8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs what is the price at which phosphatic rock is sold to manufacturers of superphosphate in the Commonwealth? How does the price compare with that previously charged? Will the Minister say whether any payments havebeen made to recoup the Federal Treasury for advances made for the purchase of interests in Nauru Island?
– I must ask the honorable senator to give notice of his questions, but in the meantime I direct his attention to the fact that a splendid report on the matter has been made by our Commissioner, Mr. Pope, and I recommend the honorable senator to obtain a copy of it.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate what is the intention of the Government with regard to the sittings of the Senate? Will it be necessary, in order to avoid all-night sittings at the close of the year, to resume sittings on Tuesdays ?
– When the necessity arises for it I am sure honorable senators will respond to an invitation to sit on Tuesday, but a glance at the business-paper would indicate that the necessity does not exist at present.
– I want to know what is coming.
– I cannot tell the honorable senator. The future is not open to me.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Will the Minister for Works and Railways make immediate provision for the protection against fire of properties on the East-West Railway, and give instructions for every assistance to be rendered toland-holders in connexion therewith?
– The answer supplied is -
The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner states that the Commonwealth Railways is not in any way responsible for any bush fires which may have occurred along the East-West line, but inquiry is being made as to any steps desirable to minimize the risk of fire.
Men employed upon the railway are usually only too ready to give assistance in cases of emergency, but attention is being given to the matter.
Retirement of Transferred Officers
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government cause to be laid on the table of the House -
A copy of the case or cases cited on which the opinion of the Solicitor-General was sought, under section 84, paragraphs 3 and 4, of the Constitution ?
His opinion relating thereto?
Copy of memorandum from the Acting Public Service Commissioner, dated 12th October, 1921, with referenceto retirement of South Australian officers?
– The answer to questions 1, 2, and 3 is “ Yes.”
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Bill read a third time.
. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure authorizes the issue and application of the sum of £8,370,406, which sum is to be appropriated from Loan Funds for the purposes of new works, buildings, &c, and the redemption of Treasury-bills. The proposed expenditure on the items set forth in the Works Estimates totals £5,597,174, all of which is covered by this Bill; and, in addition, provision is made to the extent of £370,000 against the possibility of expenditure on ship construction proceeding at a greater rate than is anticipated; and £72,476 is set down for expenditure at the Federal Capital, that being the unexpended balance of £150,000 that was authorized to be expended last year. Lastly, there is provision for the redemption of £3,000,000 worth of Treasury-bills. These sums total £9,039,650, from which is to be deducted £669,244, the amount available under appropriations authorized by previous Acts; leaving the sum of £8,370,406, -which we now ask for authority to appropriate.
The Trust Fund investments of the Treasury include Treasury-bills amounting to £6,094,153.. The moneys derived by the sale of Treasury-bills to the Trust Fund were used for works from time to time, payable from Loan Fund. By the end of the present year, however, the Trust Fund will probably be depleted, so that it will be unable to carry the whole of this investment. Authority is therefore sought to redeem £3,000,000 worth of Treasury-bills, and thus to restore to the Trust Fund the necessary cash. The position of the Trust Fund, I am advised, may be set out in this way: - .
Included in the Trust Fund are the following amounts, which will be wholly expended during the current year: -
It will be seen that unless steps are taken to redeem a portion of these investments, the Trust Fund will be over-invested on the 30th June next by over £2,500,000.
The total expenditure out of Loan Funds for works in 1920-21,not including the redemption of the Northern Territory loans and Treasury-bills, was £3,877,912 ; and the estimated expenditure for 1921-22 is £5,597,174, or an increase of £1,719,262. This increase is made up of the following amounts: -
If the estimate for 1921-22 is compared with the estimate for 1920-21, which is a fair comparison, the increase is only £1,228,730. A portion of the provision for the current year is to meet purchases made last year which were not delivered by 30th June last, and includes the sum of £901,239 for telegraph and telephone works, &c, which honorable members will no doubt approve. All the expenditure proposed to be authorized by this Bill is set out in the schedule, and honorable senators will be able to deal with the items in Committee. The schedule shows the votes that have been carried over from last year, and the amounts to be appropriated by this Bill will be found in the third column of the schedule. All the items are referred to in the Budget, from which fuller information regarding them may be obtained.
– There are some items included in the schedule which, without further’ information, I am not at present disposed to support. Reasons may be given why those items should be passed when we come to consider them in Committee. Outstanding amongst these items is a vote of £200,000 for expenditure upon the Federal Capital. Another item about which I should like some explanation is the proposed vote of £370,000 for the shipbuilding enterprise. I should like to know whether we are committed to’ this amount in order to carry out existing contracts. Does this expenditure embrace any new contracts which are being entered upon by the Government at the present time?
– I am glad to have that assurance. There is an item of £10,000 for land at the Federal Capital Territory. We have already 900 square miles.” What is the need for more?
– Certain blocks in the Territory were privately owned. The Government are now taking these over.
– I suggest that detailed discussion such as the honorable senator has been entering upon would be more appropriate at the Committee stage, when the consideration of the schedule, line by line, may be undertaken.
– It would be helpful, both to the Minister (Senator Russell) and to myself, if I were permitted at this stage to indicate matters upon which I desire to obtain particulars. In Committee, the Minister would then be prepared to provide the details. Concerning Commonwealth railway lines, the question arises whether further expenditure is likely to reduce the annual loss or merely add to it.
A phase of this Bill which attracts my attention as a States representative is that, out of the total of about £8,000,000, not £1 is to be expended in Tasmania. I want to know if all the Commonwealth enterprises in that State are so complete and satisfactory that not a penny is required to be laid out this year. Is there no need for improvements or additions to the Post and Telegraph services? In New South Wales about £40,000 is to be spent on post-offices, and considerable sums have been set down for the other States.
– Not for South Australia.
– I can suggest directions in which thousands of pounds might well be expended in the erection of new post-offices, and in providing additional facilities for the people in scattered parts of the island State.
– Expenditure upon the services in Tasmania was embraced in a measure dealt with by the Senate yesterday.
– Are there no permanent works in Tasmania requiring to be erected by loan money, just as in the case of the other States?
– The amounts to be expended in Tasmania and South Australia were set down in the other Bill. In that measure the other States were provided with nothing.
– I note that in the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, under the division embracing the Postmaster-General’s Department, the following lines apply to Tasmania: -
Sundry offices, re-vote, £641; Burnie Post- office, £500; King Island Post-office, £20; Ulverstone Post-office, £2,000. . Those particulars cover the whole of the sums to be spent upon Tasmanian postoffices, and the total amount is £3,161.
– That ic not the total cost of those offices. The final expenditure will be more than double.
– There is no indication of that.
– Most of those buildings were partly erected last year.
– Anyhow, the expenditure in other States from loan moneys covered by the Bill under discussion runs into tens of thousands of pounds. I want to see fair play for the little island State. There is as much need there for the construction of postoffice buildings and the erection of telephone lines as there is in any other part of Australia.
– The same amount in proportion to population will be spent in Tasmania out of the vote for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as in any 0,t the other States.
– It will not be fair to allocate the money upon that basis. The populous cities of the large _ States would enjoy much, more than a fair division. In the cities there is a telephone in every other house, and a post pillar at every other street corner. Urgent requests have been made for the extension cf telephonic communication in Tasmanian country areas. Only by providing such means of communication can life out-back be made endurable. I complain that in the compilation of this schedule Tasmania has not been given a fair deal.
– There is a total sum of £750,000 indicated at the end of the schedule for “ construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones, also construction crf conduits and laying wires underground.” That amount is not allocated to any specific State, and possibly Tasmania may get a reasonable “cut” out of it.
– It may all be intended for Tasmania.
– On the other hand, it may not be, and it is not so intended. I shall be interested to learn whether any portion is to be devoted to Tasmanian requirements.
– Tasmania will have her share, allocated upon a pro rata basis. I intend to make a full statement upon the matter at a later stage.
– I notice that there i3 an item under the Prime Minister’s Department, totalling £162,000; for “ passage money for assisted immigrants.’’ My impression is that this sum should be properly chargeable against revenue for the year. Its inclusion in this schedule is misleading - that is, of course, unless the money is to be repaid by the immigrants. With respect to the very large expenditure set out under Defence, in view of the policy announced by the Government in this Chamber last night, when it was specifically stated that this was a period when we should mark time, is it not possible to make a saving of something upon those items?
– I had intended to move the adjournment of the debate, but several honorable senators have spoken, and have sought detailed information which will presumably be provided during the Committee stage. I wish to know if it is the intention of the Minister (Senator Russell) to have this measure taken into Committee to-day, and’ then to report progress. I have not been able to follow closely the particulars provided by the Minister in his speech when introducing the Bill, and I have not had an opportunity to fully examine the measure itself. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will agree to report progress.
– I impress upon the Minister (Senator Russell) the need for securing information regarding the points raised by Senator Earle. While the honorable senator was speaking, the Minister interjected that provision was made in a Bill dealt with yesterday to cover the postal and telegraphic requirements of Tasmania. I notice that some provision was made, but that the amount totalled only £6,211. Of that, £3,782 was a Te-vote, so that actually the new provision consists of only £2,500. From time to time I have brought under notice requests submitted to me by the people of Tasmania for extended postal and telegraphic facilities, and, in fairness, I desire to add that I have always received courtesy at the hands of the Postmaster-General and his staff. In many cases full investigation has been undertaken, and the needs of the people met; but many other requests from Tasmania have not yet been conceded.
– Out of £1,500,000 voted to the Postmaster-General there will be spent in Tasmania £24,000 upon telegraph and telephone lines, and £6,211 on post-office buildings.
– The total sum spent last year in those directions was only £552, leaving a balance unexpended of £3,872. Honorable senators dealt with a schedule yesterday which provided £6,211 to meet the requirements of Tasmania out Of revenue. I repeat that £3,782 of that total was a re-vote, so that only about £2,500 comprises new expenditure. Of that, £1,400 is for the wireless officers’ quarters at the King Island Station. A very small sum is provided this year to cover the whole of the needs in connexion with the postal services and postal buildings in Tasmania, and I trust the Minister will be able to give further information when the measure is in Committee.
– I desire to make a few remarks in regard to the general policy of the Government in connexion with the expenditure of loan money in Australia. As I understand the position, loan moneys are expended, or should be, for purposes of development, and after a cursory examination of the schedule, the fact is revealed that instead of money being expended in those portions of Australia which are undeveloped, it is being spent in those States which are most highly developed. If we examine the proposed expenditure as detailed in the schedule it will be found that in Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, a comparatively small amount of the total sum to be appropriated is to be spent in developmental works in those States. Practically the whole of the money is to be expended in Victoria and New South Wales.
– In ship-building, for instance. “
– Yes, which work, of course, is being carried out largely in Victoria, New South Wales, and overseas, and it seems to me that this is not a. wise policy from an Australian point of view. I am not speaking as a State righter;but I say that, in the interests of the Commonwealth, a decided effort should be made to develop those territories which are most’ in need of development.
– If the honorable senator will refer to the last page of the schedule he will find that money is to be spent in Western Australia.
– I have examined the schedule, and I find that out of this huge sum only from £60,000 to £80,000 is to be spent in that State. The Minister (Senator Russell) stated that the expenditure of loan moneys was apportioned on a population basis. It is a bad basis on which to apportion expenditure, and it will be found that that policy has not been adopted in previous years because, on a population basis, the three States mentioned have suffered very severely in the past.
– A large sum is to be spent on the completion of the Perth General Post Office.
– BROCKMAN. - That work was commenced in 1913 and is still proceeding. If it had been the Melbourne Genera] Post Office or the Sydney General Post Office the work would have been completed long ago.
– Is the honorable senator taking into consideration the Trans-Australian railway and the new post-office at Perth.
– Yes, and if the Minister will consider the loan money which has been expended in Western Australia during the last twenty years he will find that my criticism is more than justified. The Government should carefully consider their policy in regard to the expenditure of loan money, and make a strong effort to undertake more public works in those States which are least developed.
– It would have been of assistance to honorable senators if the Minister (Senator Russell) had agreed to the adjournment of the debate after he had moved the second reading, because honorable senators have not had an opportunity of carefully perusing the proposed expenditure enumerated in the schedule.
– If we had been meeting at 3 p.m. an opportunity would have been afforded.
– Exactly. We have not had time to give the Bill the close attention it deserves. Provision is made for the expenditure of £162,000 in connexion with the passage money of assisted immigrants, but that is a liability which should be met out of revenue.
– Does not the honorable senator regard immigrants as an asset 1
– They are a real asset if of a desirable type. Loan money should be expended in providing increased postal facilities, for the construction of railways, and other reproductive works ; but the paymentof passage money to assist immigration should be made out of revenue. When the Minister is replying, perhaps he will give honorable senators some information concerning the immigration policy of the Government, and let us know how many people have been brought to this country since the. present immigration policy has been in operation.
– Under the present scheme the number is left to the States.
– Frequent reference is made to our immigration policy, and as such a large sum is being spent in assisting immigration some details of the scheme should be available. When at Leeton, in company with Senator Cox, I met a young Scotsman, who has been in Australia for twelve months, and during that time’, although he has been working, he has been unsuccessful in securing land. He was of a desirable type, and is pre- pared to invest £1,500 of his own money. He is also willing to bring his wife and four children here if he can secure land. He is an ex-service mau, and came to Australia under the impression that he would be entitled to the same consideration as is shown to returned soldiers. He was influenced to coane to Australia because of the information contained in pamphlets circulated by the immigration authorities in Great Britain, but he now finds that he cannot take advantage of the provision for assisting Imperial ex-service men.
– What provision has been made for assisting Imperial ex-service men?
– I understood that they were to receive similar consideration to that extended to our own returned soldiers. This man is an experienced farm “worker, and, as he also has a knowledge of dairying and rural work generally, should be of the type we require.
– The laws of New South Wales prohibit him from securing land.
– I do not know where the responsibility lies, but there must be something radically wrong if a desirable settler with capital cannot secure land on which to settle. In New South Wales there are quite a number of people who are wanting land and are unable to ge,t it. I recently told Sir Joseph Carruthers, who is talking about n million farms, that I knew a man in New , South Wales who could not obtain one and Sir Joseph assured me that there were 200 or 300 men in similar circumstances. It is a serious matter that numbers of families, who have come out as immigrants, are returning to Great Britain under the impression that conditions in the Old Country are better than they are in Australia.
– Most of them are tourists.
– No; I was amazed, when paying a visit to England in 19 Iti, to find that the third-class passengers on the Osterley largely comprised women and children. There were also some ammunition workers returning to London, but the majority of the passengers were dissatisfied with the conditions in Australia.
– There was no scarcity of work in Australia then.
– The men told me that they had been able to get work, but their wives had become homesick.
– There i3 no cure for that.
– No; but I am speaking of the difficulties in connexion with immigration. A tremendous amount of organization is needed. It seems strange that we should be talking only of bringing out farm labourers and people intending to settle on the land. Is not an engineer an asset to this country ? I was speaking in this building a few days ago to a man I knew in the Old Country, who is in the carpentry business, and he told me he had great difficulty in engaging carpenters.
– If he will pay their fare, I can send him a few from the other States.
– Why should we limit immigration to farmers and agricultural workers? We are imposing taxation to the extent of about £30,000,000 a year through the Customs to develop our secondary industries; yet it is suggested that we should not allow people to come out from the Old Country to assist in the expansion of those industries.
– We do not want any more people in the cities. We need decentralization.
– I was present at a welcome in Sydney recently to some of Dr. Barnardo’s boys, and 1 remember the Governor advising them not to remain in the cities, but to take up country life.
– What did the Millions Club have to say to that ? Does it not aim at 1,000,000 people for Sydney?
– No. My contention is that Australia needs more people, and that immigration should not be confined to folks -who will go on the land.
– What we need is fifty-two baby weeks in the year.
– I .quite agree that the best immigrants for us are the nativeborn. I have great faith in Australia. If the money required for immigration were raised from revenue rather than from loan, we would have “equally as good work accomplished, and I think the money would be more economically expended.
. -The amount of £162,000 set down for immigration is quite insufficient. Australia’s most pressing need to-day is in- « creased population, and more money should be spent on the necessary propaganda work.
– Would you spend the money out of loan funds ?
– Yes ; because if we get the right kind of population for
Australia it will be the best investment we can have. I am an optimist regarding the possibilities of the Commonwealth. Having travelled abroad on more than one occasion, I have been brought to realize more fully the enormous heritage that has been handed down to us. This huge, rich, empty continent, with its handful of 5,500,000 people, cannot be defended by its present inhabitants, seeing that we are surrounded by coloured races numbering 1,100,000,000. I would like to see a vast sum of money spent on immigration. One of the most important problems of the Empire to-day isthe redistribution of our white population. The British Isles are undoubtedly overcrowded, and unemployment is rife there. In this farflung outpost of the Empire we have magnificent opportunities, and as a member of the Committee of the New Settlers League I feel that there is scope for splendid work. Sir Joseph Carruthers’ scheme, while, perhaps, a little overoptimistic, is a very worthy one. It is a good fault to think in a broad Imperialistic way. People coming to Australia have an opportunity to add to the stability of the nation from the defence point of view, and to add to the productivity of the Empire, while there is no limit to their opportunities for personal advancement. I do not agree that immigration should be confined to agricultural labourers and farmers. I visited the Commonwealth Immigration Office this morning, and was told that 1,000 farm labourers could be placed to-day if they were available. I was, myself, endeavouring to secure the services of farm labourers, but I was unsuccessful. We do not want to confine our immigration scheme to farmers and farm labourers by any means. I have had practical experience, and I know what I am saying. A little while ago, I visited a number of the closer settlement blocks in the Western District of Victoria, and found that two of the most prosperous settlers were men who had come out of a softgoods shop in Bourke-street. It is quite wrong, therefore, to say that the only immigrants we want are farmers or farm labourers. Any industrious man with a decent headpiece and some business ability can make a success of life wherever he is placed if he is determined to do so.
– Do they still keep their business going in the city?
– No; they are now dairy farming in our Western District. It is true they had a good business training, and keep their books well. They can tell you how much their milk is costing to produce, and at the end of the year can say exactly what their net profits are, whereas men with no business training are apt to drop into slipshod methods, and perhaps fail.
– Probably the men you refer to were well equipped with capital at the outset.
– They were not; that is, so far as their own capital is concerned. But, like all returned soldiers, they were pretty well equipped, because, generally speaking, the Federal Government are treating returned soldiers very well, and these two men are returned soldiers. I agree, of course, that it is no use bringing into this country people who are prepared only to hang about the cities. Australia is in a different position from many other countries in the world. We depend upon the export of our primary products almost entirely, and I must say that no country in the world is more richly endowed ‘by Nature to produce these commodities than Australia. I have recently been studying the latest population statistics, issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Statistics, and I have been impressed by the alarming drift that is taking place to the cities. For this I blame the legislation passed by the present and former Governments, both Federal and State. Our legislation has never been sympathetic enough towards those who are engaged in developing this Commonwealth. As Senator Newland pointed out yesterday, the people out back have no facilities for transport and no comforts, whereas the city dwellers have every imaginable luxury and convenience, including doctors, chemists, hospitals, telephones, theatres, football and cricket, picture shows, daily mail, papers, ice, electric light, sea bathing, fresh foods, and everything that goes to make life attractive to them. Our city dwellers are spoonfed and coddled altogether too much. Not sufficient consideration has been, or is being, shown in legislation to our pioneers who, after all, are the people that deserve the most encouragement. Something must be radically wrong to cause this trend of population to the cities. I find that 50.05 per cent. of the total population of Victoria, which, after all, is the garden State of the Commonwealth, is in Melbourne. During the last ten years, the increase in the metropolitan population has been 30.14 per cent., showing clearly enough that the drift from rural districts to the city of Melbourne has been very substantial. This is because in the city wages are higher, and conditions are more comfortable. ‘Compare the lot of women living in Melbourne with that of the women out-back, even in this small State. They have free hospitals, doctors, chemists, electric light, fresh milk, fresh butter, and the best of everything ; whereas women in the newly-settled portions of this State are denied most, if not all, of these comforts. This week I visited the returned soldiers’ settlement on the Trawalla Estate, which was resumed by the Government some time ago, and has been converted from wool-growing to other forms of production. I am afraid it is not going to be much of a success. Formerly the land was being made the best use of in producing the world’s highest grade of merino sheep and wool. So far, the returned soldiers settled there have not been able to erect proper homes, with the result that they and their wives are living in what, in some instances, are practically hovels consisting of a few sheets of galvanized iron. I shall be sorry for them when the hot weather comes. We want to do all we can to get the people of this country on to the land. I can see many avenues of profitable production if the work is properly -undertaken. Fruitgrowing is not one of them. I am. afraid we have overdone that industry, for the present at all events; but there are limitless possibilities with regard to the production of wool. Instead of 80,000 growers producing our 2,000,000 bales of wool per annum, I should like to see double that number engaged in the industry. We can produce a lot more wool if we go about the business in the right way. The whole world wants this product, and in normal times it wants our beef and mutton, too. At present, it is true, there is a glut in beef and mutton overseas, due to huge war supplies accumulating in London, and Brazilian beef being sent there; but in wool, wheat, butter, and cheese, production is capable of enormous and profitable expansion. We do not export anything like the quantity of butter and cheese that New Zealand does’, and in normal times this is a very profitable and desirable industry. This drift of population to our cities is, as I have stated, largely due to the character of our legislation.
– How are you going to stop it?
– We may stop it by making the lot of the men and women on the land more comfortable, and, if possible, attractive. We can help them by spending money on the conservation and distribution of water, on the building of railways and roads, and the construction of telegraph and telephone facilities.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens)..Order! I point out to the honorable senator that these matters are State activities and do not come within the purview of this Parliament. Therefore, anything more than passing reference to them is not relevant to this debate.
– Very well, Mr. President, I shall confine my remarks, as far as possible to the question of immigration, and the drift of population from the country districts to our metropolitan areas. During the ten years 1911 to 1921 the population of Melbourne increased by 30.14 per cent., while the provincial population, which in 1911 was 12.24 per cent., increased by only 4.28 per cent., and the rural population, which in 1911 was 37.33 per cent., increased by only 5.50 per cent.
– All this expenditure on immigration is not warranted without the co-operation of the States in the construction of roads, railways, and other, necessary works.
– We do want the cordial co-operation of all the States. This is the biggest question, in my opinion, that is before the Governments of Australia at the present time. It is of no use spending money out of loans to induce people to come to Australia, unless we have co-ordination and some settled policy with -the object of keeping new-comers usefully occupied, either as employees or producers. That can and must be done.
– During the period to which you refer, when the population of Melbourne was increasing, were there many unemployed in this city?
– There are always a certain number of the so-called unemployed in Melbourne as well as in other cities of the Commonwealth, but at the same time farmers cannot get their hay stooked. In the vast majority of cases these men are unemployed because they are unemployable. I have already told honorable senators that Mr. Whitehead, the Director of the Immigration Bureau in Melbourne, informed me to-day that he could place 1,000 men this week, if he could get them, in country jobs haymaking and stacking, wheat harvesting, and fruit gathering. Unfortunately, very few men are coming forward for this work, and as for domestics, well, it is out of the question to look for that class of help. In New South Wales 42.82 per cent. of the population is in Sydney. During the last ten years the increase in the metropolitan population has been no less than 42.83 per cent., whereas in the provincial cities the increase has been 24.42 per cent., and of the rural population only 13.10 per oent. This is a very serious state of affairs.
– Queensland shows up best in the distribution of population.
– No, strange to say, Tasmania presents the best figures. The position in South Australia is even worse than in Victoria, because 51.58 per cent. of the population of that State are in Adelaide, and the increase in the metropolitan population during the last ten years has been 34.71 per cent., whilst the provincial increase has been only 17.33 per cent., and the increase in the rural population only 7.94 per cent. Little Tasmania, I was rather surprised to find, is in a much better position. The metropolitan population in that State is only 24.50 per cent., the provincial population is 22.98 per cent., and the rural population 52.22. It is the only State in the Commonwealth with a rural, anywhere approximating the city, populations. But even in Tasmania, there is a drift of the people from the country to the metro- polis, as shown by the increase of 31.18 per cent. in the metropolitan population as compared with an increase of 1.14 per cent. in the provincial and 10.60 per cent. in the rural centres for the past ten years.
– Are the people of country towns included in those figures relating to the provincial population?
– They are. In Victoria ‘the population of such cities as Bendigo, Ballarat, and Geelong and other big centres are included. The tendency everywhere,1 honorable senators will notice, is for the people to drift to the capital cities of the Commonwealth, for the reason already given, that the conditions there being more comfortable, and in most cases, I regret to say, more profitable, in every respect than in the country. I want to impress on the Government the need to spend money not only on immigration, but on water conservation and the opening up of our Crown lands. I have studied carefully Sir Joseph Carruthers’ comprehensive scheme of immigration. Whilst, perhaps, it may be on the optimistic side and not be quite practical in every respect, still, I think, we must do something along the lines suggested. There is still belonging to the Crown an enormous area of land which by some means should be made available to prospective immigrants. It is a great mistake to suppose that the bulk of this Crown land is not fertile. There is a vast area capable of growing wheat, with a rainfall of 10 inches in the growing period. I had taken the trouble to deal with this aspect of land settlement rather fully, but as I did not expect to be speaking this morning I have not the figures with me. I may mention, however, that out of a totalarea of 2,974,851 square miles in Australia, we have only 20,810 square miles under cultivation, and we are practically surrounded, as I have previously stated, by hundreds and hundreds of millions of coloured people, who are jostling one another for elbow room.
– How do you propose cultivating land away from the coastline?
– My honorable friend is quite wrong in assuming that land except in the already settled areas, is not capable of cultivation. It is not so very long ago sincethere was a controversy in Parliament and in the metropolitan press of this State as to whether our Mallee country was worth saving. What has been done there in recent years is, I think, a splendid object lesson. I can speak on this subject with some authority, because we were pioneers in the Mallee, long before there were any facilities such as are now provided. To-day there is an efficient water system for the conservation of water for stock and domestic use. The whole country, is honeycombed with, water channels for hundreds of miles. We sold land in the Mallee at £d. per acre, which was recently sold at £6 an acre. In my short life I have seen millions of acres of thick, dense scrub, which was full of wild dogs and rabbits, and would not feed a sheep to the square mile, turned into a smiling, prosperous province of this State, and producing millions of bushels of wheat.
– But that can only be done by the conservation of water.
– My honorable friend is wrong in thinking there is irrigation. There is no irrigation at all in the Mallee. It is a very dry area.
– The State has, I understand, provided water for the settlers.
– That is so. It was quite impossible to settle the Mallee without the conservation and distribution of water. Water is still being conserved, and it is a policy that I would like to see vastly extended towards the interior of Australia. My honorable friend has said that the lands which Sir Joseph Carruthers has detailed in his scheme are not suitable for wheat-growing. They are probably better lands than those in the Mallee. The prosperity of the Mallee today is one of the most pleasing developments that have occurred in my life-time. I knew the Mallee when it was a howling, useless wilderness, producing wild dogs, noxious weeds, and rabbits. Now it is producing food for the people, and I hope that a big population will settle there. There are, in Australia, millions of acres of land as good as the land in the Mallee, and closer to big water supplies. There is the land on the north side of the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers - millions of acres, with a natural rainfall as good, during the wheat-growing period, as there is in the Mallee. Sir Joseph Carruthers sets out in his scheme, and I think we can take his statement as correct, that there is in Australia an enormous area with a sufficient rainfall to produce cereal crops. What country in the world produces better fat lambs or better mutton than the Mallee? There are any number of farms carrying a sheep to the acre on land which formerly did not carry a sheep to the square mile. »
Money should be spent in reproductive work, such as the opening up of country, the provision of roads, railways, telephone and telegraph lines, and mail services, and the conservation of water. I do not care how much the Government borrows to spend on such national and reproductive works ; but I am against the spending of a farthing on the Federal Capital and such’ non-reproductive works. I do not speak about that project in any parochial way. I urge the Government to spend plenty of money on immigration, whether they get it out of loan funds or not. Everything possible should be done to make the lot of the people out-back profitable and comfortable. Although we cannot control the world’s markets, if we increase the population of this country that will create a big home market, which is the best market of all. To spend loan money to bring people .to this country would be a magnificent investment for the .Commonwealth. Australia wants people to develop and defend this country, and to bear the burden of taxation. When we have 5,500,000 people trying to develop and ‘defend a huge continent like Australia, with its 12,000 miles of coast line, the burden of taxation must be heavy. As a matter of fact, we are not providing for the defence of Australia. The Defence Estimates have been cut down beyond all reason. Any man must know that we cannot continue to hold this continent for all time with 5,500,000 people, when there are hundreds of millions of people all around us looking for land and a place in the sun. Furthermore, we have no right to hold a vast, mighty continent like this with a mere handful of population.
– That doctrine is not preached often enough in this country.
– That is so. The legislation of Commonwealth and States in the past has played up to city dwellers, who have been coddled, over-protected, and spoon-fed, while the man outback has had to battle the best he could. Insufficient attention is given to providing for the comfort and prosperity of the real backbone of the country - th.6 primary producers.
– I feel, as I am sure all other honorable senators do, that the question of immigration is not only of great importance, but of ‘deep interest. I make that apology, if one is needed, for addressing a few observations to the Chamber at this juncture. I want first to stress a point that Senator Thomas made, namely, that a man who points out difficulties with a view to securing their removal, cannot fairly or honestly be regarded as an opponent of immigration. Yet, unfortunately, the tendency is, when one gets up to point out that there are certain obstacles in the way, and difficulties to be overcome, to assume that one is an anti-immigrationist. It is rather irritating, when one comes forward, anxious to remove difficulties that lie in the way of the immigration movement, and says that unless something is done to remove those difficulties the movement will become shipwrecked, to be told that one is actuated by motives that do not operate. The problems of immigration are not going to be solved by shutting our eyes to difficulties, by the mere reiteration of such phrases as “ filling up our empty spaces,” or by talking of “ the evil of congested cities.” That sort of thing does not help at all. Whenever this subject is discussed nine-tenths of the time is occupied in stating ‘those things to which everybody subscribes. If we are, as I believe everybody is, genuinely anxious to evolve a sound immigration policy, we ought to make up our minds what it is that stands in the road, and, having done that, to see what steps can be taken to remove the difficulties. I would like to add that, in my opinion, there is one thing that would be more fatal to Australia than the absence of an immigration policy, and that would be the initiation of an immigration scheme that was bound to fail. Without an immigration policy people would, by degrees, be attracted to Australia of their own volition ; but if we were to start, on a scale of any magnitude, an immigration policy that broke down, Australia would carry a very heavy burden in the prejudice that would be created in the minds of those who were invited to come here. Australia to-day is suffering, and has suffered for years, from the fact that our immigration has been too haphazard. Men have come here, lured by more or less vague promises, given by more or less ill-informed people, and they have been disappointed. That does Australia no good. It would be infinitely better to let the men drift here, than to inaugurate a scheme for bringing people here for whom we have made no adequate provision. Senator Guthrie spoke of Euro- pean propaganda. That propaganda is not necessary, in my judgment. The trouble is not at the other end. The immigrant does not want any capturing. I was, as honorable senators know, in London when the new system of immigration was inaugurated, and I can affirm, as a matter of fact, that Australia, by holding up its hands in England, can get all the men, and more than all the men, that it can safely ship and accommodate at the present juncture.
– Why does not the Government get them ?
– I am going to show why I consider that it would be something in the nature of a tragedy to get them, unless proper provision were made for them in Australia.
- Mr. Whitehead told me this- morning that a thousand men were wanted for work in the country, and that he could not get them.
– If Victoria can place a thousand farm labourers in work, all it has to do is to request the Commonwealth Government to provide them, and the Government, through its London organization, will be able to get them. I am prepared to believe Mr. Whitehead’s, statement; it is not in conflict with mine. I am speaking of the danger of bringing out men for whom we have made no preparation. If there are a thousand vacancies for farm labourers in Victoria, and a thousand men are brought out to fill them, there is provision for them. The men are going into settled positions at once, and they would be a considerable asset to Australia, and an advantage to those employing them. The difficulty of making provision for immigrants arises chiefly in connexion with land settlement. I am not going to enter very deeply into the question of whether we ought or ought not to secure farm labourers or land settlers. Obviously they are most desirable, and if we can look after that section of immigrants, I believe the other section will look after themselves. Honorable senators may talk of the disproportion of the populations in the city and country, but the proportions, in my judgment, are not going to be disturbed, whatever the Government may do. If . 500,000 men were brought out and settled on farms, there would, automatically, be a corresponding, or at least some, increase in the town population. It is as well to .recognise that vast changes have occurred in recent years in the methods of rural production. Half the work of the farm is now done in the towns. I am old enough, I arn sorry to say, to have seen an army of men go into a wheat field working with scythes. To-day, instead of thirty or forty men following each other, wielding that useful but dangerous weapon, there are two or three men on a harvester. Some of the mar displaced ave employed in the Sunshine Harvester Works and other factories. This cry about decentralization indicates what is at the bottom of a lot of the criticism about the congested metropolitan cities. Those who speak like that are not against the proportion of town workers; they are willing, to-morrow, to see another factory set up in their own. country towns. It is not the town worker that they object to, but they want the town worker to be put in their own towns. There is no sense in blinding our eyes to the reality of the case. I am trying to distinguish between the demand for decentralization and what is called “ excessive town population.” People use these terms interchangeably, and wrongly. Men who come forward and point with scorn to the percentage of people who live in the towns do not, if they analyze their opinions, really object to the percentage of town workers. What they object to is that so many of the workers are in the metropolitan area, and so few in the country towns. Those very people are amongst the most active in creating industries in their own towns.
– The metropolitan cities are too big already.
– Here is a statement that “ the metropolitan cities are too big.” Somehow, it is assumed that they have grown too big because people wanted to live in them. That is absolute nonsense. A man cannot live in a place because he wants to, unless the capacity for earning a living is there. That the big cities are able to employ their people is shown by the fact that, taking one year with another, there is rarely a greater excess of unemployed in the cities than in the country districts. The reason why the big cities are so big is not because people want to live in them, but because, owing to the conditions of the country, the cities have been able to offer more favorable opportunities for profitable employment. Why do people establishing a factory to supply the needs of farmers start it in Melbourne rather than in the middle of a farming district? The reason is that there are to-day connected with manufacturing processes certain factors that are essential to success. One is a big turnover. If you want cheap production you must work on a large scale. The day of the little shop has gone by. To-day the big factory, mass production, and continuity of effort, are essential to success. A man starts a factory in Melbourne, not because he desires to live in a big city - he would live in a desert if he could make money there - but because Melbourne affords him better facilities for carrying on his business and for the distribution of his products than he would have in a rural district. Men start factories in a metropolis because it pays them to do so, and it will be so until we can further develop the business of the country districts. Men will not start factories in country towns in anticipation of what they may grow to be twenty years hence. If we can. do something to increase the farming population we shall, at the same time, offer greater inducements to business men to settle in provincial towns.
That brings me back to my original statement, that we should look after the land settlers, and the other settlers will look after themselves. I <have said that it seems to me that it would be the blunder which is worse than a crime, to attempt to bring out big bodies of men until we have made some preparation to receive them. Senator Guthrie has given the Senate an interesting and lucid description of the development of the Mallee. But that did not take place in a day.
– It took place in twenty or thirty years.
– Exactly. But we cannot bring immigrants from the Old Country and then tell them that we are engaged in a process of development which may be complete in twenty years’ time.
– We must prepare the land for them.
– That is my point. We must do something by way of preparation, and it cannot be done in a haphazard or piecemeal fashion. We must evolve some policy which will enable us to make preliminary preparation for the land settlement of immigrants.
– -We could settle 20,000 at Yanko.
– I shall deal with that later. We must place ourselves in a position to look intending immigrants squarely in the face and say to them, “ If you come out to Australia we can guarantee you a Mock of land.” We cannot say that to-day. Senator Thomas referred to a newcomer he met who was in possession of good health, certain family appendages, and some money, who was unable to get a block of land.
– That is a crime.
– It is; but it is not as bad as it looks. I could find a block of land for that man to-morrow. The trouble with many of the immigrants is that, coming from English farming districts, they are looking for English farms. A young relative of mine, of whose existence I was not aware, blew into my office the other day and told me that, while he admitted I was not responsible for it, I happened to be his uncle. He was out here looking for land, and I took steps to place him in touch with land officials in this State. He went to look at some land, and on returning said to me, “ I had a look at it, but I do not like it.” When I asked “Why?” he said, “It looks to me to be exposed.” I asked whether he was thinking of the climate of England or of Canada, where he had had some experience, or that of Australia. The fact is that he was looking at the land with English eyes. The gentleman to whom Senator Thomas referred, when taken to see a block of land, probably found it totally different from anything of which he had knowledge. If he cannot see a block which fills the picture he has in his mind, he is not disposed to put his money into it. We cannot help that, and sooner or later, no doubt, this gentleman will find a suitable block.
– In any case, an immigrant farmer would be wise to work for wages for a time.
– I think so too. I could find blocks, and Crown blocks, too, in New South Wales, for intending settlers. There are some blocks in this State awaiting settlement by returned soldiers, and yet there are returned soldiers who say that they are waiting for blocks. The fact is that men do not see ablock that suits them, and they become dissatisfied.
– The man to whom I referred could not get a block.
– Senator Cox has said that he could get a block at Yanko.
– He has been to Yanko, and I have in my pocket a letter from Mr. Dunne, Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, to say that he was unable to place this man on land at Yanko.
– My information is quite different. I must admit that there are conditions under which land is obtainable at Yanko which can be taken advantage of only by our own returned soldiers.
– Would the Government consider the making of conditions for Imperial ex-service men somewhat similar to those offered to members of the Australian Imperial Force?
– May I suggest that there is a primary obligation to our own men.
– So long as they will take the land.
– Until we meet that obligation we should be very slow about making indiscriminate promises, even to our cousins from the Old Country.
Senator Guthrie made one remark which appealed to me very much, because it indicated that his mind is running in a direction that I have been following, and that he holds views with which I entirely concur. He suggested the need for fresh forms of rural production, which in Australia has become rather stereotyped. There are three or four main lines of production universally followed, and we have reached a time when in connexion with land settlement some consideration should be given to the need for taking up new forms of production. Australia is capable of growing something more than is being grown here to-day. I could mention half-a-dozen forms of rural pro- auction which have so far not been touched. I admit that there are some difficulties to be overcome. When a man is asked to start a new industry or a new form of carrying on an old one, he hesitates to be the pioneer who will open up the new furrow, and we cannot blame him. There is a tradition that the pioneer goes down. When you say to a man, “ There is the old beaten track, but here is a new one,” he will probably reply “ I know the old beaten track, and I know that others have followed it with success,” and he will prefer tackling that to throwing everything into the lap of chance by starting some new undertaking. Apart from the initial difficulty of making land available, there is a need for the initiation of new forms of rural production, and in this direction the Governments, both Federal and State, might render good service. Before, in this Chamber, I indicated - with results that were a great disappointment to myself - an industry which Australian settlers might follow with very great advantage. I refer to the pig industry. In Australia to-day pigs are practically by-products of the dairying and wheat industries, but in America whole counties are devoted entirely to the raising of hogs, as we raise sheep, and the growing of crops for their maintenance. The importations into England from Denmark alone of products of the pig industry ran into millions of pounds in the year before the war. Out exports of the products of the pig industry are negligible. They represent about as much as we import, but the capacity of the world to consume bacon and other pig products is as great as its capacity to consume other foods.
– We have not as many pigs in the Commonwealth to-day as we had ten years ago.
– They have four tunes as many in Canada as we have.
– I am convinced that the pig industry would be a most profitable industry in Australia. I have asked many men why they did not tackle it, and their answer has been, “ Can you show me anybody in Australia entirely engaged in producing pigs and growing crops to feed them?”
– The market has never been organized.
– That ,is one difficulty. A man will say to me, “ If I go into this business, where is my mar ket? If I enter upon the business the next man to me engaged in it is too far away to justify the establishment of a local factory.” All these difficulties must be overcome by organization, and this is a part of the preparation which the Government should make before inviting immigrants to come here to occupy our land.
– I am glad to hear the Minister refer to the pig industry, because, when I urged the same thing in the Tasmanian Parliament three years ago, I was laughed at.
– I put a proposition on the subject before the Governments of the States. I proposed that if the State Governments would make available sufficient areas of suitable land for hog farms the Commonwealth Government might find the money to establish factories. My proposal went further, and included a guarantee for the first few years of a minimum price for hogs delivered at the factories. It was also proposed that as the men raising the hogs got on their feet they would take the factories over. That scheme was submitted to the State Governments, but it was turned down. I mention the pig industry as one of the many openings available to settlers on the land to-day.
There is just one other matter to which I should like to refer. Senator Thomas mentioned the fact that a very greatnumber of men were returning home on some vessel that he visited. When I was journeying to England recently, I was appalled to see the third class accommodation crowded with people going to England at a time when it was part of my mission to ask people in England to come to Australia. There were on board the vessel with me some gentlemen who were going to England in connexion with the immigration proposals. I suggested to one of them that he should go amongst the third class passengers and find out why they were returning to the Old Country. He did so, and amongst other things he did was to offer a small prize for the best essay on Australia and the prospects of successful settlement in the Commonwealth. After this gentle- man had been amongst the third class passengers for a few days, he found that many were men who were married to English wives, who had never become acclimatised. They had been here for a little time, but they had come from better equipped homes than are available to the working classes in this country, and they were dissatisfied. They had not been here long enough to form new .friends, and they hungered for their old ones. They were largely responsible for the determination of their husbands to return to the Old Country. Then it was discovered that there was another class, which was a revelation to me, comprising a considerable percentage of the third class passengers who were going home for a trip. It surprised me to find so many men, each with a wife and three ox four children, going to England and paying their expenses merely for a trip.
– That shows how good this country is.
– I was going to say that I appreciated the fact that so large a percentage of the third class passengers should be people who had been out here for a time, and had done so well that they were able to make a run home to the Old Country. The number of this class was possibly swollen by the fact that such trips had ceased for a number of years, and there was, perhaps, a rush of those who were taking advantage of the first opportunity to renew such trips. Apart from these there was a section of returned soldiers, and I was very anxious to find out why they should be going away from Australia. I do- not assert that the remark I am about to make applied to them all, but I venture to say that from 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, of these were young men going back, because, when they left England, employment was so brisk. During the war period, they had their canteens, and a good deal was made of Australian soldiers. They were thinking of the pleasant times they had had abroad - not when fighting - and of the good things which they imagined were awaiting them. Another section comprised men who were returning to Great Britain, believing that the Australian Government would, if necessary, pay their passages back. The Australian Government had already brought them home once, and many of them thought that, in the event of their anticipations and desires not being fulfilled, it would be only a matter of visiting Australia House, and a free passage to the Commonwealth would be given them. Some of those men who were on the vessel on which I journeyed to England were, even before I left London, tapping at the door of Australia House and asking for a free passage to Australia. They did not find conditions in Great Britain as pleasant as when they left ; business was not brisk, and employers were not seeking workers as they had been some time earlier. Unemployment was rampant, and generally the conditions were anything but what the men anticipated. It was then that they turned their hearts and thoughts lovingly towards this gnat southern land,- and desired to return ; but the only difficulty was in getting the passage money, and they sought the help of the Commonwealth Government to remove that disability. There were certainly a few disgruntled immigrants; the percentage was negligible, but it wa3 that small percentage, as is usually the case, which did all the talking. They were loud in their denunciation of the manner in which they had been treated ; but I believe that if they had remained here sufficiently long to become acclimatised they would have made useful citizens. As it was, however, I do not think it can be said that Australia lost in the bargain. From inquiries I was able to make, there did not appear to be the slightest justification for the glaring headlines which appeared in many of our Australian papers, and the answers given by many as to their reasons for leaving Australia were quite satisfactory. I do not think there is any reason to believe that there is a genuine desire on the part of immigrants to leave Australia, or that there is likely to be an extensive flow of people from the Commonwealth. When once they are here and learn what the country is like, a large majority of them wish to remain.
What I wish to stress is this: I do not think we can bring men and women out here in large numbers until we first of all establish a proper organization and start some scheme for their reception on arrival. That is the underlying idea - honorable senators may differ with me in detail - and by an arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the States, new districts could be opened up and developed, and land surveyed into blocks so that holdings would be available for rural settlers when they came here. It will be necessary, I presume, in some instances, for men to pass through an intermediate school of some kind to enable them to become acquainted with Australian conditions ; but later, they will be able to occupy and work the block on which they desire to settle. I regard that as an essential undertaking in bringing people to Australia. There should not be the necessity to look round for land in an endeavour to see where we can place them. The scheme should be organized and handled in such a way that land will be available on their arrival. If a man requires land, we should be able to show him where he can get it, and, in some instances, nurse him until he is able to take up and work a suitable block. All this involves money. I am not able to adopt the optimistic attitude of Sir Joseph Carruthers, who believes that we can settle 1,000,000 farmers for £30,000,000. We cannot establish them for £30 per man, because, before undeveloped land can be properly settled, roads and railways have to be constructed, surveys completed, and water made available. Can that be done without money? Should we not make some provision for helping men, even when they have taken up their holdings? Many would require financial assistance; and all this would involve a much heavier expenditure than Sir Joseph Carruthers mentioned.
– It would require £1,000 for each farmer.
– According to my reading of his pamphlet, I do not think Sir Joseph Carruthers meant that the amount mentioned would be sufficient to firmly establish them on their farms.
– Then what is the £30,000,000 for?
– To give the work a start. Sir Joseph Carruthers’ scheme was to cover a period of twenty years, and he suggested the expenditure of only a couple of million pounds in the first year.
– Then it would have been better if he had been quite frank and said that the amount he mentioned covered only promoting charges.I have no quarrel with Sir Joseph Carruthers, and I do not wish to interfere with his efforts to encourage immigration; but we must make up our minds not to induce settlers to come here until the organization is on such a satis factory basis that we shall be able to handle them, and generally assist in the initial years of their enterprise. It is the intention of the Government to provide reasonable sums for carrying out their immigration policy ; and if it is found that the amount on the Estimates is insufficient because the work is proceeding at a greater rate than was anticipated, I have no doubt - although I have not consulted my colleagues on the matter - that, if the necessity arises, the Government will,without hesitation, ask Parliament to supplement the amount for which they now seek approval.
– Although the discussion has been somewhat extended, I think it can be conceded that it has not been unprofitable. If I have correctly analyzed the provisions of this measure, I do not think the Government can be accused, in this instance, of acting extravagantly, because the Minister (Senator Russell) stated that £3,000,000 is to be expended in the redemption of Treasury-bonds, and approximately £3,000,000 towards ship construction. If that is the position, it leaves only about £2,000,000 to be expended on public works, which is equal to about 8s. or 10s. per head of our population.
– The Bill is for a sum of £8,370,000, but there are several cross entries.
– There is £3,000,000 for redemption of Treasury-bonds.
– That is so.
– That has to be applied to the payment of debts, and is, therefore, not available for public works.
– It cannot be spent twice.
– ‘Exactly. If one has a debt of £1, and he borrows £1 to meet the liability, he is not any better off. Varying standards have been put forward over a number of years to guide Parliament and the public in connexion with the expenditure of loan moneys. Some are on a conservative basis, and others of a lavish nature, and money has been spent in accordance with the standard of the time. In one instance, a State Government purchased crockery out of loan moneys for entertaining tourists, but most of it was broken shortly after. As a striking contrast, I may mention tEe Coolgardie Water Scheme - although it is in the State I represent - where a heavysinking fund was established, with the result that the entire debt has been liquidated. The practice established in connexion with the Coolgardie Water Scheme is out; which should be followed by all Governments in expending loan moneys on reproductive public works. A large sum has been allotted to ship construction; but I do not know whether we are entitled to spend £3,000,000, even on the completion of certain works, without considering the whole position very carefully and realizing that the life of a ship does not extend beyond twenty-five or thirty years. Unless the money to be appropriated for the construction of ships is to be accompanied by a substantial sinking fund, I do not think it is right, to call upon posterity to pay for an asset which, iu twenty-five years, may be obsolete.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand (Mr. Massey), in a very informative statement which should be read by all honorable senators, said that the loans raised in New Zealand for war purposes amounted to £60,000,000, and that they had been accompanied by a 1 per cent, sinking fund, which had been invested in such a way that it was returning 4-1 per cent, interest, and within forty years the entire indebtedness of New Zealand would be repaid. The raising of money to prosecute a war for the defence of a country is, of course, of a vastly different character; but the Government should, in connexion with the building of ships, establish a substantial sinking fund in order to be able to recoup the capital expenditure within twenty-five years, when these ships will be obsolete.
– A depreciation account already exists in connexion with the shipping branch.
– That is getting down to business, and provides a means for recouping the capital expenditure. If this and other public works are carried out on a proper basis, confidence will be created in the minds of those who wish to invest money in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– Although there are many standards by which loan expenditure is to be judged, the one that will bear the test of scrutiny, as well as time, is that which requires every loan proposition to be accompanied by such adequate means of repayment as will not overburden posterity to any undue extent. Immigration does seem, at first blush, to be an uncalled for means of spending loan moneys;. but by adding thrifty men and women to our population, we shall be giving the Commonwealth a very valuable asset. The value of a young, able-bodied man has been variously estimated by economists, and some have put his worth down at £300. A man at the age of twenty years should, normally, be able to earn £4 per week, and if he is thrifty, and has not given way to the insane tendency of the present day not to put money by for a rainy day, he ought to save at least £100 a year; so in thirty years’ time the investment would amount to £3,000. The introduction of good workers, such as can be obtained from the Old Country, would mean a great asset to Australia, and it would repay the cost of bringing them here. The sum spent in bringing such people here would be a sound and profitable investment. The opponents of the Government’s immigration policy in the other House are largely, if not exclusively, members of the Labour party, but that party was not always of that view.
When the Labour party in Western Australia was young, and had not lost its head, it set down some £12,500 out of the slender resources of that State for assisting immigration. That was over seventeen years ago, and it was done by a Labour Government of which, I am glad to say, I was a supporter. The population of Western Australia was then less than 250,000. Compared with what was done in that State at that time, the Commonwealth Government, if it were alive to the necessity of the times, would now be voting at least £250,000 for immigration.
Failure to promote immigration means running the risk of losing our hold on this country. The spread of population follows but one inevitable law. Whenever population within a given area’ finds that area unable to sustain it, if it is able to command and muster sufficient force, history shows that it will make an entrance into richer lands more capable of sustaining it. If Australia were not protected by the power of Britain, this continent would be an open prey to the nations surrounding it. There is nothing like a little spice of personal experience in all our sayings, and even at the expense of being considered egotistical or wanting in taste, let me state what happened to me in my early days. I landed in Queensland thirty-four or thirty-five years ago, at a time when the introduction of immigrants was on the basis of 13,000 people per annum, and they were mostly, if not entirely from Great Britain. That was the average rate of immigration between 1S76 and 1890. Thirty years later we find the present Government cautiously estimates an inflow of not more than 12,000 to 20,000 immigrants, although our resources have vastly increased, and our secondary industries have expanded. Oar vacant lands are still capable of giving employment to willing men, but we are only fiddling with this vital question. When we find the Government lending itself to such a timid attitude, it is time every honorable senator asserted himself in an attempt to stiffen this Government into a robust policy of immigration.
– The Commonwealth Government cannot control the land.
– Fictitious objections of that sort count for nothing. When Australia absorbed 13,000 immigrants a year between* 1876 and 1890, surely it can double those figures to-day! When I arrived in Queensland,. I had to look for a job, and I secured one on a farm at 15s. a week. It was a very much better life than I had left, and that is why I prized the opportunity which this country afforded me. Why should we coddle the immigrants? Let them, go and fish for themselves a little. We can spoil people by giving them too much attention. There are some immigrants who should not have a penny spent on them. A couple of ex-Imperial Service men went on my farm. They were slow at turning up for breakfast, and the explanation, given was that they were shaving!. They thought they were to ride around on horseback at £5 or £6 a week and look at other folks working. Needless to say, I soon undeceived them. These are the able-bodied Britons we are asked to em ploy. A better selection needs to be made. The wages are from 40s. to 70s. per week and keep.
– Very good.
– It is far too good for some of them, because they do not earn it. The Government’s coddling policy is being overdone, and that attitude is being adopted for no other than political considerations. I put an advertisement in the newspapers in Western Australia asking for men to clear 200 acres of land, and stated that good wages could be earned. Three men responded to the advertisement, and they wanted to know how far the farm was from the railway, where the stores were, and what was the quality of the land. The men desired to know everything except the road to the station to purchase tickets, and, when the argument was boiled down, notone of the men would accept the work. The .mining and agricultural industries in Western Australia have been shorthanded to the extent of hundreds of men, and a vigorous policy of immigration is justified, because there is- work waiting for good men. We should advise Mr. Percy Hunter that provision should be made to at once secure 10^000 men, because they could be absorbed straight away.
In mining for base and precious metals, there has been a shortage of workmen for years. This Government shake at the knees every time members of the party get up elsewhere and suggest that we can introduce 12,000 or 20,000 immigrants per annum. Why are they so timid? What is happening in those countries that are looking on? When I was in Northern Queensland last ye”ar I met on old friend, who appeared to have made good. He told me he had been up to one of those Eastern countries - I do not want to mention it by name, but it is a country upon which we have need to keep our minds fixed - where the people are jostling one another for room. He said he found the people up there most respectful. As he roamed around that country, he noticed women with children strapped on their backs cultivating rice on areas smaller than the floor space of this chamber. There is a witness to the condition in a country not so far removed from the Commonwealth. I can give this gentleman’s name to any honorable senator who cares to ask for it. Now, what is likely to happen eventually if public men from these countries come here and find our immense areas calling in vain for inhabitants ? You may travel 50 or 100 miles anywhere almost in our out-back country without seeing a sign of human habitation. How long, I ask, will this state of affairs be allowed to last? The inevitable answer is recorded in history. As soon as these nations have become sufficiently powerful to enforce their will, they will break down the barriers at our entrance without excuse or apology, and occupy this country. This Government should stand up to their obligations. That is all. If they go out of office on this issue, they could not go down on a more worthy one, because we cannot expect to hold this country unless we occupy it. This, I know, is a hackneyed expression, but the subject is of such vital importance to’ the safety of the Commonwealth that it can well afford to be repeated again and again if only it will have the effect of making some impression in responsible quarters.
Now, as to the capability of this country to absorb population there can be no question. People may come here and settle on our vacant areas or engage in our secondary industries without much real apprehension as to the future. All this talk about unemployment should not be taken seriously. It is a fake movement organized from time to time. There is no justification whatever for it. The genuine worker never gets very close to it. I can recall an incident connected with one of the well-known stump orators in my own State. He was a leader of the unemployed; but there came a time when things, from his point of view, were going down. There was nothing to do, so at last he had to get out and look for work. He went out into the country and got a job on contract work. For the time being, his occupation as a leader of the unemployed was gone; but suddenly the unemployed agitation broke out again in Perth, and, like the old warhorse, he scented the battle from afar, and promptly went back to Perth, caring nothing about the contract he had left behind him, with the result that his former employer inserted an advertisement in the West Australian something to this effect: -
Will John Henry Blogs, leader of the unemployed, please return and finish his contract.
These manifestations in regard to unemployment cannot be judged by . what is happening in the cities around our coast, because side by side with such agitations there are countless acres of vacant land in the interior constantly calling for occupation, and countless jobs to be filled. This complaint about unemployment, this cry that we must keep the influx of the population at low ebb in order that those of us who are here may have a happier time, is the most fallacious economic doctrine that has ever been preached in the Commonwealth. If we can only increase production there will, of course, be all the more to divide among those who are here. I think it is estimated that the wheat yield this year will return to the Commonwealth about £15,000,000, and I say, without hesitation, that had there been sufficient labour available, it would have been increased by from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, at least. Make no mistake about that. I know what has happened in Western Australia. Would not this extra £1,500,000 coming to Australia from overseas, and divided among our people, have been a welcome addition to our wealth? Suppose the Mount Morgan t mine, in the heyday of its operations, had cut its staff in half, would there have been so much wealth to divide, and would the employees have had such a good time? Certainly not. By keeping a full complement of men at work during its years of prosperity, that great mine reached its maximum production, with the consequent result that both the management and the men were in the enjoyment of higher rewards. So it will be with regard to our rural industries. As I have already shown, there was a substantial flow of immigrants at a time when our population was less than it is now, and when, perhaps, our wage standard was at a low ebb. Altogether, the conditions were not nearly so favorable as at present, but there was no dislocation in our conditions. It is clear that if we do not produce we cannot divide. If, on the other hand, we in- crease our production, those engaged in industry, either as employers or employees, will be the better for it. It is useless to talk about a division of production until we make up our minds to produce. Our first endeavour should be to get willing hands to do something in the development of this idle continent. Queensland is an ideal State for the settlement of a very large number of small land-owners. I know this from personal experience because, when I was there there were, working side by side with me, men who had been employed on public works in Queensland. They had sufficient wisdom to remain, with the result that to-day they are to be found settled in the most comfortable circumstances all along the Blackall Range. When I left they worked for 6s. per day. Of course, I could not make money quickly enough on that wage, so I left. I am afraid I shall end by not making any money at all. All along the Queensland littoral there is an unlimited area of land, not extremely fertile, perhaps, but of a quality suitable for settlement in small areas for the cultivation of the pineapple and other subtropical fruits. There is, I say, illimitable scope for an expansion of industry in this direction, and the absorption of a large number of immigrants.
Honorable senators may feel that I have somewhat laboured this question, but the issue is so closely associated with the safety of this country that I feel that whatever time is spent upon it is well spent.
The Bill is a proposal to borrow £8,000,000; but, boiled down, it is a proposition to borrow only about £2,000,000 to put certain works in hand. This is not a very extravagant proposition, especially when we remember what is being done in the sister Dominion of New Zealand, which, with a population of 1,200,000, recently raised a similar loan of £5,000,000 in London without making very much noise about it. There are many directions in which this Government may step out in bolder fashion with regard to a loan proposition such as this. I may mention, as an instance, the great need there is for additional telephonic and telegraphic facilities all through the interior of the Commonwealth. If only we could come alongside New Zealand in this matter, we should be doing something of real service to our pioneers. It is true that we are somewhat circumscribed, owing to our constitutional limitations, but, at all events, we can supplement any effort which the States may make in this direction. For instance, we should tackle, as soon as possible, the construction of a railway through to the Northern Territory, either by the north-south, or some other route. I am not going to stress the necessity of keeping faith with South Australia upon this matter.,; but I hope that will be done. We should see to it that a start is made without further delay. Then there are harbors to be opened in the Northern Territory, and lines of communication and other facilities are required to keep the pioneers there, and in innumerable other ways something could be done to attract population to the top end of the Commonwealth. We should also embark upon the unification of the railways. What are the Government doing in this matter? Do they intend to get a report and simply put it away until the dust accumulates some inches thick upon it? If anything is required to cheapen production, and make the lot of those engaged in rural industries more attractive, it is an improved system of railway communication. Can we pretend to be a progressive community when, at a place like Albury - on the border between Victoria and New South Wales - we may any day see gangs of men shovelling coal from one truck to another and transhipping perishable goods from one railway gauge to another? This Government should come down with a concrete proposition for the unification, at least, of the lines that link the several capital cities together. Make no mistake about it, this will have to be done sooner or later. The multifarious railway gauges constitute a very serious handicap upon production, and this Parliament should be alive to the necessity of improving the position in this respect. Let us make a start on the work of unifying the railway systems of the Commonwealth, at all events the main trunk lines, and have at least .the main highway upon one uniform gauge.
– Take a lead, as in the case of the Murray River scheme!
– Yes; the Government should take the lead. I cannot too of ten or too strongly emphasize the position of the isolated settler who is longing and waiting for the Government to do something to bring him at least within the range of civilization. That can best be done by providing him with telephone and telegraph facilities. What is needed is a National Government which does not need to cast to right and left and wonder how its acts are going to be judged politically. If it is a National Government it will minister to the needs of the whole people, and not a section of the people. I say advisedly that if the present Government continues to yield to this and that political consideration, and to take its directions from others, in whole or in part, covertly or openly, the day will come when the people will rise in their might and smite the Government, and say, “ Get off the Treasury benches, because you are dishonouring your trust.” Why is the Country party so much in evidence in Australia to-day? One answer is that the people are turning upon the National Government and saying, “ You do not mean what you profess. You are full of words, and nothing but words. You are feeding us with an empty spoon.” That is why the feeling throughout the country is against the National Government, which came in with such a flourish of trumpets. In this connexion the Government should bring down proposals for an expenditure of £10,000,000, if necessary.
– The Country party is trying to reduce every item of the Estimates.
– Then the Government should fight the Country party on every item. I question whether the Country party would oppose any expenditure that would promote country development. They are against expenditure on Defence.
– They are against the Government.
– That spirit has been abroad since Simon de Montfort’s time - the spirit of “I want your job.” The signs of the times are written in the political sky; everywhere the Country party is scoring, and the National party is losing ground. There is reason for that. “ Things do not fall out in that way,” as St. Augustine said. The Government needs to get a move on, and if it does so it will have the support of this Chamber.
– The position of the Government is largely the aftermath of the war. Every Government goes down after a war.
– Briand was in power in France during the war, and he is back again; Lloyd George is still strong in his saddle in Great Britain, and Mr. Hughes is still with us. Some of these shibboleths, when put to the test, do not stand. Even in peace time Governments do not continue for ever. I am disappointed, and earnestly so, at the want of courage on the part of the Government in not bringing down a more thorough-going and expansive scheme for raising money to develop the interior parts of this country.
– I do not know that there is any need for an apology when honorable senators ventilate the question of immigration. No subject is of more importance to the welfare of this country. The sooner and the more fully we discuss this question the sooner shall we solve the many problems involved in it. Much loose talk is indulged in occasionally in connexion with-it, as Senator E. D. Millen has pointed -out. The obstacles that exist are not always recognised as they should be. That there are many obstacles in the way of getting immigrants, as well as in disposing of them when they come here, any one who has taken notice of the subject must admit. We always have in our mind the British field as a recruiting ground for immigrants, and we do not seem to think that we should go outside that field for our future Australian citizens. I think that is a wrong view to take. From many parts of the continent of Europe we could get very desirable immigrants, and we ought to extend our recruiting efforts to those countries. A little admixture of the blood of these countries would not be harmful to Australians, but would be just the reverse. If we reflect upon the type of immigrant who is easiest to secure from Great Britain, we must admit that he is not always the best fitted for life in a new country, for the reason that Great Britain is not an agricultural country. Great Britain is about the worst country we could go to for land settlers. If we want mechanics, artisans, or miners, Great Britain is where we can find them, but for farmers and workers on the soil, it is of little use recruiting in that country. When immigrants from the Old Land come here they find themselves in a new atmosphere, surrounded by circumstances different from those in which they have been living all their lives. Only a man who has been reared in the Old Country, who has been brought out here as an immigrant, and who has had to search for employment, can fully appreciate all the difficulties and anxieties which face the new comer. I have been in that position, and sympathize with the immigrant who perhaps for the first time in his life has been away from the spot where he was born and bred. If we bring immigrants to Australia, I do not think it is a fair thing to say to them that we expect them to accept employment only on the land. Britishers coming here, and especially exservice men who have done their bit for their country, have as much right to say where they shall live and what work they shall do as any man in this country.. It is unfair and one-sided to say to a Britisher coming into this country that “ there is a land job for you, and no other.” If we take up that attitude, immigration from Great Britain will be a failure. Let us imagine ourselves in the position of an immigrant landing at the port of Fremantle. I am using Western Australia as an instance because I know more of that than any other State. Western Australia has better land laws than perhaps any other State. I think there are no more liberal land laws in the world than those ofWestern Australia. The immigrant, on arriving at Fremantle, naturally makes inquiries about employment, conditions of labour, and so forth. If he is told the truth, he will ascertain that for driving a baker’s horse and cart in Perth or Fremantle he will be paid £5 per week for eight hours per day; but that if he goes into’ the country and works a team of horses with a harvester, plough, or other agricultural implement, he will receive £3 per week for twelve hours per day. What will any man fit to be considered sensible do in his own interests in those circumstances? Will he choose to go out into the bush, live a life of solitude, and work twelve hours a day for £3 a week, or will he look for a job in Fremantle or Perth, where he will work eight hours a day for £5 a week?
– Has not the honorable senator missed the vital point? There is no objection to a man coming to the city to look for a job, but it is proposed that the Government shall assist only the men who want to go on the land.
– It may be a fair thing to pay the passage money only of the man who says he is going on the land, but Iam referring to the ex-service men whom the British Government is assisting to come out to this country.
– Once the immigrant is here, how does the honorable senator suggest that he can be kept on the land?
– I am leaving that larger question out of the matter for the moment. Senator Crawford has hinted at a very important aspect of the immigration problem. . “ Going on the land” is a very simple thing to say, but any one who has attempted to do it, unless he has a considerable amount of capital, will probably not remain long on the land. The land settler needs plenty of backbone as well as capital, but if he has no capital, and all the grit in the world, he will not be able to pull through. No man can go on the land in Western Australia, where he can get land cheaper than in any other State, with a capital of less than £1,000.
– I do not think he could do it in any other State. (Senator DE LARGIE. - If it is impossible to go on the land with less than £1,000 in Western Australia, it will be seen that there are very grave difficulties in the way of settling immigrants on the land. I will briefly point out why, in my opinion, men do not go on the land at the present time. If we offer in the cities and towns better remuneration than we offer in the bush, it is easy to guess what the result will be. Why is it that such conditions obtain in these two avenues of employment? The farm labourer and the bread carter are both engaged in supplying our daily bread. The people as a whole, Parliament, and the press, are responsible. In the case of wheat, for instance, a constant cry has been kept up by the press in recent years, backed sometimes by politicians, for cheaper wheat. The newspapers have been ever calling on the Government and the Wheat Pool which controls the price of wheat, to reduce the price. It was declared that 9s. a bushel was robbery, and so forth. This year we have a promise of a fairly large harvest, because the farmers, when putting their crops in, anticipated that they would receive a much better price for wheat than I think they are likely to receive. In my opinion, if they get 5s. per bushel for this year’s wheat, that will be as much as they will get. I think I can prophesy that, as a consequence of the lower price which will be obtained this year for wheat, the harvest following this will not be much more than half the harvest of this year. The reason, of course, will be that the growing of wheat, if it doe’s not bring a certain price, will not afford decent remuneration to the farmer. We in this Parliament are as much responsible for that as is any one else. I recognise that the world’s market prices must be considered, and we cannot control them; but we put obstacles in the way of a decent price being secured in Australia. We are always crying for cheap wheat. We pay little attention to cheap flour, and less attention to the cheap loaf; so far as the labour involved in it by the baker and distributor is concerned. By our Arbitration Court awards and Wages Board decisions we enable those engaged in the production and distribution of the loaf to secure the best possible wages. Of the man who produces the wheat - and the loaf cannot be made without the wheat - we do not take any care to see that he is given decent remuneration for his labour. If we are to settle men on the land, one of the first things we must do is to see that labour on the land is properly remunerated. We have ignored that aspect of the question, and have taken no steps to improve the condition of the wheat farmer. All our efforts for the settlement of immigrants on the land will fail so long as we continue to ignore that aspect of the question. I remember that, on a previous occasion, when speaking in the interests of the farmers, I pointed out that the people of Australia appeared to be determined to obtain a cheap loaf at all costs. They were willing to sweat the labour that produced the wheat from which the loaf is made. I said that if Australians were determined to continue that policy, they should import Asiatics or coloured labour to work in the wheat-fields o’f Australia. That would be a logical and considerate step for them to take. If we must have sweating, I protest against white labour being sweated to produce cheap bread for another section of well-paid people. As Senator Lynch has pointed out, the farmer cannot at present secure the labour he requires to carry on his industry. The reason is that he cannot afford to pay an Australian’ wage for it. The man who goes to work for twelve hours a day on a farm is offered £3 per week, whilst the man who drives a cart delivering bread in the city receives £5 per week. Then we wonder why labour is so scarce in the country districts. The man would be fit only for a lunatic asylum who would go to the country when he can get higher wages in the city. This is an aspect of the immigration question which we have always dodged. We want cheap bread, and sweated labour for the worker on the land. We tell immigrants that they may settle on the land, and be sweated. If they remain in the city, they may enjoy good conditions and high wages; but we want those for ourselves. We must face this question if we are to understand the difficulties in the way of the land settlement of immigrants.
Western Australia has passed, perhaps, the most liberal land laws of any country in the world. There is an Assistance Board carrying on operations under the State Government that supplies the man on the land with almost everything he requires. The State Government advances a considerable sum of money on .land according to the clearing and improvements carried out by the settler. No country could go much further than Western Australia has gone in the direction of affording assistance to the man on the land - and still land settlement in the State is a failure. Why? Because there is not sufficient money in the job. We fail to make a fair division of the wages fund. We fail to give fair remuneration to the man who works in the country, whilst we give too great a proportion of the wages fund to the man who works in the city. Until we recognise this as the basic problem of the whole question, we shall fail to make a success either of immigration or of land settlement.
SenatorFOSTER (Tasmania) [3.20].- I have listened very patiently to the debate in the hope that some of the older members of the Senate, and some of its financial geniuses or experts, would tell me something about the principles of loan expenditure in contrast with the principles of expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue, or would in some way connect their remarkswith the Bill now under consideration. I have heard speeches which would be appropriate to the consideration of a Supply Bill, and I have wondered whether honorable senators refrained from talking about the principles of loan expenditure because they know as little about it as the average roan would gather from a consideration of the figures in the schedule. I want to say of the Commonwealth method of dealing with loan appropriations, that I prefer the system adopted by some of the State Parliaments, where, if loan money appropriated is not spent during the financial year, the balance unexpended has to be revoted. I find on looking at the Treasurer’s statement for 1920-21, under the heading of Loan Expenditure for “Works and so on, there was a balance of appropriation available on 30th June, 1921, of £8,114,000. I find that under the Bill before us we are asked to authorize the expenditure of £8,370,000.
– There is a line which shows that over £600,000 must be deducted for money previously voted.
– No ; but I find that if £669,000 previously voted is to be added to the amount to be appropriated under this Bill the total amount appropriated will be £9,039,000.
– The sum of £3,000,000 is required to reimburse Trust Funds.
– I was going to say so; but I am concerned just now to show that if the amount of £669,000 previously voted is added to the amount proposed to be appropriated under this Bill, the total amount available will be £9,039,000.
– An amount of £45,000 is required to complete payments in respect of Australia House. That is due under contract.
– I know all about that. I am saying that the total amount of money asked for for the year 1921-22 is over £9,000,000, if we take into account the amount of £669,000 already available. From this we must deduct £3,000,000 required for shipping, and £3,000,000 required for the redemption of Treasurybills. I say, however, that with the figures put before us in a large way, one would assume that there is £8,370,000 of new money which we are asked to appropriate by this Bill, and according to the Treasurer’s statement, there is £8,114,000 already available which has not been spent.
– The honorable senator is referring to last year’s Estimates.
– I am referring to the Treasurer’s statement for the year ending 30th June, 1921. He says that the balance of appropriation available at that date was £8,114,000.
– That was the end of the financial year.
– Just so. It is easy to fall into error in considering these figures, and possibly I have done so.
– The Estimates, after all, are only estimates.
– I am not referirng to the amount of the Estimates, but to the amount actually appropriated by Parliament.
– And not spent.
– The Government have been given authority to spend that money.
– Unexpended votes are always brought down again. The money is voted for expenditure within a certain time.
– I think that the Minister is wrong, and that is why I am referring to the matter. I understand that it is not the practice in the Commonwealth to re-vote unexpended balances, and make a fresh appropriation.
– We always re-vote unexpended balances of money appropriated from revenue, but not of money appropriated from loan.
– That is what I say, and therefore the total amount required for 1921-22 is £9,039,000, whilst under the Bill only £8,370,000 is to be appropriated.
– We cannot give authority twice to raise the same loan.
– The loan has already been raised, and I am talking of the appropriation for expenditure of money from the loan. I say that the Government have already received authority for the expenditure of £8,114,000 which they have not spent.
– Where we are dealing with loan money, we make a single definite contract, and go right on.
– The same practice is followed in Tasmania.
– I think not.
– Loan money once voted is always voted, under the Commonwealth practice.
– That is what I am saying with regard to Commonwealth expenditure from loan.
– If we appropriated £2,000,000 from revenue for the undergrounding of telephone cables, and spent during the year only £1,500,000, then the sum of £500,000 would have to be revoted. But in the case of a loan, there is a definite contract up to a certain point. ‘
– That might be so in some cases.
– In all cases.
– I should like to know from the Minister whether contracts are signed by the Government before authority for the appropriation of the money has been obtained. The Government would not actually.sign a shipbuilding contract until the money to meet it was appropriated by Parliament?
– After the money has been appropriated contracts are arranged. It is useless - as is proved by the method adopted in connexion with the shipbuilding contracts - to enter into a contract and to immediately raise the money to meet the expenditure involved. It is spread over a period of four or five years, and the money raised annually, as required.
– There are times when the money cannot be made’ available, because the authority of Parliament has not been secured, and in such instances it is drawn from the Treasurer’s advance.
– I know that, but that is not the point with which I am dealing. I was directing attention to the fact that there is a total of £8,000,000 in the Department of the Treasury, and in the Treasurer’s statement there is an amount of £7,000,000 which is to be paid into Consolidated Revenue. In the last column of the table contained in that statement, the words “ this amount is the balance of the appropriation available,” appear, and I would like the Minister to explain what they mean. It also states, in connexion with the same account, “to be paid into Consolidated Revenue Fund.”’
– Probably £8,000,000 of loan money available was unexpended, and is being held until required.
– If that is so, why is £7,000,000 being paid into Consolidated Revenue instead of into a Trust Account, as is proper?
– It is probably a portion of the “ Digger’s” Loan.
– I am dealing with expenditure on public works, and not war expenditure. Loan moneys, when unexpended, are kept in a special trust account for loan purposes, and it makes it difficult for me to understand, in the final figures, why £8,000,000 is available if £7,000,000 is to be paid into Consolidated Revenue. I have never known that to be done, and it appears to me to be an unusual method.
– Would it be interest on the notes?
– Possibly it is profit on the note issue, which has been handed over to the Commonwealth Bank. , If it were paid into the Consolidated Revenue and is to. be expended it is not available for loan purposes. The two funds are totally distinct, and that is why I cannot understand the position.
– That is applied to the reduction of loans.
– The” honorable senator may understand it, but I must confess that I do not. If it is applied to the reduction of loans, why is it paid into Consolidated Revenue?
– I understand that appropriation over that required immediately lapses, and the amount has to be re-appropriated. The sum of £7,000,000 is an accumulation of the deficits which have since been paid off.
– Surely the Minister does not suggest that deficits can be paid into Consolidated Revenue. Can the Minister say why £7,000,000 is still available for appropriation?
– It is not. It may have been used for other purposes.
– I think the Minister knows as much about it as I do.
– If theamount is paid into Consolidated Revenue the revenue is increased to that extent.
– If the amount was the balance of the appropriation available on Loan Account, why was it paid into Consolidated Revenue?
– Because that is the procedure approved by Parliament.
– If it were to pay off some debt I could understand it.
– All moneys go into a common fund.
SenatorFOSTER.- They do not go into Consolidated Revenue, and, if they do, there is something radically wrong with the bookkeeping system.
I agree with what Senator Lynch has said that, although the measure is to appropriate £8,370,000, after allowing for the redemption of Treasury-bonds to the extent of £3,000,000 and payments in connexion with shipbuilding contracts of a similar amount, there is only about £1,750,000 available for public works. Considering the policy of the Government for the last seven years, as it appears to me after perusal of the loan appropriation account, with the exception of last year, when about £50,000 was’ voted from loan for the Perth General Post Office, all our small post-office buildings have been constructed on money drawn fromConsolidated Revenue. During’ the financial year 1913-14, however, £2,000,000 was specially voted for laying down telegraph and telephone wire conduits. I am not prepared to say whether it is right or wrong to construct public works with moneys obtained from Consolidated Revenue; but arrangements of this sort tend to “ tricky “ financing on the part of a Treasurer who, after spending money from revenue for years, comes along, without any announcement regarding change of policy, and wipes out, as he did last year, an amount of £79,364 which Parliament voted from revenue for Post Office purposes in New
South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. That sum was voted by Parliament to be spent from Consolidated Revenue; but it was not expended. Under this Loan Appropriation Bill we are now asked to vote £96,849 for exactly the same purpose. Whether the practice isright or wrong I cannot say;but it lends itself to “ tricky “ finance on the part of a Treasurer who may be so inclined. He has only to refrain from spending money voted from Consolidated Revenue in continuation of the policy of Parliament, and then to turn round and say, “ I have saved money which Parliament voted,” and the next year to slip the same amount into loan expenditure.
– The late Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) indicated the change of policy in his Budget speech.
– I did not notice it.
– The AuditorGen eral would never allow such a thing to be done.
– It is not a case of anything being wrong, but we should know what the policy is to be.
– But it would be wrong.
– The money could be spent for this purpose provided Parliament votes it either from Consolidated Revenue or from a Loan Fund. I am not to be guided, however, by what is said in another place, but by the information given by the Minister in this Chamber; and as there has been a vital change in the policy of the Government, we should have been made acquainted with it. If the sum voted last year was not spent, it enabled the Treasurer to build up a surplus.
– We were acquainted with the position when dealing with the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill.
– We were not acquainted with it in this way. When the question was raised as to the expenditure in Tasmania, it was said, by interjection, that the amount being spent in Tasmania “was from Consolidated Revenue; but the expenditure in the other States was to be from Loan Funds. Why the difference in principle?
– We have never had it explained.
– Surely the Government have some fixed policy. Are we to follow this slap-dash, haphazard method in connexion with our huge financial transactions? ‘Is money to be used from Consolidated Revenue when available, and when it is not is it to be taken from loan?
– South Australian public works are paid for out of Consolidated Revenue, and those in other States out of loans.
– Some of the postoffices being constructed to-day are being paid for out of Consolidated Revenue and some out of loan. Have not the Government a definite policy in this regard? If the Government said that there were certain works which ought to be undertaken, and which could only be paid for out of Consolidated Revenue, we would know where we were.
SenatorRussell. - The policy is simple. If we have not the revenue, we borrow.
– I am glad to know that that is the policy of the Government. Will the Minister tell me why this money, which was voted by Parliament last year, was not spent?
– Because we wanted to save money.
– So it is a case of having it and keeping it, instead of borrowing it from “uncle.” I am not suggesting that we should not construct public works out of loan money. Postoffices and other public works are necessary in the development of a country; but I say most definitely that this sort of finance lends itself to all sorts of mysterious manipulations on the part of a Treasurer unless a definite policy is laid down.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we can choose our own method of financing?
– Decidedly, you can. The Government could refuse to do the work because they had not the money ; but if we must have certain public works, and the revenue cannot provide the money, we must borrow. Members of another place have, within the last few days, made a hubbub with regard to Defence expenditure, and while the Senate is compelled to agree to a reduction in the amount to be spent from Consolidated Revenue, we are inclined to allow large items of loan expenditure to slip through haphazardly forgetting that there will be a day of reckoning. Some of the items in the schedule are for buildings, and other permanent works; but there are others which cannot be looked upon as permanent works. Take the item, “ Williamstown Shipbuilding Yard - Pumping plant, £3,000.”
– At the Williamstown Dockyard the pump had to be replaced.
– Nobody can say that a pump is a permanent work.
– It is part of a dockyard system.
– Last night the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), in dealing with the amounts referred to by Senator Bolton in connexion with the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, spoke of the £45,000 set down for additional machinery and plant for the Woollen Cloth Factory. That money was to come out of Consolidated Revenue. If it was a fact, as stated, that the plant was required for the manufacture of cloth that would be soldto outside people, and if it was for a reproductive work, the money might very well have come out of loan funds. I find it very difficult to understand the departmental policy of expenditure on very similar items.
– All the shipping construction has been paid for out of loan, including the dockyards and their upkeep.
– I found last night that certain works, such as “ Naval Establishments - Machinery and plant, £5,000,” were to be paid for out of Consolidated Revenue.
– We would like to pay for it all out of revenue.
– The Minister said it all came out of loan money.
– I was speaking of ship construction at Williamstown. No naval work is done there.
– In the schedule to the Loan Appropriation Bill, there is an item of £766 for “ Acetate of Lime Factory - Works and buildings.” Last night we voted out of Consolidated Revenue £4,070 towards the cost of machinery and plant for this Factory. I find it hard to understand the motives of those who allot these items between Consolidated Revenue and Loan Account.
A great deal has been said concerning tie amount of £162,000 for the passage money of assisted immigrants. When dealing with the Prime Minister’s Department last night, I think we were in the happy position of not having to vote anything to it from Consolidated Revenue; but I fail to see any justification for putting down this expenditure of £162,000 to loan account. It has always been regarded as necessary to spend loan money on permanent buildings, or on something in which the people consider they have an asset. To pay the passage money of immigrants out of loan is one of the most ridiculous proposals ever put forward by any Government.
– We sometimes lend immigrants £16 for twelve months to enable them to reach Australia.
– The amount of £162,000 should be paid into a Trust Fund, if it is a loan account.
– The maximum amount payable to an immigrant is £38, of which £12 is contributed by the Commonwealth. In approved cases, from £16 to £26 may be advanced on loan, to be repaid in instalments over a period of twelve months from the date of the immigrant’s arrival in Australia.
– That makes a great deal of difference, and I am glad of the information. I gathered no impression that it was to be a trust account.
– The Minister does not say that it is; and it obviously is not, because, with regard to the next item, “ Construction of ships,” the schedule specifically states that the money is to be paid to a Trust Fund.
– The passage money of immigrants comes from ordinary loan account; but the payments are checked and controlled by the Immigration Department.
– If the money is operated on in the same way as Consolidated Revenue, it is a mistake. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211125_senate_8_98/>.