8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In connexion with a report published to the effect that a Tasmanian-owned and manned schooner, the Amelia J., has been so long overdue on a voyage from Newcastle to Hobart as to give rise to considerable anxiety as to her fate, I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Is it correct that the Premier of Tasmania wired to the Prime Minister asking the assistance ofthe ‘Commonwealth authorities in endeavouring to locate the vessel ? Was the telegram of the Premier of Tasmania unanswered, either absolutely or, at any rate, foT a very long time? Have the Government done anything, or do they intend to do anything, inthe matter; and, if not, why not?
– I am unable to reply as to the accuracy of the statements regarding the telegram from the Premier of Tasmania, but the Government ‘have been organizing the air fleet, as far as’ possible, for the purpose of ascertaining the whereabouts of the vessel referred to, and further steps are being taken by the Minister for the Navy to follow up their inquiries, with a view to doing all that may be possible, to ascertain what has become of the vessel.
– I understand that two aeroplanes left to-day for Tasmania.
– I believe that eleven lives are at stake.
Positionof New Zealand
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to the following paragraph, which appeared in the Argus of Tuesday last : -
The Prime Minister of New Zealand said that New Zealand had had extraordinary luck in connexion with Nauru Island, as, although New Zealand paid very much less than
Australia or Britain, he did not think that Britain or Australia would be able to take away a ton of phosphate more than New Zealand.
Is there any foundation for sucha statement?
– Before the Minister replies to the honorable senator’s question, I wish to point out that no statement or quotations may be made in asking a question. A question is permissible only for the purpose of eliciting information. It is obvious that, if honorable senators are deprived of the privilogo. of making a statement in puting a question, no statement by a, newspaper should be included in a question, as that would give to newspapers a privilege denied to members of the Senate.
– I ask Senator Payne to give notice of his question.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 152.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired under at - Hamilton, New South Wales (two notifications).
Islington, NewSouth Wales.
Kogarah, New South Wales.
Parramatta, New South Wales.
Rockdale, New South Wales.
Sans Souci, New South Wales.
Weston, New South Wales.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers supplied are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
As a result of the inquiries made by the postmen in the Wentworth Federal Division -
– The answers are - 1. (a) The number of names removed from the Roll in each Subdivision from date of 1919 Roll to 31st August, 1920, as result of inquiries made by postmen, is as follows : -
.- I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
I do not intend to make a speech on this motion, but I wish to point out that the Bill has yet to go through merely formal stages, except that it is possible that an iamendment made in it may come back . to us from another place, though I hope it will not. I am aware that honorable senators are anxious to terminate the business before them, and do not desire to be kept hanging about here unless there is useful work for them to do. I am proposing the suspension of the Standing Orders to facilitate business, and to meet the convenience of honorable senators, but if the motion is objected to I shall not press it-
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th September (vide page 4725), on motion by Senator E. D. Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.I shall be very brief in my remarks upon this Bill. I realize that it is imperative that the Government should prepare to administer those Territories over which they anticipate the receipt of a mandate almost at any time. The fact that that mandate is not yet in their hands should not in any way deter them from making all the necessary preparations for the administration of those Territories. It is a matter of congratulation for Australia that we have now reached a position when it will be impossible for a potential enemy bo take up its quarters upon our back doorstep. During the war it was a very vexed question whether Australia, in the case of victory attending the arms of the Allies, should extend the Territories over which she already had jurisdiction. No member of this Parliament and no citizen of the Commonwealth desired an extension of territory merely for the sake of extension. But when a Territory in the hands of some other Power may become a menace to Australia, it is absolutely essential that we should obtain control of it. I hope that we shall at once set about the task of devising some practical method for the development of these mandated Territories. In this connexion I have previously advocated a utilization of all the powers which the Government possess by reason of their ownership of a line of steamers, by means of which they will be able to maintain a better shipping service to Papua and the other Territories which form a part of the Commonwealth!, than has hitherto been provided. Now that we are about to receive a mandate over further territory, the necessity for the Commonwealth providing a better means of communication with these northern Possessions becomes more urgent than it has ever been before. There are great possibilities in these Possessions, and I hope that the Government will bend their best energies to providing a better service between them and the mainland.
I would like the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), if he can, to say what will be the duties of the Administrator of these Territories. I know that it is very difficult to actually outline those duties, but we should be given some indication of the powers which will be vested in him in the matter of dealing with certain questions. Will his commission vest him with’ power to alienate lands in these Territories, or to deal with any question in respect of which this Parliament may afterwards find it very difficult to go back’ upon his decision? These are questions which should be dealt with. Apart from them, I am whole-heartedly in favour of the measure, which is merely intended to provide for the administration of a very important portion of Australia so soon as we possess the requisite authority to deal with it.
– This Bill is necessarily only a skeleton, but it is designed to give parliamentary authority to the Government to evolve some working basis for the government of certain islands in the Pacific as soon as the requisite mandate has been received from the League of Nations. During his speech upon the motion for the second reading of the measure, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) told us that the Government will be required to deal with these islands in accordance with Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and that it has ‘been agreed that we should administer them under that article as an integral part of our -own territory, subject to the safeguards which he mentioned, one of which is that the islands are primarily to be governed in the interests of their native population. I take it that this Bill is merely intended to authorize the Government to create . some organization to carry out the terms of the mandate which we hope soon to receive from the League of Nations, and to supersede the present military form of government. The measure, therefore, does not necessarily mean a permanent solution of the problem with which it deals. It is designed rather to initiate and build up a form of government there. For weal or for woe, Australia has accepted a mandate to govern the islands which formed the whole of the German Possessions in the Pacific south of the Equator, with the exception of Samoa. With the Government of these Territories by Australia, the British flag will fly over nine-tenths of the Pacific Islands south of the line, the remaining flags being that of Prance in New Caledonia and Tahiti, and that of America in Pago Pago, one of the small islands of Samoa.
– What about Dutch New Guinea?
– That is rather to the west of the area which I have in. my mind.
The responsibility of governing these islands has given me a considerable amount of thought, and not a little concern. At present the Commonwealth possesses only a little more than 5,000,000 inhabitants. We inhabit a compact continent ; we have adult suffrage, and we have also advanced democratic ideas. We are strongly opposed even to contact within our own continent with any coloured aliens, and we are rightly determined to keep this continent white. Very few of us have any knowledge whatever of systems of government in tropical Possessions populated by coloured peoples. What we have attempted so far in connexion with the government of tropical lands - in the Northern Territory, for instance - has not been a brilliant success. I must admit, however, that the government of Papua, so far as that part of the island belonging to Australia is concerned, has been fairly good, although the cost to the Commonwealth of administering that one tropical Possession which Australia has with coloured inhabitants, has so far been about £50,000 per year,. We may say that as compensation for that sum we monopolize the trade, and receive a little outlet for our progressive young men to improve their position in life. The administration of Papua has, so far a6 I can ascertain, been carried on carefully and justly to the natives, although a problem is developing there, in connexion principally with the white-planting interests, which is, in effect, a question of labour. The fact of Papua costing us £50,000 per year after many years of Commonwealth administration does not indicate to me that the late German islands, which we are now called upon to administer under the mandate of the League of Nations, will for many years, at all events, be a financial asset to the Commonwealth. We acquire under the mandate about 80,000 additional square miles of tropical territory, populated by about 700,000 natives, so that Australia’s responsibility in the Pacific will, with this addition, amount to about 170,000 square miles, populated by nearly 1,000,000 natives. In view of the very elementary development of these islands, I am not very optimistic with regard to the financial aspect. I am not at all certain that these islands will be even self-supporting for very many years ; . and I think we should deliberately get our minds into this focus, that we are taking on an obligation with regard to the government of these exGerman islands, rather, than getting a financial asset. But we are gaining undoubtedly an asset that is of incalculable value for the safety of Australia. I unhesitatingly say that it is a good thing for Australia’s safety that these islands will be administered under the British flag. I am not altogether convinced, however, that administration of these islands by Australia is ultimately going to be as successful as administration would be through the Colonial Office from London. I am not altogether convinced that it would not be better, if not now, certainly in the not-distant future,’ to link up with Fiji and Tonga, because the administration of any and all islands in the Pacific is bound to 0,pen up international problems of a very delicate nature. With the extension of Australian control in the Pacific, those problems will not be placed further away, and I am of opinion that delicate international questions of that character had better be dealt with from London than from Melbourne. In any ca6e, this territorial and governmental expansion of the Commonwealth to alien races and territories, moving out into the world, is bound sooner or later to create very delicate problems which it will take very wise statesmanship, and great caution and deliberation on our part, to avoid.
With regard to the administration of the mandate, I was interested to read the other day contributions to the daily press from one of the press correspondents on the Renown, who indicated that there is already some unrest in Samoa in connexion with the political control there by the New Zealand Government. Japan has never acquiesced in the view that Australia can receive a mandate for, or administer, the late German islands and be free to carry out a policy of shutting out Asiatic race3. This question is bound to be re-opened in the near future, and possibly will be a matter with which Senator Millen, our delegate to the League of Nations’ Conference at Geneva, will have to deal.
– Do not questions of defence really govern our attitude with respect to all these islands?
– Yes, they do; but so far as I can ascertain the position with regard to the mandates, the. only question of defence that has been acquiesced in as regards Japan and these Pacific Islands south of the Equator, and also the islands taken over by Japan north of the Equator, is that the mandatories of any of these islands shall not be allowed to erect fortifications or defensive works in any shape or form. The question of Asiatic immigration into the Pacific Islands is, I take it, altogether apart from the question of Asiatic immigration into Australia, and its regulation by Australia is a matter, as I am given to understand by a close perusal of the reports connected with this Bill, that has not been acquiesced in by Japan so far.
I am hopeful that, in the not-distant future, some attempt will be made to link up the whole of the islands under the British flag in the Pacific into one government. Some considered opinions favour the Seat of Government of the islands of the Pacific being placed in Fiji, and that the already British Colonial Office-administered Pacific Islands, such as Fiji, Tonga, and the Gilbert and Ellice groups, should branch out, and include also the New ‘ Zealand-administered Samoa, and the Australian-administered New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. This matter, however, does not affect the immediate position with which we are called upon as a Chamber to deal. That, I take it, is to substitute some form of civil government for the present military government that is being carried out in the islands’ under review. It is fairly assured that for some years, at all events, the control of the German islands is going to be a financial liability to the” Commonwealth, rather than an asset; but, nevertheless, some corresponding advantages may be expected in the direction of trade expansion.
In connexion with the principle of the government of tropical Possessions populated by coloured races, I would direct the attention of the Government, when they are preparing their policy, to the administration of tropical territory by the Dutch in Java, and the Americans in the Philippines. I think that, in each of these areas, the Governments find that the principal problem is that of labour. J ava and the Philippines being rather densely populated, and the natives not being altogether otus eaters, but accustomed to labour, the Dutch and American authorities find it sufficient to prevent the export of labour in order to retain, within their own spheres of influence, sufficient of the native population to carry on the work.
– The Javanese, you must remember, are highly civilized, compared with the Philippine races.
– I am aware of that; but labour, as labour, is a matter of the individual; and all the islands of the Pacific can grow cocoanuts or rubber. In the Malay Peninsula, one of the richest, if not the richest, areas in the whole of the British Possessions, populated by a mixed coloured community of about 2,000,000 people, although’ it covers an area of only about 30,000 square miles, there is a system of government which, in my opinion, might well be adapted by us in connexion with the administration of the islands covered by this Bill. I do not assume that there is any tin in the Pacific Islands, but I do assume that there is plenty of rich land for the growing of rubber, copra, and other tropical commodities that, in the aggregate value, would represent a very large sum of money. The Government of the Malay Peninsula find it necessary to practically indenture labour from India, the Malays being temperamentally indolent and disinclined to work. The great development that has taken place in tin raining and rubbergrowing in the Peninsula could not have been achieved except by the importation of Chinese and Tamil labour.
– A great many Chinese went there of their own volition. They were not imported by the Government.
– I do not think that any great development of the islands included in the mandate can be expected for many years as the result of labour by the native races, and I may remind honorable senators of the very satisfactory position of the Malay Peninsula. The whole of the railway system and other public works, representing assets of about £15,000,000 . sterling, have been paid for. There is no public debt.
– That is a lesson to us.
– It is. All this has been achieved, in a great measure, by the extraordinarily successful government of that rich area by the British Colonial Office.
– Has it not been done largely by an export tax?
– Yes ; but, first of all, the Government had to assure the development of the country, and help create the wealth for the payment of the export tax. I submit the lesson of the extraordinarily successful government of the Malay Peninsula to the Minister for his consideration, and suggest that the powers that be may find in that system of government something to emulate in connexion with the Administration to be created under this Bill.
– If we have the same resources in those islands. The honorable senator must know that the products of the Malay Peninsula command high prices on the world’s market.
– I know that the price of rubber, which probably is the principal product of the Malay Peninsula, is lower than ever before in its history. I may also be allowed to point out that the Government of the Malay States gives attention to the education of the people, to the prevention of disease, and substantially ‘ helps industry and research work.
There is another point. Senator Earle very pertinently asked what the Government intended to do with the land, whether it was to be .alienated, and what land laws would operate. In this connexion I may inform honorable members that there is no alienation of land in the Federated Malay States. All land is leased. For rubber -growing the upset price is about ten dollars, or about 25s. per acre, and the annual rental is about half-a-dollar per acre, the leases being nominally for a terip, of about twenty-five years. For mining, the price of the lease is about double this amount, and the leases run for twenty-one years with the right of renewal if the regulations are observed. I think that as we are practically entering a virgin field, so far as the late German Possessions are concerned, we ought to consider whether the leasing system is not better than selling the land outright, and possibly being subjected later, to land jobbing by speculators. I make these suggestions in order to offer, if possible, some constructive criticism in regard to the future administration of these islands, and I do so because mv knowledge of the Malay Peninsula is somewhat intimate, and I think the point raised by Senator Earle is important.
The Government should seriously consider whether leasing the whole of the lands, on the lines followed in successful British Possessions elsewhere, would not be better than alienating it for all time, which has been the policy in other parts of the British Empire.
So far .as the Bill is concerned, it is a skeleton upon which the Government will have the responsibility of building. I take it that their first step will be to appoint an Administrator, and their next to approve of certain fundamental principles of government. These principles will be limited by what is contained in the Covenant of the League of Nations, but, in addition, the Government will be responsible for many other matters, and so I suggest that before anything is done, the methods of administration in other parts of the tropics, which have been proved to be successful, should be very carefully studied . I offer these remarks in the spirit of one who approves of what the Government are doing under this Bill. The legislation embodied in this Bill will not affect the position, but the administration which the Government are creating will, for weal or woe, make successful or otherwise the control of the islands which we are now acquiring.
– Like Senator Pratten, I agree that this Bill is necessary to enable the Government to administer the Territories and islands in the Pacific which have come under our control. I am sure there is no intention of delaying the passage of the measure, and I cordially support it. It means, however, that here, again, the Commonwealth are commencing legislation of this description at the wrong end. The Bill is primarily intended for the appointment of an Administrator. There are no regulations or instructions, and there is nothing for that officer’s guidance, at least, so far as Parliament knows, concerning the manner in which he is to carry on his work. After the Administrator is appointed Parliament will be asked to pass legislation laying down certain principles upon which he must carry out his work, and I venture to express the opinion that these principles should be firmly established before he is appointed. We appoint a man to a position, and we cannot give him any information as to his duties, but after he is established in office we commence telling him what his duties are and how they are to be performed. Even if we adopt that attitude, I should like to know how much members of this Parliament know concerning the Territories and Islands in the Pacific ? What information or knowledge do we possess as to what is in the minds of the white or black residents on the Islands 1
– Only two members of the Senate have been there.
– Yes, and I contend that we should be fully informed on the subject.
I have already referred to a report that has been furnished to Parliament by certain gentlemen who were directed to investigate and report on what was German New Guinea. It is not my intention to say one word against those gentlemen further than that I do not think for one moment that they were competent to advise this Parliament on such an important problem. This Parliament should not be asked to take the advice of gentlemen who may be highly capable in their own particular spheres, But who have no more knowledge of the requirements of that Territory than we have. The best proof of such a statement is to be found in the fact that their report - we have really had two reports - is divided into two sections, one of which is signed by two members of the Commission and the other section by the remaining member, who is in total disagreement with the others and who recommends that certain things shall be done in the Territory to which the others are opposed. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) in introducing the Bill, and also Senator Pratten, said that the future government of the Territories and Islands in the Pacific is of tremendous consequence to Australia, and yet the report received is of a very contradictory nature. What qualifications has Mr. Lucas to enable him to advise this Parliament as to what should be done? If I were starting a business in the islands and desired the services of a man to conduct a great commercial enterprise there, I know of no one who would be more suitable for the work than Mr. Lucas. The mere fact that he has been connected with a particular firm for very many years is the best proof of his ability in the direction I have mentioned.
– He is an expert business man, and has a thorough knowledge of plantation work. Surely he is qualified to advise on a question of taking over the German plantations. He may notbe concerned with the administration in any shape or form.
– I am not saying that he will be, but these gentlemen were directed to prepare a report, which has been laid on the table in the form of a parliamentary paper, and, presumably, Parliament is expected to take some notice of what it contains. As a capable business man, Mr. Lucas is all that could be desired ; but as to whether he is a suitable person for advising this Parliament on such an important question, I have very grave doubts. Mr. Lucas’ long residence in the islands has removed him from parliamentary influence, good, bad, or indifferent.
– There is no better authority on South Sea Island questions than Mr. Lucas.
-I am prepared to admit that, but his connexion with the islands has removed him from the influence of Parliament. Another member of the Commission, Mr. Atlee Hunt, has been occupying a comfortable office in Spring-street for a number of years, and I do not know what special qualifications he possesses to enable him to advise Parliament. The other gentleman has also been occupying a responsible judicial position in the islands for a number of years, and he has submitted a report diametrically opposed to the views of the other members. I have read the report over and over again, and can find very little in it that is likely to be of assistance to me. When it is a question of giving information to Parliament, there are no more capable men in this country than the members of this Parliament. When advice was desired on such an important problem, a Royal Commission, consisting of members of Parliament, should have been appointed to make the necessary investigations and have been sent there twelve months ago. The members of that Commission could have visited the islands from end to end, taken evidence from the people on oath, and have ascertained exactly what the people desired.
– That is what America did with the Philippines.
– Yes; and there is no doubt that that would have been the proper course to have adopted. I am not going to be influenced in the slightest by anything contained in the re port mentioned, as I absolutely refuse to be advised by such gentlemen. If information had been sought by members of this Parliament, it could , have been made public and fully debated in Parliament.
I have already stated that the Bill does not indicate what powers are to be placed in the hands of the Administrator. It is not my intention to refer at length to the fact that we are not administering with the success some would like a Territory much nearer than these islands in the Pacific. Some honorable senators know very little of a certain Territory on our mainland.
– The great difficulty is that other countries administering tropical regions have availed themselves nf native labour, which is not available to us in the Northern Territory.
– That is true. That is one of the things upon which we should have been thoroughly advised at the time, when, perhaps, different methods might have been adopted. The Administrator will be appointed and will find that he has a certain staff, but no instructions or regulations as to the course he shall follow.
– A good many things which he may not do are set out in the
– It is after things are done and mistakes have been made that they are discovered, and where a wrong course has been followed it is (difficult to retrace our steps.
– The honorable senator does not desire that the experience of the administration of these islands shall be that of the Northern Territory over again.
– I do not. We have been administering Papua for some time, and,’ reading the reports we receive from that Territory, one cannot help being struck with the large number of magistrates and other officials in Papua who send in reports which supply little or no information of use to members of this Parliament. I often marvel how those reports come to be included in parliamentary papers when they contain so little to enable honorable senators to ascertain what really has been done in the Territory. They are for the most part made up of detail, and while they might be filed in the office of the Administrator of the Territory, they are useless to rnombers. of this Parliament to assist’ them in administering it.
– When the honorable senator talks of the number of these officials, let me say ‘that if he met one of them in Papua it would be a long time before he met another.
– I believe that they are stationed long distances apart, and that they have responsible duties to perform, hut my point is that their reports contain little or no information of value to members of this Parliament to show what is being done for the development of the Territory. I have had communications from the islands informing me of certain things that have been done, but I am unable to say whether there is anything in those communications, and in view of the contradictory statements appearing in official reports, I have come to the conclusion that the best course for me to follow is to say nothing about them. A complaint reached me quite recently regarding the treatment of certain missions in the islands. It was a rather serious complaint, but I require further information on the subject before I can take any notice of it. It is suggested that people in the islands are not at all satisfied with things as they exist there at present, and they are hopeful that under proper administration by the Commonwealth an improvement will be made.
Only the other day we saw a statement published to the effect that a very largo area of sago palm lands had been disposed of to a company engaged in ths distillation of alcohol. I do not know whether the deal has been completed, but it seems to me to be a shameful thing to deliberately alienate the sources of the food of the native population to any enterprising speculators for the distillation of spirit. In Australia we have had to set aside large areas of country as reserves in which the natives can hunt and £sh, though they get very little hunting or fishing in those reserves. If we are going to permit the destruction in this wholesale fashion of the food supplies of the islanders of the Pacific, the people of Australia will have to bear the cost of feeding them by some other means. I doubt very much whether, if the deal to which I have referred had been submitted to this Parliament, it would have been approved of.
– ‘Have any protests been made from Papua in that connexion ?
– I am going only upon what I read in the press, and upon my knowledge of what has occurred in connexion with the treatment of natives in Australia. I know that they were gradually driven from their hunting grounds, which were taken from them by white people, and Australian Parliaments have had to set aside large reserves to enable them to live. I am suggesting that we shall have a similar experience in connexion with the natives of the Pacific Islands if some other course is not followed.
I notice that under the Bill the “ slave trade “ is to be prohibited in these Territories. I think that is a most unfortunate expression.
– That is merely an expression taken from the terms of the mandate.
– There is no such thing as a slave trade under the British flag, and I am confident that there will he no such thing as a slave trade in these islands. It is, however, necessary that something should be done to compel the natives to work. Any one who has owned a plantation in these Territories, or has had much to do with the natives, knows very well, that they require very few luxuries. A few cocoanuts and yams will keep them alive all the year round, and while they can live without working they will not work.
– They require luxuries if they can get them.
– They have acquired a taste for gaily-coloured cottons to wrap about their bodies, and that is about the extent of the luxuries they look for. In my view, it is necessary that the people who will go to these Territories to open up and develop them, should be permitted the use of some means to make the natives work.
– Are these Territories to he administered in the interests of the natives, or in the interests of those who may go there at some time in the future for their own purposes?
– I think that the interests of the natives, and also of. those who go to these Territories to de- velop them, should he conserved. I am not prepared to say that the natives should be compelled to work, willy-nilly, but I do say that the natives of these islands require a good deal of inducement to make them work. The men who will go to these islands will find means to induce them to work, but there need he jio question of treating them badly. We need to be careful, in dealing with the native population of these Territories, not to adopt exaggerated or sentimental ideas concerning them. One of the difficulties associated with the opening up of countries inhabited by coloured peoples of this kind is that they can live on very little, and they greatly dislike work. I do not say that that is a tendency peculiar to these people; but at the outset of our experiment in connexion with the administration of these Territories, honorable senators sitting here in Melbourne should not make it impossible for people who will go to the islands and invest their money in their development, to obtain native labour by just and fair treatment of the natives.
– The Bill would not make that impossible.. It will merely prevent settlers from forcing the natives to work.
– Is the honorable senator advocating slavery?
– Certainly not. I have been emphatic in ‘asserting that I do not believe in. slavery and that the slave trade does not .exist under the British flag. I should he the last to advocate it in these Territories.
– It practically existed under German administration in Rabaul.
– The Germans had a form of forced labour, but it, I think, could scarcely he called slavery, though we do not know what methods were adopted by German settlers at some distance from the coast. I do not suggest that we should permit settlers to go to the extremes to which German settlers went, but, at the same time, I do not desire that we should make it impossible for persons who take up ‘areas of country in these Territories to obtain native labour. The natives should not be placed in such a position that they need not work, because, if they are, the Govern ment of the Commonwealth will ultimately be called upon to keep them.
– There is a possibility of putting a premium upon lazi-ness by lax administration.
– It is very easy to put a premium upon laziness on the part of the natives of these islands. Men who have been accustomed to them say how easy it is to spoil them for work for white men. I have said that I am not satisfied with the manner in which the Commonwealth Government are going about the administration of these islands. We are, of course, committed to the terms of the mandate; but I say that the Government have started at the wrong end. I hope that at the earliest possible “moment the members of this Parliament will take steps to acquaint themselves with the requirements of these Territories, in order that they may be in a position to legislate for the people who go there in a way which will be of advantage to the settlers and also to the Commonwealth.
.- The acceptance of the -mandate for late-German New Guinea carries with it a heavy responsibility for the development of the resources of that country, and in connexion with the way in which the Australian Government will ‘treat the native population. In considering this question, we must recognise that the coloured races of ,the Pacific are not built in exactly the same way as aire white people. We must remember that, as a rule, coloured races are excellent copyists. It is essential in the administration of these Territories that we should recast our ideas of government, and make impossible a recurrence of the failures which have followed our administration of other areas over which we have had control.
I have been looking very carefully into the clause dealing with guarantees. I find that one of the guarantees which we have to give under the mandate is that the supply of intoxicating spirits and beverages shall be prohibited to the native population.
– Hear, hear! And I say it again on behalf of Senator Thomas.
– I thought the honorable senator would say “Hear, hear”; to that. We shall acquire these Territories in a very short time now, and it appears to me that their acquisition offers a magnificent opportunity to try the experiment of making them prohibited areas so far as the use of alcoholic beverages is concerned.
– The natives make a spirit of their own. Would the honorable senator prohibit the use of that?
– We are asked to legislate to prohibit the sale of intoxicating spirits or beverages to the native population of these Territories. I was in conversation a few months ago with a gentleman who professes to know a great deal about the Pacific Islands. He told me that good work had been done in many instances in educating the natives and making them civilized up to a certain point, and that many of them had become useful agricultural labourers. But he added that much of the good work done in that direction is practically undone because of the behaviour of certain whites, who occasionally indulge in a carouse. Naturally, the black population, being excellent coypists, desire to know why they should be deprived of a means of enjoyment which is permitted to white men.
– Is the honorable senator referring to parsons, who go down to missions in the islands ?
– The gentleman to whom I refer was not a parson at all.
– The first article in the religion of the white population of the Commonwealth Territories is that they will not drink. I scarcely met an officer in Papua who would take a drink.
– A certain proportion of mean whites is to be found in all tropical climates’.
– Exactly. Unfortunately, these “ mean “ whites frequently undo a great deal of the good which has previously been done.
– That is not what Senator Pratten meant to convey by the term “ mean “ whites.
– The establishment of a form of government in these mandated Territories affords us an excellent opportunity to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors there. We owe it to the Empire and to Australia that these shall’ be made useful Territories, and if there be any likelihood that a handicap will be imposed upon them by sanctioning the liquor traffic there, we ought resolutely to set our faces against it. I hope that in the not-distant future the native population of New Guinea will become a valuable asset to Australia. Senator Newland spoke of the necessity for taking definite action in respect of the employment of coloured labour there, and probably he knows a good deal about that matter. I confess that I do not know much, my own knowledge having been gathered from information which has been given to me, and from what I have read. But I suggest in all earnestness that an opportunity is now presented to us to prohibit the sale of intoxicants in these Territories. The adoption of prohibition in New Guinea could not possibly result in any loss, whereas it would probably achieve a great amount of good, especially in regard to the civilization and education of the native population. We must not forget that, to a great extent, it is upon their civilization and education that the success or otherwise of our administration will depend.
– The question is, What . is civilization ?
– Civilization means a utilization of our resources to the utmost advantage in the interests of the commonweal. I ask the Government seriously to consider my suggestion, because New Guinea is the first Territory over which we have been granted a mandate.
– That is not a first, because Papua is absolutely under our control, and no drink is allowed to be sold there. The natives, however, manufacture a liquor for themselves.
– The sooner we try the experiment that I have outlined the better it will be for all concerned.
Senator FAlRBAIRN (Victoria) [4.10]. - Like Senator Newland, I have read the report of the Commission which investigated the question of the form of government suitable for the mandated Territories very attentively. The trouble which led to the presentation of a minority report by Judge Murray arose over the question of whether the whole of these new Territories should be administered by the present officials from the present centre of government, or whether they should have a separate form of government, such as is contemplated by this Bill. Mr. Atlee Hunt and Mr. Lucas reported in favour of a separate form of government in addition to the existing Administration.
– I do not think the honorable senator is quite fair to Judge Murray. That gentleman made no stipulation in regard to the Territories’ being administered by the present officials. He merely recommended that they should be administered by one Government instead of two.
– That is so. The majority report of the Commission was in favour of the continuance of the present form of government in Papua and of the establishment of a new administration to deal with the German portion of New Guinea. The Government have adopted the recommendation that is contained in the majority report. Personally, I am inclined to think that these Territories could be administered more cheaply from the present centre of government in Papua. The officials there must have gained some experience, and it would have teen better had the Government adopted Judge Murray’s suggestion to administer these Territories by increasing the staff which is already in Papua. This Bill means the creation of a fresh Department and the appointment of many more officials. In the conduct of my private affairs outside of Melbourne I have learned that the fewer cheque-books I give out the better. Yet the Commonwealth is now going to hand out still another cheque-book. The Bill, if carried, will mean an addition to our expenditure of £50,00Q annually. That expenditure might have been avoided had the present machinery of government in Papua been somewhat expanded. After carefully considering the reports of the Commission, I prefer the recommendation of Judge Murray, to that which is set out in the majority report of its members. The recommendation of the latter means the appointment of entirely new officers, who may easily make mistakes which would be avoided by the officials who are already in Papua and who have had experience there. It would not be a very difficult task for the Administrator of Papua to tour these islands, say, twice a year.
The only other question upon which I desire to say a word or two is that which has been raised by Senator Pratten. He inquired whether it would not be better to hand over the administration of these mandated Territories to the authorities in Downing-street. I do not think that the British Government are anxious to take over any such complicated task. We can not shut our eyes to the fact that questions of the utmost difficulty are connected with our government of the Territories under the mandate which we have been granted. I have read in the press that the Japanese affirm that they were far better off under the German control of New Guinea than they will be under the Australian control of it. They say that formerly they were allowed to settle in German New Guinea, whereas under our administration they will be excluded from that Territory. We have also to think of what will be the effect of the mandate upon our fellow-subjects in India. At the present time they are allowed to enter Fiji as coolies, and are afterwards permitted to settle there. But, under our legislation, they will be prevented from entering and settling in German New Guinea. That is another difficulty which we shall have to face. We have not heard the last of Japan’s claim for equality of racial treatment. These are questions which merit the most serious consideration at our hands. Senator Pratten has suggested that we should hand over this Territory to ‘the British Government.
– Had the Home Government acted according to Australian ideas, there would never have been any German New Guinea.
– Exactly. We have to thank Sir Thomas Mcllwraith for our possession of that part of New Guinea which we then acquired. Otherwise Germany would have had the whole of the island. These are delicate questions, which I suppose will be dealt with by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) when he goes to England, assuming that they are not considered at the Geneva Conference, at which Australia will be represented by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen).
– Upon looking through this Bill I am forced to the conclusion that we are merely driving in tent pegs. We are doing nothing more than erecting a tent at the seat of government in German New Guinea. We are certainly not erecting the house in which we are to live, or laying down the laws which should govern it.
– The Administrator in New Guinea will not deal with any question of policy. That is a matter for this Parliament to settle.
– The Bill provides that the laws of the Commonwealth shall be in force in the Territory unless expressed not to extend thereto.
– The GovernorGeneral may make an Ordinance applying any particular Statute of the Commonwealth to the mandated areas.
– But this Parliament has the power of veto.
– I recognise that. Yet, to all intents and purposes, we are merely creating under this Bill a form of government for New Guinea.
– We are establishing a system of administration by this Parliament.
– And we are superseding .the military form of government by a civil form.
There are questions of more than ordinary magnitude, of more than ordinary difficulty, connected with this matter. Senator Fairbairn a few minutes ago spoke o£ the attitude adopted upon the question of racial equality by our friendly neighbour, Japan. To me there is less force in the arguments which can be adduced in opposition to the admission of Japanese into these mandated Territories than there is in the arguments which can be advanced in opposition to their admission into the Commonwealth. As Australians, we have already evidenced our desire to live as a white people, and we have also shown how we wish our house to be ruled, in the same way as we indicate by invitation or permission who shall be our visitors. We have not the same basis for reasoning against the entrance of coloured races into these islands, which have native coloured populations, as we have against their entrance into Australia. We are simply holding a mandate to govern the Territories.
– If they get in there, they will be, for all practical purposes, within 80 miles of the Australian shores.
– That is so, but I am trying to draw a line between an exigency of government and a principle. We may consider it necessary, for instance, that the coloured races should be 100 miles rather than 80 miles away, but while we hold a mandate, and are not in the position of real owners, we can lay down only tentative measures for the control of the islands. That seems to be exactly what we are striving to do in this Bill.
– We can lay down absolute measures.
– The difficulty is that portion of New Guinea is practically Australian Territory. Where are we to draw the line? Are we’ to have the laws of Australia operating in Australian New Guinea, as they undoubtedly will, and an entirely new set of laws operating in ex-German New Guinea, where the conditions are similar, if not exactly the same, although the two Territories are divided only by an imaginary line?
– That is for Parliament to determine.
– Parliament is not altogether free to determine it, because it is in some senses shackled or circumscribed by the terms of the mandate under which we shall hold the island, although I understand that those terms will be fairly wide. That seems to me one obstacle which we would have to meet in carrying out Senator Fairbairn’s excellent idea.. Later on, circumstances may arise that will make it possible for the two systems of government to become practically one.
There is great danger in the provision in clause 10 empowering the Administrator to delegate such of his powers as he thinks fit to persons who may be in other portions of the proposed new Territory. That is a very wide power of delegation. The Administrator cannot be present in all the different portions of the Territory, and some one will have to represent him, but his powers of delegation should not he so large that they may breed trouble. We are by no means out of the wood, and seem to be getting into danger as we go further on. We shall have to hedge these delegated powers round very carefully, and also watch closely whatever Ordinances are promulgated in that regard.
We may admit that the handling of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth has been a long, long way from success. It has been almost the antipodes of success, vet we are to-day accepting the responsibility of administering a number of other tropical Possessions. The position seems to be somewhat inconsistent. We have not won this greatness, nor have we inherited it. It has been thrust upon us, possibly for us to make as big a blunder as we have made in the other case. Senator Pratten suggested that it would be advisable for Downing-street to undertake the control of the whole of the Pacific Islands included in the mandate, as well as contiguous Pacific Possessions, such as Fiji.
– Could not we extend the idea a little, and ask Downingstreet to take over the government of Australia also?
– The honorable senator may travel that way if he likes, but he will not have my company. There is a good deal of difference between the government under mandate of certain islands in which we do not reside, and the surrounding circumstances of which we do not see or know, and the established government of a country like Australia. I admit the wisdom and farseeing intelligence of Senator de Largie, who can sweep all difficulties away simply by waving his hand. Downing-street already controls islands which are much akin to these.
– You want to delegate your responsibility to some one else.
– Our responsibilities in this matter have not been bought or inherited, or even won by us.
– They have been won by us.
– Yes, in a military sense, but we did not do the winning with a view to acquiring the property that will be brought under our control by the mandate. The point is whether we can administer these islands better than Downingstreet could.
– I know we are a great people, but we have not yet demonstrated to the world that we have made a success of our government of the Territories that lie nearer to us, in one of which at least the white population is a very big factor. I do not say that these islands should go from under the British flag.
– It is your duty to know these places. Why do you nor take a trip to them?
– We have given evidence as a Senate that we desire to know them more intimately.
The appointment of an Administrator is not, after all, the main consideration in the government of these islands, unless we can by some means discover the man who will fit the job exactly. In this Bill we are appointing an Administrator without laying down what laws he is to administer. It is a case of the laws having to be made after the King is created. It will therefore be incumbent on the Government and on the Senate to watch carefully the type and scope of the legislation that emanates from that quarter.
– Our experience of the War Precautions Act shows how difficult it is to disallow an Ordinance.
– That interjection gives greater force to my argument. We know how difficult it is even to keep watch on the many regulations, statutory rules, and Ordinances, which represent what may be called legislation by neglect. They are a negative type of legislation. They become law because they arenot objected to, and they do not bear the impress of the mind of the Senate.
– You do not get two Ordinances a year from Papua.
– I admit it.
– The mandate involves quite a different form of government from that of Papua.
– Senator Pratten reminds me that the oversight of these islands will involve an entirely new type of legislation from what we have hitherto been accustomed to. In character, not only the laws, but also the Ordinances, will differ from those of Papua.
– Why? There is only a narrow strip of water between the two.
– Evidently I did not make myself clear in the first part of my speech, when I pointed out to the Minister that we shall be legislating under the circumscribed terms of a mandate for these Possessions, whereas with the Ordinances for Papua we are legislating practically directly under the laws of the Commonwealth itself.
– In the one case the authority is a mandate, and in the other case it is the Commonwealth Constitution.
– The honorable senator cannot connect the mandate with the Commonwealth Constitution in. any sense. It is distinctly provided in the Bill that the laws of the Commonwealth shall not operate in the mandated Territory, except in certain cases.
– Hear, hear! You know the reason of that. What would be the good of ordering the Papuans to close their shops at 5 or 6 o’clock?
– Still, there are problems and difficulties that we must take into consideration. We seem to be undertaking this responsibility as if it were simply child’s play, or a picnic, rather than recognising the burden that will rest upon us. _ Among other things, we shall have the duty of doing what is just towards the natives themselves. That raises the question whether our legislation is to be for the good pf the natives of the Territory. Are the indigenous populations to have laws made for their benefit, or are we going to make laws for the benefit of the other people who go there? We cannot escape from the responsibility that devolves upon us. I notice that this legislation will not affect the. island of Nauru. It seems to me that we are going to he in a still further quandary. It will be absolutely necessary for some one to control that island, yet it is specifically exempted in the preamble.
– In that case the mandate is issued to the British Empire; not to Australia.
– But the point I am making is that Nauru will be under an entirely different form of control, because the mandate will devolve upon the British Government.
– No; to the British Empire.
– In the case of Nauru Island the mandate is issued to the British Empire, and in the case of these Pacific Islands, the mandate is to Australia.
– I wish particularly to direct attention to the intricacies of the laws which we are about to make with regard to the whole of the islands. Under the Commonwealth Constitution we shall have laws that will operate with regard to Nauru, and there will be an entirely different set of laws with reference to this Territory. I feel certain that we are on the threshold of great difficulties concern ing the administration of these islands, but we shall have to undertake the responsibility.
I wish now to say a few words concerning the point raised by one honorable senator, namely, the prohibition of intoxicants to the indigenous population.
– Would you make, them all prohibitionists up there, tool
– I do not wish to approach this subject in the spirit evidenced by the honorable senator who has interjected. We must recognise that the class of population that drifts to these outside Territories is of the adventurous but not always well-balanced type.
– The population of Western Australia, surely, is a contradiction to that statement.
– I am not thinking of Western Australia. My honorable friend who has interjected must know that the experience of civilization teaches us that while pioneers may be excellent men, they are not always so well balanced as other sections of the community. In the early days of settlement in Australia, the arrival of a steamer with a British cargo, including ‘ intoxicating liquor, was, as often as not, made an occasion for a series of what some people call a “ jamboree.” Control of intoxicating liquor is not likely to be so effective in the outposts of civilization as upon the mainland of Australia; and, therefore, if we prohibit the use of intoxicants to the indigenous population, to be consistent, we should provide in some way for its control. I do not care whether we adopt the principle of Government control or not. I am prepared to hand this matter over entirely to the Government.
– Then, -you would make them all teetotallers?
– The honorable senator knows, surely, that the men who float away into these outlying Territories are not always well balanced, and very often, when they have access to intoxicating liquor, they become a disgrace to the community.
– And you would make them so dry that they could not float back again ?
– No. I am prepared to allow my honorable friend to make these jocular suggestions. If his experience has not taught him wisdom I am sorry for him. It would be much wiser, I think, that the liquor traffic should, in these outlying areas, be under some form of control. As a case in point, I may quote the experience of every new settlement. Immediately a public house is established in a new district we find that a policeman is appointed to see that the laws of the land are observed, and the liquor traffic regulated. Unless we provide in some measure for -control, the law prohibiting the supply of intoxicating liquor to the indigenous population of these islands will be as much a dead letter as it has been in Australia. If the Government- undertake this responsibility they will be doing the right thing.
– If I had any doubts as to the advice tendered by Senator Newland they have been entirely removed by the speeches delivered by Senators Senior and Pratten. It is a pity, I think, that these honorable gentlemen have not a more intimate knowledge of tropical islands. It is evident that they know very little about New Guinea. »
– .Has the honorable senator been there?
– I have.
– So have I.
– I have been there, and I am acquainted’ with the form of government. I am quite satisfied that the public officials there manage public affairs very well indeed.
– I did not say otherwise.
– Evidently Senator Pratten is not aware of the conditions in New Guinea., so I want to give him some good advice which, apparently, he needs very badly.
– Go on ! I am prepared to sit “at the feet of wisdom!
– Then I hope the honorable senator will profit by the advice. He needs it, because he has seriously proposed that, although Australia is within three days’ sail of these islands, we should hand them over to the control of the Imperial Government on the other side of the world, and which has no knowledge whatever of their problems. I say, also, that .the honorable senator very badly needs to re-visit New Guinea.
– Of course, the honorable senator is twisting what I said. I was referring to the mandatory islands.
– Surely, German Possessions on the Now Guinea mainland are included. I think the honorable senator is now realizing that he spoke rather hastily.
– Is it not a fact that Senator Pratten is one of the few honorable senators who has visited the islands ?
– He says he has been there. So have I. I have travelled through the British portion. I have seen a good deal of the island, and, therefore, I can speak from first-hand knowledge.
– Tell us what portion you visited.
– I visited the Seat of Government, inland villages, and also islands, and I can tell the honorable senator that if all the other South Sea. Islands in the possession of the British Empire were governed as wisely as is Papua,, no discredit would attach to the name of the white man. I admit, with Senator Newland, that it would have been far better if honorable senators had had an opportunity of visiting the islands in order to obtain more accurate information about them than is, at present, in their possession. It is nine years since I was in Papua. No doubt, since then, there have been many alterations, and probably much more information could now be obtained by another visit, but we cannot, with any credit to ourselves, hand over our responsibilities to the British Government, especially as our boys, at the outbreak of war, took possession of these islands by force of arms. ‘Senator Pratten, and, I am sorry to say, Senator Senior, would now turn round to John Bull and say, “Please take these islands over from us, not because you know more about them than we do, but because they might prove expensive, and we want to push the responsibility on to you, and so save our own pockets.” I hope we shall never be guilty of such conduct as that. Nearly two generations ago the Queensland Government pro posed to take over the whole of these Possessions, but were prevented ; and on many occasions since then regret has been expressed that they did not then pass under the control of some Australian Government, instead of being under German rule, and making it possible for the Germans to dictate a good deal of our trading policy.
Now, a few words concerning the Commission. I do not altogether agree with Senator Newland. We could not have appointed three better men. Mr.
Hunt tas been at the head of the administration of these Territories for the last twenty years, and in that capacity he must have gained considerable information through the office. I know he has also visited the islands on several occasions to improve his knowledge. Mr. Lucas, also, could not have been improved upon. “When I visited Papua, nine years ago, he travelled on the same steamer, and the general opinion was that he was a fount of knowledge with regard to everything pertaining to the South Sea Islands. He had been trading there for many years, and for some years was a supercargo on one of the vessels trading between Sydney and New Guinea. Indeed, he has had almost a lifelong experience in the South Seas. .He seemed to know everybody, and everybody seemed to know him. 1 pay, therefore, we could not have selected a man with better local knowledge of all the conditions. . The third member of the Commission was Judge Murray, the Administrator of Papua. I do not know of any Government official who has been so eminently successful in the handling of native races as Judge Murray. He has, apparently, the right temperament, he is a man of outstanding ability, and the manner in which he has conducted the affairs of his office at Port Moresby is a credit to the Commonwealth Government. Wherever we went he was spoken of in the highest possible terms, and it was easy to see that he was beloved by the members of the native races. I attribute that to the fact that he has always been on the side of the natives when there might have been collusion between him and the white men. He has always stood up for the natives; and, even if he did so to an unusual degree, I think it is something of which we should be proud. The fact that Judge Murray lived in Port Moresby, and has travelled extensively in the islands, and principally in Papua, justifies his appointment as a member of the ‘Commission. Reference has been made to the fact that the members of the Commission differed as to the recommendations to be submitted to the Government. Is it unusual for members of a Commission to differ?
– Is the honorable senator backing the opinions of Judge Murray or those of the other two?
– They were all fitted for the positions they occupied.
– That is a “YesNo “ attitude to adopt.
– I am discussing the fitness of the individual members of the Commission, not the report. In their respective capacities their appointment was warranted.
– Which reportwould the honorable senator be prepared to support?
- Senator Pratten is becoming very critical, and, apparently, has not benefited by the information I have given. I do not think I can remem’ber a Royal Commission appointed by .the Commonwealth Government in connexion with which there was not a difference of opinion. It is quite common for members of Commissions to differ, and even honorable senators themselves are sometimes divided on important public questions. The mere fact that honorable senators differ on important issues is some justification for the fact that these gentlemen differ.
I desire to refer to the natives in regard to their employment as labourers to the planters. I am rather afraid that wo. may expect some little difficulty in this connexion, because it has been the cause of trouble wherever white men have taken the coloured races in hand. We cannot expect to overcome the difficulty with more ease than others, because the natives are so comfortably situated that there may be more trouble there than there has been in other parts of the world. Wherever I travelled there were signs of wealth and prosperity, and -particularly in Papua.
– And sago palms.
– Sago is one of many products, and is largely responsible for the production of wealth. We travelled through many native villages, and in each village there was a huge storehouse conducted on the communistic principle, where the whole product was stored and pooled. Each native works his own ground; but the produce, after being taken from the field, is placed in a storeroom in the village; and at each village we visited the storehouses were crammed from floor to ceiling with tropical fruit and vegetables. Food and other necessaries of life are so plentiful that I believe there will be difficulty in recruiting the -natives. >
– What is the price of a suit, of clothes up there ?
– That is a problem which the natives have easily solved, and if Senator Duncan were prepared to adopt a costume similar to that of the natives, I do not think that profiteers would have any terror for him. The native men m that Territory do very little labour. The mistress is the principal worker, and the master the aristocrat, but this system apparently does not bring any disgrace upon the family. It will only be when the natives are anxious to acquire the luxuries enjoyed by more civilized people that they will be anxious to do more work in order to obtain them. We found during our travels through the island that we could purchase almost anything for a stick of tobacco, a handful of shells, or a piece of coloured cloth.
We have undertaken this task, and we should not have taken the islands from the Germans, if we were not prepared to administer them. I am exceedingly sorry that Senator Pratten and Senator Senior should have spoken of handing over our responsibilities in this direction to the British Government. We are within three days’ sail of the islands, and the members of this Parliament know a good deal more about them than the members of the House of Commons or the House of Lords could ,possibly know. We have undertaken the responsibility, and I do not think I am expressing an extreme view, when I claim that this Parliament is better fitted to control these islands than is the British Parliament.
Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia [4.48]. - I would not have spoken on this measure but for the unfortunate utterances of Senator Pratten and Senator Senior. These two honorable senators, judging by their remarks in this Chamber, as a rule make a close study of the various parliamentary papers that come before ‘ honorable senators. I do not think, however, that either of them could have closely perused the Covenant of the League of Nations or the Peace Treaty, or if they have, they have failed to understand them. For their particular enlightenment - I am sure other honorable senators already know all about these matters - I desire to draw their attention to one or two clauses. First of all may I explain for the benefit of these two honorable senators that three kinds of mandates are granted under the Covenant of the League of Nations, and they are provided for in clause 22. The first type is for a country which is already more or less capable of governing itself, such as those portions of Turkey, which ceased to be attached to that country after the war.
– Which does not apply in this case.
– Exactly. In this case, the Power holding a mandate merely gives advice. The second type of mandate is that which applies to such territories as Central Africa, which’ is partially developed.
– Which also does not apply.
– And which as Senator Senior, in his great wisdom’, says does not apply, and I agree with him. The second type of mandate is that which applies to portions of Central Africa, where the state of civilization - a term used and defined here to-day - is developed to a considerable degree. That type of mandate allows all the other nations to come in and share in the trade and prosperity of the territory, which is administered for the benefit of the whole world. The third type of mandate is the one which applies to the Pacific Islands. .This type deals with people far from the centre of civilization, not with people who are civilized, and is the type of mandate which is given to Australia in connexion with these islands. Here we have absolute control, and the right to impose the laws of the Commonwealth with a few exceptions. These exceptions are defined in the mandate, and also in the Bill. They are that there shall be no slave traffic, that the islands shall not be fortified or the natives drilled or trained except for local defence, and that they shall not be supplied with liquor.
– That does not impose any obligation on us other than we have voluntarily imposed on ourselves in respect of other Territories.
– I admit that in imposing these terms they have not placed any handicap on us, or limited our governmental rights or powers in regard to these particular Territories.
Under clause 22 three types of mandates are granted, and, as far as these particular Territories are concerned, I desire to emphasize for Senator Pratten’s particular benefit, as he is a very able man, and will appreciate it, that the laws of the Commonwealth will operate in these Territories so far as this Parliament determines. The White Australia policy is universally accepted throughout Australia. Senator Pratten, suggested, and Senator Senior supported him, that these mandates might be handed over to the British authorities; but if that were done we would lose our right to say that there should not be an open door in these islands in the matter of immigration. That is a particular reason why we should hold these mandates. In clause 10 of the Covenant of the League of Nations there is an undertaking by all the parties to the Covenant to respect and preserve against external aggression the territorial integrity and the existing political independence of all the members of the League. I wish to impress upon the Senate the significance of the words contained in clause 10 of the Covenant as they go to the very root of our political independence in connexion with the preservation of a White Australia.
– Will it permit us to exclude the peoples of other nations who are signatories to the Covenant of the League of Nations ?
-Yes, because under this particular type of mandate a’ll the laws of the Commonwealth may be applied to the mandated Territories, and a White Australia being a principle on which all Australians of. any importance or thought stand, can be applied with equal determination to these Territories.
– Does not the honorable senator remember that several nations made reservations in regard to this matter ?
– . I think the honorable senator will remember what occurred when the particular clause to which I am referring was being dealt with by the Commission sitting on the Covenant of the League of Nations. He will recollect that the representatives of one nation endeavoured to “ secure equal racial rights for all nationals, not only in the mandated Territories, but in all Territories. Representatives of this parti cular nation - and I shall be quite frank and say at once that I refer to Japan - had a number of formulas which they endeavoured to induce the delegates of the various nations of the world to agree to. They produced them in many shapes. There are many people who criticised the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes) on this occasion because they had said that the Japanese formula was a “ harmless generality.” I think that is the term invariably applied- to it. It was said that no harm would have been done to Australia if the Australian representatives had accepted it What they entirely overlooked was that the representatives of Australia endeavoured to get from the representatives of Japan an understanding that this would ‘not apply to immigration. That undertaking they could not get from the representatives of Japan, and consequently our representatives opposed it because it was not the “ harmless generality “ which so many people endeavoured to make us believe it was.
It was a very fortunate thing for Australia that upon that occasion President Wilson ‘of the United States was Chairman of the Commission I have referred to. He took up a very extraordinary attitude in his endeavour to assist us at that time. An amendment moved by the Japanese Delegation was carried by the Commission by eleven votes to seven, and President Wilson stated that he could not accept an amendment even of the draft of the Convention unless he had a unanimous vote- of the representatives of the nations in favour of it. That was an extraordinary attitude for President Wilson to take up, but it was a very fortunate one so far as Australia is concerned. As a consequence, the Japanese amendment did not go into the Covenant of the League of Nations, and we have these great .powers with which we are now dealing in respect to the Territories over which we are given the mandate.
It is curious to note that, prior to the motion submitted by the Japanese representatives, to give Japanese the right of immigration into Australia or any other portion of the British’ Empire, , or, for that matter, any other part of the world, another was submitted to decide where the capital of the League of Nations was to be. That motion was decided by a Vote - I forget the exact numbers that vote represented, but it was a majority vote. - and President Wilson accepted it, though’ he refused to accept a majority vote on the motion affirming a principle which affected the very existence of the Democracy of Australia.
Some of us may have said some very unkind things of President Wilson on many occasions, but, whatever we may have thought or said of him, we owe him a tremendous obligation for the preservation of the Democracy of Australia and the preservation of this great Commonwealth for white people.
– Does not the British Empire count?
– 1 think that it does count, but President Wilson counted in a way in which the British Empire at that particular time was not capable of counting. That was most fortunate for us on the occasion to which I refer, because the Japanese Delegation had a majority of the representatives at the Peace Conference in favour of their contention, as they had made many friends and were very successful diplomatists. Their contention being defeated before the Commission, they still had another opportunity of carrying it through, and that was before the full Peace Convention but the leader of the Japanese Delegation on that occasion contented himself with making a very dignified protest against the provision for our protection which’ we were seeking. I advise Senator Pratten and all other honorable senators, if they wish to understand the attitude of the Japanese nation on this question, to read and thoroughly digest the utterances of the leader of the Japanese Delegation on that occasion. It is just as necessary that we should understand the Japanese point of view as that the Japanese, and the world generally, should understand our point of view. The world generally does not understand our point of view at present, and considers that we are taking up a particularly absurd attitude. The people of other nations do not realize that the whole existence of this Democracy depends upon our maintaining the great principle of a White Australia.
I direct the attention of Senator Pratten to another provision of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and that is the provision that there cannot be an alteration of. the Covenant without a unanimous vote of the Council as provided for under the League of Nations.
– Is that the Council of Ten, or the Council of Four?
– No, the “ Council “ as distinguished from the “Assembly” of the League of Nations. I have observed before that the honorable senator cannot have read this document. This provision for the protection of Australia cannot be altered without the unanimous consent of the Council of the League of Nations, and the Council cannot consider it without inviting a representative of Australia to be present at, and vote on, any such question. Consequently, so long as Australia remains a member of the League of Nations this provision cannot be altered. But it is important to bear in mind that it could be altered with regard to these islands if we did not have the mandate over them, or if we followed Senator Pratten’s suggestion and handed them over to the British Empire to deal with them. Under those circumstances, it could be altered without our consent. What would be the use of our White Australia policy if the Japanese, Chinese, or other people of the East could come in through these Territories, which, in fact, are only eighty miles from Australia, and from those portions of. Australia that are almost uninhabited ? It would be practically impossible for us to keep those Eastern people out of Australia if these islands were free to their immigration.
I had no intention of speaking on this Bill until the uninformed suggestion put forward by Senators Pratten and Senior induced me to get on my feet in order to give them some little information with regard to the provisions of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
– The honorable senator’s argument is based entirely on the assumption that the League of Nations is at present an effective League.
– That is true, and I direct the attention of the honorable senator to the fact that Japan, China, Great Britain, France, and Italy, in particular, were parties to the original Covenant, and they have all since confirmed it. So that each of these nations to-day has given an undertaking to preserve the territorial and political integrity of this Commonwealth.
– Has not Japan made a racial reservation?
– BROCKMAN. - Japan has made a protest, but not a reservation.
– I have been rather surprised at the proposal made by Senator Pratten. I do not intend to discuss it at any length, because 1 believe that such a policy as he suggested is unthinkable in Australia, and when the honorable senator has had time to further consider the matter he will regret that he should have seriously made the suggestion.
– Why unthinkable there any more -than in Fiji?
– Because the position is entirely different. The generous instincts of the British Empire placed this country in a much better position. The Imperial authorities do not seek to humiliate us, but rather encourage us to become more progressive.
– How is the position politically different?
– Because the history of the two places cannot be compared in any way. There were islands of the Pacific which could be had for the picking up by any nation, but the Territories to which this Bill refers were not picked up in that way, but were fought for and won. They have come to Australia as a result of »our first efforts in the great national struggle. I shall not further discuss the honorable senator’s suggestion, as it is the most unthinkable thing in the world that any one should propose to take these islands from the control of Australia when they have been fairly and legitimately won by the efforts of Australian Forces.
I have noticed a tendency to discus, the Administrator as if he were to have some powers with regard to policy. I want to make it quite clear that his very name indicates that he will not be a legislator or a despot. He will occupy his position in order to carry out the laws passed by this Parliament, and will be under instructions from the Government of the Commonwealth. He will have no power to make a law, though he will have power to advise the Government of the Commonwealth with respect to proposed legislation. He will have the power to frame Ordinances or regulations, but any regulations he frames must comply with an Act passed by this Parliament, and all Ordinances must be laid before this Parliament within fourteen days of the making thereof, or after the next meeting of Parliament, and if at any time within fifteen, sitting days, Parliament disapproves of them they will cease to have effect. The Administrator will have no part in deciding matters of policy, but he may offer advice when asked to do so by the Government, or in his annual reports upon his administration. The government of these Territories will be retained here. I agree that the powers of the
Administrator should be made as wide as possible, but the comparisons which have been instituted between the government of the Northern Territory and the government of these islands have little or no force. The natives represent the great bulk of the population of these islands, whilst in the Northern Territory pur problem is not how to deal with the aboriginals, who seem to lack all conception of government, but with white men, who seem to know too much about government and nothing’ about anything else. We have accepted the control of Papua for the purpose, not of exploiting its people or making commercial profit out of them, but in order to assist in its development. Let honorable senators read the two Constitutions and note the difference between them. The only report we receive from the Administrator in Papua is an annual one. Senator Senior referred to my association with this measure as a picnic. To me it is anything but a picnic. I think that we are now facing one of the most serious days in the history of Australia.
– I did not hear him suggest that.
– I took a note of it at the time. Senator Pratten may rest assured that if my statements are not literal truth, they are very close to it. It must be remembered that Papua was handed over to us by Great Britain without any restrictions or limitations whatever. We even have power, if we chose to exercise it, to erect Tariff barriers against herself. . In the present instance we are proposing to lay down similar conditionsto those which we have put into operation in Papua in respect of the prohibition of the sale of drink, the introduction of ammunition, and the treatment of the natives. The day has long passed when this country would dream of applying force for the purpose of compelling any man to work. Of course, there are two sides to every question. Whilst I was in Papua I had an opportunity of seeing various trade unions in operation - unions of a kind that are not in existence here. The principle underlying those organizations was worse than that which underlies the Industrial Workers of the World. But in some instances the natives were impelled to take drastic action. For example, when in the early days of our administration of Papua we visited plantations there and saw no men working upon them, and when we noticed that those plantations were .going to rack and ruin, we inquired the reason for this condition of things. - In reply we were told that owing to the owners of the plantations having neglected to provide proper sanitary accommodation for the natives, disease had broken out amongst them, with the result that these particular places had been regarded as plague spots. But at other places which we visited, we saw men being paid merely for signing on with an employer, because the natives had learned to trust him. Upon some plantations the natives would, inc. _ire, “ Who is the manager here?” and they would be told “ Mr. So-and-so.” Their answer was “ Right, me see.” As a result some of them walked 80 miles to interview that manager, and had accepted employment under him forthwith. They did that because they were fairly treated by this man. We must recognise that in the administration of these tropical Territories cleanliness, good food, proper hours of labour, and efficient medical treatment are essential factors of success. I saw natives working in Papua, and, so far as I could judge, they were honest workers. They never stopped. If one came upon them unawares he always found them working. They kept up a steady pace all day. I saw natives engaged in mining operations on Woodlark Island, and they were doing splendid work. Upon Kitchen’s plantations they were doing similar work. From what I have seen of him, the efficiency of the Papuan labourer represents more than 50 per cent, of the efficiency of the ordinary white labourer.
– What ! Two Papuans as good as a white man in Australia ?
– I think so, for ordinary work in which there is no special skill required. I saw Papuans employed upon motor boats, and even in the building of them. It must be remembered that so far we have not started- to teach the Papuan to use even an ordinary garden spade. He turn§ over the soil with a stick. He grows his own sweet potatoes and bananas. Certainly he is never troubled as to where he shall get the necessaries of life, although, perhaps, he lives a more simple life than we do. Nevertheless, sweet potatoes and bananas are a very good food. We used to order them while we were in Papua, and we found them ‘exceedingly wholesome. It is sometimes said that the Australian native is deteriorating physically, but in Papua I saw coloured kiddies who were the possessors of good physiques and beautiful voices. I listened to their music, and I brought back with me exercise-books from their schools, in which they exhibit a degree of efficiency equal to that of our own boys and girle up to ten or twelve years of age. But when the Papuan boy reaches the age of. twelve years and returns to his native village amongst the ignorant people there, he is very much worse off than he would have been had he never attended school at all. Probably he is also less happy. It is about time that we gave these youngsters some amount of technical training, in order that we might ascertain precisely what is the standard of their brain development. These are some of the difficulties which have to be encountered in the administration of this Territory, and we ought, therefore, not to consider the question of ‘making a profit out of it, so much as how to successfully develop it. Some honorable senators are apparently of opinion that the Administrator who will be appointed under this Bill will be a sort of despot. Nothing is farther from the truth. He will act under the instructions of the Government, who, in turn, are responsible to Parliament. At the present time this Territory is in no way ripe for the powers of self-government to be conferred upon it. It is essentially a company proposition. We all know that coconut plantations require about seven years to come to full fruition, and consequently the private individual cannot embark upon that industry. His position is quite different from that of our Mallee farmers, who are frequently able to engage in work upon the Murray River and to accept other odd jobs whilst their farm is becoming productive.
So far, we have not lost very much money upon Papua, and I believe that to-day it is paying its way. Whilst I was charged with the administration of Rabaul, we made a profit out of it, if we exempt, of course, the military expenditure. Most of the industries in exGerman New Guinea are in a prosperous condition, and -if the rubber market improves in the near future, it will become a very wealthy country within the next ten years1. But the position is. that after waiting eight or nine years for rubber plantations to become productive, just, when they were able to pay their first dividend of 3d. per share in Papua, which under ordinary conditions should have been 2s. or 3s. per share, the rubber market suffered a decline. But these conditions will not continue, and consequently this Territory is likely to become very wealthy indeed. In Papua I saw Australian firms putting in thousands of acres of coconuts. In a few years these will considerably add to the wealth of the island. The party of which I was a member saw tobacco growing there, and we also sampled the cigars produced in the Territory, for which, unfortunately, there is no commercial market. I also saw sisal hemp growing there, as well as other products which can be developed upon successful lines. Some honorable senators have said that we are merely offering this mandated Territory a temporary form of government. It is quite possible, of course, that, later on, we may extend the powers which are about to be conferred upon it, but that is scarcely worth discussing now, because it appears to be too remote. The Government do not look for a big white population there, because I do not believe that tropical countries are as suitable for development by white labour as are other countries. In this Territory, in which there are 750,000 natives, probably onethird of them are fit to labour, and the work will be done by them where it will not pay to employ the services of white men. I imagine that we shall continue the system of government which we are about to initiate in this new Territory for a very long period. In the meantime, Parliament will exer- cise control over its administration. I have followed the history of British New Guinea or Papua with very great interest, because it was our first experiment in the way. of attempting to develop a tropical country. That Territory has been more successfully administered than has any other similar country in the world. Only one complaint has been made against Judge Murray, namely, that he has been too sympathetic with the natives. That, I think, is a good, fault. We need to go as far as we can in extending to them humane treatment without destroying their virility. We do not desire to make a profit out of them. We merely wish them to develop as fast as they can, without any expense, if possible, to the Commonwealth.
It has been suggested that Mr. Atlee Hunt and Mr. Lucas made a report upon the form of government which should be instituted in the mandated Territory, which was not an ideal one; but I doubt whether there are two members of this Parliament who have ever visited Rabaul. Of course, I know that Senator Pratten has done so. He has been dodging about most of these islands; but, generally speaking, the members of this Parliament have merely rushed through Papua. I remained there for ten weeks, but I do not pose as one who possesses expert knowledge of it upon that account. Upon the other hand,
Mr. Lucas has been a resident in the i Pacific Islands for twenty-six or twentyseven years. He has lived there, worked there, studied the question of exchange there, and the handling of all products which come from the East. I believe that he was the best man whom it was possible to appoint to the Commission to which reference has been. made. The question of whether one administration should administer the affairs of what was formerly German New Guinea, as well as of Papua, or of whether there should be separate Governments established for the purpose, was not referred to that Commission. It is true they expressed an opinion, but questions of that sort must be decided by Governments which are responsible for the policy. What the Commission recommended in that regard is a matter of indifference. I read both sides with interest, and thought both put up a good case. I would have been inclined to favour having one Administrator for the whole of the Pacific Islands, if it had not been for the geographical difficulties in the way, such as the distances to be covered, the number of the islands,’ and the cost .of getting a boat round so that one man could see the whole of the places. Some day I believe all these Pacific Possessions will be grouped under some sort of civil government suitable to all the white people in them; but at the present time the Commonwealth is well advised to keep full power in its own hands. We are accepting a responsibility, not to exploit a new commercial proposition, but to help races weaker than ourselves to develop in the lands of their birth.
I shall not discuss the Japanese question, further than to say that the Japanese are a particularly ambitious people and desire to trade, not so rauch with, as to, the islands. We have taken on no light responsibility by promising to undertake the guardianship of the native races. Probably the islands will not be very profitable to us; but, as we intend to discharge our responsibilities to the natives in an honest and straightforward manner, -we ought to get the benefit of any commerce that is going there. It may be very substantial; but, on the other hand, the whole business may not materially profit this country. All we may get out of it is the spiritual consolation of knowing that we have done our duty towards the natives. Therefore, Japan and ourselves do not start with equal claims to the trade and commerce of these Territories
In creating this, our second Government outside of Australia, we are adding greatly to our responsibilities. We are a young ‘ community, and our country has unlimited possibilities, but we have not the power to extract untold millions from a population of 5,000,000 people. We are a game people to take on this responsibility, but after all it is really a case of guarding our front door,- and if we do not spend the money in keeping these places out of the hands of the foreigner, we shall simply have to spend it in the very wasteful method of keeping a powerful navy. I believe it is cheaper and better to spend the money in developing these Territories for the benefit of the natives and of Australia. As I indicated, it is intended later to put forward a permanent form of government for these Territories, but all our legislation is simple and easy of amendment, and, if experience shows that improvements are desirable, the legislation on this subject can be easily amended so as to make the form of government more acceptable to the Parliament of this Democracy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Office of Administrator1).
– The Minister (Senator Russell) has admitted that the Government have decided to keep an Administrator in Australian Papua, and to create a new office of Administrator for the late German islands. I am not opposing that at this stage, because I realize that this measure, like the original Repatriation Act, can only be a skeleton, and that we must build up the administration of the islands by experience as we go on. But, seeing that we already have an Administrator in Papua, that in the last Parliament .an Act was passed creating another administrative office in Nauru, that New Zealand also has an Administrator in ex-German Samoa, and that the British have a High Commissioner for the Pacific in Fiji, there is a great deal to be said, when thinking of the future administration of all the British islands in the Pacific, for some form of Confederation, if only for the sake of saving the expense of these multiplied offices. I listened to the very able speech of Senator Drake-Brockman, but he altogether misunderstood the attitude taken up on the second reading by Senator Senior and myself. We did not hesitate to indorse the attitude taken up at the Peace Conference by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), or to support enthusiastically the fundamental principle that the islands should no longer remain German, but should become British in essence and in fact. We said that if the islands continued in. the occupation of the Germans they would be a menace to our national safety, but we said also that, as that fundamental principle had been settled, in view of the diffusion of Administrators all over the Pacific, and the possibility of very delicate international problems arising as the result even of the dual control for which Australia and others would be responsible, the time might come when Australia would find it expedient and wise to agree to an expansion of the present British authority, centred now in Fiji, to include even the islands under review. We gave that as our opinion, and I stick to mine. We have had a very learned dissertation on the League of Nations, just as if the United States had accepted every provision, and the League had been indorsed unanimously and enthusiastically by Congress, just a.sif Japan had made no protest with regard to racial equality, just as if the League was in action, in being and in essence, and just as if war had been entirely banished as the result of a formation of a strong League of Nations.
– It looks as if war is going to be restricted, because practically all the world is in the League, except America, which, I fear, will not join.
– No body of nations can successfully prevent war, unless the whole of the great nations of the world are in ‘accord in a combined and unanimous League to do so. That is not so at present. Not more than half the world is in the League. No case built up on the assumption that the League of Nations is in actual being to-day can stand the test of what may happen in the future. I stand to my opinion that the trend and evolution of the government of the Pacific Islands now under the British flag should be in the direction of a Confederation governed along the same lines. I have no quarrel with the decision of the Government to appoint a’ separate Administrator, but it is a duplication of administration so far as New Guinea and thecontiguous islands are concerned. It may be necessary to duplicate administration owing to our mandatory powers being slightly different from our territorial powers in Papua.
– Remember that, taking the whole Territory there is 159,000 square miles, and slightly over 1,000,000 people, to look after.
– I think the accurate figures are that we have 80,000 square miles in Papua and are taking over 90,000 square (miles in addition in the late German islands. Temperamentally and politically this Parliament will not continue to agree to duplication after duplication of governmental activities. I believe the five separate British Administrations that we shall have in the Pacific when this Bill is passed will tend, after a few years, to come together. Seeing that the bulk of the islands are already administered from the British Colonial Office, we may find it wise and expedient to offer to that office the administration of the late German islandsat some timein the future. I do not put away from my mind the possibility of very delicate international problems making their appearance in the notdistant future, and I reiterate that, in my opinion, delicate international situations can better be dealt with by the Colonial Office in London than from Melbourne.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Functions of Administrator).
– I should like to know if I understood the Minister to say that the Administrator would take his instructions entirely from the Government, for the time being, in Australia ?
– Yes, on questions of policy. The Administrator will have nothing to do with land questions, because the land policy will be determined by this Parliament.
– I see also that the Administrator “ will exercise and perform all powers and functions that belong to his office according to the tenor of his Commission.” Can the Minister indicate the tenor of the Commission ? If not, we shall be passing the clause without any knowledge as to what the real power of the Administrator will be.
– It is difficult to indicate exactly the tenor of the Commission, but British, communities everywhere always manage to get clear of difficulties as they arise. As his title suggests, the Administrator is to be appointed to administer the laws which are to be determined by this Parliament.
– And to carry out the Ordinances.
– All Ordinances will be subject to review in this Parliament, and may be vetoed by resolution of either House within fifteen sitting days of having been laid on the table. My experience is that somebody is always looking after these matters, for if ever I overlook anything in a Bill or a regulation, some specialist in that particular matter will come along and put his finger on the. omission at once. We may expect the same experience with regard to Ordinances to be promulgated under this Bill. The land-owners will be watching for the Ordinances, and if they feel that their interests are being interfered with they will take good care to communicate with some member of this Parliament.
– Will the tenor of the Commission be placed before Parliament ?
– I am not prepared to say. In fact, I tell the honorable senator quite frankly that I do not know ; but no Government can delegate by Commission powers which they do not themselves possess. There will be nothing to prevent the Administrator from making suggestions for new Ordinances, and, of course, nothing to prevent the Government from doing the same thing. Up to the present the exact nature of the instructions has not been determined; but they must necessarily be flexible in order to meet changing circumstances in view, perhaps, of rapid developments in that part of the world. I expect very rapid developments over there within the next ten years.
– I do not think the Administrator will be limited absolutely by the terms of this clause. It says that he shall exercise and perform all powers and functions that belong to his office according to the tenor of his Commission, and according to such instructions as are given to him < by the Governor-General.
Obviously, he will get a Commission, and also get instructions. I do not know of any reason why the text of his Commission or instructions should be secret. As a matter of fact, in the concluding pages of Mr. Andrew Inglis Clark’s book on the Constitution of the Commonwealth - I refer to the late Justice Clark of Tasmania - there is published, I think, the text of the Letters Patent and Instructions to the Governor-General, as a guide to readers as to the nature of a Commis- sion to a Governor and the instructions received by him. When I said that the Administrator would not be absolutely limited, in the exercise of his functions, to the terms of _ this clause, I was alluding to the Ordinances provided for in the Bill. The Minister (Senator Russell) has said that the land policy will be determined by the Parliament. As a matter of fact, we shall have Ordinances hereafter promulgated dealing with the acquisition and disposition of land in New Guinea, and to some extent they will contain provisions which will call for action by the Administrator, so that he will not only exercise and perform all powers and functions under the tenor of his Commission, but also certain powers and functions intrusted to him from time to time under Ordinances. He will have nothing to do with questions of policy. The Minister has said that we have legislative ‘ power in regard to Ordinances. What is it? It will be simply the power of veto. The GovernorGeneral, that is, the Executive Council of the Commonwealth, will frame Ordinances which will have the force of law. In these Ordinances the Executive Council may adopt the laws of the Commonwealth or adopt them with modifications, or make new laws, and Parliament will have the power of veto, within fifteen days of their having been laid on the table of either House. But Parliament cannot amend an Ordinance. It can, in the course of a debate on a motion to annul an Ordinance, indicate its pleasure, and the Government thereafter mav promulgate a new Ordinance giving effect to that expression of opinion. The Minister has pointed out that there is usually critical oversight on the part of some persons here in regard to all these Ordinances. As far as the Northern Territory is concerned, the people there have opportunity to get information concerning an Ordinance in the time within which it is competent for either House to annul it; but, in regard to New Guinea, an Ordinance may be tabled here and become operative, technically, at least, before the inhabitants know anything of its terms, so that, if they desired to communicate with members within the time allowed they would not be able to do so. It would appear therefore that our legislative authority merely extends to a power of veto overany Ordinance, and in the case of New Guinea it will he in operation considerably diminished by the circumstances I havementioned.
– There is wireless communication . and newspapers over there, so really theycould get information almost . as quickly as people elsewhere.
– No doubt,but possibly they would not realize the true significance of an Ordinance . until the opportunity . for movingto have it annulled hadpassed.
– That might save a lotof trouble.
– It might, but it is just as well we should know the real position.
– Perhaps we couldextend thetime within which an Ordinance maybe annulled.
– A steamer only takes three days to reach New Guinea.
– That may be so, but I do not suppose that, immediately a new Ordinance ispromulgated, a special vessel willbe despatched with a special mail to New Guinea to apprise the residents there of the new Ordinance. It may be that a mail will not be despatched until some time after the Ordinance has been promulgated, so that information may not reachthe residents until the time for annulment has gone by. I am not indicating that some other method should be adopted. I am merely directing the attention of thosehonorable sena tors, who think that wehave extensive legislativepower or control over these Ordinances,tothe fact that we have not all the power theythink.
– Thenit might be a good suggestionto provide for more time. Thereis no desire to work an injustice upon any people.
– I understand that. We have totake into account the timethatmayelapse from the tabling ofa new Ordinance, until information reaches the residentsof New Guinea, so that they may have an opportunity of communicating with members of leither House. We have to take these facts into consideration when we are determining within whattime either House willhave power to annulforeffectively control anew Ordinance.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses9 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13(Application ofCommonwealth laws).
– Inthe course of his reply on the second-reading debate,the Minister(Senator Russell)remarked thatthe Pacific Islands were not suitable so much for individualdevelopment as for development by jointstock companies. Nobody who has had an experience of waiting for dividends from the development of tropicalareas willquarrel with the Minister withregardto thatstatement.But this clauseseems to bringunderreview the question of what the land policy wild be in these islands underCommonwealth control.
– Thatwill bedetermined by a special Act.
SenatorPRATTEN. - Will this land questionbedealtwithby Ordinances or inan Actof Parliament ?
– The landpolicy willbe laid down in an Act of Parliament.
– Ithank the Minister for the information. This course will give Parliament an opportunity to deal with a very vitalquestion.
SenatorRussell. - The Administrator will co-operate with the Commonwealth Government. Weshall give awayno legislativepowers in any shapeor form.
– This measure will enablethe Government todeal with the land questionby means ofOrdinances.
– But Parliament would never agree tothat.
-Ihope not. I desire to supplement the remark made by Senator Keating., that itis more satisfactoryfor Parliament to dealwith such questions by meansof special Billsrather than by Ordinances,because, as a matter of experience, in thelast Parliament we saw how futile it was to givenotice concerning the disallowance of some regulations made under the War Precautions Act. Honorable senators will realize how muchmore difficult it isto upsetanything actually inexistence than it isto deal with a principle that is not already embodied in an Act of -Parliament.
– The regulations under the War Precautions Act related to residents in theCommonwealth, and we had only fourteen days in which “to deal with them.
– Yes, and I desire, to emphasize, as strongly as possible, the points put forward by Senator Keating, in connexion with the distance of these Territories from the Seat of Government. It is quite possible that there may be, comparatively speaking, a large white population in these islands, and, that Ordinances promulgated by the Government may be laid on the table, and honorable senators, not being so closely in touch with the Administration in these Territories as are the white residents there, will allow them to pass notwithstanding justifiable protests that afterwards are made from the white population whom the Ordinances would affect.
– They are no further away than Tasmania from the point of view of time.
– But the service is not so frequent.
– I am referring to communication, by wireless.
-We allow fifteen days in which objection can be taken to regulations which affect people on the mainland.
– Exactly, and if there is an objection it can be spread throughout the length and breadth of Australia through the medium of the press. In this case the people are not 80 miles from Australia, as one honorable senator said, as that is the nearest point to Papua. Speaking from memory, it would’ take a fairly fast vessel a week Co reach these Territories. Even if an Ordinance caught the mail the day on which it was issued’, it would not reach Rabaul under six or seven days at the earliest, and it would not be possible for objection to an Ordinance to reach Melbourne within the fifteen days allowed. I rose particularly to obtain some information from the Minister concerning the alienation or leasing of land, and’ I now understand that this question will be the subject of a special measure which will be brought before Parliament.
– I understand the practice will be similar to that adopted in connexion with the land in Papua. Ordinances, generally speaking, are issued in connexion with minor matters, and major questions of policy will come before Parliament for approval or otherwise. I assume that under this measure we shall do as we did. in connexion with Papua, and that important issues such as those relating to immigration and land laws will, be dealt with by this Parliament, and the laws so made will be carried out. by the Administrator.
Before the Bill is finally disposed of I shall look into the matter of the time for which any proposed Ordinances shall be laid on the table of Parliament. I am somewhat in sympathy with the views expressed bysome honorable senators; but there must be some reason for the measure being framed as it is. The time fixed is fifteen days. I will consult my colleagues and see if there is any reason why the period should not be extended.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 (Ordinances).
– In this clause, provision is made for either House of Parliament to disallow an Ordinance within fifteen days after it is tabled. If the clause is passed, do I understand that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) will consult his colleagues with the idea of extending the. period and probably amending it ?
– I am prepared to do that, but I do not want that to be interpreted, in such a. way that honorable senators will, think that the Government are in f avour of an. alteration.. If the clause is passed’, I will consult my colleagues; and if honorable senators still feel strongly on the matter, and desire the question to be further considered, I shall have the Bill recommitted.
– With the idea of extending the time to forty-two days.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 (Guarantees).
– This clause embodies our responsibility under the mandate to the League of Nations, and in sub-clause 2 it is provided that “no forced labour shall be permitted in the Territory.” I would like the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) to define exactly what “ forced labour “ means, as
I am somewhat hazy as to its proper definition.
– “ Forced labour “ is anything that is not mutual. There must be a mutual agreement between the employer and the employee.
– T think that is a fair definition of the term; but that does not preclude companies or individuals from indenturing labour under certain conditions approved by the Government through the Administrator.
– The conditions under which labour would be indentured would have to be fully reviewed by Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16, schedule, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 17th September (vide page 4722), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– In the measure before us, the Government have adopted a new principle for helping the wheat-farmers in Western Australia to establish the bulkhandling system. It is also to help the farmers to assist themselves in the erection of wheat silos and elevators, and by this means it is hoped that the cooperative system of wheat storage will be established through the operations of a Pool. The producers will have the benefit of any saving to be derived from the bulkhandling system. I have no complaint to make concerning the principle that the Commonwealth should in every way help the men on the land, and I approach the examination of what I consider to be the real position in a sympathetic manner, because I am always anxious that the primary producer should receive the maximum price for his product. This Bill provides that the Commonwealth shall spend £2 of the taxpayers’ money for every £1 subscribed by the Western Australian farmers, or an expenditure of £800,000 in all, by both parties to the agreement. It is excellent in intention, but good intentions sometimes have results other than those anticipated. During the last ten years, there has been at various times a clamour in the wheatgrowing States for the establishment of the elevator or bulk-handling system. The primary reason is because the producers believe that the bulk-handling system will almost entirely dispense with the cost of bags used in transporting their wheat to market.
– The cost of bags is of little consequence when compared with the mice plague.
– I will come to that question in the course of my attempt to analyze the position in a sympathetic way for the information, shall I say, of the wheat farmers of Western Australia, who will put tip their good money in connexion with this scheme.
In another place it has been stated .that this agreement, or this Bill, has been launched owing to the fact that wheatsacks have gone up to tremendous prices, and to such an extent as to represent an addition of 6d. per bushel to the price of wheat. It has also been stated that, at a very low estimate, the pre-war cost of handling wheat under the present bag system in Western Australia was 10-Jd. per bushel; and it is further estimated that the cost of handling under this scheme will be only 4Jd. per bushel. One speaker in another place, in .the debate on this Bill, said that the figures were 9d., as compared with 3Jd. Another stated that 5d. per bushel would be saved ho the farmers, but how the saving was to be effected not one honorable member attempted to say. The Minister (Senator Russell) in his second-reading speech, stated that he hoped that the Bill would save the farmers 90 per cent, of the cost of their sacks. As the Western Australian farmers undertake to subscribe under this Bill one-third of the total money that eventually will be spent, and, I understand, have agreed collectively to subscribe roughly ls. per bushel for every bushel of wheat they grow, in their interests the real position from every standpoint should be analyzed before any money is spent in connexion with this scheme.
The Senate is a Chamber of review, and I take it that it is our duty to examine as thoroughly and as fairly as we can all legislation that comes before us, and particularly legislation that affects the primary producers. I direct the attention of honorable senators to three points in connexion with the Bill which are worthy of their consideration. The first is that it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall lend to a private company. Honorable senators may, if they please, call it a co-operative farmers’ company, but the fact remains that it is a private company.
– It cannot be private when any one may go into it.
– I accept the honorable senator’s suggestion, and will say that it is an ordinary company, the same as any other joint stock company formed to carry on business.
– There is one important difference, and that is that each shareholder is entitled to but one vote.
– The precedent which we have set up in connexion with the lending of money for the benefit of wheat farmers is that the States, and the States only, shall be responsible to the Commonwealth for money lent for this purpose.
– That is to say, the taxpayers, which is the same thing, is it not?
– Quite so. When the Act of 1917 was placed on the statutebook for the purpose of advancing money to the States for wheat storage, a Commission was supposed to have been created, with representatives upon it of each of the wheat-growing States. But in spite of Commonwealth money being available under the Act to each of the wheat-growing States, only the State of New South Wales took advantage of the Act. As I understand the matter, there was no move then on the part of the Western Australian farmers, or of the Government of Western Australia, to approach the Commonwealth Government under the provisions of that Act.
– The honorable senator is entirely wrong.. There were several applications from Western Australia, and on two occasions the matter was brought before the State Parliament, and the proposal was defeated in the Legislative Council on one occasion.
– I am glad to accept the Minister’s statement. It proves that the Parliament of Western Australia .would have nothing to do with the scheme, which the Government of New South Wales took advantage of.
– They have produced .a much better scheme now in Western Australia.
– That remains to be seen. I hope the honorable senator will be able to refute some figures I shall place before the Senate, because, if he can do so, the Western Australian farmers will have a very much better bargain under this scheme than I think they have.
The second proposition worthy of the attention of the Senate is that, so far as I can see, the proposal is not likely to be payable to the farmers. The third point I wish to make is that the risk of failure will involve only the- Commonwealth and the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, as they, under this proposal, will stand in the position of advancing £2 for every £1 raised by the farmers of Western Australia.
-. - Whose money was advanced by New South Wales to build the silos erected in that State?
– The whole of the money advanced was Commonwealth money; but it was advanced to the State, and the State was responsible for it, and not an ordinary company.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to S p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was remarking that the agreement between the Commonwealth -and the Government of New South Wales for the erection of wheat silos is essentially different from that which is now under review. In the former case, the Commonwealth lent to a State’ money for which that State became responsible, and upon which it has to pay interest, whilst in the latter, the Commonwealth stands in the position of a debenture holder in connexion with a company consisting of private individuals, such .company being limited by shares. As we stand in the position of a debenture holder in connexion with this company, and are lending £2 of the taxpayers’ money for every £1 that is privately subscribed by the farmers, we occupy quite a different position fi-om that which is occupied by the ordinary debenture holder of a private company. Ordinarily, debenture holders lend £1 for every. £2 subscribed, but in this case the Commonwealth is lending £2 for every £1 subscribed, and is, therefore, taking fourtimes the risk of the ordinary debenture’ holder.
– But it is a case of the taxpayers lending to the taxpayers.
– It is a case of. the taxpayers of New South Wales, who” contribute half the revenue of the Commonwealth, lending to a section of the taxpayers of another State. Under the Wheat Storage Act 1917, the Government of New South Wales has built country and” terminal silos, and has erected houses with a storage capacity of 22,000,000 bushels, at a cost probably averaging about Is. per bushel for storage bins, and 3s. lO½d.per bushel for the working houses at the terminal ports. But it must be clearly understood that this expenditure merely provides for wheat storage, and’ does not cover the cost of any equipment or machinery for the working of silos in the country. This equipment and machinery for the working of silos in the country and at the terminal ports, will constitute a heavy additional cost in connexion with the. starting even of the first stage of the bulk handling of wheat from farm to. ship:
During his speech upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill, the Vice-President of the Executive Council admitted that the reason why the Western. Australian Government had not taken this matter up in the same way as did. the New. South Wales Government, was that they did not possess the requisite numbers in Parliament. That is an admission that the ma.jority of the members of the Western Australian Parliament do not believe in shouldering responsibility for this scheme if they can get the Commonwealth to shoulder it for them.
– But it was their conditions which prevented that.
– It is clear that this Parliament has to consider whether it is good enough for it to do something which the Western Australian Parliar ment has declined to do.
– The Government of Western Australia are giving the company the right to establish depots upon the railways of that State. The Commonwealth is in full co-operation with the State Government upon the matter, and also with the farmers concerned.
– Yet in another breath the Vice-President of the Executive Council has affirmed that there is not in the Western Australian Parliament a majority who are prepared that that State shall shoulder a financial responsibility in connexion with its own. farmers.
– The Government of Western Australia are co-operating with’ the Commonwealth, but are not putting up any” money.
– I can quite visualize failure for. this scheme, resulting in the farmers of Western Australia coming to Melbourne upon another visit to Canossa, and the success of their pilgrimage depending either upon the temper of the then Prime Minister or the pull which the representatives of Western- Australia can exert in this Parliament. I make this deliberate assertion, that no reliable evidence has been adduced in connexion with the bulk handling of wheat under Australian conditions which will justify us in giving effect to this very alluring proposal to’ save the farmers of Western Australia the cost of their bags, for, after all that is the gravamen of the whole position which we are discussing to-night. The bulk handling of wheat involves not merely the handling, but the transit of the grain and the elimination of, manual handling. It also involves the bulkhandlingof wheat on thefarm.
In the harvesting of our wheat in Australia, we do not employ the methods which are employed in the United States, where crops are so successfully dealt with by means of the elevator system. In America and Canada the grain is threshed, in the oldfashioned way, and consequently it may be taken from the farm to the elevator largely at the convenience of the farmer. But where a long voyage has to be made in order to transport wheat to European markets, the system of the bulk handling of grain has not yetbeen brought into operation.. From California to Europe, for example, the voyage is longer than is that from Australia to the European markets.
– In California sufficient wheat is not grown for the use of its own people.
SenatorPRATTEN.- But California exportswheat.
– They do not grow a surplus of wheatin the western parts of America.
– Does the Minister say that they do not export wheat from the western parts of America?
SenatorRussell. - We supply them with Wheat.
– Only when the exigencies ofthe crop demand importation. But wheat is exported from the western States of America in good seasons, and the Americans there do not to any extent use thebulk-handling systembut make use of bags. ,
– Australian wheat has been soldto California. It hasbeen treated in bulk,andgradedjustas the American farmers treat andgrade it.
– Speakinggenerally, the wheat so far exported from California is exported in bags, and not in bulk.
– How do they handle wheat at Vancouver ?
-This is a Chamber of review, and weought, therefore, to fully consider the position with which we are confronted, because there may ultimately prove to be involved in this scheme not less than £1,’000,00’0 of Common wealth money.
I now proposeto quoteafew short extracts from a report which has been submitted tothe South AustralianGovernmentby Mr.E. A.Badcock, general manager of ‘the South Australian Farmers’ Co-operative UnionLimited. Mr. Badcock was sent abroad in November last upon an honorary commission to inquire into the bulk -handling and marketing of wheat. I am informed that he is a most reputable citizen, and a fair-minded man. Quoting from- the South Australian Register, of 11th September last, he is thus reported -
Thtreis not the slightest doubtin any mind that, taking into consideration the methods of harvesting, the climatic conditions, the long haulages, and the numerous handlings necessary totransport theCanadian crop to the seaboard,bulk-handlingis the only workable system for Canada. I am quite certain, however, that the Canadian systemin , toto lis not theright way for our needs, but believe that a modifiefl system could be introduced to our benefit.
Inanother part of ihis report these words occur -
The cost wouldlargely depend,ofcourse, on theoriginaloutlayfor ithe erection ofthe elevatorplantand storagebins,as interest anddepreciation charges would need tobe taken into account,the quantities of grain handled also naturally would affectthe position.If,forthesake ‘of argument, itmay be taken that terminail plants are erected ait the mainshippingports, the ‘question should followasto how the grain should be -brought to these ports, in bags or in bulk.
Further on he says -
Iam (convinced that bulk handling deserves further consideration on our pant, and I suggest that . the Government shouldsend a Commission fully representative of all wheat interests ‘-to Canada so that men who are thoroughlycon-versant with the conditions existing -in South Australia could see the bulk system . in operation, and by comparing costs of handling, &c., come to a decision as to what portions of the system are likely to benefit us ifintroduced here. I am givento understand that inWictonia, where ithasalready : been decidedto /install thebulk system, theGovernment are again consideringthe advisableness of sending away a similar Commission tomake furtherinvestigations -before the actual building toelevatorsis commenced. I think it wouldbe wiseonour part tosenda Commission, because I . found much ofthe literature I read concerning the elevator systemto be somewhat misleading.
So much for theopinions of Mr. Badcock, who is acknowledged to be a fair-minded man,and an authority upon wheat.
It is very desirablethat some system ofbulk-storing in Australia should be inaugurated and extended, if onlyto help save thelosses thathave been incurred, during ‘the war. So far as the figuresindicate, Western Australia hascomeoff very lightly as comparedwith theother threewheat-producingStates. The figures show the losstotheWestern Australian farmers, through weevils,mice,and tail other causes connected with wheatin stocks, at the low figure of 250,000 bushelsover all the crops, whereas the realloss to the farmers of South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria must amount, by thetime everything is cleaned up, to nearly 18,000,000 bushels. This, even at . 5s. a bushel, wouldgive a loss in four years of £4,500,000, or over £l,000,000per year.
– I think that is an extravagant estimate.
– I should like ‘to tell the Minister, in reply to that interjection, how my estimate of the loss is made up. In the Wheat Board’s figures, there is a line stating stock adjustment, which is in effect wheat losses, at 5,700,000 bushels in round numbers. It is also generally acknowledged that South Australia, which has written off nothing so far, has yet to write off from 6,000,000 to 7,000,000 bushels. Then, there has been an acknowledged gain of weight in all the crops that went into the Pool, with the exception of the B crop. I think that 9 reasonably moderate estimate for the loss of that gain of weight, with which he Pool has not yet been credited, ;S nearly 4,000,000 bushels. Honorable senators, if they go into the question as I did, will find that the gain of weight was about half a pound per bushel averaged over all the crops except the B crop. In addition to that, immense quantities of wheat have been sold in New South Wales as second rate, down to 6d. per bushel for pig feed, and have been debited to the Pool as full bushels. I think I am entitled to say that a considerable quantity of wheat has been lost in that way. Adding those amounts together, honorable senators will see that the estimate which the Minister called extravagant represents an actual fact.
– If you can get at the actual facts from the wheat figures of Australia, you are a wonder.
– I have made some examination of the wheat position before. I gave it as my opinion in this Chamber during the last Parliament that the loss of wheat to the farmers of Australia owing to the mice plague, the weevil trouble, thefts, and the depreciation of quality, would amount to in the region of 22,000,000 bushels. I come before the Senate now with the later figures that can be more reasonably checked than the estimate I made twelve months ago. and get about 18,000,000 bushels of loss, which in my opinion is a fair estimate to-day.
– I have not got what the 18,000,000 bushel estimate was built upon. I think I should be given a chance to reply to that statement.
– May I repeat, for the information of the Minister, that his own figures show a stock adjustment of 5,700,000 bushels; that South Aus tralia has yet to write off her very heavy losses, which must amount, in the opinion of competent experts, to 6,000,000 oi 7,000,000 bushels; that the increase oi weight, over all the crops, which has not been credited to the Pool, should be 4,000,000 bushels-
– The increased weight has been added to the figures in some of the States.
– The wheat figures issued by the Board, of which the honorable senator is Chairman, do not show it.
– Yes, they do. Victoria has published a signed balance-sheet.
– The wheat figures which I have here, and which I have very closely analyzed, have not a word in them in connexion with the gain in weight. All they say is that the summary of the seasons is 504,948,000 bushels, and that the number of bushels for which certificates have been issued amounts to 503,544,000. The figures I have repeated to the Minister regarding wheat losses total 16,700,000 bushels, to which must be added the losses of the depreciation in quality, from the Georgeson contract in New South Wales down to the pig feed that sold sometimes at 6d. a bushel, to my own personal knowledge.
I- do not think there will ever occur again the conditions of the war wherein and whereby we had accumulated two or three or four years’ stocks of wheat, without being able to ship it away. There is about 8,000,000 tons more shipping on the water to-day than there was before the war. I believe the erection of wheatstorage bins will do a great deal to insure us against further mice plagues, and perhaps something to insure us against the rapid development of the weevil pest, but I am not convinced that a complete bulk -handling scheme, such as is proposed by the Western Australian farmers, is yet suitable for Australian conditions. With regard to the cost, I would direct attention to an estimate made a few years ago in connexion with the proposed South Australian scheme of complete bulk handling. The proposed scheme provided for the erection of four terminal elevators and 120 country elevators, to be erected at railway stations, of 40,000, 50,000, and 60,000 bushels capacity respectively. The capacity and cost of installing the system, including box trucks, was estimated as follows: -
That estimate covered the total storage, machinery, and railway trucks required for taking wheat in bulk from the country storage silos to the ship. It was given by Messrs. Metcalf and Company, and was an estimate only. There was no guarantee that the plant could be erected for those specific figures.
– The Western Australian Farmers Company does not propose to provide the rolling-stock.
– No; that has to be done by the Railway Commissioners. On the figures I have given for the South Australian scheme the proposed expenditure of £800,000 under this Bill in Western Australia for the equipment of a complete elevator system will provide at present cost a capacity of only about 4,000,000 bushels in all.
On the New South Wales basis of cost, of one shilling per bushel for storage bins, this sum of £800,000 will provide storage in Western Australia for 16,000,000 bushels, but there is a long way to go after storage is provided to complete equipment for bulk handling. If silos only are built, bags will still be required by the farmers on the farm, and for the ship. The process will be to fill the bags at the farm, empty them into the silo at the railway station, and fill the bags from the silo at the railway station again tq transport by rail and ship.
– Not at all.
– Where am I wrong ? My argument is obvious to a kindergarten class.. So far as I can ascertain approximately, the cost involved in the handling of the wheat by the elevator system- from farm to ship will not be any cheaper on a comparatively small crop than by the present bag system. In estimating the position, therefore, I shall eliminate any -elevator saving in this direction. Now with regard to bags. Taking them to cost now 5d. per bushel, which is an acknowledged high price, the bags are weighed in iu selling the wheat, and at 7s. 6d. per bushel the farmer would get a return, over the bulk handling return, of 4id. per bag. Wheat brings in England one penny halfpenny per bushel more in bags than in bulk, which means another 4id. per bag.
– That is only an assertion. I give you my word that it is not correct.
– I shall try to prove later on that my figures are correct, and not merely an assertion.
– I am not blaming the honorable senator, but we get as much to-day in bulk as ever we got in bags.
– Then when you suggested shipping wheat in bulk, why did the British Government ask you what reduction you were going to make?
– When did they ask that? It is news to me.
– The Victorian Ilansard records the State Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Oman) as saying so. The building of wheat elevators will mean also the building, by the Railways Commissioner, of box waggons for conveying the wheat from country stations to the terminal point, so that a large expenditure will have to be incurred to do these thing6, in addition to the things that have been done in New South Wales. A sinking fund will have to be set aside, and if only £1,000,000 is spent on a complete system in Western Australia, interest at 6 per cent., plus depreciation, 5 per cent., will mean that a total of £110,000 per year will have to be added to the bare charges and working expenses in connexion with the system.
– But remember that the box trucks will be available for other traffic also.
– Yes, but they will have ti) be specially built for the wheat traffic. If the farmers of Western Australia get, say, a 10,000,000 bushel crop, which is the average crop for the last five years’ in that State, thi? £110,000 to which. I referred will amount, to- another 2½d. per bushel. What will; the Western Australian farmers do when the crop is a comparative failure? The scheme then will not pay working expenses.
There is another thing to be considered. Although a good deal has been said about the facility for loading ships in bulk, and the saving in wharf labour as against Handling in bags, it has to be proved that we shall be able successfully to ship, wheat through the tropics .on a six or eight weeks’ voyage to England. We are not sure yet whether wheat will retain its good condition in bulk over that length of time.
– We are sure,, because we have sent an experimental shipment.
– You only sent an experimental shipment of 600 tons in the Persic. That is all you know about it. You have not yet sent a ship-load of wheat to England, so it is impossible to,say whether the wheat will retain its good’ condition in bulk or not.
– What is the difference Between a shipment of 600 tons and 6,000 Cons ?’
– I will tell the honorable senator: A shipment of 600 tons- on a 10,000-ton vessel would be sent im one compartment. The experiment that ought to be made is a full shipment ofl, 6ay, 10,000 tons in one vessel.
– If we did send a full ship-load’, the wheat would be sent in. a number of different compartments.
– Of course it would. But. it has. not yet. been proved’ that climatic and sea-carriage conditions are suited to the- carriage, of Australian wheat in bulk. It has ‘not yet been shown that- the wheat will not deteriorate en route. But if it is shown that wheat will carry in- bulk, we have to remember- that every ship- that comes here for wheat must be lined with timber before it can be made available for bulk shipment, and this timber, I understand, has to be perfectly dry, and, so far as I am informed, it must be imported. The time occupied in port in lining and in placing shifting, boards in position for bulk wheat handling will entirely contra any saving of time- in- loading under the elevator system. Under present conditions, and- at present prices, it seems to. me that the cost of lining a ship with- timber will be- not less than 2d. per bushel, which,. o£ course,, will have to. be- charged to. the shipper; and indirectly it will fall upon- the farmers who grow the wheat. This dunnage, I am further informed, is sold as scrap timber at the other end, and ships thus lined for .the carriage .of wheat in bulk from Australia must be reconditioned on arrival in England for general cargo purposes. Summing up the position I submit these figures to honorable senators : Assuming that the handling charges from farm to ship are the- same for sacks as for bulk handling, and that bags are paid for as wheat on the basis of 7s. 6d. per bushel for the wheats the farmer will gain, as compared with the bulk handling, ld. per bushel. Then there is an extra price for wheat sold. in. bags of 1½d. per bushel, and’ there is,, in addition, the interest and depreciation on the capital cost of the silos and elevators, which will be, as I have stated, in the neighbourhood of 2d. per bushel. The cost of preparing a ship for bulk handling, cannot be less than 2d. per bushel. These figures added amount to 7.d. per bushel, and, as the present cost of bags is 5d. per bushel, there is, on this table, shown to be a difference in favour of bags to the farmer of 2d. per bushel.
I do not think the- scheme- is good enough for the Western Australian farmers. It seems to me on the evidence that they will obtain no. monetary benefit: by its adoption. I am not speaking against co-operation by the- farmers at all, but I want to point out, as I think I am entitled to do as one of the representatives of the primary producers of New South Wales, what I think is in the interests: of the farmers themselves. There does not seem to be sufficient information available as to the potential success of bulk wheat handling in Australia for export. After all, of course storage of wheat in silos is better than storage in the stack, and it may be that in our time we shall never have another mice plague such as was experienced a few years ago. But it must be remembered in connexion with this matter, and in the interests of the Western Australian farmers themselves, that the taxpayers of the Commonwealth can better afford to bear their portion of any loss that may be involved in connexion with this scheme than can the wheat farmers of Western Australia.
I am quite aware that Messrs. Metcalf and Company have come herefrom America in order todraw plans for, and supervisethe erection of, a complete bulkhandling system for wheat in every wheatgrowing State. Butthe work they have done for New SouthWales has notbeen entirely satisfactory. I noticed the other week in the farmers’ representative paper,, The Land, an article headed “‘Country Grain Silos. Faults in Construction. Belated Discovery. Engineer’s Report.” I should like to quote some remarks that were made by Mr. Beeby, in the New South Wales Parliameut, in connexion with the erection of wheat silos in that State, as reported in theSun newspaper -
Mr. Beeby submitted that the acquiescence of the Governmentin the payment of1¼per cent. supervision charges on the cost of the terminalelevator was a breach of the spirit of the agreement arrived at.
He said the original Teasdale Smith contract caused serious dissension in the Cabinet. The House some years ago passed a Bill authorizingthe erection of certainwheat silos. Under the provisions of that Bill, Metcalf and Co. were intrusted with the duties of supervising engineers.
They were paid £20,000 for their plans. They were also, under the agreement, entitled to a supervising charge of per cent., but the contract was drawn in such a way that it practically gave them the right to per cent. commission on any silo which at any time thereafter might be built in New South Wales.
It was an agreement to which the Government must give honorable adhesion; but, later on, certain questions arose dealing with the erection of the silos. When the period of disruption existed, owing to the retirement under pressure of certain members from the Labour party, rthis country was in a state of flux, politically.
Practicallyno Government existed for some days. But during that period of uncertainty, when negotiationswere going on for the formationofaCoalition Government, a contract was signed “by the present Minister for Agriculture for the erection of certain wheat silos at a cost estimated in various ways. The contract was, fortunately, one which was not enforceable at law.
– There is nothing in that against the workmanship.
– No, but this firm of Metcalf and Company got £20,000 from the New South Wales Government for plans for silos, and since they got the contract of supervising, we have it on the authority of The Land, the farmers’ paper, that faults in construction have been discovered.
Senatorde Largie. - A very unreliable authority.
– What does the honorable senator mean?Does he mean thatMetcalfandCompany are supervising the expenditure on the works?
SenatorPRATTEN.- I mean that theyhave been engaged by the Government of New South Wales to supervise the work,and to see that the erection of the silos is carried outin a workmanlike manner.
– Let me tell the honorable senator that the State Government have their owninspectors, and there is a Commonwealth inspector as well.
– I know,and the Minister knows, that there was agood deal of controversy in New South Wales when Metcalf and Co. got this contract. He knows, also, that there hasbeen pressure in this city, by city men, to give Metcalf and Co. the contract for the erection of wheat elevators for bulk handling in Victoria; but, so far, the Victorian Government have resisted the allurements of the scheme, and havespent only £1,500 fora report. InSouth Australia, however, Metcalf and Co. also got £20,000 for plans , and something in addition. This firm, so I am informed, are behind the scheme which we have before us tonight. Up to the present they have obtained £60,000 or more from the various States of the Commonwealth in connexion with this scheme of bulk handling.
– They are clever.
– Yes, they are clever to get £20,000 from New South Wales for six country plans and the plan of a terminal elevator, which, probably, they have had in stock in Canada.
– And the same plans will be largely used all over Australia.
– That is so. I do not want to criticise State administration, but the activities of this firm have some bearing on the subject at issue. I understand there is a strong probability that, if this Bill goes through, Metcalf and Co. will get the job. If the Bill goes through, I hope the remarks I have made will be of some service, and that the cooperative company in Western Australia will, at all events, be put wise to what has been done.
– Is that, again, on the authority of The Land newspaper?
– No. It is on the authority of records in connexion with the New South “Wales wheat inquiry- I do not wish to pursue this matter further, but the interjections have been pertinent, and I hope my replies also have been to the point.
– But I question The Land newspaper as an authority.
– Then I may inform my honorable friend that The Land is the official organ of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales. It is a reputable, and indeed the leading, newspaper in connexion with the primary production of my own, State. I am proud to read it. It has a large circulation, and, as one of the representatives from New South Wales, I should hesitate very much before saying that it is a small and unrepresentative paper. In any case, The Land was instrumental in getting 100,000 votes for Mr. Falkiner as a candidate for the last Senate election.
In answer to an interjection made earlier in the evening, I shall read an extract from the Victorian State Hansard, page 1232, where Mr. Oman, the Minister of Agriculture in the Victorian Parliament, is reported as having said -
Only recently the farmers’ representatives, in meeting assembled in New South Wales, condemned the silo, -lock, stock, and barrel, as built in that State. The farmers in Western Australia have asked the Commonwealth Government for assistance to build their silos in a co-operative manner. In South Australia, the same position is being put up. There is no objection to such a proposal here, if the farmers desire to build the silos. When we offered to ship grain in bulk to Great Britain, at the time when so much was being said of silos, the British Wheat Commission said they would not take our wheat in bulk unless we would allow them for the bags.
– That is not wheat.
– In other words, unless we would quote a lower price for wheat in bulk, they desire to have it in bags.
– The honorable senator previously referred to wheat, and now he says that an allowance is desired in connexion with bags.
– I said nothing of the sort, but stated that the same price could not be obtained in Europe for wheat in bulk as could be obtained for wheat in bags. Mr. Oman indorses that view, for ho says that the British Wheat Commis-sion would not take their wheat in bulk unless there was an allowance for the bags. Mr. Oman goes on to say -
To-day a bag weighing 2i lbs. represents, at 3Jd. per lb., 7d. Australian wheat has recently been selling at 8s. a quarter above that of other countries. It is admitted that wheat in bulk fetches l£d. less than wheat in bags. That represents 4id. a bag, which, with 7id., makes 12jd.
I should like to know whether all the shares in this company will be contributing shares, how this advance by the Commonwealth can be made preferential, what check there is going to be in connexion with payments to sq-called bulk- handling wheat experts, what amortization is provided for, and the security that will be offered to the Commonwealth in the event of the failure of the scheme.
– That is all in the Bill.
– I have not seen anything in the direction T have indicated. If the Western Australian farmers default in the matter of interest at 6 per cent., they are to be charged 10 per cent. It seems that the two points that specially damn bulk handling are, first, the inability to ship wheat in bulk as cheaply as in bags, and the failure to save anything by attempting to eliminate the use of bags. The second point against the shipment of wheat in bulk is that to fit up a ship carrying 1 0,000 tons of wheat would cost at least £3,000, which would be 2d. per bushel on bulk cargoes, and there would not be any saving in the despatch of such steamer, as the time saved in loading would be taken up in lining the holds. Further, at least from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent, of the bulk cargo would have to be carried in bags for stiffening purposes, as underwriters’ conditions would have to bc observed before the cargo could be insured. Empty bags are worth a good proportion in England of what they cost the Australian farmer. Any substitute for bags on the farm will cost more than any possible saving that can be made, and our conditions of harvesting will necessitate the use of bags as containers on the farm. No bulk railway trucks have been built to handle the grain when harvested, no farmers’ carts have been built to cart bulk grain from the farms to the silos, and owing to strippers being used to strip and thresh the grain in one operation the silo and elevator capacity will require to be of the total quantity of wheat in the crop as the whole operation of cutting and threshing is completed in six weeks from date of starting.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Extension of time granted.
– I thank the Senate for its forbearance and consideration. I have almost completed my arguments, and I am grateful to be able to conclude what I have to say.
– Did the honorable senator say that no railway trucks had been constructed 1
– No railway trucks have been built in New South Wales for handling wheat in bulk, and to complete such a scheme the Western Australian railway authorities must construct trucks to carry the wheat in bulk, and the farmers must also have box carts to enable them to carry their wheat from the farm to the railway siding or adopt some other method which, I think, they will find will increase the cost. If, therefore, Western Australia has a crop of 15,000,000 bushels the silo and elevator capacity requires to be capable of dealing with that quantity at once, and with such varied quantities as Western Australia has grown during the past five years, either the elevators would be too large if built for the ascertained maximum or too small if based upon the minimum. It must be remembered, in connexion with the bulkhandling problem in operation in Canada and the United States of America, that in addition to wheat huge crops of barley and other cereals are put through the elevators, which practically enables them to work for the greater part of the year. All the evidence seems to point to the present being a most inopportune time to brins in bulk handling. The conditions in Western Australia, * with a 10,000,000 bushel average crop, and our export market being in another hemisphere, are altogether different from those of Canada with a 300,000,000 bushel crop, and the United States with a 800,000.000 bushel crop. There is a big risk in it without a corresponding benefit. In Canada and the United States of
America, it is obvious that the elevator system must be a success, but here we may have small crops with a comparatively small aggregate for Australia, and this comparatively small aggregate is split up into four different States thousands of miles apart.
– It has been said that the’ Canadian elevators do not pay unless they are filled and emptied four times a year.
– Yes. The Victorian farmers themselves last week passed a resolution in connexion with a proposal to bring the system of bulk handling into force to the effect that they wanted a report from an independent tribunal, and pending the receipt of that report they would postpone the consideration of the question until the next annual meeting to be held in 1921. I do not think the bulk-handling system for Australia is all that it is represented to be by experts from other countries. The first cost is heavy, and the interest, maintenance, depreciation, and sinking fund charges will be exceedingly high on the comparatively small amount of wheat Western Australia exports. On the expenditure of £1,000,000, it will be a first charge of 2fd. per bushel to the farmers of Western Australia, and under no set of circumstances can I see that the Western Australian farmers will gain by carrying out the scheme contained in this Bill. On the contrary, I believe it will prove a heavy burden to them. Prom the standpoint, therefore, of the Commonwealth, we are lending money in the proportion of £2 to £1 to a private company, each shareholder in that company being only responsible for the value of the shares he takes up. In the event of a drought year, there will be no revenue, but huge expenses, and if j as a business proposition, this scheme is, as I fear it will be, a financial failure, who is to “ carry the baby?” Being a private company, the State of Western Australia cannot be held responsible, and the only safe thing for the Commonwealth Government to do is to wait until such time as it has been ascertained whether the New South Wales experiment, upon which the Commonwealth will be called upon to find at least £1,250,000, is successful or otherwise.
I submit, Itherefore, these remarks to the Senate, and particularly address myself through thisChamber to the Western Australian farmersregarding -a majtter of extreme importanceto them. As a business man of some experience -and with a knowledge of finance, I sincerely and honestly say that if I were a - Western Australian farmer,nomoneyofmine should go towards -taking up shares in this proposed company. Not because the objects are not desirable, or “because I in any way wish todiscourageco-operation and self-help, but because as abusiness propositionto the man mostconcerned I believe it willbea disappointment under present circumstances.
To my friends, the leadersofthe farmers,Iwould say, “ Wait a bit, investigate further, make quite sure that your figures are right after taking ‘all the facts into consideration, not only on the farm and at the port, but thetransit and sale abroad.” I cannot recall aproverb more apropos to thepresent position than “He who goes slowly goes safely, and he who goes sa’fely goes far.”
– I could have wished, for Senator Pratten’s sake, that he had produced some more reliableauthority for the statements he has made in opposition to this proposal than the tainted source of TheLand newspaper. We know that that newspaper was before aCourt recently in New South Wales, and was called upon to pay damages for defamation of character. The same newspaper, some time ago, made a statement concerning Mr. Hughes, to the effect that the contract which that right honorable gentleman made whenon a visit to the Old Country, ‘for the sale of Australian wheat, was at a price which was less than could have been secured at the time. I challenged that statement in a letter to the editor of the newspaper, and asked him to mention ‘the authority upon which it was made. After waiting for several weeks for the publication df my letter, I had to write again asking the editor when he was going to print it. The reply I received was not through the columns of the newspaper, but was a letter informing methat my letter wascrushed out because there was no room ‘for it, but that it would be printed later. I did not receive the newspaper regularly because I am not a subscriber to it ; but I have seen a file of it kept in the Parliamentary Library, and, though I have watched it for weeks, so far as I know my letter has never appeared, nor has there been any explanation of the statements made concerning Mr. Hughes which I challenged. That is the sort of newspaper upon which Senator Pratten has relied, and Senator Duncan will admit that I have some ground for making the charge I have made against it.
– They were looking after their own interests in your own case, as they were when they made the statement in reference to the silos.
– They made a charge againstthe Prime Minister, which I challenged ; and, so far as I know, they have never published theletter in which I challenged their statement. Therefore, I repeat that Senator Pratten might well have brought forward some better authority forhisstatement ihan a newspaper of that kind.
It is rather questionable taste on the part of Senator Pratten to bring so many charges against the schemeproposed for the handling of wheat in a State which he does not represent, when we remember the silence he observed concerning the scheme for theexpenditure of money for a similar purpose in New I South Wales. He allowed that to passwithout a word of protest.
SenatorPratten. - That is not fair, because Western Australiahad the same opportunity as New ‘South Wales ; and I would have supported a proposal by that State to assume ‘the same responsibility.
– I want to know why ‘SenatorPratten was silent when a proposal was made for the expenditure ofpublic money upon elevators and silos in New South Wales, and for the expenditure, not of £2 of Commonwealth money for £1 provided by private persons, but for the expenditure solely of Commonwealth money.
– That moneywas lent to the State of New South Wales, and I am prepared to support the lending of money to the State of Western Australia for the same purpose.
– It was good Commonwealth moneyall rthesame, and Isee no difference inprinciple.If . the bulk handlingof wheat is unsuitableto
Australian conditions; then Commonwealth money has been wasted to a greater extent in providing for it in New South Wales than is proposed’ under this scheme in Western Australia. The honorable senator was silent all the time that Commonwealth money was being expended in New South Wales. Evidently it was good enough to waste the money of the Commonwealth there, but when the honorablesenator believes that a proposal is made to waste it in some other State he ticks up a terrible hullabaloo about it. Howcan we accept the guidance of an honorable senator who has acted’ in that way ?
– Surely there is a difference- between- lending money to aState Government and to a private company ?
– We are not dealing in this Bill with a private company, hut with persons engaged in the greatest industry in Western Australia, who are prepared to. work co-operatively to supply themselves with the best meansof handling their wheat. They are in every way as responsible as is the Government of New South. Wales.
– They are the people who produce 86 per cent, of the wealth of Western Australia.
– In view of the statement which Senator Pratten has made against the bulk-handling scheme, I want to know how he can condone the crime of squandering public money upon such a scheme in New South Wales. If the honorable senator is right in what hehas said this; evening, it is very hard to reconcile his silence concerning the spending of Commonwealth money in New South Wales for the erection of elevators- and silos with what one. might expect from’ an honorable senator who professes to be so anxious about the proper expenditure of public money. I could have appreciated the honorable senator’s arguments on this Bill more if I did not know that he had allowed a larger sum of Commonwealth money to be spent in his own State without any protest or warning, and he makes his protest only when it is proposed to spend money in the same way elsewhere.
If the wheat-growers did not show their approval of this scheme I could understand Senator Pratten having doubts as to whether it, would be advantageous to them or not. The fact that the Western Australian wheat farmers are to find one-third of the money required to give effect to this proposal- before any money is spent by. the Commonwealth should be a sufficient guarantee to us of their faith in it. If these people who ought to know, and who, I think, do know their own business best, are satisfied to enter upon a scheme of this kind, we should not hesitate much when we are- asked’ to help them along, especially when we often proclaim our adherence to the great principle of cooperation which we hear so much about, but which evidently- quite a number of people are ready to. advocate, but hesitate to put into practice. Why did not Senator Pratten ask the farmers of New South Wades to- put their good money into silos erected in that State?’
– On the statements the honorable senator has made to-night, he would have been’ misleading them if he had done so.
– Did’ not Mr. Beeby say that the contract was signed beforethere was any possibility of stopping it?
– They say so many things in- New South Wales that I am doubtful about anything I hear fromthat State. Prom my knowledge of politics and business deals in Sydney, I do not go very strong upon anything that comes from that quarter. I can only say that the less we hear of Sydney deals in connexion with- wheat or anything else, the better.
– Silos included !
– Yes, silos included, if what Senator Pratten has told us is true. I notice that the honorablesenator’ seemed to insinuate that in connexion with the erection of silos in New South- Wales- a commission or some otherform of payment was made to a certain body of contractors, but that the honorable senator did’ not suggest that any defective work had been done by them. When- he was quoting from some source or another - was it The Land newspaper’ again?-
– I think that Mr. Oman is the last authority I quoted.
– I am not referring to the- quotation from Mr. Oman, which went to show only that Victoria is delaying action in the matter until some further report on the subject is presented. We have had a very elaborate report from a Royal Commission that inquired into, the question of the bulk Handling of wheat in. Victoria. That report contains a number of pages of recommendations all in favour of the bulk-handling, system. If New South Wales has suffered a little disappointment in connexion with the establishment of elevators, it is rather soon for the people of that State to condemn the application of the system of bulk handling to other States. . New South Wales had the bad luck recently to experience a very severe drought, and in the first year that the silos were built they had no wheat to put into them.
– And a good job, too, because if they had been filled with grain they would have been smashed to smithereens.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority for that statement 1
– The statements made by farmers in New South Wales.
– Has the honorable senator investigated the truth of the statements for himself?
– In one or two instances, yes. Silos I know of, and could name, are leaking, and are not fit to put grain into, and I believe that they were built by the firm that it is proposed shall carry out these works in Western Australia.
– They were not built by that firm.
– The building of them was supervised by that firm.
– Senator Duncan assures us that it is a good job that these silos in New South Wales were not filled, and I can scarcely credit such a statement. I should like to have some more convincing authority for it than a _passing remark by the honorable senator.
This co-operative effort on the part of the Western Australian farmers is one which, I think, it is our duty to encourage. We know from our experience of industrial troubles in Australia that copartnership and co-operation are put forward as the only means to enable us to successfully solve the problem of labour difficulties. There are men supporting this scheme at an expense to themselves which very few persons would undertake. I am often in the wheat belt of Western Australia, and I see the wheat farmers on their land. Most of the wheat area is newly-occupied country in the pioneering stage of development, and any one acquainted with land settlement knows the kind of homes which the pioneer settlers have to put up with while they are improving their farms. There are people putting money into this scheme who, if they looked to their own comfort,, would devote. that money to the erection of decent houses in which to live.
– We believe that they are doing it sincerely.
– I am glad to hear that from the honorable senator. These men have investigated the scheme for themselves, and are putting their money into it as a proof of their earnestness, and surely it is not too much for us to agree to help them when we have already agreed to lend money to the State Governments to carry out similar work. When these people put their own money into a scheme of this character, surely the least we can do is to help them, just as we have helped State ‘Governments. I am not altogether a novice in so far as a knowledge of elevators is concerned.
When returning to Australia in 1918 with a delegation from this Parliament, we passed through Canada. There every facility was offered to us by the Canadian Government to inspect huge elevators, which are to be found at the principal grain ports. I am sorry that I have lost the figures which I obtained upon that occasion, but I distinctly remember that the general trend of every statement made to us was in favour of the elevator as against the bag system. When I mentioned to Canadian politicians that in Australia we did not employ the elevator system - and members of our delegation were naturally anxious to present our own country in as favorable a light’ as possible to the other Dominion delegates - the latter were very much surprised, and I was sorry I made the admission. They thought that the bag system was so out-of-date that no prominent wheatproducing country would ever dream of using it. They demonstrated to us that the adoption of the elevator system would result in a saving of 100 per cent, to our wheat farmers. They took us to gigantic elevators, six or seven stories high, which are fitted with appliances for loading wheat from the ship into the elevators, and from the elevators into the mills, where the grain is ground into flour. They mentioned the principal great wheat-producing countries of the world, not one of which has failed to resort to the hulk handling of grain. Having seen this method in operation at Port Arthur, Montreal, Winnipeg, and elsewhere, I am perfectly satisfied that it is the best that we can adopt. Since then we have to recollect that the cost of hags has increased by about 200 per cent. In* 1916 bags could be purchased for about 7s. per dozen, whereas last harvest they cost from 16s. 6d. to 17s. per dozen. As the cost of handling our wheat under the bag system was about 100 per cent, more than “the cost of the elevator system in Canada during 1916, if we add to that difference the increase in the price of bags which has since taken place, it will be seen that an enormous saving would be effected by the inauguration of the bulk-handling method. That method has been practised in so many countries for a number of years that there can be no doubt that it is a success.
When we recollect that the Australian farmer is so far removed from the markets of the world, we must recognise that he will always be at a disadvantage as compared with his competitors. There is no other farmer who has to pay so much freight upon his grain. There is only one other country, namely, the Argentine Republic, which is approximately even half the distance of our farmers from the overseas market. Before the war the Argentine was able to get its wheat transported to London for 12s. 6d. per ton - a very low freight - whereas our freight was then about 25s. per ton. To-day the freight upon Australian wheat is approximately £7 per ton. Can we hope for any very great reduction in ‘that freight within any appreciable time? I fear not. Consequently, we must take advantage of every up-to-date method for the handling of our wheat, in order to decrease its cost of production. Otherwise we shall not be able to successfully produce wheat in Australia. Our farmers grow their wheat in as scientific a way as do any farmers in the world. Probably there is no other country in which such a large area of wheat is cultivated per man as in Australia. We have very little to learn from other countries in the matter of the growing of crops; but in the handling of those crops our fanners are at a great disadvan tage. Unless we are prepared to do something in the direction I have suggested, I fear that as soon as the price of wheat drops, we shall have a decreased area under wheat in Australia. As a result, not merely the farmer, but the whole community will suffer. About .the only commodities that we can sell are our wheat, our wool and our meat. If we cannot put our wheat upon the world’s market at a cheaper rate than we are doing, there will be a greatly diminished area under wheat in Australia as soon’ as the price of wheat declines.
– The honorable senator does not think that the price will come down for three or four years?
– It is very difficult to say how long the present price will be maintained. I hope that it will be maintained for a very long time.. If the price of wheat only remains in the region of 6s. or 7s. per bushel we can successfully compete with other wheat producing countries. It has been conclusively shown that the co-operative principle amongst agriculturists has kept other countries well to the fore. Little countries like Denmark, Holland and Switzerland would never have been able to compete with the trade of the world but for their co-operative agricultural concerns, and we may reasonably anticipate that the adoption of similar methods here would meet with an equal measure of success. Though these nations are very small they are unquestionably very prosperous. Even in Ireland, which has been a country of poverty for generations, Sir Horace Plunkett, by means of the establishment of co-operative societies, has been able to accomplish more good than have all our modern statesmen. I hope that we shall extend a helping hand to these self-reliant farmers of Western Australia, who are endeavoring to do so much for themselves and for this country’.
.- To-night I am in the position of being able to agree to some extent with the two preceding speakers who have addressed themselves to this Bill. I would not have trespassed upon the time of the Senate upon this occasion but for the fact that the Western Australian representatives in this Chamber are keenly desirous of giving effect to the scheme contained in the measure, and consequently I do not wish to cast a silent vote. I- have been exceedingly interested in the speeches of Senator Pratten and Senator de Largie. To an extent I agree with the latter in his castigation of the former. I listened very attentively to Senator Pratten, who fairly smothers me with figures, and who succeeded in convincing the Senate that he. is strongly opposed’ to the bulk handling of wheat.
– In Western Australia.
– What is good for New South Wales must necessarily be good for Westera Australia. If Senator Pratten, when a previous measure was passing through this Chamber, was possessed’ of the knowledge thathe appears to have to-night, he was lacking in his duty in not giving the Senate the benefit of it at the time, and saving the people of New South Wales from rushing into what is apparently doomed to be a failure. The proposition before us to-night is that the Federal Government shall come to the assistance of a limited liability company within a State. My objection to this proposition is that it is not the duty of a National Parliament, or Government to interfere with the domestic arrangements of any particular State. That business should be carried out by the State itself. I give the company and its shareholders - the wheatgrowers - the credit of knowing their own business and protecting themselves from loss in the undertaking which they propose, but it is not the duty of this Parliament, believing as we do in cooperation, to invest the money of the Federal taxpayers in assisting any private company. If this Bill is passed, a precedent will be established for all companies throughout Australia to come to the Federal Government for assistance. I may come along directly with a proposition for a co-operative apple-growing; industry. The same might apply to bacon and cheese, and other undertakings all over the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth would have to appoint an army of officers to protect its small interests scattered all over Australia. Thiscannot be done, and consequently, reluctant as I am to oppose my Western Australian friend’s, and to. refuse to assist an effort at co-operation, I must oppose the Bill on the principle that the National Parliament has no right to invest the people’s money in the promotion of one particular trade or business within a, State.
– We have guaranteed the wheat-growers of Australia 5s. a bushel for their wheat over the whole of the States:
– That is a national undertaking, for the encouragement of wheat-growing over the whole of Australia. If the honorable senator could show that the Commonwealth Government had guaranteed the wheat-growers of Western Australia 5s. a bushel, without making the same offer to. the rest of Australia, I should say that the Commonwealth was distinctly wrong.
– Why subsidize bread for Tasmania, and not for other States?.
– Because Tasmania is an insular State, and to subsidize the carrying, of the wheat,not bread, from the Wheat Pool is simply to. place Tasmania on the same basis as the other States. It is equitable and fair that this should be done, and it would be decidedly unfair to Tasmania if it were not done.
– They took our wheat at 7s. 8d. to help some of the other States.
– That was the action of the Wheat Board.
– But it was a case . of Commonwealth intervention.
– It was very good of South Australia, if it allowed Tasmania to get its wheat a little cheaper than other States did. That does not alter the principle of this Parliament indorsing a proposition which means the promotion of a private company in one particular State. That is the objection I have to it.
-Did not you vote to help the Persian Oil Company?
– The honorable senator knows that I opposed that proposition. I feel that the Commonwealth Parliament would take a very wrong step in passing a measure such as this, because we do not know how far-reaching its effects may be, or what precedent it willestablish.
.- I can understand the desire on the part of honorable senators and the Minister (Senator Russell) to assist as far as possible those engaged in the primaryindustries of the Commonwealth. I. shall not. attempt to deal with the advisability of erecting silos in Western-
Australia, because, comingfroma nonwheat growing State, I am not in a position to discuss the advantages of the proposal from that view-point. I wish to speak of the financial aspect o’f theproposal from the Commonwealth point of view. I was given to understand during the debate by an interjection from the Minister, and another from an honorable senator sitting onthe same side, that this proposition had been submitted to the Western Australian Parliament, but had been rejected by one vote.
SenatorRussell. - Not this proposition..It was theproposition under our War Loan scheme by which the Commonwealthwould advancethe moneyand the States would provide the storage.
– Am I to understand now that the wheatrgrowers of Western Australia have never approached theState Parliament in this direction? Save they not asked their own Government to finance such a proposition as this? If they have not, I cannot understand their attitude. It has been the practice in all the States, where financial assistance has been required to put an industry on a sound basis within the boundaries of a State, to approach the Government of the State.
– We made an offer to the State Government, but they would not take it on. I have correspondence to show that the State Government fully approved of the scheme, and ‘the Premier promised to introduce a Bill to provide the necessary sites at port and country sidings.
– The Minister is referring to negotiation between the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government.
– The farmers prefer a co-operative basis of workingtoState enterprise.
– I am notsuggesting thatanything inthe way of State enterprise in regard to this matter should betaken on at all. What I want to know iswhetherthe farmersinterested in it in Western Australia haveeverapproached the StateParliament ror Government for aloanfor thepurpose indicated in the Bill?If they havenot, thenthey have gone the wrong way to
Work. Itis theirduty to approachtheir ownGovernment before they approach the Federal Government.
– I have no doubt they didgo, but I can verify it to-morrow.
– We shouldtry to realizewhat are Federal functions and what areState functions in regard to financing any matters that appertainto one State salone. Ibelieve in the principle ofthe Commonwealth financing the State Governments, in order thatthe State Governments may maketheir Statesasproductive aspossible, but I cannot agreewith theprinciple of the FederalGovernmentfinancinga private or co-operative companyoperating in only one State.Thatdoes not seem to be right from abusiness point of view. TheGovernment of the State shouldtake thefinancialresponsibility. It is our duty asFederal legislators, ifthe State Governments are embarrassed, to furnish the wherewithal tothem in order that theymay put their State industries on a sound footing. If we do that, we have an indisputable security against the loan. I have looked into this agreement and can see that itis possible,after the FederalParliament hassanctioned a loan of this kind, for the security to depreciate year byyear until the investment cannot be looked upon as a sound one.
– The Bill provides for a Sinking Fund with interest.
– I know that is one of its provisions. I amconvincedthat the State ought to take this matter in hand. Many propositions have been broughtbeforethe Tasmanian Parliament for financing companies and cooperative associations, and assistance has been granted by that Parliament. The StateGovernment has had to borrow the money, and some may have come from Federal sources. That is sound business, because, after all, the FederalGovernment is dealing directly with the representatives of the people in the State which requires the accommodation.
– Yet the Federal Parliament subsidizes the iron industry.
– Yes, as a national matter.
Senatorde Largie. -Is not this a national matter?
– The subsidyto the iron industry all went to one State.
– But it was equally available to all the States. This proposal is to lend a large sum of money to a private joint stock company operating in one State only.
– An offer has been made to all the States by the Commonwealth Government. We say that all States will be treated on the same footing. New South Wales has already taken £1,000,000, and has applied for a little more.
– It i6 not advisable, with the multiplicity of undertakings that the Federal Government has in hand, seeing that there are local Governments controlling the domestic affairs of the States, to hamper ourselves by adding to our burdens in this way. We have sufficient problems to deal with without taking powers and duties from the State Governments.
– We asked them to take the work over, and they would not do it. .
– Those primarily interested in this venture are the wheatgrowers of Western Australia.
– £hey are the ones who are asking for it.
Senate PAYNE.- Then they have come to the wrong place for it. They should have applied to their State Government’ After the State Parliament, which is on the spot, had dealt with it, we could have been guided by the debate that took place there.
– It has been debated in the Western Australian Parliament. Have you read the debates there ?
– I asked the Minister if the matter had been brought before the Western Australian Parliament, and his reply was “ No.”
– Not this Bill. The proposition the Western Australian Government put forward to build war storage for wheat was beaten by one vote. That was two years ago.
– That was not a proposal of this character. I have no objection to a suggestion for the bulk handling of wheat, which may be the most effective way to deal with it.
– This scheme has the backing and co-operation of the State Government. I speak in the name of the Premier of Western Australia when I say that.
– What does the Minister mean by the backing of the’ State Government ? Are the State Government prepared to take the financial responsibility? If he can show me an undertaking from them to that, effect, I am prepared to support the Bill.
-brockman. - On the figures given by Senator Pratten, they are involved in an expenditure of £300,000 in addition to this.
– That may be so, but it is not State backing. State backing means State security. I am not influenced by what Senator Pratten said, although I listened to his remarks with great attention, and must compliment him on the careful way he went into the question. I am dealing with it from the point of view of the advisability or otherwise of the Federal Government entering into an undertaking of this kind with a company in a State. I cannot see my way to support the Bill, because I believe that it is a State and not a Federal function.
– We did it in your own State by advancing money to a private firm to build ships during the war.
– I can understand that being done. It was a war measure, pure and simple. Owing to the lack of shipping in the world, the Federal Government felt it to be its duty to take all possible steps to have ships built in the Commonwealth, in order to provide the necessary bottoms to carry our produce. That was not a purely State matter, such as this is. It is essential that we should try to stop the leakage as far as possible.
– And we lost a lot by our methods of handling and loading.
– There are plenty of ships now.
– The honorable senator is saying that on the authority of cablegrams in newspapers. So” far I have not seen the ships that are supposed to be available.
– I am open to conviction with regard to the point I have been discussing. At present I am not convinced that it would be wise for the Federal Government to deal directly with any company in any particular State. It is the function of the State Government to give encouragement to any scheme for the development of their industries, and if the Western Australian Government had been approached and had not Been their way clear to acquiesce in the proposal, it would have been an indication to us that they did not consider the time ripe for such expenditure.
-brockman. - The honorable senator forgets, apparently, that Western Australia has an overdraft of no less than £4,000,000 at the present time.
– It does not matter what the overdraft is. If the Government can see an opportunity of improving the position by incurring even a heavy loan liability for reproductive undertakings it is their duty to incur that expenditure.
-brockman. - That may be your opinion, but in Western Australia they do not agree with yon.
– I cannot help it if I disagree with the Western Australian Government. All I can say is that if I> as an individual, could see the possibility of increasing my assets by raising an additional sum of money I should feel it my duty to do so.
– No. You would go to the Federal Government and get a special grant. In Western Australia we do not do that.
– In the early days of Federation, at all events, some special ‘ concessions were made to Western Australia.
– Yes, but out of our own revenue.
– That is apart from the question altogether.
– Is itf You should not have introduced the matter if you do not wish to discuss it freely.
– But I did not introduce it!
– Yes, you did, by balking about the revenue of Western A ustralia.
– I made no reference at all to the revenue of Western Australia. I was merely replying to an interjection with regard to concessions made to Tasmania. I have no quarrel with Western Australia; indeed, I wish that State every success in its undertakings. My objection is to the principle embodied in this Bill, namely, that the Federal Government should lend money to a company.
– To assist an important industry in Western Australia.
– But I have already pointed out that the State Government have ample power to make all necessary provision for a venture of this kind, and T cannot understand why those who are specially interested in it have not approached the Western Australian Government. If they had done this and had failed in their negotiations, we would have known why.
– This contract will not be made until it is approved by the Western Australian farmers. It is condition of the contract.
– I have no doubt they will approve of it, especially if they are to be exempted from any financial liability.
-brockman. - But they are not.
– I understand that they are to supplement the Federal loan by certain expenditure.
– Over which the Federal Government will have a first mortgager
– That does not affect the position so far as I am concerned. If they are prepared to supplement the Commonwealth loan by expenditure in regard to silos or in connexion with transport facilities, I say the State Government are trying to evade a certain portion of their responsibilities in not providing the whole of the necessary funds to carry out the scheme. On these grounds it is my intention to oppose the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilson) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.53 .p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200923_senate_8_93/>.