materials. It is idle to talk of increasing the population of this country unless we take the obvious initial steps to provide for the absorption of labour. I submit that this is a matter “worthy of the Minister’3 serious consideration.
.- After the assurance of the honorable the Treasurer that none of the expenditure provided for in this bill is for new undertakings, I can take no objection to any specific item ; but as the committee is being asked to vote the substantial amount of £4,046,000, this is a suitable time to bring under the notice of the Government, and of the Treasurer particularly, one or two items of heavy expenditure on great national undertakings. Thereis grave doubt whether the policy of settling ex-soldiers on ready-made farms is wise. Rightly or wrongly, this Government undertook to find the money for that scheme, but farmed out the responsibility to the States. All the States to-day have a direct responsibility for soldier land settlement, although theobligation is, in the main, a Common.wealth or national one.
– I assume that when the honorable member says “ this Government,” he does not mean the present Government.
– At this juncture T am not seeking to attach blame to any one. I merely wish to bring certain facts under notice.
– But, for the purpose of accuracy, willi the honorable member say whether he means the present Government ?
– I certainly do not mean the present Government. I attach no responsibility to it. I am dealing with the undertaking rather than with the Government. The right honorable the Prime Minister will remember that when this scheme was launched I expressed very definite views about it - views which were in conflict with those held by the government of that day. I said then, and I repeat now, that the attempt to settle returned soldiers on ready-made farms, bought at the then current prices - even though they were reasonable prices - was unwise. The land had been giving good returns owing to the inflated prices - which were due to imperial contracts and war-time conditions - of wool, “wheat, meat, and dairy produce. Land and materials were at peak prices when many of these men took over their ready-made farms. It was almost impossible at that time to coax squatters to purchase a yard of fencing wire to mend their fences; but all the wire needed for fencing ex-soldiers’ farms was purchased. We cannot leave soldier settlement in its present condition. The obligation rests upon the Commonwealth and State Governments to get these excellent men out of their difficulties. On account of the existing economic conditions, some of those who are dairying are unable, .ever with the help of their wives and families. and although they work seven days a week, to earn half the ruling basic wage; and many others, on account of the fall in the price of primary products, are unable to earn the full basic wage. The readymade farm basis of settlement is dangerous in every way, and as we are about to launch a big migration scheme we should reconsider the wisdom of persisting with it. I am quite certain that if we put immigrants on ready-made farms they will fail. If Australian men used to Australian conditions cannot make a success of them, it is quite certain that people from abroad, who do not know Australian conditions, will fail. The State Governments should be called into conference with the Federal Government at the earliest possible moment to consider ways and means of remedying the deplorable conditions that exist. Exsoldiers on fruit-growing properties in the north of Queensland are in a particularly hopeless position. Commonwealth and State money as well as the welfare of some fine men who served Australia nobly in her great crisis is involved. But the fruit-growing and dairying propositions of ex-soldiers in practically all the States are in an unsatisfactory condition. I am not condemning all ex-soldier landSettlement schemes. Far from it.I know that brilliant successes have been achieved in some of the wheat-growing and grazing areas; but other schemes have been such total failures that some of the State Governments have appointed royal commissions to report upon them. If the Commonwealth Government called a conference, as I suggest, these State Governments would be fortified in the discussions by the findings of their commissions. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am not blaming the present Government for the unsatisfactory conditions that exist for most of the schemes were launched before it took office; but from £35,000,000 to £40,000,000 of public money, and the welfare of about 30,000 soldier settlers are involved so that, however little responsibility this Government may have for the conditions, it certainly cannot ignore them.
– We are only waiting for the Government of New South Wales to sign an agreement which will enable a concession of £5,000,000 to be made to the State in respect of soldiersettlementcharges.
Mr.RODGERS. - I have looked into that matter, and it is more of a book keeping concession between the Commonwealth and State Governments than a relief to the settlers themselves.
– It will enable the States to make concessions which they could not otherwise make.
– It will reduce the responsibility of the States to the Commonwealth, but it will not necessarily help the settlers. A. visit to practically any dairying settlement where ex-soldiers are living is enough to make one sick at heart. The economic conditions render it absolutely impossible for the men ever to succeed.
– What does the honorable member suggest as a remedy?
– I suggest that the Commonwealth and State Governments, which are partners in the undertakings, should’ confer on this single subject and endeavour to find a way of meeting the situation. Possibly the findings of some of the royal commissions would show the way out. Not only are our own exsoldiers involved, but also some eximperial officers, who were induced to invest their capital here. A good many of them have already abandoned their land.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the great majority of ex-soldiers have not succeeded?
– I say that, on account of economic conditions - not their own shortcomings, inability, or lack of desire . to make good - many ex-soldiers in some of the States, settled on fruit-growing properties many miles from a market have no hope of ever succeeding. They are trying to make a living by the growing of ground crops, such as tomatoes, until their orchards become productive; but their position is desperate. Governments have tried to come to their aid with grants, and the Commonwealth has made advances to them; but that has not met the situation. All such devices have been ineffective, so far as the ex-soldier dairymen and orchardists are concerned, and the Government cannot ignore the facts, and allow the men to remain in their present helpless condition, or to abandon their land brokenhearted; it must do something to meet their extreme needs, and to improve the dreadful conditions under which they are living. This must be done, too, before the migration scheme is put into operation, or it will have a dark cloud hanging over it right from the beginning. I do not believe that it is possible for men to make a success of land settlement when they begin with a debt of 100 per cent. on their land, stock, implements, and improvements, unless under exceptional circumstances. I realize, of course, that some ex-soldiers who took up wheatgrowing have made good, owing to the high price of wheat and the enhanced value of their land. A good many of them, as a matter of fact, have sold out and made huge profits. But their success throws into stronger relief the failure of their comrades who took up dairying and fruit-growing, for even assistance to the extent of £2,500 each from the Commonwealth and State Governments has not enabled them to earn the ruling basic wage. I have made these remarks, not in any fault-finding spirit or to attach blame to any government or party, but with the sole desire to see something done to improve the position.
I wish now to refer to our trade agreement with New Zealand. We should be able to find a good market in that dominion for dried fruits, of which it is common knowledge that we have a large exportable surplus. The late Mr. W. B. Chaffey and Messrs. Meares, of New South Wales, and McDougall, of South Australia, did some excellent work in Great Britain in interesting the big merchants there in Australia’s dried fruits. In consequence of the efforts of those gentlemen and of the Prime Minister at the Imperial Conference, an excellent market for some portion of our dried fruits has been obtained in Great Britain. That is very satisfactory, as far as it goes, but I point out to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) that an excellent market for our dried fruits is to be found close at hand, in New Zealand. The climatic conditions of New Zealand fit in excellently with those of Australia, for the purpose of an exchange of commodities. Though New Zealand and” Australia are close tgether, no two countries afford more excellent opportunities for reciprocal trade agreements. The climate of New Zealand is cold and moist, and, for the most part, that of Australia is warm and dry. On a previous occasion negotiations for a re ciprocal agreement with New Zealand, with which I was concerned, were unsuccessful, because, at that time, New Zealand desired that her oats should be admitted to Australia upon favorable terms in exchange for her admission of our dried fruits. I am credibly informed that, at the present time New Zealand is not so anxious that her oats should be admitted to the Commonwealth on such favorable terms, and that some other New Zealand commodity could be substituted in exchange for our dried fruits.
– Probably hops.
– No, I think probably whale oil would be suggested. I do not ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to sacrifice any Australian industry. I was not myself prepared to do that by agreeing to admit New Zealand oats on the terms that were suggested. I think it would be advisable, if the Minister cannot himself spare the time, that he should send at least one member of the Tariff Board to New Zealand to try to secure, close at hand, a profitable market for our dried fruits industry. As one who failed in tariff negotiations with New Zealand, I make this suggestion in no carping spirit, but because I believe that the attitude of New Zealand on the question of tariff reciprocity, has changed. This is a matter of great importance to an industry which is in a very bad way in this country. It is not sound business to go twelve thousand miles for a market, while neglecting one close at hand. I believe that we could secure practically the whole of the New Zealand market for our dried fruits, and the sooner we send an accredited representative to that dominion for the purpose, the sooner we shall get that market.
– I hope the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) will take a favorable view of the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and will announce his intention to pay a bounty on cotton yarn. Millions of pounds worth of cotton goods are imported into this country every year, and we have only one factory for the manufacture of cotton goods established in the Commonwealth. It was established on the advice of a former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene). He told those interested in the proposition that if they established a factory for the manufacture of cotton goods, he could guarantee them a bounty on cotton yarn. The firm carries on another business, the profits from which are used to keep their factory for the manufacture of cotton yarn going. It has been waiting two or three years for the promised bounty, and is getting sick of the delay. There is nothing to prevent it from importing cotton yarn, manufactured in cheap labour countries, but it is prepared to train our own people in the manufacture of the article. We are proposing to spend millions of pounds in bringing migrants to this country, and the operations of this firm would find an avenue for the employment of many of them. We pay a bounty on Australiangrown cotton and there is no sense in doing so, if it must be sent overseas to be manufactured. I believe that the Tariff Board has on no fewer than three occasions recommended the payment of a bounty on cotton yarn. The Minister for Trade and Customs has shown himself to be a believer in promoting the establishment of industries in Australia, and I ask him to assist the industry for the manufacture of cotton yarn. We shall shortly be dealing with a proposal for the spending of £34,000,000 on development and migration, and I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will be .able to make a pronouncement this afternoon to the effect that he intends to encourage the manufacture of cotton yarn in the Commonwealth by the payment of a bounty. That would be an important step towards the development of Commonwealth resources. The firm to which I have referred is prepared to establish factories in each of the States, and not to confine its operations to New South Wales. It is prepared to establish a factory in Queensland, where cotton is grown, that would give employment to a great many people. We produce in this country more wool than we can use ourselves, and yet there is no encouragement given to the production of woollen yarn. There is now an opportunity for the Minister for Trade and Customs to make a name for himself by seeing that these secondary industries are established and encouraged. I do not object to the request of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) for encouragement for the man on the land. He should be given every possible encouragement. We are, however, producing more from the land than we can consume, and that cannot be said of our secondary industries. If we are to carry out development on right lines, we should protect our secondary industries. There is a great demand in this country for cotton and woollen goods, and we oan only satisfactorily increase our population if those who come here can be absorbed in decent employments.
With regard to the payment of compensation for returning officers for extra work performed during the last election, I should like to say that I consider it cowardly on the part of the Government to shelter itself behind the Public Service Board. I understand that the board has reported that these officers are not entitled to extra pay for the extra work they performed. I wonder if the members of the board work overtime. During the last election campaign, I passed the offices of the returning officer for my electorate very late at night, and found the whole place lit up. We should recognize our responsibility to these officers, even though their request for additional payment has been turned down by the Public Service Board. I am satisfied that the great majority of honorable members will be behind any government that undertakes a national policy for the development of the resources of this country. I went through th: works of the cotton manufacturing company to which I have referred, . and found them up to date in every way. I hops the Minister for Trade and Customs will consider the advisability of making the announcement that he is prepared, by the payment of a bounty on cotton yarn, to stand behind this pioneering company established for the manufacture of cotton goods in Australia.
– At the recent election for EdenMonaro, one or two matters were brought prominently under my notice, and I promised on the first opportunity to ventilate them on the floor of this House. One was the matter touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) concerning the salaries paid to divisional returning officers. I endorse what the honorable gentleman said in that regard. I can go further, and say that deputy returning officers and poll clerks are insufficiently rewarded for the work they do at elections. I should have delayed referring to the matter until the general Estimates were- under consideration but for the fact that referenda are to tak? place in the near future. Honorable members are aware of the difficulties which confront returning officers in large and scattered districts. Although the salaries of people in most other walks of life have been increased, these electoral officers are paid only the salaries which they received years ago. Some greater consideration should be given also to the onerous duties which are performed by poll clerks. The divisional returning officer at the last Eden-Monaro election had everything ready for the poll, but at the last moment a poll clerk refused to act because he considered that the payment offered for his services was insufficient. When the general election was in progress this divisional returning officer had the same experience. The Chief Electoral Officer in Sydney communicated with him, telling him that his expenditure at the general election had been heavy, and asking him to try to reduce it at the by-election. It has been said that the health of the electoral officers was affected by the work they did during the general election. Unfortunately, this divisional returning officer had a terrible time at both elections, and he broke down under the strain of the by-election, dying a few days afterwards. I do not say that the .election was the cause of his death, but it certainly hastened it. His trouble was not the inadequacy of the salary paid to himself; it was the difficulty he had in that vast electorate to get men to act as deputies and poll clerks for the miserable allowance made to them. If the salaries of these men are increased it will, no doubt, add considerably to the expense of the forthcoming referendum; but, at the same time, it is absolutely necessary to pay better salaries if we ave to have suitable men to do the work. We must have trustworthy officers at the referendum, and the Government would do well to wake up to the fact that the allowances paid some years ago are not sufficient to-day.
Another matter to which I wish to draw attention will also entail additional outlay on the part of the Government, if an injustice suffered by a big section of the community is to be_ removed. We know that there is a great demand for penny postage, but in view of the facts put forward by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson), we cannot look for it even in the immediate future. A large section of the Public Service can have its salaries reviewed by the Public Service Board or the Public Service Arbitrator, but there is a section of the Service which is connected with the Postal Department that does not have that opportunity; I refer to those persons who are in charge of allowance post offices. While others in the department have had their salaries increased year after year, these officers who perform important duties throughout Australia are obliged to carry on their work for pitiful allowances, which are fixed by the Postmaster-General and his deputies. Since I have been a member of this House I have received letters from many allowance officers telling me that they are anxious to get rid of their positions because of their inadequate remuneration. The positions are really a humbug to them, and they merely carry on the work because it is of convenience to their neighbours to have an allowance post office. Possibly, the remuneration paid to them some years ago was adequate, but, as in the case of the poll clerks, it is no longer so, because of the reduction in the purchasing power of the sovereign. I promised to ventilate both these matters, and I trust that the Government will give attention to them.
.- On looking through the items upon which the £6,000,000 loan which is now being raised in London is to be spent, I find no reference to the cost of building the new cruisers, which -ought to be built in Australia but are being built abroad.
– Those cruisers are being built out of revenue. The Government does not borrow, money to build cruisers.
– I am pleased to hear that. I should like the PostmasterGeneral to make provision on the Estimates for the establishment of wireless communication with Lord Howe Island in the interests, not only of those who go to sea, but also of those Australians who live on the island. It is peculiar that there always seems to be delay in providing lighthouses and other means for making navigation safe. It took five or six years to persuade the Government that it was necessary to establish a wireless station on Willis Island. A glance at the map shows that there is a missing link in the chain of wireless stations which we ought to have in the Pacific. We already have stations at Samarai and Willis Island, and a station on Lord Howe Island would complete the chain. It would afford additional protection for those who might be unfortunate enough to encounter cyclones such as are frequently experienced on the Queensland coast. I have interviewed postal officials and officers in the navigation and meteorological departments, and they all recommend the establishing of wireless communication with the island. Lord Howe Island is situated 450 miles from the mainland, on one of the main sea routes between Australia, New Zealand, and America. People connected with the mercantile marine tell me that a wireless station there is urgently needed.
– At the present time Lord Howe Island receives, by wireless, the programmes and news items broadcast from Sydney.
– That is through a private installation. I was five weeks on the island, and the only information I heard from the mainland was that Messrs. Walsh and Johannsen had had a row. But that had occurred before I left Sydney. Private individuals on the island make some attempt to amuse themselves by getting communications from the outside world; otherwise they would bo five weeks at a time without news. Serious outbreaks of disease might occur on the island, and nothing would be known o£ them for all that time. Objection should not be raised on the score that a wireless station on Lord Howe Island would not earn enough revenue to make it pay. No revenue is earned by the stations at Samarai or Willis Island, but a certain, amount would be earned by the Lord Howe Island installation. The visitors to the island would always be glad to keep in touch with the mainland. However, it is not a question of revenue; it is a question of providing Australians on the island with facilities possessed by other residents of Australia. It is not correct to say that the people of Lord Howe Island pay no taxation. They purchase the whole of their food and clothing from Sydney, where Customs duties have already been paid on them. To ask the few inhabitants on the island to bear the whole cost of a wireless station would be an outrage. If the PostmasterGeneral consults the officers of his department and of other departments, he will find them greatly in favour of providing this means of communication, because it is necessary to preserve life at sea. I thought that we in Australia had reached that standard of advancement when it would not be necessary to urge a Government to carry out such a necessary undertaking, particularly when it has a surplus of £4,500,000.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) in regard to the proposed bounty on cotton yarn. When the Tariff Board was being established honorable members were told that it would be an independent tribunal which would investigate all matters relating to the tariff and local industries, and make reports by which Parliament could be guided. In regard to the cotton bounty the advice of the board is not being followed, and for some unexplained reason its report has been concealed, instead of being laid upon the table as the act requires. Those engaged in industries are told that if they will make their wants known to the board they will get a fair deal. But Messrs. Bond and Company, upon whose request the board reported favorably nearly ten months ago, have not been treated fairly by the Government. Evidence tendered to the board showed definitely that the Wentworthville Mills are losing not less than £20,000 a year on the spinning of cotton, and may be closed if the Commonwealth Government does not come to their assistance. We are nearing the end of this session; Parliament will probably be out of session for six or eight months, and the industry .may be closed down if the Government does not realize the urgency of its need and act promptly. It is generally understood that the Government will propose shortly the payment of a bounty upon cotton grown in Australia. It seems absurd to encourage the growth, of cotton, and yet take no step to encourage the spinning of it in the Commonwealth. Apparently locally-grown cotton is to continue to be sent to Lancashire and returned to us in the form of yarn.. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) said that the deferred duty obviated the need for a bounty; but the Tariff Board received evidence that the deferred duty will not .help the industry at all; it will certainly hot help users of cotton yarn, other than Bond and Company, who are not able to manufacture even sufficient for their own requirements, but are large importers of cotton yarn.
– What influence is preventing the giving of effect to the Tariff Board’s report?
– I do not know. I believe that the House is favorable to the granting of a bounty. Any government will hesitate to introduce proposals of whose reception in Parliament it is doubtful, but rarely is a government unwilling to comply with the known desire of a majority of honorable members. The Tariff Board has recommended that a bounty of 6d. per lb. should be paid on all cotton yarn produced in Australia, and it is urgently necessary that the Government should come to some decision on this matter. Bond and Company cannot be expected to conduct a losing venture for an indefinite period. There is no doubt that the first suggestion that cotton yarn should be spun in Australia was made by Mr. Massy . Greene, when Minister for Trade and Customs, to Mr. Bond, who was told that if he would engage in such an enterprise he could expect encouragement and help from this Parliament. On the strength of that undertaking, the Wentworthville Mill was established, and is now employing at least 600 persons. Mr. Massy Greene declares that no definite promise was made to Mr. Bond, and it may be that the latter gentleman took too much for granted. However, he has ventured his capital in the establishment of this industry, and if the factory is closed distress will be caused to hundreds of families. On the other hand, the granting of a bounty will lead to the establishment by the same firm of a second mill on the Northern Rivers, and an extension of the plant at Wentworthville. Other firms also will be encouraged to engage in the production of cotton yarn. I therefore urge the Government to realize that this matter is urgent, and to make a definite announcement in regard to the industry before Parliament closes down. If this matter is deferred until next year, a promising industry may, in the meantime, be extinguished.
I endorse the claim made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), on behalf of the divisional returning officers, and of the poll clerks and other temporary electoral officers. This House should take the responsibility of declaring that the divisional returning officers should be paid an allowance for the overtime they worked during the election campaign. Many of them worked from 300 to 500 hours overtime; selfsacrificingly they fulfilled all the demands upon the department and carried out their duties thoroughly and well. Had they worked only the regular hours, the election would have been characterized by chaos. No matter what the Public Service Board may say ‘to the contrary, those officers are entitled to special recognition for the extra work they did. While they are still engaged in completing the election returns, and dealing with persons who failed to vote, arrangements are being made to hold a referendum, which will impose additional responsibilities upon them, within a few months of the general election. The Minister for Home and Territories should give earnest consideration to the proposal that the payments to poll clerks and other temporary electoral officers should be increased. In New South Wales, the Commonwealth pays less for that work, than is paid in connexion with State elections. That fact gives rise to much adverse criticism, and many desirable men refuse to accept the temporary positions, because they feel that the Commonwealth is trying to sweat them. We should endeavour to make the Commonwealth electoral methods and payments uniform with those of the State, in order that our work may be done as harmoniously and smoothly as possible.
The majority of honorable members are of opinion that the payments to allowance postmasters must be increased, and the time has come when the Minister must give this matter consideration, and increase the allowance. I would also invite his attention to the fact that the amounts they receive for conducting branches of the Commonwealth Savings Bank is unworthy of that institution, lt is based upon the value of the business they do. In New South Wales, private individuals who conduct branches of the State Savings Bank are paid according to the amount of money they handle, and’ also the number of transactions in the course of the year. A big proportion of Savings Bank business is represented by very small transactions; and many payments and receipts are required to make a total of £100. The State Savings Bank recognizes that fact and makes allowances according to the number of transactions, and a further payment for each new account. The result is that the agents for the State institutions work harder to get new accounts than do the agents for the Commonwealth Bank. The latter find it not worth their while to do more than they are obliged to do for the payment they receive. The Government should see that the people who do work for the Postal Department and the Commonwealth Bank are adequately remunerated.
– I desire to hear from the Government a definite announcement in regard to the proposed bounty on raw cotton. For some mouths I have been asking questions of the Prime Minister and other Ministers concerning this matter. At first, I was told that the matter had been referred to the Tariff Board. For months that body travelled about Australia and took evidence. In answer to my questions during that time, I was told that the Board was investigating the proposal. About two months ago, it submitted its report, and the Government has not yet announced its decision in regard to it. I understood that the reason for referring the matter to the board was that the Government considered that such a complex question could not be decided offhand by Cabinet, and that any recommendation by the board would be adopted by the Government. The board had ample opportunity to make the most thorough investigation, and when its report was submitted the Government should have promptly arrived at a decision, so that the growers in Queensland, who have been in doubt as to the price they will receive for their next crop, will know whether it is worth their while to continue in the industry. Unless the Government pays the bounty asked for by the growers, the cotton industry in Queensland will be in a parlous condition, and hundreds of growers will have to seek other means of livelihood. I shall not weary the House by reading the letters and telegrams I have received from local producers’ associations and leaders of thought in the cotton industry, but I wish to assure the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade and Customs that the growers are indignant at tho unreasonable delay in announcing the Government’s decision. In the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General, at the opening of this session of the Parliament, the Government announced its policy as follows: -
It ia proposed to terminate the present system of assisting the cotton industry by a guaranteed price, and in lieu thereof to stimulate the production of cotton by a bounty. The matter has been submitted to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, with a view to legislation being introduced.
Although a long time has elapsed since that speech was delivered, the Government has not yet made up its mind on the payment of a bounty. It has a habit of handing over its responsibilities to boards and sheltering behind their decisions, and it is deserving of severe censure for its apathy in this matter. The honorable the Treasurer may smile, but it is not a smiling, matter for the growers.
– I am smiling because the Tariff Board was created several years before this Government came into existence.
– It was created by a government of the same brand as the present Government.
– Is the honorable member opposed to having a Tariff Board ?
-I am not; but, if 1 were the Prime Minister or the Treasurer, I should not allow the Tariff Board to run me.
– If the honorable member makes inquiries, he will find that the Government is nut “ run “ by any one.
– It is run by certain outside interests, and, on this question, it is not prepared to make up its mind. I have been very considerate to the Government, because I believed that it needed more time to come to a decision; but, now, that the Tariff Board has fully investigated the application of the cotton-growers, there is no excuse for further delay. I do not blame the Tariff Board; it has done its part. The rest lies with the Government, which must take the responsibility for its inaction. Now is the time when the land where cotton is to be grown should be ploughed, cultivated, and fallowed for planting the next crop, and, therefore, the farmers ought now to know the Government’s intentions, upon which depends the possibility of malling next season’s crop pay.
– Did last, season’s crop pay?
– Owing to the indifferent season, the growers did not make much profit. The guaranteeing of a price has increased the production of cotton from 45,000 lb. in 1919-20 to 18,188,000 lb. in 1924-25. Unfortunately, the Government did not guarantee a sufficiently high price for the season just closed; the growers requested an additional Id. per lb.
– The guaranteed price resulted in a loss to the Government of £110,000.
– What if it did? Many industries that are now thriving made losses in their initial stages. The total cost to the Government of the bounties paid to other industries is about £1,000,000, and the bounty paid to the dried fruits industry amounts to no less than £600,0.00. The Government will not make so great a loss in the cotton industry, which, some day, will rank as one of the greatest of Australian industries. There is no reason for the Government at this stage weakening at the knees.
– But there is every reason for the Government thoroughly examining the facts before declaring its policy.
– The Government has had ample time to do that. The Tariff Board took months to investigate the question, and submitted a recommendation to the Government nearly two months ago.
– That statement is not quite fair to the board, which was engaged on other business as well as this.
– -When the Government’s experts had spoken, the Government should have considered their report and announced its decision immediately. I know that the Government has many questions to determine, but as the future prosperity of Queensland in particular, and of the Commonwealth as a whole, is involved in this matter, a special Cabinet meeting should be called to decide the action to be taken. The Tariff Board consulted all the experts available, and the Government has at its service a staff of technical advisers. I should like an announcement to be made within the next few days. Australia should be looking forward to supplying England with all the cotton she requires, in addition to supplying all that Australia needs. Assuming that the average quantity of cotton used per head of the population in Australia is 20 lb. per annum - in America it is 26 lb. - we should require 120,000,000 lb. weight of seed cotton for the manufacture of our requirements of cotton goods. It has been estimated that to grow that quantity of cotton would, mean distributing an additional £3,000,000 annually among the growers. England to-day imports the bulk of her raw cotton from America. She pays, approximately, £200,000,000 annually to foreign countries for cotton, and of that amount, about £150,000,000 goes to the United States of America. Threefifths of the raw cotton purchased by European countries is supplied by the United States of America. Last year England took 2,545,000 bales, Germany 1,852,000 bales, and Japan 701,000 bales. Japan’s importations of cotton from America last year cost £35,000,000. Those figures show what a wonderful opportunity there is for Australia to grow- cotton on a large .scale ; but, to do that, the proposed bounty of 2d. per lb. asked for by the growers, and, I believe, recommended by the Tariff Board, must be paid, and an immediate announcement must be made of the intention topay it.
I wholeheartedly support the request of other honorable members for a bounty on cotton yarn, because the primary and secondary departments of the cotton industry should be developed concurrently. That is another matter about which the Tariff Board has been agitated in mind for a long time. I know that the Minister is sympathetic, because he has always supported protection, and I hope that he will be able to induce his Government to come to- a favorable decision. The Tariff Board submitted its report and recommendations on the 27th July of last year. Since then I have had an opportunity, thanks to .the courtesy of Messrs. Bond and Company, and the manufacturers’ representative, Mr. Dave Sullivan, of visiting the firm’s works at “Wentworthville, Kew South Wales, and of seeing what is being done to manufacture cotton goods from Queensland raw cotton. The Tariff Board also inspected the works, and found that “they were highly efficient, and were employing 400 persons. The board realized that it was impossible for the firm to manufacture cotton yarn unless it received assistance from the Government. This is what the board reported -
The goods Which Bond and Company are producing are, with the exception of towels, admitted free or at a low rate of duty, consequently they are working practically without protection, and are faced with competition from countries where the cost of production is very much less than it is in the Common-, wealth. Such enterprise as this firm has manifested in the future of this industry within the Commonwealth, based upon its faith in the settled policy of the country, is most praiseworthy. The witness produced a Schedule (which is attached to his evidence) showing in detail the rates of wages in the cotton industry in Great Britain and in Australia. An examination of these figures shows that on an average the rates in Australia are approximately 50 per cent, above those paid in Great Britain.
The board also pointed out that it costs 4.75d. per lb. less to manufacture cotton yarn in the United States of America than in Australia, and that the wages in Japan, where large quantities of it are manufactured, are only onesixth of the rate prevailing in Australia. In those circumstances it is manifestly impossible profitably to manufacture yarn here, and the Government should pay a bounty to Messrs. Bond and Company, who have invested their capital in manufacturing it in Australia, and not allow them to struggle on until they have been pushed to the wall. Messrs. Bond and Company manufacture 1,400,000 lb. of cotton yarn per annum. A bounty of 6d. per lb. on this would involve the Government in an expenditure of £35,000 annually. If it agreed to pay the proposed bounty, it is natural to assume that the quantity of yarn produced would be greatly increased, and that then a larger amount would have to be paid in bounty; but, in my opinion, it would be advantageous to Australia if the expenditure under that heading were even £100,000 annually, for employment would be provided for our own Australian people, and many desirable immigrants would be induced to come here by our better conditions and wages. I sincerely hope that the Government will rise to. a sense of its responsibility in this matter, and come to an early and favorable decision. Last year we paid £12,000,000 to other countries for manufactured cotton goods which could have been made here. If we could establish a big cotton goods manufacturing industry in Australia, many thousands more people could be employed here. I believe -that the Government is sincere in its desire for an effective protectionist policy, and it should not allow itself to be unduly influenced by the few freetraders that support it. It knows the views of the Australian people, and should do its best to give effect to them.
From time to time honorable members have urged that more adequate remuneration should be provided for allowance postmasters and postmistresses. I also have urged the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) by letter and personal interviews on numerous occasions to do something in that direction, but he has always taken the stand that, as the Public Service Board has reported against increasing the remuneration of these officers, nothing could be done. It has also been argued, on behalf of the Government, that as allowance postmasters and postmistresses are not permanent officers, and are not obliged to give the whole of their time to their postal duties the remuneration they receive is adequate ; but, the fact is that many of them, who suffer from war disabilities, are not able to do hard work, and give their full time to this work. I could quote letters to show that some of them are disgracefully underpaid. I, have in mind . a girl who receives only £80 per annum, out of which she has to pay board. Other officers receive a similar salary, and many get only from £100 to £120 per annum. The Government should not shelter itself behind the decision of the board; but should do the fair thing by its officers. I hope that honorable members opposite, who realize the justice of the claim for better pay for these persons who have served the department faithfully for years, will take steps to force the Government to do its duty by them.
I am glad that reference has been made to the paltry remuneration of some of the divisional returning officers and poll clerks who are responsible for the conduct of our elections. The Public Service Board has reported against an increase in the payment to them, but that should not deter the Government from doing the fair thing. For seven or eight weeks prior to the last election, many of these officers worked every night as well as on Saturdays and Sundays, and while the count was being made some of us who were interested in close contests know that they were on duty as late as 11 and 12 o’clock at night. At least, they should be paid overtime for their work. Happily, honorable members will not be personally involved in the vote that will be taken in a few weeks’ time, but we know very well that it must mean long hours of overtime for our electoral officers, and I trust that the Government will see that they are properly remunerated for their work.
Much that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said in his interesting speechonex-soldier land settlement was quite true, and I trust that the Government will give heed to it. Our soldiers were prepared to sacrifice their lives in the Empire’s cause during the war, and they were promised that they would be properly repatriated on their return from active service. When they came back many of them found that they could not resume their previous occupations, and, at some personal inconvenience, they agreed to go on the land. They started off with a big debt, and bad seasons and poor prices for their products have made their position, in numerous instances, absolutely helpless ; so much so that some of them have already abandoned their properties and others are doing so every week. The Go vernment should accept the responsibility of meeting this serious state of affairs, and not try to throw it upon the State Governments.The war was financedby the Commonwealth Government, and it promised proper repatriation to the men who went abroad. They were told that nothing would be too good for them on their return. It is true that it has placed upon the State Governments the responsibility for supervising certain repatriation enterprises and collecting repayments, but it is its clear duty to meet the serious situation with which we are now faced. Many of the soldiers were encouraged to take up orchard properties, and they are growing fruit which is a glut on the Australian market and cannot be exported at a profit. The Government would be well advised to use some of its huge surplus to wipe off the indebtedness of the ex-soldiers, who are, in numerous cases, in a penniless and hopeless condition. I trust that due notice will be taken of the speech of the honorable member for Wannon, for the nation owes a great debt of gratitude to these men, and does not desire to see them struggling in a morass of financial difficulty, from which it is almost impossible for them, unaided, to extricate themselves.
– This temporary Supply Bill does not call for extensive debate, and I should probably not have addressed myself to it but for the fact that several questions of vital interest to me have been referred to by other speakers. With the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) I wish to commend the speech of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) to the Government and to the committee. I should probably be out of order in discussing on this bill the merits or demerits of migration.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order! The Ways and Means resolution and not the bill is under discussion at present.
– I wish to say that I agree with the honorable member for Wannon that we should be absolutely foolish if we did not take political stock of the relations existing between the Commonwealth and State Governments in connexion with the establishment of soldier settlements in the different States. In New South Wales the control of the matter has been a disgrace.
– It has been a tragedy.
– The honorable member is not exaggerating when he says that it has been a tragedy. The difficulties which are being confronted are not confined to the ex-soldiers referred to by the honorable member for Capricornia, but have to be met by other capable men who had previous experience on the land. For the purpose of soldier settlements worthless estates were pui*chased in many cases, and where lands of some value were acquired, the price paid for them was so high that the soldier settler upon them has had a millstone tied round his neck. He suffers from over capitalization, and no matter what his previous experience on the land may have been, and no matter how he and his family may toil it is impossible for him to succeed. One of the most important phases of the migration policy is land settlement, and the Commonwealth Government should get into touch with the State Governments to see whether some scheme, acceptable to both, cannot be devised for bringing about successful land settlement. In view of the failure which has resulted in connexion with soldier settlement, because of the relations between the Commonwealth and State authorities, there is reason to fear that if those relations are not improved the whole Federal system may break down. The State Governments are vitally interested in migration. The disposal of Crown lands is under their control, and unless proper relations are established between the Commonwealth and State authorities, we cannot expect the migration policy, which is of importance, not only to the States and the Commonwealth, but to the Empire at large, to be successful, and its failure may involve the whole of our present system of government. I have noticed that the Government proposes to do something which shows that they recognize the position in which soldier settlers find themselves. The present Government of New South Wales has passed some beneficient legislation with a view to the reduction of the capital value of the properties upon which returned soldiers have been settled. I should like to know how the Commonwealth Government’s proposal is likely to affect individual returned soldiers. I hope that honorable members, with greater parliamentary experience than I have, will direct their special attention to the matter brought under notice by the honorable member for Wannon.
In common with other honorable members I think that something should be done to recognize the extra work performed by electoral officers in connexion with the last election. If they were adequately paid before these extra duties were imposed upon them, it is reasonable now to conclude that they are entitled to extra compensation. When it is contended that they fully realized that they might be called upon to carry out extra duties, it may be said that the Public Service Board could not have been aware of the nature of the legislation that would be passed by this Parliament, and that penalties for failure to record votes would be imposed. Extra duties have been imposed upon electoral officers, in order that they might carry out the policy of this Parliament, to penalize those who in this democracy neglect, to exercise the franchise- when they are given the opportunity. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) that the Commonwealth Government, should set a good example as an employer. He has stated that State Governments are paying more to presiding officers and poll clerks than is being paid by the Commonwealth Government, and that should not be. I understand from the correspondence referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), that the Government did make representations to the Public Service Board in connexion with this matter. There should be some way of overcoming the existing difficulty, and a majority of honorable members are, I think, agreed that the grievance of electoral officers should be redressed, even if the introduction of a special measure for the purpose is necessary.
The payment to allowance postmasters has been referred to by several honorable members, and the matter is one upon which I can speak freely. It is a great convenience to me to be able to work my electorate in the recess from my own home. Honorable members know that it is necessary for public men to be connected with a telephone exchange, and were it not for the work of an officer in charge of a small office adjoining my home I should be unable to carry “out my duties to my constituents, and they would suffer serious inconvenience. In connexion with the extension of postal aud telephonic facilities the Government has a very good record. The PostmasterGeneral has made every endeavour to recognize the fact that there are no partsof the Commonwealth that are more entitled to modern facilities for communication than the outback districts. Good work has been done in the extension of such facilities to those districts; but it should be recognized that those in charge of allowance post offices in sparsely-populated districts are pioneers in bringing necessary modern conveniences to those who are carrying the burden of development in outback places. I trust that the Government will see that something is done to more adequately recognize the services performed by these officials. In some cases school teachers have charge of allowance post offices. The salaries paid them are not on a high scale, and they are unable to make use of their holidays because the offices of which they are in charge must be kept open. The whole matter of payment to persons in charge of allowance post offices should be reviewed. Something should be done for these people, who are so materially assisting to carry out the policy of the Government to have due regard for the interests of those who are les3 fortunately placed than are the people who reside in our cities.
.- I wish to refer to a matter of great importance to the electors whom I represent, and to the people of South Australia generally. I hope that the Treasurer will . bring my remarks under the notice of his colleague, the Minister for “Works and Railways (Mr. Hill). Some time ago a bill was introduced in this Parliament to ratify what is known as the Bruce-Gunn agreement, providing for the building of the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway, and also of a railway from Port Augusta to Redhill. That bill was introduced on the 20th January of this year. When it was passed the proposed construction of the Port Augusta to Redhill railway was referred to the Public Works Committee, of which I have the honour to be a member. Because of the importance of the proposal, the committee felt that it should at once inquire into every phase of it, and should promptly submit a report to Parliament. It was able to furnish the House with its report on the proposal on the 19th May of this year. As the representative of the district, I quite expected that the necessary legislation to secure the construction of the railway would be submitted to Parliament before the present time. But it has not yet been introduced, and, in view of the business on the paper to-day, the announcement of the Treasurer that the budget is likely to be introduced at an early date, and the fact that the referenda are to be taken on the 28th August, I fear that the bill to make provision for the construction of this railway, will not be introduced during the present session. There are many reasons why it should be dealt with - speedily. The residents of the district to be traversed by the railway should know whether the work is to be taken in hand immediately or not. The Public Works Committee took extensive evidence on this proposal, and I should like to quote for the information of honorable members twelve different advantages to be derived from the construction of the line as submitted by Mr. Bell, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. They are as follow: -
Those are very good reasons for the construction of the line, and are, therefore, good reasons why it should be commenced immediately, as the sooner it is built, the sooner the benefits which will come from it can be taken advantage of. No doubt the agreement will be honoured, and the line built, but in the interests of all concerned it should be built as soon as possible. The railway will serve a large area of agricultural land. Some of the wheat-growers there have been carting their wheat from 23 to 25 miles to a seaport. They are looking forward to the time when the line will be built, but if the bill authorizing its construction is delayed, they will not be able to make use of the railway for the 1927 harvest. To delay the bill for one session of Parliament would thus throw back for a further twelve months the possibility of using the railway for the assistance of farming occupations. These people have lived in the hope for years that the State would come to their assistance, but since the Commonwealth proposal has become a live question, they have looked to the Com monwealth for relief-. Consequently, they are anxious to have the line built as soon as possible, so that they may take advantage of it for the removal of their wheat. Although there are now more public works in progress in South Australia than hitherto, there is more unemployment in the State than there has been for some time past. Quite recently, an advertisement appeared in an Adelaide newspaper calling for 45 labourers, and there were 1,600 applicants for the work. The fact that bills for the construction of the Alice Springs railway and the ratification of the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the State of South Australia have passed this Parliament, is to a large extent responsible for the amount of unemployment in the State. The workers know that these projects are to be undertaken. Unfortunately, it was stated that the work was to be commenced this year. I know the country through which the Red Hill line will pass, and, if the Minister would introduce his bill this session, I do not think it would take long to put the work of construction in hand. A little while ago, I asked him when the Alice Springs line would be undertaken, and I appreciated the answer he gave. He said that a working survey, which would possibly take nine months or longer to carry out, would first have to be made, and that then the work of construction would be com,menced. I understand, however, that a working’ survey has been made of almost the whole of the Red Hill route. Because of the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, it may be necessary to re-survey a few miles of flat country, but that should not take more than a few days. I am sure that if the Minister submits the bill this session, the work of construction can be commenced with very little delay, and the people in the locality saved another year of heavy carting, ‘ while the unemployed difficulty in South Australia will be relieved. I hope that the Minister will not give me an adverse reply, but even if he does so, it will be better for the unemployed of South Australia to learn that the work is not to be undertaken this year, than be kept longer in suspenseStill, as the line has to be built some time or other in order to honour the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government, I hope that his reply will be that the necessary bill will be brought down at once, and that the construction work will be taken in hand as soon as possible.
– I have the greatest sympathy with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), because of the arduousness of his duties, and particularly during the last few months. At the same time, I hope that before very many days pass, finality will be reached in regard to the latest Customs tariff revision. I have friends in Adelaide who do not know exactly where they stand in regard . to the Customs duties. They have goods in bond which they urgently need in order to carry on their operations, but they do not care to release them, because, if they do, they may have to pay higher rates of duty than will operate when the Customs Tariff Bill is finally disposed of.
During the debate on the tariff, I made some reference to the South Australian Woollen Company, and yesterday I received a letter from that firm, indicating that Hansard is read by some people in Australia, and that our words of wisdom or the contrary do not always fall on barren ground. According to this letter, because of some remarks I made, the South Australian Woollen Company has received inquiries from people 60 miles out of Brisbane, asking the nature of the goods supplied by it, and where they c.an be purchased.
Another matter to which I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs, not for the first time, is the export duty on wine. I ask the Minister to extend the bounty until 1932. The bounty period does not expire until the 31 August of next year, and one might be thought to be unduly urging the settlement of the question, but I shall explain the need for an early decision. The spirit for fortifying wine has not yet been sold this season, and the price is dependent upon the continuation of the bounty. The person mostly affected is the soldier grower of doradillo grapes, because this spirit is mostly obtained from those grapes. Furthermore, the growers are .unable to map out their programme because of the uncertainty of the position. They do not know what the price will be if the bounty is not continued. The wine-makers are also faced with the problem of accommodation for next year’s vintage. It will not need to be so great as hitherto if the bounty is not continued. Others likely to be affected are those who are conducting the advertising programme for the sale of our wines overseas. I am led to believe that a very fine trade is being worked up in Great Britain for. A ustralian sweet wines. In that respect, the payment of the bounty has done a great amount of good to the growers of grapes for wine, but if the bounty is not continued all the good that has been done will be wiped out. Prior to the payment of the bounty, the Commonwealth paid £17,000 to assist the growers of doradillo grapes. In a report circulated among honorable members, it is pointed out that £5 a ton is necessary to enable the soldier grower of doradillo grapes on an irrigated area to make ends meet. If the bounty period is extended, these growers are likely to receive a return of £6 10s. for their crops this season. In the Barossa district, where the doradillo grape is not looked upon with great favour owing to its low sugar content, the growers have received £5 5s. a ton ; whereas Mr. Gollan in his report shows that a return of £4 a ton will enable them to carry on. The Minister for Trade and Customs answered some questions I put to him a few days ago showing that during the 23 months in which the bounty has been in operation the .amount paid out has been £233,460; and that the amount of excise duty on fortifying spirit for wine collected since 1918, when the excise duty on this spirit was raised to 6s. a gallon, amounts to £2,022,000. During the bounty period the excise duty has amounted to £693,000. In other words, for every £1 of bounty paid out £3 has been collected. No industry could show a better case for a bounty than one which is supplying £3 in reveune for every £1 for which it is asking.
On other occasions I have referred to the need for making a special allowance to divisional returning officers for the extra work they did in connexion with the last general, election. I revert to the matter, not because I doubt “ that the Treasurer will act fairly by these officers, but because I realize that there is a chance of a subject slipping from memory, if the Minister is not constantly reminded of it. Notwithstanding that they worked a great deal of overtime the returning officers received no extra payment, not even money for tea or supper. When their salaries were fixed it was not contemplated that they would have to do all the extra work which compulsory voting has entailed. Not only were they required to work extra hours before election day, and in connexion with the count, but according to press reports they are still prosecuting persons who failed to vote. That also has involved extra work and responsibility.
I was interested in the speech made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) regarding the unfortunate position of returned soldiers who have been settled on the land by the State Governments with financial assistance from the Commonwealth. The honorable member related how these men had been put upon expensive ready-made farms, and had paid high prices for their machinery. Owing to the lower price of their products they are now receiving much smaller returns than a few years ago, but they are still burdened by the high capital cost. If the Commonwealth writes off any of the States’ indebtedness in respect of the settlement of soldiers, it should insist that relief shall be given to the individual soldiers, and that the money shall not be applied to cover up mistakes made by governments and their officers. My opinion is that the most effective way to deal with this problem would be to appoint a competent body to assess the value of the properties upon which soldiers have been placed. Having obtained the report of the board, the Government should then say to the soldier, “ You paid £5,000 for your block ; it has been revalued at £3,500. We are prepared to write off £1,500, and give you the first refusal of the property at the amended price.” If the soldier chose then to abandon the property he could not complain that he had not received a fair deal, but I believe that the majority of soldier settlers, if given an opportunity to carry on under conditions that would give to them a fair chance to win through, would avail themselves of it. In making these observations I recognize that this Government has done more for the men on the land) particularly returned soldiers, than has any other government, and I look to it confidently for a continuance of its policy of sympathetic consideration.
.- The time of the Minister for Trade and Customs is so much occupied with tariff matters that he can hardly be expected to be quite au fait with the meteorological branch which is under his control. I desire to urge upon the honorable gentleman the desirability of establishing at Browse Island, off the coast of Kimberley, Northwestern Australia, a storm-warning station similar to that at Willis Island in the Pacific Ocean. In reply to previous representations on the subject I have been told by the Commonwealth Meteorologist that that island is too close to the mainland to be of utility. Willis Island station, which has rendered good service to Queensland shipping, is nearly 300 miles from Cairns, and Browse Island is over 225 miles from the nearest port of Derby, and approximately 300 miles from Wyndham. At irregular intervals the nor.th-west coast is subject to a violent cyclonic disturbance, locally known as a “ willy-willy,” which is just as severe as the dreaded typhoon of the China Sea. These storms occur suddenly, and the vessels engaged on the pearling grounds some miles from the coast are overwhelmed before they can run for shelter. The meteorological officers in Western Australia consider that some means should be adopted for letting the luggers know of impending danger, so that human lives and valuable property may be saved. On occasions the pearling fleets have been almost wiped out; scores of vessels have been lost, and many persons have been drowned. Investigations indicate that the storms originate off the coast of the Northern Territory and travel westward. Their circular motion is at the rate of 60 miles an hour, but they do not travel forward at more than from 15 to 17 miles an hour. Whilst they spell destruction to any vessel that may be caught in their circular path, their forward progress is so slow that ample warning of their approach could be given. Observations show that the storms usually travel through a gap of 250 miles between Browse Island and the Dutch island of Timor, and then towards the north-west coast, striking the mainland anywhere between Broome and Port Hedland. The records of the pilot books afford evidence of the suitability of Browse Island as a site for an ‘observation station; it comprises a fair area of land, well above highwater mark. At Koepang, in Timor, the Dutch maintain a modern observing station, and I may here add that in respect of meteorological observations, lighthouses, and other aids to shipping, our Dutch neighbours are much ahead of ourselves.
– They have very much more traffic to protect.
– Some of the Dutch islands that are visited by steamers only once in three months are equipped with lighthouses. Two or three steamers travel up and down the north-west coast every month, but notwithstanding the vast extent of the Western Australian coastline it has only seventeen of the 110 lighthouses maintained by the Commonwealth. It is considered that if observers at Browse Island were in communication with those on Timor, every storm passing between the two islands could be noted and warning of its approach sent to the pearlers in ample time for them to run to shelter at Broome or other ports. Thus considerable losses of life and property would be avoided. I remind the Minister that the pearling industry, both in Torres Strait and on the north-west coast, has been anything but prosperous since the war, and I ask him to call for the reports in which the meteorological officers in Western Australia recommend that this storm-warning station should be established. Incidentally, it could be utilized to keep a watch on the Dutch luggers that poach in Western Australian waters for pearl-shell and beche-de-mer. They work without let or hindrance on the north-west coast, where they set up their boilers and boil their trepang before shipping it to the East. Australia claims to have some self-respect as a nation, but it stands with its arms folded, and does nothing to keep out these intruders.
The other matter I wish to mention is of concern to one of the fledglings in the Ministry, whom I congratulate on his appointment, if I may do so without offending the susceptibilities of other members of the Ministry, who may not have been similarly congratulated. The pearlers in the north-west have had an unsatisfactory experience in the marketing of their pearl-shell during and since the war. From Broome, which is the most important pearling grounds in the world, pearl-shell was sent before the war to London, which was the distributing centre for the United States of America and Europe. When the market was good as much as £500,000 a year was earned by this small industry established in an outpost of the Commonwealth, but for which it would not have been established. When peace was restored the European market had been annihilated, and as London was unable to take as much pearlshell as formerly, the pearlers found it necessary to seek another market. They went to the United States of America, where the people have a keen business sense, and should not be trusted to sell any commodity on behalf of the people of this country. Their ethics is “the dollar first,” and they are obtaining the dollars that belong to good Australian citizens. The pearlers made arrangements to sell in the United States of America to a firm with a title that has not an Anglo-Saxon pronunciation, and they have not obtained anything like the returns that were usual before the war. In order to stabilize the industry, they have had a bill drafted to provide for a pool for pearl-shell. That bill was submitted to the ex-Minister for Markets and Migration (Senator Wilson) before he left office, but with his political demise ahead of him, he could not be expected to have the time or the inclination to deal with the matter. I appeal to his successor (Mr. Paterson) to peruse the file relating to it at an early date, and, if possible, to bring the bill forward this session. The bill provides that no pearl-shell shall be sold except to the pool, and that a vote shall be taken of those engaged in the industry to ascertain whether they are in favour of pooling their product. Pearling interests, at Torres Strait and at Broome, are unanimous as to the method that should be adopted, and they feel that if the industry is stabilized and a reasonable profit assured to those engaged in it, the far-flung outposts of Broome and Thursday Island will become of greater value to the Commonwealth. I urge the Minister to make this matter one of his early duties.
.- I recently asked a question of the honorable the Minister who then represented in this House the Minister for Markets and Migration regarding the unsatisfactory state of the English market for Australian apples. The reply was that the High Commissioner was looking into the matter, and was trying to bring about a better state of affairs. That answer was quite beside the question and was contrary to the facts. I have received a further message from the department conveying a second reply from the- High Commissioner, who states that the prices of apples are on the rise, that very satisfactory prices are being attained, that there are’ 600,000 bushels of apples waiting to be unloaded, and that the foreign market is bare. On the other hand there are reports in the newspapers almost every day that the market is declining, and that the price is from 7s. to 12s. a bushel.
– I saw a report that the price was 5s. 6d. a bushel.
– I am giving a conservative quotation. The expense of shipping a case of apples from Australia to England is 8s. a bushel. The fall in the price in England is not the fault of the grower, who has grown good fruit and packed it well, but is due to industrial causes in England. The Government has assisted in the marketing of almost every other kind of fruit, including canned fruits, apricots, peaches, pears, pineapples, grapes, and dried fruits, and I suggest ‘that in fairness to the applegrowers the Government should make up to them the difference between the price realized and 12s. a bushel. As apples cannot be grown for 4s. a bushel, and the cost of marketing is 8s. a bushel, 12s. a bushel will not show a profit, but I feel sure that the grower would be satisfied if he could be ensured at least that price. I am asking only for what is fair to. tha grower in the unprecedented circumstances new existing. I may have an opportunity later to interview the Minister on this subject, and T feel sure that he will deal with the request sympathetically, because, from practical experience, he knows of the difficulties of the man on the land.
.- I wish to address a few remarks to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) regarding two important matters. One concerns the potentially great cotton industry, and the other the manufacture of incandescent gas mantles.
There has been much discussion regarding the former, and although it has been inquired into by the Tariff Board, a large number of honorable members are not a little concerned at the apparently unsympathetic attitude of the Governto the industry. Members of the Tariff Board, owing to their training and experience in these matters, are probably better able than any other body of citizens to give an unbiased decision regarding them. Sympathetically, and with a vision of the future possibilities of cotton manufacture in this country, they made a recommendation. The Government created the Tariff Board to investigate such matters. It has been somewhat unkindly said that Ministers appoint such boards to relieve them of responsibilities; but, whether that is so or not, the fact is that the Tariff Board has arrived at a decision that has not been made effective by the Government. I know that the Minister as a rule is sympathetic to requests for assistance in building up a great selfcontained nation in Australia, and the last tariff schedule which he brought down will no doubt do much - towards establishing essential industries. It is not necessary for me to remind him that but for the Australian outlook of members of the Opposition, that schedule could not have been carried. The growing of cotton. in Australia and our Mandated Territories promises to be a big industry, which ultimately will take its place beside the four great industries of mining, wool, wheat, and meat producing. But that cannot be done unless we have, first of all, the assistance of the Government. I have visited the cottonspinning mills of Messrs. Bond and Company, at Wentworthville, New South Wales. The firm has shown great enterprise in sinking a large amount of money in the industry, which promises to offer employment to thousands of Australian workers, at Australian wages, and under Australian conditions. Such an industry deserves assistance from the Government. Hundreds of employees are making cotton goods, some of which are being made of Australian cotton. Other cotton, of course, has to be used, because cottongrowing in Australia has not received as much consideration from the Government as it should. Towelling, sheeting, and similar fabrics are being woven, and it is now only necessary for the Government to give sympathetic consideration to the industry for the factory to develop to three times its present size, and to employ three or four times as many hands Not only Messrs. Bond and Company, but also the other cotton spinners, have asked for a bounty and a duty. They have stated, quite honestly, in my opinion, that it would be unfair to ask the people of this country to pay a duty on all cotton goods if local firms could produce only one-third or less of the total quantity required. This industry, like many others in Australia, was started without a protective tariff. Those who invested money in it believed that if they established their bona fides by commencing operations, and employing a large number of people, this Parliament would stand by its declared policy. When Mr. Massy Greene was Minister for Trade and Customs, he made a definite promise of protection, in the event of the industry being established. It may be said that Ministers are not bound by the promises of their predecessors, but after all a promise is a promise, and as we are protecting several hundred industries already by either a tariff or a bounty, it was reasonable to expect that this one would be protected. In 1924-25, £200,000 was collected in Australia in duties on cotton goods, and surely a proportion of that amount could be expended in building up the industry in Australia. Assuming the giving of a fair measure of protection to it, we can easily visualize, in ten or fifteen years, an industry employing many thousands of employees, manufacturing cotton grown in Australia. When I was at Wyndham, I went 30 miles out into the bush by motor car early one morning, and picked cotton from a tree 15 feet high. It was inferior cotton, but that was to be expected for the bole of the tree was fully 6 inches in diameter. We saw cotton growing in the main street at Port Hedland on a tree 12 feet high. As a matter of fact, cotton which was planted 40 years ago round Port Hedland, Derby, Broome, and Wyndham still flourishes, although it is many years since any care has been taken of it. In those circumstances it is easy to conceive that, with proper attention and cultivation, cotton growing would soon become an important industry. I trust that before the session ends the
Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) will make a statement as to the policy of the Government on the proposed bounty.
– The deferred duty has been adopted by both Houses.
– I hope that something will be done also to protect the incandescent gas mantle manufacturing industry here. I cannot argue in its favour that it will ever lead to the employment of thousands of people in manufacturing raw material obtained in Australia, but there is no reason why we should not manufacture all the gas mantles used here. The mantle already produced in New South Wales was subjected to the severe test of 10,000 shocks insisted .on by the New South Wales Railway Department, and it compared more than favorably with imported mantles. At present from 20 to 40 girls are employed in the industry. Most of the mantles that are used in Australia are wholly manufactured in Europe, or partly manufactured there, and finished off in England, so that it could not be argued that the imposition of a duty on imported mantles would be a severe blow to a. British industry. Those interested in this industry also have pinned their faith to the ‘ adherence of the Federal Parliament to our declared policy of protection; for they invested their capital and established their works without the help of a protective duty, and trusted to obtain it by proving their bona fides ; but the industry is languishing at present. In this case also, the Tariff Board has made a favorable recommendation. I believe that the Minister is sympathetic, but sympathy will not maintain an industry. ‘ Mantles made abroad under cheap labour conditions can be imported into Australia at prices which render Australian competition absolutely impossible. I trust that the Minister will give favorable consideration to both these matters.
.- It is high time that we gave more attention to manufacturing here the raw material that we produce. At present, 97 per cent, of our wool is exported in the raw state, and if the present policy of the Government is persisted in, the same proportion of our cotton will be sent overseas to be manufactured. We are about to consider the appointment of a migration commis- sion, and we shall have to begin big public works to provide employment for the expected immigrants. But it would be foolish for us to bring people here and find work for them on the one hand, and, on the other, allow languishing industries to die and so throw thousands of our own workers out of employment. Wo should undoubtedly do something to stimulate the manufacture of cotton yarn here, for we are encouraging the growing of cotton. “Without some measure of assistance, it is impossible for Australian cotton spinners to compete with cotton spinners in Great Britain, America, or Japan. The labour conditions in Japan are deplorable. Employees in the cotton-spinning mills there are obliged to work eleven hours a day for swen days a week, and they get only two days a month off. Their wages vary from ls. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per day, which includes their “ keep.” The Australian public was obliged last year to pay in indirect taxation, through the Customs House, no less than £200,000 in respect of cotton goods imported into Australia from countries other than Great Britain. If we are prepared to pay indirectly £200,000 for the purpose of assisting English cotton manufacturers, then we should be willing to assist manufacturers of cotton yarn in Australia. It is surprising to me that cotton yarn is not protected at least to the same extent as woollen yarn. It costs just as much to manufacture, yet the respective duties are. 5 per cent, and 25 per cent. The Australian cotton spinners have not asked for a heavy duty, for they are unable to manufacture the whole of our requirements; but they have requested a bounty, and the Tariff Board has reported favorably on the request. It is an indictment of the Government that no action has been taken to give effect to the board’s recommendation. Its inaction is due, in my opinion, to the influence of the big importing and British manufacturing interests, which help it to fight its election campaigns.
– Those very people called me names the other night.
– Great Britain exports millions of pounds worth of textile manufacturing machinery annually to China, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and other countries, so she cannot expect to maintain the volume of her textile manu- factoring trade, for this machinery is being used to manufacture textiles in the country to which it is sent. Messrs. Bond and Company, for instance, have spent a large sum in buying British machinery, and they are using it to manufacture cotton yarn in Australia. I trust that, the Government will arrive at some decision in this matter. In 1919 there were only 72 acres under cotton cultivation in Australia. Five years later the area under cotton had increased to 40,000 acres. Are we going, in connexion with the cultivation of cotton, to adopt the foolish policy we have pursued in connexion with the production of wool ? We grow the finest wool grown in any part of the world, and allow 97 per cent, of it to be exported in a raw state. What a foolish policy it would be to pay the growers a bounty on the production of cotton, increase the area under cotton cultivation, and then export the cotton produced and have it returned to us in the form of manufactured cotton goods. We propose to appoint a Migration Commission to consider how we can best absorb immigrants from overseas, but the only way to do so is to manufacture our own requirements. Operatives in Manchester are engaged in spinning and weaving cotton goods to meet Australia’s demands; but there is no reason why a considerable proportion of the work should not be done here where the raw material is produced. If the policy of manufacturing here the raw materials we produce is adopted it will be unnecessary for us to embark upon a migration scheme involving an expenditure of £34,000,000. If we insisted that, our raw materials should be manufactured in this country we should attract a strong stream of British workers to our shores, without expense to the Commonwealth. The right thing has not been done in regard to cotton spinners, who have sunk their capital in an enterprise for the manufacture of cotton goods in this country. Owing to the high costs of production in Australia, and the fact that in the initial stages a fair proportion of unskilled labour is employed, our industries are handicapped in their competition with industries carried on in cheap labour countries. I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs will, before the debate is concluded, announce that the request for a bounty on cotton yarn will receive the favorable consideration of the Government.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) this afternoon spoke of the claim of divisional returning officers for additional remuneration. In December of last year that claim was referred by the Government to the Public Service Board, without whose approval, of course, no additional payment could be made to these officers. In January of the present year the board replied that it did not see its way to agree to any additional remuneration being paid to them. The original reference of the matter to the board was made by my department; but in addition, the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), who was then administering the electoral branch, gave instructions for the preparation of a return of the actual overtime worked by these officers. Having received that return he submitted a further case to the Public Service Board, and asked for a determination as to whether additional remuneration should be paid. The board reconsidered the matter on the additional facts submitted, and again reported that it did not consider that there was justification for extra pay being given. Subsequently the matter was once more referred to the board with particular reference to two facts: first, that the 1925 election was the first occasion on which compulsory voting operated ; secondly, that the election took place some three or four months earlier than had been generally anticipated, which must have involved a considerable amount of additional work in preparing for it and in the counting of the votes. On the 12th April a reply was received from the board in which it was pointed out that in determining the salaries of returning officers the particular nature of the work in which they were engaged was taken fully into consideration. In the classification of the electoral branch, after an appeal from the original classification, all these factors were taken into account. The board re-stated its opinion that there was no justification for additional payments. It also pointed out that under the regulations additional remuneration is not paid to public servants receiving salaries in excess of £450 a year, except with the sanction of the board, which is given only in very exceptional cases. The board, having compared the services of divisional returning officers with those rendered by other officers, to whom it was not considered advisable to pay additional remuneration, had come to the conclusion that no additional remuneration could be granted to them. This is a matter entirely in the hands of the Public Service Board, and honorable members on both sides will agree that any interference by the Government with a decision of the board, after it had fully investigated a matter, would constitute a most undesirable precedent.
– The right honorable gentleman would not say thatwithout any qualification?
– No; but except in extraordinary circumstances, it would be a most undesirable course, and contrary to the spirit of the Public Service Act. which was framed to prevent political or parliamentary interference with the Public Service, so that its administration might be absolutely impartial. Had the Government determined to interfere in this case, it would have had to submit to Parliament a measure to provide additional remuneration for these officers, or to put an amount on the estimates for the purpose. But, having considered all the circumstances, Ministers came to the conclusion that this would not be desirable or proper. That is the explanation of the reply which the Leader of the Opposition received from the Minister for Home and Territories.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
.- I have been in communication with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) in regard to a request made by small fruitcanners in Queensland, particularly in the Lilley electorate, that they should be allowed a rebate on their sugar purchases, and I feel certain that the Minister is in sympathy with their request. Their complaint is that they are denied a rebate on sugar unless they purchase 12 tons and give a certificate that they have used the whole of that quantity during the calendar year. Their position is briefly described in the following letter: -
Since writing you last, we, in conjunction with Messrs. F. G. Butt and Sons, have requested the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to accept our joint application for rebate, but they would not accept same, stating to us that their instructions were such as to require from each individual user the minimum quantity of 12 tons of sugar during the period since the 1st July last.
I understand that the matter is in the hands of the Sugar Board, one of the boards created by the Commonwealth Government, and that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, acting on behalf of the board, deals with the rebates. Small canners are at a disadvantage compared with large canners, who can secure rebates. It has been suggested that they should combine to purchase 12 tons, but apparently the Sugar Board objects to that. Another course open to them iu to purchase 12 tons outright ; but, as will be seen from the letter I have read, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, acting under instructions from the Sugar Board, has declined to allow a rebate in those circumstances. I am aware that the Minister has made strong representations in regard to the matter, but, so far, there is a deadlock. I urge him to have the question settled before the end of the month ; otherwise, the small canners will not be able to collect their rebates.
– I should like to associate myself with the remarks made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr, Rodgers) in regard to the treatment of returned soldiers. I have in mind more particularly their treatment in Queensland. Crediting the Government of that State with the same desire to improve conditions for the benefit of these men as has been evinced in other States, I can only say that, along with the other State Governments, it has failed. Very many soldiers, were placed on a settlement at Beerburrum. That was worse than a tragedy. The men were starved off the land, not merely because of overcapitalization, although . that was a big factor, but because most of the land was unsuitable, and also because of the parlous condition in which the primary industries of Australia stand, particularly in Queensland. The fruit-growers settled at Stanthorpe suffered in the same way. They had to put up with all sorts of privations. They worked long hours early and late, but the returns from their labours were so small that they could not meet their obligations to the Government, or make a living for themselves and their families. In these two instances remoteness from markets, as well as the unsuitability of the soil, had something to do with the failure of the settlements : but the soldiers who were settled on the Atherton Tableland had all the advantages of the richest soil in the Commonwealth, a good climate, a splendid rainfall, and markets close at hand, and yet were unable to make a living. Their trouble was over-capitalization, and caused by the poor price of maize. Ninety per cent, of the soldiers on the three settlements I have named have had to abandon their holdings. I should like the Government to review earnestly the whole of the conditions governing the soldier settlements. No one has shown a more practical, or a keener, sympathy with the returned soldiers than the present Minis- ter for Defence (Sir Neville Howse), and I should like the investigations that I suggest to be carried out while he holds his present position. The Government ought to be an ideal employer. It ought to set up a standard and fix conditions which a private employer could accept as a model, or strive to emulate, but, unfortunately, it has not achieved that pinnacle of perfection so far as its own employees are concerned.
– What else can be expected from ‘ an unsympathetic Public Service Board?
– No member of the Commonwealth Public Service Board has visited Charters Towers ; yet the board has ruled that the Commonwealth officers stationed at Charters Towers must come under classification two in ‘regard to their recreation leave and travelling time, whereas the officers stationed at Townsville, 83 miles nearer Brisbane,” come under classification three. It is understood that the board, in arriving at a decision in regard to district allowances, takes into consideration the factors of isolation, cost of living, and climatic conditions. Now, Charters Towers is 83 miles further from Brisbane than Towsville. It is not a seaport, and possesses an unsatisfactory railway service. It had a population of over 30,000-; but the number of people there at the present time is under 10,000. It had over 40 mines working, whereas now there is not one mine working. It had over twenty ore-reduction plants, whereas now it has only one State battery, which is absolutely idle. It had over 30 cyanide plants in full swing, whereas now there are only two at work. It has a past, but I am afraid it has not much of a future. Young people growing up very naturally desire to get into a place that is thriving and going ahead. There is very little in Charters Towers to afford satisfactory employment to the sons and daughters of the Commonwealth public officers who are stationed there. That is an important factor which the Government should take into consideration in dealing with questions of this kind. But, unfortunately, the Public Service Board has not seen fit to take them into consideration. Charters Towers is probably one of the greatest educational centres in Australia for young children ; but when girls or boys pass the school age there is no scope for them in the town. They must leave their parents and homes, and seek employment elsewhere. . Although Charters Towers has had a glorious past, and was of great help to. Queensland in the very lean years of the State, it is a languishing place to-day. Living is much cheaper and better in Townsville. There is- a better and cheaper supply of fruit and vegetables at Townsville, because supplies come by boats from the south. Meat is also cheaper there. Rents may be lower at Charters Towers, but that is not a good advertisement for the place, because it means unoccupied houses. The summer is severe in both towns. Charters Towers is described as a place with an admirable climate, and so it is within limits. It is in some months a fit preparation for another world for those who have not lived very good lives in this. Some of the average monthly temperatures are as follows: - September, 86 deg. Fahr.; November, 96 deg. Fahr. ; December, 99 deg. Fahr. ; January, 102 deg. Fahr. ; February, 96 deg. Fahr. ; March, 89 deg. Fahr., and April, 85 deg. Fahr. That is the beneficial climate which the Public Service Board evidently thinks is good enough for its officers in Charters Towers, because the leave period of the officers there is restricted to twenty days, although it takes four days to get to Brisbane, and four days to return, making no allowance for loss of time through changing trains. Officers on the Atherton Tableland are given 24 days’ leave. The mean temperature on the tableland is something like 65 deg. Fahr. The nights at Charters Towers are moderately cool, and need to be to make up for the temperatures I have mentioned in the warm months of the year. I am satisfied that the representations the officers have made would have sympathetic consideration from the Government if they could get past the Public Service Board, and from the board itself, if any member of it would visit Charters Towers. But the members of the board know too much for their own good to go up there. I suggest that those” who live in outback places should receive longer holidays or recreation leave. Bank clerks are not supposed to be as well treated as Commonwealth public servants, yet those stationed at Charters Towers get four weeks’ leave, whereas the Commonwealth officers there get twenty days, as compared with 22 days allowed to those who are stationed in Townsville. Townsville is much nearer to Brisbane, and travelling costs the officers stationed there much less, because they have less railway fares to pay.
I should like to call attention to the position of allowance postmasters. These unfortunate officials and their wives are obliged to work for a certain allowance, and they have also to provide their own premises. The allowance officer at Pentland went on sick leave, and someone was found to relieve him; but he re- ceived no payment during his absence, and on his return was obliged to pay £6 10s. out of his own pocket for the rent of the premises. I think the Commonwealth should at least see that the rent is paid for the premises in which its business is transacted. The allowance postmaster at Torrens Creek took holiday leave, and provided a substitute during his absence. Upon .returning from his holiday he had to pay the accumulated rent. The amounts involved in these casse are of small consideration to the Commonwealth, but they are a big and unjust burden upon the people who are conducting these postal services in outback districts.
In connexion with the employment of temporary hands in the Postal Department, boys, through circumstances over which they have no control, are prevented from sitting for the examination which applicants for admission to the Service are required to pass. I have in mind a boy named Gilshennan who was appointed acting telegraph messenger and postal assistant at Chillagoe on the 12th March, 1925. When he left school he was qualified to pass the entrance examination, but no examination was held. In the hope that he would be afforded an opportunity to sit for examination later, he joined the Service as a temporary telegraph messenger and general postal assistant, and for nearly twelve months performed his duties to the utmost satisfaction of the postmaster and the public. But because he was over sixteen years of age before an examination was held he was passed out of the. Service. The object of an examination is not to debar boys from the Service, but to test their fitness to become permanent employees. Some boys who are successful in examinations may subsequently prove failures. No test could be more conclusive than the actual performance of the duties of a position. Gilshennan proved his capacity in the school of practical experience, but he was disqualified for permanent employment by a hide-bound interprepretation of the regulations. Surely the regulations can be relaxed so that a boy who has given satisfactory service may be eligible to sit for examination, even if he is a few months over sixteen years of ‘age, and if he fails then, it is time enough to reject him. By a hard and fast application of the Public Service regulations Gilshennan was deprived of the opportunity of embarking upon a career foi which he had proved himself well adapted.
I endorse the plea made by other honorable members for some special allowance to electoral officers and their assistants. The fact must be re- . membered that these officers had not only to do the extra work entailed by compulsory voting, which produced an unusually large poll, but had subsequently to scan carefully the rolls and to require many hundreds of people to show cause why they had failed to vote. That entailed very heavy work immediately after the prostrating task of conducting the elections. Up to the present time these men have had no opportunity to relax, and they are deserving of consideration from the Government. When their salaries were fixed, no regard could have been paid to the extraordinary increase of work that would be caused by the compulsory voting provisions of the Electoral Act. They have also to face the arduous work of conducting a referendum during the next few weeks, and it is possible that another referendum will be held later. I hope that the Government will pay regard to the almost unanimous desire of the committee that a special allowance should be made to these very deserving offcers.
.- I direct the attention of the committee and the country to the failure of the Government to give effect to a very important recommendation of the Tariff Board in regard to the encouragement of cotton spinning in Australia. The board conducted a public inquiry in Sydney on the 24th February, and the 4th March, 1925, in pursuance of an application by George A. Bond and Company for a bounty of 6d. per lb. upon all cotton yarn produced in the Commonwealth. A report was submitted to the Minister on the 29th July, 1925, but it was not presented to Parliament, and ordered to be printed until the 27th May, 1926. I protest against that delay, for which no adequate excuse has been advanced by the Minister for Trade and Customs. When Parliament sanctioned the establishment of a Tariff Board, it believed that members would be supplied promptly with the first-hand information resulting from the board’s investigation of industries. But of what use are its investigations if its reports are withheld from Parliament for about nine months? Either the Minister had some special reason for delaying the presentation of the report or Cabinet compelled him to withhold it from Parliament. This composite Government endeavours to maintain a nice balance between the development of Australian industries and the encouragement of foreign industries; but last week the scale was weighted against the former. I hope honorable members will study carefully the report of the Tariff Board in regard to cotton yarn, and that the general public will have an opportunity to learn how much this industry may mean to the Commonwealth. One can imagine that section of the composite Government which is not very enamoured of the establishment of Australian industries, saying to the Minister for Trade and Customs : “ Hush ! do not let the people of Australia know what the Tariff Board has reported; if you do, our game of encouraging the foreign trader will be exposed.” Probably the hand of Flinderslane may be seen in this business.
– The honorable member could not make a speech without an insinuation of that kind.
– The honorable member cannot open his mouth without decrying Australian industries. The Tariff Board reported among other things -
The Tariff Board, upon visiting the works of Geo. A. Bond and Company, found an up-to-date factory, well equipped, and with almost unlimited provision for expansion. Over 400 employees were at work at the time of the board’s visit.
At the present time, over 500 people are employed in the .factory.
– And Bond and Company made a net profit of £50,000.
– That is quite incorrect. I am supporting ‘the recommendation of the Tariff Board that a bounty should be paid upon cotton yarn produced in Australia, and upon that branch of their business Bond and Company are losing money. Does t’he honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) insinuate that the members of the board are such fools as to recommend that the Commonwealth should pay a bounty to a company - making such enormous profits as he alleges. The report continues -
The Board was very much impressed with the whole of the undertaking, and is satisfied that Bond and Company have started what should become in the future a very great secondary industry, consuming large quantities of Australian and Papuan grown cotton, as well as cotton from overseas.
The board was satisfied that the establishment of this secondary industry would develop the production of raw cotton, and that the two industries combined would add substantially to the material welfare of Australia.
– The Tariff Board’s report on the bounty on raw cotton has not yet been considered by the Government.
– We are waiting anxiously for that, and I wonder what influence is responsible for the withholding of it from Parliament. Here is another extract from the board’s report -
The goods which Bond and Company are producing are, with the’ exception of towels, admitted free or at a low rate of duty, consequently they are working practically without protection, and are faced with competition ‘ from countries where the cost of production is very much less than it is in the Commonwealth. Such enterprise as this firm has manifested in the future of this industry within the Commonwealth, based upon its faith in’ the settled policy of the country, is most praiseworthy. The witness produced a schedule (which is attached to his evidence) showing in detail the rates of wages in the cotton industry in Great Britain and in Australia. An examination of these figures shows that, on an average, the rates in Australia are approximately 50 per cent, above those paid in Great Britain.
In view of that statement, how can we compete with oversea manufacturers, and yet maintain our standard of living? It is disclosed in sworn evidence before the board that our manufacturers can compete with foreign manufacturers only by reducing Australian wages by 50 per cent. Will .any honorable member opposite advocate a reduction of 50 per cent, in the wages of the operatives in this industry? Probably the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) would have no hesitation in doing so. The board makes the following reference to conditions in Japan: -
Figures were also submitted regarding the wages in Japan, which is a competitor in cotton goods, and these appear to be from on( sixth to one-eighth of the amounts paid in Australia. The schedule is attached- to this report.
It is obviously impossible for Australian manufacturers to compete against Japanese manufacturers, who pay from one-sixth to one-eighth of the wages paid in this country. Although the Tariff Board recommended the payment of the bounty, the Government withheld the report from the Parliament for ten months. It is very desirable to have the views of the Tariff Board on this matter broadcast throughout Australia, so that the people may know what its members, who made an independent inquiry, think should be done. In dealing with the probable cost of the bounty, the board reported -
As to the probable amount involved in the payment of bounty, the present production of cotton yarn by Geo. A. Bond and Company is at the rate of 1,400,000 lb. per annum, so that the bounty payable, at 6d. per lb., would be £35,000, but the rate of output might very easily be doubled, in which case up to £70,000 per year would be involved. This, however, would only be about one-third of the duty, collected on cotton goods under the . general tariff to provide preference for Great Britain, and, in the Tariff Board’s opinion, would be fully justified.
Could any statement be more definite? What is £70,000 when compared with the value of establishing this industry in
Australia? It is a mere bagatelle. This industry in time will be one of the greatest in Australia, and it deserves every encouragement. If Australia were to manufacture all the cotton goods now imported, employment would be provided for from 40,000 to 50,000 persons. Surely that is worth paying something for.
– It would probably cost £700,000, instead of £70,000.
– It is not suggested that the bounty should be paid for all time, but only until the industry is firmly established and able to supply local requirements. A Customs duty will then be sufficient to protect it from the unfair competition of manufacturers in other countries.
– Would the honorable member apply the same argument to other industries?
– It applies generally to industries on a similar footing to this - to the motor car industry, for instance. The application of a Customs duty to motor cars would not establish that industry in Australia; but the immediate effect of such a duty would be to increase the price of motor cars, because Australia cannot make them. On the other hand, a bounty would enable Australian manufacturers to establish the industry, which, after a year or two, could be carried on under the protection of a Customs duty. So that there may be no misunderstanding of the views of the Tariff Board, I shall conclude by quoting its recommendations -
That a bounty of 6d. per lb. be paid on cotton yarn spun in Australia, provided that not less than 50 per cent. of suitable cotton grown in Australia, Papua, or the Mandated Territories of the Commonwealthbe included in the yarn, but this recommendation is made subject to the regulations under the Bounty Act providing that,if the Minister is satisfied, after report by the Tariff Board, that 50 per cent. of such suitable cotton is notavailable, bounty may be granted on the yarn even though containing less than 50 per cent. of cottongrown in Australia, Papua, or the Mandated Territories of the Commonwealth.
The Tariff Board is satisfied that the cotton yarn industry cannot be carried on with less protection than is necessary in the case of the woollen yarn industry. Accordingly, the Tariff Board recommends that tariff item 392 (a) be amended to read as follows: - Yarns - Cotton, including mercerized cotton yarn, ad valorem, British preferential tariff, free; intermediate tariff, free; general tariff, 5 per cent. And on and after 1st July, 1928, British preferential tariff, 20 per cent.; intermediate tariff, 30per cent; general tariff, 35 per cent.
The report is signed by G. E. Hudson, chairman, Tariff Board ; Herbert Brookes, member, Tariff Board; Walter Leitch, member, Tariff Board; and David Masterton, member, Tariff Board. The recommendation of the Tariff Board is to establish the industry on a satisfactory basis by the payment of a bounty for two years, and in 1928 to bring the deferred duty into operation. This question affects the welfare of Australia, and should not be made a party issue. No country can hope to grow without the great staple industries of iron manufacture, wool, and cotton. We have everything needed to make a success of them; we have the iron ore and the wool, and we can grow the cotton. The only way to establish the cotton industry is by encouraging the spinning of cotton yarn. Australia hopes and expects - indeed, Australia will demand - that this Parliament shall give encouragement to this industry so that avenues of employment may be opened to our people.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks that honorable members have made during this debate on matters affecting my department, and notably on cotton and yarn.
The establishment of a storm warning station at Browse Island, referred to by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) is a matter for consideration by the Meteorological Department, though it impinges somewhat upon the administration of the Navigation Act, for which I am responsible. I promise the honorable member that I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) .
The amendment of our reciprocal trade treaty with New Zealand, advocated by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is receiving the attention of the Government, and I hope that in the not distant future representatives of the
Dominion of New Zealand and the Commonwealth will confer to consider enlarging the treaty for mutual advantage.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) raised the question of the con- .tinuation of the wine bounty, but as the period for which the bounty is payable does not expire until August of next year, that matter can scarcely be considered desperately urgent. Nevertheless, it is receiving attention. I join issue with the honorable member as to the right of the winegrowers to have returned to them, in the form of a bounty, the excise duty that they pay on alcohol made from grapes. Alcohol duties, it is generally understood, are contributed by the general public towards the expenses of government, and I cannot accept the dictum of the winegrowers, or- any person representing their interests, that they are entitled to the return in some form of the duties imposed on the alcohol contained in their wines.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) advocated the payment of a bounty on seed cotton, which was perhaps the right thing for him to do, as he represents many cotton-growers, and he united with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and five or six other honorable members opposite in urging the Government to provide a bounty for cotton yarn manufactured in Australia. The adoption of these suggestions would involve the expenditure of a large amount of public money. If the scheme propounded by the honorable member for Capricornia for a bounty of 2d. per lb. on seed cotton grown in Queensland over a period of years were accepted, an expenditure of £1,000,000 or more might easily follow; and the suggested bounty of 6d. per lb. on cotton yarn manufactured in Australia would, on the showing of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) run into about £75,000 for one year.
– Oh, no; £35,000, on the present output.
– The Government is the custodian of the public funds, and before it will recommend the expenditure of large amounts in bounties it intends to satisfy itself of the equity of the proposal by viewing it from all angles. At present we have a guaranteed price for cotton. The inno vation of a bounty would involve many considerations other than those which have to be faced now. Reference has been made to the reports of the Tariff Board on these questions. The board is charged with the duty of investigating these matters and reporting to me as the responsible Minister.
– Oh, no; its duty is to report to Parliament through the Minister.
– The law provides that before any proposal for the alteration in an existing duty, or for a bounty, can be placed before Parliament, it must be submitted to the Tariff Board for investigation and report to the Minister.
– Whose duty it is to submit the report to Parliament.
– The report must be considered by the Minister and submitted to the Cabinet. Let me repeat the statement I have made previously in this House, that I am no automaton. I do not consider the reports of any board sacrosanct. I intend to retain my independence and my right to have inquiries made until I can present to Parliament proposals that will be acceptable to it. I am sorry that the honorable member for Dalley accused me, by innuendo, of having deliberately blanketed the report of the board on cotton yarn. The facts are that the board’s report which recommended the payment of a bounty of 6d. a lb. on cotton yarn manufactured in Australia, and the provision of a deferred duty to be paid after a certain date, was made on the 20th July last. Honorable members will recollect that I submitted the tariff schedule to the. House last September, but before it could be discussed, or any further government business could be dealt with, an election occurred. After the election, I gave close attention to the report of the board on cotton yarn, and in January I sent the board a minute, in which I asked for information on certain economic aspects of the matter. I received the reply to my questions on the 2nd June. I, therefore, make no apology for the delay that has occurred. Obviously, before the Government could submit the board’s recommendation to Parliament, it had to consider the whole matter of establishing the cotton industry in Australia upon a sound basis. I have had the cotton seed report in hand for only five weeks, and it raises many new issues which are now being considered. Neither the Government nor I will be rushed into introducing proposals in this House for the benefit of a single firm.
– I do not think that that” is quite fair.
– The honorable member for Dalley was the first sinner.
– I merely quoted the report of the Tariff Board.
– The honorable member knows very well that nobody in the community is more anxious than I am to see secondary industries, and particularly the cotton industry, in all its ramifications, built un in the Commonwealth, and that is also the desire of the . Government. At present I can say no more on this matter than that the Government is giving it most earnest consideration, and that I am hopeful that, at an early date, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will announce the Government policy in connexion with it.
.- Listening to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) one could only sympathize with the honorable gentleman in the arduous task he had to perform. He tried, no doubt, to be a loyal party man, but honorable members opposite were returned at the last election upon certain promises made to the people in regard to particular industries. The industry for the manufacture of cotton yarn was started upon a promise made by a Commonwealth government that it would be looked after. The Minister for Trade and Customs has contended that the cotton yarn industry must be considered in conjunction with the basic industry of cotton growing; but that is not in accordance with the procedure which the honorable gentleman followed in compiling the last tariff schedule submitted to this Parliament. I told the honorable gentleman then that he was like the man with the boy and the donkey who pleased nobody.
– No Minister for Trade and Customs can please everybody.
– The honorable gentleman has talked of the necessity, in dealing with industries and their protection, to begin with basic industries, but this is not the course that was adopted in connexion with the iron and steel industry. He said that he cannot propose a bounty on cotton yarn, because con sideration must first be given to the production of cotton. We know that not only the present, but the last Minister for Trade and Customs encouraged people to go in for growing cotton in Australia. There is no reason why we should not grow the best cotton in the world, in almost any part of Australia. As a boy, I saw cotton growing as far south as Sydney.
– The growing of cotton is not the difficulty, but the handling of it.
– The difficulty is to find labour for picking the cotton.
– Many years ago, a Queensland expert recommended that the picking of cotton by children might usefully fill a gap between the time at which they leave school and engage in some permanent industry.
– We have too much child labour employed.
– We do not want to employ child labour, but what I refer to could not be considered child labour. Perhaps the honorable member for Corio would prefer coloured labour for the picking of cotton, but a white Australian adult could pick cotton ten times as well as the niggers employed at the work in other parts of the world.
I wish now to refer to a matter relating to navigation. It will be admitted I suppose that Newcastle is a port that is deserving of some recognition. As many wrecks have occurred in the neighbourhood of that port, an application was made for the installation of a fog bell there. The department which controls navigation in Australia replied that that was the State’s job. The State Government contends that it is a job for the Federal authority, but becoming disgusted with the inaction of the Federal Government, installed a small bell at the end of the breakwater to warn vessels approaching the port. On my last visit to Newcastle I was informed . that that bell cannot be heard in a fog. The conflict between Federal and State authorities should not be allowed to prevent the installation of an efficient fog bell for the purpose of - saving human life. The sooner the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has charge of navigation, takes up this matter with the State authorities, the better it will be for those who have to navigate vessels into the port of Newcastle.
– My honorable friend will recognize that the State authority gets all the port dues.
– That may be so, but the. Commonwealth Government gets all the Customs revenue collected on goods imported into Newcastle. The Commonwealth controls navigation and the lightbouse service, and it is a mere quibble to say that the Government of New South Wales gets the port dues paid at Newcastle.
– The State Governments look after and are responsible for port lights.
– I am speaking of the installation of a fog-bell, not in the port of Newcastle, but at a place on the coast outside the port. To comply with the application that has been made would cost only a few pounds, but no one seems to care whether a fog-bell is installed at Newcastle or not.
Reference has been made by several honorable members to the claim of divisional returning officers for additional remuneration for the extra work they were called upon to perform during the last election compaign. I consider that they are entitled to more remuneration than they have received; but, after what has already been said on the subject, it is necessary for rae only to endorse the remarks of other honorable members.
I want to lodge a serious complaint against the War Service- Homes Department in connexion with some buildings at a place called King’s-road, in my electorate, which returned soldiers were induced to take over. I received a letter to-day from the Minister for Works and Railways concerning one of these soldiers’ homes. Reference is made in the letter to houses, built under the direction of the Commonwealth Bank. Those references are quite beside the mark, because my complaint is with respect to a number of houses built by the War Service Homes Department. These are brick houses, but they had not been constructed for twelve months before, because of faulty construction, some of thom split across* and bogan to tumble down. The returned soldiers who occupied them were compelled to leave them because they were not safe to live in. These men are now being worried by the War Service Homes Department for arrears of instalments in payment for the houses they were obliged to leave. Their wages are being garnisheed because they refuse to make back payments in respect of these houses, up to £70, £80, and £100.
– Are the houses now occupied ?
– The ex-Minister for Works and Railways, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), gave instructions that supports should be put under these houses, and that has been done. He did so after I had sent him a sample of the foundation of one of them. I crumbled it up in my hands and sent it to the honorable member in a cigar-box. My point is that the War Service Homes Department failed to fulfil its contract when it guaranteed to supply good houses for the returned soldiers, and it is now garnisheeing their wages to collect instalments of payments for houses which they , were compelled to leave. It is scandalous that returned soldiers should be treated in such a way.
Returning again to the report of the Tariff Board on the cotton yarn industry - the Minister informed us that the board’s reports must be sent to him. That is quite true ; but, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) said, the act also provides that they shall be laid on the table of this House, so that they may be considered by Parliament.
– That is the annual report of the Tariff Board.
– Will the Minister inform me how many reports of the Tariff Board favorable to Australian industries have been acted upon?
– I will, if the honorable member asks the question on notice.
– Why not now?
– I cannot carry all the information in my head.
– I have every confidence in the Tariff Board and every respect for its members, but manufacturers are beginning to fear that it is being used as a buffer between them and Parliament. If the board is to continue its work its reports should . be dealt with as they are presented. They should be submitted to Parliament after the Minister has made his recommendation upon them.
– The honorable member can have any reports of the Tariff
Board after the Government has finished its consideration of them.
-I know that; but I am asking the Government to put the reports of the Tariff Board before Parliament,, and act upon them.
– Have we not done so?
– No. Some scores of reports by the board have not been acted upon.
– What did the Minister do with them ?
– The right honorable gentleman should ask the Minister what he has done with them. The honorable gentleman admits that many reports from the board favorable to assistance being given to Australian industries have not been acted upon.
– No, I do not admit that.
– I believe that the Tariff Board is doing good work, but if it is to retain the confidence of Parliament and of the country, the Government must let honorable members know what is to be done with its reports. I agree with the Minister for Trade and Customs that the basic section of any industry should first be considered, but I wish the honorable gentleman had followed that course in the preparation of the last tariff schedule which dealt with industries from the top and not from the base. As a result, trouble will follow later on when we have to consider the basic branches of many of our industries.
.- I was fortunate enough to hear the reply of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) to the request put forward by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) that he should state definitely for what period the bounty on the export of wine will be paid. We have the assurance of the Minister that very shortly the people along the river Murray will know how long the bounty will continue to be paid, but the Minister also says there is no hurry about the matter, because the present bounty does not expire until next year. A few weeks ago a deputation representing all the vine-growing interests on the river, and the vine-growers on the non-irrigable areas in South Australia, waited on the Prime Minister and urged him to give an assurance at the earliest possible moment that the bounty would be extended for a period of five years.
– There were 1,600 signatures to the request.
– Yes ; and men left their harvesting operations and travelled hundreds of miles to see the Prime Minister because it was a matter of the most vital importance to them. It was the Prime Minister who had put heart into the vine-growers along the river and on the non-irrigable areas by the payment of a bounty on the export of wine. It was the very best thing that could have been done for the development of those areas. The Minister for Trade and Customs says now that the vine-growers have no particular claim on the revenue derived from the excise duty on spirit used for the fortifying of wines, but I want to put the facts before him. When the excise duty was first imposed 80 per cent. of the dried fruit grown in Australia was consumed locally, but when the bounty on the export of wine was provided, the position had been reversed. Australia’s consumption of dried fruits then amounted to about 20 per cent. of the output, and about 80 per cent. was exported. It was part of the repatriation effort of the State of South Australia, to establish returned soldiers as fruit-growers along the river Murray. The Government of the State incurred an enormous expenditure to provide and prepare land for these soldiers, and the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, incurred an even greater expenditure in locking the river. That locking scheme will cost many millions of pounds, and the only way in which interest can be earned on that expenditure is by utilising the river valley for intense culture, the purpose for which nature intended it. The soldiers of South Australia had no choice as to what they should grow on a considerable portion of the areas provided for them by the State; The best expert advice obtainable had been that wine grapes offered the best prospects for the future, and the settlers were practically compelled to agree to the desire of the Government that they should engage extensively in the growing of Doradillo grapes. But when the crops came into bearing it became necessary to find a market for them. The position of these unfortunate soldier settlers has been dinned into the ears of honorable members year after year. We had to come to their rescue, becauSe they were next door to starvation. I am not overstating the position when I say that we had to spend money to keep them alive. Parliament cheerfully responded to the request for the payment of a bounty on the export of wine, and for assistance to enable the producers of dried fruits to market their products. It takes time to get into an overseas market, but the assistance thus afforded to the settlers has enabled the greater portion of them to remain on the land. Otherwise they would have abandoned their holdings, and there would have been no immediate possibility of interest being earned on the increasing expenditure on locking and damming the river Murray. Efforts to find markets overseas have been to a certain extent successful, particularly in regard to sultanas. Australian sultanas are wanted overseas, and it is questionable whether the harvest this year will be sufficient to meet the rapidly increasing demands for them. But the position is very different in the case of currants and lexias. The growers of these would be starved had it not been for distillation. Of all the attempts by the Commonwealth Government to assist primary production in Australia, nothing has given better results than the payment of a bounty on the export of wine. But there was no generosity in this on the part of the Government. The Minister for Trade and Customs asks what claim the vine-growers have 6n his excise revenue. When the excise duty was first imposed on spirit used for fortifying wine, it was 4d. a gallon, and it was only imposed to cover inspection fees. Afterwards, as production developed, the duty was raised to 8d., and then to ls. a gallon. When war broke out it was increased to 3s., and subsequently to 6s., bringing in an enormous revenue to the Customs Department. What generosity was there in collecting 6s. a gallon excise duty, while people engaged in growing the grapes were starving? The wine bounty was provided by taking ls. a gallon off the excise duty. In the first year in which it operated, as much wine was sent out of Australia to the United Kingdom as had been sent out in the previous ten years. I ask honorable members to think over these figures and then ask themselves if the Government has any occasion to talk of its generosity. The payment of the bounty has been such a success that although the excise duty on spirit used for fortifying wine was reduced to 5s. a gallon, the total amount of excise collected has increased, because of the big export of wine fortified with this spirit. The Prime Minister received the deputation I have referred very courteously, and in a few moments said that he was powerless to grant their request because, under the law, the question of extending a bounty must be referred to the Tariff Board. However, he said that he would refer it to the board at the earliest opportunity. It is now a long time since that definite promise was made, but the matter has not yet been remitted to the Tariff Board. I want to pin down the Minister for Trade and Customs, who now says that there is yet time, because the existing bounty does not expire until next year, and to let the people outside know who is responsible for deferring a decision in this matter. But before I begin to prod him, I want to thank him for his determination that all the wine exported under the bounty must be O.K. Nearly all the shipments were up to standard, but a few were not, and when I mentioned them to the Minister, he said that he had given the strictest instructions -that all consignments must be rigidly inspected in order to ensure that no goods below the standard should benefit by the bounty. The Minister said that a reference to the Tariff Board is not urgent, but he is submitting to .the board for inquiry other matters that are not nearly so important as is this. The reports from the Old World regarding the wine shipped under the bounty are splendid, and orders are coming forward in such volume that the biggest wine growers cannot supply them, because they do not know if the bounty will be extended; if it is not extended for a considerable number of years, this new export trade will be lost. On other occasions I have asked the Minister to visit the Murray Valley and inspect the distilleries. A few years ago they were filled to the roof with wines, not a gallon of which could be sold, but when the bounty was assured, every gallon was disposed of at once. Honorable members do not realize the magnitude of this business. If they would travel down the River Mur- ray and see for themselves the developments along its valley, there would be no need to plead in this committee for a continuance of the best business proposition that was ever evolved by this or any other Government. A distillery in Berry is the biggest in the southern hemisphere, and probably, in the world, and it is owned by a co-operative company, consisting “entirely of its own growers. When the bounty was granted by this Parliament, that establishment sold practically the whole of its stock in one transaction, and its plant is still being enlarged. It has sold its output for this year and next year, and one buyer has undertaken to purchase the whole output for the next five years if a continuance of the bounty is assured. Offers are being received from London for the wine harvest for the following two or three years, but the distillers cannot deal with the orders until they know what is to happen in regard to the bounty. Australian wines are becoming popular in the British market, and if we give the industry a fair chance, instead of uprooting the Doradillo vine and writing the word “failure” over the whole of the development along the River Murray, the growers will be extending the areas under cultivation.
– Are they not growing too many Doradillo grapes already?
– No; and as soon as a reasonable extension of the bounty is assured, the wine output for three or four years ahead can be sold. We cannot hold the British market if we supply it with certain brands of wine this year, and cannot repeat the supplies twelve months hence. Mr. McDougall, an expert from the river, and his associates in London, are promoting the wine export business in a most gratifying manner, but what encouragement will they get from the statement of the Minister for Trade and Commerce that there is no hurry about announcing an extension of the bounty, and that there is no moral obligation to continue the excise duty? Thank God the wine producers have sound and generous support in this House, but what is the use of the Government talking in a “ hifalutin “ manner about the development of industries, if it has not the nous to stand by an industry, the worth of which is already proved.
– I should not have participated in this debate had not the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) said that honorable members on this side of the chamber support black-labour conditions. That charge ‘ cannot be truthfully levelled against me because I have always recognized the supreme importance of maintaining a White Australia. In reference to the production of raw cotton, the honorable member was most unfortunate in his statement that a white man can pick as much cotton as seven or eight niggers. In days gone by I heard many statements as to the relative capabilities of whites and blacks, but none comes to my mind with greater force than the argument advanced in the early days of federation that a white man could do at least double the work that a kanaka did in the sugar industry. I do not contradict that statement, but I remind honorable members that one hears very little to-day in support of the assertion made at one time regarding the disabilities under which the industry laboured. One of the principal reasons advanced in justification of the high wages paid in the Queensland sugar industry is that white men cannot be expected to undertake strenuous labour in sub-tropical areas at the same remuneration as is paid to men working under more congenial conditions in the southern states. I mention this merely to indicate how a man may thoughtlessly make comparisons that, will not bear scrutiny. I have listened to the various arguments in support of the payment of a bounty on cotton yarn produced in Australia. In connexion with the policy of migration and land settlement, no industry presents greater possibilities than the cultivation of cotton, particularly in Queensland. Although Pome people believe that this crop cannot be profitably grown in Australia, we know that, as a side line, cotton cultivation has been a success in various parts of Queensland. The future greatness of Australia depends upon a successful policy of migration and land settlement. Unfortunately, very few of the Australianborn will submit to the disadvantages incidental to carving a home out of the Australian bush in districts remote from the railways. Nothing would promote immigration and land settlement so much as the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of Australia’s young men were successfully engaging in rural pursuits. Much has been said of the circumstances of the soldier settlers. One honorable member declared that they were practically forced to go upon the land because when they returned from the war they found that their positions had been taken by men who had not enlisted. That is not the truth. The returned soldiers had the opportunity to consider carefully the prospects offered by a career on the land, £ind on the ship by which I returned from the war a large number of men who, prior to enlisting, had been employed in counting houses and commercial houses, and had followed other indoor occupations, preferred, after having lived an outdoor life overseas, to go upon the land. Many special inducements were held out to them. There was to be an advance by the Commonwealth to the States equivalent to £650 per settler, to enable the men to in alee necessary improvements on their holdings. We are all only too well aware of the fact that to-day many thousands of these men have failed. There are many causes for that. Some honorable members blame the Commonwealth Government for not giving more liberal financial assistance to the settlers, -and others blame the State Governments for placing the men on unsuitable land. We must not overlook the fact that many of these men find themselves in an unfortunate position because of their persistent adherence to certain mistaken views. I know of men who refused to go into the back country, but insisted upon the State Government acquiring for them properties at extortionate prices alongside railway lines. They have had disputes with the valuers as to the value of the land, and in order to appease them the Government has given way to some of them. Still, they have millstones round their necks, and the blame for their condition cannot rightly be laid at the door of either the Federal or State Governments. Many failures have also been brought about by the keen competition in the purchase of stock. It is the dairy farmers who have suffered most, and hundreds of men in the dairying districts, who had no previous knowledge of stock, who hardly knew the tail from the head of a beast, have gone to market and bid against each other to the benefit of the auctioneer and the ven- dor. Thus they have paid for cattle prices upon which they had no chance of earning even interest. The governments must accept, a certain amount of responsibility. I attribute much of the failure to the systems of land tenure in the different States. The average man desires to have a freehold ; that is only natural. I believe that .much of the failure in the State of Queensland, of which I can speak from personal knowledge, is because freehold tenure is not allowed. Under a system of leasehold tenure there is no incentive for a man to work hard to develop his property, because he knows that by doing so he will probably have to pay a considerably higher rental when the periodicalreassessments are made. I have in my mind a large soldier settlement at Beerburrum, in Queensland, which it was hoped would be successful ‘ under the Labour administration in that State. I travelled through that part of Queensland looking for land about 38 years ago. The land is from 30 to 40 miles from Brisbane, and it had a railway line running through it. It was thrown open for selection on freehold tenure at 2s. 6d. an acre payable in five years. The terms were eventually lengthened to payments of 3d. an acre ‘a year for ten years; but the land was not selected for a period of about 30 years. When the war occurred, the Queensland Government saw a possibility of settling returned soldiers on that tract of country. The men were allotte’d areas varying from 25 to 40 acres for the purpose of growing pineapples and fruit. The country was so heavily timbered that it cost by contract from £37 to £40 an acre to make it fit for the plough. When it had been brought into a condition suitable for tillage it had to be manured at an expense of from 30s. to 50s. an acre, and that expenditure had to be repeated annually. It is probably some of the worst country in Queensland, and hundreds of good, hard-working, conscientious men, some of whom I know personally, were placed upon it. They went on to the land full of hope, expecting to make a living, but I do not think that half a dozen of the original settlers there remain. The money expended by the Commonwealth Government in assisting that settlement has been wasted. The fences and buildings are getting into a state of disrepair, and there seems to be. no possibility of other persons coming forward to take over the burden from the original settlers. The whole scheme has been a costly failure. The returned soldier cannot be blamed for that, and the Commonwealth Government would not be justified in making any contribution to the Queensland Government out of the£5,000,000. The money should be paid rather to compensate the settlers for their loss of time, labour, and money, during a period of great hardship and difficulty. If this policy of migration is to be successful, we shall have to carry it through in a more business-like way than we have done hitherto. I have always been an advocate of community settlement. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) hardly agrees with me in that, for he does not approve of ready-made farms.
-i said that the history of successful land settlement in Australia had started from the other end.
– I am prepared to admit that, but the conditions which existed when the prosperous settlers of to-day started do not obtain now. I see difficulties surrounding community settlement; but what the Commonwealth Government should have done - and it is possibly not too late to do it now - was to acquire a large tract of land suitable for closer settlement, subdivide it, run light railways or good roads through it, and provide the men with every facility for success. They should
Dot work as their own masters, but under the careful supervision of men who have made a success of farming in similar localities. Under careful supervision, such a scheme should not, at the worst, entail very much loss. This is one of our greatest problems, and I hope that in the future the Government will grapple with it and endeavour to succeed in a direction in which so many failures have been registered in the past.
.- The effective settlement of the land of Australia is probably the most important task that this Parliament can set itself. Much has been said about groupor community settlement; but no method is better than one in which individual responsibility is imposed upon the selector. Group settlement has been attempted in many places, but it is difficult, owing to the personal equation, to make twenty men work in true community fashion. A better system was devised in Western Australia. The settler was allowed to select land for conditional purchase. It was classified as first, second, or third grade. After selecting the land at the Lands Department he could go to the Agricultural Bank and ask to borrow money on it. He might request £1,000. The bank would ask him, “ How do you propose to expend it ?” and he would fill up a schedule showing that he would spend from £200 to £250 on a cottage, so much for fencing, so much for ring-barking, so much for clearing, and so on. The money was handed to him in progress payments. He could go on the land and work as many hours a day as he liked, and he could hire labour. His expenses would be covered by his progress payments. When the money had been spent, the improvements were an asset to the State. That system has been proved to be the best yet evolved. When the settler had carried out his improvements, his assets were, as a rule, worth more than the money paid to him, and he could then probably dispense with State assistance and obtain further loans from an ordinary bank. The community system of paying the settlers so much a day, and having 20 or 30 men working together to clear a large tract of land, which is to be divided among them afterwards,is not satisfactory. Some of the men do not intend to go on the land, and after drawing their. 9s. or 10s. a day for the work, they leave the settlement and penalize the State. Under the community system, the improvement of the land, in many instances, costs more than it is worth, and, later,’ when the marketing of produce has to be considered, the settlers realize that there is not a livelihood for them. The Commonwealth Government, which is finding the money, by acting in cooperation with the State Governments, could do a good deal more to make land settlement in Australia more effective.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregeing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page and passed through all its stages, without amendmentor debate.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments of the House of Representatives in this bill.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Science and Industry Research Bill.
Science and Industry EndowmentBill.
House adjourned at 10.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260623_reps_10_113/>.