10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Referring to the visit to our shores next week of several members of the Japanese Parliament, will the Prime Minister inform the House what arrangements, if any, have been made by the Commonwealth Government to extend to these gentlemen the courtesies usual on such occasions?
– The Government learned some little time ago of the proposed visit of a few members of the Japanese Parliament to Australia during August, and immediately got into communication with the Consul for Japan, who informed us that the visit was entirely of a private character. We then again communicated with him and expressed the hope that, although the visitors desired that their visit should be regarded as entirely a private one, they would allow the Commonwealth to extend to them any courtesies possible. We also communicated with the State Governments concerned, and the wishes of the visiting members of the Japanese Parliament will be met, but such courtesies as they will accept will be extended to them.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the correspondence in relation to the Locarno Treaty ?
– Certain documents and correspondence connected with the Treaty have been laid on the table ; but probably what the right honorable gentleman refers to are the cables and communications the Government received while negotiations were proceeding at Locarno, and prior to the entering into of the Treaty. I shall look through the papers, but I think it extremely improbable that I can lay them on the table of the House, as they are largely of a confidential and secret nature.
– Has the Prime Minister received any communication from the British Government which would lead him to believe that the question of passports for visitors overseas will appear on the agenda-paper of the. Imperial Conference? I have been asked to make this inquiry.
– No suggestion has been made by the authorities of Great Britain or any of the dominions to include in the agenda-paper of the forthcoming conference the consideration of the subject of passports.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact, as generally reported in the press, that the Trades Hall broadcasting station, in Sydney - 2KY - is to be used to combat the referendum proposals; if so, what arrangements will be made by the Government to broadcast statements in support of those proposals ?
– The station to which the honorable member refers is a “ B “ station, and receives no revenue from licence-fees. The arrangements made for broadcasting speeches for and against the referendums are these: - The Leader of each party will have the right to broadcast a speech or to nominate some one in each of the States to do so for him; but should honorable members who voted against the proposals in Parliament consider that their views will not be expressed by the party leaders, they will be given the same privileges in regard to the broadcasting of them as those for whom the party leaders will speak.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Western Australia. - A bill to make the necessary legislative provision was passed by the State Assembly in 1925, but lapsed in the Legislative Council on a technical point. In April, 1926, the State Premier advised that there is every intention of reintroducing the measure.
New South Wales. - In July last the State Premier, in reply to a communication from the Prime Minister, stated that his Government had not arrived at a determination in the matter.
Queensland.- In July last, the Premier of the State, in answer to a communication from the Prime Minister, intimated that the Queensland Government doe9 not favour the proposal.
Transfer of Married Officers: Allowance
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will state if the Government intends to grant an allowance to Commonwealth officers who, by force of circumstances (their children being of school-leaving age), will be compelled to leave their wives and families in Melbourne, and will not be able to establish their homes at Canberra for one, two, or three years ?
– The determination of allowances to public servants who will be transferred to Canberra is a function of the Public Service Board, to which the question raised by the honorable member will be referred.
Payments to States
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
What amount is paid by the Commonwealth to the Treasurers of the respective States by way of allowance for fares for Federal members?
– The following amounts are paid to the Railways Commissioners of the States for Federal members’ passes, viz.:- New South Wales, £4,032; Victoria, £5,376; Queensland, £1,008; South Australia, £1,680; Western Australia, £672; Tasmania, £672; total, £13,440.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The British Government has signified its concurrence in the inclusion of this question in the agenda of the forthcoming Imperial Conference.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government has received a report of the proceedings of the International Standards Conference held in New York in April of this year?
– No report of the conference referred to has been received by the Government.
“KANGAROO” BRAND BUTTER.
asked the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice - .
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the total amount of hosiery imported into the Commonwealth during the years 1924-25 and 1925-26; also the value imported from each country of origin for the years 1924-25 and 1925-26?
– The information is being obtained.
Sydney City Council’s Contract
– Yesterday the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked me whether I would lay on the table of the Library all the correspondence which has passed between the Prime Minister’s Department and the Chamber of Manufactures, New South Wales, in regard to the electrical contract made by the Commonwealth Shipping Board. I now desire to inform him that it is not convenient to place the papers in question on the table of the Library. Arrangements will be made for him to peruse the file at the Prime Minister’s Department. The correspondence between the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, or their solicitors, and the Attorney-General’s Department will also be made available for inspection, if desired.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1013-21, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this. House the result of its investigations: - Garden Island Naval Establishment (New South Wales) - Construction of a new wharf.
This proposal was referred to the Public Works Committee on the 9th March, J 92 6, and, after investigation, the committee has recommended that the work be proceeded with as early as possible. Additional wharf accommodation at Garden Island is required to accommodate the two 10,000-ton cruisers now under construction in Great Britain. At present there is a series of short-length wharfs alongside the island which, as regards length, depth of water, and facilities for handling heavy guns and machinery, are unsuitable for the larger vessels. It is further stated that a large proportion of these structures was erected 40 years ago, that the decking in places has been attacked by white ants, and that the piles have suffered from the teredo. It is also claimed that the wharfs have outlived their useful life, and are in urgent need of repair. It is proposed to embrace these wharfs in an extended timber pile wharf 960 feet in length, with a smaller extension of 52 feet to accommodate smaller craft. As the shore line is irregular, the wharf will vary in width from a few feet to a maximum of 133 feet. The existing wharfs are not in a straight line, and the new one will connect their extremities, thereby adding a very much required space of about 1$ acres to the area between the ships and the workshops. The wharf is designed to carry heavy loads, such as machinery, guns, torpedoes, and equipment, and is to be fitted with a specially-designed travelling crane with a working load of 20 tons at a radius of 60 feet, or 8 tons at a radius of 90 feet. Three electrically-driven capstans will be provided, also mains for fresh water, salt water, compressed air, oil fuel, and electrical energy. The total estimated cost of this work is £150,000.
– I oppose the motion, because I strongly object to the expenditure of £150,000 on additional wharf accommodation at Garden Island. That dockyard is unsuitable for repairs to large vessels such ns the modern 10,000-ton cruisers. There is no need to improve the facilities at Garden Island while we have an uptodate dockyard at Cockatoo, which is quite capable of effecting repairs to modern cruisers. Any one who has visited the Garden Island workshops will know that the plant and machinery there are obsolete.
– Work is being done there that cannot be carried out at Cockatoo Island.
– That is nonsense. The honorable member may have hurriedly inspected the Garden Island Dockyard on one occasion, but I have been there many times. The facilities at Cockatoo Island are greater than those in any other part of the Commonwealth, and the dock is capable of accommodating the new 10,000-ton cruisers. The objection to carrying but naval repairs at Cockatoo Island Dockyard comes from the naval authorities, who maintain that the necessary secrecy in respect of construction, and repair work can be observed only by confining the work to Garden Island. But that objection does not weigh with those who know the true, position. The same class of men are employed at both dockyards, and they travel to and from the mainland every day. I do not object to the provision of a travelling crane at Garden Island, because the present crane is out of date. Vessels can be taken from Garden Island to Cockatoo Island within a quarter of an hour. Any further expenditure at Garden Island would not be in the best interests of the country.
.- The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) is quite wrongin his view. I cordially endorse the recommendation of the Public Works Committee that additional wharf accommodation be provided at Garden Island. We must realize that both in peace and war the traffic between a vessel and the shore is enormous, even when it is not undergoing repairs. Any large repairs to our naval vessels will always be carried out at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, but the frequent routine repairs must be done at Garden Island, because it is more accessible than Cockatoo Island. It is all nonsense to say that naval repairs cannot be effected at Garden Island. The wharf is absolutely necessary for the new cruisers, which, I understand, will be 60 feet longer than the battleship Australia. It would be absurd to drag such large vessels into Darling Harbour for the carrying out of small repairs. Garden Island serves a useful purpose as a base for the ships of the Australian Navy. Every day vessels are undergoing minor repairs, shipping torpedoes, ammunition, and stores, and receiving at Garden Island dozens of other services that could not be conveniently rendered at Cockatoo Island. I cordially approve of the motion.
.- The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) is not so well informed about Garden Island as I am, for I have had the advantage of visiting it as a member of the Public Accounts Committee. Ship construction and ship repairing are two distinct jobs. Men who are experts in construction are not experts in repairing, and vice versa. The vessels of the Australian Navy moor in the waters adjacent to Garden Island, and when one requires to take in stores, torpedoes, or ammunition, or have a new propeller shaft installed, or a new pin inserted in one of the geared wheels, or her pumps re-bored, it goes alongside the wharf at the island. Very good work is done there in the repairing of ships. Actual construction will still have to be done at Cockatoo Island dockyard, but I have been informed by naval officers, engineers, and other experts that the Garden Island establishment will always be required for repairs. Therefore, I support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Message of Deputy of the Governor-General).
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of seed cotton and cotton yarn.
– I suggest that theMinister should at this stage inform the committee of the amount of bounty that he proposes.
– The bill will appropriate a totalamount of £900,000, of which £600,000 will be available for the payment of a bounty on seed cotton at the rate of £120,000 a year, and £300,000 for the payment of a bounty on cotton yarn, spread over five years, unless in the meantime any deferred duty that may hereafter be imposed uponcottbn goods comes into operation. The two bounties will be distinct. That on cotton yarn will start atone-third of a penny On No. 1 count; and rise by steps of1/3d. up to1s. on No. 36 count. At the second-reading stage I shall supply honorable members will full information as to the reasons which have actuated the Government in making this proposal.
.- I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs to inform the committee at this stage what rates of bounty he proposes to pay on seed cotton. The Standing Orders will preclude me from moving later for an increase in the appropriation.
– The honorable member cannot do it at this stage either.
– No, but I am asking the Minister to let me know what rate of bounty will be proposed in the bill. If it is what I desire, I shall offer no opposition to the measure. In any circumstances I shall not oppose the bill, but I shall submit reasons why a larger bounty should be offered.
– Like Oliver Twist, the honorable member asks for more.
– That is so. The Tariff Board’s recommendation that a bounty of 2d. per lb. be paid on seed cotton for six years, with a diminishing bounty for the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth years, should be adopted by the Government. If the message does not provide for an appropriation sufficient for that purpose, the Government, when the billis brought forward, will have committed itself to the payment of a bounty at a lower rate than that recommended by the board.
– Although a private member cannot move to increase the appropriation, the Government, if it wishes to do so, can bring down another message recommending a further appropriation. There is therefore no difficulty in the way of increasing the bounty.
– I quite understand that it is not within the province of a private member to increase the appropriation; but I particularly wish to know whether the Tariff Board’s recommendation has been accepted. If that has been done, there is no cause for complaint, but I am afraid, as there is only the small appropriation of £600,000 for seed cotton, and £300,000 for cotton yarn, for a period of five years, that the Government does not intend to carry out the board’s recommendation. I hope that before the second reading of the bill is moved the Minister will take steps to have the appropriation increased sufficiently to enable the bounty recommended by the board to be paid. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs have received representations on this subject in favour of the bounty of 2d., on seed cotton; but they were then opposed to it. There are in Queensland 6,000 cotton-growers, about 4,000 of whom are in my electorate. I know something of the industry, and of the people who are engaged in it.
– The honorable member’s seat is secure!
– It is not a matter of seats. Party politics should not be introduced into this discussion. It is of paramount importance to establish in Australia the industry of growing cotton, and spinning and weaving cotton yarn. Our raw products should be spun and woven into manufactured cotton goods, of which Australia now imports approximately £16,000,000 worth every year.
– If the honorable member will allow the bill to be introduced, and give the Minister an opportunity to tell him what is in it, and if he can then convince me that the amount of the appropriation ought to be increased, I shall arrange for another message from the Governor-General to increase the appropriation. The honorable member will be given an opportunity to convince me; but his action at present is only delaying the opportunity to consider the bill.
– I do not wish to obstruct the progress of the bill, but itis necessary at this stage that I should place these few vital facts before the Government. I have at least been successful in obtaining a promise from the Prime Minister that he will, if he is convinced by me that a larger amount is necessary, arrange for a further appropriation to provide for an increased bounty. If the bountry recommended by the Tariff Board is not paid, the industry in Queensland will languish. The board is composed of expert business men, and includes a representative of the primary producers. When investigating this question, it had the assistance of an expert accountant from the Customs Department. The figures submitted by the growers and the British Australasian Cotton-growing Association were carefully examined, and the board unanimously recommended that a bounty of 2d. per lb. be paid for six years.
– The honorable member is merely obstructing the consideration of assistance being given to this industry.
– That interjection is most unfair, andis unworthy of the Prime Minister. His accusation is quite unjustified, because, if I didnot make my suggestions to the Government at this stage, I should be told, if I tried to increase the bounty later, that Parliament had already approved of the appropriation, and that I, as a private member, had no power to move to increase it. In that way, the Government might avoid a vote being taken on the question. I do not wish to say anything to obstruct the passage of the bill; but I want the Government, before it is too late, to decide to pay the 2d. per lb.; and I hope that the Minister, if he has not already made up his mind, will confer with the Prime Minister, and arrange for an appropriation large enough to give effect to the board’s recommendation.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) on the success of his appeal to the Prime Minister, who has promised that, if the honorable member can givegood and sufficient reasons why the bounty should be increased, ne will submit a message from the GovernorGeneral recommending a further appropriation.
– I would do so in regard to any measure if I was convinced of the necessity for increasing the appropriation.
– I believe that the Prime Minister would, if he were convinced; but the difficulty is that he is so hard to convince. Let me try my inexperienced “ ‘prentice han ‘ “ on him, and ask him for a similar assurance regarding the bounty on cotton yarn. If he will give me that assurance, I will resume my seat.
– If honorable members could at any time convince the Government that increased assistance should be given, the Government would be willing to bring down a message recommending on increased appropriation.
– The Prime Minister is not keeping to the promise he gave to the honorable member for Capricornia. Apparently, the bill will notcarry out the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– That is admitted.
– The Tariff Board has made extensive inquiries in this matter, and has recommended that a bounty of 6d. a lb. should be paid on cotton yarn. The Government should show good reasons for not adopting this very clear and definite proposal.
– I propose to do so.
– If the Tariff Board is not competent to submit reliable reports it should be dissolved ; if it is competent, we should accept its recommendations. If honorable gentlemen who support the Government vote for this bill as it stands thev will dishonour their platform pledges on the matter, and will undoubtedly find it difficult to justify their action for doing so.
Question resolvedin the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pratten and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to give effect to the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pratten, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under this measure it is proposed to grant bounties to the extent of £900,000 for five years on seed cotton and cotton yarn produced in Australia. Of this amount £600,000 will be expended in respect of seed cotton, and £300,000 in respect of manufactured cotton yarn, half the raw material of which must be of Australian production.
I shall deal first with the raw product, seed cotton. The Government, having given the whole subject of cotton production careful and lengthy consideration, believes that aid and subsidy should be granted, mainly with the object of stimulating cotton-growing as a basis for new secondary industries in Australia. The range of quality among the different varieties of cotton is very great. It varies from the lowest grades of Indian, with a staple of less than half an inch, to the finest Sea Island, whose staple sometimes exceeds 2 inches. This makes it extraordinarily difficult to compare cotton with other commodities. But perhaps the best test of the quality of cotton is in the value of the lint, which may vary from 4d. to 40d. per lb. These different grades of cotton are grown under conditions of climate and soil which vary from the monsoonal rainfall and the rich black soil of India, to the irrigation conditions and almost complete aridity of Egypt.
During the American Civil War about 14,000 acres of land were brought under cotton cultivation in Queensland, but with the re-entry of America into the field of cotton production, and the subsequent slump in prices, cottongrowing as an industry, ceased to exist there. To-day the industry has revived somewhat, and cotton is grown to a minor extent in northern
New South Wales, the Northern Territory, and the north-west of Western Australia ; but it may be said that it is practically confined to Queensland, where certain large areas are awaiting development, their soil and climatic conditions being considered by experts to be admirably suited to the production of cotton of excellent quality. In the early days of the industry in Australia it was hoped that it could be worked on the plantation scale, and that it might ultimately rival in magnitude even the wool industry, but at present there seems to be little prospect of those hopes being realized. It is generally recognized that, under existing conditions - mainly owing to labour costs - cotton-growing on a plantation scale is impracticable, and that the industry is more adapted to be carried on in conjunction with other forms of agriculture. It is thought that cottongrowing by farmers on small areas may be a big factor in the settlement of the lower tropical part of Queensland. In connexion with the efforts to resuscitate the industry, it was found necessary at the outset to provide means for, (a) treating the seed cotton - that is, ginning it into lint - (b) marketing the lint cotton ; and (c) financing the growers. It was obvious, in the earlier stages of the industry, that the grower’s financial position w.ould be such that he could not be expected to wait for his money until his cotton had been sold overseas, and it was realized that some form of payment for seed cotton, on delivery, would have to be devised as an inducement to the farmers to grow cotton. The governments of the cotton-growing States accordingly instituted a system of guaranteed prices, under which at the commencement of each season, they guaranteed to pay the grower a fixed price for his seed cotton, that price varying with the quality of the cotton produced, and the grading being done by government graders. A company, styled the British Australian Cotton Association Limited - the B.A.C.A. - came into existence a few years ago and installed ginneries for the treatment of seed cotton, and created an organization for the marketing of the lint cotton. Under arrangements with the Queensland Government, this company treats and markets the cotton, the State bearing all costs and receiving the proceeds of sales. If there- ceipt-s are in excess of the total costs, the profit is returned to the growers, but if the transaction results in a loss, the deficiency is borne by the State. So far, these transactions have invariably resulted in a loss, and the guaranteed price has, in actual practice, been equivalent to a bounty.
The Commonwealth Government undertook to share with the State Governments, fora period of years, any loss arising out of the guaranteed price. The guarantee system expired on the 30th June last. Dissatisfaction with government control was expressed by various agricultural bodies in Queensland, and those bodies, supported by the British Australian Cotton Association Limited, made representations to the Commonwealth Government urging-
It was quite obvious that such a complete reversal of policy on the eve of a growing season would only result in confusion, and be harmful to the industry, the payment of a bounty could not be decided upon until the matter had been investigated by the Tariff Board, and, apart from this, even if the institution of a bounty and de-control were decided upon, the machinery to put the scheme into immediate operation, and the assurance of adequate provision for the financing of the growers, were lacking. It was, therefore, decided, after careful consideration, that the guarantee system should continue for the 1925-26 season, and that the questions of the payment of a bounty and the de-control of the industry subsequent to that season, should be thoroughly investigated.
In regard to the payment of a bounty, on the 20th May, 1925, a deputation, which was stated to be representative of the various cotton-growing and ginning interests of the Commonwealth, waited on the right honorable the Prime Minister and requested the payment of a bounty of l½d. per lb., for ten years, stating that the substitution of a bounty for the system of guaranteed prices, would give the growers the progress and development they were looking for, as such a policy would give that stability, the absence of which had been the cause of the troubles of all primary producers. As I understand, the request for a bounty of1½d. per lb., stood from the 20th May, 1925, until the Tariff Board went to Queensland in January last, and met with the request, put forward for the first time, for a bounty of 2d. per lb.
In considering the bounty proposals, it is felt that a brief survey of the results of the trading transactions of the Queensland Government, under the guarantee system, may be helpful to honorable members, and the following summary, compiled from information furnished in the annual reports of the Queensland AuditorGeneral, sets out the guaranteed prices paid by the Queensland Government, and the prices which the cotton returned after deducting expenses : -
The figures of production and losses during the years in question were -
-Thefigures of production represent a wonderful story of progress.
– The right honorable gentleman’s interjection is justified. The figures of production do disclose a wonderful story of progress..
– Do the figures indi- cating the losses represent what the honorable gentleman calls a wonderful story of progress?
– So far as development of the industry is concerned, it is a wonderful story of progress, because in five years the production of seed cotton increased from under 1,000,000 lb. to nearly 17,000,000 lb. The estimated loss to the Commonwealth on the guaranteed price for the last financial year is £55,000, and this, added to the Queensland Government’s contribution of half the loss, gives the total of £110,000. Honorable members will bear in mind that the average loss on the guaranteed price is a fraction over1½d. per lb. The guaranteed price fixed by the Queensland Government for the first three seasons- 1919-20, 1920-21, and 1921- 22- was5½d. per lb. Forthe 1922- 23 and 1923-24 seasons the cotton was graded according to quality, the price ranging from 2d. to5½d. per lb. of seed cotton. Ninety-seven per cent. of the 1922-23 crop brought the top price, 5½d., whilst, in 1923-24, 93 per cent. of the total crop realized the second top price, 5d. For the 1924-25 season a uniform guaranteed price was adopted throughout Australia. This ranged according to grade from2½d. to5¼d. per lb. For 1925-26 classification by both grade - that is colour, cleanliness and general quality - and also length of staple is being introduced. Previously it was not deemed advisable to classify by staple owing to the lack of graders sufficiently trained for stapling purposes, and the fact that seed capable of producing long-staple cotton was not available. Three lengths of staple have now been introduced - 1-in. and under, 1-in. to 11/8-in., and l1/8-in. and over. In regard to the grading, it may be explained that, as the growers are paid on their seed cotton, it is necessary that it should be graded. Cotton is, of course, sold at its lint cotton value, for which there exists “ universal world standards.” The system of grading is not confined to Australia, but is world-wide.
As honorable members are aware, the question of the payment of a bounty as a means of establishing the industry in the Commonwealth was referred to the Tariff Board, winch has recommended that, subject to certain conditions, for a period of ten years a bounty be paid on all seed cotton other than that graded into grades “ D “ or “ XXX,” the rate of bounty for the first six years to be 2d. per lb., and for the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth years to be l¾d., l½d., 1¼d., and1d. per lb. respectively. Unfortunately, the Tariff Board did not link up the payment of a bounty on seed cotton with the payment of a bounty on cotton yarn with specific conditions covering the use of Australian-grown cotton. The Government has now linked up the question of cotton-growing with the development of cotton manufactures, which will be of considerable benefit to the growers in addition to the bounty proposed.
As I stated on a previous occasion, the matter has had the very earnest and serious consideration of the Government. The first question to be decided was: Should a bounty be paid to induce the farmer to continue cottongrowing ? After reviewing the local costs of production submitted confidentially to the Tariff Board, in comparison with those of low-wage competing countries, the Government had no hesitation in agreeing that the industry could not properly develop upon a national economic basis if it had to depend entirely on overseas markets, and that, therefore, the payment of a bounty was justified. With this decision I feel sure that all honorable members will concur, as, after a study of the question, they will agree that the national economic basis is to grow cotton as a raw material for secondary industries.
The next question to be decided was the rate of bounty to be paid. The present average price for American middling cotton lint on the world’s market is approximately 9.99d. per lb. for spot, and as it takes about 3 lb. of seed cotton to make 1 lb. of cotton lint, it will be seen that the world’s average parity price for middling seed cotton is approximately 3.33d. per lb. On this basis, the payment of 2d. per lb., as recommended by the Tariff Board, would represent approximately 60 per cent. of the present world’s parity. Furthermore, with increasing forced production, the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb. would involve an expenditure of probably from £1,000,000 to £1,500,000 for the six-year period. Even with cotton production stationary at 16,000,000 lb. of seed cotton per an num, the bounty expenditure at l½d. per lb. will be approximately £500,000, but £600,000 is allocated to provide for expansion. As I have said, there seems to be little prospect of the industry being established on a plantation basis, because it is more suited to those persons who are associated with other occupations such as dairying, maize-growing, pig and poultry raising and the like. This contention is borne out by that portion of the Tariff Board’s report, which reads -
It is quite obvious that cotton-growing on a large scale with hired labour is not an economical proposition, and that profitable cottongrowing must be confined so far as Australia is concerned to the farmer who is growing other staple primary products, and plants cotton as a side line on areas from 10 to 20 acres, which he can handle up to the picking stage with the assistance of his family and the lower-paid employees engaged on the other work of his farm. This view is supported by the fact that, at present, although 40,000 acres are under cotton in Queensland, the average acreage per farmer is approximately 5 acres.
– When was that report made?
– Quite recently. That is the position to-day, and if the growing of cotton continues to be associated with other land industries - and the indications are that it will be - the spreading over the whole of the grower’s activities of all the charges and overhead expenses, which advocates of the 2d., per lb. bounty maintain should be confined to the cotton crop, would considerably reduce the actual and estimated costs of production. The Government feels that, by adopting better methods of cultivation, the cost of production will necessarily decrease, and the net return to the grower be more remunerative even than the honorable member for Capricornia says it is to-day. For various reasons the bounty system should not be relied upon as a permanent means of encouraging cottongrowing. The present Commonwealth production of about 16,000,000 lb. of cotton seed per annum is only . 0012 of the world’s present crop, and even with the increased yield in Australia, which is confidently expected, cottongrowing in this country can never be an entirely satisfactory export industry, because of the black labour employed in America, India, China, Egypt, and other cotton-producing countries. Cotton-growers must, therefore, largely rely upon the home market.When this eventuates we should naturally consider the imposition of a protective duty on raw cotton in lieu of the bounty, but that time has not yet arrived. Meanwhile, the growers, particularly while being dependent upon the export market, should rigidly adhere to the production of the best quality cotton. Under all circumstances, it is advisable that they should concentrate on quality.
– When does the Minister estimate that the local market will absorb all the cotton that we produce?
– I shall be glad to give the honorable member some figures in regard to that aspect of this great and intricate problem. The Government realizes the desirability of having this industry established in the Commonwealth on a sound and economic basis. Cotton is a vital necessity for defence, and is also a raw material for some of our most important secondary industries. The uses of the seedare numerous and valuable, and seed obtained from bounty-fed cotton must be used in Australia. Even cotton waste is of economic value for mixing in various proportions with cotton in the manufacture of the cheaper grades of sheetings, blankets, flannelettes, and towels ; also carpets, mattresses, rope, twine, and all classes of cotton wadding and cotton wool. The yarn spun from discarded cotton waste is not as fine as that from raw cotton, but is cheaper. Hard waste from the spinning of yarn is used in making blankets, quilts, &c. Much of the cotton waste from textile manufactures is used for making cotton wool and medicated lint, and also as a source of pure cellulose in the manufacture of gun cotton, pyroxylin, and collodion.
In the Australian Cotton Grower, Farmer, and Dairyman, published in Brisbane, dated the 30th June, appears an article by Mr. J. D. Young, headed -
THE FUTUREOFTHECOTTON- GROWING INDUSTRY.
Development of the Manufacturing Trade a Vital Necessity.
A National Self-contained Industry.
In this article Mr. Young writes -
The granting of a bounty on seed cotton production by the Federal Government to replace the State guarantee that has been in operation for the past six years, marks a definite step forward in the establishment of. the cotton industry in this country, and is a recognition of the principle that the whole industry canonly be developed as a national one by protecting and fostering both the growing and manufacturing sections of the trade. It is now clearly apparent to all cotton-growers here that under our high standard of living and consequently high cost of production, we cannot grow cotton to sell on the overseas market in competition with cotton-growing countries possessing an abundance of cheap black labour. . . . Cottongrowing can, however, become one of this country’s most important primary industries if the new material produced is manufactured in the country, thus making the whole industry self-contained and national in its aspect, and creating a home market for the cotton-grower. The safe thing for a country like Australia to do is to foster the cotton-manufacturing industry in conjunction with the growing of the crop and to consume in Australian mills the cotton produced here.
The cotton-grower is vitally interested in establishing a local market for his cotton - it affects him in this way : The freight on cotton lint to Liverpool is1d. per lb., so that a textilemill here, other things being equal, has the advantage of the double freight, the raw material going to England and the manufactured goods coming to Australia.
That is a striking confirmation of the Government’s attitude respecting its proposals for cotton-growing and the manufacture of cotton yarn. The total estimated Australian crop for the year just closed is 9,500,000 lb. of seed cotton. I understand that the decreased production since the previous year has been due to the harshness of the season.
– The price had a lot to do with it.
– The acreage under cotton was practically the same for both years, but owing to the recent bad season the quantity gathered will be considerably less than it was the previous season. The total Australian crop is estimated to be 9,500,000 lb. of seed cotton, equivalent to 3,150,000 lb. of cotton lint. Last year, 1924-25, the production was practically 17,000,000 lb., equal to about 5,600,000 lb. of cotton lint. At present there are established in the Commonwealth various spinning mills capable of utilizing 1,500,000 lb. of cotton lint annually, or about half of this year’s estimated seed cotton production. The further development of the manufacture of cotton tweeds, knitted goods of cotton and mixed yarns will, I believe, develop a greater production of cotton yarn, and thus bring about an increasing market for Commonwealth cotton lint. With the great extension of the cotton yarn industry in the Commonwealth that is expected under these proposals, and the consequent manufacture of cotton goods in Australia, there appears to the Government to be no reason why this country should not in the near future consume the whole of its cotton crop. Stabilized cotton-growing will also be a means of developing our northern sub-tropical lands, and so help in a very practical way towards the solution of the great problem of land settlement. As will have been seen from the figures I have submitted to the House, the resuscitation of the cotton-growing industry in Queensland has resulted in a steady increase in production. Commencing with the year 1920-21, when the production amounted to nearly 1,000,000 lb., the figures have increased to -
A table I quoted earlier showed that the loss on guaranteed prices averaged 1.619d. per lb.; in other words, the industry, aided by the Government to the extent of 1.619d. per lb, increased nearly 400 per cent. in four years in competition with the world. The Government now proposes a straight-out bounty of1½d. per lb. - except on grades “ D “ and “ XXX,” which average about 5 per cent, of the crop, and on which the rate proposed is¾d. per lb. - which, together with material local market advantages from the bounty on cotton yarn, will exceed the average previous loss. I propose to show, in my remarks upon the development of the cotton yarn industry, that the immediate repercussion of the Government’s proposals, if accepted by the House, will, by reason of the benefits that will accrue from the bounty on yarn, give to the growers an advantage greater than the help the governments have previously given by guaranteeing the price for seed cotton. The bill provides for the appropriation of the sum of £900,000, to be available over a period of five years, at the average rate of £180,000 per annum. Of the total appropriation, £150,000 has been allowed for in the budget this year, as it is not anticipated that either the seed cotton produced or the cotton yarn manufactured can possibly absorb more than that amount during this year. It is provided that any unused balance in any one year may be carried over to the next year, but £900,000 will be the total allocation.
Mr.Corser. - If the production increased very much, would the amount available for the payment of the bounty be increased accordingly?
– No. I have pointed out that a bounty of1½d. per lb. on 16,000,000 lb. of seed cotton would amount to about £100,000; so that if production increased to even that figure there would still be a considerable balance of money available to allow for further increase. If the honorable member for Capricornia is correct in saying that, owing to the diminution of the crop nothing like the £120,000 will be required this year, a large balance will be carried over to the next year.
– But in no circumstances will the rate of the bounty be increased to 2d.?
– The cotton-growers are entitled to fair and reasonable consideration, but not to an excessive bounty, and I have endeavoured to show that they have thrived very well during the last four years on the prices guaranteed by the governments. The assistance that they have received from the States and the Commonwealth has averaged 1.619d. per lb., and the proposals I am now submitting to the House are in effect more advantageous to them. The bill also provides that the Minister shall have power to appoint agents for the payment of the bounty, and also shall have some power over the grading of the cotton. There are in the bill other administrative details which are usually included in Bounty Acts, and the Governor-General is also given power to make regulations not inconsistent with the act for thepurpose of carrying out the clear intention of Parliament.It is provided also that the usual returns in regard to the money paid shall be laid before Parliament.
Summing the position up, the Government has come to the conclusion that the basis of economic proposals to develop the cotton growing industry must be the production of raw material for manufacturing development here, and not entirely for an export industry to compete with the very cheap labour engaged in cotton growing in other parts of the world. The Government believes that there is a world market, however,for the highest quality cotton, i.e. the long staple variety, which can be successfully grown in Queensland, and that the application for a bounty of1½ per lb. was sound.
– The price of American middling cotton on the Liverpool market has dropped since then.
– I am under the impression that it is not materially less than it was in May of last year when a deputation of cotton-growers asked the Prime Minister for a bounty of1½d. per lb.
The proposed bounty on cotton yarn also was investigated by the Tariff Board, which has furnished two reports - dated the 20th July, 1925, and the 27th May, 1926 - both of which were laid on the table of this House and printed. The board recommended the payment under certain conditions of a flat rate of bounty of 6d. per lb. on cotton yarn spun in Australia, if 50 per cent, of locally-grown cotton were used. The Government, having very exhaustively considered the matter, cannot possibly agree to the payment of a flat rate bounty of 6d. per lb., because it considers that the Tariff Board’s recommendation is neither economic nor based upon sound methods for developing the industry. I have previously pointed out that it has been somewhat unfortunate that the Tariff Board did not link up the two bounties on seed cotton and cotton yarn. Its inquiries into these commodities were separated by an interval of about twelve months. Had the board considered both together itwould, I feel sure, have come to the same conclusion as the Government, viz., that cotton growing should be largely dependent upon local manufacture. A flat rate bounty fails to take into consideration that the cost of manufacturing cotton yarn of differing counts or degrees of fineness shows very wide variation. For instance, it is possible in a given time to spin about 80 times as much weight of yarn of No. 1 count as of No. 30 count. That being so, if a flat rate were proposed, the amount of bounty would be about 30 times as much on the coarser yarns as it would be on the finer yarns, although the amount of labour expended would vary almost in the same ratio up to this point. If cotton textiles of all descriptions were woven from cotton yarn of a uniform size or thickness a flat rate would be applicable, but in actual weaving practice counts ranging from No. 1 up to at least 100, and varying from the string-like lower counts in coarse yarns to the very finest and thinnest counts utilized in the very best quality and finest cotton goods and textiles, are used. In the trade the fineness of cotton yarn is indicated by counts commencing with No. 1, which measures 840 yards to the 1 lb. of finished yarn; a further 840 yards of yarn of consequent diminished thickness are added for every further count; so that 1 lb. of No, 5 would have a length of 840 yards multiplied by five; No. 10 would be double the length of No. 5, and consequently, of only half the thickness; No. 20 would give nearly ten miles to the 1 lb.; No. 30 would give a length of 30 times 840 yards, and so on.
– Until it will go all round Australia!
– That is a pertinent interjection, for one of the textile experts whom I consulted told me last week that he used as much cotton yarn in a year as would go round the world fifteen times. In low counts, or coarse yarns, that yield is higher per1b of cotton spun - or, in other words, the waste is lower - than in the fine counts, in which the waste is high. The finer the yarn produced, the heavier the waste of cotton. The finest yarns are spun from Sea Island and Egyptian cotton; medium counts from Brazilian, Peruvian, and South African cotton; and the coarse counts from Indian cotton. Compared with these, Australian cotton, which averages from11/8 to1¼ inches in staple, should produce a medium count. The wages cost per lb. is proportionately small for the coarser counts. One employee might turn out about 33 lb. per week on each spindle he attends ; but for the finer yarn the output of the same spindle might range from this very large quantity down to about 1 lb. or½ lb. per week. The wages cost per lb. would, of course, vary correspondingly. It will thus be seen that the cost of raw material, as well as the manufacturing costs, increase according to the fineness of the count of cotton yarn. I therefore feel sure that all honorable members will agree that no fiat rate which fails to discriminate between the varying grades of cotton yarn can effectively and economically develop the industry. In fact, a flat rate would he ridiculous, for it would encourage manufacturers to confine their attention to the coarser counts, and discourage any attempt to spin the finer ones. Even the applicants themselves, since the receipt of the Tariff Board’s reports and recommendations, have admitted that if a bounty were granted at the flat rate of 6d. per lb., as they previously requested, and as recommended by the Tariff Board - to use their own words - “ spinners might have started who would have spun the lowest counts of yarn, and 6d. per lb. would have been a ridiculous amount.” The question is mainly one of quality, and this is a phase of the matter which, apparently, was not considered by the Tariff Board. Investigation has clearly shown that the cost of producing cotton yarn increases with the fineness of the count, and, after very careful and detailed consideration, it is on this basis that the Government proposes that the bounty should be granted.
– Are those engaged in the spinning of cotton satisfied with the Government’s proposal.
– It will be. seen that the Government proposes to start with a bounty of one-third of a penny per lb. for No. 1 count, and to increase it by one-third of a penny per lb. for each additional count. To show the application of this mathematical table to present spinning operations in Australia, I am informed that the average spinning count of the firm of Bond and Company is about sixteen or seventeen. The bounty for No, 16 count is51/3d,, and for No. 17 count52/3d. That is not very far removed from the suggested flat rate of 6d, For No. 18 count, the bounty will be exactly the. flat rate proposed. The Government will not be a party to paying a bounty that suits only one firm. The object of the bill is to establish the industry ; and I am in a position to say that two, if not three, of our leading firms will start the manufacture of cotton yarn as soon as the bill has been passed.
Mr.Watkins.- Does the average bounty work out at 6d. ?
– It is very close to 6d. The value of this industry to the Commonwealth cannot be gainsaid, and the Government- in fact, any Government - would be lacking in its duty if it did not encourage the establishment of cotton-growing andspinning in Australia. The value of the importations into the Commonwealth of cotton and manufactures of cotton average more than £13,000,000 per annum, whilst the importations of cotton yarns, mercerized and “n.e.i.,” have increased from £310,738 in 1921-22 to £495,010 in 1925-26. The comparative import figures for cotton yarnsare-
In considering these figures, it must be remembered that the recent tariff passed by this House has given, and will continue to give, a decided im petus to the manufacture of piece and knitted goods in which cotton yarn is used to a greater or less extent, and I am sure that within a short time there will be a great increase in the demand for cotton yarn by the textile industry of Australia, which will provide a further opportunity for the local manufacture of yarn. The output of one firm alone is 1,400,000 lb. per annum of cotton yarn, and the average annual imports into Australia, based on a price of from1s.10d. to 2s. per lb., are over 5,000,000 lb,, making the total requirements of cotton yarn alone about 6,500,000 lb. On the basis of 3 lb. of seed cotton to 1 lb. of lint, this would amount to over 19,500,000 lb. of seed cotton annually. These figures do not include the raw cotton and manufactures of cotton imparted which, last year, exclusive of cotton yarns, amounted to £12,735,000 in value. Queensland is expected to produce 9,500,000 lb. for the season just closing, so that the room for expansion to ultimately supply the home market is great.
Honorable members fully realize the value of this industry to the Commonwealth. They are aware that cotton yarn is used as a raw material in the manufacture of socks and stockings,handkerchiefs and serviettes, piece goods, including canvas and duck, bookbinders’ cloth and bunting, leather cloth, oil baize, cotton tweeds, knitted goods in tubular form, dyed or printed goods - bleached and unbleached; sewing and other threads and cottons, tents and sails, wadding and cotton wool: and cordages and twines. Honorable members are also aware of the various uses to which cotton is put, and that the cotton industry, with its many manufactured lines, is the largest industry in the world. Up to the present time this industry has not had the encouragement necessary to enable it to take its proper place in this country, where it should thrive from its very base, but the Government believes that the incentive furnished by this bill will enable the industry to become one of the most valuable assets of the Commonwealth. The ComptrollerGeneral of Customs (Mr. Oakley), the officers of my department, and I, have spent a considerable amount of time in endeavouring to place before this House a considered, mathematical, and businesslike scheme for the payment of a bounty on cotton yarns, and the proposals I now submit will, in our opinion, establish the industry on a sound basis.
We must consider this industry from its base, for it is likely to have such a vast influence upon so many secondary industries ; and we must not hesitate to face all the complexities of the situation. It is well known to honorable members of this House that, as soon as this bounty becomes payable, one large and enterprising firm in New South Wales will be able to take immediate advantage of it. This company at present spins 1,400,000 lb. of lint per annum for its own use, and, if the proposed bounty is approved; it contemplates doubling its output. The bounty on yarn has been proposed for five years, or until the deferred duty operates, in order to give stability to the industry, for the establishment and equipment of factories will take at least twelve months. Owing to the provision in clause 5 of the bill, the firm I have mentioned will be required to use 50 per cent, of Australian cotton lint to qualify for the bounty, and if it doubles its output of yarn, it will require to use 1,400,000 lb. of Australian lint, or about 5,000,000 lb. of seed cotton, to be entitled to payments on all its output.
From the sale of Australian lint in the Commonwealth, local cotton-growers will obtain a net return of at least Id. per lb. more than if that lint were sold abroad. This will mean an extra return to the growers of Jd”. per lb., in addition to the l£d. per lb. provided in the bill, for seed cotton used in Australian mills. The advantage to the grower provided by his measure will, therefore, be at least 5-6d. per lb. on that portion of their seed cotton crop which is consumed in Australia. I have given consideration to the possibility of the growers demanding an excessive price from the manufacturers, and, after careful consideration, it has been provided that the Minister shall be given power to vary the conditions somewhat if Australian seed cotton is not available. The growers of cotton will thus benefit in so far as they will be able to obtain from the yarn manufacturers at least the Liverpool parity for their product, plus the freight arid other charges to the United Kingdom.
Honorable members will note that the bill contains a provision that the bounty shall cease in the event of any deferred duties imposed by Parliament coming into operation. The Government considers that, during the development of this industry, it is advisable to grant a bounty on yarn rather than to impose a duty on the finished products, as a duty would increase the price of goods which for some time it will be necessary to import. The bounty on yarn will assist to build up a great secondary industry, with all its accompanying benefits. I submit the bill knowing it to contain well-considered proposals for establishing and stabilizing cotton-growing and cotton-yarn manufacturing in Australia on sound economic lines. The graduated bounty proposed on yarn approximately averages the deferred duties of 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and 35 per cent, passed by this Parliament. A duty of 5 per cent, on foreign yam is already in operation, and that also should somewhat ease foreign competition. To spin the cotton grown by 6,000 mixed farmers would provide fulltime employment for 2,000 spinners. The bounty paid on seed cotton will probably be 40 per cent, of its value, whilst the bounty paid on yarn, probably 5d. per lb., on the average, will be about 22£ per cent, of the value of the finished product. Thus the encouragement to our cotton industry and yarn manufacture will be, roughly, in proportion to the appropriation made. Upon this base we hope to build in the not distant future a cotton industry of inestimable value to both the tropical-producing areas and the southern manufacturing States of the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of the Deputy of the Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for invalid and old-age pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Hill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill, which contains only two clauses, is to provide £10,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. The measure has nothing whatever to do with the rate of pensions, nor the conditions under which they are payable. We usually appropriate £10,000,000 at a time from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and place it in the trust account from which the pensions are paid from time to time. Up to date a total of £71,250,000 has been appropriated for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, and up to the 30th June, 1926, £69,236,952 had been actually expended, which leaves a balance of £2,013,048 in the trust account. Seeing that our expenditure for the current year for these pensions is estimated at £9,000,000, the amount now to the credit of the trust account is barely sufficient to cover the payments for the first quarter of the financial year. Consequently, it is necessary for us to appropriate a further amount of £10,000,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to appropriate a further £10,000,000 for the payment of war pensions. The measure does not deal in any way with the rates of pensions or the conditions governing the granting of pensions, but merely asks Parliament to provide the money to pay those which have been or will be granted under the section of the Austraiian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act relating to war pensions. The number of pensions in force at the 30th June, 1926, was 252,609, with an annual liability of approximately £7,220,000. The number is steadily increasing, and it is estimated that at the 30th June, 1927, the annual liability in this respect will have increased to £7,450,000. The increase in the annual rate of expenditure is due to the granting of new claims, the majority of which are in respect of new dependents, such as newly-born children, and recently married wives of ex-soldiers who are pensioners. The total expenditure to the 30th June, 1926, on war pensions was £5S,154,625. The last appropriation was made by Parliament in September of last year, the amount then appropriated being £10,000,000, and the balance of that appropriation unexpended at the close of last financial year was £6,343,100, which will only be sufficient to cover payments of pensions to the end of April, 1927. Further appropriation is therefore required to meet the total payments for 1926-27. The usual practice of asking Parliament to vote a lump sum has been followed, and the amount of £10,000,000 has accordingly been included in the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend sections 16 and 21 of the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act 1908-1925.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Ordered - .
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Hill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to provide for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions to Indians born in British India. As the act stands at present, Asiatics, except those born in Australia, are not eligible for receive pensions. British nationality,whether inherent or acquired by naturalization, does not overcomethis disqualification. The position of Indians was considered by the Imperial War Conferences of 1917 and 1918, and, in April, 1919, the Commonwealth Government promised that, although it could not see its way to admit Indians to the parliamentary franchise, legislative proposals would be submitted as soon as possible to place Indians on an equality with other British subjects, so far as invalid and old-age pensions were concerned. A bill was prepared to give effect to this undertaking, but cir cumstances did not permit of the measure being proceeded with at the time. Honorable members are aware that, last year, Indians were admitted to the franchise, and the Government is of opinion that the proposed extension to them of pensions benefits should be no longer delayed. The persons affected by this bill will, of course, be required to conform to the ordinary provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Thus it will be necessary for an applicant for an oldage pension to have attained the age of 65 years in the case of a man, and60 years in the case of a woman, and to have completed 20 years’ continuous residence in the Commonwealth. In the case of an invalid pension, the claimant will have to be sixteen years of age, and to have completed’ five years’ continuous residence in Australia. He will also have to be permanently and totally incapacitated for work. It is not anticipated that the- Commonwealth will be involved in any heavy expenditure as a result of this legislation. When the Electoral Act extending the franchise to Indians was before Parliament about twelve months ago, the Commonwealth Statistician furnished figures which showed that there were only 2,300 British Indians resident in Australia. It is calculated that not more than about 200 of these are of pension age. The experience of the Pensions Department is that one person in every three who has attained pension age receives a pension. On this basis it is anticipated that the increased expenditure involved by the grant of pensions to British Indians will not exceed £3,500 per annum.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- This is the first intimation to Parliament that British Indians are to be paid invalid and old-age pensions.
– Last year they were given the franchise.
– I am not opposed to the payment of pensions to those. British Indians who have been residing in Australia for twenty years. From conversations I have had with many of them, I find that they are a very intelligent race, but I should lite to know how pensions can be granted to Asiatics without conflicting with the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– The purpose of this bill is to alter the act so that the payment of pensions to these people will not conflict with its provisions.
– I shall not object to the passing of the bill now that I find that the difficulty, which it occurred to me arose from these people being Asiatics, has been met.
.- The Treasurer is to be commended for introducing this bill. Its introduction has been rather too long delayed. The persons for whose benefit it has been introduced are good citizens of the Commonwealth, and many of them have lived in this country for over twenty years. Parliament will be doing only its duty in passing the measure.
.- I do not know whether the bill makes it perfectly clear that only Indian British subjects are eligible for the pension. It is perhaps unnecessary to point out that many of the Indians in Australia were born in the native states of India - in Nepaul, Kashmir. Hyderabad, and such places. The officers of the department will require to exercise the greatest vigilance to discover the birthplace of an Indian applicant for a pension. Difficulties are likely to arise in the administration of the measure because the methods adopted in India of keeping birth records may be very imperfect. Even if they were perfect it would be almost as easy for an Indian to deceive officers of the department as it apparently is for a Chinaman to deceive officers of the Trade and Customs Department by passing off the photograph of another Chinaman for his own. I am entirely in sympathy with the object of the bill, but I anticipate that a crop of difficulties may arise through persons born in the native states of India passing themselves off as British Indians.
.- To overcome the difficulties suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), and at the same time simplify the administration of the bill, it might be well to amend clause 3 by providing that the pension shall be payable to “ Indians who are British subjects.”
There are doubts as to what is British India. Although the whole of India is under British control, there are certain states under native rulers.
– Persons born in the native states of India are included in the bill.
– In common with other honorable members I welcome this measure. There is quite a number of pitiful cases in various hospitals of Indians who have been in Australia for 20 to 30 years, and are now without any means of subsistence. I should like to direct the attention of the Treasurer to another anomaly which has an indirect relation to the purpose of this bill. I refer to an anomaly in the payment of maternity allowance, which is administered by the same department. A grave injustice is done to British subjects in Australia, such as Syrians who are naturalized, and whose children are subject to military service under the provisions of the Defence Act. A Syrian mother is not entitled under the Maternity Allowance Act to the allowance. The act provides that -
Women who are Asiatics, or are aboriginal natives of Australia, Papua, or the islands of the Pacific, shall not be paid a maternity allowance.
In the case of British subjects resident in Australia that discrimination should not be made, and I hope the Treasurer will take an opportunity, later, of rectifying the anomaly. A Syrian resident in Australia, if naturalized, has the right to vote, and his children are subject to military training and to all our laws. These people are, geographically, rather than racially, Asiatics, but because they are Asiatics Syrian mothers are not given the benefit of the maternity allowance.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 4, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned with the message that the Senate had agreed to it as amended by the House of Representatives at’ the Senate’s request, and without further amendment.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 22nd July, vide page 4536) :
Remainder of proposed vote for “ The Parliament” (£67,357) agreed to.
Proposed vote- £212,961.
.- I have always been under the impression that the Prime Minister’s Department is one of the most important in the Public Service. The duties imposed on the secretary of the department are many and important, and yet I find that the salary which he receives is less than that paid to the secretaries of other departments, for example, the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, the Treasurer’s Department, and the Postmaster-General’s Department. I do not discuss the matter as a personal one, and I have not discussed it with the gentleman who occupies the position of secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department.’ I should like to have some explanation of the fact that he is paid a lower salary than that paid to the secretaries of other departments.
– The question raised by the honorable member is a difficult one to discuss in dealing with the Estimates, because itinvolves a comparison of the work done by the permanent heads of the various departments. They are the only public servants whose salaries are determined by the Cabinet. These salaries were the subject of a very full investigation by a sub-committee of the Cabinet, and subsequently by the Cabinet as a whole, and a definite range was laid down which takes into consideration the administrative work that each permanent ..head is called upon to do. The secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department occupies one of the most onerous and responsible positions in the Public Service.
– The duties are difficult anc? delicate.
– Yes; but although his position is a difficult one, the actual administrative work of the office is not so great, as that of the secretaries to other departments. When I became Prime Minister T transferred nearly all the administrative work of my department to other departments, because it is really a clearing house, and it would be impossible for the secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department to carry out the duties which fall upon him if he had -a great deal “ of administrative work in addition. The salaries to be paid to the various permanent heads is a matter which, as I have said, has been under consideration by the Cabinet on several occasions, and will occupy its attention again in the future.
– I wish to refer to the Public Service Board, the estimated expenditure for which is £42,126. The Government was recently requested to recompense electoral returning officers for their increased duties during the last Federal election in consequence of the enforcement of compulsory voting. The Government was favorable to the request, but referred it to the Public Service Board, which refused to make favorable recommendation. The Government was again approached, and the matter was once more referred to the Public Service Board, and again it declined, to agree to it. The returning officers are a fine body of men, and during the last elections they worked for weeks until the early hours of the morning. They received no extra remuneration, although their subordinates were paid for all the overtime that they worked. These men will again be called upon to work long hours during the referendum campaign, and I urge the Government to use its own discretion, and to grant them some recompense for the great service that they are doing this country.
.- ‘ The Government has, from time to time, appointed various boards, and it cannot ignore the fact that there is steadily growing in this Parliament a desire to reduce the number of boards, and place the responsibility of governing this country more on the shoulders of Ministers. The work of many of these boards does not justify the expenditure on them. Take, for instance, the Public Service Board. The salaries of the three Commissioners amount to £6,500, and the staff , costs £42,126. The Public Service Arbitrator receives a salary of £2,000, and his staff costs £2,048. The cost of the Superannuation Board and staff is £8,144. The total expenditure is, therefore, £60,818. The first Public Service Commissioner was Mr. McLachlan, and, although he had no precedents to guide him, he successfully organized the Public Service. Today, although there are three members of the Public Service Board, the chairman is really a dictator so far as the Public Service is concerned. Expensive boards are continually being established by this Government. If our wealth grew as fact as our expenditure on boards, we should be a rich country. The High Commissioner in London holds a responsible position, having a considerable staff under him. It is a department that must, of necessity, be expensive, because the High Commissioner has to attend various functions and entertain visitors from Australia and elsewhere. Yet the total cost of his department is only £60,396. I understand that the chairman of the Public Service Board has in hand the arrangements for the Canberra festivities at the opening of Parliament. This is clear evidence that his official duties cannot be onerous. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) himself could not spare the time to undertake that work. The Public Service Board has the reclassification of the Service in hand, but governments will come and go before that important and necessary work is completed. The Government would be justified in reducing the personnel of the Public Service Board. In any case, it would be more satisfactory to appoint to it a member of the Public Service who, because of his knowledge of the Service, would be able to obviate much of the friction that is now taking place, and ultimately bring about co-operation and harmony between the Public Service Board and the public servants. I understand that an. Australian mission is shortly to visit America to inquire into the industrial conditions there. The members of that mission, in the course of their investigations, will undoubtedly find that the opportunity given for consultation between employers and employees has led to unanimity in American factories. Instead of appointing so many boards, the Government should make provision for the drought periods which must inevitably afflict Australia,’ by keeping down expenditure.
– I suggest that the honorable member should move for a reduction of the vote by £.
– I do not feel disposed to do that. Unfortunately, however much we may protest, we have little chance of doing anything, because the Government is supported by an overwhelming majority. But the time is coming when honorable members will have to resist the present tendency to hand the machinery of government over to boards and commissions. I realize that the Prime Minister is, to a certain extent, a creature of circumstances. He is often driven by forces controlling him to a course of action of which he would not approve if he were free to follow his own judgment. The appointment of a Public Service Arbitrator was a serious blunder. Public servants should have access to the same tribunal as other workers. It would appear that the object of appointing a separate arbitrator was to make government employees subservient to him, and he, in his turn, is more or less under the influence of the Government.
.- Members occupy rather a difficult position in relation to the Public Service Board. They are unable to communicate direct with the board, which is free of ministerial control. Consequently, any injustice suffered by our constituents at the hands of the board can be dealt with by us only in this Chamber. I desire to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the unfair treatment of a body of typists in Western Australia, who wrote to the board on the 21st October last, and have received no reply to what seems to me a just claim. These typists are entitled to annual increments of £6, but female sorters get increments of £12 per annum. There are in the Commonwealth Public Service 12,000 typists,- and whereas they cannot reach their maximum salary until they are 28 years of age, sorters may get the maximum when they attain the age of 24 years. The typists do not desire to reduce the status of the sorters, but for purposes of comparison they find it necessary to cite the superior treatment of the latter. They claim, and, I think, rightly, that they are equally entitled to increments of £12 per annum. To become efficient they have to take a course of training, which costs about £25, and before appointment they must pass a competitive examination. Of 200 candidates, probably not more than 75 per cent, will receive an appointment during the. eighteen months in which they are eligible. Unless a girl is fortunate enough to be near the top of the examination list, she may not get an opportunity to enter the Service for twelve or fifteen months. The girls have estimated that 50 per cent. of them are on the eve of marriage when they reach 24 years of age.There is very little inducement to a girl to offer her services to the Commonwealth when, after studying at considerable expense, and passing a qualifying examination, she may have to wait twelve months before securing an appointment. As the classification of the Service, will probably not be completed for a considerable time, the typists should have had at least the courtesy of a reply to the communication they sent to the board on the 21st October last.
.- On many occasions I have brought before the Prime Minister and the previous Attorney-General a grievance suffered by the temporary clerks employed at Cockatoo Island. Prior to September, 1923, these officers, numbering about 80, were under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department; before that they were in the employ of the Navy Board, which at that time controlled the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. They served under regulations which provided for long service leave and enjoyed other advantages. Many of them are old State servants who were taken over by the Commonwealth in January, 1913, and they understood that they would retain their State rights. An assurance to that effect was given to them at the time of the transfer to the Navy Department, and, subsequently, to the Prime Minister’s Department. But the control of the dockyard was transferred to the Commonwealth Shipping Board in 1923, and these men have been trying ever since to get payment in lieu of the long-service leave to which they are entitled. The Commonwealth Shipping Board cannot be expected to bear the expense of such leave; but the Commonwealth Government should accept responsibility in the matter. An announcement by the Government of its intentions in regard to them is long overdue. Had the transfer to the Commonwealth Shipping Board been deferred for six or twelve months, some of these men would have completed their twenty years’ service and have been entitled to long-service leave. But because the board took over the establishment before the. completion pf that term, they are. denied their accrued rights. A man who has been in. the Service for only five, ten, or fifteen years should receive a pro rata payment in lieu of long-service leave. The bills introduced from time to time for the creation of commissions and boards have included a. provision protecting the interests of many State servants transferred to the service of those bodies. The Northern Territory Administration Act and the Seat of Government Administration Act contain such provisions. I urge the Prime Minister to honour the promise that was given to the temporary clerks at Cockatoo Island at the time of their transfer to the Commonwealth Service in 1913.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [5.40], - Each year when the Estimates are under consideration I find it necessary to complain that the reports of the AuditorGeneral and the Public Service Board are not in the possession of honorable members.
– It would be impossible for the Auditor- General to complete his report to the 30th June and have it before Parliament by the beginning of August.
– I realize that; but I see no reason why the financial year should end on the 30th June, I am convinced that the period of the financial year could be altered with advantage. The public works of Commonwealth and State Governments could be more economically carried out if the Estimates were passed by Parliament early in the calendar year. Repeatedly departmental officers complain that by the time the Estimates have been passed by Parliament and moneys made available for expenditure, a good portion of the financial year has elapsed.
– If the financial year were altered, Parliament could meet in spring and autumn instead of in summer and winter.
– I am not so much concerned about the comfort of honorable members ; but now, in the winter months, when there is the greatest dislocation of government activities, unemployment is most rife. When Sir William Mcpherson was. Treasurer of Victoria, I succeeded in impressing upon him. the fact that by the. time money is made available by Parliament for the construction of roads, and before a pick or shovel has been used, a fair proportion of the fine weather is finished. It is well known that road work costs much more in winter than in other seasons. The budget has been introduced earlier than usual this year, for certain events have forced the Government to expedite business. I hope, however, that in future the Government will try to place in the hands of honorable members, when they are considering the Estimates, the two reports I have mentioned. On a previous occasion an important report by the Public Service Board was presented when the Estimates had almost been passed. It, contained information which, if it had been presented earlier, would have caused considerable debate.
– That may have been a good reason for not presenting it earlier.
– When honorable members are discussing the Estimates they should be in possession of the latest information about the state of the Public Service.
I wish to refer to the conduct of the High Commissioner’s office. A complaint was made to me by a gentleman who went to the other side of the world to enter into business arrangements that would have been of advantage to him and to the people of Australia. When such persons call at the High Commissioner’s office they often find that they have gone to the wrong place. If one wishes to take part in entertainments and social functions, the High Commissioner’s office appears to be the right place to go; hut apparently the man who has business to transact is not welcomed there. When the exchange position was difficult, the gentleman I have referred to went to London to meet those who were handling Australian wool and other Australian produce there. He informed me - and I have no reason to doubt his veracity - that instead of being given facilities for organizing his scheme, he was practically told that the High Commissioner’s office was not there for such purposes. It would be better to abolish the office than to pay high salaries to officials who treat visiting Australians in that way. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), and others who have been abroad, have complained of the way in which Australian produce is handled.
– Australia ought to have a trade commissioner in London.
– And after we have appointed a trade commissioner, how many more officials will be necessary? Our commissioner in the United States of America, who iB now returning to Australia, has dona more good in that country than all our High Commissioners have done in London. If we appoint the right type of man we cannot fail to get good results. The vital question is, can we do anything through the High Commissioner’s office to facilitate the handling of Australian produce, and the bringing of more money to the people of this country? Prominent Australians ought not to be insulted and given the cold shoulder when they are trying to formulate schemes that will benefit Australia. It is time that officers who do such things had a rap on the knuckles. The High Commissioner’s secretary receives £2,000 a year, and we are sending home the secretary to the Treasury, who will receive another £2,000 a year. Thus the two chief officials at Australia House will receive £4,000 a year between them. I do not say that Mr. Collins’ appointment is not necessary, but when we pay such large salaries we have a right to expect a commensurate return. The office vacated in the Treasury by Mr. Collins has to be filled. Is that a matter for the Public Service Board ? I should like to know whether the man who. has been doing the work formerly done by Mr. Collins will be advanced and given the same status as Mr. Collins had. Mr. Cerruty, who would ordinarily have been appointed to the vacancy, has been made Auditor-General, so some one else will have to be appointed. I do not advocate very high salaries, but I realize that if we want competent men we must not bo niggardly. In the near future, three members of the Government -the Prime Minister, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), and the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) - will be in Europe on important business, and I suggest that they should take the opportunity to inquire into affairs at Australia House. I have no objection to the High Commissioner catering for globe-trotters, but business men should also be received courteously, and assisted in every possible way. I hope that the three Ministers will be able to bring about something of a reformation, and that in the future there will be no need to repeat these complaints.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) touched a fundamental question of government; that there should be no political control or influence in regard to the Public Service. I feel sure that every honorable member, to whichever party he belongs, subscribes to the view that the Government ought not to interfere with any authority created by Parliament to control the Civil Service, and, therefore, I cannot subscribe to the view of the honorable member that the Government, a3 a government, should tak<; action on a matter that has been deci*ded by the Public Service Board. The only proper course for the Government to take, if it thought fit to act, would be to submit a bill for the approval of Parliament. This subject has been dealt with at some length on former .occasions, and I do not purpose to repeat what I have previously said on it.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) takes exception to the. existence of the board.
– No. I object to the cost of the board and of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– I remind the honorable member that the functions of the board are very extensive. The Commonwealth Public Service is now a tremendous organization. It is the duty of this Parliament to scrutinize the cost of any authority it has created, and I suggest that a comparison of the figures in the Estimates will show that some control has been exercised over expenditure by the board.
The honorable member raised the general question whether too many boards have been created. The boards he referred to have been created by Parliament, and when the bills providing for them were under consideration, almost all honorable members exhaustively expressed their views upon them. Therefore, I regard the honorable member’s remarks as a general criticism, not applying to a matter which can be appropriately debated at length now.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) spoke of a communication sent by a body of typists in Western Australia making certain complaints, and claiming certain rights that they believed belonged to them. Naturally, I cannot deal with the merits or demerits of their case, but the substance of the honorable member’s complaint was that their communication had not even been acknowledged. I shall inquire into that aspect of the matter.
I remind the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) that there is no item on the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department dealing with Cockatoo Dockyard. Therefore, he must forgive me if I cannot give him detailed information on the subject he has raised. I recollect the circumstances to which he has referred, and the matter has on several occasions been investigated by the Government, and, in fact, is still being investigated. The Government wishes to be absolutely just to these men.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) referred to two subjects. One was the treatment of Australian business men at Australia House. If any honorable member will bring under my notice a case in which all possible courtesy, consideration, and assistance has not been -extended by officials of Australia House to an Australian travelling in Great Britain, I shall take steps to deal with the officer guilty of such a flagrant dereliction of duty. The officers of Australia House are expected to do everything possible to assist Australians who are visiting Great Britain, and to promote the interests of Australia generally ; but it is difficult to provide satisfactory trade facilities at Australia House. Unless we establish an extensive organization of wide ramification in London, it is impossible to provide Australian visitors there with detailed information about any particular industry in which they are interested. We certainly cannot expect the officials at Australia House to do this under existing conditions, for their facilities for the purpose are limited.
– But they should give reasonable information to reasonable men.
– I freely admit that; and no one would deprecate more strongly than I their failure to extend every courtesy to visitors.. I shall be visiting London shortly, and will examine the organization at Australia House. This is not to be taken as a reflection upon the High Commissioner and his staff, for during the last few years they have done excellent work for Australia. I ask honorable members to discount some of the complaints that are made about Australia House.
– I do; but I could not discount this one.
– I realize that, for the honorable member has a specific instance, and has been supplied with first-hand information; but many of the stories of discourtesy at Australia House that have been brought under my notice will not bear examination. They originated in most cases in the futile and unworthy social ambitions of the people concerned. Honorable members should carefully investigate all the complaints that are made to them.- Sir Neville Howse, who is accompanying me to London, will also spend a good deal of his time in examining the machinery of Australia House, and will again give consideration to the safe-guards that we must insist upon in regard to migration. That is a matter that occupied a good deal of his time as a private member when he was last in England. We must see that the persons who come here are physically and mentally fitted to maintain our standard of living.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong also urged the desirability of tabling the reports of the AuditorGeneral and the Public Service Board prior to the discussion of the Estimates; but there are serious obstacles to doing so, some of which the honorable member indicated in his speech. It will be admitted that the Estimates of receipts and expenditure, and the financial statement, should be presented to Parliament, and dealt with as early as possible in the financial year. Looking back over the history of this and other parliaments, one is obliged to recognize that the tendency has been to delay consideration of these matters longer than is wise in the interests of efficient administration. In order that commercial affairs may proceed without embarrassment, it is highly desirable that the Government’s financial proposals should be considered by Parliament without delay. If considera tion of them were deferred until the reports of the Auditor-General and the Public Service Board had been submitted, the difficulties of the commercial community would be intensified.
– If the reports I referred to covered a period different from that of the financial year, they could be presented before the Estimates were tabled.
– In so far as the report of the Public Service Board is concerned, I do not .think .any great difficulty would be experienced if that were done; but there would be great difficulty with regard to the AuditorGeneral’s report, for it is essential that it should cover the period of the financial year. I sympathize with the views of the honorable member on this matter, and, if it were possible to table the reports prior to the discussion on the Estimates, it would be advisable to do so.
– I have asked the Prime Minister a number of questions recently respecting the action of the Public Service Board in cancelling the accumulated leave of post-1 masters. As I have not so far received a definite reply, I bring the matter again under his notice. The situation may be described in very few words. The practice of granting leave to these officers was followed for many years under the regime of the former Public Service Commissioner, and advantage of it was taken by many officers similarly placed to those who were affected by the act that was passed in 1884; but the board has now directed that the practice shall be discontinued. The officers are greatly concerned about the matter, and feel their position acutely. Had they impatiently harassed the department years ago, they would undoubtedly have been granted their leave; but because they were prepared to wait for a convenient time, not anticipating the repudiation of their rights, they are being called upon to suffer. It is most unfair that they should be refused point-blank a privilege which has been freely enjoyed by many of their coworkers. All that the Prime Minister has told me so far is that he has received an interim report on the matter from the Public Service Commissioners, and has returned it for further information. I trust that he will announce an early and favorable decision.
.- On page 21 of the Estimates I find the following : -
Cost of living allowance to senior clerk, External Affairs branch, London, £78.
Seeing that some public officers who live in such remote places as Broome and Darwin find it difficult to get an allowance of even £40 or £50, I should like the Prime Minister to explain why so much is granted in this case.
On page 22 the following line appears, “ Commercial Agency, Paris, £900.” Will the Prime Minister indicate what duties are discharged by the agency? If. good work is being done by it, similar establishments might be set up in Germany, or elsewhere, to assist Australian trade.
Provision is made on page 32 of the Estimates for the salaries of officers in the High Commissioner’s Office, London. I was surprised to hear the Prime Minister tell the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) some time ago that of 92 persons in the employ of the High Commissioner a large number were born in England. I have no grudge against Englishmen. But surely it is not unreasonable to expect that at least the more highly-paid officers at Australia House shall be Australian-born and have a good knowledge of Australian affairs.
The expenses incurred by the Australian Commissioner in the United States are covered by the provision made on page 34 of .the Estimates. It is remarkable that so many changes have occurred in the last few years in this office. In my opinion, it would be advisable for the Commissioner in the United States to be appointed for a set term, as is the High Commissioner in London. Persons who are appointed for a short period only may, human nature being what it is, spend a few months in the office, chiefly pushing their own trade interests there, and then retire, and it is not desirable that we should allow public money to be spent for that purpose. At the same time, I should like to express my satisfaction at the excellent publicity work that is being done in the United States of America. Australia is now something more than a name to the American people. Mr. Dave M. Dow, a son of a former Victorian politician, has done excellent service for us in that respect, and is eminently fitted for the work he is doing.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) is most difficult to settle. To get to the genesis of the trouble, one has to go back as far as 1884. Hitherto I have left it in the hands of the Public Service Board, but I promise the honorable member that I shall take steps to familiarize myself with the facts and do my best to determine it.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) referred to the cost of living allowance paid to the senior clerk in the External Affairs Branch, London. An allowance of £78 for single men, and £156 for married men, is paid to officers who are located in London, and is intended to enable Commonwealth officers to meet the conditions applying in the country in which they are located.
The honorable member also referred to the Commercial Agency at Paris. The Commonwealth has had a Commercial Agent in Paris since about 1919. He is located in the building occupied by the British Chamber of Commerce, and the work is to some extent covered by that chamber. The outlay on the part of the Commonwealth is small, and we regard the arrangement as satisfactory.
– Does the Commercial Agent in Paris furnish reports to the Commonwealth Government ?
– We get reports from him from time to time, but his principal duty is to assist Australian business men who visit Paris to get into touch with various interests there which they may be anxious to meet. I have had most satisfactory reports of the assistance he has been able to give to Australians who have been in Paris, and I think the expenditure involved is quite justified.
In reply to the complaint about the somewhat rapid changes in the High Commissionership to the United States, I must tell the honorable member that we have had the greatest difficulty in getting suitable men to occupy the position for more than a limited period. I was extremely pleased to hear the tributes paid by two honorable members to the work done by Sir James Elder. When I asked that gentleman to accept the position of High Com- “ missioner in America, he pointed out how -difficult it would be for him to get away, and he was very anxious not to accept the appointment for more than one year. Eventually, I induced him to promise that he would hold the position for two years, but I told him that if at the end of eighteen months he asked to be relieved, the Commonwealth Government would feel obliged to acquiesce in his wishes. I am pleased to say, however, that Sir James Elder stayed in America for two years. I mention this to show how extremely difficult it is to get the right type of man to go to America for any extended period. It means a complete break, up of his own affairs, and naturally a man of the type we need for the position is not too ready for that.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie also referred to the number of Australians employed at Australia House. A few weeks ago, I furnished a return to the House showing the number of Australians employed there, and if the honorable member will examine that document he will . see that the proportion of Australians employed is quite satisfactory. Typists and all officers who do what may be described as the mechanical work are recruited in London.
– That is quite right.
– It would be a most extravagant system to send people from Australia to do that class of work. If the honorable member examines the return I submitted to the House, he will see that so far as the responsible officials and those who come in contact with the public are concerned the position is reasonably satisfactory.
.- I have heard two or three complaints from visitors regarding their treatment by officials in the High Commissioner’s office in London. A fortnight ago I received a postcard from an Australian who went to Australia House to seek information, and was treated in a most discourteous manner by an officer employed there. I think the High Commissioner would be well advised to inquire into these complaints and find out who is to blame, because his office is the place where Australians seek information in regard to their tours through England, and they are at least entitled to courtesy.
– If the honorable member can give me the details of any specific complaint I shall be not only willing,but also extremely pleased to investigate it, because conduct such as that to which he has referred cannot be tolerated. Still, in fairness to the officials of Australia House, I must repeat what I have already said, that a number of complaints have turned out on investigation to be quite unfounded, having been made because individuals were annoyed when it was found impossible to afford them certain social facilities. I do not suggest that the case referred to by the honorable member is one of that type.
– It is not.
– If the honorable member will give me precise information it will help to prevent the discourteous treatment of visitors.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £542,178.
.- Under the expropriated property section, the estimated expenditure this year for payment of salaries is £2,479, as against an expenditure of £668 last year. The increase is mainly due to the fact that a custodian at £900 per annum, with an allowance of £200, and an additional clerk and typist have been appointed to do work which previously was done by the Secretary of the Treasury. I wish to bring under notice certain happenings in the management of the expropriated properties in the hope that the appointment of a custodian will improve matters. I have a serious charge to make.
Sitting suspended from6.25 to 8 p.m.
– I have expressed the hope that the working of the branch dealing with expropriation will be considerably better in the future than it has been in the past. I intend to submit to the committee certain matters in connexion with the Expropriation Board, about which I think honorable members should be informed. I do not intend to go into the early history of the board. Most honorable members are aware that it was brought into existence to administer properties in New Guinea taken over from ex-enemy nationals. It was given certain powers in their management, and recently there have been some sales of the properties. The. three first members of the board were Mr. Pinner, as accountant, Mr. Jolley, who at the time was in New Guinea as business manager, and Mr. Lucas as advisor and chairman. Mr. Jolley had had experience of the Territory, as he had been there when it was in the possession of the Germans, and had, in fact, been British Consul at Rabaul. His wife was in possession of property some distance out of Rabaul. After Mr. Lucas left the board, most of the work was left in the hands of Mr. Jolley. Representations were made to the Government that certain persons, whose property had been expropriated, should have their properties returned to them. In connexion with this proposal, on the 2nd of July last year, I asked certain questions of the Treasurer to discover the reason why certain properties were released from expropriation? I was informed, in answer to my questions, that 31 had been released from expropriation, and two were outstanding, and the reason given for the release was: -
In a number of cases the persons concerned satisfied the Government that they were not of ex-enemy nationality, or that they had. lost ex-enemy nationality by the operation of* the Treaty of Versailles. Other cases are those of Germans who had island wives or wives of British birth.
At my request, the Treasurer made available to me certain files connected with the expropriated properties. I went through the files to try to discover the actual reason why some of these properties were released from expropriation. I particularly desired to find out the reason for the release of the properties previously held by five men, Furter Kirchner, Mirow, Schnackenberg, and Shultze. Mirow, Furter and Kirchner had married Australian or English wives and Shultze and Rundnagel had married island women. In the case of one man, Schnackenberg, the expropriated property was released on the ground that he was of no nationality. He was born in Germany, and went from there to the United States of America. He became a naturalized American citizen. He left the United States of America, and did not keep up his American nationality. He came to the then German Territory of New Guinea, and was received by the Germans there as one of themselves. Yet, although he was born in Ger- many, and lived in the Territory as 3 German, his property was officially released from expropriation because it was held that he had no nationality.
– Did not the honorable member say that he became a naturalized American citizen?
– Yes, but he lost his American nationality.
– How could he do so?
– I understand that a naturalized American citizen loses his nationality after a period of years if ho does not keep up his connexion with the United States of America. The’ Germans I have mentioned have a peculiar reputation in New Guinea. They have always been a source of a great deal of trouble to the administration. They are what I might call Prussians of the prewar period - arrogant, overbearing persons. I know their record pretty well. A special magistrate was sent up to’ the Territory to inquire into these cases, and report to the Governor-General. He made his report on the 25th November, 1921, and in it he makes the following statements : -
All these cases are governed in varying degrees by a common principle, that one of the partners has lost her rights as an English woman, not by any voluntary act of her own directed to that purpose, but ‘by mere operation of law, as the result of her marriage with an alien. And the question for decision appears to be whether Your Excellency’s Government is disposed to say that, in such cases, or some of them, it will waive the strict rigour of the rights which the Treaty gives against families in that position, and refuse to take advantage either of the technical German nationality of the wife, or, for the wife’s sake, of the German nationality, both technical and substantial, of the husband.
That was the case put to the Government. These persons were at the time in Australia, and the Government decided that their properties should be released from expropriation “ as an act of grace.” Let us see how that affected other persons in the Territory. I do not desire at the moment to deal with the fact that these Germans have always been, are still, and will continue to be a menace to the Administration. One of the men whose property was released from expropriation was given the Iron Cross by the Kaiser during the war, and he did not get it for nothing. One secured the release of his property because he had married an island woman. I received a letter from an influential gentleman at Kavieng, which I intend to put on record. He wrote to me on the 25th May last year, in these terms -
Reference our conversation locally upon matters affecting returned men. Regarding revesting of certain Huns in their property. Without exaggerating local feeling on this matter is bitter, especially as these Huns get their places back as “ an act of grace,” while dinkum ex-soldiers and British subjects cannot purchase a place on easy terms. In the absence of official files - which* latter, I take it, are in the Home and Territories Office, Melbourne - it cannot be stated why these birds - Schultz, Kirchner, Furter, &c. - were released. We only know it’s rough that we can’t buy places while the worst type of Hun in these parts get their properties returned. Nor is any gratitude expressed. In Schultze’s case it is understood a woeful tale was pulled that he through marriage with a half-breed Samoan had lost caste, and could not live in Germany. Such a plea may have force in Australia with some but docs not apply here, nor should it. This union did not deter Schultze from taking his wife and family to Germany in 1912 to see his people, and then leave his boys (2) there to be educated. If they had been a little older they would have fought against us. These boys returned to Kavieng from Germany at the end of last- year. The fact of Schultze having a coloured wife does not seem to have affected relations with his family. The fact of marriage with a coloured woman should really debar him here, for as you may be aware one of the things the administration is strongly against is relations by whites with native women. Again, were it mentioned to Madam Schultze that he had lost caste through marrying her, the reception afforded such comment would be rough.
In another part of his letter, he says -
Regarding Furter and Kirchner. rumour hath it reason for release was they had married British subjects. Well, the only comment we can make is that a woman, on marriage, takes the husband’s nationality, and should abide the consequences of her voluntary act. No doubt it causes hardships; but why use it here?
That letter was written by a returned soldier residing at Kavieng, whom I met when I was up there. His statement of the views of the white people’ in Kavieng should go on record, and should be remembered. It is said that the properties of these Germans have been released from expropriation as “ an act of grace,” I want to deal now particularly with the case of Kirchner. He held certain properties in the Kavieng district. He had made repeated application for the release of his properties from expropriation, and his application was hung up for a long time. In the meantime, certain trading stations were, given to five returned soldiers, who are men of the best type. I know every one of them, and they are jolly fine fellows. To give an idea of the type of men they are, I might say that one is a son of Sir Henry Braddon; and another, Billy Watson, was captain of the Australian Imperial Force football team. They are men who would make good settlers anywhere. These five men took up certain trading stations that had previously belonged to Kirchner. When I happened to be in Kavieng, they saw me, and drew my attention to the fact that they were being dispossessed of their trading stations, and the properties were being released from expropriation “ as an act of grace “ to Kirchner. I ask honorable members to say whether Kirchner or these five returned soldiers, who put their money into the stations, was more deserving of an act of grace. The following letter, dated the 13th July, 1925, was written to the Prime Minister by the Kavieng branch of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ Imperial League: -
In confirmation of attached radios, dated the Sth June, 1925, and the 13th July, 1925, respectively, I am directed by this branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League to place fully before you the reasons for sending same. In May last, several returned soldiers who were engaged trading in this district, and who, for the purpose of carrying on such businesses, held from the Government (Expropriation Board), leases of trading stations, were given one month’s notice to quit. The notice to quit informed the lessees that the leasehold in question was to be handed back by them to the former German owner - a Mr. F. Kirchner. The result of such notice was that the ex-soldiers concerned found their living suddenly taken away, and were compelled to make provision for quitting the Territory. During May, Mr. Kirchner, “whilst still an expropriated person, was given possession of his plantation (Ulul Nono), thus displacing the returned soldier overseer. Owing to the united protests of the Kavieng and Rabaul branches of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, the handing back of trading leaseholds to Kirchner was held up. It is now understood that the release of this German from expropriation will date as from the third week in June, and will shortly be gazetted. As a result of representation by returned men two years ago, the Government made available to ex-soldiers trading stations throughout the Territory. Many returned men with local experience were induced to invest their capital in trading business. At this time, no mention was made by the Government that these leases were likely to terminate on short notice for the purpose of returning same to former German owners. After two years of strenuous and genuine effort, when most of the men hare succeeded in establishing themselves, the members of this branch view with dismay the action of the Government in depriving, by its own action, the livelihood of men who are endeavouring to settle in the Territory, more especially when it is considered that the persons benefiting by the Government’s action are . enemy subjects. In connexion with this last paragraph, we are informed that Kirchner is being released as “ an act of grace,” and that he is therefore still a German national. Members of this branch consider it would be more equitable that, granted that Kirchner and others similarly situated are considered by the Government to hare some genuine claim, such claim should be adjusted by a monetary compensation in lieu of returning their former property. If the course suggested were followed, the result would ‘be that, whilst the claim of ex-enemy subjects would be met, returned soldiers would still be in a position to carry on, and make a decent living. As you are no doubt well aware, the big majority of returned men employed in this Territory were attracted by the prospects of ultimately investing their savings in the purchase of .plantations, and with this end in view have gained invaluable experience for the furthering of such aim. The result of the gazettal of Kirchner and others will be that many of these mcn must forego the benefits of experience gained, and seek opportunities elsewhere, where such experience will have little or no value. In such connexion might it be pointed out that many hare already been compelled to leave. This branch is in possession of information which, in our opinion, allows conclusively that the release from expropriation of Kirchner is the prelude to the occupation of the Kavieng district by a combination of late enemy subjects to the utter exclusion of returned mcn. The return of late enemy nationals to their former properties must inevitably, and has already in the case of Mr. Kirchner, lessened to a great degree the prestige of the Administration, and of the British race, in the eyes of the native population, and this lessening of respect appears to have been greatly furthered by propaganda emanating from the combination of former enemy nationals above referred to. In view of these facts, we feel that we cannot urge too strongly upon you the necessity for the Government taking such action as will protect the interests of returned men who, by the action of the Government, were induced to settle here. Finally, we would respectfully request that the Government would, if possible, alter its intention to return to Kirchner his former property, and substitute therefor monetary compensation. This, we think, is not an unreasonable request in view of the number of returned men who have been, and who will be, seriously affected by any such preference shown to late enemy nationals. As some have already departed from the Territory, we would urge, in the interests of those still remaining, that this matter receive consideration at your earliest convenience.
That letter sets out the exact position. Before it was written, I had taken up the matter, consequent on the remarks that were made to me while in New Guinea. On the 19th May I sent the following radio from Rabaul to the Custodian of Expropriated Property, Treasury, Melbourne : -
Understand certain expropriated persons after release have without tender obtained trading stations previously held by returned soldiers. Strongly protest against this action by board. .Request postponement immediately until my return. Meanwhile urge previous lessees continue occupation.
I consider that my request to the Custodian was reasonable, under the circumstances. On the 28th May he repeated my radio to Mr. Jolley, who was at that time chairman of the Expropriation Board, and stated at the end of it, “ Please interview Mr. Green and ascertain reasons for requested postponement.” On the 19th May, Mr. Jolley had sent the following radiogram to the Custodian : -
Unofficially informed that Green, member of Parliament, has telegraphed Australia to the effect that Expropriation Board have cancelled returned soldiers’ leases trading stations giving them to a German. This refers to notice of termination 31st May, given by Expropriation Board Kaevieng district, in anticipation of release Kirchner of Bix trading stations which become his property on release. Trading stations will not be handed over until release actually effected. Please telegraph when release being forwarded here to be gazetted.
The Custodian was informed of this matter by the chairman of the board as well as by myself. Mr. Jolley saw me on board the Mataram on the 30th May, and on the same day he sent the Custodian the following radio: -
Reference yours 28th - trading stations, Mr. Green interviewed aboard Mataram states that when he telegraphed he was not aware that facts are as stated our radio 345. Being now seized with true situation states will withdraw protest and telegraph Minister accordingly.
This note was added -
This matter was brought under notice to prevent distortion of facts and so that the Custodian would be acquainted with true position.
I shall deal with the alleged distortion of facts. I telegraphed the Prime Minister, and also the Custodian, on the 30th May, the same day that Mr. Jolley wired to the Custodian. My radio to the Custodian was as follows: -
Reference my radio concerning trading stations, Jolley interviewed me explaining position. Still adhere to previous protest against soldiers being replaced by released expropriated persons.
The tone of that radiogram certainly does not indicate that I was satisfied with the position. On the same day I telegraphed the Prime Minister as follows: -
Strongly protest against any further release expropriated persons and request immediate postponement of projected releases until my return.
Before those wires were dispatched I showed them to Mr. Jolley on board the Mataram, yet he deliberately misled the Custodian by telegraphing to him that 1 had expressed myself as being satisfied with the position, and would telegraph the Minister to that effect. On the 12th June, I received the following reply from the Prime Minister’s Department: -
With reference to your radiogram of 30th May, regarding the release of expropriated properties in New Guinea Territory, I desire to inform you that the custodian of expropriated property advises that all appeals against expropriation have now been dealt with, and that no further releases of expropriated persons are contemplated at present.
When I returned from New Guinea I ascertained from the Treasurer that Kirchner had been released from expropriation on the 25th June, fourteen days after I received the communication from the Prime Minister’s Department stating that no further releases were to be granted. The department certainly ke.pt to the strict letter of my request to postpone releases until after my return, because I returned to Sydney on the 24th June, and Kirchner was released from expropriation the next day. I find from the files that Kirchner some months before had been notified that he Was ‘to be released from expropriation. It seems to me that there was some ulterior motive behind his release. Mr. Lucas, at one time chairman of the Expropriation Board, was well acquainted with Kirchner and his co-nationals in New Guinea, and when giving evidence he stated definitely that Kirchner should not be released from expropriation. This person’s release, as an act of grace, to displace five returned soldiers who had taken over the trading stations in question, is not in the best interests of the Territory, and will be a serious setback to the returned men who have settled there. One W. Mirow, who married an Australian woman, owned certain property, which has been returned to him. He was also interested in a plantation named Rapopo at Kokopo, which was submitted to auction, but withdrawn, and is now, I understand, included in the list of properties to be submitted for auction in November. I would like the Treasurer to tell the committee what he intends to do concerning Mirow’s interest in that plantation. Does he intend to pay him out of the money received from the purchaser at the November auction? The facts I have related must convince the committee that a grave error was made in releasing these individuals, many of whom are Prussians of the arrogant and bullyingtype. Every one of them is a menace to the administration, and I have heard that two of them hold the Iron Gross for services rendered during the war. I have pointed out that misleading answers were given to questions I asked when I was in the territory, and that the Treasurer was misled by Jolley, the then chairman of the Expropriation Board. When I was at Rabaul, the rumour was current that Jolley had resigned, and I asked the Treasurer on the 8 th July if that was so. I received a reply in the negative. Ascertaining subsequently that Jolley had gone to Germany, I asked the Treasurer when he left the service of the Expropriation Board, and I was told thathe had left on the 11th July. Some explanation of the answer to my first question is required, because aman in receipt of a salaryof £1,350 does not walk out of an office at less than three days’ notice.
– Unfortunately, he walked out and boarded a ship without giving any notice.
– After my experience with Jolley, I was interested to know who would be his successor. In reply to questions I asked in this House, I was told that the new chairman of the Expropriation Board was Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Peck, C.M.G., D.S.O., who had been appointed at a salary of £.1,500 per annum. The Treasurer said also -
Applications were publicly invited for the position. Lieutenant-Colonel Peck has good organizing and business ability. He studied various businesses in England after the war, and is considered eminently suitable for the position for which he has been chosen.
I was still in the dark concerning his qualifications to be chairman of the Expropriation Board, so I asked the Treasurer three pertinent questions regarding Peck’s actual personal experience in coconut planting in the tropics, and in the handling of native labour in Nev/ Guinea or elsewhere, and also his administrative experience. The Treasurer replied -
Lieutenant-Colonel Peck has had a wide experience of affairs, and before his appointment as chairman of the board had some knowledge of tropical conditions. Prior to his present appointment he has not been employed directly in tropical work.
That was an easy way of disposing of an awkward question. One could gain some knowledge of tropical conditions by merely reading a novel by Beatrice Grimshaw ; but I knew when I asked the question that Peck had had no practical experience in the tropics. Most ofthe employees on the plantations are natives, and I wanted to know whether the new chairman had any experience of handling native labour. The two preceding chairmen, Mr. Lucas and Mr. Jolley, had a wide, practical knowledge of the tropics. In regard to Peck’s administrative experience, I was told that he filled several administrative posts in the Australian Imperial Force during the war and in the Australian Military Forces since the war, and that he had resigned the position of Director of Supplies and Transport to take up the position of Chairman of the Expropriation Board. I do not question his administrative experience; but it is clear that he had no practical knowledge of tropical conditions. Apparently, he is following the example of his predecessor Mr. Jolley in supplying his Minister with misleading information. On the 15th July I asked the Treasurer -
On the 21st July the Treasurer replied -
The Custodian of Expropriated Property has now furnished the following reply : -
The Expropriation Board has no knowledge of official documents or correspondence between the board and its officials being signed by Flora Gilmore.
I draw the attention of the committee to this statement contained in a letter written on 1st June last by the superintendent of a plantation to the chairman of the Expropriation Board -
My application for leave, by the way, was opened and replied to by a woman who had no connexion with the board. Later on I re ceived another communication from this same woman about some cattle, which I ignored, as I do not reply to unauthorized persons concerning measures in connexion with my work.
I have a copy of a letter, dated 12th May, and signed by Mrs. Gilmore for the branch manager at Rabaul, to the superintendent of Tobera plantation regarding the milking of cows. Yet the chairman of the board declared - I do not blame the Treasurer because he had to send a radiogram to New Guinea to get the information with which to answer my question - that the board had no knowledge of official documents having been signed by Flora Gilmore. This incident gives food for thought regarding what is happening in the Territory. The Minister who was responsible for the administration of the expropriated properties in New Guinea is being deliberately misled by his officers. How are we to arrive at the truth when questions asked in this chamber by honorable members are answered with lies? Lieut-Colonel Peck’s reply to the Minister shows that he is not fit to hold an office under the Crown at a salary of £1,500 a year. I do not wish to weary the committee with details of some of the absurd regulations he has issued, but I submit that a senior official who deliberately lies to his Minister should be removed from his position at once. I have brought forward these measures because I consider that they require ventilation. I hope that Treasurer will assure the committee that no more expropriated persons will be released as an act of grace to displace returned soldiers who have sunk their capital in the Territory and spent some years there trying to learn the local conditions. And I invite him to state, also, what he proposes to do in regard to the queer actions of Lieut. -Colonel J. H. Peck, O.M.G., D.S.O.
.- I wish to say something about the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and to direct attention to some of the anomalies in it. This is an opportunity which honorable members have to bring such matters under the notice of the Treasurer personally. Although to most of us these questions are of no direct personal concern, yet they affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia, who are much more unfortunately placed than we.
I pay my meed of praise to the officers employed throughout Australia by the department, and particularly to those I know in Queensland. The Deputy Commissioner of that State is temperamentally fitted in every way for his responsible position. I wish it to be understood that any criticisms I may make of the department do not apply to the officers personally.
For the first twenty-eight days after pensioners go into hospitals or other institutions, they receive -no pension, although, in their infirm state, they need more delicacies than persons in robust health. At the end of 28 days, they are paid only 4s. a week, and the institution is paid 10s. 6d. a week ; a total of 14s. 6d. a week. As the invalid and old-age pension rate is fi a week, the Government saves 5s. 6d. a week on each pensioner who is in an institution. The Treasurer not long ago said in this chamber that the difference between paying £1 a week and 14s. 6d. a week in respect of pensioners in institutions amounted to £40,000 a year. The old people are being robbed of 5s. 6d. a week each. The saving of £40,000 per annum by the Government is not worth the stigma of withholding the money from the old people. The amount paid to the institutions is also inadequate. I have in mind, particularly, certain institutions that are not controlled by the States. Most of the institutions for the old people are State controlled. In Rockhampton there is a splendid institution - to which I took the Treasurer one afternoon - called .the Rockhampton Benevolent Society, which for many years was presided over by a kindly, charitable lady of the name of Mrs. K. A. Woolcott, who gave her life to help the old people; but who, unfortunately, has not been spared to see the institution grow to what it will ultimately become. She made a request to the Treasurer for a larger payment to the institution; but the Government refused to grant it. That request has now been made again. I stress to the Treasurer to-night that 10s. 6d. a week for each inmate is not sufficient to support that institution, which has to depend largely on the charity of the people of the district. I would not plead this case so strongly if it were a State institution; but it is controlled by charitable persons, who spend their leisure hours in tending the old people and canvassing the city for donations. The Treasurer should agree to pay at least the cost of maintaining the home, which is approximately 14s. per week per inmate. Now, take the case of miners. Most of the miners of Australia, while they are at work, contribute weekly to the upkeep of local hospitals, and it is unfair that when, in the evening of their lives, they are suffering from infirmities and are obliged to go into an institution, they are not paid the difference between the amour t paid to the institution, 10s. 6d., and the pension rate of £1 a week. They receive only 4s. a week. There are many cases in places like Mount Morgan that deserve sympathetic consideration. The miners there receive a miner’s phthisis allowance, which is a special allowance paid through the State insurance department in Queensland,- and contributed to by the mine owners. The allowance is not sufficient to keep them; but, because they receive it, the Commonwealth Government reduces their invalid or old-age pensions. That ^ is not right. Those miners, in most cases,, have not long to live, and it would make a lot of difference to them, and to their wives and children, if they were paid the full rate of pension, in addition to the miner’s phthisis allowance.
Some persons, as a result of their lifelong thrift and industry, have been able to put aside a little nest-egg, and have purchased a small home and, perhaps, another small cottage; and, because of their thrift, they are not allowed to receive the full pension. The less thrifty, on the other hand, who have saved nothing, and have made no preparation for the evening of their lives, receive the full pension. The thrifty persons, if they have a second small house, suffer a reduction in pension, and, if the property is worth £400 or more, they cannot receive any pension. The permissible value of the additional house, in addition to the one they live in, should be increased to at least £750 ner annum. An amendment to that effect would show an appreciation by the department of thrift and hard work. The unfortunate part of the business is that, when cases such as these are reported to the department, investigations are made and reductions of the pension result. Before a person is eligible to receive the invalid pension it must be medically certified that he or she is totally and permanently incapacitated for work. There, are many persons who cannot earn a living, but cannot be said to be totally and permanently incapacitated for work within the meaning of the act. The department should be more lenient to such persons.
The amount of money that an invalid or old-age pensioner is allowed to earn should be increased. If an invalid pensioner earns 10s. a week, that is taken as evidence that he or she is not totally and permanently incapacitated for work, and the pension is accordingly reduced. That is most unfair. These unfortunate people cannot live on a pension of fi a week without assistance from other sources, and, therefore, it is necessary for them at times to seek employment in order lo earn a few pounds with which to buy clothes for the winter months. The fact that an invalid pensioner is able to earn a few shillings a. week should not debar him or her from receiving the full rate of pension, a
I wish also to stress a point regarding old-age and invalid pensions and maternity allowances to Asiatics, particularly Syrians. I have had many instances brought under my notice of women who were born in Asia, who landed in Australia when they were infants, who married here, and who are rearing Australian families, but who are denied the maternity allowance. I could cite many unfair and unjust cases. Many Asiatics are good citizens, and they are not paid the old-age or invalid pension. I should like the Treasurer to take these matters into careful consideration, and, if necessary, bring down an amending bill to enable the sympathetic officers of the department to use their discretion to a greater extent. A wife who is deserted by her husband, and has been unable for many years to locate him, may find when she applies for the old-age or invalid pension that her husband has been discovered in some part of Australia in employment, or in possession of property, and that for this reason she cannot obtain a pension.
– If her husband is in employment or owns property she could prosecute him for maintenance.
– In many cases women are not prepared to do that. I have in mind the case of a woman who came to see me. Her daughter had been maintaining her for years, but was about to marry, and the mother, having some sense of pride and decency, said, “ I cannot on the eve of my daughter’s wedding prosecute my husband for maintenance. He left me years ago through no fault of mine, and I cannot obtain the old-age pension because he is living and able to support me; but I would rather starve than suffer the publicity of law court proceedings against him, or bring the disgrace of it on my daughters who are already married, and the one who is about to marry.” That woman’s case is” very hard, and should be given favorable consideration. Any Treasurer, irrespective of his political views, should be trusted with a discretionary power to deal with it, and others like it, on their merits.
Under .one section of the act a person who dispossesses himself of property loses his pension rights by so doing. I know that it is necessary to make provision to resist the efforts of certain dishonest persons who would defraud the State if they could; but many persons quite innocently sell their property some little time prior to qualifying for a pension. It may be that they have certain financial obligations to meet, and are forced to dispose of their real estate; or it may be that their sons or daughters, who have helped to build; and are entitled to certain interests in it, desire ‘to realize in order that they might set up for themselves somewhere else. It happens at times in such cases that the parent who sells out is rendered practically penniless, when everybody is paid, in other cases he may be able to deposit a certain amount in the Savings Bank. But if the money should be withdrawn some little time prior to his applying for a pension, his application is rejected; or the pension is reduced by £1 for every £10 by which the sum of money exceeds £50. It can hardly be denied that sons and daughters of such parents who have been living on the basic wage, and are about to marry, or require, for any. purpose, the money they have put into the homestead, are entitled to their rights, without causing hardship to their parents. At any rate, parents of honour and integrity would not think of denying it simply because it might involve them in hardship; they would take their chance of making a living in some way. In my opinion, the section of the act which governs these cases should be amended to provide that only applicants, who have realized their estate with intent to defraud should be refused a pension.
It is also provided that persons who break the continuity of their residence in Australia by brief absences abroad lose their pension rights. About ten years ago a reciprocal pension arrangement was tentatively made between the Commonwealth Government and the New Zealand Government. It was ratified by New Zealand, but not by Australia. The result has been that many nomadic workers who go to New Zealand for seasonal employment, and so break the continuity of their residence in Australia, sacrifice their old-age and invalid pension rights. For instance, a person who meets with an accident while following a seasonal occupation in New Zealand, and later returns to Australia, finds that he cannot obtain a pension because the accident occurred in New Zealand. A Rockhampton man who met with an accident in New Zealand in such circumstances found, on his return to Australia, that he could not obtain either employment or a pension, and he committed suicide. Unfortunately, the force of economic circumstances causes many people to do desperate things, particularly when they find that they cannot obtain what they conceive to be their rights. In my opinion, provision should be made to cover a temporary absence from the Commonwealth.
I also ask the Treasurer favorably to consider amending the act to provide that the amount a pensioner may earn without having his pension reduced shall be at least 15s. per week instead of 12s. 6d. as at present. With the cost of living as it is to-day, 35s. a week is little enough on which to maintain an adult person.
The favorable consideration of the Government should also be given to the case of ex-soldiers’ widows and mothers who, on being granted the invalid or oldage pension at the rate of £1 a week, find that their war pension is immediately reduced by 7s. 6d. weekly. That is most unfair. I submit that our ex-soldiers’ widows and mothers should not, under any circumstances, have their war pension reduced.
Still another complaint I have in re* gard to our pensions administration is that bread-winners who are rendered unfit for work, but who have been sufficiently thrifty to insure their lives, are denied the full pension, because of the surrender value of the insurance policy. I instance the case of a man, in an emaciated and hopeless condition, who has not doneany work since 1919. He had been receivinga pension of 17s. 6d. a week, but whenan application was made for its increase to 20s. weekly, the department, following an investigation, actually reduced it to 15s. a week. The result is that his wife isbeing forced to try to feed and clothefour persons on £2 15s. 9d. weekly, which is her total income. In such a case the department should pay the maximum pension. I trust that the Treasurer will give most careful consideration to this case, for I intend to supply him with ail the facts.
Section 16 of the principal act provides -
The following persons shall not be qualified to receive the old-age pension, namely: -
Naturalized subjects of the King who have not been naturalized for the period of three years next preceding the date of their pension claim.
I have met a number of persons in my division who have been in Australia for 25 or 30 years, but who neglected to become naturalized until less than three years before they submitted claims for pensions. Many of them brought families of young children here. The children, having grown up and undertaken considerable financial obligations themselves, are now unable to support their parents. In my opinion the department or the Minister should have a discretionary power to grant pensions in cases of this character.
I trust, also, that action will soon bo taken to reduce the pension residential qualification. Many persons who have been in Australia for sixteen or eighteen years, and who, through no fault of their own are now absolutely penniless, cannot obtain the pension because they have not been resident here for twenty years. Surely we should do something to meet cases of real hardship of that kind.
In regard to invalid pensions, the act provides, in section 22 -
No person shall receive an invalid pension unless -
He has on that date resided in Australia continuously (within the meaning of section 18) for at least five years.
I have had brought under my notice the case of persons who have been resident here for three, four, and four and a half years who have met with physical misfortunes, but have not been able to obtain the invalid pension because they have not been here five years. My plea is that the officers of. the department should be allowed to exercise greater discretion in such cases. I hope that the Treasurer will take these matters into consideration, and, if not this session, at any rate early next session, review the whole act with a view to bringing in amendments which the experience of the department throughout Australia has proved to be necessary. In the administration of the act, the officers of the department must have gathered a fund of information that could be supplied to the Treasurer to enable him to frame a proper bill. The department deals with a great body of people who have had no primrose path to tread ; but have been forced to plod along a rough and thorny track, living on the basic wage, and often having to bring up families on less than it, so that ithas been well nigh impossible for them to save against old age. The assistance afforded to such people should be looked upon not as charity, but as a right to which they are entitled. I have brought these anomalies underthe notice of the Treasurer with a view to having them removed, and I hope that he will take such notice of them that there will be a great improvement in the future.
– A few nights ago I had an opportunity, on a motion moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) to say something in regard to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but, unfortunately, that opportunity being somewhat limited, I was unable to read some letters which I wished to bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle
Page). I have no fault to find with the administration of the act, particularly in New. South Wales. If there is one branch of the Commonwealth Public Service that is doing good work, it is the Invalid and Old-age Pensions branch in New South Wales. It is true that almost every day honorable members representing constituencies in that State receive letters from the department refusing applications for pensions on grounds with which we do not agree, but at the same time we are satisfied that the department softens the blow to the unfortunate applicants as much as possible. But the detailed reasons advanced for the rejection of the claims may discredit Parliament if the act is not amended in the near future. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has given particulars of various cases, and, although I have been a member of this House for a few short months only, I think I could find a parallel case for every one he has mentioned. There is one case in my district which has become rather notorious. It has been taken up by aSydney newspaper, and I shall quote from an article in that newspaper to show how it is regarded in the Eden-Monaro electorate. The article is as follows : -
Cripples and Barbarous Pension Laws.
Out of the driving rain into the cold of a threadbare little tent, rocked by the wind, and slimy under foot from the mud of the sodden, bare earth a gaunt woman, no longer young, stumbled wearily and flung down her burden of draggled-furred rabbits.
It is impossible for this woman’s husband to earn a living. He has to depend on what his wife earns by trapping rabbits, which in the cold of a Monaro winter is not a pleasant occupation. The medical officer who has examined the husband says that he is not an absolute cripple, and it is perfectly true that it would be possible for him to earn money if any one would employ him; but under the industrial laws of New South Wales and the various regulations which have to be observed, no one feels inclined to employ a cripple. The consequence is that this poor man is up against starvation all the time, and as this article says,has to live like an animal because the invalid pension cannot be granted to him. To my mind, the Treasurer should have the prerogative of saying that a pension is granted in a case like this. The article to which I have referred goes on to say -
And so it will come as a shock to every decent citizen to learn that this man’s application for a pension was refused point-blank by the Pensions Board owing to the existing state of the much-criticised old-age pensions laws.
The article concludes: -
Why, indeed? Is it merely because in every Government measure there are flaws, or is -it because we have entrusted our philanthropy to a band of people who are bound by an antiquated and rigid set of laws?
I know that the Treasurer will submit this case back to the Pensions Board, and that the board will ask a medical officer to make a further examination of this unfortunate man. I know that as the result of that examination the mau will be declared to be capable of earning some money, and, therefore, according to the act cannot be classed as an invalid, and that he and his wife will have to continue living in the condition I have described. We must admit that our pensions law is not perfect. Each Government likes to raise the rate of the pension by halfacrown a week because an increase appeals to a large number of people, but there are little flaws that ought to be attended to, and I trust that at the first opportunity the Treasurer will see that power is given to him to exercise his prerogative in the direction I have indicated. A woman from my district who applied for an old-age pension was ruled out of court on the ground that she was being maintained to a certain extent by her brother. If this brother, who is himself 76 years of age, and from what I know of his circumstances, is also entitled to apply for the pension, were hardhearted enough to turn her out of doors, the Commonwealth would have to grant her a pension. A correspondent writing about this woman’s case says: -
The Pensions Commissioner seems to lay great stress on the fact that she receives free board. She stated in her application that she lived with her brother, my uncle, who is worse off than she is, and is 76 years of age, and will be putting in for the pension at the first opportunity.
I know this woman well ; I know that she is entitled to a pension, and if her brother turned her out she could then claim a pension. It is not the only case of the sort I have encountered during my brief time as member of Parliament, and no doubt other members could bring forward numerous cases of a similar nature. My correspondent writing of her case says : -
The reason why she has been receiving free board is because the poor old woman could not pay for it. It is time some one dealt out a hard blow to these old back-block economists in the Federal Parliament.
I do not know the back-block economists referred to, but this correspondent sheets home the blame to Parliament itself, and not to the Commissioner of Pensions. I have made two or three appeals in connexion with this case, but I can make no progress because of the provisions of the act itself. The honorable member for Capricornia has given a lengthy list of anomalies. I do not propose to do so.
– I trust that we shall get a promise from the Treasurer that, at the earliest possible opportunity, he. will bring down an amending bill. The cost of removing the anomalies to which attention has been drawn by honorable members would not be as great as an increase of half a crown a week in the rate of the pension. In Queanbeyan an old woman who owned a home valued at about £250 made it over to her son. While she was in the home as owner she ‘ was entitled to her full pension, but, when feeling that she was getting on in years, she thought she would fix up. her affairs by transferring the home to her son, her pension was reduced, although she still continued to live in the house. Presumably, if the son were. to transfer the home back to the mother, she would lose more through getting a gift of the property.
– If she gets the house back she will get the full pension.
– She needs to be well advised before she takes any further steps. Another case which has come under my notice is that of a wife living apart from her husband. In the interests of her family she did not seek the publicity of a divorce, and so she struggled on and reared her children. Now that she has reached the pension age she is informed that she is not entitled to a pension, because she should sue the husband. I can understand a woman situated as she is, in a country town, not being anxious to take that step. She has, perhaps, too much pride to do so. At any rate, I think it is a case in which the Minister might exercise his prerogative. Another anomaly in the act is the provision whichdebars aliens who have been living in Australia practically the whole of their lives from receiving the pension. Because they have neglected to sign a few papers and become naturalized they are not allowed to draw the pension, although they may have been living in Australia for . 50 or 60 years, abiding by its laws and paying all the rates and taxes levied upon citizens of Australia. I think the act should be liberalized so that these people may come within the scope of our generosity. I appeal to the Treasurer to bring down an amending bill at the earliest possible opportunity to remove these flaws from a measure of which we ought all to be proud.
– Before dealing with the various matters raised by honorable members in regard to .the Estimates of the Department of the Treasury, I should like to make a statement about the Commissioner and AssistantCommissioner of Taxation and the intention of the Government if it meets with the approval of the committee, to increase the salaries of those officers from £1,500 and £1,100 to £2,000 and £1,500 a year respectively. The reason why I make this statement now is that early in the financial year 1925-26 the Government decided to increase the remuneration of these officers by a statutory provision. Honorable members will remember that this course was followed in dealing with the salary of the Auditor-General, who at one time was paid a salary of £1000 by statute and an additional £500 by way of allowance. It was the intention of the Government to insert a provision for the increases I have mentioned in an amendment of the Land Tax Assessment Act. We intended to do that, because we thought the remuneration of these officers should be fixed by Parliament in such a way as to free it from possible variation by annual votes. The intention to introduce the bill was communicated to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) last year, but as honorable members are aware a dissolution came upon us very suddenly and prevented the measure being brought before the House. The proposed amendment of the Land Tax Assessment Act also contemplated the appointment of a board of review of land tax assessments for the protection of taxpayers. Unfortunately, in the interim the validity of the newly-constituted board of review was questioned in the High Court. The Government hoped that the decision of the High Court would have been made known before this to enable the legislation to which I have, referred to be introduced, but that decision has not yet been given. There are two cases before the court which have not yet been decided. One is the case of the British Imperial Oil Company versus the Crown, and another the case of the Commissioner of Taxation ‘ versus Munro. These cases involve the validity of the board of review, and until the High Court has arrived at its decision, we cannot introduce the legislation I have referred to. Honorable members appreciate the fact that it would be a mistake to introduce amending legislation until we know exactly what the effect of the decision to be given by the High Court will be.
– When does the Government propose to introduce the Land Tax Assessment Bill the honorable gentleman has referred to?
– I can assure the committee that the Government will bring down the bill at the earliest possible opportunity. In the meantime my suggestion is that the proposed increases to the officers to whom I have referred shall be paid for out of the Treasurer’s Advance. Senior and other officers of the department had their, salaries reviewed last year by the Public Service Board, and the increases recommended for them were dated back to the beginning of the last financial year. It is unfair that these two senior officers of the Taxation Department should be placed in an invidious position as compared with other officers of the Public Service.
With regard to the expropriated properties referred lo by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), certain general principles have been observed in connexion with those properties from the beginning. Honorable members will recollect that the Commonwealth Government took possession of these properties on the 1st September, 1920, although their actual expropriation dated back to the 10th January of that year. During the whole of the eight months intervening the Germans were in possession of the properties. When the Expropriation Board was appointed it had but a very small staff, and was compelled to utilize the services of Germans. There is no doubt thai during the first few months very considerable losses occurred. Since the board has been able to straighten matters up, a very steady improvement in the whole position has been made. This will be seen from the fact that the overdraft of the board has declined from something well over £600,000 to £450,000.
– Did not the honorable gentleman tell me only a few months ago that the overdraft of the board was £900,000.
– That amount in- cluded a loan of £300,000 or £400,000, which the Expropriation Board obtained from the Public Trustee. I am. speaking now of the actual bank overdraft to the board, and on 30th April its financial position was at least £150,000 better than it was three years previously. The expropriated properties are now paying for the cost of their management and control, and there is every prospect that we shall be able to sell them, and thus dispense with the operations of the board altogether. When expropriation took place, all the properties in New Guinea of German nationals in New Guinea were expropriated. Appeals against their prescription were lodged by the Germans, and were inquired into by a special magistrate appointed for the purpose. On his recommendation applications were granted or refused. In addition, the Government granted releases in the case of German nationals resident in New Guinea who had married women of British nationality. These men included Mirow, Kirchner, and Furter. Some of the released men had married women of Samoan birth, and it was felt that would be a very definite hardship if their properties were expropriated, and they were forced to live in Germany, and take away from tropica] islands wives who could not expect decent conditions of life in Germany, but who could live comfortably in the surroundings to which they were native. The Government, as an act of policy, made these additions to the number of persons whose properties were released on the recommendation of the special magistrate. These are the only cases that were dealt with in this way, and I think that honorable members will agree that the action of the Government was justified. There has been some cavilling about the re-sale’ of properties to Mirow. He is a German who married an Australian woman. He had an interest under various partnerships in various properties in the Mandated Territories. Practically all the partnerships included terms which prevented sales taking place without Mirow’s consent, and where a sale did take place his interest in the property was to be made good to him. It can readily be appreciated that these terms made the task of selling these properties very difficult indeed, and the question of their disposal a very complicated one. There was a property known as Kalili in which Mirow held 30 or 35 per cent. of the total number of shares. He approached the Government regarding the purchase of this property, and offered a certain amount for it.. His offer was rejected as not being anything like its value. He then made an offer equivalent to the independent valuation made by Mr. Cobcroft, and the Government, after carefully investigating the terms of the partnership in the property, and realizing the difficulties certain to arise in connexion with its sale in any other manner, accepted Mirow’s offer, and disposed of the property to him at £73,500. The terms given to Mirow were exactly the same as those given to other people in connexion with the purchase of properties in NewGuinea and the sale of plantations there.
– Does the Government now accept Mirow as a British subject, or as a German national, as he really is?
– His property is being dealt with in the way I have stated because he married an Australian wife, and was living either in Australia or in the Mandated Territory.
– He paid £73,500 for the property, in which he had a 30 per cent. interest as a shareholder?
– He is paying what it is considered the property is worth, and will pay any balance outstanding on the same terms as those laid down for other people. In the case of another property, Rapopo, the sale is being dealt with in the same manner. At first, Mirow refused to permit the sale of this property to anybody. He subsequently withdrew that objection, and Rapopo is now offered for Sale in the second group.
– What will Mirow get if Rapopo is sold.
– He will get his proportionate share of the amount received for it. That share will be dealt with in the same way as any other property that has been released from expropriation.
– Is Mirow eligible to re-purchase the property ?
– He can do so if his offer is higher than any other. I come now to the case of Kirchner. He has an English wife, and I can best deal with his case by reading the following letter, dated 25th September, 1925, sent to the Returned Soldiers’ League at Kavieng by the secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department : -
With reference to your letter of the 13th July, in regard to handing back of expropriated properties to their late German holders, I am directed to inform you that, in the case of Mr. F. H. E. Kirchner, to whom
YOU specifically refer, the property was reeased because his wife is of English birth, and it was not desired that women of British blood should suffer hardship through the operation of the expropriation provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.
I may say that the Returned Soldiers’ League did not object to this man’s property being released, but wanted their members to retain the trading stations to which the honorable member for Richmond referred. It is obvious that the Government could not make fish of one and flesh of another, and as the property was being released from expropriation it had to be dealt with in the same way as other released properties. The letter continues -
The Custodian of Expropriated Property states that it is not possible to accede to your request that Mr. Kirchner’s property be not returned to him, but that he be paid compensation in lieu thereof. Release from the charges created by the Peace Treaty automatically revests the property in Mr. Kirchner, and, as the formal order for release was signed by the Governor-General on the 25th June last, the Custodian has no option but to surrender all the property.
I am to mention, however, that Mr. Kirchner holds his property subject to the condition that he shall not be guilty of any act of disloyalty to the Administration of the Territory or tothe Commonwealth Government. Should hefail to observe that condition, his property may be re-vested in the Custodian.
If, therefore, as hinted, your branch has any knowledge that Mr. Kirchner is evading that obligation, it should communicate with the Administrator of New Guinea on the subject.
The position regarding Mr. Kirchner has already been explained to the general secretary of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia in Melbourne, who made personal representations in the matter.
– Were the same conditions applied to Kirchner’s case as were applied to the others?
– Yes, the same conditions were applied to all. Honorable members will see that a general principle has been observed in dealing with these cases, and it is one which I believe will commend itself to the committee.
I now come to the allegations with regard to misleading information which the honorable member for Richmond has made. He based them on two grounds : First, that certain dates referring to the resignation of Mr. Jolley from the Expropriation Board were not correct; and, secondly, that Mrs. Flora Gilmore was signing official correspondence despite an official denial. Mr. Jolley left Rabaul suddenly on the 11th July, 1925, without notifying the department. He was informed on the 17th July that he was suspended from duty as from that date, pending a full inquiry into the matter. We found that he had left his work eventhough the Custodian had asked him to remain on duty. His services were dispensed with from the date that he left Rabaul - the 11th July. The honorable member for Richmond asked a question in the House on the 8th July, three days before Mr. Jolley left his work, and the reply that was given at the time was correct.
– Was not Mr. Jolley then in indifferent health?
– Yes. In fact, at the preceding Christmas he starved himself for a month, drinking nothing but water, and caused his colleagues a greatdeal of anxiety. His mind at that time was seriously disturbed, and he was unable to carry out his duties satisfactorily. But he was still chairman of the Expropriation Board on the 8th July. On the 27th August the honorable member asked me whether Mr. Jolley was still chairman of the board, and I answered that he was not a member of the Expropriation Board his appointment having ended on the 11th July, 1925. I think that I have explained satisfactorily to honorable members that there was no real discrepancy as to dates, but it is possible that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) may have been misled by my reply to him on the 8th July. No one knew that Mr. Jolley ‘s services would be dispensed with as from the 11th July. Respecting the signing, without authority, of certain correspondence by Mrs, Flora Gilmore, I am still informed by the board that if she has signed any letters she has done so without its authority and knowledge. The Custodian of Expropriated Property, Mr. Harvey, who was for many years Trade Agent for the Mandated Territory, has determined to inspect the expropriated properties, and to review, and if necessaryreorganize the administration of them. He is leaving for the Mandated Territory on the 17th August. If the honorable member wishes any further information when the House meets next year, no doubt the Custodian will then have first-hand knowledge. The Returned Soldiers Association in the Mandated Territory has written thanking the Government for the manner in which the recent sale of the properties was conducted, and for the very liberal terms given to returned soldiers. The returned soldiers were asked to pay an initial deposit of 5 per cent., and a second deposit of 10 per cent. if their tender was accepted. The balance was allowed to remain on mortgage at 5 per cent. The terms to outsiders were 30 per cent. deposit, the balance to remain on mortgage at6½ per cent. The returned soldiers appreciated the liberality with which the Government treated them. That is shown by the fact that most of the properties sold were purchased by returned soldiers, many of whom were at the time of the sale working in the Mandated Territory.
– How many returned soldiers have settled there?
– The Expropriation Board employs at least 200, and some 30 or 40 returned soldiers secured plantations at the sale.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) referred to old-age and invalid pensions. Al though it may be considered necessary at times to criticize our pensions legislation, we must not forget that Australia has the most liberal Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in the world, and that the war pensions equal any that are paid elsewhere. Anomalies undoubtedly exist in Australia, some of them being apparent because of the very liberality of the conditions conceded by this and preceding governments. Other anomalies cannot altogether be removed until we establish a scheme of national’ insurance, which will make unnecessary altogether ‘the present limitations on pensions. The honorable memberfor Capricornia referred to the payments made to pensioners in hospitals. There is a complete misapprehension in this respect. The suggestion has been made that, by some means or other, the Commonwealth Government is saving money on pensions paid to inmates of institutions. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act and regulations under it contain the following provisions relating to pensioners or claimants for pensions who become inmates of charitable institutions: -
No authority is contained in the act or regulations for any payment being made to the asylum or hospital authorities in respect of the pensioner’s maintenance in the institution. In the early years of pensions history, however, the Commonwealth agreed to make payment to the institutions, the money being provided from a special vote in each year’s estimates. The actual rate of payment differed in the various States, but in April, 1912, a uniform rate of 7s. 6d. per week was adopted throughout the Commonwealth. This was increased to 8s. per week in November, 1912. In August, 1918, the rate was again increased to 10s. 6d. per week, which is the amount at present being paid. It must be remembered that these payments have been made solely as an act of grace, and not by virtue of any statutory obligations. From time to time requests have been made for an increase in the present rate of payment, namely, 10s. 6d. per week. The principal argument adduced in support of these requests is that at present the Commonwealth makes a profit of 5s. 6d. per week in respect of every pensioner who enters an institution. The maximum rate of pension is 20s. per week. When the pensioner enters an institution, the Commonwealth pays the pensioner 4s. per week and the institution 10s. 6d. per week, making a total of 14s. 6d. per week. The balance, 5s. 6d. per week, represents the “profit” which the Commonwealth is said to make out of the transaction. It is not correct to say that the Commonwealth “saves” or “makes a profit” out of pensioners who become inmates of institutions. The practice of not making payment of ordinary pension to inmates of charitable institutions had its beginning when pensions were paid by the States, and it was not considered expedient that the benevolent asylums should receive both ordinary subsidy from the Government and payment for the inmates who might otherwise have been entitled to pensions. This principle was recognized on the transfer of the pensions to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth merely becoming responsible for the aged who were living outside the Government institutions, the obligation to fully maintain inmates of benevolent asylums remaining with the States. In other words, the responsibility imposed on the Commonwealth of caring for aged and infirm people has been limited to payments of pensions made under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and the Commonwealth has never assumed responsibility for the aged who are maintained in institutions subsidized or maintained by the State. The care of the aged and infirm in State institutions is a State responsibility, and there is no statutory obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to make any payment whatever in respect of inmates of these institutions, even though they may have been in receipt of invalid or old-age pensions at the date of admission. State institutions for the care of the aged and infirm were in existence before the Commonwealth act was passed, and the pass- ing of pensions legislation has not altered the responsibility of the States in that respect.
– What pension is allowed to inmates of institutions?
– Special pensions of 4s. per week have been made available to all inmates of benevolent asylums who would be eligible for pensions if resident outside the institutions. Far from making a profit out of the old-age and invalid pensioners who are inmates of State institutions, the Commonwealth is at considerable’ loss in making payments of 10s. 6d. per week to institutions as an. act of grace. A request was made to the responsible officers of the various institutions to estimate what, in their opinion, would be a wise amount to allow old-age pensioners for pocket-money, and the amount suggested was 3s. per week. Noone has ever suggested that it should be more than 4s. The aged and infirm persons who are maintained in a hospital receiving 4s. per week as pocket-money are in a. far better position than those outside institutions receiving £1 per week. If it were decided to give pensioner inmates of institutions an additional 5s. 6d. per week, the difference in their favour would be even more pronounced. The inmae would receive all the benefits which the institution provides, and, in addition. 9s. 6d. for pocket-money; whereas the ordinary pensioner outside would have to supply all his needs on a pension of £1 per week.
.- I regret that it has been found impossible this session to introduce the Land Tax Assessment Bill and the Income Tax Assessment Bill. I appreciate the difficulties of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) caused by the appeals to the court; but it is a pity that we shall not have an opportunity to discuss these bills, because there is room for great improvement in both acts. The action of the taxpayers in testing the validity of the appeal board is not sporty or justified, because that was one of the reforms made in the interests of the taxpayers themselves. I regret that some of them have seen fit to test its validity, irrespective of the merits or justice of the assessments imposed upon them. The question being undecided, it is, of course, difficult to bring down amending assessment bills; but, apart from the appeal board, there are other provisions in the assessment bills that should have been brought down for the reconsideration of this House.
– The honorable member would not ask Parliament to work on Sundays?
– I agree that the dying hours of the session is not a fit time in which to bring down taxation bills. Unfortunately, it has been the habit of the Government, in dealing with most taxation measures, to introduce them late in the session, and the result has been test cases in the court. The criticism by honorable mem! bers of weaknesses in the measures has been totally disregarded. I have no wish to be among those who say, “ I told you so “, but honorable members who can recall the criticisms of the last three or four years respecting taxation measures, will know that many of the predictions that were made - some of them by me - have been borne out. I have no objection to increasing the salaries of the Commissioner of Taxation and the Assistant Commissioner, so as to bring them into line with those received by other heads of departments, apart altogether from the amount of salary paid. If we recognize a certain salary for certain responsibilities, we should treat men of similar positions alike. I agree with the Treasurer that the Commissioner of Taxation and the Assistant Commissioner, in administering their department, work as hard as the heads of any other department, and if others receive high salaries, there is no reason why the Taxation Commissioner and his assistant should be denied them. Certainly there is no reason why the differentiation should be continued for a considerable time merely because the Treasurer finds it difficult to bring down a Land Tax Assessment Bill until appeals before the court have been decided. There is nothing to prevent the Treasurer from introducing a one-clause amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act to provide for an increase of the salary.
– I am prepared to do that if the honorable member is agreeable.
– That is the proper procedure. The position of the Commis- sioner is more independent in respect of income tax than in respect of land tax, because he has complete authority to administer the income taxation, whereas his administration of the land tax is subject to ministerial control. If, as Commissioner of Income Tax, he is given the greatest possible independence, his salary should be fixed by statute, and the vicious system of providing some of the salary by statute and the remainder as an allowance should be discontinued.
– If the honorable member will assist me to pass it, I shall bring down an amending bill immediately.
– I shall be glad to assist the Treasurer to place the salary of the Commissioner on a proper basis. If an amending bill is introduced the matter can be discussed on its merits. It is wrong to pay any portion of the Commissioner’s salary out of the Treasurer’s Advance. I appreciate the fact that the Treasurer has announced to the committee his intention to do that; by his frankness he has removed a considerable ground for objection. I have on previous occasions objected to payments from the Treasurer’s Advance that could have been foreseen and referred to Parliament. I welcome the Treasurer’s statement that he is prepared to introduce a short amending bill to place the Commissioner’s salary on a statutory basis. I shall not canvass the merits of the decision of the High Court in the Jowett case, because it may be the subject of further litigation; but it cannot be allowed to remain unchallenged, for it affects the whole subject of land valuation, whether of freehold or leasehold, and may have n very far-reaching effect upon State fis well as Federal taxation. The Government has announced its intention to propose that the Commonwealth shall withdraw entirely from the field of land taxation. That proposal will not be allowed to pass without severe opposition from the Labour party; but the Government may succeed in securing its passage, and if land taxation is to be handed over to another body it is our duty to first sea that it is put on a sound basis, and no decision of the court that is, ,in our opinion, wrong, should be allowed to stand. It may be the intention of the department to test the decision in the Jowett case, and, therefore, it would be wrong on my part to advance any criticism of the matter at this stage; but I assure the Treasurer that if the rjudgment is allowed to pass unchallenged, or other cases are not referred to the court for the purpose of testing it, something more will be said by honorable members on this side at a later date. I regretthat we have not an opportunity to discuss the Income Tax Assessment Bill, . because there is urgent need for the principles of taxation to be thoroughly threshed out. The Treasurer has promised to bring down.an amending bill early, next year, and I hope that we shall have an opportunity to discuss it fully, and that honorable members will be allowed freedom to express their views and vote accordingly. We have had previous experience - and on this subject, I speak feelingly - of arguments . and proposals, which apparently were approved by the majority of honorable members, being defeated on a party vote, because the Government insisted upon standing by the provisions of the bill. The incidence of taxation is a matter of policy, but in regard to the principles of taxation the House should have the freest opportunity to express its opinion. If honorable members are allowed a free hand in this matter, many anomalies in existing legislation will be removed.
.- I urge upon the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) the need for more generous treatment of blind pensioners. The mere fact that a personsuffersthegreatest affliction to which human flesh isheir - a handicap that more than anything else robs him ofthe pleasures and enjoyments of life - should besufficient qualification for a pension, irrespective of his earning power. Even if a blind person is earning some income, he is dependent always upon the guidance of somebody with normal sight, and I hope that the Treasurer will make some alteration in the regulations in the direction I have indicated.
– Some blind persons are already receiving the pension.
– Yes, but if they earn any income, their pension is decreased proportionately. The full pension should be granted irrespective of earnings. In regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr.Perkins), I should like the. Treasurer to state twhether a sisterhas any legal claim upon her brother to maintain her. I have been informed by legal friends that she has not. There is a good deal of truth in the statement that many people quite innocently do things which prejudice theirclaimsto pensions. Accepting the cheap and often worthless advice of “friendly counsellors, some old people do the most idiotic things,with no intention to defraud the department, and thereby lose their right to a pension. In these cases, the regulations should be interpreted most liberally. In regard to thetransfer of a house from a pensioner to some relative or friend, do I understand that so long as the pensioner lives in the house the department does not recognize the transfer?
There will always be pension claims that are on the border line of doubt. If we allowed pensioners 15s. a week, without curtailing their pensions, I might come forward and say that they should be allowed to earn 17s. 6d. a week, and others might want to raise the amount to £1 or 30s. a week. Prom what we hear of legislation in one of the other States, an old-age pensioner would need to be allowed to earn £5 or £6 a week. There must bc regulation, unless we have no restriction at all, and say that when a man or woman reaches a certain age, or is permanently incapacitated, he or she shall receive a pension irrespective of what he has or earns.
.- I wishto speak of two memorials that havebeen presented to the Treasurer from Commonwealth officers in my State, who anticipate that if the proposals of theGovernment with regard to the evacuation of certain fields of taxation are adopted, they will become superfluous. In anticipation of a compensation bill being introduced, they have made certain requests to the Treasurer in good time. 1 do not think that such a bill will be necessary, for I trust that the present relationship between the Commonwealth and State Governments will continue; but should that relationship be disturbed, and the necessity for a compensation bill arise, it will then be toolateto speak for these officers.
In the one case, tho memorial is presented on behalf of officers who have pension rights under the old Western Australian Pension Superannuation Act of 1871. They suggest that if their offices are abolished, provision should be made so that they may retire under section6 of the act,” or accept another position of equal status. They point out thatas they have been several years in their particular duties, the work they may be offered may be entirely foreign to them. They fear that they may not be able to give effective service to the department, and may have to sell their homes and make new homes in another part of Australia. I trust that the Treasurer will bear their request inmind should the Commonwealth Government vacate certain fields of taxation.
The other point I wish to mention concerns certain temporary valuers in the Taxation Department. It is not usual to admit that a temporary employee in the Government service has any claim to consideration. During recent years, the tendency has grown in both Federal and State departments to employ temporary officers. It is a cheap form of employment, because these officers are not eligible for holidays and other benefits that the permanent employees enjoy. The temporary valuers in Western Australia have done valuable work for the department. They have been specially trained. Some of them were formerly farmers, who were appointed as valuers for the districts in which their farms were situated. They are men of more than ordinary intelligence, and have been working for the department for several years. Naturally, they have had to neglect their own businesses. They may be describedas policemen of the Taxation Department, and being a policeman may, in some cases, bring some odium, and, perhaos, social ostracism, upon a man and his family. Their knowledge of the value of land and the incomes of taxpayers, has enabled them to increase assessments and augment the revenue of the department. Even in biblical days, the tax-gatherer was in bad odour. In view of the difficulties that those men will bo faced with if they lose their employment, they suggest that they should be compensated on the same basis as if they were permanent employees. Their case has already been presented to the Treasure who, I trnst, if it becomes necessary to bring in a compensation bill, will bear these two matters in mind.
– Would the honorable member advocate a commiosion to investigate their assessments?
– The honorablemember’s interjection brings one matter to my mind. In notafew Government positions of this kind, there are great temptations, and if men occupying them are not scrupulously honest, they can make much money, apart from their salaries. Therefore, only men of probity and honour are appointed as valuers.
No matter how perfect a pension scheme may be, there is always a tendency to ask for it to be extended. The Western Australian Parliament has passed a Miners’ Phthisis Relief Act. It is hardly necessary to remind honorable members that gold-mining has a very injurious effect on those employed in it. Many miners contract fibrosis, which, although not tubercular, makes the victim very liable to contract tuberculosis-. Every gold miner is being carefully examined at the Commonwealth Laboratory at Kalgoorlie by Dr. Nelson, who is doing magnificent work; and those found to be suffering from fibrosis, have been eliminated from the industry. Between 500 and 600 men out of the 3,000 em? ployed - speaking in round figures - or about 20 per cent. have been affected. The Western Australian Government has amended its Workmen’s Compensation Act to compensate the men, and it has endeavoured to place such of them as are suitable on the land. In the ordinary way, the gold-mining industry would have borne the compensation expense, but, as I have pointed out many times in this House, in appealing for special consideration for it, it is entirely unable to do so at present. Some of these men applied for, and were granted, the invalid pension ; but the Commonwealth Government was inclined to assert that as they were being compensated by the Western Australian Government, they were not really entitled to it. In fact, it adopted something of the Shylock attitude, and tried to drive a hard bargain ; but I trust that the. Treasurer will not stand for that kind of thing. He should see’ that the act is interpreted in a liberal spirit. These men are in a different position from men suffering from, say, the loss of a limb, or even of an eye; for their phy sical condition requires them to incur rather heavy expenditure for medicinal necessities and a suitable diet. The fact that the Western Australian Government has dealt liberally with them should not cause the Commonwealth Government to deal harshly with them.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is the minting of silver coin. I urge the Treasurer to withdraw all British coinage from circulation in Australia, and to have all the silver coin we need minted here. That would be only proper, and it would add to our revenue. British coin is not allowed to circulate in Canada; nor is our coin allowed to circulate in other countries. In 1925-26 our revenue from the mintage of silver coin was £322,000, but it is estimated that it will be only £175,000 this financial year. If the Treasurer would have all the British coin in circulation withdrawn, he could substantially augment his revenue from the mint. He ordered some time ago that British coin should be withdrawn, but he has apparently annulled the order. lt is an anomaly that a person who brings British bank notes to this country must pay a heavy exchange rate upon them, but if he brings only silver coinage, he can obtain face value for it.
– The matter relative to taxation officers mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) is already receiving the attention of the Government. A deputation waited on mc on behalf of these officers a few days ago.
Our revenue from the mint was so high last year because the British coin which we sought to withdraw from circulation, currie in, and we had to mint new money to re-place it at a much more rapid rate than we anticipated. lt is highly desirable that we should maintain continuity of employment at the mint, and the withdrawal of this coinage at a steady rate will assure that.
Proposed vote agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260805_reps_10_114/>.