13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the threat to industry and employment throughout Australia which is involved in the contemplated stoppage of work by the miners on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Arbitration Court can take any action to prevent the catastrophe, and, if so, whether the Government proposes to take steps to put the arbitration machinery in operation?
– The Government has read with concern the announcement to which the honorable member has referred. Industrial conditions in the coal-mining industry are supposed to be determined by awards under the Industrial Peace Act, which, however, has been almost a dead letter for a considerable period, because owing to its terms it is almost inoperative. It can operate only by the consent of both parties in industry. The mere existence of the act prevents the Arbitration Court from functioning generally in relation to the coalmining industry. That state of affairs should not be allowed to continue indefinitely, and the Government is now considering the desirability of repealing the Industrial Peace Act, in order that the restriction it imposes upon the court may be removed.
– A recent award by a State tribunal reduced the wages of the Wonthaggi coal-miners by 20per cent. Does the Government propose to take any action to prevent a determination by a State authority from overriding an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court under the Industrial Peace Act?
– A determination by a State tribunal cannot override any existing determination of a federal tribunal. If there be a valid and applicable award by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that will prevail, notwithstanding any award by a State tribunal.
But the position as to many of the determinations under the Industrial Peace Act is obscure and ambiguous. This matter is at present engaging the attention of the Government, which considers that there should be no uncertainty as to the legality of determinations purporting to control an industry so important as coal-mining..
– A very serious position is developing in the industry, following the reduction of 20 per cent. in wages ordered by the State tribunal. The Wonthaggi miners are affiliated with the miners of northern New SouthWales, and it is reported that industrial trouble is imminent. Because of the seriousness of the position will the Government take action to clear this matter up? It is all very well for some honorable members to treat it lightly, but-
– Order! Again I remind the honorable member for Hunter that the object of questions is to obtain, not to give information.
– This 20 per cent. reduction in wages follows an earlier cut of 12½ per cent. As the Industrial Peace Act provides for the convening of a. compulsory conference of the parties interested, will the Attorney-General take the necessary action to bring the parties together ?
– I shall certainly look into the matter. As I have already explained, the position under the Industrial Peace Act is so difficult and obscure that it is doubtful that any good result could follow from any action taken under that act. There is a risk that it might lead to still further confusion. I assure the honorable member that the threatened trouble in the coal-mining industry is at the moment engaging the attention of the Government in all its aspects.
” Thefive-year Plan “.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House why the Russian film “ The Five-year Plan “ was rejected by theFilm Censorship Board?
– The film went through the usual process which precedes the release of films for public exhibition.. It was viewed by the Chief Censor, who furnished a report to me. As the production was definitely political, its banning was considered to be in the best interests of the community.
– “Was the film banned by the Government or bv the Censorship Board?
– It was finally banned by the Government upon the recommendation of its advisers.
– Under existing legislation an applicant for an invalid or old-age pension is ineligible if his income, including pension, would exceed £78 a year. In connexion with the proposed reduction of the pension will the maximum of the income allowable be amended?
– Particular attention will be given to that matter in the drafting of the -amending bill, which, I hope, will be introduced at an early date.
– In view of the attempt by certain manufacturers to create an unemployment scare because of small reductions in some customs duties, will the Acting Leader of the House read the evidence given by Mr. Hutchinson before the Tariff Board, in the course of which he drew attention to the enormous importations of galvanized iron which were permitted by a former Minister for Trade and Customs because of a similar threat of unemployment?
– I shall read that evidence if I can spare the necessary time.
– In connexion with the census to be taken next year, will questions be asked for the purposes of ascertaining the number of persons then living who served overseas with the Australian Imperial Force?
– I cannot say whether such questions are to be included. It is desirable to make the census form as simple as possible in order to produce an accurate general result, but consideration will be given to the honorable member’s” suggestion.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state when copies of the report of Mr. Gepp on Australian trade with the Orient will be made available to honorable members?
– Roneo copies will be available to honorable members. In order to avoid unnecessary expense the Government has decided provisionally that the report shall not be printed, but I understand that it is a very informative document, and if the House desires that it be printed, the Government will not oppose a private motion to that effect.
– I read recently in the newspapers a statement by the Minister for the Interior, from which I inferred that the Commonwealth Government is seriously considering the formulation of a policy for the national control of transport. Is any definite proposal being considered by the Government and, ii so, what progress has been made with it, and when is it likely to be submitted to the House?
– The policy of the Government was announced in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, and a sub-committee of the Cabinet is now investigating in detail the transport problem with a view to formulating a policy which, I hope, will be disclosed to the House in the near future.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Commonwealth Government prohibits Australian currency from leaving the Commonwealth, and whether that currency is negotiable in other parts of the world?
– I am not aware of any such prohibition, but, of course, our currency is worth more in Australia than elsewhere. When I went abroad recently no restriction was placed upon the amount of Australian currency which I and others took with us. Australian currency is negotiable abroad, but upon terms that are fixed by other countries.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Government is aware of the serious position that has developed on the coal-fields of New South Wales through the restriction of food relief to such an extent that grocers and other business people refuse to negotiate coupons issued by the State Government. As starvation tends to drive men to acts of violence in order to procure food, and a serious state of affairs is fast approaching which may involve the Commonwealth, is the Government prepared to confer at this stage with the State Government with a view to adjusting the trouble?
– Sustenance and other forms of relief are controlled entirely by State Governments, and intervention by the Commonwealth would cause embarrassment without producing any useful result.
– I ask the Minister for Health if it is the intention of the Government to establish in New Guinea an executive council and also a legislative council, and, if so, will he, at a suitable time, give the House an estimate of the cost likely to be incurred by, and incidental to, the establishment of such bodies?
– The honorable gentleman will find the necessary information in the bill of which I moved the first reading yesterday.
– In view of the fact that in Canberra there are practically no houses now available to prospective tenants, will the Minister for the Interior consider the re-introduction of a housing scheme on lines similar to that which had to be discontinued a year or two ago owing to the lack of finance? Will the honorable gentleman make overtures to the Commonwealth Bank to that end ?
– The position in Canberra is now reaching the stage when some additional accommodation will be necessary. Tenders are being called for the erection of a number of additional cottages. This was one of the conditions under which the Commonwealth relief grant was made. I shall be glad to give consideration to the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– In this morning’s Canberra Times, there appeared a statement, under the smiling photograph of the Minister, to the effect that great building developments were about to take place in Canberra. Will the Minister inform the House precisely what new works are in contemplation?
– The report in question was a comparatively accurate summary of a contribution which I made to a debate last night. For details of the works mentioned, I refer the honorable member to the Hansard report of my speech.
Liability for Arrears
– Will the PostmasterGeneral examine the regulations under which a telephone service is transferred from one subscriber to another, and ascertain if it is a fact that the incoming subscriber is held responsible for the liability of the subscriber whose telephone he is taking over? This is a radical departure from a well-recognized business principle. Gas and electric light companies, for example, do not expect new applicants for services to pay the arrears of outgoing tenants. Will the PostmasterGeneral see that the transfer of telephone services from one subscriber to another is put upon proper business lines?
– In the conduct of the Postal Department, every care must be taken to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers, the public, and the revenue, but if at any time the honorable member has a useful suggestion to make with regard to any phase of the department’s business, I shall be glad to hear from him.
Tariff Board’s Report
– I ask the Acting Minister for Customs if his attention has been directed to the statement, in last night’s
Sydney World, by Mr. J. L. Cook, dealing with the Tariff Board’s report on steel pipes and tubes, to the effect that the board’s recommendation was against the weight of evidence, and that certain evidence had been suppressed ? In view <of the seriousness of the statement made, and in view also of the fact that the steel pipe industry, when in normal production, would use 50,000 tons of Australian :steel 25,000 tons of coal and 5,000 tons of zinc, will he investigate the charges made, and consider the advisability of referring the matter back to the board for immediate inquiry and report?
– -I have not read the statement referred to, but I was informed of its publication in the World. Mr. Cook approached me some weeks ago and made a statement on similar lines. Following that interview I got in touch with the Tariff Board and was advised that the board did give consideration to the whole of the evidence submitted. However, in view of what the honorable member has said this morning, I shall make further inquiries, and if an application is made to me in writing, I will adopt the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Customs if, in view of the conflicting reports regarding the sales of Australian-grown tobacco, and the fact that, although the selling season is now very far advanced, not more than onehalf of the growers have even heard from the buyers, will he appoint an officer of his department to investigate the position without delay, so that the House may be informed of what is really happening ? I may add, by way of explanation, that I have received communications from many growers advising me that in some district’s nothing has been heard from any buyers and not one pound of this season’s crop has been sold. I am further informed that in some districts which have been’ visited by buyers, certain growers have been deliberately passed by-
– Order! . The honorable gentleman is now giving information instead of seeking it.
– I wish to impress it upon the Minister that many growers are complaining that, because of their active association with the recent agitation to further the interests of the tobaccogrowing industry in this country, they are being victimized by the buyers, and to ask him if he will instruct one of his officers to investigate the position?
– The whole matter is being closely watched by the department. Each week I am in receipt of reports of what is happening at head-quarters in connexion with the policing of the sales of locally-grown leaf. Although some complaints have been made in the press, very few have reached the department. I am advised that already about 2,750,000 lb. of this season’s crop has been sold at an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb. One report received a few days ago from the Tumut district stated that the price received was very low, some of the leaf, I understand, being sold for as little as od. per lb.; but even including this figure the average price now being obtained is about 2s. 3d. per lb. I.shall give instructions for an early investigation of the position.
– As there have been several serious” traffic accidents in Canberra recently, I should like to know if the Minister for the Interior will consider the advisability of closing a number of apparently unnecessary side roads, particularly those within a few hundred yards of Parliament House. If this is not done, it would seem that, on the law of averages, it will not be long before a member of Parliament is killed. That, with certain reservations, would be a terrible calamity!
– Consideration has already been given to the matter mentioned by the honorable member. Some trees have been removed at road intersections where it was thought they were obscuring the view. The suggestion will be taken into consideration.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say what action, if any, has been taken to give effect to the recommendation of the recent federal railways con- ference regarding the joint performance of railways and postal work?
– Consideration has been given to the matter.When a decision has been reached, the House will be informed.
Duty on Sheet Glass.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs if, in view of the monopoly established by the glass merchants in Sydney and glass manufacturers in England, Belgium and Germany, to control the sale of sheet glass, which at present is not regulated by the law of supply and demand, he will see that the former duties are restored?
– If the honorable member can furnish proof in support of his charge the matter will receive consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– It is understood that, in 1930, Venezuela commemorated the onehundredth anniversary of its independence by paying off the whole of its external debt only, the amount being approximately £1,000,000 in sterling.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will the Government give consideration to the restoration of the custom of having postage stamps available to the public from various vendors, and restoring the 2½ per cent. commission that was previously paid?
– The practice of making postage stamps available to the public per medium of licensed vendors has not been discontinued. The decision to withdraw commission payments to licensed vendors was reached only after the fullest consideration, and the Government is not prepared to revert to the system previously in operation.
Time Off in Lieu of Overtime:
Mr.WARD asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What is the total number of hours leave due to employees in his department for overtime worked for which leave is granted in. lieu of payment?
– The estimated total amount of time due to officers of thePostmasterGeneral’s Department, as at 2nd September, 1932, as compensation for extra duty services such as overtime, Sunday duty, holiday duty, &c, is 221,000 hours.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Bill brought up by Mr. Latham, and read a first time.
Consideration resumed from the 1st September, vide page 106 (on motion by Mr. Lyons) -
That the first item of the Estimates, under Division I. - 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.
In Committee of Supply:
Proposed vote, £175,000.
.- All honorable members must be anxious to pass the Works Estimates, so that the relief which the proposed expenditure will give may be provided as speedily as possible to persons out of work. Unemployment is now so widespread that it constitutes a very grave problem to Australia at the present time. It would be unreasonable to say that it is for the Government to solve that problem. As I have said before, no one government can solve it. It will require the co-operation of all governments, and of private employers as well, even to ameliorate the position. In saying that, I am a good deal more generous to this Government than honorable members opposite were to me and my government when we were in office. They then constantly hurled across the chamber at us the gibe that the volume of unemployment was growing, and had grown enormously since our assumption of office. They quoted the statistician’s figures in support of their statements, but they neglected to add what every one knew, that the times were calamitous and the whole economic system seemed to be crashing about our ears.
– What did the right honorable member say when he was in Opposition ?
– I said none of the tilings of which I am now complaining, but I shall mention some of the things that were said by the Assistant Minister and his friends during the last election.
If ever there was an election fought on the promise to restore a job to every man out of work, it was the last election.
– We are doing it.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Parkhill) used to be very ready to quote, as a means of discrediting the last government, the statistician’s figures regarding unemployment.
– When was that?
– When the honorable member was in Opposition, and had less responsibility than he has to-day. If honorable members will study the statistician’s figures now, they will realize how far the present Government has fallen short of honouring its promises. The figures to-day show a record percentage of unemployment. During the election it was pointed out by honorable members opposite that 28 per cent. of the members of trade unions were unemployed. That was a very high percentage, and I do not deny that the position was serious, nor do I deny that the percentage of unemployment increased during my term of office. That, however, was not because of anything done by my Government, but in spite of what we did. Honorable members opposite charged us with raising the tariff, and with thus contributing to unemployment, but most thinking persons are now beginning to understand that, had we not increased the tariff, unemployment would have been very much worse in our time than it was. The party opposite covered the hoardings of the country with repetitions of the statement that, if it were returned to power, jobs would be found for everybody.
At the present time the Government professes to be most anxious to keep men in work, and to find jobs for those who are unemployed. A certain amount of money is being provided for new works, but this is only a drop in the bucket compared with what is needed. As the Prime Minister stated in his budget speech, we must look to private industry for the greater part of the relief needed to solve the unemployment problem. The Government professes to be hastening on with new works to relieve unemployment, but, at the same time, it is destroying the country’s power to absorb unemployed workers by reducing the protective duties under which industry has been operating. I draw the attention of honorable members to the appeal published in the press this morning by the Prime Minister. Already notices of dismissal have been issued to hundreds of employees in factories throughout Australia because of the reduction of duties, and the Prime Minister has appealed to the manufacturers to stay their hand. The suggestion is that the Government has not definitely made up its mind, and that an appeal to the Tariff Board by the manufacturers might, still be successful.
– How much bluff is there in the manufacturers’ attitude?
– If the honorable member were one of those threatened with dismissal he would realize that the situation was serious enough. The Prime Minister asks the manufacturers not to dismiss their employees, stating that the reduced duties will not operate until after they have been agreed to by Parliament. In the meantime, if they feel aggrieved, they can approach the Tariff Board again. These duties have been considered by the Tariff Board, and have been reconsidered by the Government, and the Government now proposes to reduce them to the 1928 level. This is what the Prime Minister stated in his appeal -
Although a resolution has been tabled in the House of Representatives under which it is announced that Parliament is to be invited to reduce duties in certain cases, these reductions of the tariff do not become operative until such time as the tariff lias passed both Houses of Parliament.
The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) made a similar statement yesterday, saying that that was an effective answer to the manufacturers who had threatened to dismiss employees. As I understand the position, every one of the new duties which have been tabled except those which reduced the Scullin tariff below the 1928 level, operated the moment they were introduced. If that is so, this House has been seriously misled by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General.
– The right honorable member must realize that, even though the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General may have misled the House in regard to tariff items, this is not the proper time to discuss the matter. The
Estimates for new works and buildings are before the committee.
– I do not propose to pursue that subject at length; but I claim that. I am entitled to draw attention to the Prime Minister’s appeal to employers of labour to give work, and not to dismiss men because of any reduction of the tariff. Are employers to take his statement as a declaration that the Government will back down or, at least, stay its hand ? If not, will the employers be justified in continuing to make goods which will be of less value when the flood gates are opened to the products of cheaplabour countries? More unemployment has been created during the last few months by the Government’s policy than will be compensated for by the employment which these new works will give. I want these works to be proceeded with in addition to other works.
I draw i the attention of the committee to the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for Victoria in which he shows that, despite the depression and the shortage of money for industry, 221 new factories employing an additional 5,700 workers were established in Victoria in 1931 as a direct result of the increased’ duties. His statement that in Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Warrnambool, Castlemaine, and other places, woollen mills and textile factories were busy, particularly in the latter part of the year, shows that only when the .local stocks of imported goods became low did the Australian manufacturers begin to gain substantial advantage from the tariff of the Scullin Government. Since the present Government assumed office, many hundreds of employees engaged in the manufacture of matches, glass, and iron and steel have been thrown out of work. Yet the Government says that its policy is to help the unemployed to find work.
– I cannot allow the right honorable member to proceed further along those lines.
– The AttorneyGeneral should let this committee know the facts. I ask him to say specifically whether these reduced duties are actually in operation. My opinion is that, with tlie exception of those duties which are lower than the 1928 tariff, the reduced rates are already in operation, and that’ the blow has already fallen on the Austraiian industries concerned. I support those works estimates, but I repeat that they provide only a small measure of relief compared with that which would have been given had the Government not tampered with the tariff, thereby making it impossible for our industries to retain the workers employed in them.
.- The total of the estimates for additions, new works, buildings, &c, is £963,000, of which £231,500 is for departments and services other than business undertakings and territories of the Commonwealth; £655,000 is for business undertakings, and £76,500 for territories of the Commonwealth; The actual expenditure under those heads last year was £832,622. The new Estimates, therefore, provide for an increase of .£130,378. The Estimates for the year 1932-33 will lie taken in detail, and should honorable members desire further information concerning the various items, the Minister concerned will be glad to supply it.
The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) referred to the difficult subject of unemployment, and the relation’ of governments to unemployment. I think that he will do me the justice of admitting that, in both the last Parliament and this Parliament, I have consistently contended that no government, of itself, can handle the unemployment problem satisfactorily. So far as there is an answer to that problem, it will be found in a sound general policy rather than in relief provisions.
– It is a sound policy to protect Australian industries.
– In Australia particularly, a sound «policy in relation to finance, tariffs and industrial conditions, will, if properly administered, give our citizens a better chance to obtain employment than is possible otherwise.
– That is very different from what the honorable gentleman said in 1928.
– I have said the same thing throughout.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that the reduced duties now actually in operation, and the further reductions, contemplated by the Goverment, had led to manufacturers throw ing large numbers of men out of work. As to the facts, I direct the attention ‘of honorable members to the statement of the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) yesterday. The Minister explained that, in cases in which the result of the proposed reductions would be to bring the duties down to, or below, the rates which operated in 1928, the reductions operated immediately, but not below the 1928 level.
– That is not what the Prime Minister says in this statement; nor is it what the Attorney-General himself said yesterday.
– The position was accurately set out yesterday by the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs.
– He said that some duties had been reduced, and some had not; he’ gave no accurate information.
– The Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs drew a distinction between those reductions which brought the duty down to or below the 1928 tariff and those which did not. That, at any rate, is the position. As to the dismissals and threatened dismissals mentioned by the right honorable gentleman, the only case of which I have knowledge is that of a company which is engaged in the manufacture of glass. Honorable members were given the facts in relation to that company yesterday. .
– They heard certain statements, which were alleged to he facts.
– I shall give the facts now. For some time the Customs Department had been conducting regular weekly investigations into the industry concerned, at its factory. About ten days before the tariff schedule was introduced a customs officer, in the course of his investigations at the factory, was informed that the management proposed to close down the works at an early date for five or six weeks for the purpose of reconditioning, or altering in some way, a tank used in the manufacture of clear sheet glass. That information was repeated the day before the tariff schedule was introduced into this Parliament. Later, when the action already announced by the company was taken, certain newspapers attributed it to the Government’s policy in relation to the tariff. I can hardly think that the general manager of the company, or its board of management, would associate themselves with such propaganda. Dismissals, or threats of dismissals, may be bona fide, or they may be propaganda intended to exercise pressure on the Government in the hope that it will respond. Should it be found that the effect of an alteration of duty is gravely to reduce employment in an industry which is suited to Australia, the Government, realizing that the employment of our citizens is of fundamental importance in our social economy, will certainly reconsider it. The Government desires to act in the best interests of the community as a whole; it will consider not only the effect of a duty upon a particular set of men but also upon employment generally. So far as the particular proposals made are concerned, the right honorable gentleman is really going a -little too far when he suggests that the Government has been engaged in an indiscriminate slaughter. There is not .the slightest justification for .such a charge, particularly when we reflect that some of the duties which have been reduced were the highest iu the world, and that in no case has a duty been reduced other than on the recommendation of the Tariff Board after a more exhaustive inquiry than any honorable member in. this chamber -could possibly make. The duties recommended are regarded by the Tariff Board as sufficiently high to protect the Australian industries concerned, on the basis of Australian conditions. In all these matters the Government will be guided by the facts of the case, as ascertained by the best authority available for the purpose. It will undoubtedly consider the effect on employment of any reduction of duty both in the industry particularly affected and in relation to the community generally. I am not sure whether in saying these things I have been strictly in order. In any case there will be another opportunity to deal with the tariff.
– I am afraid that the honorable gentleman has gone a little further than is strictly permissible under the Standing Orders.
– I was afraid of that; but I wanted to set out clearly the attitude of the Government on this important matter.
.- It may be that the .Government’s desire to provide money for the relief of unemployment is the reason why these estimates provide for an increase of £130,378 on last year’s expenditure. If the latitude which has been given to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) is to be extended to all honorable members, I desire to draw attention to the Tariff Board’s report, which completely refutes the views expressed by the former. The board states that high tariffs create unemployment, and that every increase in the rates of duty has been accompanied by an increase in unemployment. The present Government came into office pledged to do its best to reduce unemployment in this country, and to that end it applied its mind to the tariff.
– The item before the Chair is the Department of the Interior, included in which is expenditure under the River Murray Waters Act and the War Service Homes Act. Since I allowed considerable latitude to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) I felt that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), in replying, was entitled to similar treatment, but honorable members generally, will realize that the Chair cannot allow a general discussion, on the tariff under this item. I, therefore, ask them in future to confine their remarks to the item -for the time being before the Chair.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but this morning - whether rightly or wrongly - there has been recorded in Hansard for the information of the public of Australia, a statement by one honorable member who represents an important electorate, yet another honorable member who represents an electorate just as important, is debarred from commenting upon it. If the statement of the Leader of the Opposition is important, I contend that its refutation is more important to the community generally.
– I wish to refer to the item relating to the River Murray Waters Commission. The Government is proposing to expend £142,000 this year, which is, I understand, £50,000 more than was expended by the previous Government, lt seems to me that the river Murray scheme is one of the greatest sinks for public money that we have ever had in Australia. It is surpassed only by Canberra. About £10,000,000 has, up to the present, been expended on the river Murray works. There is no use for the water that is being stored in the Hume reservoir. There are 500,000 acre feet of water impounded at Lake Victoria in South Australia. In the river Murray, which is locked to its mouth, is impounded an immense quantity of water. The total area of irrigated land in South Australia is 30,000 acres. In New South Wales, there are stored millions of acre feet of water, and the total area of irrigated land is 90,000 acres. Neither of those States wants additional water at the moment. Victoria is practically in the same position. The Hume reservoir may be necessary in 50 years’ time, but it is not necessary to-day.
– I disagree with the honorable member.
– The honorable member cannot show one instance in which the water in the Hume reservoir has been used for irrigation purposes.
– There are no channels.
– There are no channels. The only benefit from, the Hume reservoir will be obtained by those persons who have land which will, in future, be irrigated from that source. The cost of construction has been out of all proportion to the value to be derived ‘ from it. Five complete plants costing about £100,000 each have been erected for the building of the locks and weirs in the river Murray. Those plants belong to the State Governments, which have the right to write off the cost of them in the construction works. Naturally, the cost of the plants is being written off to the extent of about £30,000 or £40,000 for each lock and weir. By the time that the whole of the locks are completed, the State Governments will have unloaded a charge of £500,000 on to the Commonwealth Government, which is the fourth partner in the building of the whole of the locks and weirs. A certain amount of revenue is derived each year from shipping on the river Murray - about £10,000 - but the Com monwealth Government is not entitled to any share of it. Yet it has to stand for all time the cost of maintenance on the whole of the weirs and locks. This is a national work, and the people of Australia are finding the whole of the money that is being expended upon it. I can quite understand the representatives of South Australia and Western Australia protesting against the expenditure of £10,000,000 on this scheme.
– The estimate was £14,000,000.
– Those States have to share in the cost of construction and maintenance for all time, and yet obtain no result from the scheme. The people of Victoria and New South Wales are helping to pay for these works, although the owners of the land which will be irrigated by the scheme contribute nothing to the cost, excepting by way of ordinary taxation. The Government is going a step too far in finding this money at the present time. It should hold its hand and simply make provision for safeguarding the work already completed.
– This money is necessary for that purpose.
– Much valuable land has been submerged as a result of the construction of this scheme. The work has been of no use up to the present, and it is 50 years before its time.
.- I do not agree with the previous speaker that it is unwise for the Government to spend this money on the river Murray works. My regret is that in time of prosperity the governments of Australia expended on public works large sums of loan money which would have been better expended in giving relief to the unemployed at a period of depression such as that through which we are passing to-day. The governments of Australia, instead of withholding’ the construction of necessary public works until a return of prosperity, should put them in hand immediately, so as to give some relief to hundreds and thousands of our * workers who cannot to-day be absorbed in industry. Our secondary industries, if allowed to develop along proper lines, could employ many of these men. Some honorable members will say, “ Put them on the land”. But what is the use of putting them on the land to produce commodities for which there is no market?
– There is a glut everywhere.
– That is so. This Government made all kinds of specious promises on the hustings. It said that if returned to power unemployment would soon be at an end. This morning the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) quoted figures showing that unemployment had increased since the advent of this Government, and had now reached record figures. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), speaking at. Launceston before the elections, said that with the return of the United Australia Party to power, things in Australia would begin to improve, that there would be no necessity for further cuts in the wages and salaries of public servants or pensions, and that there would be immediate relief for the unemployed. Unfortunately, when this Government was returned to power no action was taken to give effect to its promises. Many new works could be put in hand by the Government to give relief to both skilled and unskilled workmen. The work of painting the post office buildings throughout Australia could be proceeded with. Other works that are being held up could be put in hand. We were told that with the restoration of confidence money would flow and that plenty of credit would be available to enable these works to be undertaken; but the position is that the Government is adopting the policy of inaction which was instituted by the previous Nationalist Government. The following . statement, which appeared in this morning’s Canberra Times, is a gross misrepresentation : -
Regret was yesterday expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that one or two firms, apparently affected by the decision of the Government to reduce tariff rates, were dismissing employees.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the department under discussion.
– I am pointing out that the Prime Minister has misled the people of Australia by stating that the reductions of the tariff do not become operative until such time as the tariff is passed by both Houses of Parliament.
– The honorable member must not pursue that subject further.
– I am taking this opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the unemployed of Australia who are endeavouring to find sufficient food to keep body and soul together. This Government promised to shower benefits upon the unemployed, yet it has done nothing for them. The Prime Minister, when speaking at Launceston, promised that, if returned to power, he would establish the paper pulp industry in Australia.
– The paper pulp industry has nothing to do with the item before the Chair.
– If the paper pulp industry were established it would give employment to at least 1,000 people. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Parkhill), when a private member, had a lot to say on the subject of unemployment. Now that he is Minister I ask him to deliver the goods. Unfortunately for the community generally, he is taking a leading part in strangling Australian industry and throwing additional people out of work.
.- Much comment has been made about unemployment. Last year the expenditure on public works was £832,000; this year the proposed expenditure is £963,000. Therefore, the Government is providing more money this year for employment on public works. This scare of unemployment has been raised time after time. If the sworn evidence of Mr. Hutchinson is true, just prior to the embargo being placed on galvanized iron, 10,400 tons of that material were imported into this country. Could anything be more discreditable than that?
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the item under discussion.
– It is not fair that the Leader of the Opposition should have been permitted to make a statement and that other members should be denied an opportunity to refute it. I quite appreciate the difficulty which confronts the Chair. Honorable members opposite are continually raising the scare of unemployment, in an effort to obtain special favours. We should have some clear and definite statement from the Government as to the past and proposed expenditure on the river Murray works. When it was suggested that the river Murray should be locked, I strongly supported the proposal, believing that it would afford an opportunity to open up huge areas of productive country. The scheme will not benefit Western Australia, Tasmania or Queensland, but members from those States have supported it in the belief that it would be to the advantage of Australia as a whole. The first estimate of the probable cost was £4,600,000. I believe that it has already cost over £10,000,000, and that the latest estimate of the ultimate cost is over £14,000,000.
– It has cost £8,000,000, and it is estimated that when completed it will have cost £16,000,000.
– I have seen nothing of the works, but I have heard it stated that there has been the most tragic waste in connexion with them. Ought we not to cry a halt? If the object is merely to provide employment, there are many other avenues in which that may be done much more profitably. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) has shown the smallness of the area of land that will be available for irrigation. It is an undoubted fact that some of the land that has been submerged is more valuable than that which will be irrigated, at least in Victoria. We ought to have some indication as to what the Government proposes. Unless it is shown that further expenditure is imperative for the protection of work that has been completed, I am strongly inclined to oppose the vote. There is much difference of opinion respecting the ultimate value of the undertaking, and we ought to be given more information concerning it.
– The amount that it is proposed to appropriate is the least that can possibly be expended this year, having due regard to the necessity for making reproductive what already has been done. The Hume reservoir is at present being constructed to a capacity of 1,250,000 acre feet. That work, in addition to the construction of weirs and locks Nos.7 and 8, should, in normal circumstances, be completed by the end of the financial year 1933-34. Any deferment of the work would add to its cost. Commencing with the year 1927- 28 the estimates of the River Murray Commission were reduced by the Loan Council or the Governments concerned, and the suggestion was made that each year, payments on account of land resumption should be deferred. Every attempt was made to defer those payments, but the stage is now being reached when that can no longer be done, and it has been found necessary to include in this year’s programme an amount of £220,000 under that heading. The wall of the Hume weir is at present being raised to the height necessary to impound 230,000 acre feet of water. The current commitments of the Government of Victoria call for a storage of 300,000 acre feet of water, and it is necessary to reach that stage as early as possible. The Government of Victoria has asked that the amount necessary to effect that purpose shall be made available. That, and the desire to avoid any interference with the commitments of that Government, are the reasons for the present provision. The estimated cost for the current year, which will be borne by the four contracting Governments, is £568,000.
– Does the Minister say that no more water is being impounded than can be profitably used within a reasonable time?
– I do. I am chairman of the commission, and in that capacity attended a meeting of it last Tuesday. I spent the whole of that day on the works, and obtained a personal knowledge of them. The engineers, and the other members of the commission, urged this expenditure on the ground that it was necessary to complete as speedily as possible work that had been proceeding for some considerable time, so that benefit might be obtained from the amount expended.
– What benefits will be derived ?
– The benefit of being able to utilize the water that will be stored in Victoria. At the present time more than 50 per cent. of what is available is being used. I sug gest to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) that he is rather late in expressing such definitely hostile views in relation to the expenditure that has been incurred. I think that I am entitled to remind him that for many years he was a member of an administration which spent large amounts on these works. If he held the view that that expenditure was not warranted, he ought to have been able to use some influence in the direction of having it reduced. I differ from any honorable member who says that the scheme is not going to be of national importance. It is the greatest scheme of its land that has ever been attempted in Australia.
– It may be beneficial 50 years hence.
– We shall not have to wait so long as that. We are certainly looking ahead, and are providing an additional quantity of water for some of the best land in the world. The result will be to bring substantial wealth to this country.
The honorable member for Corangamite pointed out that each State had installed a separate plant, and alleged that one plant would have done the work equally as well. That is true. Efforts were made to repair such extravagance, but the internecine jealousies of the different States concerned prevented that from being accomplished. An act to relieve the situation by providing for the operation of only one plant was passed by this Parliament and a couple ©f the State Parliaments, but I understand that it was defeated in the Legislative Council of New South Wales. Therefore, this Parliament cannot be blamed for what has happened in that direction. The contracting parties are shouldering their proportion of the depreciation, which has been spread over the whole of the construction, and covers a certain period of years.
I urge the committee to realize, first, the immense national conception of the work; secondly, its undoubted value to Australia in the comparatively Rear as well as the distant future; thirdly, the expenditure that already has been incurred; and, fourthly, the urgent and clamant necessity for providing at least sufficient to make reproductive and valuable what has so far been done. That is the aim of the Government.
.- I am pleased that the Minister has given an explanation of this item. In my opinion, however, he has not answered the very strong indictment of the scheme of the honorable member for Corangamite Mr. Gibson). I recognize, of course, that eventually the work’ must be completed. At the same time, however, I believe that, on account of the small amount of money at the disposal of the Government, and that is likely to be available to other governments that probably will succeed it for a period of years, the operations should be suspended for a time. If the object of the Government is to provide employment, the proposed expenditure should be allocated to works that will be more productive and of greater utility to the people in the immediate future. If the present Government has £142,000 at its disposal, I suggest that that amount’ should be made available for the construction of sewerage works in some of the main cities in various States. It is a disgrace to Australia that some of its important cities are unsewered, or have incomplete systems, while in the United States of America towns of half the size are thoroughly equipped in that’ respect. It has been suggested that more good land will be covered up by the Hume dam than is likely to he irrigated.
– That statement is correct, if we take the position as we now find it.
– The honorable member assents to that proposition, and he is usually conservative in his remarks.
– There is farming land all along the river.
– Yes; but the settlers who are said to be in need of the benefits of this irrigation scheme have been on the bread line, because of inability to dispose of their output. There is enough irrigated land in Australia for the production of four or five times the quantity of fruit that can he marketed. At Leeton, rice, which, until recently, had not been grown in Australia, is now produced in abundance, and in the course of a year or two, we. have been able to supply enough rice to meet the needs of the people.
– And have enough left for China !
– Then in Heaven’s name, why are we to spend a further £142,000 to provide water for irrigation, when we have plenty of it at ^present? I notice that a large sum is to be spent on land acquisition. Perhaps the land was bought when values were much higher than they are to-day, and an effort should be made to write down the capital cost. The proposed vote will bring the Murray water scheme nearer completion, but it will not make one more acre of land irrigable.
– If those using water paid for it, everything would be all right, but they do not.
– Then, in the circumstances, the Government would be well advised to cut out this expenditure, with a view to diverting the money into a more profitable channel. Much has been wasted in unproductive works when loan money has been plentiful. Therefore, I intend to vote against this expenditure.
– I appreciate the statement made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) on this important subject, but I am sorry he was unable to supply us with more precise information. I am one of those who may be included among the members to whom he referred as having been in this Parliament for some time, and having had plenty of opportunities to investigate the merits of this gigantic project. I have inquired into the nature of the work at different periods, but the undertaking has been proceeding for so long that I am not now in a position to know exactly what has ‘ been done, and just where we are getting with the scheme. In view of the statement made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) this morning, it is high time we took careful notice of this work. The honorable member is not noted for making rash statements, and, in view of his assertions, it seems desirable that immediate inquiry should be made to determine whether public money is being wasted.
– There have been two investigations, and the reports are avails able.
– But no inquiry has been made regarding the charge brought forward this morning that this will be a sink for the taxpayers’ money for many years.
I am inclined to take the opposite view to that of the honorable member. I am one of those who believe that it is a mistake for us to underrate the value of this great national work, which, I am satisfied, is one of the finest undertakings upon which this Or any other country has ever embarked. I am most disappointed that such slow progress has been made, and I am inclined to attribute the slowness to the general tendency to underrate the importance of public works that have to do essentially with primary production. The national conscience has been directed mainly towards boosting the manufacturing industries, and the people generally are in such a psychological condition that, unless they can see factories springing up all over Australia, they imagine that progress has been arrested, and that Australia is in a bad way. Therefore, we are inclined to underrate an undertaking such as the Murray water scheme, rather than consider the benefits that will ultimately be reaped from it. The honorable member for Corangamite remarked that Australia would not derive any advantage from the expenditure on this work for another 50 years.
– Even if the benefit would be felt in 25 years, is the expenditure justified ?
– That statement shows that we have no inland conscience. We have eyes only for development that is taking place along our coasts, or in our cities. It is time we developed a water conscience. For generations we have had a railway conscience, and the result of it has been to direct the trade of this continent towards the capital cities. We now have the world’s most gigantic centralization evil. We have always assumed that we occupy an arid country, and that experiments in inland irrigation and navigation were foreordained by Providence to fail. But we know from what has been done in Egypt, that the scope for water conservation in Australia is not appreciated. This country has vast engineering possibilities for water conserva- tion and interior navigation. One of our problems to-day is undoubtedly due to the complete collapse of the railway systems. Lines have been laid chiefly through undeveloped country. These show a great loss, and that is very largely responsible for our financial problem. That we have proceeded on wrong lines is proved by the fact that, after all these years, we are practically in a condition of national bankruptcy.
The Murray waters scheme represents the first constructive effort by a government of Australia to develop a national water conscience, and to make use of rivers which have been hitherto shamefully neglected. It is said that the undertaking has developed into a much larger work than was originally anticipated. We are told that already £8,000,000 has been expended upon it, and that at least a further £8,000,000 will be required to complete it. I suggest, however, that, having put our hands to the plough, we cannot turn back. One of the driest provinces in India was recently converted into one of the most productive tracts of country in the world, and that magical change was brought about by a water scheme. The British spirit did not fail because the job was big and costly. It is time that honorable members discussed the future of the Murray water scheme thoroughly, with the object of ascertaining whether the £8,000,000 already spent has been wisely used and, what is more important, whether the £8,000,000 still required to complete the project may be expended with a reasonable prospect of ultimate and complete success.
– What would be done with the water impounded?
– Surely that point has been thoroughly investigated long before this. If doubt exists as to the practicability of using the water, that is a still greater reason why the subject should be thoroughly discussed without delay.
– The tank is there, but it has no taps.
– I presume that the honorable member means that there are no channels through which the water can be reticulated. These certainly are aspects of the subject which should be investigated. As to the use of the water, the theory is, of course, that if we provide the water, the population will follow it just as it was argued years ago, that if railways were provided in undeveloped country, the people would go there. Unfortunately, we have built too many railways. We must remember, in thinking about all these projects, that we are building, not only for to-day, but for to-morrow. We have been too restricted in our outlook. Many people imagine that if a work will not yield a return immediately, it should not be put in hand. But we are building Australia for the future, as well as for the present. I read in the press the other day, that the progress of the Murray waters works has been so slow that there has been practically no return from the capital already expended.
– That is so.
– Then, it is a serious reflection upon the business capacity of the Common wealth Governments and various State Governments which haveco-operated in constructing the work.
– The results will come in the first dry period.
– It is high time we did something to secure a return from the expenditure of this money. If the completion of the work will make it immediately reproductive, we should push ahead with it. If some of the statements made this morning in regard to this gigantic work are true, they are a damaging commentary on the wisdom of previous administrations. The Minister has said that it is necessary to spend the £143,000, now proposed to be provided, to safeguard money already spent; but that is not the way to attain success. We ought to complete this work. Unless we do so, it will be a gigantic financial disaster - even greater in its magnitude than the Federal Capital.
– The construction of the Federal Capital has not been a disaster.
– I believe that ultimately, the Federal Capital will fully repay the nation for the expenditure that has been incurred here, but we should not allow large sums of money to remain idle in incomplete big public undertakings. I believe that the Minister appreciates the gravity of the issues that I am raising. We should be informed, without delay, whether the Murray water scheme is really a great national undertaking with a magnificent future before it, or whether it is a colossal blunder. If there are good prospects of making a success of the scheme, we should borrow, as soon as possible, the amount of money necessary to complete it. The money could be expended, not only to provide employment, but even more importantly to complete a valuable developmental project for the benefit of Australia.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), in discussing the Murray river water scheme, and the the necessity for developing what he called a water conscience, gave me the impression that he thought Egypt was more developed than Australia from an irrigation stand-point.
– What I said was that Egypt did not go half way with big undertakings of this kind, but finished the works that were put in hand.
– I am sorry if I misinterpreted the honorable member’s statement. I certainly gathered that he thought that Australia was backward in regard to water conservation schemes. As a matter of fact, Victoria has a greater mileage of water channels for both irrigation and domestic purposes than, posisibly, any other territory of its area in the world. She is certainly in a leading position in. that respect. Seriously conflicting opinions have been expressed this morning regarding the desirableness of spending more money on the Murray water scheme. In the circumstances I suggest that the Minister should agree to the postponement of the further consideration of this proposed vote until he is able to place before us detailed information on the whole subject. The honorable member for Oorangamite (Mr. Gibson), who was for some time Minister in charge of the Murray water scheme, has expressed the opinion that we are trying to conserve more water than we can possibly use in the immediate future, and that, therefore, the expenditure of additional money on the work is not justifiable at present. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who was also the Minister in charge of these works for a considerable time, remarked by interjection while the honorable member for New England was speaking, that we had the water in the tank, but no taps through which it could be turned on. I take it that the honorable member meant that there were no channels through which the additional water could be run from the reservoir to the land for which it was intended, which is some distance from the reservoir. The present Minister has told us that it is considered necessary to spend the amount provided on the Estimates in order to safeguard the money that has already been spent. The views of these three honorable gentlemen are therefore seriously diverse, and as each of them is in a position to express an authoritative opinion, it will be apparent that there is justification for my suggestion that further consideration of the subject be postponed until fuller and more detailed information has been submitted to us.,. I, therefore, appeal to the Minister to adopt the course which I have suggested.
– I desire some information regarding the expenditure of certain sums proposed to be provided for war service homes purposes. The vote under this heading for 1931-32 was £42,000. The Minister will remember that a week or two ago I introduced to him a deputation on this matter consisting of the secretary of the Bricklayers Union. Of the £42,000 voted in 1931-32, £24,000 was expended, leaving a balance of roughly £18,000. The vote for 1932-33 is £33,000, and I should like to know what work is likely to be carried out with this amount, and how far it will meet the requests that have been made from time to time. The members of the organizations associated with the building trade have experienced a very lean period during the last two years. As a matter of fact their circumstances are of such a character that it will probably take them a considerable time to recover; but that is an aspect of the matter which need not be discussed at this juncture. Quite recently a rumour was current in the Newcastle district that the Government proposed to increase its activities in the matter of additions and repairs to the war service homes. That would be of great benefit to those engaged in the building trade, and relieve to some extent the unemployment which now prevails. The representatives of the building trade organizations asked me to approach the Minister to see what could be done for them. He was good enough to receive the representatives of the bricklayers’ union, but he said he could not announce just how far the Government was prepared to make employment available in the direction suggested ; but that he would do all he could to secure the largest- amount possible, and that when a grant was available, it would be distributed among the districts most needing it. I should like the Minister to say if the £33,000 now provided is in addition to the £17,000 or £18,000 left unexpended from the previous year. If that is not so, is it not possible to utilize that £.18,000 as well as the proposed vote? Perhaps the Minister can say how many requests have been received and to what extent they can be met by the money available.
The amount provided for a continuation of .the river Murray water scheme has been freely discussed this morning. Although I represent a city electorate I join wholeheartedly with those who have advocated the expenditure of public money for irrigation purposes and works of that, kind. In these days, when there is such a lot of talk about settling our surplus city population on the land, everything possible should be done to encourage rural development by providing for water supplies for irrigation and other purposes in districts where it can be profitably utilized to increase production. Although I represent an industrial constituency, the early part of my life was spent on irrigable land. I realize the importance of water conservation and irrigation schemes, particularly when such schemes assist in making the land productive. I am unable to understand the attitude of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), who as the ministerial head of the department controlling this scheme once took a pride in its development up to the stage it had then reached. I hardly think it fitting that he should now suggest that any extension should be curtailed, particularly when the objects in view are the effective development of the land and the providing of employment.
– As a city member, I join with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in his contention that the provision of water schemes has a direct bearing upon increased production and employment. We should not adopt a short-range policy such as that suggested by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson).
– My contention is that we should meet the requirements of the country as they arise.
– Water conservation should be seriously considered by the National Parliament, and I shall support any proposal submitted to provide more adequate water supplies, particularly in country areas. A short-range water conservation policy, such as some suggest, is detrimental, not. only to rural areas, but also to the capital cities. It was recently stated that if the City of Sydney experienced an exceedingly dry spell, its water supply might be in danger. In the absence of adequate conservation schemes, the capital cities of Australia, as well as outback centres, may be endangered. While the present depression is upon us, works of a reproductive nature should be seriously taken in hand. What more effective way could be suggested for spending money than the construction of reproductive water schemes? The construction of immense dams would provide employment, and at the same time remove the danger of a water famine. Moreover, an ample supply of water increases development and production. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) express some doubt as to the wisdom of the course which is being followed.
– I am not opposed to the scheme. I merely asked for full information on the subject.
– I was also surprised to hear the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) express the views he did, because this scheme, when completed, will be of unquestionable benefit to primary producers. Honorable, members “who have Australia’s interest at heart should wish to do all in their power to increase primary production. They should use every endeavour to forward this great scheme of water conservation.
.- Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, the utility of the Murray River waters scheme has been discussed when provision has been made in the Estimates for the expenditure of thousands of pounds to complete a portion of the work, which, it was said, was urgently needed. In the first instance, we were told that this scheme would not cost more than £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 ; but I think thelatest estimate for the whole work is £14,000,000.
– It is £16,000,000.
– The latest figures I have seen give the amount as £14,000,000. Although the original estimate was £4,000,000, the estimated total cost is now approximately £16,000,000. This shows what vast sums of money have been expended, and that reliable information has not been given to Parliament and to the people. The estimates of so-called experts have been grossly exceeded. Every now and then additional sums are required to secure, it is said, an existing asset. Similar statements were made in connexion with a certain work in Victoria, where a wharf was to be built on dry land, and money would have had to be spent to bring water to it so that ships could utilize the structure. Reproductive water conservation schemes are an urgent necessity, but I think honorable members will agree that £14,000,000 or £16,000,000 would have been found sufficient to dam practically the whole of the rivers in the western districts of Queensland and New South Wales, thereby adding to the productive capacity of the country. Before works of such an expensive character are embarked upon, a thorough investigation should be conducted by some competent authority into their cost and utility. The Bruce-Page Government appointed a Development and Migration Commission to fully inquire into such developmental undertakings and supply the Government with all the information that was required. Some time ago a similar water scheme was advocated in the northern part of Queensland, which it was estimated would cost approximately £3,600,000. The government of the day appointed a commission, which cost a few thousand pounds. It reported that the expenditure was not justified, as the land could be put to a better purpose, and the Queensland Government was saved a very large expenditure. If that work had been undertaken it is only reasonable to assume that the estimated cost would; have been greatly exceeded. There should be a full inquiry by unbiased experts before works of this nature are undertaken.
– As one who. was associated with the Murray waters scheme at its inception, I feel that there is a good deal of misunderstanding concerning the wholeundertaking.For instance, it has been suggested that this scheme was launched without proper consideration having been given to it; but such suggestions show utter lack of knowledge of what actually occurred. For some time prior to the present scheme being adopted there was considerable controversy between South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales over the Murray waters question. It was felt that the best use was not being made of the greatest of our Australian rivers, and in order to obtain independent and reliable information the services of an expert from the United States of America were obtained to determine the best way to utilize the waters of what has been termed the Nile of Australia. South Australia insisted upon its navigation rights, and New South Wales and Victoria wished to preserve sufficient water for irrigation purposes. Ultimately the interested parties were brought together by the Commonwealth agreeing to make available £1,000,000, and the present scheme evolved. Reference has been made to the extent by which the original estimate of the scheme which was prepared by an American engineer has been exceeded. At the time the estimate was prepared it was impossible to foresee how costs would increase. It was realized, however, that the scheme would be of tremendous value to Australia, and provide an insurance against drought.
– The estimated cost of the complete Murray River waters scheme, as first contemplated, was given at £4,663,000 in the Murray River agreement dated the 9th September, 1914. Of this amount the Commonwealth was to provide £1,000,000 and the States of New SouthWales, Victoria and South Australia £1,221,000 each. With costs as they were at that time, the scheme presented to Australia one of the most promising that could be embarked upon and a consideration of drought periods established the wisdom of its acceptance. It was, however, only the advent of the Commonwealth with its proposal to provide £1,000,000 which brought the three States together after they had been fighting over the question for nearly half a century. After the war, construction work was resumed and I was president of the commission for three years from March, 19:18. We were really then just commencing operations and had the task of adjusting equities of the administration between the different States. The scheme provided for the appointment of a commission consisting of an expert engineer from each of the contracting States with a Commonwealth expert and presided over by the Commonwealth Minister of Works. A very capable secretary was appointed. No engineers could have had greater experience in such matters than the four who were selected. They were faced with a difficult problem, the construction of reservoirs, locks and weirs in a country with special features of its own. They did not have huge rock formations to aid them. They had to provide weirs across rivers running through vast alluvial beds into which deep foundations had to be sunk. But I do not desire to go into further detail.
After the war, costs increased and conditions changed in several aspects. For instance, the navigation aspect originally emphasized by South Australia has been somewhat modified, State railways having been built up to the Murray valley enabling the carriage of produce previously carried by river steamers to be undertaken by the railways. Present conditions have to be taken into account in dealing with this scheme. In ray opinion, the governments concerned were quite right to build the Hume reservoir without delay. We have not, as other countries have, huge mountains covered with snow providing for our rivers a steady flow of water all the year round. We have to build artificial reservoirs to maintain a flow of water when required for irrigation. The Hume reservoir is essential for that purpose. The complete construction of the scheme, of course, must depend on the financial condition of the country.
– And on the country’s requirements.
– Of course. But it is highly desirable that the irrigation areas should be brought into a state of production at the earliest possible moment so that a return for the money already spent upon these works may be obtained. That is a matter for sound administration, and I am sure that it is in the minds of the Minister and the commission. Settlement should certainly be extended.
This scheme will provide a water supply for a large area in all seasons, and will be a great insurance against drought. One of Queensland’s problems to-day is to conserve fodder to meet its periodic droughts. Unfortunately, Queensland has not a great river like the Murray to provide it with irrigated areas on which fodder crops can be grown, but there are possibilities for irrigation in that State. The Murray River scheme will prove a guide to the States generally. Irrigation has not been carried on extensively in Australia. In 1929-30, the latest returns available, the irrigated areas of the Commonwealth were as follow: -
– Most of that area is grass land.
– The use to which the irrigated areas were put is shown in the following table: -
Those figures are not satisfactory when we take into consideration our climatic conditions. The Murray River scheme must be considered from a national point of view, and although the other States have had to find some of the money for this undertaking, I am sure they have “done so readily. The less we think as States, and the more we keep national ideals before us the better for all concerned. Party divisions should not cur across national ideals.
.- As a representative of a constituency bordering on the Murray River, and as one who is deeply interested in irrigation and knows something about it, I rise to express my disagreement with the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson). The honorable member suggests that the amount provided on the Estimates this year for the Murray River works should not be spent, and that the works are very much ahead of the times.’ The scheme “provided originally for 26 weirs and locks on1 the Murray River, and nine on the Mumimbidgee River, together with the Lake Victoria storage, and the Hume Dam. at a total cost of £4,663,000. The reservoir was to be situated a little above the junction of the Murray River and the Mitta River, and was to have a holding capacity of 1,000,000 acre feet. Some years later, it was considered advisable to construct the dam below the junction of these two rivers and to increase its capacity to 2,000,000 acre feet, which would have made the reservoir the second largest in the world.
– Too large!
– It is large enough with its present capacity of 1,250,000 acre feet to supply the immediate requirements of Victoria, South ‘Australia, and New
South Wales, but unfortunately, Victoria has not taken advantage of the water impounded. I was not able to ascertain during the lunch adjournment whether a surface level outlet had been provided at the Hume dam. I am of opinion that the only outlet to-day, other than the bywash, is through the huge needle valves that discharge into the river. There is not a single place on the river where water can be diverted by gravitation, other than Torrumbarry. It is suggested that- water should be “diverted at Yarrawonga, over SO miles below the Hume dam. When I was Minister for Works, it was suggested that an outlet should he provided at the Hume dam, in order to divert the water at the highest possible level. If that outlet has been made, it is the duty of Victoria and New South Wales to provide water channels. No better reproductive work could be .undertaken, assuming that the outlet has been provided, than to construct those channels. They would enable the whole of the area between the dam and Echuca to be irrigated. It was suggested at one time, that the main take-off should be at the dam itself, that a main channel should be run for some distance through Victoria, with branches off it, and that an aqueduct should be run across the river at a high level to keep water always >above the surface level in New South Wales. Apparently that is not going to he done, with the result that a diversion weir is being put in at Yarrawonga. If there is one thing more than another which will provide employment on reproductive work, it is the construction of channels in these areas. I know that something like 500,000 acres of good irrigable country has been surveyed in New South Wales and Victoria on both sides of the river Murray between Albury and Echuca. It is useless to say that that water cannot be used to advantage. At times, there is a slump in dried and soft fruits, but we have to view the matter nationally. Generally speaking, large areas of cultivable land are necessary, particularly during dry years, and times like the present when wheat is sold at such a low price. With the land, water, and sunshine available in the Murray valley, we should go in for a different class of farming; one might call it a landed peasantry, embracing all varieties of mixed farming. I am confident that there is room in the Murray valley for more people than there are at present in Victoria, provided that water is made available and that reasonable prices obtain for our products.
– Where are we going to get those prices?
– There are world markets to-day for practically everything that our farmers can produce, provided that some of their many burdens are removed. If the Japanese were in possession of that area, with its water storage of 2,000,000 acre feet, the Murray valley would be populated by 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 people, all living like fighting cocks. I do not want our people to live under the conditions favoured by the Japanese, but I point out that we have close to hand delightful surroundings, suitable land, and plenty of sunshine and water ; everything that is necessary for the man on the land. Yet we are doing nothing with all that splendid irrigable country. It is like possessing a tank filled with water, and not having a tap to the tank. The original estimate for the river Murray 1,000,000 acre feet dam and locks and weirs was £4,633,000, while the cost to date is £8,837,000, almost twice what was expected. I believe that before the work is finished, including locks and weirs on the Mumimbidgee, it will run into £14,000,000 or £16,000,000.
We cannot do better than go in for water conservation. Certainly, I represent a constituency bordering on the river Murray, but I venture the opinion that had our rainfall for the past couple of years not been above normal, the farmers in my constituency would have been prepared to shoot the Government if it had not consented to go on with these works. It is all very well, while we have an abundance of rain, to say that irrigation is unnecessary. But immediately we encounter dry years, everybody wants to know why the government did not put in the channels. I have tried my utmost to persuade the State Government to proceed with the channelling, but if the outlet is not also provided, the whole effort will be wasted, so far as the land immediately below the weir is concerned.
I have no hesitation in saying that much of the work has cost a good deal more than it should. Each weir and lock constructed by South Australia cost approximately £100,000 less than those carried out by Victoria and New South Wales. New South Wales constructed a weir and lock at Wentworth which I had the pleasure of inspecting some time after I became chairman of the River Murray Commission. I was surprised to find a substantial brick house, an attractive garden laid out with beautiful lawns, rose and citrus trees. The adjoining buildings were all beautifully painted, and there were roads about the place - but nothing had been done in connexion with the weir although those people had been there for about eighteen months. Eventually the weir was finished and, speaking from memory, it cost well over £100,000 more than identical weirs and locks immediately below it, constructed by Victoria and New South Wales. Again, the weir and lock at Torrumbarry, the only one at present taking out water by gravity, cost in the vicinity of £350,000, or £100,000 more than those constructed by the South Australian Government.
– The conditions may have been different.
– If they differed they favoured Victoria and New South Wales, for in South Australia the river is very much wider. The explanation is that South Australia had a standardized plant. It was American, but it worked well. All the parts were interchangeable, and, as two or three plants’ were working simultaneously, the South Australian Government was able to do the work much more economically than it could be done in New South Wales or Victoria. The weir constructed by the Victorian authority at Mildura cost something in the vicinity of £369,000, again well over £100,000 more than the South Australian average.
I entirely support the Government in this matter. I believe that the money will be well spent, but I do hope that something is being done to provide an outlet at the Hume dam. If that is to be done, it is up to the River Murray
Commission to make representations to the Victorian Government to proceed with the channelling at the earliest possible moment. The diversions which are being put in at Yarrawonga are at the expense of Victoria and New South “Wales, but the water will not come to the surface until it is eight miles below Yarrawonga.
.- I know that, as the amount is on the Estimates, the item will be passed. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), stated that there were 30,000 acres of irrigated land in South Australia, excluding grass. I point out that this scheme is also used for irrigating country in Victoria and New South “Wales. If honorable members had my experience they would encourage every effort to conserve water. “For some years I navigated a motor launch along the river Murray. In times of flood I was continually dodging huge logs, while during droughts, I had to roll my pants up and seek channels with 2 feet 6 inches of water, through which I could push the launch. I contend that we want all the water conservation that we can afford. I shall vote for this amount without any qualms of conscience. I am surprised that any honorable member should challenge a vote for the conservation of water. Had we spent more money in that direction instead of building the Federal Capital, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Brisbane Town Hall, and the Adelaide. Railway Station, Australia would be in a much better position to-day.
.- I am glad that honorable members have made up their minds to vote for this item. My only regret is that the amount is not three times as great, so that more employment could be given through these agencies. I agree that we have no greater insurance than that of water conservation. The governments that were responsible for the construction of the Burrinjuck Darn, the Hume weir, and the “Wyangala dam beyond Cowra will have the thanks of posterity. The people of the present day will not rear the full benefit of these national works, which will, in later years, obviate moving stock from otherwise dry areas. If we foster the idea of water conservation, and add to the storage already available, we shall do something to justify our existence in this Parliament. I approve of the proposal of the Government.
.- When I referred to this matter I did not think I would create such a stir. I have been accused by several members of being opposed to the conservation of water for irrigation purposes. I am not. What I endeavoured to point out was the extravagant waste of money under this scheme. I should like to see the Government keep a storage of water to meet the demands, and as development proceeds, construct the weir to a higher level. At present there is about 250,000 acre feet in the Hume reservoir. If there is a demand for 500,000 acre feet, by all means build to a higher level. But why should we go on spending millions of money to provide 2,000,000 acre feet of water when it cannot be used ? When the budget is before the House I propose to direct attention to the serious waste of money that has been incurred in connexion with this huge scheme. At present I shall merely add that no honorable, member is more anxious to see the development of irrigation in Australia than I am.
– There are two points on which I should perhaps have given some information at an earlier stage. I am constrained to bring them before honorable members, particularly in view of the remarks by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson). The money which he declares is being wasted is in respect of a storage of 2,000,000 acre feet of water. The proposed expenditure is for a storage of 1,250,000 acre feet, a much more economic scheme than if the storage were 2,000,000 acre feet. If the latter were the case the honorable member would have some real grounds for his contention, as that quantity of water could not possibly be used for many years, except at great expense. The alterations to this scheme have not been adopted without the most complete preliminary investigation. The Premiers Conference realized the dimensions to which the expenditure was attaining, and two inquiries have been held by the Development branch and by the Governments concerned. The scheme now being carried out was recommended by the committee of investigation, agreed to by Commonwealth and State Ministers in conference in 1930, and confirmed by their Governments last year. The best advice available to the Government is that the work now being proposed is the quickest means of deriving a real benefit from the scheme. The total area of land to be submerged under the 1,250,000 acre feet proposal will be 30,000 acres, whilst the land irrigated already is approximately 175,000 acres. In New South Wales alone, at least 250,000 acres will bc irrigated, and probably that could bc increased to 5,000,000 acres by gravitation if the water were available. In Victoria, the increase would be almost equally as great, whilst considerable expansion is possible in South Australia. Those figures show the mammoth character of the scheme that has been undertaken by this Parliament. Works of this nature will make for the greatness of Australia: The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) spoke of employment. These works do provide employment, and the people in country districts are as much entitled to have work as are those who would be employed on the sewerage schemes which the honorable member says should be substituted. He asked why we should continue production when there is already a glut of commodities. That contention, carried to its logical conclusion, would lead to the stoppage of all production. The present glut will not continue for all time. With the facilities th.at are being provided this country will produce huge quantities of commodities that will be sold overseas, even where there is no market for them to-day. Every scheme of any magnitude has been attacked by Jeremiahs and small-minded objectors. Some undertakings which were most bitterly attacked have been remarkably successful, and are already proving inadequate. I repeat that the works in connexion with the Hume reservoir are based on expert advice, and are designed to safeguard the money already expended and yield immediate benefits.
.- Although the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Parkhill) says that there is _ a glut of production, it is an unfortunate-, fact that our people are not able to get enough of the foods and other commodities produced in their own country. The honorable gentleman castigated somehonorable members for not having vision,, and said that in the past there had been men who had taken the courageous view that Australia must advance, and had by their faith achieved great things. I agreewith him. Not long ago, Mr. Lang enunciated a plan which was called repudiation.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).Order !
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said that we on this side of the chamber do not represent country interests. But the Labour party has had a country policy for many years. I remember when the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), at that time Labour Leader of New South Wales, used to go into the country districts and in his inimitable fashion, tickle the ears of the farmers with the golden promise of the Labour platform. He spoke of water conservation schemes which would make the desert to blossom like the rose, and visualized the day when the wife of the small farmer would do her washing and ironing with electrical appliances. Rural audiences applauded these sentiments and cheered the speaker. The Labour party has still a policy to improve the lot of rural communities. There are other reasons why we desire to develop the country. Capitalism is crumbling, and the time is not far distant when the present social system will be changed. We believe that we should proceed with water conservation schemes throughout Australia, in order to make life easier for the people when we take control of the real workers’ Parliament.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked a number of questions concerning the appropriation of £33,000 for expenditure in connexion with war service homes. Unfortunately it is not possible this year to provide for the building of additions to these homes. The proposed expenditure is to be allocated in the following manner : -
I am hopeful that, if the financial position improves, it may be possible to make some provision for the building of additions to homes because an extraordinary number of applications have been received by the department. Many purchasers and occupiers find that, owing to the increase in their families, their existing homes are too small. The Government appreciates the problem which confronts them. It is anxious to assist them, at the earliest opportunity, and when funds are available provision will be made to meet urgent cases. 1, like the honorable member for West Sydney, am most anxious to do all in my power to relieve unemployment, and I very much regret the unfortunate condition of the building trade, but I can assure the honorable member that, when the financial position improves, I shall be glad to do all that is possible to make provision for the extension of existing homes.
.- I am pleased that the Minister has given details of contemplated expenditure in respect of war service homes, because that is the information which I have been seeking for some time. I notice that £1,200 is set aside for the adjustment of applicants’ claim for their equity in homes of which they have been dispossessed. In view of what has happened honorable members should seriously consider the advisability of expending £18,000 on re- pairs and renovations to reverted homes, am afraid that much of this expenditure will be so much money wasted. Under a recent amendment of the act a certain proportion of this expenditure is chargeable against the soldier who has been dispossessed. This, I maintain, is unfair, because in not a few instances homes upon which expenditure to the amount of £50 or £60 has been incurred to make them fit for re-sale, have been allowed to stand unoccupied, and, as a consequence, have fallen into the hands of vandals. I cite the North Belmore settlement as a case in point. Much damage has been done there to renovated homes which were unoccupied. I therefore question the wisdom of expending £18,000 on repairs to these homes this financial year if the commission is not going to accept some responsibility for their effective maintenance. If the Government spends £100 on repairs to a home, and debits a proportion of the amount to the returned soldier who has been dispossessed, what chance has he of securing a reasonable proportion of his equity’ if the commission allows the home to .stand idle and at the mercy of vandals? Would it not be better, as has been suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), to expend this money on additions to existing occupied homes ? Apparently, no effort is being made to rent reverted war service homes at a reasonable rate. It would be much better to allow returned soldiers to remain in occupation, even if they are unable to continue their payments, than allow them to get into the hands of vandals. I have here a list, supplied to me by the Railway and Tramway Returned Soldiers Association, of homes upon which money has been expended, and which, as I have explained, have been allowed to fall into disrepair again. The list contains full details of each property; it shows the approximate date when repairs were effected, and gives an estimate of the damage done by vandals. The figures are impressive, and suggest that it would be better to allow returned soldiers to remain in occupancy rather than to dispossess them and spend £18,000 on repairs.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence
Proposed vote, £41,592.
– I direct attention to the item £10,030 for expenditure on construction of buildings, hangars, workshops, barracks and earthworks and preparation of aerial routes and landing grounds. I presume this covers expenditure on the Mascot aerodrome, Sydney. It has been suggested in Sydney that Mascot is not suitable, in view of the probable future developments in aviation, and it has been urged that other areas in the vicinity of Sydney should he developed for that purpose. I should like to know if the department is satisfied that expenditure on the Mascot aerodrome will make it thoroughly suitable for all future requirements.
.- I desire some information about the item £8,980 for arms, armament, and ammunition. The public generally, more particularly those who are about to suffer at the hands of this Government through reduction in wages or pensions, or loss of employment, will not look upon this proposed expenditure with approval. During the Scullin administration the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Fen ton) was sent abroad at the expense of the Commonwealth taxpayers to attend a disarmament conference at Geneva, and more recently the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) also represented this country at another disarmament conference. Their mission cost our taxpayers a considerable sum of money, and, notwithstanding the attitude of the people towards disarmament proposals, this Government is now setting aside a considerable sum for arms, armament, and ammunition. It does not appear that there is any intention to deal with disarmament in a serious manner. I cannot allow the item to be passed without drawing public attention to this matter, and particularly the attention of those who are called upon to suffer a reduction in the miserable pittance they receive, namely, the old-age pensioners.
The sum of £1,000 has been allocated for the provision of aircraft, equipment, and plant, including spare parts, machinery, tools, ordnance and engineering supplies and ammunition, and the preparation of aerodromes for the Royal Air Force. It would be interesting to know where this money is to be spent. Is it to be at Point Cook, that sink for the taxpayers’ money? Much interesting information could be obtained by holding an impartial inquiry into the administration of Point Cook, and the expenditure in connexion with it. We know that Rolls-Royce engines were brought out from England, and, after lying at Point Cook for some time, were sold for £30 each. “ Wizard “ Smith bought one of them, and later used it to break a speed record in New Zealand. Two thousand, seven hundred pounds is set down for the construction of buildings, hangars, workshops, barracks and earth works, and preparation of aerial routes and landing grounds. Where is this work to be done, and for what purpose? For the acquisition of a small arms factory at Footscray, £19,153 is provided. The committee is entitled to know something about that matter also. I feel that the Defence Department is one which should be closely watched. It was always inclined to spend more than the country could afford, even in prosperous times, and this applies much more in times like these.
.- Instead of spending this money on defence, it would be more fitting if we allocated some of it for the relief of people in need. We might distribute some of the military clothing held in store for the benefit of those who at present are not adequately clad. Money is spent every now and then sending delegates from Australia to disarmament conferences in Europe, but, in the meantime, we are arming ourselves to the teeth. In the circumstances, our representation at disarmament conferences is a farce. This country ought to give a lead to the world, and scrap its arms to show that it is genuine when it subscribes to the doctrine for the outlawing of war. We should then be able to spend the money formerly allocated to defence on the relief of unemployed persons and their dependants. This department, which specializes in the training of youths in the noble art of killing, recently turned 80 unemployed persons out of the Maitland camp so that training operations might be carried on. At the present time, large stocks of military equipment are lying in store, providing a banquet for moths and weevils. It would serve a much better purpose if it were distributed amongst the unemployed.
– It could be distributed amongst members of the .New Guard.
– The honorable member seems to be obsessed with the idea of the “ Boo “ Guard. For my part, I should favour casting members of that organization over the Gap, or throwing them from the Sydney Harbour bridge. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane)-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).Order !
– The honorable member is prepared to invoke the law to punish one section of the community-
– The honorable member is out of order.
– But will allow another section to go free even though it also consists of disruptionists.
– The honorable member must respect the call for order.
– The honorable member for Barton was interjecting.
– I called the honorable member for Barton to order.
– You would need a mallet to stop him from interjecting.
– When I called him to order, he ceased to interject, so the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) should not have continued replying to the interjection.
– Most of those who are unemployed to-day are willing and anxious to work, but are unable to find anything to do. This is due to the system under which we carry on. Those in possession of the necessaries of life will not sell them except at a big profit. Nature has lately been most bountiful in Australia. There is enough for all, but many cannot obtain access to what they need. I know some people who cannot even leave their homes because they are not decently clad, yet we in this House are asked to vote money for defence. For what purpose? Is it so that we may protect those who are at, present exploiting the people?
– The amount shown in the Estimates for defence would provide about 5d. for each man out of work.
– I am speaking of the military stores which could be given to the unemployed, many of whom are to-day practically naked. Time after time I have appealed to the Government to show some practical sympathy with these unfortunate people, by making available to them surplus military equipment, and, -although it has done something in that direction, it has, iD so doing, benefited itself more than the unemployed, because otherwise the clothing would have had to be carted to the incinerator. It was practically useless. The Government has also altered the policy of making clothing available to members of Parliament for distribution; instead, State Governments are now entrusted with its distribution.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– For the Royal Australian Air Force the sum of £3,850 is to be made available for the provision of aircraft equipment and plant, and for other purposes. That money should be transferred to the vote for civil aviation ; for surely it is better that it should be spent in something useful, such as the development of our trade and commerce and the expeditious transport of people and goods, than in preparation for bombing towns and murdering their inhabitants. On many occasions I have urged that money be made available for the development of an aerodrome at, Cessnock, only to be informed that no money is available for the purpose. Not even for the clearing of the ground would the Government advance funds, and, .consequently, the local authorities used a portion of the last unemployment gram for that purpose. Even .from the point of view of the defence of the country, civil aviation should be encouraged. Expenditure in that direction would not only assist in the development of the country’s trade and commerce; it would also provide a well-trained body of men for defence purposes in case of need. In my opinion, £41,592 is too great an expenditure for defence purposes, especially when we reflect that, in order to provide that sum, unfortunate invalid and old-age pensioners and expectant mothers are to be deprived of a portion of their allowances. The Government feels that it is safe in demanding over £1,100,000 from these people, knowing that without any organization to protect them they are defenceless. They cannot even have their representatives in the corridors of Parliament House, engaged in lobbying in their behalf.
– Order ! The honorable, member may make passing reference to the reduction of pensions and the maternity allowance, but he may not discuss those subjects.
– The amount represented in the vote for the Department of Defence would mean only about 9d. to each pensioner.
– That may be; but 9d. here and 9d. there makes up the total of over £1,100,000 which they will have to provide. The pensioners will be called upon to contribute to the grant of £1,000,000 to South Australia. The most callous individuals in the world would not treat the poor and helpless in a worse manner than this Government proposes to deal with them. The actions of the Government are both a tragedy and a disgrace. I shall record my vote against this item.
.- This is the first opportunity I have had in this chamber of discussing matters associated with our naval, military, and air forces. So long as I have a voice, I shall raise it against a continuation of the accursed system which brought about the devastating war of 1914-18. It is remarkable that while the Government is using the pruning knife ruthlessly in other directions, and preaching economies to those least able to bear them, it should provide £41,592 for new works to build up a system of navy and army expansion in this country. Still more remarkable is the fact that of that sum over £27,000 is for arms and ammunition, to be wasted, as I indicated last night, in an amateurish attempt to build up an army of school children to defend this country. Over £41,000 is to be spent in preparation for another war, and only £3,000 for the purpose of assisting mentally afflicted exsoldiers. What a commentary on our boasted civilization ! I suggest that it would be better to spend £3,000 in preparation for another war, and £41,000 on the men who were maimed and otherwise afflicted in the last war. Those ultrapatriotic individuals who urge that we should prepare for war, lack a sense of proportion. Another remarkable thing is that the Government is prepared to feed, clothe, and shelter a soldier, in order to make him good fodder for cannon while hundreds of men who returned from the last war are left to walk the streets of our capital cities in search of food. The Government boasts of its patriotism ; it would show a truer patriotism if it spent a little more money in supplying food to those who came back maimed and crippled from the last war than in preparing for another such adventure. What is the use of preaching disarmament, and spending thousands of pounds in sending representatives to peace conferences, if at the same time we do our utmost to build up another army, navy, and air force with which to start another war? It is ‘time that the people were awakened to the situation. The Government preaches the gospel of peace. Why does it not put theory into practice, and expend the money now earmarked for military purposes in directions better suited for the conditions under which- we are living to-day? The Government is adopting a hypocritical attitude by sending its delegates overseas to a peace conference, and immediately they return, expending £41,000 in preparing for another war.
.- The only reply that I wish to give to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is that I have no desire to occupy the time of the committee in dealing with the subject that he has raised merely in order to give him a further opportunity to indulge in propaganda. It is the sacred obligation of .every honorable member to ensure the defence of this country. This Government, as did the last Government, is taking every opportunity to bring nearer the day of disarmament throughout the world. Until that time arrives this Government will continue, as far as the depleted funds of the Commonwealth will permit, to honour its sacred trust and maintain the defences of this country. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked for an explanation in regard to certain items. First of all, hewished to know what was covered by the item”arms, armament, and ammunition “ under Division No. 5, and he incidentally expressed the desire that there should be no provision for munitions at all. Yesterday, he made a strong appeal for continuing the operations of the small arms factory at Lithgow, which was established for the manufacture of rifles and munitions. The honorable member cannot have it both ways, and I shall be glad to know what he really desires in regard to the expenditure on munitions. The item in question provides for an increase of only £3,780 on last year’s vote. It covers signal cartridges and munitions generally for various types of guns, such as eighteen-pounders and howitzers, smoke shells and other miscellaneous stores required for this year’s operations. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) strongly objected to the small provision made for civil aviation. He claimed that the whole of the vote was more or less for the Air Force. The honorable member will find in Divisions Nos. 6 and 7 that the total provision for the Royal Australian Air Force is £3,850, and for civil aviation £10,280. The expenditure under Division No. 6 for the provision of aircraft equipment and plant, including spare parts, machinery, tools, &c., is only £1,000. That is really to make provision for emergency expenditure on urgent purchases which may be vitally necessary later in the year. Item No. 1, under Division No. 7, provides for an expenditure of £2,700 towards the cost of construction of buildings, hangars, workshops, barracks and earth works, and preparation of aerial routes and landing grounds. This expenditure applies mainly to Point Cook and’ Laverton. At Laverton, it is proposed to provide a ventilation system in the paint room to afford some protection from the fumes arising from the paint spray. It is also proposed to erect a pyrotechnic store at Laverton. The proposed expenditure for works at Point Cook is £2,340, the chief item of which is £1,500 for the erection of an explosives store; the next most important undertaking being the undergrounding of a power line leading to headquarters. The provision for works at Richmond, New South Wales, is £2,100. Item No. 1, under Division No. 8, provides for an expenditure of £10,030 towards the cost of construction of buildings, hangars, workshops, barracks and earth works, and preparation of aerial routes and landing grounds. A sum of £2,466 is to remain unexpended. While many new works are required, the present financial stringency has involved drastic curtailment of the new proposals, those covered by the remaining vote of £7,564 being vitally urgent and essential. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) referred to the Mascot aerodrome, and wished to know what provision had been made for landing grounds in Australia, and whether it would not be possible to abandon Mascot Aerodrome. Before any provision was made for the Mascot aerodrome careful inquiries were made by the Public Works Committee and all branches of the air services. The unanimous decision was that the work should be proceeded with. The proposed vote provides for only part of the requirements. Each year the Mascot aerodrome is nearing perfection. Work is being undertaken in progressive stages as funds permit. The aerodrome has been considerably improved, and this year’s vote provides for further improvement. It is proposed to erect an office building at a cost of £200, and to provide a public enclosure, fencing, paved taxi-way to public enclosure, and roadway through public enclosure at a cost of £2,200. The wori of completing the filling of public enclosure, the filling for hangar sites on south side of public enclosure, drainage, &c. will cost £1,600. The surface treatment adjoining taxi-way will cost £150, and the extension of paved taxi-way in front of public enclosure, £500. Other proposed works and services are as follows : -
– That is money well spent.
– I am glad to hear that interjection, because last night the honorable member took the stand that the vote for the Defence Department was excessive.
– Not this vote.
– I think that I have replied to the queries of honorable members regarding the defence vote for new works, buildings, &c. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has for the third time referred to the Rutherford military encampment. I assure him that that matter .has been carefully investigated by the department. The State Labour and Industry Department assures me that ample provision has been made for the accommodation of 39 single men and one married couple who are domiciled there. The equipment is being checked and returned to the department, and particular “ satisfaction is felt at the manner in which the department has met the needs of the unfortunate unemployed in that district. A change would not have been made had not the barracks been required for defence purposes. I hope that the vote will now be agreed to.
– I find it very difficult to vote against this provision, because it embraces work for some of our unemployed and expenditure on what is absolutely essential to the development of this country. I refer to civil aviation. But
I am sorry to find that we are asked to agree to an increased expenditure on purely military operations. That makes it very difficult for me to vote for it.
Last night I listened carefully to the very fine speech of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in connexion with international conferences that are wrapped up with this particular question. There can be no questioning the honorable gentleman’s knowledge of the many important conferences that have been held since the war. He must agree with the fundamental principle underlying the whole of the operations of the League of Nations. It is hoped that eventually international peace will be achieved as a result of the maintenance and extension of social justice in all countries. Clause 13 of the Peace Treaty distinctly lays it down that there can be no international peace that is not founded upon social justice. In the Estimates that we are now discussing, the military side is exaggerated at the expense of the breaking down of our social justice. It is unfortunate that in one set of items we are tearing to pieces and ruining some of the best social legislation in this country, and, at the same time, increasing the grants for purely military matters. That is what I object to. If it was intended only to maintain what was already iu existence, and to add to the comfort of the people concerned, it would not be so bad. I was informed, in answer to a question that I asked this morning, that the Government is awaiting the result of the Disarmament Conference before definitely deciding upon its defence policy. One is placed in an awkward position when one believes that there is some hope of sooner or later achieving international peace, and that that is not possible except by the extension of the principle laid down in clause 13 of the Peace Treaty, which calls upon all countries not only to maintain’ but to increase their social legislation so that others will be envious of it and endeavour, to emulate it, thus placing it on. an international basis. I object to the proposal to expend an additional £3,000 on arms and ammunition,” because it does not involve any work for the development of Australia, but simply means the production of more cartridges to be” blown away each year. I should like the different items to be separated, so that I might vote against the increases and support the developmental work which is necessary.
– The Minister need not have been so generous as to remind me of the remarks that I made last night concerning the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. I have no wish to retract anything that I then said. My aim was to enable that factory to continue a class of work in which, I think, it should be engaged, rather than in the making of arms and ammunition, namely, the manufacture of combs and cutters. Any attempt to convert this and similar institutions from the sword to the ploughshare should be encouraged by all parties in this chamber. I witnessed such a transaction at Krupps works, Essen, in 1926. Huge workshops, which had been used for purposes of war, were, in a few months, converted to purposes of peace to meet the agricultural requirements of Germany and adjacent countries.
– The result is that she is to-day the greatest exporting country in the world.
– It is a sight that I shall never regret having witnessed. My efforts will always be directed towards conversions of that- character. I am certain that the men at Lithgow would stand behind any one who was prepared to take up that attitude. They do not desire to produce what will be used for the purpose of destroying their own class, either in Australia or abroad. Our aim will always bc to develop those industries that are of real use to the people of this country. I urge the Government to expand the operations of the Lithgow fac- tory along the lines that are now being followed. Let its activities be extended so as to embrace the production of wireless equipment, for which it is eminently adapted. I shall seize every opportunity that presents itself to speak and work for the utilization of these factories in such a way that they will be of real use to the people of this country.
.- I regret that no provision has been made for the establishment of an aerodrome in a convenient situation at Cairns. This work has been recommended on more than one occasion by the Cairns City Council, and other local bodies. An aerodrome has been established there, but at high tide it is completely submerged by water, with the result, that a plane cannot land unless it does so on property belonging to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, twelve or fourteen miles distant from the city. The desirability of having an aerodrome at Cairns is indisputable. Recently, because no communication Wai available, two men died on the Batavia fold-field before a doctor could reach them. Had there been an aerodrome at Cairns, rapid transport would have been available, and that would noi have happened. It is regrettable that no provision has been made for this very important centre, which is the outlet for an enormous area of back country that is a considerable distance from the coast. Rapid transport is possible only by aeroplane because of the poor type of bush road that is met with. I know that one officer of the department recommended the establishment of an aerodrome seven or eight miles out of Cairns; but because of the lack of funds, no action in that direction could be taken. The same gentleman dien suggested, as a suitable one, the present site of the so-called aerodrome. On his recent visit to North Queensland, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith landed at Cairns. Subsequently, he proceeded to the district of which I understand he is a native, or iu which he spent the early part of his life. When he returned to Cairns on the following afternoon, he found that the aerodrome from which he had taken off was under water, and he had to continue further southward. It would be better to provide services of that kind than to produce material for the destruction of human life.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health
Proposed vote, £1,000.
– I notice an amount has been set down for the construction of launches and vessels. On the occasion of a deputation to the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins), introduced by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), and supported by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and other members whose electorates are in the neighbourhood of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the Minister was urged to circularize departments with a view to placing as much work as possible with the dockyard. I can speak from personal knowledge of this governmental activity, because when I was a member of the Scullin Government, it came under my jurisdiction, and I endeavoured to see that, whenever possible, repairs to launches and similar work for various departments were entrusted to the dockyard for the purpose of providing employment. I now urge the Minister to consider this matter favorably.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed rotes (Repatriation Department £3,000, Department of Commerce £10,908, Commonwealth Railways £75,000) agreed to.
Proposed voir. £580,000.
.- Included in the vote “ Postmaster-General’s Department, £5S0,000,” there is an item of £50,000 for National Broadcasting service. What are the reasons for spending that large sum out of revenue?
– All money to be spent by the Australian Broadcasting Commission will represent the licence-fees contributed by listeners-in, and a fair proportion of the £50,000 referred to is for the erection of five regional stations for the purpose of improving the broadcasting service, particularly in country areas. All the other items included in the departmental vote will result in the provision of employment.
– Where will the new stations be located ?
– Work will be proceeded with in practically all the States. If the five new stations are not completed during the current financial year, they will certainly be commenced. At least one will be erected in Tasmania, and construction work will proceed in all the other States except South Australia.
– Why except that . State?
– Because one of the finest broadcasting stations in Australia has recently been completed in South Australia, and it is giving excellent service throughout that State and even beyond its borders. Almost all the preliminary work in selecting suitable sites has been carried out by expert engineers, but I am unable to say precisely where the stations will be located. The object, however, is to meet the needs of those areas which are not well served at the present time.
.- This vote shows an increase of about £137,000 over the sum expended last year. It is impossible from the information supplied in these Estimates to determine exactly in which directions increased expenditure has been incurred.
– All the figures are set out.
– But not in detail. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) should state why substantial increases are proposed at a time when ordinarily we should expect a decrease in the cost of governmental administration.
. - During recent years,- postal expenditure has been considerably curtailed. The department would be pleased to be able to carry out new works in Western Australia and other States, but it has been prevented from doing so owing to the financial stringency. When loan money was plentiful, sums amounting to £3^000,000 or £4,000,000 were sometimes authorized for new works. Of the present total vote of £580,000, £400,000 will be spent principally in the provision of telephone exchange ‘equipment, conduits, underground cable, aerial wires, subscribers’ instruments, private branch exchanges and public telephones. This amount will be distributed among the
States as follows : -
I urge honorable members to approve these Estimates, because the Government desires to proceed with the works, in some cases, almost immediately.
..- The Minister’s statement is anything but satisfactory to me. In future, he should give the committee exact information as to where and how the money is to be spent.
– If all the particulars were supplied in the Estimates, the publication would be five times its present size.
– I assure the honorable member that he will have the fullest information when the general Estimates are under consideration.
– It will then be too late to deal with the particular items now before us. For two years the department has been backward in providing telephonic facilities for the people in outback areas. Only £20,000 is allocated under these Estimates to “Western Australia, as against £111,500 to Victoria. I cannot understand why the telephones of the present type are not regarded as satisfactory; and if the Government has money to spend in supplying new instruments, I claim that more money should be made available for providing ordinary telephonic facilities for the people in the back country. Preference should not “be shown to the subscribers in the cities.
– -I cannot understand the policy of the Government respecting “buildings and sites “, for which £25,000 is allowed on these Estimates. Some time ago the municipal council of Woollahra made certain representations to the Government. The present post office site was possibly reasonably situated years ago, but is now not by any means in the centre of the business locality. A request was made to the Government that a more central site should be used, but it was refused. ‘ The council then offered to make a central site available for a period of twelve months, to demonstrate to the Postal Department that a more centrally situated post office would result in a larger volume of business; but this offer was also rejected. I suggest to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) that the council should know the needs of the district. If he cannot accede to the request for a more central site, I trust that he will take steps to put the present building in decent repair.
– I desire some information in regard to the building of official post offices. I have tried on a number of occasions to get the
Government to build official post offices at Edwardstown and St. Morris, suburbs of Adelaide, and at Wanbi, in the country, but I have been told that it is not the present policy of the department to build official post offices. I wish to know whether official post offices are being built in other States.
.- I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) to give special consideration to the installation of additional rural automatic telephone exchanges. We know very well that it is impossible for financial reasons to give a continuous service in exchanges with only about twenty subscribers. The office hours in such circumstances are necessarily limited. But if automatic telephone exchanges were installed in such rural areas a continuous service could be provided for the people with very little cost to the department. Some such exchanges were installed during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, and they have given remarkably good service. I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral to extend the scope and number of these most useful adjuncts to country life.
I trust that the Government will not build any more official post offices. Visitors to the Old Country never see official post offices. The policy of the British Postal Department is to give service to the people, and that, I submit, should be the policy of the Commonwealth Postal Department. Our money should not be spent on ornate postal buildings in cities and country towns, but in the provision of facilities to the public.
– The details of the proposed expenditure on buildings and sites have been submitted to the Minister for the’ Interior (Mr. Parkhill). I regret that I have not the complete information with me at the moment, but I shall be glad to make it available privately to the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb).
– Such information was once made available to us in the Estimates.
– I think not in the Estimates for additions, new works, buildings, Ajc.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) must know that the Government is unable at present to increase the number of rural automatic telephone exchanges because of the financial stringency, but I assure him and also the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that it is our intention to do everything possible to improve the service of the Postal Department in rural and outback areas.
Although the department was not able to accede to the request of the Woollahra Council, referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), I am pleased to say that it has been decided to proceed with the long delayed postal work at Edgecliff. A fine site has been obtained which, although not quite central, will make it possible for the department to give improved facilities to the people in the locality.
Mr.G ABB (Angas) [4.1].- I emphasize the statement that I made a few moments ago by interjection that it was the custom formerly to provide honorable members in the Estimates with full details of the proposed expenditure on buildings and sites. I accept the PostmasterGeneral’s promise that he will give me the information that I desire ; but I make it clear that if I find that undue favoritism is being shown to certain States, I shall have more, to say on the subject later.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - (Northern Territory £16,000) agreed to.
Federal Capital Territory
Proposed vote, £60,500.
.- Yesterday I made a number of charges against the Government in respect of its treatment of the unemployed in Canberra, and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Parkhill) made certain statements in reply which, as usual, were of an outrageous nature, and completely misrepresented the position. The Canberra Times of to-day’s date, in its report of the discussion, used the headline, “Parkhill facts answer Blakeley Fiction “. In its usual one-eyed way this newspaper gave a most partial and biased account of the discussion which also completely misrepresented the position. The irresponsible statements of the Minister were repeated in an equally irresponsible way by this newspaper. For the edification of the Minister, and the instruction of the Canberra Times, I wish to state the facts very clearly. The present administration has been in office for six; days short of six months and during that time it has spent on unemployment relief £23,000 less than the amount provided in the Estimates of the Scullin Government, for expenditure in this direction in the Federal Capital Territory. That amount has therefore been lost both to the unemployed and the business community of this city. The amount provided for the same purpose in the Estimates for 1932- 33 is £30,000 less than the amount so provided in the Estimates of the Scullin Government. It will be seen therefore, that even if this Government expends the whole amount which it is providing in the Estimates, the amount that will have been spent on unemployed relief in Canberra in eighteen months will be £53,000 less than it might have been.
In the general Estimates £15,000 less is being provided for expenditure in Canberra on unemployed relief than was provided by the Scullin Government. Thus in the short period of eighteen months the reduced expenditure under this heading in Canberra will be £68,000. So much for the alleged facts of the Minister for the Interior, who, I am sorry to say, is not at present in the chamber. I very much regret that the real position has been misrepresented. I could say a good deal more on this subject but I shall reserve my remarks for another occasion.
.- A large sum of money is provided on these Estimates for the purpose of still building up this white elephant. A sum of £7,000 is provided for architectural and £11,000 for engineering services. It seems extraordinary that such large amounts should be provided when no constructional work is being undertaken. What works does the Government propose to carry out in the Federal Capital Territory? Provision is also made for the expenditure of £6,000 in connexion with forestry. I have always maintained that, as the States have forestry departments, this activity should be reserved to them, and unnecessary Commonwealth duplication avoided.
Provision is also made from time to time for the expenditure of the Health Department which is also au unnecessary duplication.
– Why not ‘ avoid unnecessary duplication by dispensing with State governors?
– And when we do I hope we shall have a Governor-General who will represent the King.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that that remark should be withdrawn. It is a reflection upon His Majesty’s representative.
– The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition himself was out of order. The reference of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to the representative of His Majesty the King is not in order, and must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, under what standing order you hold me responsible for the disorderly remark of the honorable member for Swan. My interjection was that the appointment, of State governors is an unnecessary duplication. That was not in any way a reflection upon His Majesty’s State representatives. To that interjection the honorable member for Swan made a retort which was a reflection upon His Majesty’s representative. I should like to know in what way you hold me responsible for the disorderly remark of the honorable member ?
– I do not hold the right honorable member responsible for the disorderly remark of the honorable member for Swan, which has been withdrawn. I did not intend to reprove him for that, but only for interjecting after I had called for order.
– It is my intention to move that the amount provided for the forestry department be left out.
– On what grounds?
– On the grounds of extravagance. The State governments have forestry departments which are well equipped for carrying out forestry work. These Commonwealth departments are continually growing, and it is essential that something should be done to reduce Commonwealth expenditure. It has. grown to such extraordinary proportions that unnecessarily large sums are extracted from the people in the form of taxation. Last year, I understand, £340,000 was spent by the Health Department; but that is an amount which I cannot discuss a,t this juncture. The operations of the forestry department should be curtailed, and I should like to have some information from the Minister as to the way in which the proposed vote is to be expended. If money is to be spent for engineering services, it must be for carrying out certain public works which are not enumerated. The same can be said with respect to the proposed expenditure on architectural services. We should have more information on the items I have mentioned,, particularly when it is supposed to be the policy of the Government, to curtail expenditure. The States should carry on certain activities, and the Commonwealth look after those which are essentially federal, lt is time we got back to fundamentals.
I move -
That the item “Forestry, £6,000” be omitted.
– There has been a good deal of argument in the past with respect to the continuance of a forestry school at Canberra. That question, however, does not arise under this item, although 1 recognize that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is not in possession of the information which would enable him to determine that point. All the States agreed that it was desirable to have one advanced forestry school, and that such a school should be conducted in Canberra in order to avoid unnecessary duplication. Victoria is now objecting to duplication, and the question is whether we should have six forestry schools,- or only one under Commonwealth control. I think that it is desirable, in the interests of Australia, to have one school, and that was the opinion expressed by the representatives who attended the Forestry Conference which recently met in Australia. The amount provided is for clearing and planting an additional 500 acres of softwoods in the Cotter River catchment area, erecting rabbit proof fencing to enclose a further 750 acres, and for providing for the treatment of the native forest at the back of Black Mountain as a future firewood reserve for the city. Of this amount, £250 is a revote to complete works which were in progress at the 30th of June. The items mentioned total £6,000. That work is not associated with the Forestry School as such, and in the circumstances, I suggest that the honorable member should withdraw his amendment.
– I withdraw it.
– The amount provided for architectural services is to cover the cost of alterations and additions to cottages in Canberra, including the enclosing of sleepouts, the provision of garages, and the like. The item is reproductive as increased rents are received to cover the capital outlay. The vote also covers alterations and additions to schools, the provision of sanitary conveniences at the Manuka oval, and at, Kingston and Manuka, the absence of which has been the subject of complaint. Provision is made for public shelter and office accommodation at the cemetery. It is also necessary to provide further accommodation for the staff at the pumping station in accordance with the decision of the Industrial Board. The balance of £1,500 is required to complete works already in progress. The engineering services are on a larger scale. Some small extensions are being made to the sewerage system including the sludge beds at Western Creek sewerage disposal depot, which are insufficient, and must lie looked after. Some steel mains are required to replace the cast iron mains which have worn out, particularly those which serve the Canberra Hospital. Whatever degree of blame may rightly be attributable to some one in the past in relation to that particular expenditure, this provision must be made. An item of considerable importance is £12,.150 for a reservoir on Black Mountain. My information is that the water supply to the northern suburbs is inadequate, especially as regards fire protection, and that the proposal forms part of the general development of the water supply reticulation of Canberra, and will involve the expenditure of further amounts of £11,000 in each of the two following years for mains. The other large item is £15,000 for road work to improve the surface of certain city roads with bitumen, and seal coats to bitumen and gravel roads on bus routes and other thoroughfares. These roads must be maintained, and this work has to be done. Another substantial item is £750 for a bridge over Paddy’s River. In winter, the landholders on the other side of the river are frequently unable to cross it. For electrical reticulation services, £1,200 is provided, and for a quarry on Mount Ainslie, £1,800. The quarry at Mugga has been abandoned, because the stone worked there has turned out to be very hard, and, as a consequence, the jaws of the crusher required constant replacement. Furthermore, the length of haulage was a serious matter, and the silica dust in the stone was a detriment to the health of the workmen. A site for a quarry has been chosen on the slopes of Mount Ainslie, and a road already built to it. So far, £4,250 has been spent on the installation of plant, and the £1,800 on these Estimates will complete the project. I suggest that an examination of these items will show that they are only reasonable provisions to meet the requirements of the community:
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
.- Last session I recommended that some of the local unemployed should be put to work on Mount Stromlo. I had noticed that some of the trees planted sixteen or seventeen years ago had a diameter of not more than 5 inches or 6 inches, showing clearly that there is something wrong about the forestry methods adopted here. After sixteen or seventeen years, a pine tree should have some commercial value. These particular trees were planted in the correct fashion, 8 feet apart, but should have been thinned out years ago. I recommended months ago that every other row both ways should be cut out, leaving the trees 16 feet apart. That would give them room to grow. Portion of the money provided on these Estimates for afforestation might advisedly be used in that direction, otherwise the Stromlo plantation will be useless. It is impossible for trees to grow to any decent size when they are only 8 feet apart.
– Thinnings are taking place from time to time.
– They should have taken place at least eight years ago, so far as this plantation is concerned. As the rainfall in the Territory is inadequate, it is a pity that a large expenditure should he incurred in afforestation in the Territory. I have had sufficient experience of forestry work to know that pine trees seventeen years of age should have a diameter of close on 20 inches. Even if the Stromlo trees had been given room to grow in the manner I have suggested they would probably have only half that diameter to-day. There is not sufficient rainfall here for successful pine-growing. When speaking on this subject previously, I drew the attention of the House to the fact that it would cost at least 38s. par 100 super. feet to land the Stromlo pine in one’s backyard, whereas a far superior Canadian timber could be delivered at 15s. 9d. per 100 super. feet. I think that the idea of having a forestry school here is wrong if the young students are to he taught that pine trees should have no greater diameter than 6 inches or 7 inches at seventeen years.I propose to discuss this matter further on the general Estimates.
– I am alarmed at the statement of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) about the opening up of a quarry on Mount Ainslie. I hope that the beautiful surroundings of this House, the hillsides of the Molonglo valley, will not be scarred as they have been in the neighbourhood of Adelaide.
– This quarry is well out of sight.
Proposed vote agreed to.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1932-33 for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c., a sum not exceeding £963,000.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means founded on resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Mr. Latham and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing’ resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Latham, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Latham) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Latham) read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No.9 of 1932 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia; Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union; Commonwealth Postmasters Association : Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union; and Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia.
No.10 of 1932 - Postal Overseers Union of Australia.
No. 11 of 1932 - Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union.
No.12 of 1932- Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union.
No. 14 of 1932 - Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia.
No. 16 of 1932 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No.17 of 1932 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
On Wednesday it is proposed to proceed with the second-reading speech on the High Commissioner Bill. If desired, the Government is prepared to adjourn the debate, but I suggest that it might be possible to go straight on - with it. On that day the Government may also introduce bills to amend the sales tax. It is proposed that the next business shall be the State Grants Bill, and on Thursday, it is hoped to introduce the Financial Emergency Bill, to be followed later in the week by the second reading of the New Guinea Bill.
My attention has been drawn to a statement in the press to the effect that it is possible that, within the next few weeks, the Federal Parliament will adjourn for a fortnight to allow the holding of a Premiers conference at which the long range problems facing Australia will be dealt with. While it is proposed to hold a Premiers conference”, no decision has yet been come to regarding the date, nor has it yet appeared that there will be any necessity to adjourn the House for the purpose. That aspect has not been considered by the Government.
.- I am concerned about the developments that are taking place in different parts of Australia, and I ask the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), who is at present in charge of the House, to consider whether something can be done. I am informed that there was a broadcast in Melbourne to-day, which gave the reassuring message to the manufacturers and workers of Australia that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) had indicated that there would be no immediate application of any cut in the tariff, but only after Parliament had dealt with it, and that, in the meantime,manufacturers may make further representations to the Tariff Board, and for further consideration to other proposals. I presume that is based on a statement made by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is reported in to-day’s newspapers as having said -
I learn with regret that one or two firms whichare apparently affected by the decision of the Government to reduce tariff duties are dismissing employees. There is not the slightest justification for this action being taken at present, because, although a resolution has beentabled in the House of Representatives, under which it is announced that Parliament is to be invited to reduce duties in certain cases, these reductions of the tariff do not become operative until such time as the tariff has passed both Houses of Parliament. Consequently, if in the meantime any industry has reason to believe that its case has not received, at the hands of the Tariff Board, the consideration to which it thinks it is entitled, it is open for the industry concerned to make further representations to the Tariff Board. I appeal, therefore, to those industries which may consider themselves adversely affected by the decision of the Government, to hold their hand, and refrain from dismissing their employees, and to take the action which is open to them. In the meantime, they have the same measure of protection that they had previously.
The newspapers publish a further statement that between 50 and 60 employees of Bryant and May Proprietary Limited, match manufacturers, in my own electorate, have received notice of dismissal as the result of the tariff. Other similarstatements have been made. The Prime Minister has stated deliberately on behalf of the Government, that, pending the further consideration for which he invites manufacturers to apply, their industries will be protected as they were previously. All I ask is that steps be taken by the Government to give effect to that assurance. I assume that the Prime Minister is under a misapprehension as to the effect of the tariff schedules, which, I understand, applied from the day on which they were tabled in this House.
– Not the duties in the match industry.
– To some extent they do. There are six or seven items in the schedule in respect of which the full reductions will not take place because they are below the 1928 level; but every reduction of the duties imposed by my Government will apply except those below the 1928 level. The duties below the 1928 level do not operate to the full extent immediately, but in those cases the reductions apply at once down to the 1928 level. Apparently the Prime Minister was not aware of that. With few exceptions the lower duties are operative, and, as a result, employees have been dismissed, although Parliament has not yet ratified the reductions. The obvious step to be taken is to restore the old duties until Parliament has given its decision. If that is done I shall join with the Prime Minister in appealing to manufacturers to keep their employees at work in the meantime.
. - I call the attention of the acting leader of the House to the inconvenience caused to members from distant States because of the House not meeting until Wednesday. Already all the New South Wales members have left this chamber to catch the afternoon train to Sydney. The House meets for two and a half days in the week, and for the remaining four and a half days members from distant States have to remain in Canberra. That arrangement, no doubt, is convenient to New South Wales members, enabling them to spend at least, half of the week at their homes or in their constituencies; perhaps that was why they hurried the transfer of the seat of government to Canberra. But members from other States should not be penalized. I have no desire to dodge my job. The running of sleeping cars between Canberra and Sydney and Melbourne in order that members maysit here for two and a half days in each week is not economical. I may be told that the State Governments are paid by the Commonwealth for the conveyance of members; that does not alter the fact that the running of the car3 more frequently than otherwise would ,be necessary is extravagant. This House has made very little progress with its business during the last fortnight.
– We dic! very well yesterday and to-day.
– Only because the House spurted in the last few hours. The bills providing for grants to three of the States have already been discussed for one day, and will presumably occupy another sitting. In every session we have the same experience; the House sits for two or three days each week at the beginning of the session and then rushes through a mass of business towards the end. Probably the present Government, like its predecessor, will endeavour to bulldoze the Esti-mates through the House in one night without affording members an opportunity to discuss them. A few months ago the Bankruptcy Bill of about seventy clauses was passed through all stages in this chamber in less than half an hour because members wanted to return to their constituencies. It is reasonable that the House should commence immediately to sit on Tuesdays. We have to deal with the decisions of the Ottawa Conference, and the consequential alterations in the tariff, as well as the budget proposals, the Estimates, and other measures. The Financial Emergency Bill alone will occupy two weeks unless the Government applies the gag. Having regard to the extensive programme of business’ to be transacted, I appeal to the Government to arrange for the House to meet on Tuesday.
.- I am much concerned about the conflicting explanations of the tariff schedule given by members of the Government. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins), in reply to a question, said -
Taking the schedule generally, the majority of the duties will not operate until they have been authorized by Parliament; but in a few instances in which the Government has reverted to the 1921-28 tariff they become operative immediately.
To-day the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) broadcast the statement which has been read by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to reassure the manufacturers who considered that the lower rates of duty would commence from the dates upon which the amending schedules were tabled by the Minister for Trade aud Customs (Mr. Gullett) and the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins). The tariff schedules introduced by me were validated for three months. On the day before the expiration of that period the Minister for Trade and Customs introduced further schedules which automatically took the place of mine. The new rates of duties applied in all instances except those in which the rates were below the level of the 1921-28 schedule. The rates of duty specified in the 192S schedule will apply in the case of only six items until Parliament authorizes the new tariff proposals. In certain items, including matches, the duties go even below the level of the 1921-28 schedule. In one item affecting Queensland interests - I refer to the duty on Diesel engines over 100 horse-power - (jio rate in the new schedule is free,
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss tariff items in detail.
– I should like to emphasize the urgent need, in the interests of Australian workers and of manufacturers who have put their money into Australian industries, to give effect to the promise made by the right honorable the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition has made a reasonable request. In view of the definite promise given by the Acting
Minister for Trade and Customs and by the Prime Minister that the new rates of duty will not apply until validated by Parliament, the Scullin schedule should be again introduced and operated until Parliament decides otherwise. It is no wonder that the Melbourne Age, in a leading article on the 5th September, said this -
Mr. Latham asserted that in the hands of his party the policy of protection would be safe. … As far us the tariff is’ concerned the Lyons Ministry won thu election on false pretences.
I now ask the Acting Leader of the Government (Mr. Latham) to accede to the request made by the Leader of the Opposition. All who have at heart the interests of Australian industries, and particularly the workers in them, will agree that we cannot afford to see hundreds of workers thrown out of employment in Australian factories as the result of the lower duties brought in by this Government. I hope that the promise of the Prime Minister as published in the press this morning will be honoured.
.- I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). I am very much concerned at the black outlook in many industries that have been established during the last year or two as the result of protection given to them under the Scullin tariff, or under tariffs introduced by previous governments. I should like to refer particularly to the glass manufacturing industry, which, taking advantage of the deferred duty imposed in the Scullin tariff, commenced the manufacture of sheet glass. Altogether about £400,000 has been expended in laying down an efficient plant for the manufacture of this commodity.
– The honorable gentleman must not refer to details of the tariff schedule now before the House.
– I shall endeavour to conform with your ruling, Mr. Speaker. Because of the lower duties fixed by this Government, a number of manufacturers have threatened to dismiss employees and close down their works. It has been suggested that, in the case of the window glass industry, the threat was merely so much bluff. I can assure honorable members that, the management was very much in earnest; but, following urgent appeals made by myself and also other honorable members on this side of the House, yesterday I received the following telegram from the manager : -
In view your telegram yesterday, Australian Window Wass Company1 will act on your recommendation and keep plant in operation until Parliament has decided fate of industry. lt is all very well for honorable members who do not represent industrial constituencies ‘ to treat this matter lightly. Let me tell them that members of industrial electorates are not unmindful of the welfare of our primary producers. I, for one, am always prepared to render them all the assistance in my power.
– Especially in regard to sheepskins !
– Even in such matters as that. That they need assistance is evident from recent statements in the Melbourne press that prices for certain classes of wool lately have been so low that growers have been forced to burn or bury their skins. The Attorney-General has suggested that statements of certain manufacturers that, because of recent tariff alterations they were closing down, was merely a threat. I assure him that, in many cases, this is the real intention. The Australian Window Glass Company had intended to close down this week-end to effect repairs to its furnaces; when the industry received this death-blow the management resolved to cease operations because of the impossibility of competing with overseas manufacturers. I appeal to the Government to give the House an early opportunity of discussing its drastic tariff proposals. During its term of office the Scullin ^Government was twitted by its opponents, including the honorable members for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), Swan (Mr. Gregory), and Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) with introducing tariff schedules and not giving the House an opportunity to deal with particular items. Although it is only a week since the last schedule was laid on the table by this Government, I earnestly hope that, because of its serious effect upon a number of Australian industries, we shall have an early opportunity to discuss it.
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has raised a question which is mentioned in nearly every session of Parliament, namely, the sittings of the House. The complaint voiced by the honorable gentleman illustrates the difficulty of administering the affairs of a country the size of Aus tralia. He must be aware that honorable members do not leave at the week-end merely to visit their homes. J£ Parliament were to sit regularly four or five days in each week, I do not see how it would be possible to carry out the necessary administrative work and allow Ministers time to meet the people in the different centres of population.
– How do we manage to sit four or five days a week at the end of each session?
– We do that under very great pressure, which it would be quite impossible to maintain during the whole of a session. Indeed, having regard to the complexity of some of the problems that confront us, I assure the honorable member that . even as it is the pressure is very heavy indeed on nearly every Minister who is responsible for the presentation of business to the Parliament. It would be more acceptable, perhaps, to honorable members as a whole if we were to sit more days per week, and have a shorter session; but as to whether we should have a shorter session in that event, the honorable member for Angas has had sufficient experience to entertain serious doubts.
With reference to the matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde)and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley), I admit frankly that the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) unfortunately contained an error. It was a statement of what was understood to be a fact; it was not in any sense a promise, but an explanation of the position as.it was understood to-be. Unfortunately, owing to the very heavy pressure of business yesterday, the statement was issued before it had been reconsidered and checked as it ought to have been. A statement has been issued to the press this afternoon correcting the error. The Government is, however, not prepared to make further alterations in the tariff without new recommendations being received from the Tariff Board. All the existing alterations have been made on the basis of, and in accordance with, the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and it is one of the principal duties of the board to secure the proper protection of Australian industry. We are not going to assume, because objection is raised to particular proposals, that the board hai obviously and flagrantly neglected its duty. The Prime Minister has already said, and I repeat the statement, that an invitation has been extended to any industry affected, which considers that there is relevant evidence available, or that some important aspect of the industry has been misunderstood, to approach the board again. If the board makes further recommendations, certainly those recommendations will receive consideration.
– Is the board to govern the country?
-In any event, the proposals of the Government, on whatever they are based, will be before Parliament at as early a date as possible for consideration and determination. The Tariff Board is not the governing factor; Parliament must decide.
– But the Government hae stated that it will carry out the recommendations of the board.
– Speaking generally, the Government proposes to base its recommendations to the House on therecommendations of the board. That does not mean a mechanical and slavish adherence to every recommendation the board makes. I am certainly not going to adopt such an attitude, responsible as I am to my constituents and to the people of Australia, but in broad outline, we propose to follow the recommendations of the board. In most instances, those recommendations are regarded, prima facie, as sound, but when reasons can be shown for doubting their wisdom, the Government does not mean that, notwithstanding everything else, the board’s recommendations must be accepted in their entirety. That attitude, I submit, is a fair one to adopt, and it is very undesirable that attempts should be made to represent events that would take place in any case as due to alterations in the tariff. There has been an instance of that kind in connexion with the glass manufacturing industry. I say earnestly to thoseconcerned with the industry that theydonot serve its interests by utilizing methods of that kind. We know that it was proposed to close this factory even before the tariff schedule was tabled. To represent the action taken as a consequence of the amended tariff was not fair to the Government and Parliament or to the employees of the company itself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320909_reps_13_135/>.