10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following hills reported -
Service and Execution of Process Bill.
State and Territorial Laws and Records Recognition Bill.
Officers’ Bights Declaration Birr.
Commonwealth Electoral Bill.
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
National Debt Sinking Fund Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill, 1028.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill, 1928.
Supply Bill (No. 1 ) 1028-29.
War Precautions Act Repeal Bill.
Geophysical Survey Bill.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference)
Loan Bill (No. 1) 1028-20.
Science and Industry Appropriation Bill.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1026-27.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1926-27.
– In view of the serious depression in the coal trade and in industries dependent upon coal fuel, will the Prime Minister have a comprehensive inquiry made, embracing all phases of the industry from the point of production to the disposal of the coal in the respective States, in order to ascertain the causes which are responsible for such depression and the large amount of unemployment occasioned thereby?
– The Government has discussed this matter with the Government of New South Wales, the State most directly interested in coal mining. The conclusion arrived at is that if a further curtailment of the sales of coal is to be avoided, it is essential in the interests of the industry that some reduction should be immediately effected in the price at which this commodity is produced and distributed. The Premier of New South Wales has been, and still is, negotiating with representatives of the industry with a view to ascertaining whether such’ a reduction of production and distribution costs can be effected. Whatever may be the outcome of these negotiations, a full inquiry into the state of the coal mining industry in Australia will still be essential. We are faced with the same problem, fortunately on a smaller scale, in regard to the production and marketing of coal, as that with which both Great Britain and the United States of America have had to deal, but the Governments of the Commonwealth and of New South Wales are of opinion that action cannot be wholly deferred for the length of time that a complete investigation of the industry would occupy, and that in the meanwhile some effort should be made to bring about a reduction in the price of coal for the benefit of, not only the coal mining industry, but also the industries of Australia generally. The Contmonwealth Government has indicated its interest in the negotiations now being conducted by Mr. Bavin with representatives of the various coal interests, and has indicated that if some satisfactory basis of agreement can be reached it will be prepared sympathetically to recommend this Parliament to render certain assistance. An essential condition of any such arrangement, however, is that a complete investigation of the industry shall be held. Therefore, my reply to the question of the honorable member for Hunter is that it is the intention of the Government in conjunction with the steps that I have indicated are being taken to arrange in co-operation with the Government of ‘ New South Wales for an exhaustive inquiry into the industry, but that in the meantime some other steps are necessary.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to the cablegrams reporting a recent decision in England concerning the royalties charged by the Marconi Company for the use of its patents? If so, will he inform the House how the reduction of - royalty charges in England will affect Australian users ?
– My attention has been called to cablegrams setting forth that the users of some of the patents held by the Marconi Company and registered in Great Britain had taken exception to the charges imposed by the company, and that a tribunal appointed by the Patents Office had declared that the charges were excessive and must be reduced. I am not in possession of exact details as to the patents affected, but I understand that they are similar to those the Australian rights of which are held by the Amalgamated Wireless Company, which have been discussed freely in this Parliament and throughout the Commonwealth. Prior to the discussions in this House, the prices charged by Amalgamated Wireless for the use of its patents were less than those charged by the Marconi Company in Great Britain, but even they were considered unduly high, and the Royal Commission on Wireless recommended that the fee of 12s. 6d. for each valve socket should be -reduced to 5s. Subsequent to the presentation of the commission’s report the Government entered into an agreement with the company, which was ratified by this Parliament, the basis of which was that instead of collecting a fee of 5s. per valve socket, Amalgamated Wireless should make available the whole of its patents free of charge, deriving its compensation from a fixed payment of 3s., to be made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department out of each listeningin licence fee paid in Australia. The royal commission estimated that under the old arrangement the revenue of Amalgamated Wireless from wireless broadcasting was £125,000, representing a charge of 12s. 6d. on each valve socket and 5s. for each listening-in licence. Under the present arrangement, estimating the listeners-in throughout Australia to number 250,000, the revenue of the company from wireless broadcasting is reduced to £37,500. Honorable members will see, therefore, that the excessive royalty fees charged in respect of patents had been dealt with in Australia long before the recent reduction in Great Britain.
– Has the Minister for Markets observed the disparity between the prices ruling for potatoes in potatogrowing States and in those States which do not produce potatoes to any extent, and, if so, can he explain the reason for that disparity? Further, is he in a position to indicate the best means of overcoming the regulations and restrictions now imposed which prevent freedom of trade in potatoes between the States?
– The Commonwealth has no control of the local market. Should there be any hindrances to interstate trade, it appears to me that they can only be of a quarantine nature.
– When considering the provision of aerodromes and aviation landing grounds, will the Government take into consideration the desirability of providing a landing ground in the Newcastle district?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Acting Minister for Defence.
– In view of the report of the Pastoral Committee that in order to provide transport for stock between various districts in drought periods, it is essential that Bourke be connected withCunnamulla and Charleville with Blackall by rail, can the Prime Minister indicate whether the Government will act on the suggestion that the Federal Government should get into touch with the State Governments concerned with a view to constructing such railways? Would money be made available to the States under the agreement with the British Government should the States themselves desire to construct such railways?
– The report of the Pastoral Committee indicates the necessity for the construction of some connecting link north and south to join the existing railways in Queensland for the purpose of saving stock during periods of drought. The Government considers that this is a matter of . vital national necessity, and would be prepared to discuss with the States concerned the question of taking action in the direction suggested. At present however, owing to financial stress and the difficulty of obtaining loan money, no action can be taken; but I am hopeful that when there is a better appreciation of the purposes for which loan money is needed in Australia it will be possible to make arrangements to provide facilities for removing stock in times of drought. In one drought the saving of our national wealth which would result from the construction of such railways might more than equal their cost. When the time is opportune the Government will be prepared to give the matter its earnest consideration. Money for the purpose would be available -under the agreement with the British Government,but it would be for the States concerned to submit some scheme for approval.
– Will the Treasurer state the personnel of the Loan Council, what representation the Commonwealth has on it, and whether the Commonwealth has power to veto its proposals ?
– The Loan Council consists of the Commonwealth Treasurer and the Treasurers of the various States. None of these representatives can veto a proposal.
– What representation has the Commonwealth on the Loan Council 2
– The Commonwealth has one representative in a body of seven. Under the financial agreement with the States, the Commonwealth has two votes and a casting vote. So far all the decisions of the Loan Council have been unanimous.
– In view of the depression in the coal industry in the West Moreton district and other portions of Queensland, will the Government invite representatives of the Government of Queensland and of the employers and the employees in the industry in that State to co-operate with the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales in making a full inquiry into the coal industry, seeing that any decision arrived at must apply to the whole of Australia?
– Any action to place the coal industry on a proper footing must necessarily commence in New South W ales, because of the great output of coal in that State and the dependence of the rest of Australia on the Maitland and Newcastle areas for gas coal. Should the negotiations already commenced proceed further, I shall be prepared, at a later stage, to give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Some time ago a deputation from the Queensland Cotton Pool Board waited on the Prime Minister, and subsequently further representations were made by Federal members for effective protection to be given to the Australian manufacturers of cotton yarn with a view to ensuring the local market to the Australian cotton grower. In view of the urgency of this matter and its bearing on the acreage to be placed under crop this season, will the Minister have the matter investigated immediately by the Tariff Board, if possible, or failing that by either the Customs Department or a special tribunal, so that something may be done before Parliament rises to give adequate protection to this Australian industry?
– -Representations have been made to me in this matter by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) and other members representing Queensland constituencies. I have indicated the Government’s attitude in a letter which I have addressed to the honorable” member for Moreton, a copy of which has been forwarded to the honorable member for Capricornia. I cannot agree to this matter being given precedence over other matters which have already been referred to the Tariff Board for investigation. It is, indeed, not within the power of the Minister to interfere, but even if it were, I should certainly not be prepared to do so, for these matters are given a certain order of hearing by the Board. The suggestion of the honorable member that the subject -should be considered by the Customs Department is belated. That has to be done before a reference is made by the Minister to the Tariff Board. To give effect to the proposal for the appointment of a special tribunal to deal with the matter would require the passage of an act of Parliament, for our existing legislation provides that all questions of this character must be submitted to the Tariff Board.
– Will the Treasurer inform me how many State Governments have so far accepted the provisions of the Commonwealth Housing Act and amended their local legislation accordingly, and also how many applications for homes have been received under the provisions of the scheme, excluding Federal Capital Territory applications?
– The existing legislation of the States has to be altered to bring it into conformity with the Commonwealth Housing Scheme before they can take advantage of the Commonwealth act. I am informed that the Governments of New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia have amendments to their acts in hand and ready for submission to Parliament. When these are passed, the State authorities will be able to obtain advances.
– Will the Prime Minister intimate what decision the Government has reached in regard to the requests that have been made for the representation of the Federal Capital Territory residents in Parliament and on the Federal Capital Commission?
– I stated in this House some months ago in explicit terms the attitude of the Government towards the proposal for the representation of the residents of the Federal Capital Territory in Parliament. At the same time, I promised that the question of providing for their representation on the Federal Capital Commission would be dealt with during the present session of Parliament. It is proposed to take action in this direction.
– Serious rumours are abroad to the effect that it is proposed to curtail to a large extent the work being carried on at the Hume reservoir and on the Murray generally. In view of the serious effects which a curtailment of this work would have, particularly in causing depreciation of plant and in limiting the supply of water available along the river, will the Minister for Works and Railways make a definite statement on the subject?
– At a conference of representatives of the three States concerned and the Commonwealth, the River Murray Commission notified the decision of the four contracting Governments that the expenditure on River Murray works this year should be limited to £1,000,000. I am unable to alter that decision. In these circumstances, it may he necessary to dispense with the services of some of the workmen at present employed on this undertaking until we have a larger amount of money available. I point out to the honorable member that the Commonwealth is not solely responsible for this. The decision was reached by representatives of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia sitting with Commonwealth representatives.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Markets been drawn to a report that although vessels trading from Australia to the United States of America have hitherto shipped sufficient Australian fruit, particularly oranges and apples, to meet their requirements during the voyage to and from America, the vessels have been compelled to dump all the fruit that they had on board when they reached San Francisco and to ship American fruit in its place ? Is the Minister able to take any action to remove this disability, or to ensure that American vessels trading to Australia shall be similarly treated?
– My attention has been drawn to the newspaper report to which the honorable member has referred, but as it is a quarantine matter it should be placed before the Minister for Health.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me what has been the outcome up to date of the conference of the imperial wireless and cable companies held earlier in the year? How far will the recommendations of the conference affect our agreement with Amalgamated Wireless Limited and Australia generally ?
– The report of the conference has been published in the press, and has been available for some weeks. It recommended the amalgamation of imperial wireless and cable interests. That recommendation can only affect Australia in so far as we are part proprietors of the Pacific Cable Company. It can have nothing to do with our agreement with Amalgamated Wireless Limited and wireless generally in Australia. Our interest is practically limited to our, general concern with cable and wireless communications throughout the Empire, and our holding in the Pacific Cable Company. In the event of the proposed merger taking place, it will be necessary for Australia to make some arrangement with Amalgamated “Wireless Limited, which handles our overseas wireless service, and with the new merger company, which would control cable services, to ensure the continuation of the cable service. If no such arrangement were made, Australia would be faced with the possibility of the cable service becoming inoperative. The whole basis of the conference was, of course, that cable communications should be preserved.
– Will the Treasurer inform me of the result of the recent flotation of the £20,000,000 loan?
– It was a conversion loan, and the amount required was over subscribed three weeks before the closing date. A total of £22,390,350 was received.
– Some two years ago a commission was appointed to investigate the constitutional question - this side of the House did not favour its appointment - and that commission, I believe, is costing £200 a week. I was informed before I left Sydney the other day, that it is the intention of that commission to delay its report, and not to submit it for the consideration of this Parliament. I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in that report, and why this Parliament has not had an opportunity of dealing with the constitutional question.
– The Constitutional Commission has not been in existence for anything like two years ; it was appointed about twelve months ago. There are no grounds for the suggestion that the commission intends to delay its report. Regarding the question why this Parliament has not had an opportunity of considering alterations of the Constitution, I have already fully stated the grounds which led the Government to appoint this commission. lu view of the great complexity and difficulties surrounding the subject, and the lack of reliable information to guide members of Parliament in any discussion, it was felt essential to have an investigation made prior to the submission to this House of questions relating to an alteration of the Constitution.
– I desire to point out to the Minister for Health that the potato industry of Australia is in a perilous position. Some of our richest land is devoted to the growing of potatoes, and large numbers of Australian families are engaged in the industry. This year the result of their labour will be practically nil, because prices are such that the crop is barely worth digging. I should like the Minister to make an authoritative statement regarding the modern fetish, which appears to have the support of certain members of the medical profession, that potatoes should be restricted in the dietary of Australians. As healthy and virile races have existed practically on potatoes as their main staple, this vegetable must be recognized as a wholesome item of food. As the fruit industry has derived considerable benefit from the adoption of the slogan “ Eat more fruit,” I urge the Minister to support a campaign to encourage the eating of more potatoes.
– The value of the potato as an article of diet is an extremely interesting question. There is no doubt whatever that, in this matter, as in others, the element of faith is of considerable importance. The assumption that the potato, or anything else, is good to eat does much to make it so, and that is well exemplified by the physical condition of the nation to which the honorable member has referred, in whose country potatoes and point is said to have been a constant dish.
– Has the Government considered the report of the North Australian Commission, recommending the construction of a railway from Daly Waters to Bourke? Will the Prime Minister allow an opportunity to this House to discuss the matter before any action is taken?
– I do not know whether it will be possible to afford an opportunity for a discussion of that report during the sitting of the present Parliament, but the honorable member can take advantage of the budget and financial debates to raise any subject that he wishes. I should be almost lacking in modesty were I to give any undertaking concerning a subsequent Parliament, although in the circumstances I think that I well could do so.
Importation of Kapok
– Is the Minister for Home and Territories aware that the promise which he made last session that the amendments made to the Electoral Act would be broadcast throughout the press of the Commonwealth has not been kept? As a general election is approaching, and as the people are absolutely in the dark as to those amendments, will the Minister see that the electoral officers supply that information to the press without delay?
– The promise has been kept. A statement has been prepared and given to the press, and it will be published at an early date.
Importation of Kapok
– Is the Prime Minister aware of a recent notice which appeared in the press calling attention to the prevalence of the foot and mouth disease in the Argentine and Java? If so, will he, for the protection of the Australian cattle industry and the assistance of the local cotton-growing industry, which could without difficulty supply cotton lint as a substitute for kapok, take the necessary steps to prevent the importation into Australia of kapok from Java?
– My attention has been drawn to the report of the prevalence of the foot and mouth disease in the Argentine. I shall refer the second part of the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Health, and ask him to ascertain whether there is any danger of infection from the- importation of kapok.
– Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the quarantine regulations relating to the importation of Australian fruit into the United States of America? If so, does he not consider that the application of similar regulations to the importation of American fruit into Australia would be advantageous to the fruit-growers of Australia, in view of the fact that most of the fruit pests from which we are at present suffering have come from America?
– My attention has been called to the regulations in question, and I shall let the honorable member know at a later, date what action the Government proposes to take.
– Has any person been appointed at Port Pirie, South Australia, as Deputy Registrar of Bankruptcy under the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act; if not, will the Minister expedite that appointment and establish office facilities at that town?
– The clerk of the local court at Port Pirie has been appointed Deputy Registrar of Bankruptcy, with the concurrence of the Attorney-General of South Australia. The appointment has been duly gazetted, and I am not aware of any obstacle to the functioning of that officer.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the report of Mr. Justice Pike in connexion with the soldier settlement problems of the States, and is he in a position to announce what the Government proposes to do regarding adjustments between the Commonwealth and the States, and in particular the position of those soldiers dispossessed of their holdings by some of the States on the understanding that the Commonwealth was to undertake the responsibility for their further repatriation ?
– The Government has not yet received the report of Mr. Justice Pike, who has not completed his investigations in all the States. Regarding the suggestion that some of the States have dispossessed soldier settlers of their holdings on the understanding that the Commonwealth Government would undertake their further repatriation, let me say that there is no justification for saying that any State has made such a statement.
FORMAL MOTION FOB ADJOURNMENT
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The failure of the Government to safeguard the public interests in regard to the erection of public buildings in the Federal Capital Territory.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I realize that I am adopting a rather unusual course in thus moving an adjournment motion on the second business day of the session, and especially on the day fixed for the Treasurer’s budget speech. I feel, however, that in view of the danger of serious curtailment of the time allowed members for the discussion of the budget speech and Estimates, I am justified in taking an early opportunity of bringing this matter to the notice of honorable members. I wish to speak about the foundation contract for the first permanent administrative block in
Canberra, a contract entered into with a firm of builders in Sydney at a price of £50,783. The work was completed about four months ago, and the sum of £46,000 has been paid up to the 27th April, 192S. I understand that no payment has been made since then. My object in moving the motion is to make the charge that huge discrepancies in cement quantities have been disclosed, that the work has been fraudulently carried out, and that the builders have failed to complete the foundation according to the specifications. I believe that there is a serious possibility of the foundations not being equal to the requirements of the large building which it is proposed to erect on them. The contract provided for the purchase of the whole of the cement required for the job through the Federal Capital Commission stores, and therefore the exact amount of cement mixed into the job could be readily obtained if an examination were made of the total amount issued from the stores to the contractor. This amount could then be compared with what would be required to do the job properly. The specifications provided that -
The contractor shall and will well and faithfully execute, perform and finish all and singular, the works strictly in accordance with the specifications.
The work has not been carried out according to the specifications, and yet the sum of £46,000 has been paid already to the contractor. In spite of the fact that the job was completed four months ago, no finality has been reached in regard to the accounts. I understand that negotiations with the contractor are in progress, but I maintain that the Commission has had ample time to investigate and examine the position, and the delay which has occurred is absolutely unjustifiable. If the supervision of the work has been such that a serious discrepancy in the quantity of cement has been allowed to pass, there is a grave danger that discrepancies also exist in regard to the amount of blue metal used with the cement, and the quantity of steel reinforcement. The contract provided for the concrete being subjected to certain tests. I should like to know whether those tests were made, and also what explanation the building supervisors and officials responsible to the Commission can offer for their failure to see that the contractor carried, out the work according to the specifications. I should like to know, further, whether these men are still in the employ of the Government, and whether any certificates have been issued by the architects to the effect that the work was carried out according to the specifications and completed to their satisfaction. I maintain that faulty work was proceeding for months; yet, in spite of that, progress payments were made to the extent of £46,000, and no action was taken to check the fraudulent practices of those carrying out the work.
– What is the amount of the discrepancy?
– It runs into hundreds of tons of cement.
– Is that all for the one building ?
– It is for one job. namely, the foundations contract for the permanent administrative block. These foundations were completed seven weeks ahead of the contract time, and under the contract the Commission agreed to pay the contractor £100 for each week that the work was completed ahead of schedule. The work was completed seven weeks ahead of the date fixed for completion, and the contractor therefore became entitled to an extra payment of £700. These foundations which were considered of such urgency when that clause was inserted, arc now to remain idle for the next three or five years. I should like to know whether this change of policy, this determination to allow the foundations to remain idle, under the pretext of financial stringency, has really any relation to the faulty work which has been done. Was it intended to allow the foundations to remain unused for five years, and then, with a view to covering up the fraud, to say that some chemical reaction beyond the comprehension of the engineers had taken place, and on that account it was not advisable to go on with the construction of the building? The administrative building is to be 400 feet in length and 55 feet high, consisting of five floors with an office space for the accommodation of 1,100 officials. The total cost is estimated at £850,000. We have had experience in Australia in the past of the collapse of concrete buildings. It is usually entirely due to the greed of contractors that these buildings have collapsed, resulting in the loss of many lives. On this important work in which the walls, piers and top foundation slabs of the building are seriously deficient in cement content and possibly steel reinforcement, there is a grave danger of the foundations shifting, and of the building crumbling to the ground, endangering the lives of a thousand or more public servants.
– Was any complaint made when the work was proceeding?
– I understand that the Commission had officers supervising the work, and their approval was necessary before the job was passed, and progress payments made. Public money has been spent to the extent of £46,000 on foundations which are valueless for the purpose intended. The question now arises, how much public money has been spent by the Federal Capital Commission - which is the creation of the BrucePage administration - under its policy of contract work, and how much of that money has been wasted? The builder concerned in this contract has done a good deal of work for the Commission, involving expenditure on one building alone of £80,000. I feel it my duty to draw attention to this matter. Honorable members opposite are rejoicing, even gloating, over the prospects of the forthcoming elections. .The date of the elections has been fixed, bearing in mind, no doubt, the disclosures of the royal commission in Sydney, which has been inquiring into the administration of the former city council. Unscrupulous agents and campaign directors of the Nationalist party hope to win a victory at the polls by raising a false cry; they are endeavouring to attach to honorable members who sit on this side and who have unblemished characters, the stigma of being privy to extravagant waste connected with the graft and corruption. The various works in Canberra should provide ample scope for inquiry, if honorable members opposite are anxious to unearth waste and fraud. I suggest that the different contracts that have been entered into by the Federal Capital Commission is a subject that is worthy of the fullest investigation. The taxpayers of Australia are being robbed. Those who are evincing a desire to introduce false issues in the pending election campaign would be much better employed if they were to devote their energies to the task of correcting the fraudulent character of matters that have been going on in Canberra for some time.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) has moved the adjournment of the. House with the excellent intention of directing public notice to what he regards as an act of robbery of the public. He has gone further, and has stated that if the foundations of this building are proved to be faulty, the structure that is to be erected upon them will place in jeopardy the lives of those who later will occupy it. The honorable member has charged the Commission with having been guilty of robbery and of practically every other sin in the calender, in connexion with the contracts it has let. It is necessary, therefore, that I should place before honorable members a clear statement of what actually is the position, so that they may be guided to a right judgment upon the evidence before them.
– We have not yet had any evidence submitted to us.
– I shall submit a statement prepared by responsible and efficient officers, who have a knowledge of the subject and do not speak from hearsay. Honorable members will then be in a position to judge whether the honorable member for Cook has made a reasonable and valid charge. If he has, I am perfectly certain that the Government will take drastic action to prevent a repetition of the occurrences to which he has referred, and to deal with those officers who have been negligent in their duty. I cannot do better than quote the Chief Commissioner’s own words. He is a competent authority, being an engineer by profession. He has nothing to hide, but on the contrary is anxious to disclose the whole of the facts. This is what he says -
Pursuant to an arrangement made some years ago, an architectural competition was held for the design of the main public office building at Canberra, the prize including the right of appointment as architect to design and construct the building. The successful competitor was the late Mr. Sydney Jones, architect of Sydney. When the designs were in process of completion, Mr. Sydney Jones died, and his business was carried on by his estate - the actual architectural work being done by one of the leading architects of Sydney - Mr. Godsall, a member of the firm of Robertson and Marks.
In due course a contract was let for the foundations of this building in accordance with designs and quantities prepared under Mr. Godsall’s direction, and the contract has been completed. The whole responsibility for ensuring the proper carrying out of the contract rests with the architects, the Government being merely the clients. Progress payments of approximately £45,000 have been made, leaving a balance still to be paid of approximately £5,500.
The contract provides that high quality tested cement purchaseable from the Commission was to be used, and before the work commenced the Commission’s Controller of Stores sought advice as to the amount of cement he would need to have ready to meet the demand.
As honorable members are aware, the Controller of Stores is an official of the Federal Capital Commission. The statement proceeds -
He was given an approximate figure by Commissioner Sir John Harrison and the amount was arranged for. When the job was approaching completion, the Controller of Stores suggested that the requirements had been over -estimated, and this resulted in a close investigation into the matter being made by Sir John Harrison. It was then ascertained that approximately 1,200 tons had been used on the work, whereas the original approximation was 1,800 tons. The investigation showed that either the architect had changed the specification or the quantities were not correct, and the architect was asked to investigate the matter thoroughly and report. The architect has reported -
That the contract has been properly carried out in accordance with the specification as modified by him.
That he approved of a change in the mixture.
I made a personal inquiry as to what was meant by the term “ mixture “. It may interest honorable members to learn that it is the term applied to the strength of cement used.
– Was that action taken before or after the contract was signed?
– After it had been completed. The Commission requested an inquiry in consequence of the report of the Controller of Stores that only 1,200 tons of cement had been used when the estimated requirement was 1,800 tons. The architect was asked for a report, and what I am now reading is the explanation which he furnished. It continues -
The Commission having had cause to make an investigation - all responsibility in connexion with the proper carrying out of the specifications was the architect’s - went into it very thoroughly and has informed the architects that it does not consider the allowance proposed to be made for unused cement adequate, and has demanded a complete re-measurement of the job, a comprehensive test of all the work which has been done, and it will not release the final payment until it is satisfied.
– It is a most extraordinary position.
– I do not doubt that the honorable member thinks so. The statement goes on to say -
The position at the moment, therefore, is that the architect is engaged upon a rc-survey of the whole matter, with a view to satisfying himself and the Commission as to the credit due to the Commission for the authorized change in mixture. The Commission has been supplied with copies of tests of the concrete made in the Public Works Department, Sydney, and so far as they go the tests show a perfectly satisfactory concrete. The Commission has asked the architect to make assurance doubly sure by having a further set of tests made in the taking of which the Commission will associate itself.
Honorable members will therefore see that the action of the Commission brought to notice a possible credit of several hundred pounds which might easily have escaped the notice of a less vigilant authority, it being remembered that the ‘Commission’s duties under this particular contract were merely those of an ordinary client relying entirely upon the certificate of his architect.
I have furnished definite evidence concerning the action which the Commission intends to take if proof of the charge is established.
– The necessity for a proper inquiry is evident.
– That inquiry is being made. I respectfully submit that the honorable member for Cook ought to have delayed taking action until he was in possession of definite evidence in support of the statements he has made. So far, the only evidence available is to the effect that the quantity of cement used was not so great as it was estimated would be the case. There is not the slightest evidence against the strength of the foundations. I say without hesitation that it is absolutely ridiculous to charge the Government with either dishonesty or carelessness in this matter, and the time of the House should not be further occupied in its discussion.
.- I have no -personal knowledge of this matter, but having listened to the carefully prepared statement made by the Minister, I consider that the honorable member for Cook was fully justified in bringing the subject before the House. The document from which the Minister quoted revealed that the architect had estimated that 1800 tons of cement would be required for this job.
– The estimate was made by Sir John Harrison.
– He is a member of the Federal Capital Commission and presumably based his estimate on the quantities taken out in the architect’s office. Sir John Harrison is a practical builder, and he could only estimate the amount of cement required if he had before him the specifications and quantities supplied by the architect. When the job was completed 600 tons of the cement ordered for it was still in the store. The first thought that suggests itself to my mind is that an enormous waste of public money has occurred. The explanation offered is that the architect changed the proportions to be used in the concrete, presumably after the contract had been let and signed.
– That is so.
– The mixture originally specified was to contain one-third more cement than the amended mixture. That alteration, I suggest, must have considerably reduced the cost of the concrete to the contractor; yet not one word was known of it until a vigilant officer in the Commission’s stores drew attention to the fact that 600 tons of cement was still on hand. The Minister should not try to defend unbusinesslike methods of that character; nor should he suggest that the honorable member for Cook has done wrong in bringing this matter before Parliament four months after the completion of the job. The Minister controlling the Territory would set the public mind more at ease if he would frankly declare that a wrong has been done and that the culpable person or persons will be suitably dealt with.
– I have said that that will be done if the evidence shows culpability..
– I am not one to judge any man upon insufficient evidence, but I do say that the testimony read by the Minister shows that a great wrong has been done to the public of the Commonwealth, and something more is required than a mere investigation of quantities and prices. The strength of the foundations upon which one of the permanent monumental buildings of the city will rest is the important consideration.
– It is.
– With the knowledge we have gained from all parts of the world of what contractors are capable of doing, and bearing in mind the experiences of various Governments in Australia, foundations, at any rate, should never be laid by contract. It is a commo u practice of Governments when letting contracts for important buildings, bridges and other forms of construction, to insist that the foundations at any rate shall be put in by day labour. The foundations of the building now under consideration are to cost about £50,000, of which £46,000 has been already paid. Are we to understand from the Minister that no member of the Commission was aware that the proportion of cement in the foundations had been reduced until the job was completed? If so that matter also calls for inquiry.
– One is being held.
– The foundations are vital to the structure to be raised upon them. In this instance the architect changed the mixture so that the quantity of cement to be used on the job was reduced from 1800 tons to 1200 tons, and apparently nobody in authority knew of the change until the job was completed and a surplus of 600 tons of cement in the stores was revealed.
– The Commonwealth had contracted to pay for the stronger mixture.
– Yes, the contract price was based on a mixture with a higher proportion of cement. The Minister has said that in this matter the Commission is only the client; I think it is the principal and the authorized custodian of the public interest. It is idle for the Minister to say that the Commission is without responsibility in this matter; that is a new doctrine in regard to the status of the Commission, and one which the House will not readily accept.
.- A red herring is being drawn across the trail. The contract was let by the Commission for the carrying out of a certain job, and proper safeguards were provided. We now discover that the concrete used in the foundations does not contain the same quantity of cement as was originally estimated. But are we to regard an estimate as in the nature of a contract?
– The estimate was based on the original specification.
– The charge boils down to a statement that the quantity of cement estimated to be required on the basis of the original specification has not been used. We have to protect the interests of the Australian people, and credit is due to the Commission for having discovered this alteration before the final payment on the contract was made. The final payment will not be made until the architect has given his certificate that the work has been satisfactorily carried out ; therefore, the Australian people will not suffer the slightest loss.
– Does the honorable member say that the architect has not given a certificate for any portion of the work?
– The final clearance without which the contractor cannot receive his final payment, is withheld.
– Why is the certificate withheld if the contractor has carried out the job according to the specifications?
– The answer of the Minister was adequate. This is one of the many side issues which have developed out of the extended inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee into housing and building costs in Canberra. Every member of the Committee has been approached privately by members of the general public and civil servants with all sorts of tittle-tattle. These idle tales, unsupported by sworn evidence, are not fair to the Commission, which is doing a big job under difficult conditions. As an instance of what occurs, I remember a member of the Committee bringing to one of the meetings in Canberra information that had been given to him privately that a house being erected under the direction of the Commission was almost on the point of collapse, that the supervision had been inadequate, and that the whole of the work was disgraceful. The nine members of the Committee were hurried off in motor cars to Mount Stromlo to inspect Dr. Duffield’s house which was in course of erection, and as a result of that trip the charge of maladministration was reduced to the knocking of one brick from a wall by a careless workman. That is the sort of idle chatter that has been poured into the ears of individual members of the Committee. The honorable member for Cook did not receive the information regarding the foundations for the administrative building in evidence before the Committee; but as a member of the Committee he has been told certain things outside the committee room. It is impossible for any tribunal to preserve a judicialmind when details of a matter that is under investigation are being discussed in this Chamber as if it were a municipal council. Matters that are sub judice should not be brought into the House by a member of the Committee and ventilated for purely political purposes.
– The honorable member has imputed an unworthy motive and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I do so.
– The answer of the Minister was weak and the contribution of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) has certainly not strengthened it. He seemed to regard himself as called upon to apologize for an apparent wrongdoing on the part of somebody, and he sheltered himself by saying that members of the Public Accounts Committee were supposed to keep confidential matters that came to their knowledge. This particular matter has never been officially before the Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member. Although it took months to lay the foundations, and four months have elapsed since they were put in, not a word about the matter was heard until the committee began to get busy again. The only semblance of an excuse advanced by the honorable member for Gwydir was in giving the Commission credit for having the affair well in hand, and for having discovered what had occurred. But no move was made in the direction of an investigation until certain information had reached members of the committee. Since the matter has not been officially before the committee, I feel free, although a member of that body, to discuss it. I believe that steps were taken to prevent the committee from going into it for fear of revelations that might be made. I shall not refer to other inquiries that are being conducted by the committee, and, as suggested by the honorable member for Gwydir, I shall preserve an open mind in regard to all these matters. The honorable member mentioned that, with the committee, he had paid avisit to a building about 9 miles from Canberra. I was present on that occasion, and, as the honorable . member has referred to this visit, I shall do the same. When he arrived at the building he did not trouble very much to look at it at all. I also went with him the other day to the Federal Capital Commission’s stores. The committee made an investigation there, and gathered a lot of valuable information ; hut only four members of the committee accompanied the officer who was told off to conduct the inspection. The honorable member for Gwydir did not take part in that inspection. Instead of doing so, he boarded a motor car and went home. He was afraid, perhaps, that he might see something wrong.
– That is a lie.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that expression.
– Am I not entitled to defend myself when an honorable member tells a lie about me?
– An honorable member may deny the accuracy of any statement, and it is usual for the honorable member who has made a statement to which such exception has been taken to accept the denial.
– At your bidding, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the statement; but I say that what the honorable member for Hume said was untrue.
– The honorable member desires to say that the statement was incorrect.
– I withdraw the statement that the remark was untrue, and say that it was incorrect.
– It is usual for an honorable member to accept the assurance that a statement which had been made was incorrect.
– I am not much concerned about the point at all.
– But I am concerned in seeing that the rules of the House are complied with.
– I stand by what I have said. Other members of the Public Accounts Committee who sit on the opposite side of this chamber know that my statement was correct. An officer was told off to escort the whole, committee over the building, and four members only accompanied him. When those who took part in the inspection returned to their cars, the other members of the committee had disappeared. The honorable member for Gwydir was one of those who had gone away. Those are the facts, and the honorable member has himself to thank for this exposure, because he went beyond the subject under discussion by the House in order to make an attack on the honorable member for Cook. I thought it was just as well to mention that the honorable member for Gwydir could not know much about the subject because he did not take part in the inspection.
– That is not correct.
– I leave that subject now, merely telling the honorable members that members on his own side, who were with the committee at the inspection of the stores, know that my statement is correct. As I have already indicated, I think that the honorable member for Gwydir has made the case for the Minister a good deal worse than it was before he rose- to speak. I believe that the Minister imagined that he had a complete answer to the charge laid by the honorable member for Cook. The Minister said, in effect, when he came to the end of his weak case, that a complete inquiry was to be held into the whole matter. Thus he gave his case away com pletely.
– No. I said that a. complete inquiry was proceeding.
– If there was nothing in the charge made by the honorable member for Cook, why was that assurance given? The honorable member for Gwydir did not mention that progress payments had been made on this job upon the certificates that had been issued. It was stated that everything in connexion with the affair was in order, and payments up to £46,000 had been made under the contract. Now it is said that £4,000 was kept in hand. I suggest that as a result of inquiries it will be found that the foundations have been so much reduced in strength that it will cost more than £4,000 to put them right. Perhaps, like some of the Commission’s culverts, they will have to be blown up with dynamite. It is not an accurate statement of the position to say that the money required to cover the deficiency is in hand.
– The whole job will have to be begun again.
– Yes. Statements are being made at every street corner about this affair. The honorable member for Cook and I have heard many things . about it, but we have not repeated them in this Chamber. It is said by persons who ought to know that even the 1,200 tons of cement has not all found its way into the building, because some of it has been sold for other jobs. If honorable members were to retail everything heard about this particular job, the Minister might have more justification than he has for the injured air that he adopted at the beginning of his speech. I have no hesitation, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, in referring to this subject, because it has not yet come before us officially, and I say that it calls loudly for a thorough investigation..
– Honorable members are talking in the air a good deal about this work. I have no objection whatever if an architect finds that money can be saved by altering a mixture; in fact, it would be his duty to do that. I understand that the specifications provided that he could change the mixture if he so desired; but there are two questions that might be asked, and should be answered. If the architect decided that the mixture should be altered, and money should be saved thereby, why did he not tell his principal that he proposed to make such an alteration? Why also was it left to the principal to find out, after thu job had ‘ been finished, that a certain quantity of cement had not been used? The second question that requires an answer is why was the amount of the rebate left for determination until after the contract was completed. It occurs to me that the ordinary business procedure, if the constitution of the concrete had been altered, and less cement used, would have been to make arrangements as to what reduction should be allowed on the contract.
– That also applies to the progress payments.
– Not necessarily. The architect’s certificates would show that a certain amount of work had been done, and that certain payments were due; but it is always unsatisfactory to leave important adjustments unsettled until the completion of the job, when the matter of a rebate comes up for consideration. The ordinary practice, whether money is to be saved or whether additional money is to be spent, is to reach an agreement as to the amount to be allowed as a rebate or the amount to be charged by way of extras. When listening to the Minister’s report I wondered why the contractor did not tell the Commission that the alteration had been made, and why arrangements were not made at the beginning for an adjustment of the price owing to the alteration in the composition of the concrete. The only way to ascertain the quality of the work was to have the foundations tested.
– How could they have been tested until the job was finished?
– A test of a sample of the concrete would have shown its strength. From a test which has already been made by the architect in Sydney it would appear that the mixture was satisfactory, but the Commission has insisted on a further test to which it must be a party. I deprecate the attitude of certain members in making charges against the contractor without any evidence to support them. The proposed test will show whether the work has been properly carried out. Until the result of that further test is made available, no good purpose can be served by discussing the matter. Many of the issues raised are purely hypothetical. The quality of the concrete can be determined only by a thorough test.
.- During the past few months the Minister has been faced with some awkward questions; but surely the one now before him is the most awkward with which he has had to deal. The Minister’s complacency when faced with awkward problems does not impress the House. He was careful to explain that the statement which he placed before honorable members was not his own. Indeed, apart from a few introductory remarks, he made it clear that he desires to wash his hands of the whole matter; but neither he nor the Government can escape responsibility in that way. Surely the Government is in control of the country, and of this Territory in particular. Its stubborn adherence to the contract system has brought about this mess, for which it must accept the responsibility. The Minister, representing the people of Australia, should have demanded a complete statement in reply to the charges made; but he has contented himself with submitting an incomplete statement to the House. He cannot putforward the plea that he knew nothing of the matter; almost every one in the Territory knew that it was proposed to ventilate it.
– I knew about it only at five minutes to 2 o’clock this afternoon, when the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) informed me of his intention.
– Notwithstanding the great activity displayed in an attempt to stave off this inquiry, the Minister now tells us that only at five minutes to 2 o’clock this afternoon was he aware of it.
– The honorable member’s own colleagues will support my statement.
– It is probably correct that the Minister had no definite knowledge of the intention of the honorable member for Cook to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon; but he must have known about the matter itself, in which case he should have demanded a complete statement from the officers concerned. In the construction of large buildings, requiring huge quantities of materials, accepted scientific standards are followed. Those standards are the result of a gradual development based on experience and investigation. The various cement companies and building authorities, not only in Australia, but also throughout the world, make available from time to time the latest . information on the subject. The tensile strength of certain mixtures is well known; there is no guess-work about them. The authorities responsible for the construction of this building - the first permanent structure in the National Capital - ought to have known the quantities of materials required for its foundations. They should have been able to estimate to within a ton the quantities of cement, metal, and sand required for its foundations. Yet the work of construction proceeded to the stage of completion without the Federal Capital Commission being informed of the modifications of the standard of the cement mixture. The truth came to light only because a storeman who had been told to provide at least 1,800 tons of cement reported that not more than 1,200 tons of cement have been used in the building. When Sir John Harrison, a member of the Commission, called for a report, he was calmly informed by the architect that the specification of the mixture had been modified.
– The specifications allowed for a modification of the standard.
– Does the Minister suggest that the strength of a mixture for a building of such importance should be modified 33^ per cent, without the authority of the Commission?
– There is no mention in the contract of 1,800 tons of cement. That quantity was given by Sir John Harrison as a rough estimate, at a few minutes’ notice.
- Sir John Harrison must have based his estimate upon known standards, and I am loath to believe that he, with an experience extending over 20 or 30 years in this country, was so far out as the Minister would have us believe. The Minister should inform us whether the Commission had clerks of works in constant attendance during the progress of the work, or whether the whole responsibility rests upon the representatives of the late Sydney Jones, the successful architect in the competition. It is not too late even now for the Minister to give the House the information sought. He should inform us of the names of the men who supervised the work on behalf of the Commission, and whether they at any time reported that the strength of the mixture had been altered. So far we have had no information in that connexion. The House is entitled to know whether the officers who from time to time issued certificates reported on the alteration of the strength of the mixture. The honorable member for Hume also stated that the contractor for this work sold to other contractors some of the cement supplied to him by the Commission for the foundations of the permanent administrative building. In his most complacent manner the Minister tells us that investigation is proceeding. But it is a case of an appeal from Caesar to Caesar, with which I am not satisfied. The Government is quick, indeed, to appoint a royal commission, or to take action in the civil courts, on the statements of irresponsible persons, or the representative of an irresponsible newspaper. I invite the Government to appoint yet another royal commission to inquire into the case now before the House. Unless some independent body, such as a royal commission or the Public Accounts Committee, makes a complete investigation, the people of this country will remain in ignorance of what has taken place at Canberra. I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) that there should be no necessity to bring before this House matters of a more or less municipal nature in relation to Canberra. Had the Government announced publicly that an investigation was taking place, the action taken to-day could have been avoided. I hope that the Government will supply the information desired by honorable members.
.- I regret that this matter has been raised in this way, although as a member of the Public Accounts Committee which for some time has been investigating building costs at Canberra, I welcome the fullest inquiry into all matters affecting buildings in the national capital. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) suggested that it had practically been proclaimed from the housetops that the adjournment was to be moved this afternoon to discuss this matter.
– Not the motion for adjournment, but the complaint itself. I heard about it in Sydney four weeks ago.
– I knew nothing of the intention of the honorable member for
Cook (Mr. C. Riley) to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon until you, Mr. Speaker, intimated his intention. The honorable member for Cook, if placed in the possession of information which he considered warranted a full inquiry, should have brought the matterbefore the Public Accounts Committee, of which he is a member, so that the delinquents, if any, could be called before the committee and questioned.
– He did better than that ; be brought it before the Government and the representatives of the people.
– The question raised this afternoon by the honorable member for Cook is a proper one for investigation by the Public Accounts Committee. His charge is one which calls for the fullest investigation. If, after investigation, there can be laid at the door of any individual responsibility for the action which has been taken, that individual - no matter who he may be - must suffer. I agree with the honorable member for Cook regarding the great danger to human life which faulty foundations constitute. Only last week the members of the Public Accounts Committee inspected in Melbourne a building, a portion of which, because of a faulty mixture, had collapsed during construction, involving loss of life. Too much care cannot be taken in connexion with the foundations for any building. If it can be proved that any person is responsible for a faulty mixture in the foundation of an important building in this city, that person must be punished rigorously. I hope that the Government will prosecute this inquiry vigorously. We are not in a position to say whether these foundations are sufficiently strong to carry the superstructure intended to be placed upon them, and we should have expert opinion on the subject. If architects and practical men are satisfied that there was some justification for reducing the strength of the mixture, not much harm will have been done; but it cannot be gainsaid that Sir John Harrison, the building expert of the Commission, and some of his qualified officers should have been informed of what had been done.
.- I have had a great deal of experience in referring matters to committee, and I believe that the place to discuss a subject of this importance is in this House. The people who have to pay for this work should know whether it has been well or poorly done. The honorable member for Cook deserves commendation for having had the courage to introduce this discussion. We know that he is never afraid to speak his mind when he sees poor work being done. Any contractor who dares to reduce the strength of the mixture in foundations such as these are must be put down as a potential murderer. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) referred to a building which had been erected on unstable foundations in Melbourne. I believe that two or three men lost their lives in consequence. The roof of this building is an example of the poor workmanship which has been put into some of the undertakings in this Territory. If any honorable member, or any other person for that matter, cares to visit the roof of this building he will find, not a smooth ruberoid surface, but 3 or 4 inches of pebbles embedded in tar or bitumen. If a lady wearing a dainty pair of shoes walked across the roof she would ruin her footwear. I do not know of another roof in any other part of the world like the one on this building. Two or three months ago, while Parliament was sitting, I paid a number of visits to the roof. I found that the ruberoid had lifted all over it. In wet weather water would squelch from under one’s feet, and in hot weather air would be belched out. I was informed that the contractors had not obtained a settlement for the job, as it was not satisfactory. I asked whether the roofs of other public buildings in Canberra were in the same scandalous condition, and I was informed that several of them were inadequately covered. Flat roofs are becoming more and more fashionable all over the world. I believe that, in the days to come, we shall use flat-roofed public buildings as landing places for aeroplanes. It is essential therefore that roofs should be properly covered. Although I have often objected to the appointment of additional royal commissions, I hope that the Government will appoint a committee to investigate the charges of the honorable member for Cook. These, foundations should be substantial. We have spent more than £10,000,000 so far in constructing this city, and I do not know where three miles of continuous decent road can be found in it, I do not know where the money has gone. I wish I did. I do not think that all the citizens who have poured their misfortunes into my ears are liars. They have been subjected to a form of tyranny here which is a disgrace to humanity. I do not know whether the conscience of those responsible for it pricks them in the darkness of the night 5 but there is not a single monument to the capacity of the Commission to he found anywhere in the city. If the people of Australia were asked to vote whether the building of this absurd city, from the circumference to the centre - a method which has never been attempted anywhere else in the world - should be continued or whether the Commission should be retained, I believe that they would vote an almost unanimous “ No.” They would be quite prepared to wipe this silly city of Canberra off the map.
– I was surprised to hear the Minister for Home and Territories try to shift the blame for this happening on to the shoulders of others. The Government should bear responsibility for the actions of the Commission which it appointed, just as the Commission should bear responsibility for the actions of its officers. The appointment of private architects to carry out work of this description was unpardonable. We have architects in the Department of Works and Railways as well qualified as any in the world, and there was no reason for introducing outside talent. This work should not have been done by contract. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the foundations of important public buildings are almost always laid by day labour, and the work is done under the strict supervision of the officers of the Works Department. It has been said that the strength of these foundations can be tested; but it will be a most difficult thing to test them. Many hundred feet of foundations, some of them from 10 to 15 feet deep, will have to be examined. How can the strength of them be proved. I hope that therewill be an independent inquiry into this matter. Nothing less than that will satisfy the taxpayers. Enough public money has already been tipped into this infernal sink. It is time that the expenditure was thoroughly investigated. It is our bounden duty as the representatives of the people, to see that money is not squandered here. I demand a searching and independent inquiryinto the whole matter.
Question–That the House do now adjourn- put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister for’
Health, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor that once again his officers had achieved so great a success with that lack of demonstration which had characterized so much of the work done by the Government officers of the Territory.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The imports of lemons of Italian origin in 1927-28 amounted to 5,413 centals, value £11,282. Lemons were not separately recorded in 1920-27.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Willhe state the total number of persons who have been dismissed and afterwards given employment for the years 1925-26, 1926-27, 1927-28, in various Commonwealth departments ?
– The information is being obtained.
Gift to Commonwealth
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– No recent offer of patent records has been made to the Commonwealth Government. For the information of the honorable member I may state that a recent offer has been made to and accepted by the Commonwealth Government of the presentation of certain letters, papers, documents, &c, of the late Sir Edmund Barton, relating to the movement towards federation and to public and quasi-public affairs after the institution of the Commonwealth. It is not expected that the collection will be made available to the Government for some months, but when received it will be placed in the Commonwealth National Library.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he state the amounts received as duties upon the estates of deceased persons for the years 1925-26, 1926-27, and 1927-28”, (a) in cash, and (b) in bonds?
– The amounts received in payment of estate duties are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The question of the establishment of a port at the River Murray mouth was considered at the River Murray conference held at Canberra in February last. A decision was made that the South Australian Government could, if it so desired, request the Commonwealth Government to refer the matter to the Development and Migration Commission for inquiry. Since then the Premier of South Australia has asked, through the Commonwealth Government, that the Commission should make an investigation into the matter in conjunction with the
State Public “Works Committee of South Australia. This request has been agreed to.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained as far as is possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Referring to the question by the honorable member for Brisbane on the 27th April last, regarding the unanimous resolution of the last conference in Hobart of the Associated Chambers of Commerce requesting the introduction of uniform customs duties, will he state what action has been taken and what the present position is?
– This matter has received consideration, and an amendment to the Customs Act has been drafted to give effect to the request of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. It is the intention of the Government to proceed with this amendment as soon as practicable.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Adelaide (Cheltenham), South Australia.
Adelaide (Parafield), South Australia.
Alexandra Station, North Australia.
Anthony Lagoon, North Australia.
Ballina, New South Wales.
Balranald, New South Wales.
Boologooro, Western Australia.
Bourke, New South Wales.
Broken Hill, New South Wales.
Broome, Western Australia.
Brunette Downs, North Australia.
Carnarvon (old site), Western Australia.
Carnarvon, Western Australia.
Ceduna, South Australia.
Cheltenham, South Australia.
Coode Island (Melbourne), Victoria.
Cook, South Australia.
Cootamundra, New South Wales.
Daly Waters, North Australia.
Darwin, North Australia.
De Gray, Western Australia.
Deniliquin, New South Wales.
Derby, Western Australia,
Eagle Farm, Queensland.
Essendon (Melbourne), Victoria.
Forrest, Western Australia.
Geraldton, Western Australia. .
Grafton, New -South Wales.
Hamelin Pool, Western Australia.
Harden, New South Wales.
Hay, New South Wales.
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Katherine, North Australia.
Kempsey, New South Wales.
Lae, New Guinea.
Mardie, Western Australia.
Mascot (Sydney), New South Wales.
Mount. Isa, Queensland.
Mundabullangana, Western’ Australia.
Narrandera, New South Wales.
Narromine, New South Wales.
Newcastle, New South Wales.
Newcastle Waters, North Australia.
Northampton, Western Australia.
Nyngan, New South Wales.
Onslow, Western Australia.
Parkes, New South Wales.
Perth, Western Australia.
Point Cook, Victoria.
Port Hedland, Western Australia.
Port Melbourne, Victoria.
Rawlinna, Western Australia.
Richmond, New South Wales.
Roebourne, Western Australia.
Wandageewa., Western Australia.
Wau, New Guinea.
Whim Creek, Western Australia.
Winning Pool, Western Australia.
Wooramel, Western Australia.
Yanrey, Western Australia.
Yarraloola, Western Australia.
In addition, ninety-seven (97) emergency landing grounds have been established, the number in each State being us follows: -
Queensland, 18; New South Wales, 36; Victoria, 10; South Australia, 10; Western Australia, 19; North Australia, 4.
Cheltenham (Adelaide) : Owing to the erection of high-tension cables and buildings in the vicinity. An alternative and larger areahas been acquired in lieu without any loss being occasioned by the transfer.
Kempsey, New South Wales: Site for aerodrome leased for three years. Lease expired July, 1925, and not renewed as it was considered the rental required was too high.
Norromine, New South Wales: Lease of aerodrome site expired October, 1926. Property sold and not available thereafter for further lease.
Carnarvon, Western Australia: Site originally prepared in 1921, vacated in 1924. Difficulty experienced in maintenance of the area in a satisfactory condition. Alternative site at Carnarvon therefore prepared in 1924, and still in use.
Oil, Petrol and Paraffin Used
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the total quantity of oil imported into the Commonwealth for the years 1925, 1926, and 1927 respectively?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for
Markets, upon notice -
– The embargo placed upon the entry of fresh fruits into Western Australia from other States, it is understood, is imposed for quarantine purposes by the State authorities, and is not a matter in which the Commonwealth can directly interpose. Any proposals by States interested to meet the requirements of the Western Australian authorities should be communicated direct to the latter Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Queensland could produce the whole of Great Britain’s requirements of sugar if the necessary preference were given by the British Government? 5. (a) Has he read the recent statements made by Sir Benjamin Morgan, Chairman of the British Empire Producers’ Association, indicating that he intended on his return to England to recommend to the British Government that a greater measure of preference be given to Australian sugar?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Referring to the question by the honorable member for Brisbane on the 22nd May last, regarding maternal and infant mortality in the Commonwealth, will the Minister state whether an officer has been appointed to deal specially with this work as indicated in his reply?
– No actual appointment has yet been made, but the matter is still receiving consideration by the Commonwealth Government.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
These are the latest figures available at present. There is no record of the number of offices in charge of males and females, respectively.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
The Budget, 1928-29 - Papers presented by the Honorable Earle Pago, M.P., for the information of honorable members on the occasion of opening the budget of 1928-29.
Ordered to be printed.
Import and Export Prohibitions and Restrictions - Abolition - International Conference, Geneva, 1927 - Report of the Australian Delegate.
Air Force Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 52.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c, 1928 -
No. 17 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
No. 18 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 19 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 20 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 21 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 22 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
No. 23 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1927-28 - Dated 20th June, 1928.
Customs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, Nos. 47, 57, 65, 74.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, Nos. 58, 72.
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted up to - 31st March, 1928. 30th June, 1928.
Housing Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 50.
Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 61.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 75.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Arncliffe, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, Nos. 49, 59, 73.
New Guinea Act- Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 13- Sheriff.
No. 14 - Transfer of Land Control.
No. 15- Supply (No. 1) 1928-29.
No. 16 - Judiciary (No. 2).
No. 17 - Land.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance of 1928-
No. 4 - Plant and Fruit Diseases (No. 2).
Northern Australia Act - Ordinances of 1928-
Central Australia -
No. 10 - Dangerous Drugs.
No. 11 - Administration and Probate.
No. 12 - Registration.
No. 13 - Crown Lands.
No. 14 - Crimes.
No. 15 - Local Courts.
No. 16 - Plant Diseases.
No. 17 - Aboriginals.
No. 18 - Public Service.
North Australia -
No. 10 - Dangerous Drugs.
No. 11 - Administration and Probate.
No. 12 - Registration.
No. 13 - Crown Lands.
No. 14 - Crimes.
No. 15 - Local Courts.
No. 16 - Plant Diseases.
No. 17 - Aboriginals.
No. 18 - Encouragement of Primary Production.
No. 19 - Public Service.
No. 20 - Hospitals.
Papua Act -
Infirm and Destitute Natives Account -
Statement of Transactions of Trustees, 1927-28.
Ordinance of 1928 - No.6 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 1 ) 1927-28; together with Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure (No. 1) for the year ending 30th June, 1928.
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department of -
Health- W. M. Bevington, D. A. Dowling, E. J. Wareham.
Markets- J. T. Reynolds.
Trade and Customs - L. Barker-
Woden and S. B. Page;C. A.
Paterson, C. B. Odman, J. S. Bell, R. M. W. Cunningham, E. H. D’Arcy-Evans, and J. Eadie.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, Nos. 56, 66.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 12 - Housing (No. 2).
No. 13 - Liquor Poll.
No. 14 - Liquor Poll (No. 2).
No. 15 - Theatres and Public Halls.
No. 16 - Police Superannuation.
No. 17 - Building and Services.
Shale Oil Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 76.
– (By leave.) - It is within the knowledge of honorable members that the present House ofRepresentatives will expire by effluxion of time in January next. Under the law it is possible for the election of the new Parliament to be postponed until the beginning of March next, but since, after January of the coming year, this House itself will necessarily be dissolved, the Government has been giving consideration to the most suitable and convenient time in the public interests for the holding of the general election. Because of the climatic conditions prevailing in some parts of the Continent, the months of January, February and March are not convenient for the holding of an election in Australia, and to my mind it is obviously desirable that the poll should take place during the present year. On the other hand, it is not convenient to hold an election in Australia after the middle of November, because of the harvesting operations in our rural industries. In 1922, circumstances required the holding of an election on. the11th December, but that proved to be a most inconvenient date, leading as it did to the failure of a great number of people in the rural districts recording their votes. The fact that the law now makes voting at Commonwealth elections compulsory, renders it even more undesirable to hold an election during harvesting period, unless it is absolutely imperative to do so. All honorable members will agree that it would be unjust to require an individual either to break the law of the land by not recording his vote and so to subject himself to a penalty, or to absent himself from activities which are of vital importance to him personally. There is no need, however, under present circumstances, to impose such a hardship on ‘ any section of the people of Australia. The Government has, with the exception of one measure, completed the programme it submitted to the people at the last general election. That exception is the National Insurance Bill, which the Government, when it last sought the approval of the people, promised to bring down. It is proposed to introduce that bill in the course of the next few days. Ministers feel that, when that is done, it is desirable that they should resubmit themselves to the electors for their further endorsement. Consequently they propose to bring down immediately a bill for the holding of a referendum in connexion with the financial agreement - I have given notice of the introduction of that bill to-day - and to invite Parliament to consider as soon as possible their ‘ financial proposals for the current financial year, which will be outlined by the Treasurer in a few moments. As soon as provision’ has been made for the necessary finances of the country during the holding of the general election, I propose to ask his Excellency the Governor-General to grant a dissolution of this Parliament with the view to the holding of the election on the 17th November next. That, having regard to the interests of the people generally, is thought to be the most convenient date. I remind honorable members that if the election is to be held on the date I have mentioned, it will be necessary for the enabling bill for the holding of the referendum upon the financial agreement to be passed through the Parliament by the 17th September at the latest, and this, having regard to our sitting days, really means that it must be passed by Friday, the 14th September. I invite the cooperation of honorable members in passing this measure, as also the measures providing for the necessary financial requirements of the country during the period this Parliament will be dissolved, so that an early appeal to the electors may be made. .
Messages reported transmitting esti mates of revenue and expenditure and estimates of expenditure for additions, new works, buildings, &c., for the year ending 30th June, 1929, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply.
In Committee of Supply
– As this is the sixth consecutive budget which I have had the honour of presenting to Parliament, I propose at the outset to make a brief general review of Commonwealth finance during that period. This will involve a comparison of the expenditure of the Commonwealth in 1921-22 - the year preceding that in which the present Government came into office - and the estimated expenditure for the present year.
The outstanding facts disclosed by such a comparison are the continuing burden of war expenditure, the heavily increased cost of invalid and old-age pensions, the effective action for the redemption of debt, the increasing co-operation of ‘the Commonwealth and State Governments in matters of national concern, the encouragement of primary production, the expansion of the services of the Post Office, and the rigid control exercised over departmental expenditure.
In 1921-22, the expenditure arising out of the war was £31,337,000. In 1928- 29 it is estimated at £29,822,000. This expenditure has remained practically stationary for several years and must so continue for many years. On the other hand, the cost of invalid and old-age pensions has nearly doubled in the period under review, the increase being £4,620,000. These two items alone represent more than 62 per cent, of the total expenditure under Part I. of the budget.
A sound and adequate plan for the redemption of Commonwealth war and other debt was adopted in 1923, and has materially assisted in the maintenance of the financial credit of Australia on a high basis.
During this period the Commonwealth Government has adopted and pursued a definite policy of co-operating with the State Governments in such matters as the adjustment of the financial relations between the . Commonwealth and the
States, the co-ordination of borrowing through the Australian Loan Council, the redemption of States’ debts, public health - with special attention to cancer, tuberculosis and venereal disease, federal aid roads, migration, and general development. Commonwealth revenues paid to the States have risen from £7,035,000 in 1921-22 to £11,035,000 estimated for 1928-29, an increase of £4,000,000.
At the same time, the Commonwealth has used its constitutional power to grant bounties in respect of primary production in order to assist growing industry in such a way that it may be placed ultimately on a permanent self-supporting basis.
The development of the Post Office is a notable feature of Commonwealth finance. By the judicious expenditure of loan moneys, additional and improved services have been given to all sections of the community. In 1921-22, the working expenditure of the Post Office, including debt charges, was £8,189,000. In 1928-29, it is expected that this expenditure will reach £12,889,000. The revenue from the expanded services has, however, so increased that, notwithstanding a reduction in charges, a small surplus is anticipated.
The rigid control of departmental expenditure is evidenced by a comparison of the estimated expenditure in 1928-29 and the actual expenditure in 1921-22. The cost per head of population of the departmental expenditure in 1921-22 was 10s. 7d., whilst in 1928-29 it is expected to amount to only 9s. l0d. per head. Despite the costs of new services such as administration of Bankruptcy and the Department of Markets, and the increased expenditure due to expanding business, such as that of the Department of Trade and Customs, the control of departmental expenditure has been so effective that the cost of administration over all shows a decrease of 9d. per head as compared with the year 1921-22.
Notwithstanding this excellent record, the Government is continuing to explore other avenues in which expenditure may be reduced. During the year it has undertaken a complete overhaul of all Government expenditure and has secured the co-operation of departments. in a continuous economy campaign beginning with Departmental Committees, which, working in co-operation with the Public Service Insspectors in the several States, will deal with all phases of administration and organization. The reports of these committees are dealt with by a Central Advisory Committee, which will make recommendations to the Government from time to time.
The estimated expenditure out of the ordinary revenues of the Commonwealth in 1928-29 is £9,058,000 in excess of the actual expenditure in 1921-22. Of this increase, £4,000,000 is accounted for by the payments to the States and £4,620,000 by invalid and old-age pensions- ra total of £8,620,000. These two items of expenditure have been made in accordance with the policy of the Government, which has already been endorsed by the people or accepted by the States of the Commonwealth. The other variations in the expenditure in the period under review are not of great significance and are not out of proportion to our increased population and development.
A similar review of the revenue discloses a greatly increased yield from indirect taxation and substantial reductions in direct taxation. The revenue from indirect taxation in 1921-22 was £27,630,000. In 1928-29 the estimated revenue is £43,300,000 - an increase of £15,670,000. Direct taxes yielded £22,049,000 in 1921-22, and are expected to yield £15,110,000 in 1928-29- a decrease of £6,939,000. The net increase from taxation as a whole is estimated at £8,731,000.
With the unavoidable expenditure which existed in 1921-22, and still exists in 1928-29, and the additional expenditure which has since become necessary, through the development of the Commonwealth and the establishment of progressive social reforms, a decrease in the total revenue from taxation could not be looked for. An entirely wrong impression, however, is gained if the weight of taxation is measured without regard to the movements in production and population, which, after all, are the bases on which taxation rests.
In the year 1921-22, when our production totalled £344,302,000, the taxation amounted to £49,679,000, being 14.42 per cent, of the value of production. In the year 1926-27 - the latest year for which production statistics are available - the production had increased to £446,874,000. In the same year £58,995,000 was collected from taxation, representing 13.2 per cent, of the value of production. Thus the burden on production has decreased although the nominal amount of taxation revenue has increased.
The second test of the weight of taxation is based on population. On this basis the taxation per head in 1921-22 was £9 0s. 4d. The estimate for 1928-29 is £9 4s. 4d. In the same period the payments to the States out of Commonwealth revenue increased by £4,000,000. These additional payments to the States have to that extent obviated additional State taxation. Had the payments of Commonwealth revenue to the States remained stationary, the taxation per head in 1928-29 would be estimated at £8 lis. 8d., as compared with £9 0s. 4d. in 1921-22.
During the period under review, substantial remissions of direct taxation have been granted. These have been made possible by the general buoyancy and growth of the revenue from indirect taxation. The temporary financial stringency that characterized the year just closed was, however, reflected in the yield of customs and excise revenue, which failed to reach the estimate, and as a result the revenue account of the past year closed with a deficit.
The YEAR 1927-28.
The transactions of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the year 1927-28 may be summarized thus : -
Further consideration will be given to the deficit when dealing with the anticipated revenue of the new year.
The revenue collected in 1927-28 under Part I. of the budget totalled £60,832,461, which shows a decrease of £2,535,752 compared with the collections in the previous year.
The chief factor in this decrease was a decline of £2,105,748 in the customs and excise revenue. An examination of the various items composing this head of revenue will prove interesting. Under customs duties, oils, paints and varnishes produced an increase of £422,000 over, the previous year, due mainly to the higher yield from special petrol duties. There were decreases under ales, spirits and beverages, £88,000; silk piece goods, £176,000; vehicles, which include motor cars, £806,000; tires, £451,000; musical instruments, £156,000; jewellery and fancy goods, £107,000. Under excise there was a decline of £181,000 in duties received from spirits. These decreases amount to £1,965,000, and it will be noted that they represent in the main duties on luxuries. The decline in customs and ex- ‘ cise revenue can therefore be almost wholly set down to the reduced purchases of luxuries brought about by the temporary depression.
The special customs duties on petrol and motor chassis, imposed in pursuance of the Federal Aid Roads policy, yielded £1,630,670 in 1927-28, of which- £1,393,878 represented petrol duty. The Commonwealth contribution towards Federal Aid Roads for the year was £2,000,000.
Although the revenue from direct taxation was £251,203 less than the actual collections of the previous year, it proved to be £1,441,128 in excess of the estimate.
Land tax realized £857,206 more than the estimate, due largely to the assessments for the year being in a very forward position, and including large payments of arrears.
The collections from income tax exceeded the estimate by £365,175. The explanation of this increase is found chiefly in the exceptional payments of tax and penalties arising out of a recent case of taxation evasion.
Estate duties, the revenue from which is always difficult to estimate, produced £352,118 more than was anticipated.
Expenditure from Revenue 1927-28.
Excluding the payments made from the surplus brought forward from 30th June, 1927, the expenditure under Part I. of the Estimates was estimated at £50,855,434. The actual expenditure was £51,432,274, an increase of £576,840. The chief items of increase are: -
When issuing the approximate statement of receipts and expenditure for 1927-28 shortly after the close of the financial year, I explained that four years ago the Government entered upon a special programme of naval fleet construction which was now almost completed. In the budget of last year £200,000 of the accumulated surplus at 30th June, 1927, was allocated for national insurance and £50,000 for prospecting for oil. As these amounts were not required during the year for the purposes set out, they were ultimately used for naval construction, and the sum appropriated for naval construction from the 1926-27 surplus was thus increased from £1,880,000 to £2,130,000. . The total cost of the programme is £7,400,000, towards which sums totalling £6,630,000 had already been provided out of surplus revenue available from 1926-27 and previous years. As the expenditure was of a non-recurring character the practice had been adopted of setting aside the sums required out of surpluses rather ,than making provision in annual budgets, :which would have involved additional taxation. The balance of £770,000, making up the total cost of the programme, was charged to the accounts of the year 1927-28, as it was considered it would be unwise to impose special taxation in the current year to meet this expenditure. This method had the effect of increasing the deficit for the expired year, and the amount will be left for liquidation with the deficit.
It was estimated that,’ after allowing for a small surplus on the operations of the Post Office, the deficit on the Commonwealth railways would result in a net deficit of £227,578 in Part II. of the budget, Business Undertakings. The actual transactions resulted in a deficit of £438,034, due chiefly to the fact that the expected surplus in postal operations was not realized.
Under Part III., Territories of the Commonwealth, it was expected that a contribution of £446,215 would be required from Commonwealth revenue to meet the shortage on territorial revenue. The actual shortage proved to be £509,204.
This difference was due to the fact that the Treasury did not receive from the
Federal Capital Commission the expected interest on loans. All the revenue received by the Commission in 1927-28 was required to meet working expenses and the interest for the year was therefore not paid to Commonwealth revenue, but was added to the indebtedness of the Commission. It is anticipated that in 1928-29 the Commission will have surplus revenue to the amount of £75,000 available for payment of interest to the Treasury.
Payments to or for the States under Part IV. of the budget were estimated to place a burden of £11,147,912 on the budget. The actual requirements proved to be £11,083,186.
The National Debt
I will now pass to the consideration of the position of the national debt, and the capital expenditure for the year just closed, and that estimated for the present year.
I propose, as I have already done in regard to other phases of Commonwealth finance, to review the growth and character of the debt charges for the last six years, which can best be done by means of a statement showing the position under the usual heads.
It will be seen that during this period our debt on works, which were almost wholly of a reproductive character, with tangible assets, increased by £47,618,226, but that against this figure we are able to offset a reduction of £39,673,728 in our dead weight (war) debt. Taking our Commonwealth debt as a whole, but omitting States’ debts, the per capita amount at 30th June, 1922, was £66 4s. 3d., and at 30th June, 1928, £59 15s. lOd. - a decrease during the six years of £6 8s. 5d. per head.
Of . the increase of £47,618,226 on account of works, over £24,000,000 is in respect of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the balance being on account of Commonwealth railways, war service homes, and other works.
In regard to the amount expended in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s Department, it was explained to Parliament by my predecessor, the present Prime Minister, in his budget speech of 1922, that it was impossible to place the services provided by that department on a proper basis out of revenue without imposing an intolerable burden on the taxpayers. Information obtained as to the systems adopted in the leading countries of the world showed that the practice universally adopted was to provide for capital works out of loan, provision being made for repayment by means of a sinking fund based upon the life of the assets. The Commonwealth, with universal approval, accordingly adopted this practice, a sinking fund of 1£ per cent, being provided in respect of loan moneys expended by that department. It is anticipated that the revenue of the department this year will be sufficient to pay all working expenses and interest and sinking fund charges.
As regards loan moneys expended on railways, the debt has been incurred in carrying out the policy of unification of railway gauges, and in fulfilment of the contract entered into with the South Australian Government and approved by Parliament in regard to railway connexion with the Northern Territory. The only other considerable amount is that relating to war service homes, which has now been placed upon a satisfactory basis showing a profit on the transactions. The alternative to providing for these expenditures out of borrowed moneys would be to increase greatly our rates of taxation in order to provide the necessary money. This, however, would be an unfair and unjust tax on the present generation for capital facilities which will last for many years, and for which the present generation should only pay its share according to the advantages derived therefrom.
It will be observed from the statement which I have given above, that over £70,000,000 was raised by the Commonwealth for the States during the last six years. This is in accordance with the policy of co-ordinated borrowing by the Commonwealth for the States, which places the credit ©f the Commonwealth behind the individual States to secure the best terms possible, and is a feature of the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
Loan Expenditure, 1927-28
The loan expenditure for 1927-28 wa i estimated as follows: -
Before the financial year had far advanced, it was realized by the Loan Council that there would be some difficulty, in the straitened financial position, of obtaining on satisfactory terms all the loan moneys included in the budgets, and the members of the council therefore agreed to curtail their expenditures. As a result the actual operations of the Commonwealth were as follows : -
The chief items of Commonwealth expenditure were -
This amount of £7,780,157 represents the actual expenditure before deducting a repayment of £163,216 on account of the sale of ships. The net loan expenditure was therefore £7,616,941.
In all, £5,466,834 was made available for redemption of Commonwealth debt year. Details of this amount are - £
The Sinking Fund moneys were employed almost wholly in the purchase of Commonwealth securities on the market, redemption of loans on maturity, and Commonwealth Stock and Bonds accepted in payment of probate, succession and estate duty. Purchases of Commonwealth securities were made in the Australian, London, and New York markets.
Under the terms of the Financial Agreement, £1,899,677 will be available on account of 1927-28 for the redemption of State debts. “We were not able to use this amount last year owing to the fact that one State had not ratified the financial agreement by the 30th June. That State has since passed the necessary legislation, which was reserved for the Royal Assent. We have now received word that the Royal Assent has been granted, so that all the States are now in line. Details of this amount are -
New Raisings, 1927-28
During the last financial year external loans of the following amounts were raised by the Commonwealth for its own purposes and for the States: -
The Commonwealth’s share of this liability is £13,600 165, and the States’ £26,893,619.
In regard to the borrowings in New York, it is worthy of remark that the terms of the loan raised in that centre in May last were the most favorable obtained by the Commonwealth overseas for some time past, and were the best that any government, except that of Canada, has obtained in New York since the war.
In December last conversion was effected of £36,000,000 of our 4J per cent, and 5 per cent. War Loans, which then fell due. The basis of conversion was an interest rate of 5 per cent, and an issue price of £98 10s. With this conversion operation the last of our Commonwealth tax free loans disappeared. Of the maturing loan, £1,020,000 was paid off by the National Debt Commission.
A further conversion operation covering £21,000,000 maturing on the 15th September, 1928, has just been completed, on the same terms, the amount required having been fully subscribed by the public three weeks before the maturity date.
Debt Transactions, 1927-28
It is cause for some satisfaction that we are steadily wearing down this war heritage and that this part of our debt has been reduced by nearly £40,000,000 during the past six years.
The balance of our debt has been in curred to finance Commonwealth public works, and for the States and the Federal Capital Commission.
The amount of £36,546,622 was shared as follows: - Commonwealth, £9,668,234; States and Federal Capital Commission, £26,878,388.
– I shall explain that item later for the information of the honorable member.
This increase of £36,546,622 in 1927- 28 will, no doubt, be regarded as a large one, especially if it is compared with the increase of £10,265,378 in 1926-27. I should therefore explain that, owing to unfavorable borrowing conditions in 1926-27, arrears of borrowing had to be carried forward from that year into 1927- 28. Pending the raising of these moneys the various governments were compelled to arrange for temporary accommodation by means of bank overdraft or the use of other funds that were available to them for the time being. The larger borrowing in 1927-28 is also due to some extent to New South Wales having rejoined the Loan Council and having shared in our borrowing.
At 30th June, 1928, there were no arrears of borrowing either for the Commonwealth or the States. This was a satisfactory position to attain in the first year of co-ordinated borrowing under the financial agreement, and must materially ameliorate the loan position during this financial year.
The amount of £200,708,994 “Other Debt “ was incurred as follows : -
The corresponding figure for 30th June, 1927, was £340,978,952.
This shows an increase during the year of £6,189,205. The main factor in this increase was the adjustment of debt following the sale of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, and the reversion to the Commonwealth of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. In ascertaining the net debt at the 30th June, 1927, a sum of £5,214,500, representing the face value of the debentures of the Commonwealth Shipping Board held by the Treasury, was deducted from the gross debt as a sum repayable to the Treasury. In ascertaining the net debt at the 30th June, 1928, the amount so deducted was only £1,736,784, this being the amount of purchase money for the ships then outstanding. Nearly 31/2 million pounds of the increase in the net debt during the year is accounted for by this adjustment.
The net debt at 30th June, 1922, was £339,002,105. The increase in six years was £8,166,052, notwithstanding the loss on the ships.
Our gross debt of £494,129,100 is redeemable as follows: -
The London figure includes £84,215,448 still due under the funding arrangement with the British Government.
The States’ Debts
I am not in a position to give figures showing the debts of the States at 30th June, 1928. Those for 30th June, 1927, however, were: -
This debt includes a sum of £96,810,089 in respect of loans raised by the Commonwealth for the States, also Northern Territory and Port Augusta railway loans taken over by the Commonwealth. The debt of £679,223,572 is held as follows :-
The States’ debt was incurred almost wholly in the creation of railways, water and other works and services of a revenueearning nature. After paying expenses in operating these undertakings, the net revenue available for the payment of interest was £19,065,522, or an average of £2 16s. 2d. per cent.
The State sinking funds at 30th June, 1927, amounted to £19,850,695.
The gross debt of the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1928, and the States at 30th June, 1927, omitting debt included in both Commonwealth and State debts, was £1,076,542,583.
The Commonwealth Bank is closely associated with the loan activities of the
Commonwealth Government. In addition to joining in the underwriting of loans, it acts as agent of the Treasury iu the flotation of new loans and in the conversion of maturing loans. During the year it shared in the underwriting of two war conversion loans amounting to £36,000,000 and £20,000,000 respectively.
The progress of the bank during the year lias been satisfactory. There has been a substantial increase in profits, whilst the reserves are being steadily strengthened and the business is expanding. The bank has progressed towards the desired position of a central reserve bank, and has given material aid in providing London money for Australian trade. The exchange rates have been maintained on a basis distinctly favorable to primary producers and during the year the variation in the rate has been trivial. An agency of the bank has been opened in New York, which will assist in the handling of Commonwealth loans raised in that centre.
During the twelve months ended 30th June, 1928, the profits of the Commonwealth Bank, excluding the note issue, amounted to £708,901, as compared with £600,963 for the year 1926-27.
This department ‘ has materially . assisted in the marketing of primary produce. As the objects and activities of the Rural Credits Department have . become better understood, they have been more sought by the smaller organizations. Owing to the smaller wheat yield, less business has been done with the wheat pools, and therefore the turnover has not reached such a high figure as during the preceding season, but the number of the various classes of primary products assisted has considerably increased. At present, advances are made against arrowroot, broom millet, butter, canned fruits, pulp, cotton, eggs, egg pulp, maize, peanuts, wheat, wine, fortifying spirit, and wool. The usefulness of the Rural Credits Department has been amply demonstrated by the advantages to producers in placing their products on the market in an orderly manner and without undue depression of prices. By utilizing the capital of the Rural
Credits Department and obtaining advances from the general banking department of the bank it has been possible to meet all the business offering. The rate charged on advances, namely, 6 per cent, per annum, is considerably below the general ruling rate for overdrafts.
Note Issue Department
The profits of the Note Issue Department were £1,128,365, of which £846,274 was paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Commonwealth, while the capital of the Rural Credits Department was increased by £282,091.
Legislative effect has been given to the Government’s housing scheme. As the Commonwealth does not desire to enter into house building in competition with the existing housing authorities, the Commonwealth scheme provides for advances for housing being made through existing authorities subject to those authorities complying with the conditions laid down in the Commonwealth law. The scheme is already in operation in the Federal Capital Territory, but some amendment of existing State legislation is necessary to enable State institutions to obtain advances from the Commonwealth Savings Bank, which handles the scheme. The necessary action will be taken in at least three States during the present financial year.
The estimated loan expenditure is £1,244,218 in excess of the actual expenditure for last year. Of this increase, Parliament House, Canberra, is responsible for £638,500, but as this amount will: be paid to the Federal Capital Commission, a corresponding reduction is made in the provision necessary for Capital Territory . works.
The estimated expenditure on War Service Homes is £1,047,417 in excess of the expenditure out of loan in 1927-28, The actual increase in expenditure on War Service Homes from all sources is estimated at £254,000. The balance of the increase, namely, £793,417, is due to the altered method of dealing with War Service Homes receipts. This will be explained fully when dealing with the general questiou of repatriation at a later stage.
The two increases mentioned total, £1,685,917, and as the net increase is £1,244,218, it will be seen that decreases in expenditure in other directions total’ £441,699.
Provision is made for a total programme of £750,000 for the Federal Capi-, tal Commission. Of this amount,. £638,500 will be available when the Treasury pays to the Commission the cost of Parliament House, and £100,000 will be borrowed by the Commission from the Commonwealth Bank under authority already granted. The balance, namely, £11,500, is included in the loan estimates.
An amount of £4,400,000 is included in the loan estimates for loans for the States for development and migration, and an amount of £100,000 for loans for the North Australian Commission.
River Murray Works
The Commonwealth and the States have agreed to limit the programme of River Murray works during the next four years to the completion of the Hume Reservoir, the Lake Victoria storage, all weirs and locks from No. 1 (Blanchetown), to No. 11 (Mildura), and weir and lock No. 15 (Euston). The cost of these works is tentatively estimated at £3,500,000, of which £1,000,000 will be provided by the four contracting governments during 1928-29. ;
The expenditure on River Murray works during 1927-28, amounted to £1,000,000, the Commonwealth share being £250,000. The total expenditure to the 30th June, 1928, was £6,134,500, towards which the Commonwealth contributed £1,533,625.
Soldier Land Settlement
In presenting last year’s budget I referred to the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in July, 1927, at which the Government undertook to review the incidence of losses in connexion with soldier land settlement as between the Commonwealth and the States.
Mr. Justice Pike was appointed to carry out this review, and make the necessary inquiries into the actual position.
A considerable amount of preliminary work had to be carried out by the States before the inquiry could be undertaken. It was necessary to make re-valuations in a great number of cases, and to prepare accounts to show the actual financial results of the settlement scheme. The preparatory work has been accomplished more quickly in some States than in others, and while Mr. Justice Pike has been able to carry his investigations to a certain point, he has been unable to complete the inquiry owing to the delay in some of the larger States. His report is expected in the near future.
I would add that the Government considers that any concession in the direction of sharing a greater portion of the burden of loss than the £10,000,000 which the Commonwealth has already undertaken, should be conditional on a satisfactory settlement of the problem as between soldier settlers and the State Governments. Such a settlement can be secured only by the States, as the Commonwealth is not in a position to deal with individual settlers.
– No such action will be taken before a settlement has been effected.
Approval has been given to the expenditure of £7,345,636 by the States on developmental schemes under the £34,000,000 migration agreement between the British and Commonwealth Governments. Limited sums have been provided for preliminary work in the investigation of the Dawson Valley Irrigation Scheme, in Queensland, and a scheme for the establishment of 3,500 farms in new wheat-growing areas in Western Australia. The total estimated cost of the schemes submitted to date by the States is £15,207,964.
In 1927-28, 26,925 assisted immigrants arrived in Australia. This number compares with 33,174 in 1926-27, and 26,678 in 1925-26. The falling off is due mainly to reduced State requisitions for migrants following on temporary adverse conditions in Australia.
Expenditure out of Revenue, 1928-29.
Presentation of Accounts
The method of the presentation of accounts adopted by me some time ago, whereby the Business Undertakings, the Territories of the Commonwealth, and the payments to or for the States are separated from the main governmental budget, is still being observed. It is interesting to notice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopted a similar practice when presenting his budget for the current financial year to the British Parliament. In dealing with this subject the Chancellor said : - “ It is a matter of common agreement between the financial authorities of all parties, I think, that the growth in the selfbalancing expenditure of the Post Office and the Road Fund grants ought not to appear in our accounts on precisely the same footing as an increase in ordinary burdensome expenditure.”
He further states: - “In the statement of ordinary revenue and expenditure I leave only the surplus of the Post Office and the excess of the motor vehicle duties over the Road Fund grants. The Post Office expenditure and the Road Fund grants are shown quite separately as selfbalancing items.”
Part I. - Departments and Services other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
The estimated expenditure for the current year under this part of the Estimates is £51,669,717, which is £237,443 in excess of the expenditure of the previous year after omitting payments made out of Surplus existing at 30th June, 1927. The chief items of increase are as follow : -
Great care has been exercised iu reducing the expenditure to the lowest possible minimum, but when it is realized that more than 86 per cent, of the expenditure is represented by war, repatriation, defence, and invalid and old-age pensions, it will be seen how limited is the field in which reductions of expenditure can be made. The various departmental estimates have been prepared with the view to the greatest economy compatible with the efficient discharge of the public services, and Ministers are prepared to explain fully their estimates when they are under the consideration of the House. A continuous departmental economy campaign will be maintained throughout the year, and advantage will be taken of any possibilities of savings that are discovered.
The increase in invalid and old-age pensions is due to the normal increase of pensioners and to further concessions which will be explained later.
The increase of £25,717 in miscellaneous services is entirely due to the vote of £115,000 for the general elections and referendum. Decreases in other directions have brought about the net increase of £25,717. I might here state that the total expenditure provided for the elections and referendum, including the printing of rolls, exceeds last year’s expenditure by £129,822.
In 1927-28, £284,049 was provided for additions, new works and buildings, of which £192,440 only was spent. The increase of £51,595 for 1928-29 is due to the war memorial, for which £50,000 is provided.
The decrease iu statutory payments of £256,096 is mainly due to the reduced wine export bounty.
Repatriation op Australian Soldiers.
War pensions are still increasing in number and in total amount, owing chiefly to the increased number of dependent children entitled to pensions. The number of pensions in force at the 30th June, 1928, was 266,670, the increase for the year being 6,849. The expenditure is expected to be greater in 1928-29 than in any previous . year and is estimated at £7,610,000.
The Government has given careful consideration to the request of the federal executive of the Returned Soldier’s’ and Sailors’ League to establish a board of appeal to which an appeal may be made against the assessment of war pensions. As the law stands at present, such appeals may be made to the Repatriation Commission, which carries out its duties subject to the control of the Minister. The present Minister for Repatriation, Sir Neville Howse, who is peculiarly fitted for this work, had personally reviewed thousands of appeals. Unfortunately, the detail work involved, combined with the Minister’s growing duties in other directions, makes it imperative that ultimately he should be relieved of the responsibility of personally reviewing pension claims. The Government therefore proposes to establish a War Pensions. Appeal Board, but before so doing it will obtain the experience of other countries, so that the system adopted by the Commonwealth may be based on the best possible experience.
Widows of soldiers who had been killed or had died as a result of war injuries, and who were supporting dependent children or were not in receipt of any income beyond their pension, received a pension of £2 2s. per week. Other widows received a pension of £1 3s. 6d. per week. The Government has now decided to provide a pension of £2 2s. per week for these widows.
The expenditure on repatriation is estimated at £930,663, an increase of £55,129 on the expenditure of last year.” This is chiefly due to the new benefits approved during 1927- 28 for the transportation of certain classes of soldiers, living allowances for the third and subsequent children, the increased cost of the training of children under the education scheme and the greater number of persons receiving medical treatment. At the 30th June, 1928, 25,939 living allowances were in force, 8,081 persons were receiving medical treatment, and 5,639 children were in training.
War Service Homes
Last year 2,077 war service homes were provided, whilst the total number to 30th June, 1928, was 32,961. The expenditure during 1927-28 amounted to £1,646,000, whilst the estimated expenditure for 1928-29 is £1,900,000.
Good management now results in applicants securing homes at satisfactory prices and without loss to the Government. A small profit is, in fact, disclosed in the annual accounts. The cost of administration, however, is borne by the Commonwealth.
Since the inception of the War Service Homes Scheme it has been the practice to pay into a trust fund all sums received for interest and rent on war service homes. These moneys have subsequently been used in the provision of new homes. In this manner a reserve has been built up out of revenue, and the assets of the fund now exceed the liabilities by approximately £3,750,000. The Government considers the time has arrived when the interest and rent on war service homes should properly be credited to revenue and set off against the interest payable by the Commonwealth on loans raised for war service homes purposes. The Consolidated Revenue Fund estimates for this year, therefore, include £800,000, representing receipts of interest and rents on war service homes. Parliament will be asked to amend the law to give effect to this proposal, and in future practically the full amount required for war service homes will be provided on the loan estimates.
The moneys received by the Common- wealth in repayment of the capital cost of war service homes will continue to be paid to the National Debt Sinking Fund for the redemption of debt in accordance with the practice established in 1923.
– There is an insurance fund already in operation.
Satisfactory progress has been made in carrying out the five-year programme of defence development inaugurated in 1924. This programme requires an additional expenditure of £1,000,000 per annum for the development of ordinary defence services, and in addition £7,400,000 was. necessary to carry out the policy of naval construction.
The naval construction programme is practically finished. The two 10,000-ton cruisers and the two submarines have been completed, whilst the seaplane carrier should be ready in December. The graving dock at Cockatoo Island has been extended to accommodate the new cruisers, and good progress is being made with the 15,000-ton floating dock at Walsh Island. Two 8,000-ton oil storage tanks have been erected at Darwin,’ two are in course of erection, and sites are being prepared for two additional tanks. The survey of the Great Barrier Reef is being continued.
Provision is made in 1928-29 for the additional personnel for the cruisers, submarines, and seaplane carrier, for the training of Citizen Force and Royal Australian Naval Reserve personnel, for the purchase of munitions and aircraft equipment and the development of munition factories. Military training will be carried out on the same basis as in 1927-28. A commencement has been made in the mechanization of certain units, and training with mechanized vehicles is to be extended to other units. Mobilization sites have been acquired in South Australia and Tasmania, ordnance accommodation has been extended and improved, and additional training facilities and improvements to properties are proposed for this year.
The Royal Australian Air Force has been materially strengthened, and £150,000 has been set aside for obtaining modern types of aeroplanes for the Air Service Squadrons and new types of training machines. The Government is securing the advice of a senior officer of the Royal Air Force in regard to the air defence of the Commonwealth and the organization, training and equipment of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Since the commencement of the fiveyear development programme, the expenditure on Defence, including civil aviation has been : -
In addition, £2,000,000 was provided from the surplus in 1923-24 for naval construction and £500,000 for a reserve for Defence.
An additional air mail service between Cloncurry and Normanton and a new flying school were established last year. Six air mail services and five flying training schools are now operating. The PerthAdelaide air mail service will commence in April next, while it is hoped that contracts for the Charleville-Brisbane and Camooweal-Daly Waters services will be arranged shortly. New flying training schools will be established at Brisbane and Launceston, and substantial improvements effected at the Government’s terminal aerodromes in the State capitals, where hangar accommodation will be provided for use by private owners of aircraft.
Last year’s appropriation of £200,000 will enable the Commonwealth to make material progress . in the programme which will ultimately place Australia in the forefront of civil aviation.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
At “ the 30th June last there were 194,884 invalid and old-age pensioners, an increase of 9,251 during the year. The annual liability at that date was £9,900,000 and the actual cost for 1927- 28 was £9,790,346. The payments in 1928-29 are estimated to increase to £10,000,000.
In 1917 the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was amended in the direction of exempting war pensions from income for the purposes of calculating invalid and old-age pensions to any person in receipt of a pension by reason of being a dependant within the meaning of the War Pensions Act. The Government has now decided to extend this concession to ex-soldiers themselves who are applicants for old-age pensions. The concession will not apply to applicants for invalid pensions, as it is not thought proper that two pensions should be provided by the Government for invalidity.
An anomaly in the treatment of pensioner inmates of asylums, which has arisen owing to the increase in the rate of pension to £1 per week, is now being removed. At the present time, when a pensioner becomes an inmate of a benevolent asylum, his ordinary pension is suspended and an asylum pension of 4s. per week is substituted. When a pensioner enters a hospital his pension is reduced to 4s. per week after he has been in the hospital for 28 days. When the reduced pension of 4s. per week is paid, the institution receives 10s. 6d. per week for maintenance of the pensioner inmate. After discussing the matter with the State Treasurers and others interested, the Government has decided that the asylum and hospital pension will be increased to 5s. 6d. per week, and that the payments to institutions will be increased to 14s. 6d. per week.
A bill will be introduced before Parliament rises to make the necessary amendments in the law.
The Government will immediately introduce a bill to provide for a scheme of national insurance, the cost of which will be shared between the Commonwealth, the employer and the employee.
Development of Industries
Besides dealing with the developmental schemes of the States under the Migration Agreement, the Development and Migration Commission has been conducting important investigations in various branches of industry with a view to increasing the productive power of Australia. Valuable reports have been furnished on the dried fruit industry and the future development of the Murray Valley, on the gold-mining industry and on the economic position of Tasmania. The possibilities of the use of crude oil for transport purposes is also receiving urgent attention, and a director of tobacco research has been appointed to direct the technical side of an investigation into the tobacco industry. Systematic inquiries are being pursued into the possibilities of developing the fishing industry.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
During the two years of its existence the council has made considerable progress in its investigations and has set up a satisfactory and fruitful basis of cooperation with other scientific organizations, both in Australia and in other parts of the Empire.
The investigations of the council already cover a very wide field and new investigations are being undertaken from time to time. The matters dealt with include prickly pear, the nutrition of sheep, the improvement of Australian pastures, many diseases and pests of stock, noxious weeds and insects, diseases of plants, problems of viticulture and citriculture soils investigation, timber seasoning, timber preservation and the utilization of forest products, dairying research, radio research, cold storage work, &c.
In 1925-26, £250,000 was appropriated for scientific and industrial investigations and £100,000 for an endowment fund for science and industry. In 1927-28 a further £250,000 was provided for investigations. The administrative and miscellaneous expenditure is as follows: - 1926- 27, £9,170; 1927-2S, £8,987; 1928-29, £8,220.
Engineering Standards Association
The standardization movement is one of the outstanding industrial developments of recent times, and much success has attended the endeavours of the association to eliminate waste in industrial processes through a reduction in the multiplicity of sizes, types, qualities and methods in relation to products and procedure. During 1927-28, 42 additional standard specifications were published, the total number now being 125. These specifications are being largely adopted for use throughout the Commonwealth, and’ a system of collaboration between British and various Empire organizations for uniformity of specifications and practice is being arranged.
The Power Survey Committee has published a report on coal and lignite resources of the Commonwealth, and also a report on development in the combustion of Victorian brown coal. A report on water power resources is well advanced, and a further report on power requirements in Australia is in course of preparation.
The grant of £5,000 per annum made by the Commonwealth since 1926-27 to the Engineering Standards Association is being continued.
Oil and Precious Metals
Active steps have been taken to encourage the search for oil and prospecting for precious metals. Of £210,000 appropriated for the former purpose, £90,759 had been expended at the 30th June, 1928, whilst £4,967 had been expended, out of £40,000 appropriated, for advances for prospecting for precious metals. In addition, the Commonwealth has provided £20,000 for the purpose of conducting in Australia a comprehensive test of various geophysical methods of prospecting for minerals, metals, oil and water. This geophysical survey has now been commenced.
Very satisfactory progress is being made in health matters, and some approach to a coherent national policy has been made possible by the creation of a Federal Health Council. The purchase of radium marked a commencement in establishing a national system for the treatment of cancer, thus anticipating the recommendations of the Cancer Commission appointed by the League of Nations Health Organizations. The establishment of the National Museum of Australian Zoology has afforded recognition of the importance of anatomical research, while the erection of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Sydney makes possible for the first time the effective teaching of all those engaged in public health work and effective research into problems of tropical hygiene both in Australia and in the Pacific.
The Government has recognized the importance of research and has already subsidized directly research into cancer, hydatids, snake venoms, infantile paralysis, and other Australian problems.
Primary Products and Bounties
In 1927-28 we had a favorable season for wool, with good prices, but a generally unfavorable season for wheat. At the present time, the prospects for a substantially increased wool clip and a bountiful wheat harvest in 1928-29 are highly favorable.
The main activities of the Department of Markets now are the organization of overseas marketing, trade publicity abroad, and the maintenance of a high standard in respect of primary produce exported.
The export and sale abroad of butter, cheese, dried fruits and canned fruits are controlled by boards, which have effected savings of £225,000 in freight and insurance, and have secured better returns to producers by the regulation of shipments and the co-ordination of sales.
Since 1925, the Government has set aside £150,000 for subsidizing on a £1 for £1 basis the advertising in Great Britain of Australian primary produce.
The preference granted by Great Britain to Australian products during the year has resulted in concessions of duty amounting to £1,416,000.
In 1927-28, £891,143 was expended on bounties as compared with £781,346 in 1926-27. The principal payments were -
On fortified wine exported, the total assistance now given is 2s. 3d. per gallon, of which1s. represents bounty, and1s. 3d. is a drawback of the excise duty. The bounty was reduced from1s. 9d. per gallon to Is. in view of the increased preference given by Great Britain on Australian wine imported. The Australian wine exporter is now in a relatively better position with this increased preference than he was under the arrangements previously existing.
The 1927 output of seed cotton was 7,069,312 lb., whilst the 1928 season is expected to produce 12,000,000 lb. owing to larger acreage planted and better climatic conditions. Proposals for developing the cotton industry have been received from the cotton growers and from manufacturers and have been referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report.
Part II. - Business Undertakings.
Before dealing with the revenue to be raised to meet the expenditure of the new year, it will be necessary to know what debit or credit balances will come from Business Undertakings, and Territories of the Commonwealth, as well as from payments to or for the States. Accordingly, I will now examine those other parts of the budget.
The contribution from revenue to meet the estimated loss on business undertakings in 1928-29 is £319,000, made up as follows: -
Whilst the operations of the Post Office in 1927-28 resulted in a small deficit of £44,000, it is expected that the present year will produce a surplus of £108,000.
The following are the estimated receipts and expenditure for the current financial year : -
The estimated expenditure shows an increase of £495,140 as compared with the actual expenditure of the previous financial year. The main reasons for the increase are as follow: -
Automatic increases in salaries due to arbitration awards and Public Service regulations.
New mail services and increased frequencies of existing services.
Additional payment to railways for carriage of mails.
Increased . payments to non-official postmasters.
Interest and sinking fund on new loans and increased maintenance charges due to additions to telephone, telegraph, and postal assets.
General expansion of business.
The estimated revenue exceeds the actual receipts of 1927-28 by £647,278, which is the recent average normal rate of increase.
Telegraph and Telephone Development
Nineteen thousand miles of trunk and telegraph wire were erected during 1927- 28. Provision has been made for the erection of 21,100 miles of trunk lines in addition to telegraph and other country lines, and for 39,000 telephones during 1928-29.
New automatic telephone exchanges, with a total capacity of 24,000 lines, were placed in service during 1927-28. The 1928- 29 Estimates provide for additional exchanges with a total capacity of 29,000 lines.
The carrier system of telephony, by means of which from one to three additional telephone channels may be superimposed upon an existing telephone line, continues to give satisfactory service. The initial installations of this equipment were made on the main trunk line routes between capital cities, but during the year 1927-28 the system has been extended to rural districts. During 1928-29 this system will be . considerably developed, thus effecting great improvements in long-distance telephone communication throughout the Commonwealth.
During the last financial year 34,337 new telephones were installed, making a grand total of 476,700. In the last four years the number of telephone exchanges has been practically doubled. Australia is gradually improving its position on the list of countries showing the greatest density of telephone development ; a year ago we were seventh on the list; now we are sixth, and are still steadily progressing.
Development in the country districts has been most marked. At the end of 1922-23, 110,434 services had been provided for country residents ; now there are 209,034 services, representing 43.85 per cent, of the total.
As intimated in my last budget speech, the Government has pursued the possibilities of extending automatic exchanges to rural areas in order to provide continuous telephone service. Advantage has been taken of the visit of the Director of Postal Services to the United States of America and Great Britain to investigate the development in those countries; As a result, several automatic installations, designed specially to suit Australian conditions, have been obtained from Great Britain for trial. When the results’ of these trials are available, a definite policy will be initiated in regard to automatic services in rural districts.
The rates charged in Australia for telephone services are very much lower than those which apply in other countries. Although this results in a small loss, it is felt that the position is justified in view of the important part that the expansion of telephone facilities plays in the development of the Commonwealth. At the same time it is interesting to note that, if we were to adopt the tariff which operates in other leading telephone countries, a large profit instead of a loss would be obtained. For example, the application of the Canadian rates would have produced a profit of approximately £2,450,000, the United States of America rates would have yielded a profit of £2,000,000, the rates charged in England would yield a profit of £1,580,000, and the New Zealand rates a profit of £1,050,000.
The entire telegraph organization has been subjected to examination, which has enabled the department to introduce measures of service and financial reform. The use of carrier wave transmission and the employment of direct printing machine systems for. the carriage of heavy traffic loads have been so satisfactory that their use is being extended as rapidly as possible. Hitherto the heavy loads between Perth and Melbourne have been manually repeated at considerable cost at Adelaide, subjecting East- West traffic to considerable delays. By the use of mechanical repeaters at Adelaide, recent trials disclose that direct working between Perth and Melbourne is practicable, enabling a fifteen minutes’ service to be provided over a distance of approximately 2,000 miles.
Every modern development in the communication art has been incorporated in the new Chief Telegraph Office in Melbourne, and a Chief Telegraph Office on similar lines is now being installed in Sydney. These new offices are the most modern of their kind in the world. The manner in which the Postmaster-General’s Department is being administered is typical of the administration of other departments.
The revenue from Commonwealth railways is expected to realize £659,000 in the current year, whilst the expenditure, including interest and sinking fund, is estimated at £1,086,000, producing a deficit of £427,000. Interest on new railway construction, which is not yet revenue producing, surveys, and miscellaneous expenditure contribute £126,000 to the deficit.
In 1924-25 the number of through passengers on the Trans-Australian railway was 24,351, whilst in 1927-28 the number had risen to 30,048, an increase of more than 23 per cent.
The Central Australia railway is showing better results since the working and maintenance was transferred to the control of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner in 1926.
The working of the Federal Territory railway, which hitherto had been in the hands of the New South Wales Railways’ Commissioners, was taken over by the Commonwealth on 1st July, 1928. Although the traffic has been adversely affected by the curtailment of construction work at the Federal Capital, it is expected that in the current year the earnings will exceed the working expenses. .
Taking the Commonwealth railways as a whole, it is expected that the earnings will show a surplus of £73,000 over actual working expenses, excluding interest and sinking fund; the anticipated results are as follows : -
Part III. - Territories of the Commonwealth.
The development of the Territories of the Commonwealth results in a dead-weight burden being placed on the budget of the Commonwealth. In the present year the charge on the budget is expected to amount to £573,000, which is an increase of £63,000 over the previous year. This increase is more than accounted for by the provision of £75,000 for the GoulburnCanberra road, and £42,500 for machinery for the Government Printing Office, Canberra. Of the latter amount, £36,000 is to reimburse the Federal Capital Commission the expenditure incurred in purchasing the initial equipment.
Federal Capital Territory
Parliament has now functioned for a full year in Canberra. - The Central Public Service staffs most closely associated with Parliament were transferred to Canberra last year and accommodated in the new Secretariat buildings. The second section of the staffs is now being transferred and is being accommodated in leased buildings.
The Government considers it essential that all the Central staffs should function in Canberra at the earliest possible date, and plans are now being made with a view to bringing the remaining staffs to the Capital.
Buildings to the value of about £350,000 have been erected by private enterprise, and city leases of a capital value of £250,000 have been granted for private buildings.
About 700 houses have been built by the Commission for public servants, and the new Commonwealth Housing Scheme, under which private residents may obtain advances on advantageous terms, has been brought into operation in the Territory.
The works for the current year include office and residential accommodation for the balance of the public servants, and approved civic buildings, such as fire brigade station, police station and court house, abattoirs, isolation hospital, recreation halls, &c. Work will be commenced on the War Memorial building and the buildings for the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
The North Australia Commission, which took up duty in January, 1927, has made extensive investigations of various parts of North and Central Australia and has submitted to” Parliament its initial scheme for the development of North Australia. Trial surveys for projected railways have been initiated, and during the current year the Commission proposes to establish new stock routes, roads and water supplies, an additional shipping service for settlers at the Daly and Victoria rivers, transport services between Daly Waters and Mataranka, and to grant additional financial assistance to primary producers in North and Central Australia.
Part IV. - Payments to or for the States.
The accounts for 1927-28 are historic inasmuch as they record for the first occasion the transactions under the Financial Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
The budget was based on the assumption that the agreement which had been arrived at between representatives of the respective Governments in July last year would be ratified by the several Parliaments. That assumption has been realized and the agreement operated as from 1st July, 1927.
The effect of the agreement on the finances of the Commonwealth for 1927-28 was as follows: -
It might be contended that but for the agreement, the Commonwealth revenue would have been about £900,000 better off. Such a contention could only be voiced by a critic entirely devoid of any national outlook. The agreement can be summed up shortly as a businesslike arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States based on the best principles of sound finance and designed to effect savings to the people of Australia as a whole. It is purely national in its characteristics, as is evidenced by the fact that it has been accepted by the Parliaments of the’ Commonwealth and the States.
The extra cost of approximately £900,000 to the Commonwealth finances in 1927-28 is more than compensated for by the savings to the budgets of the various States, including savings of interest on debt cancelled out of Sinking Fund balances held by the States. The gross savings to the State budgets can be set down in round figures at about £1,600,000. The immediate net savings to the taxpayers as a whole may therefore be stated at about £700,000.
– It is a fact of which all the State budgets give proof. It might be urged that this saving has been effected at the expense of deferring the payment of some of the debts, but this is quite a small matter compared with the great- advantages of establishing Sinking Funds on the uniform sound and adequate basis which is provided for in the agreement. The immediate saving to the taxpayer, important as it is, is insignificant beside the benefits that will ultimately accrue from the establishment of the loan transactions of the Commonwealth and the
States on a basis which must inevitably result in the enhancement of our joint credit.
It is a matter for gratification that the vexed problem of Commonwealth and State financial relationship has now been solved by an agreement with the States in which the transfer of debts has been linked up with the payments to the States. The Governments and the Parliaments of the States and the Commonwealth may well view with satisfaction their work in securing this businesslike settlement of the most important branch of our national finance.
It now only remains for the people of Australia to signify their acceptance of the proposed alteration of the Constitution at the forthcoming referendum, so that they will permanently reap the benefit of what has been described, both abroad and in Australia, as the most advanced and statesmanlike financial scheme that has ever been put forward in Australia.
A brief summary of the agreement with supporting tables will be found on pages 118 to 120 of the budget papers.
The States Grant Act 1927 provided a special grant of £378,000 for the State of Tasmania for the financial years 1926- 27 and 1927-28. The question of granting Tasmania further assistance was discussed with the Premier of that State, and as a result of those discussions, the Commonwealth agreed to provide a grant of £220,000 for the current financial year. This substantial reduction on the grant previously paid has been rendered pos.sible as a result of some of the benefits of the financial agreement and the improved financial and industrial position of Tasmania generally. The legislation necessary to appropriate the grant of £220,000 will be introduced in the immediate future.
A royal commission is at present investigating the claim of South Australia for financial assistance from the Commonwealth.
Federal Aid ROADS
The Federal Aid Roads policy adopted in 1926 provides for the Commonwealth finding £20,000,000 and the States £15,000,000 over a period of ten years for the construction of main roads to open up and develop new country, trunk roads between important towns, and arterial roads to carry the concentrated traffic between developmental, main, trunk, and other roads. A programme of road construction covering 893 roads and involving an expenditure of £8,795,984 has already been approved, the allocation of the expenditure between the various types of roads being: -
The mileage of road works completed under the scheme to the 30th June, 192S, was 3,577.
Estimated REVENUE, 1928-29.
Having examined the expenditure under Part I. of the budget, and having ascertained the contributions from general revenue required to meet the deficit on Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth, and the payments to or for the States, it is clear that the services of the year will require a total revenue of £63,610,000, which it is expected will be derived as follows: -
In dealing with the revenue available for the present year, the Government has given careful consideration to the question of whether the extinction of the deficit should be immediately provided for. Were this course followed two alternatives would have been available, namely, to impose additional taxation beyond the actual requirements for the services of the year, and apply the excess revenue to wipe out the deficit, or to fund the deficit by raising a loan on Revenue Account.
When, later, I am discussing the estimated customs and excise revenue, I will refer to two previous trade depressions which, although arising from different causes, had brought the same results as the depression through which we are now passing. Our experiences on those occasions demonstrated the wonderful recuperative powers of the Commonwealth, and it is not unreasonable to anticipate that those experiences will now be repeated.
It will be realized, therefore, how unwise it would be to adopt a pessimistic attitude and bring down increased taxation for the purpose of liquidating the deficit. The imposition of a special tax of this nature would have a disturbing effect upon the business community generally, and the disturbance would be repeated when the tax was remitted after the special purpose for which it had been imposed had been accomplished. Equally unwise would it be to raise a loan of £2,628,743 to pay off the deficit, when there is a reasonable prospect of the ordinary revenues of the Commonwealth proving sufficient to carry this burden iri the near future.
The Government proposes, therefore, for the present to place the deficit in suspense, and to hypothecate future surplus revenue to liquidate the deficit before further taxation relief is provided.
Customs and Excise Revenue
The estimate of customs and excise revenue, which shows an increase of £1,853,270 over the actual collections of the previous year, may be regarded by some as unduly optimistic. In this connexion our experience of the years 1917-18 and 1921-22 is illuminating.
In the year 1917-18 the full effects of the war were being felt in the restriction of trade. Shipping was being gradually reduced and embargoes were being placed by the allied countries upon exports. The result was that the customs and excise revenue for 1917-18 was £2,400,000 less than the receipts for the previous year. In the budget for 1918-19, after imposing additional taxation, an increase of £810,000 in the revenue was expected. The actual collections, however, showed an increase of £4,198,000 over those of the previous year.
In the year 1921-22, the world passed through a period of economic disorganization associated with the work of postwar reconstruction, and owing to the accompanying trade depression in the Commonwealth, the customs and excise revenue was £4,200,000 less than the actual collection of the previous year. When the budget for 1922-23 was prepared, it was expected that the period of trade stagnation would- continue, or at least improve in only a. very slight degree. The customs and excise collections wereestimated to yield only £400,000 more than the receipts of the previous year. The actual collections, however, proved to be £5,200,000 in excess of those receipts.
After each of these depressions, there was an immediate and full recovery in the customs and excise revenue. In these experiences, and in the prospects of a bountiful harvest and an increased wool clip, justification can be found for the estimated revenue of £43,300,000, which is £252,478 less than the collections of the year 1926-27, notwithstanding that in the meantime additional duties, estimated to yield” £500,000, were imposed on motor chassis.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The Government has given very careful consideration to the question of making good the deficiency in customs and excise revenue. It has examined certain loopholes by means of which some taxpayers have been able to devise means of evading payment of the taxes, which are imposed upon other members of the community who are similarly circumstanced, and whose obligations are consequently increased. In addition, anomalies in the existing law have been investigated, and, as a result, the Government proposes to bring down legislation designed to remove anomalies and prevent evasion of taxes.
With the increase in income tax revenue following on this amending legislation, it is anticipated that this year’s commitments will be met without any increase in the rates of direct taxation.
The estimated revenue from land tax is £2,600,000, being £427,206 less than the actual collections of 1927-28. As previously explained, the collections of last year included a large amount of arrears of taxation, and the forward position of the assessments for 1927-28 has reduced the normal arrears of taxation which ordinarily come into the revenue of the following years.
The Government proposes to amend the law to express the original intention to grant exemption from land tax in respect of showgrounds owned by or held intrust for any society which is not carried on for the pecuniary benefit of its members, and which applies the whole of its revenue for purposes of maintenance and improvement of the showgrounds, or for the extension of its prize list, or for the increase of prizes offered by the society for competitions at its shows.
The Estate Duty Assessment Act requires that personal property situated outside Australia which was owned by a deceased person who was domiciled in Australia shall be included in the assessment of that person’s estate for purposes of Commonwealth death duty. In order to eliminate double taxation the act provides that all duties lawfully paid in any place outside Australia in respect of the ex-Australian property shall be deducted from the Commonwealth duty to which the whole estate is liable.
In a number of cases the ex-Australian duty has exceeded the part of the Australian duty attributable to the exAustralian property. In those cases the deduction of the ex-Australian duty has reduced the amount of Australian duty which would otherwise have been collected upon the Australian property of the deceased person.
In other cases the amount of the exAustralian duty has exceeded the total Australian duty payable on the whole estate of the deceased person, and the Commonwealth has thus lost the whole of its duty which would otherwise have been collected upon the Australian property of the deceased person.
It will be seen that more than double taxation in such cases is being eliminated.
It is proposed to amend the law so as to limit the deduction in such cases to the part of the Commonwealth duty which is payable in respect of the exAustralian estate.
It is proposed to prevent avoidance of estate duty which is now effected by the creation of joint tenancies in property between the owner and other persons to whom the owner desires the property to revert upon the owner’s death. Under joint tenancies, the interest of. a joint tenant who predeceases the other joint tenant or joint tenants passes to the survivors, so that legally the deceased joint tenant has not left any estate represented by his former interest in the joint tenancy. It has been found that considerable avoidance of estate duty has lately resulted from the formation of joint tenancies, which could only have been formed with the object of avoiding duty.
Taxing Ex-Australian Income
In accordance with its undertaking to Parliament last session, the Governmenthas given careful consideration to the subject of taxing Australian residents on their income from ex-Australian sources.
Last session the Parliament discussed the taxation of income derived by Australian residents from investments outside Australia. No definition was at that time given to the word “ investment.” It was assumed by many that it referred only to such investments as purchase of shares in companies, lending money on mortgage, purchase of debentures, bonds and stocks of companies or public authorities.
It will probably be agreed that the real question raised is a question which affects all income derived from sources outside Australia, including, in addition to that already mentioned, income from businesses conducted in any other country by Australian companies, firms or persons and income derived from the estates of deceased persons or other trust estates which are held or controlled in other countries. It would be necessary to give very special consideration to the income derived from sales overseas of Australian primary products.
Examination has shown that the subject is very difficult and complex. At the present time the Federal Income Tax Act applies to all income derived from Australian sources wherever the person receiving the income may reside. The already sufficiently intricate income tax law would be further complicated if to the present act there were added a set of provisions applying only to persons defined as residents of Australia and to their income derived from other than Australian sources. In order to make the proposed change in a reasonably convenient legislative form, it would be necessary to recast the whole act. The principal provision of the act ought, if the change were made, to . be a requirement that all persons resident in Australia should pay tax on income wherever derived, with a further provision that absentees should pay tax on Australian income. The redrafting involved would be very extensive. There is also more than a suggestion of constitutional obstacles in the way of the proposal.
The elimination of double taxation ia one of the most difficult aspects of the question. This problem, together with difficulties and possible repercussions in other directions are such as to satisfy the Government that the whole subject must receive further consideration in principle and in detail after additional information has been obtained from other Governments concerning the question of double taxation.
The amount of additional revenue which would be collected after double taxation has been eliminated would, apparently, be small.
The Government is not prepared, at present, to ask Parliament to legislate on the subject in the light only of the information it now possesses, because it is certain that such legislation would raise many important international and interdominion problems.
At the present time an arrangement between Great Britain and Australia to eliminate double taxation is in operation and is embodied, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, in section 18 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. This arrangement was made after lengthy and difficult negotiations and is substantially satisfactory to Australia. It is obviously proper to consult the British Government before altering the basis of the arrangement.
The Government is accordingly communicating with the Governments of other parts of the Empire and of countries outside the Empire from which residents of Australia are deriving income, for the purpose of examining all the facts connected with the taxation of that income in those countries, and of considering the difficulties to be overcome to eliminate double taxation if the Commonwealth should tax its residents on exAustralian income.
Under the present form of the law there is no power to tax in the hands of a shareholder in a company in liquidation any part of a liquidation dividend although it may represent a distribution of profit derived by the company up to the date of liquidation or by the liquidator after his appointment as liquidator. This anomaly will be rectified. ‘
It is proposed to submit legislation on the lines adopted in the United Kingdom Finance Act 1927, which was passed in order to prevent avoidance of super-tax by the formation of private companies to acquire income producing assets owned by wealthy individuals. The new legislation is intended to provide that distributable income out of which a distribution or additional distribution could reasonably have been made by the company shall include profits used to repay money which was borrowed to acquire capital assets or to redeem any share or debenture capital.
Further alterations in the form of section 21 are proposed in order to remove an overlapping between section 16 b (ii) (3.) and section 21 whereby a company which capitalizes one-third of its current profits may avoid additional tax on two-thirds of its current profits instead of on one-third only, as was intended under section 21.
It is also proposed that power should be granted to the Commissioner, and, on appeal, to the Income Tax Board of Review to make a proper adjustment of a company’s liability for additional tax under section 21 in any case in which it is found that additional tax under that section has been avoided by a company lodging incorrect returns for purposes of its general assessment or incorrect information in connexion with the application of section 21 to its case.
A recent decision of the Supreme Court of Victoria has interpreted section 21 in such a way that the section is inapplicable to the numerous cases in which assessments are made with reference to an accounting period (accepted by the Commissioner generally at the request of the company) which is different from the ordinary financial year. It is proposed to introduce amendments to give effect to the original and universally understood intention.
It is proposed that life assurance companies, instead of, as at present, completely escaping Commonwealth income tax, ‘shall be taxed upon the income derived from investments at the present rate of tax applicable to companies.
Increases in Income Tax Revenue.
These alterations in the law are expected to yield additional . revenue amounting to £700,000. The unfavorable season in some parts of Australia in 1927- 28 is, however, expected to bring about some diminution in the amount of taxable income. The loss of tax following on the reduced incomes of 1927-28 is estimated as £315,000, and must be set off against the expected new revenue of £700,000. The net increase in the yield of the income tax is, therefore, set down at £385,000.
Of the increase of £1,005,397, in the miscellaneous items compared with the year 1927-28, £800,000 is accounted for by crediting to revenue interest on advances for war service homes, as I have already explained in detail. The remainder of the increased revenue, viz., £205,397, is the net result of sundry increases and decreases.
Estimated Result of the New Year.
It is anticipated that the transactions of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for 1928- 29 will produce a small surplus of £13,000, arrived at as follows: -
I have now placed, before honorable members a full statement of the finances for the year just closed and a forecast of the finances for the present year.
I have previously referred to Australia’s wonderful recuperative powers, which have been demonstrated over and over again. The drought conditions of last year, except as to a portion of Queensland, have given place to plentiful rains at favorable periods, and the prospects of the whole range of primary production are more promising than they have been for many years.
The success of the recent Commonwealth conversion loan furnishes unmistakable evidence of a returning buoyancy to the Australian money market. The new cash subscribed to the loan will result in holders of maturing securities, amounting to nearly £8,000,000, being compelled to cash their holdings.
Some of this money will seek fresh avenues of investment, and the stimulus thus given to the investment market, coupled with the increased financial resources from the sale of our primary produce, should bring in its train a welcome impetus to our secondary production and to trade and commerce generally, which will be assisted by the cumulative effect of the many constructive financial reforms instituted by this Government.
I am satisfied, now the clouds of depression are disappearing from the financial horizon, that the application of courage, vision, co-operation and determined effort on the part of our people will ensure the continued progress and prosperity of Australia.
I move -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament - namely, “The President, £1,300,” be agreed to.
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
Proposed vote, £383,785.
– The total amount Parliament is asked to provide for additions, new works, buildings, &c, is £383,785, which is £154,159 more than the expenditure for the previous year, and £66,136 more than the amount voted for the year 1927-28. The amounts included for the many services are relatively small, and the total sum of £383,785 is distributed under two parts as follows: -
The principal items provided for. under Part 1 are -
Provision is made for a saving of £20,000 on the above-mentioned defence items -
Under Part 3, provision is made for the following items: -
The only new work provided for under Part 1 is the erection of the War Memorial at Canberra. The provision of £75,000 under Part 3 for the reconstruction of the Goulburn-Canberra-road, is also a new service. Ministers will be glad to furnish any information required as to the details of the works referred to when the bill reaches the committee stage.
– I should like some information regarding the sum of £75,000 set down for the reconstruction of the road between Canberra and Goulburn. Why is a special grant from- the Commonwealth Treasury to be made for this particular road? It may be that because this road will be one of the main approaches to the Federal Capital city, the Government considers that it should contribute towards its cost, notwithstanding that the greater portion of the road will be, not in the Federal Capital Territory, but in New South Wales. I direct the attention of honorable members to the footnote on page 372 of . the Estimates, which reads–
Estimated cost of road within the territory of New South Wales is £200,000, of which the Commonwealth will contribute two-thirds and New South Wales one-third. In addition, the Commonwealth will defray cost of reconstruction within the Federal Capital Territory estimated at £50,000.
It will be seen that the total cost of the road will be about £250,000. I do not desire to be. parochial, but I remind the committee that the Government has declined to accede to the requests which I have from time to time made for assistance from the Commonwealth Treasury towards the upkeep of roads leading to munition factories, some of which are situated in my electorate. Some of- these roads are in areas which preclude them from being assisted from the vote of £20,000,000 set apart for road construction under the Federal Aid Roads scheme ; yet here is an instance of a large sum of money being set aside for the construction of a road which has no greater claim on the Commonwealth than have some of the roads I have mentioned.
– What is the length of the road inside the Federal Capital Territory?
– The sum of £50,000 is set down for the reconstruction of that . portion of the road between Canberra and Goulburn which is situated within the Federal Capital Territory. In addition, the Commonwealth will pay two-thirds of the cost - estimated at £200,000- of that portion of the road which is in New South Wales. . I object, not to the expenditure of the money, but to this particular road being singled out in this way for special treatment. Probably the Government- has decided to reconstruct it because the right honorable member for -North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has been :so consistent in his complaints regarding its deplorable condition. I remind honorable members that New South Wales receives its proportion of the amount set apart by the Commonwealth for the construction of roads throughout Australia. If it is claimed that the Commonwealth is under an obligation to contribute to the cost of this road because of the traffic to and from Canberra, I could put forward more legitimate claims for assistance on behalf of other roads, especially those leading to Commonwealth munition factories.
Provision is also made in these Estimates for the expenditure of money by th<b Federal Capital Commission.
– The committee is at present dealing with Part 1. The expenditure referred to by the honorable member is covered by Part 3.
– It might suit the convenience of the committee if Parts 1, 2, and 3 were taken together.
– No objection having been taken to the right honorable gentleman’s suggestion, I desire to refer to the item of £42,500 under the heading, “ Purchase of machinery for Government Printing Office, Canberra,” in connexion with which there is the following footnote, “ Includes amount of £36,410 to be reimbursed to Federal Capital Commission.” Why are buildings which are used solely for governmental purposes placed under the control of the Federal Capital Commission? In other cities of the Commonwealth, government buildings are controlled by the’ Works and Railways Department, and there is no reason why that policy should not operate in Canberra. Parliament House is under the control of Parliament; yet when complaints were made regarding its acoustic properties the so-called experts of the Federal Capital Commission were called into consultation.
– With the result that the conditions were greatly improved.
– I should like to know what necessity there is to reimburse the Federal Capital Commission the sum of £36,410 in connexion with the Government Printing Office, Canberra, and why the road between Canberra and Goulburn is to be reconstructed largely at the expense of the Commonwealth.
.- Like the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), I feel that a departure is being made by including in these Estimates a large sum of money for the reconstruction of the road between Canberra and Goulburn. Surely there are other directions in which this money could be better expended. I doubt whether the contemplated action of the Government is constitutional. In any case, an unwise precedent is being established.
– Does the honorable member object to a special grant being made to Tasmania?
– The grant to Tasmania is a right to which that State is entitled under the Constitution; but the expenditure of a large sum of money on a road leading to the Federal Capital is not justified in the present state of our finances.
.- I desire to call the attention of the Treasurer to a matter of vital importance to the whole of Australia, particularly New South Wales and Queensland, namely, the building of a railway line from the head of the Darwin railway across the Barkly Tablelands to Camooweal, and thence connecting the three east-west railway systems of Queensland - the Townsville to Cloncurry line, the Longreach line, and the Brisbane to Charleville line - with Bourke in New South Wales. The construction of such a connexion would be of immense value to the Commonwealth. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister repeat to-day that he realizes the importance of this big national undertaking. Millions of starving sheep and cattle die during drought periods in the areas which such a line would serve. Unfortunately, droughts are experienced periodically in this country, -but if railway facilities were available, stock could be shifted easily to well-grassed country within 200 or 300 miles, and their lives saved. At present it is necessary to travel them anything up to 1,200 miles during drought periods to keep them alive. This, of course, is most expensive, and often impossible. A study of recent statistics reveals that during the last big drought in
Queensland 7,500,000 sheep, and 2,500,000 cattle died. In addition, a natural increase of 2,500,000 sheep and many thousands of cattle was lost. It is estimated that approximately 10,000,000 live stock were lost. A large percentage of these could have been saved had this railway connexion been in existence. Such a railway would also provide a natural outlet for the rich Barkly Tablelands in the Northern Territory, for it would bring them close to the big centres of population that lie along the eastern coast of Australia. It is estimated that every five years Australia loses through droughts merino sheep to the value of £22,000,000. During normal seasons some of the finest wool in Australia is grown in western Queensland. If the Government would undertake as a national policy the construction of the railway that I propose, it would ensure a comparatively regular production of high-class wool from these areas. At present the production is somewhat spasmodic on account of droughts. Soon after my entry into this Parliament I urged the Government to convene a conference of representatives of New South Wales, Queensland, and the Commonwealth to consider ways and means of financing this project, for I believe that it could be thoroughly justified on economic and commercial grounds. Unfortunately, no conference has yet been held. The building of the line would be beneficial to the whole Commonwealth. It would be an important link between the Northern Territory and the big centres of population in the eastern States. The absence of transport facilities has brought complete ruin to many settlers and graziers in western Queensland. These hardy pioneers have on numerous occasions utterly exhausted their financial resources in trying to make a success of their holdings, and have been reduced to absolute poverty because they have not been able to tide over periodical droughts.
– The honorable member cannot exaggerate the seriousness of their case.
– That is so. When the Prime Minister was visiting Longreach some time ago, he Avas entertained, as all distinguished visitors are, by the local residents. In the course of a speech which he delivered, which was reported in many newspapers throughout the Commonwealth, he made some interesting observations. He was reported in the Sydney Mail of 10th August, 1927, as follows : -
They must be provided with facilities to move their stock in drought times into areas where drought did not prevail. The great disadvantage obtaining in Queensland to-day was that they had three great railway systems running east and west, and they were not linked up in the western part of the State by a line running north and south, and, if possible, running south as far as Bourke in New South Wales. It might he advantageous to construct a line from the Federal Territory linking up the train systems of Queensland and New South Wales.
The right honorable gentleman indicated on that occasion to the representative men of western Queensland, whose guest he was, that he realized the importance of this project. Consequently I am greatly disappointed that he has done nothing to bring the proposal to fruition. It is not wise that everybody should be gloomy about the financial outlook. There is no reason whatever why we should not spend money on reproductive works. I submit that the cost of building this railway system would be saved in five years if a drought occurred during that period, for millions of live stock would be saved. There is no doubt about the suitability of the country along the back of western Queensland, adjoining the Northern Territory, for sheep raising. For practically the whole distance from Camooweal to Bourke, 930 miles, the country is most suitable for sheep and cattle. There are millions of acres of valuable open downs country, well supplied with Mitchell and blue grasses, which every one admits are invaluable for” sheep. Between Camooweal and Newcastle Waters, a distance of 434 miles, there is another large tract of splendid pastoral country. Hundreds of graziers could make a living upon it if railway communication were provided. Everything points to the probability that in a few years the Australian cattle producers will have great difficulty in maintaining our meat supplies. This makes it imperative that we should do everything possible to encourage graziers to develop our outback areas. Unfortunately, since the boom period, the bottom has dropped out of the meat market, and Australian cattle producers have had to be satisfied with London parity for beef, which does not give them a reasonable return for their labour. An intelligent and observant pastoralist in Queensland, Mr. A. J. B. McMaster, made these interesting observations some time ago when speaking on behalf of the United Graziers’ Association: -
I do believe, however, that with the great increase in the Australian population, the cattle industry will soon become a paying proposition, which it has not been for a number of years.
To enable sufficient meat to be made available for an increased population it is essential that railway communication should be provided. The construction of the connexion to which I am referring would make available at a reasonable price hundreds of thousands more cattle for the consumers in the more settled areas. It is estimated that 80 per. cent, of our cattle are consumed locally. If our population were to increase by another 1,500,000 we should consume all the Cattle that Australia could produce. Seeing that this national; undertaking would bring Brisbane by rail about 1,500 miles .nearer to Darwin, Sydney 1,700 miles nearer, and Townsville 3,000 miles nearer than at present, I submit that it should be constructed. The cessation of railway construction work throughout Australia has caused the unemployment of thousands of competent railway workers, and the depreciation of much valuable plant. The Government would be well advised in the circumstances to undertake this work. If it did so, it would not only save the lives of millions of merino sheep and much other live stock during drought periods, but would be remembered gratefully in the history of the Commonwealth.
I have on several occasions brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) the necessity of building a new post office at the important seaport town of Gladstone, in my division. The present building is an absolute disgrace to the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, hitherto, the PostmasterGeneral has turned a deaf ear to the requests that the Gladstone Chamber of Commerce, Town Council, Harbour Board, and other important bodies have made in this connexion, as well as to the case I have submitted to him on the floor of this chamber and by personal communication.
– A number of post offices are being erected in the electorates of Ministers.
– A great deal more attention is being given to the provision of post offices in those electorates than is given in private members’ electorates.
I hope that the Postmaster-General will take early action to establish a new reinforced concrete building at Gladstone. The people have been asking for a post office for some considerable time, but the excuse has been that there is no money available for the work. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have visited Gladstone. When requests were made to them for a new post office they promised to give the proposal the fullest consideration. I emphatically protest against the policy of procrastination which this Government is adopting in respect of the building of a very necessary post office. The railing in front of the present post office has collapsed, and the wooden portion of the building is infested with white ants. In addition, some of the plastering in several rooms has fallen down. The building is certainly not in keeping with the growing importance of a town which is an outlet for the trade of a great hinterland. Before long the railway through to Monto will he completed, and the whole of the Northern Burnett trade will then pass through Gladstone. The PostmasterGeneral has always courteously considered any proposal that I have put before him, but I ask him to do something practical, and not depend upon any report that he may receive from an officer of the department. I know that the head of the department in Queensland is a very efficient and capable officer, but no doubt he has to act under instructions to cut down expenditure. I believe that, if he were given a free hand, he would recommend the building of a new post office at Gladstone.
I disagree entirely with the miserly policy adopted by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department regarding the construction of new telephone lines, because, in many cases, the local people are asked to be ar a portion of the cost of erecting and maintaining the lines. It is unfair that people should be penalized simply because they live in the outback country districts. Although many” concessions have been given to those districts, a great deal more could be done, and I certainly expected that the Postmaster-General, who represents a country constituency, would be more liberal than he is in providing country postal, telephonic and telegraphic facilities. Day after day I have received from the department the reply that the construction of certain lines or the provision of certain facilities would not be a commercial proposition, and that the local people must contribute £20 or £30 a year towards the cost of the upkeep of the lines. It is our duty to make the lives of outback country people as attractive and congenial as possible.
I wish to say a few words regarding the provision of a new rifle range at Rockhampton. A few days ago I received from the Minister representing the Minister for Defence a communication to the effect that, unfortunately, the position of the finances would not enable the Government to provide a new rifle range at Rockhampton. There are in Central Queensland some thousands of enthusiastic riflemen who make a hobby of rifle shooting on Saturday afternoons. Many of them take part in various competitions throughout Australia. Unfortunately, the Rockhampton rifle range was closed by the Defence Department some months ago, and the Rockhampton Rifle Club and other interested clubs asked the Commonwealth Government to provide a new rifle range. Up to the present nothing has been done, the excuse being that the position of the finances does not permit of this expenditure. I know that the Minister is interested in rifle clubs, and I ask him to give this proposal his sympathetic and generous consideration, and to make a definite statement regarding it before the House rises.
I wish now to bring before the Minister for Trade and Customs the need to provide the lonely lighthouse keepers on the coast of Australia with wireless receiving sets. For some two years the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) and myself have been asking the Government to grant this convenience. It would not cost very much, because there are only a few hundred lighthouse keepers altogether. To their credit let it be said that their unceasing vigilance has saved the lives of thousands of our citizens. Many of the lighthouse keepers have gone to the expense of installing their own wireless sets. They should get a refund of the cost. Surely they should get some slight recompense for being deprived of the opportunity to attend picture shows, dance halls, and. theatres, such as are established in the large centres of population.
The people of Rockhampton and Bundaberg have, for some considerable time, been asking the Commonwealth Government to establish aerodromes at those places. The Rockhampton Chamber of Commerce and the Rockhampton City Council are keenly interested in these projects. Rockhampton is the chief city of central Queensland, and has a population of nearly 30,000. Aviation has recently made great progress at that city and also at Bundaberg. the native town of that wonder aviator, Mr. Bert Hinkler. The cost of establishing these two aerodromes would be comparatively small, not more than £3,000 eacch. I should be one of the first to give the Minister credit if he saw fit to establish these aerodromes, and thereby give a great impetus to aviation in Queensland. It is of no use the Minister saying, as he did before, that, as soon as aviation begins to extend in those districts, aerodromes will be established. “We must, first of all, establish aerodromes to encourage aviators to provide services in those districts. I know that companies are being floated with a view to providing aeroplane services between Longreach, Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Brisbane. I urge the Minister to put in hand immediately the work of providing aerodromes at both Rockhampton and Bundaberg, and thus make it possible for new air services to be established in central Queensland.
.- I must confess that I view with a great deal of concern this proposal to spend £133,000 upon the Goulburn-Canberra road. This afternoon I listened, with great appreciation, to the Treasurer’s budget speech, and I applauded the new spirit and practice of economy which it disclosed. However, the very first item under discussion has somewhat rudely disappointed my high anticipation. I should he loath to vote against the proposal, and I ask the Government to give honorable members more information regarding it. The position is that we are already expending £2,000,000 a year upon main roads . in the various States. On top of that we are now being asked, without any warning or explanation, to agree to an estimated expenditure of £133,000. We know very well that the expenditure might easily increase to £200,000 once the work is put in hand. It is certainly extraordinary that we should be asked to vote such a large sum of money. I should like to ask the Treasurer whether the road to connect Goulburn with Queanbeyan, Cooma, and Bombala is classified as a main road of New South Wales, which, under normal circumstances, would come under the Federal Aid Roads Scheme.
– This road is to come under that scheme.
– Why does not New South Wales construct it under the scheme? Why this special grant of £133,000?
– This road is an addition to the main roads of New South Wales.
– It is 60 miles from Goulburn to Canberra.
– The Yass road is a main road.
– The Yass road is not so long, and would not be so costly to construct as the Goulburn road. If this road is one of the main roads of New South Wales, then the Government of that State is in honour bound to construct it as one of the main roads which are being subsidized under the Federal Aid Roads Scheme. Why this special grant ? If this was not one of the main roads of the State - if it did not come into the New South Wales scheme - there might be something to be said for this special and very generous assistance which the Commonwealth Government proposes to give; but as it is a Federal Aid road, it is not entitled to more than its share of the Commonwealth grant - it is not entitled to a special grant. The danger is that if we make this special contribution to the State of New South Wales, the next step will be a strong drive on behalf of Victoria for a special contribution for a similar road from Canberra to the
Cann River. The principle underlying this proposal is bad. It seems to me that New South Wales has caught the Commonwealth Government; that it is squeezing the Commonwealth, and apparently with success. At any rate, I should like a great deal more information on the matter.
– I rise to protest against the expenditure on this road from Goulburn. It is quite incomprehensible that the Commonwealth Government should have made this provision on the Estimates when the financial position is so bad. With all sincerity, I suggest that the Minister for Works and Railways has yielded to the bullying of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who’ threatened the Minister that if he cared to get into his motor car he would bump the life out of him on the road to Goulburn. Apparently, in order to satisfy one temperamental little individual, £133,000 is to be spent on this road. By and by there will be no need for roads to Canberra, because the people who come here will be only those who are obliged to do so. At any rate, to me it seems to be a huge waste of money to build a road from Goulburn to Canberra at the behest of one whose liver does not lie in the right spot when he is motoring. I cannot see how the Treasurer can justify this proposal as a national undertaking.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has spoken of a work in his State that should be considered, if not carried out, in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole as well as for the development of Queensland. There is a work in South Australia of a similar character. The surveys have been undertaken, the Public Works Committee has investigated it, and has reported in favour of its construction, and a bill has been prepared for this Parliament authorizing it. But because there is no money for the work nothing has been done to carry it out: I refer to the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway, which will connect Adelaide by a broad-gauge line with Port Augusta, and considerably shorten the journey between Perth and Adelaide.
– And will make the present line pay.
– At least it will go a long way towards making the East-West railway a paying proposition. That work has been side-tracked, while on these Estimates we find that it is proposed to spend £133,000, because one right honorable member has been rather violent in his presentation of the case for the construction of a certain road.
The honorable member for Capricornia has also referred to the favorable treatment which the Postmaster-General has accorded to the towns in comparison with rural districts, but I do not know that the Postmaster-General has displayed any such generosity towards Adelaide. On more than one occasion I have asked him to erect a new post office at the eastern end of Adelaide. It is a well-settled and busy part of the city, and the Minister knows now where I was anxious to get that post office, although when I brought the matter forward previously in the House he asked, “ Where is East Adelaide “ ? His question has been answered by several deputations. He knows also that the present post office is the most dilapidated building in a busy thoroughfare of a busy city - “ a hen roost “ the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) called it when the matter was brought forward on the last occasion. Yet I have been informed that a new post office cannot be built in East Adelaide, because there are no funds available. It is hard to explain to constituents that a work which is necessary cannot be carried out because funds are not available, while at the same time provision can be made on the Estimates for the construction of an unnecessary road. Yesterday I received from the PostmasterGeneral a letter in reference to, the nonerection of this post office in East Adelaide. That letter is as follows: -
In my last communication to you regarding postal facilities at Bundle-street, Adelaide, I stated that inquiry was being made into the matters of arranging a later clearance of interstate mails, installing a set of private letter boxes, and providing a larger posting aperture so that packets could be placed therein.
You will be pleased to learn that approval has been given for -
A mail to be closed at Rundle-street at 3.30 p.m., Monday to Friday inclusive - reaching the General Post Office in time for the enclosed correspondence to be included in the mail for the eastern States;
Arrangements to be made for the installation of 46 private boxes, viz., 36 small, eight medium, two large; and
The provision of an iron posting front with an aperture as large as it is considered safe to provide.
When the private boxes have been installed, arrangements will be made for the correspondence to be sorted therein three times daily, Monday to Friday, and twice on Saturday.
That letter clearly indicates the need for a new post office in East Adelaide. The amount proposed to be spent on the Goulburn road would give the eastern portion of Adelaide a post office commensurate with the importance of the position occupied by the present building. The expenditure would be revenue producing, whereas the road to Goulburn may never be used by more than a few people. The Government is making a very fine rod for its own back. At any rate, I hope the Postmaster-General will take notice of my remarks. It isessential that there should be a new post office for East Adelaide, and, I think, the Government would be well advised to spend the available money on essential works rather than on the construction of a road between Canberra and Goulburn.
.- When some of us have been bold enough to criticize in general terms the financial activities of the Government, we have been asked to indicate the specific directions in which adequate economies might be effected, and we have been told to go through the Estimates of expenditure and indicate where the economy which we have urged could really be carried out. I propose to take advantage of that invitation, because there are in these Estimates two items which I regard as unnecessary, and in regard to which effective economy could be exercised.
The first item is that to which honorable members have already referred. It seems to me that the proposed participation of the Commonwealth in the construction of a road between Goulburn and Canberra is quite unnecessary. New South Wales already gets a big share of the Federal aid roads grant, but by this item it is proposed to give the State an extra grant over and above its legitimate share of that grant. If this is done, it is inevitable that it will be followed by demands from other States for similar assistance, which we shall have no just ground for refusing. I think enough has been said on this particular point, and I agree with what has been said in reference to the item by almost every honorable member who has spoken on these Estimates.
My next statement will at first perhaps somewhat shock some honorable members, because, after due deliberation, I suggest that the construction of the war memorial should be postponed. It is true that on these Estimates an amount of only £50,000 is provided for the war memorial, but we know that this is only for the first step towards the expenditure of quarter of a million pounds or more.
– It will be a good deal more than a quarter of a million pounds.
– Eventually it will be, but I understand that the immediate plans are for the expenditure of about a quarter of a million pounds. , Every one of course will agree that it is desirable, if our finances permit it, to do our very best to commemorate those who fell in the Great War, but I submit that there is a still greater duty resting upon us. I submit that we are not entitled to spend large sums of money like this upon a memorial to the dead while there are still many living soldiers to whom we can give additional help, especially such soldiers as we know are having a very hard time indeed upon some of the soldier settlement estates. I believe that the war memorial should wait. Those soldiers who did so much to maintain and uphold this Commonwealth, and laid down their lives for it, would have been the first to say- that the present material interests of the people of the Commonwealth, and particularly those of their comrades who are having a hard time in rehabilitating themselves under repatriation conditions, should come before the erection of a memorial to those who have fallen. It is not as if the fallen have not been commemorated. There are war memorials in every part of Australia, and I do not suppose that there is one man who fell whose name is not inscribed on some memorial. It may be fitting that we should build a great national memorial in our national capital, but the presentproposal seems to be simply to expend money for the further beautification of our capital, upon which already an inordinate amount of money has been spent.
These two items alone represent an amount approaching £500,000 in a budget which presents a past year’s deficiency of over £2,500,000, and an estimated deficit of a similar amount for the current year. It seems to me that here we have a practical way of demonstrating that we are regarding the finances of the country seriously. I think the Government would be well advised to withdraw these two items. Honorable members know that the expenditure already incurred on the Federal Capital is by no means popular throughout Australia. It came as a shock to most of us to find that over £10,000,000 has been spent in the Capital City. The spending of another £500,000 on these two items will be associated in the public mind with that expenditure, and there are many who will say that in the present state of the finances of the Commonwealth the making of this road is not justified. Up to the present only a general discussion has taken place on the proposal, but it is evident that it has aroused a good deal of feeling among honorable members. I do not know whether the same feeling is entertained in regard to the memorial, and I do not wish to be misunderstood in regard to that. I feel very deeply the hardships being endured by returned soldiers on the repatriation settlements, and I think that it would be more fitting if we spent some of this money in re-establishing them on their holdings, especially in those districts in which, despite the optimistic utterances of the Treasurer, they are threatened with serious seasonal difficulties. It would be more fitting at the present stage to help them out of those difficulties than to spend the money on the erection of a war memorial. I am not opposed to the construction of a memorial, but I consider that it can wait until a more fitting time. I hope that the Government will agree to the postponement of the expenditure on the war memorial, and I am opposed altogether to the construction of the road to Goulburn.
.- T do not wish to take the discussion’ away from the two items concerning which honorable members desire to obtain an answer from Ministers, but the occasion warrants consideration of the proposals for the development of Northern Australia. The North Australia Commission was appointed last year, and in its annual report, which was ordered to be printed on the 2nd May, it has submitted proposals for the development of the Territory. During the last year there has been no discussion in this Parliament upon the development and progress of North Australia. The Government, I think, has been negligent towards this problem. In the past there has been much criticism of previous administrations for their lack of a vigorous policy in regard to the Territory, but the position to-day is no more satisfactory than it was before the Commission was appointed. The Treasurer and other Commonwealth Ministers have advocated greater development and settlement in the States, but I contend that they have neglected their own . immediate responsibility in regard to North Australia. It is time that this Committee considered whether the steps now being taken, and the provisions now made in the appropriations and Estimates before the chamber, are sufficient to carry into effect an adequate policy of development for that portion of the Commonwealth. The Northern Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1911, and since then there has been little or no development of it, certainly none commensurate with the obligations undertaken by the Commonwealth. North Australia is a very large territory, comprising land suitable for pastoral, agricultural, and dairying settlement, but the Commonwealth Government has not been able to formulate a policy that does justice to that country. When the North Australia Commission was appointed the Government promised new life and vigour in the development of the north; but what have they accomplished? The North Australia Commission is labouring under the same disabilities and limitations as were encountered by other administrative authorities previously controlling the Northern Territory. The gentlemen who comprise the North Australia Commission were here in Canberra a few months ago, apparently awaiting instructions, and consulting with the Minister regarding their plans and future activities. They were here for many weeks. Whether they received adequate instructions and authority to proceed with the work they recommended, I do not know. Their report discloses a programme of work which, if properly financed, might make for reasonable initial development in North Australia; but the appropriations included in the Commonwealth Budget for this year are quite inadequate to finalize that programme. I do not know how the present Administration justifies its policy towards North Australia, or its attitude towards the States when it criticizes them for the lack of a vigorous land settlement policy, especially as it has neglected its own opportunities in the North. The Commission draws attention to the wonderful asset that Australia has in North Australia, and in its report of the 6th December, 1927, it says -
The reason that North Australia is not more developed than it is to-day is, however, certainly not attributable to a lack of natural resources. As a matter of fact, portions of the other States of the Commonwealth, which are now thriving centres, had not, as a foundation, country of as good a class as that which exists in North Australia.
It is regrettable that people, many of whom arc not competent to express an opinion and whose acquaintance with the country - limited, generally speaking, to a short visit to the town of Darwin, or merely to hearsay - should decry the heritage possessed in North Australia.
It needs to be stressed that, even if North Australia was comprised of inferior pastoral lands, it is incumbent that they be settled and developed, if the opportunity is not to be allowed to remain for some other nation to establish itself in Australia.
On the contrary, however, the lands, as a whole in North Australia, have, every claim to being classed as good average country, well endowed by nature, and capable of producing a wide range of products’. It is essential that, instead of such a heritage being allowed to remain idle, the asset possessed should be put to its greatest practicable use.
If the other States, which, in the words of the North Australia Commission, commenced their governmental activities with no greater advantages than now exist in North Australia, had not been more successful in developing their respective territories than the Commonwealth Government has been in North Australia, practically the whole of Australia to-day would be a wilderness. In 1900, when South Australia was administering North Australia, there was a population there, of 4,857. When it was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1911 there were in the territory 3,350 persons. Last year, according to the report of the North Australia Commission, there was a total population in the territory of 3,406, of whom 1,050 were non-European, so that the European population comprises only approximately 2,400. That is the European population of the territory after it has been under the control of the Commonwealth for thirteen or fourteen years. That is not progress, and the policy which the Government hari adopted towards the place has not made for reasonable development or for any development that is discernible during the last ten years. The Prime Minister and other Ministers have called attention to the heed for more population in Australia, pointing out that our title to the country can be justified in the eyes of the world only by the right of occupation. What are they themselves doing towards securing a greater population for North Australia? They are not doing anything adequate. In the Estimates which have been submitted, it is proposed to appropriate £100,000 from loan funds towards a scheme of development and settlement. If that is merely an initial advance towards a comprehensive scheme, it might be endorsed as a satisfactory first step, but if it determines the rate of development at £100,000 a year, then I say the provision is inadequate and the Government is merely trifling with the problem. Under the North Australia Act, the Commission is charged with certain responsibilities, but the act is framed in such a way as to place the control of North Australia now, as heretofore, in the hands of a subordinate Minister. The Minister requires the Commissioners to attend at Canberra for a certain period each year to consult with him, and to receive their instructions. I believe they spent three months this year waiting in Canberra for these instructions. One wonders whether they left at the end of that time with adequate instructions and resources to carry out a policy of development. I doubt it. I consider that it is a great injustice that the fate of that Territory should be left to the caprice of a subordinate Minister, one not answerable to this chamber, and perhaps not sympathetic towards the needs of the Territory. The Government is not facing this problem in a proper way. The authority set up for the development of North Australia should be clothed with powers equivalent to those enjoyed by State Governments. It should be given power to formulate a programme, and authority to. raise money to finance that programme. You cannot, it is true, divest this Parliament of control of the Territory, but for ordinary purposes the local authority should be invested with full administrative powers to carry out its developmental schemes, and should be answerable to Parliament, not to a Minister who can veto any proposal put forward. Forty years ago there were 145 miles of railway in North Australia. Today there are only 199 miles completed, and 160 miles under construction. That indicates a period of absolute stagnation. According to the report issued by the Commission there are at present 73,000,000 acres of unoccupied Crown land in the Territory. There are, roughly, 100,000,000 acres of pastoral leases and licences, and freehold land amounts to 500,000 acres. Of the land held under pastoral lease six lessees hold 50,000;000 acres. It seems to me that the land position in the Northern Territory needs to be attacked very vigorously. I know that until such time as proper communications are established, there is no hope of getting closer settlement there, or of getting the land now used only partially for grazing purposes used as agricultural ground, or for grazing and agriculture. It is necessary to make roads, railways, and harbours, and the North Australia Commission should be given the maximum of assistance by the Commonwealth Government. I do not know whether this matter has come directly under the notice of the Treasurer ; whether he was asked to make an appropriation sufficient to give effect to the recommendations of the North Australian Commission; and, if so, whether he blue pencilled them. The Commission recommended the construction and maintenance of roads and stock routes; the erection of telegraph and telephone lines; the conservation of water; the development of ports and harbours, and the encouragement and establishment of air services. I know, from my experience of the money necessary for such facilities that £100,000, the amount set down in these Estimates, is not sufficient for even a respectable proportion of the works indicated. The sum mentioned is totally inadequate, even as an initial provision, for the proper development of North Australia, where there is a vast area of first class grazing and good agricultural land, awaiting settlement.
– Not a vast area of good agricultural land, I am afraid.
– The honorable member for Wannon is in error. There are millions of acres of good agricultural land in North Australia.
– But the trouble is that there is no market for the produce.
– The failure of Vestey Brothers’ enterprise in North Australia hangs like a cloud over that part of the country.
– A considerable portion of the Northern Territory lies within the 40-in. rainfall belt, and a vast area has a 20-in. rainfall.
– But it is not good wheatgrowing country.
– I do not say that it is. There is not a big area in Queensland suitable for wheat-growing, and yet Queensland is a great agricultural State. The honorable member for Wimmera said just now that the difficulty would be to market the produce grown in North Australia. I am aware of that. But the difficulties there will not be greater than those experienced by any of the States in their initial stages of development. Those difficulties must be faced and overcome. One of the means to this end .is the adequate provision for transport. The failure of Vestey Bros.’ enterprise in North Australia, mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon, can be attributed to a number of causes. In the first place it was an isolated venture, and it encountered unusual difficulties at the outset. Most of the labour required to operate the works had to be brought from the southern States at enormous cost, and the men,- when there, had to be paid high wages. Moreover, the enterprise was subject to seasonal vagaries, and there were unlooked for difficulties in regard to shipping as well as the unexpected collapse of the meat market. But because there has been a partial failure in these attempts at development, we must not condemn North Australia. On the contrary, because of the millions of acres of good agricultural land - as good as can be found in any other part of Australia - awaiting development, there is very good reason why we should have the greatest faith in its future.
– We have had a few experimental farms in North Australia.
– Yes, and if, instead of being abandoned, experimental work on those farms had been conducted vigorously we should be able to show better results to-day. The Batchelor Farm was established, I think, in 1912. Unfortunately, the war broke out a couple of years later, and diverted the energies of the Government in other directions. Within 200 miles of the northern seaboard of North Australia there is an average rainfall of nearly 20 . inches per annum, and a considerable area is within the 40 inch rainfall. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of wellwatered open black-soil plains, and millions of acres of good mixed pastoral land. The whole of this country is interspersed with large rivers, many of them perennial in their flow. In this respect North Australia differs entirely from the central and considerable areas over the southern portions of the continent.
– A large area there is almost useless.
– That may be said of certain portions of almost every State. It is true of New South Wales; and yet there is a great area in that State suitable for agriculture. Along the Macarthur, the Victoria, the Daly, and numerous other rivers in North Australia there are extensive fertile river flats capable of producing almost all kinds, of tropical products.
– Where are the men with the pioneering spirit to-day ? Why do not they settle in the country to develop it?
– It is of no use to expect men imbued with the pioneering spirit to take up land in North Australia, unless the Government is prepared to provide facilities for the marketing of their produce. Improved harbours are an urgent necessity. The Barkly Tableland comprises, I suppose, 10,000,000 acres of first class pastoral country, carrying heavy growths of Mitchell, Flinders and blue grass. That part of the country enjoys a good rainfall, and I under stand that it is possible to secure subartesian water almost anywhere at a depth of not more than 200 feet; but, owing to the lack of marketing facilities, there are practically no sheep being grazed over that area.
– The Barkly ‘ Tableland could carry 8,000,000 sheep.
– I agree with the honorable member. It is potentially a very wealthy region ; but, as I have said, nothing is being done to develop it. The Commonwealth Government has, at times, contemplated the building of a railway across the Barkly Tableland from Daly Waters through Brunette Downs to Camooweal. Although I do not wish to disturb the equanimity of the South Australian members in this Parliament - they think that if a, railway is to be built it should be constructed through the centre of the continent to link up with the existing railway at Oodnadatta - I sincerely believe that the first developmental line should be from Daly Waters across the Barkly Tableland to join with the Queensland railway system. The Barkly Tableland is only one portion of North Australia. On each of the great rivers which I have mentioned, there are extensive tracts of country suitable for closer settlement, and yet, in the whole of North Australia there are to-day fewer than 3,000 Europeans. The Government has a definite responsibility in this matter. Because the money market may be difficult at the moment, the Treasurer is not justified in holding up the development of North Australia. The money required for this purpose could be raised easily enough in the Australian market. Local financial stringency should not affect a long-range policy for the development of North Australia. No honorable member would object to the enunciation of a policy visualizing the development of North Australia extending over a tenyear period, and involving, possibly the expenditure of £2,000,000 a year, so long as there was a definite objective. No one would cavil at the Government establishing an authority to formulate a proper and orderly scheme. There is no justification for delay, and there is no reason whatever why the Government should ignore this pressing problem. Up to date we have expended more than £10,000,000 in establishing the Federal Capital iri Canberra. The expenditure of that sum in North Australia would have produced an asset of infinitely greater value than we have in the Federal Capital, because it would have ensured development where development .is necessary. If we are to avoid criticism in regard to our determination to hold Australia exclusively for the white race, and almost exclusively for the British race, we can only do so by initiating a vigorous policy for the occupation and development of the northern portion of this continent. The lack of it constitutes a serious weakness in our national policy. In contrast with the position in North Australia, I point to Northern Queensland. North of the tropic of Capricorn in that State there are approximately 200,000 people settled. North Australia could sustain the same number of people; and yet, as I have stated, only about 3,000 Europeans are living there. The position is a disgrace to Australia, and certainly a disgrace to the Commonwealth Government - not to. this Government alone, but to preceding governments also. I urge the Ministry to realize the necessity of adopting a policy that will lead to the settlement and development of North Australia. We cannot afford to be niggardly in the handling of this difficult problem. It should not be left to the caprice of a particular Ministry who may be out of sympathy with the people who have settled, or who wish to settle there. The Government should accept full responsibility, and should provide the necessary funds to ensure the satisfactory development of that portion of Australia.
.- I am somewhat surprised at the turn which the debate has taken. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) at the close of his budget speech indulged in a flight of oratory, and endeavoured to persuade us that everything in the garden was lovely.
He painted a glowing picture of the future. I wish I could share his optimism. I am not by any means a pessimist. I believe that we shall soon place our troubles behind us; but I realize that if we are to do this, we must turn over a new leaf. We must live within our means, and see to it that we get 20s. in value for every 20s. we expend. I affirm that with the greatest degree of solemnity. We are not yet assured of a good harvest. The outlook certainly is hopeful, but it will continue to be so only in the event of a good rainfall within a brief period. That applies to Victoria, South Australia, a large portion of New South Wales, and to a less extent, to every other State, with the exception of Western Australia. Up to a month or five weeks ago the prospects even in that State were doubtful; but during the present month, it has experienced the heaviest rainfall that has been registered in August over a period of 40 years. On the other hand, this has been the driest August that South Australia has experienced in the last 80 years. It is the duty of this Parliament to exercise the greatest care in the expenditure of public money. -The first necessity is to cheapen the cost of production. We must work harder and husband our resources. The existing depression is not peculiar to Australia, but on the contrary is being felt in every other country. Only yesterday we were- reminded that during the present year the United States of America, with all her vast wealth, has been faced with problems that have fully taxed her capacity. It cannot be denied that we have been rolling in luxury and spending recklessly, without obtaining an adequate return, and we have now come to a dead end. So far as I am able to judge, of all the States, South Australia alone is tackling the problem in the right way; yet it is blackguarded by people who live in other States that are still spending with reckless prodigality.
– (Mr. Duncan Hughes). - Order! I ask the honorable member to confine himself as far as possible to “Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.” When these items have been disposed of, he will have an opportunity on the general estimates, as well as on the budget, to discuss the questions he is now raising.
– The Government proposes to make available the sum of ?75,000 to assist the biggest and richest State in the Commonwealth to reconstruct the road from Canberra to Goulburn. What obligation is there on the Commonwealth to render assistance in, that direction, and why should the Government agree to incur such an expenditure when it does not know where to turn to obtain money for projects that are essentially the concern of the Commonwealth, and at present are being neglected? It is advisable that a periodical investigation should be made of Federal aid road expenditure; because in many instances full value is not being received for the outlay. A condition precedent to an advance to a State for road construction is that the work shall be carried out under the contract system, but that condition is not always observed. I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to insist upon its being observed in the future. New South Wales is under an obligation to build a railway into the Federal Capital Territory. It has not honoured that compact, and it is not being asked to do so. In view of the impoverished state of our finances, I shall vote against this proposed expenditure. I urge upon the Government the necessity for confining its attention to those matters for which it is directly responsible. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) desires that largesse shall be distributed all over Queensland. I should like to describe his attitude in language that befits it, but unfortunately I am not at liberty to do so. I ask honorable members to bear in mind the fact that we are at present in an unenviable position. Even assuming that we have a bumper wheat harvest, if the expectations in Canada and the United States of America are realized, we shall have to accept a price lower than 4s. a bushel, which is not equal to the cost of production. Unless the figure at which we sell is greater than the cost of production, we cannot continue to produce. South Australia to-day is an object lesson to every other State. It is adhering strictly to the contract system, under which, the working man has doubled his output and is earning twice as much as he did previously.
. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has claimed that in South Australia production has increased and workmen are earning more money. If that State is in such a flourishing condition as he has described, why should it find it necessary to approach this Parliament for a grant of £750,000? The honorable member has painted a doleful picture of the conditions that exist in the Commonwealth. According to the statistics that I have been able to collect, we are likely to have a phenomenal wheat crop ; and an excellent price has been obtained for a substantial wool clip. I should like to remind the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), who, apparently, disregards the progress which is being made in this country, and takes exception to the proposed vote of £75,000 towards the cost of reconditioning the Goulburn-Canberra road; that as £10,000,000 has been spent on developmental works within the Federal Capital Territory, the Government should do everything possible to provide convenient and expeditious transport facilities for those who wish to visit Canberra. Why should tourists using the road from Sydney to Canberra be compelled to traverse an- almost impassable track between Goulburn and the Federal Capital? The present state of that road is due largely to the volume of traffic to and from the Federal Capital, and the Commonwealth Government is, therefore, justified in contributing to the cost of putting it in good repair. Who is likely to derive benefit from the expenditure of this money? Not only those who will use the road, but many deserving men, to-day walking the streets in search of work, who will be employed in its re-construction. Why should New South Wales be asked to bear the whole expense ?
– Because the people of New South Wales alone will benefit.
– That is not so. The honorable member for Wilmot should remember that the Government of Tasmania is always appealing to the Commonwealth for -financial assistance, and has even hinted at withdrawing from the federation. I should like to see the Tasmanian people take such a step, as that State has been a millstone around the neck of the Commonwealth authorities ever since the inception of federation. That, of course, is only my own personal opinion. The Federal Capital, which I am sure will eventually be a financial success, will benefit by the construction of a good road from Goulburn. The representatives of some of the smaller States who seem to object to my remarks should remember that, as large sums by way of interest are now being paid on the money spent in developing the Federal Capital, every effort should be made to provide additional facilities so that Canberra will eventually be the show city of the Commonwealth, and one which will be visited by residents of all parts of the Commonwealth, as well as tourists from overseas. It is only right that road transport should be as comfortable as possible. We have now passed the experimental stage, and, having spent more than £10,000,000 in the Federal Capital Territory, the Government is fully justified in incurring this expenditure in order to make transport between Canberra and the north as easy as possible. Irrespective of the opinions which may be held by some Victorian representatives, it is admitted by everyone who comes to this city that the climate is delightful and that it is a healthy locality in which to live. I believe that it will not be long before Canberra will be one of the most important centres in the Commonwealth. I congratulate the Government on this proposal ; the expenditure will be more than justified, particularly as the ‘road from Goulburn to Canberra is the worst portion of the route from Sydney to the Federal Capital. As the New South Wales Government has spent £110,000 on road construction between Sydney and Goulburn, and is spending still more, it will be seen that the £75,000 which the Commonwealth Government proposes to spend in re-conditioning this section is a relatively paltry contribution. I shall support the vote because I believe the expenditure of the money is fully justified.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper - Trea taken place in regard to the reconditioning of the road between Goulburn, and Canberra has, I think, been conducted under a misapprehension. Instead of some honorable members deprecating the fact that the Commonwealth proposes to spend a portion of the sum of £75,000 beyond the Territory they should congratulate the New South Wales Government on what it is doing, in addition to its ordinary road construction programme, in making Canberra more accessible to all parts of Australia. The present New South Wales Government, viewing the question of the accessibility of Canberra in a broad national spirit, has recognized the necessity of connecting the Australian Capital by road with the northern, southern, and western States. It has decided that it would be reasonable to provide Canberra with at least four outlets, one through Tass and Albury direct to Melbourne, another via the coast road into Victoria, another to Jervis Bay, the seaport of the Federal Capital where certain Federal activities are concentrated, and still another to the north connecting Canberra with Sydney. Possibly, the population north of Canberra comprises five-twelfths of the population of the Commonwealth, many of whom desire to travel by road to Canberra. In connexion with three of these four outlets the New South Wales Government has made provision under its Federal Aid Roads Scheme for the construction of these roads within a reasonable period of years. The western road to Yass connecting with the main road is being constructed under the Federal Aid Roads system, and will improve the road between Sydney and Melbourne, which is part of the scheme. A sum of £27,000 has been spent this year in constructing the road to the Federal Capital boundary. Work is also being carried on upon the road through Cooma to Bombala, and continuing to the south through Eden and on to Orbost in Victoria. That is also being done under the Federal Aid Roads Scheme. In addition” to these works a road branching off the main road now being discussed under the Federal Aid Roads scheme from Goulburn to Canberra is being built. This leads to Jervis Bay. The road from Canberra to Jervis Bay will thus comprise portion of the road being discussed and a portion that is being constructed under the Federal Aid Roads Scheme. I venture to say that if we consider the sum that is being spent out of Federal Aid Road money by New South Wales in connecting Canberra with the southern States and also with the seaboard, we shall realize that a greater portion is being spent in this way than in similar areas in that State, and more than this particular area is entitled to under any ordinary distribution scheme, yet the State is willing to make an additional contribution to make Canberra accessible. The New South Wales Government recognizes that it is only right that Canberra should be connected by the best roads at the earliest possible moment with Sydney and the northern portions of New South Wales, and also Queensland. It is committed to the expenditure of something like £4,000,000 on its ordinary roads scheme, yet it makes an additional £70,000 available for this Goulburn-Canberra road outside its ordinary road scheme, and the Commonwealth Government is, therefore, willing to make an additional amount available for the purpose of assisting to connect Canberra with the north. If this road is left to take its turn under the Federal Aid Roads Scheme it will be ten or fifteen years before sufficient money is available ; but the New South Wales Government has stated that if the Commonwealth will provide £2 for every £1 contributed by the State for this purpose, it will make the road within two years, so that the people of Australia will be able to reach the Capital in the easiest way and by the shortest route.
– Who will maintain it?
– The State Government will maintain the portion within its boundaries, and the Commonwealth authorities that part which is within its territory. What does this mean for this road under this basis as compared with the Federal Aid Roads Scheme? We are finding £2 for every £1 contributed by New South Wales. Of the £200,000 required we are finding £133,000, and the road will be constructed within, two years instead of from ten to fifteen - the time that would be occupied under the Federal Aid Roads
Scheme. “We shall therefore be paying £133,00.0 to have the road constructed within a short period as against £114,000 to have it built ten or fifteen years hence u under the Federal roads grant. I think every one will agree that in the circumstances the Government proposition is a reasonable one. We should congratulate ourselves on the fact that New South Wales is finding some of the money for this purpose.
– It is an unusual procedure.
– There are many honorable members in this House who do not want to see Canberra progress, but wish it to be isolated from other parts of the Commonwealth. On! the other hand, the New South Wales Government very properly believes that Canberra should be connected with other parts of Australia by good roads so as to assist it in fulfilling its functions as the national capital. I emphasize the point that the road as far as a point opposite Bungendore will be a portion of the road between Canberra and Jervis Bay, the seaport of the Federal Capital, where our naval college is established. This will also provide an alternative main road between Melbourne and Sydney, placing Canberra on the main, route between the two capitals. The main road will come from Sydney to Goulburn, through Yass and on to the
Sain southern road through Albury to [elbourne or alternatively towards the coast through Gippsland, and on to Melbourne. We should aim to assist in the completion of this important work at the earliest possible moment. The expenditure will be of benefit to the whole of Australia, yet there are some honorable members who are opposed to it.
Reference was made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) to the policy of the Government regarding the Northern Territory. He spoke as though we had done nothing whatever to develop that vast area; but I remind him that this Government has completely altered the land laws of the Territory by a comprehensive land policy that made possible the early resumption of leases granted by the South Australian Government. The honorable member said that certain areas were held by a few men. But those areas were in the hands of a few men when the Territory was taken over from South Australia, and they were so held during the period when the Labour party was in power in the Commonwealth. The present Ministry has brought about alterations of the land laws to permit of the resumption within a reasonable time of a considerable part of those areas, in order to provide for closer settlement. The Government also provided means whereby settlers in the southern portion of the Territory will have access to Adelaide, and thus to the rest of the wellpopulated parts of Australia. The Government has also carried out a certain amount of railway construction work in North Australia. If we add the sums made available and to be made available for railway expenditure in North Australia to the other votes it will be seen that the total is over £5,000,000. Further, I may mention that the roads in the Northern Territory are being transformed. It was recently stated by Mr. Francis Birtles, who motored from North Australia to the southern part of Australia that the roads between the Northern Territory and Queensland were among the best in Australia for motor cars. Then, again, the stock routes have been improved by this Government by the destruction of pests and noxious weeds. Water has been supplied along those routes, and the North Australian Commission is now investigating the best means of further developing the Territory. The sum of £100,000 is on the Loan Estimates which will permit the commission to carry out a trial survey of the various roads and railways which it suggests should be constructed. There is no justification for saying that the present Government is responsible for delay in bringing the Northern Territory into touch with the rest of Australia, and. opening it up for development.
.- It is the duty of every honorable member to examine each item of expenditure appearing on the Estimates, and that duty is more imperative than ever in a year when the Commonwealth is faced with a big deficit, and the prospects for the season are anything but bright. The conditions in Australia generally now are such that many people have great difficulty in financing their own affairs and making ends meet. I am glad that the Treasurer has made a statement concerning the road that has been under discussion during the greater part of the debate this evening, but I am not yet satisfied that his attitude is correct. The best test to apply to any item on the Estimates is to consider whether the work is urgently needed during the present year. Although it may be the duty of the Commonwealth to assist in the construction of this road, because it leads to .the national capital, I am not convinced that the work is urgent in its nature, and I have no information to guide me to that conclusion. It seems to me that such a proposal should be submitted to the Public Works Committee before Parliament is asked to agree to it.
– But the work is being done chiefly in New South Wales.
– This Parliament is responsible for the expenditure of the money of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, and any expenditure of federal money to the extent of over £25,000 should be the subject -of inquiry by the Public Works Committee.
– Yes, if the construction were by the Commonwealth ; but the work will be carried out by New South Wales. The committee cannot inquire into road construction in New South Wales.
– My objection is that we have no information as to whether the work is urgent, and, unless it is, the expenditure should not be sanctioned, in view of the present state of the finances. I shall pass over that subject, because it has been well debated; but I agree with almost everything that has been said about the manner in which it is proposed to carry out the work.
I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) regarding the expenditure of public money upon a war memorial that will take the form of a war museum in Canberra. I believe that many honorable members would probably protest against the proposed expenditure were they not afraid of being accused of being unsympathetic towards the commemoration of the great work in the late war by the Australian soldiers, and particularly those who paid the extreme penalty. I have no fear that it will be said that I am unsympathetic concerning such proposals generally; but I ask whether we are justified in expending £250,000 in erecting a memorial that will not benefit anybody in a practical way. I have in mind the fact that many ex-soldiers are in sore straits to-day. Some are maimed, and are still in need of financial assistance; others are ill, and cannot obtain help because they are unable to prove that their disabilities are due to war service. Many of them, again, are struggling on the land. There are thousands of others who have received no repatriation assistance from public funds, and are having a hard struggle against adverse conditions to-day. Since so many ex-soldiers are at their wits’ end to-day to know how to balance their finances, are we justified in spending such a huge sum on a war museum, glad as we might be to see a handsome memorial of that nature erected in the national capital? I protest against expenditure of that nature at the present time. If the item goes to a division I shall certainly vote against it, and in doing so I am not afraid of being misunderstood.
An item that specially interests me, as the representative of an electorate in Tasmania, relates to lighthouses. On several occasions I have brought under the notice of the Customs Department and the Trea-surer the necessity to provide one that is obviously required, and where th . authorities have recommended its erection. The daily risk of life is so great that something should be done at once. There is an urgent call for the construction of a lighthouse on the east coast of King Island. I have brought this matter up in this chamber on four occasions, but, unfortunately, without result. I understand that these estimates do not provide for any lighthouse there. The department has not informed me to that effect, although I consider it should have done so in view of the interest I have taken in this matter, and the numerous letters I have written concerning it. I protest strongly against the inaction of the Government in this matter. There have been more wrecks on the coast of
King Island than on any other similar portion of the Australian coast. Masters of vessels have nothing to guide them when navigating those waters. I have travelled on a vessel which, because of the absence of guiding beacons at King Island, was forced to wait for daylight to find its way into port. Honorable members can imagine the position of a vessel in these waters in the height of a gale. I agree that it is necessary to exercise economy in administration, but where human lives are at stake, money should be spent in providing safeguards rather than in the provision of sentimental buildings such as war museums. From the statements made by other honorable members from time to time it would appear that lights are also necessary on other portions of the Australian coast. Probably not a great number of people realize the necessity for additional lighthouses on our coasts. Certainly most of the passengers who travel to and from Tasmania do not realize the dangers which surround them. Those who do recognize the dangers have little influence, because they are few in number. My protests have also been in vain up to now, but I could not let this opportunity pass without once more urging on the Government the necessity for providing further safeguards on our coast. The neglect of the Government to provide guiding beacons does not encourage me to vote for other items which, in my opinion, are not nearly so urgent.
.- I had hoped that we had got rid of those honorable members whose vision is so short that they are unable in this national Parliament to discuss matters of national interest. The opposition to the expenditure of money on a road between Canberra and Goulburn has all come from members representing constituencies in States other than New South Wales. Many honorable members who represent States to which assistance has been granted by the Commonwealth appear to have forgotten that the people of New South Wales and Queensland have been the largest contributors to the funds from which those grants have been made. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) referred to the liberal action of New South Wales in ceding to the Commonwealth 900 square miles of the best portion of its territory on which large sums of money had been spent. That area, which is the show ground of Australia, now belongs, not to New South Wales alone, hut to the whole of Australia. Any money expended in the Federal Capital Territory is spent on behalf of the people of Australia. I protest against the parochial attitude adopted by some honorable members in this chamber.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) brought under the notice of honorable members a number of matters affecting the Northern Territory. Having spent some weeks in the Northern Territory, I realize that it has a great future if the residents will devote their energies to cattle raising, and the development of its mineral resources. Probably no portion of Australia is so rich in minerals as is this part of the continent. That is our chief hope of making a success of settlement in North Australia. It has been proposed on various occasions that migrants from the United Kingdom should be settled there, but they would never make a success of stock-raising. If that kind of production is desired, the best class of settler will be found in the outlying areas of - South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. When we visited the Katherine River district we saw 700 head of cattle, equal to the best Herefords raised in New South Wales. They were subsequently shipped from Darwin to Manila and the gentleman who had the transaction in hand informed me later in Sydney that it was quite a success. A good deal has been said at different times about the courage of Vestey Brothers in establishing meat works at Darwin. I am of the opinion that the sole object of the firm in undertaking that enterprise was to prevent the development of a substantial trade between Manila and Darwin and so enable the South American and Argentine monopoly of the Manila trade to continue. I say that after a careful study of the whole situation.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) drew attention to the necessity for taking steps to encourage an extension of meat production in North
Australia. It is wrong that the Australian people should he obliged to pay such a high price for their meat. The unfortunate Australian consumer has to pay dearly for most of the foodstuffs produced here. This is largely because our producers are unable to cope with the transport problem. The Government should be doing something to increase our transport facilities instead of rushing to the country on a whirlwind election campaign.
Provision is made on the Estimates for the expenditure of £1,800 on a wireless station at Lord Howe Island; but I do not expect the money to be spent. A similar amount was on the Estimates last year, but was not spent. I do not think that the Government has any intention to provide these facilities, although they are urgently required. I have endeavoured on numerous occasions to get something done. I have been referred in turn to the Works Department, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and other authorities, but always with a negative result. It is unjust and cruel that people on this lonely outpost should have no means of direct communication with the mainland. I have even gone to the length of getting the Governor of New South Wales to intercede with the Commonwealth Government on behalf of these people. I thought that, as his instincts were naturally tory, he might be able to influence a tory government; but it was not so. These people are more than 450 miles from the mainland. It takes me five weeks to go there, deliver an address and get back to Sydney. There is shown on the Estimates the sum of £3,250 for extensions at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I wish to know why the Government is asking for this expenditure, and at the same time carrying on negotiations for the sale of our national workshops at Cockatoo Island.
– I would point out to the honorable member that he is referring to an item on last year’s Estimates.
– The sum of £3,250 is shown on the Estimates, and I am quite justified in drawing attention to it. I cannot understand why the Government should expend this money on the dockyard and at the same time carry out negotiations for its sale to a shipping monoply. I have seen the naval and military work-shops of Chatham, Portsmouth, Woolwich and Shoeburyness, and not one of them is better equipped than the Cockatoo Island work-shops. Surely that dock should be controlled by the Government, if only for defence purposes? The class of work done there is equal to that done at any other naval or military work-shop in the world. While we have a navy and army, we should keep this great national utility under the control of the Commonwealth Government, so that, should the necessity arise, we shall have the appliances with which to build engines of destruction. The Government has spent large sums for machinery to make it perfect. The work-shops at Cockatoo Island can be put to good use, during peace and war, and in the past we have greatly benefited from its operations.
This is a national Parliament, and Ave should rise above petty jealousies. Why should there be any objection to the construction of a road from Goulburn to Canberra, which will afford an additional means of giving our fellow citizens an opportunity of viewing this beautiful capital city, for which visitors from abroad have nothing but admiration.
I urge the Government to establish a wireless station at Lord Howe Island, and to reconsider its decision to dispose of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– I am rather surprised to see provision made on these Estimates for expenditure on the reconstruction of the road between Goulburn and Canberra. I think it is the duty of the State of New South Wales to reconstruct the road if the work is at all necessary, and I question very much whether it is constitutional for the Com monwealth to advance this money to a State which is already getting its share of the £2,000,000 granted each year by the Commonwealth for the construction of roads. It would appear that this item is a sop to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). It is evident that the Minister for Works and Railways is afraid to take a motor ride over the road to Goulburn in a car driven by the right honorable member. The
Treasurer’s remarks about this road, and about what, its reconstruction will do for Canberra do not convince me that the work is necessary at the present time in the financial position of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer has told the committee of the very fine roads we are getting in Australia by means of the Federal aid roads grant, and has spoken of how nice it will be when the people of Australia will be able to ride everywhere in motor cars. And the . honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has mentioned a list of works he wants carried out in Queensland at a cost of something in the vicinity of £1,000,000. The honorable member may be perfectly right in asking for railways here and aeroplanes there, and good roads elsewhere ; but Tasmania has neither an aeroplane nor a steamship passenger service between Hobart and the mainland. Since April last no steamer carrying passengers has left Hobart for the mainland.
The Commonwealth Government can give New South Wales, which has railways, aeroplanes, and shipping facilities, a grant of money to build roads, yet it cannot give £6,000 a year to a shipping company to run a passenger service between the mainland and Hobart, where we have the finest harbour in the world. In Tasmania the scenery is as good as can be found anywhere else in the world, and the State Government is spending thousands of pounds in trying to attract tourists to the island; but what has been the result? The State is worse off to-day than it was 60 years ago. It has been in continual trouble ever since the proclamation of the Navigation Act. It is nearly time the Commonwealth Government took steps to see that something is done to relieve it of the position in which it finds itself to-day. I am not like a lot of members who condemn Canberra. I am an advocate for the place. 1 believe that the National Capital is a fine institution, and that we should make the best of the money that has already been spent here. It is “too late to cry out that this or that should not have been done. Honorable members should recognize that Canberra is an established city, and that it is a good place. Nevertheless, with all due deference to the needs of the National Capital, it is the duty of the Government to provide Tasmania with a shipping service that will enable the people of the State to have proper facilities for’ reaching the mainland. We all know that the people of Tasmania have to pay their share of the running losses sustained on the Commonwealth railways. Why then should not the people of the mainland pay a subsidy to enable a passenger steamer service to be maintained between Hobart and the mainland? If any person in Brisbane or Sydney wants to go to Hobart in the summer months the shipping companies compel him to travel first by rail to Melbourne. He is then taken by sea to Launceston, and then compelled to travel by train to Hobart. The cost of the journey is £24 return, whereas when a passenger service was maintained between Hobart and Sydney the cost was a little over £9. A shipping company has now decided to maintain a fortnightly service with the Bombala, but it has raised the first class fares by £1 and the second class fares by 12s. 6d. It has also announced its intention to increase the freights by 2s. a ton. These increases represent an additional £22,000 a year; yet the Commonwealth Government will not give the company a subsidy of £6,000 a year to provide a proper service. If the Commonwealth Government is prepared to give the State of New South Wales money to build a road between Goulburn and Canberra, I think it is its duty also to provide Tasmania with a proper passenger service. It must be borne in mind that the only outlet the people of Tasmania have is by the sea. The Government is sending the Development and Migration Commission to Tasmania to try to get the State out of its difficulties.
– I have allowed the honorable member a good deal of latitude. I hope that he will keep strictly to the item.
– I am endeavouring to show that the Government has given New South Wales a special vote for road construction and to point out that since the only communication the people of Tasmania have with the mainlaud is a shipping service, a subsidy should be granted to secure improved conditions.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 August 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280830_reps_10_119/>.