8th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether it is the intention of the Government, at an early date, to introduce a Public Service Superannuation Bill?
– As the Public Service Superannuation Bill is a money Bill, it cannot be introduced in this Chamber, and must be initiated in another place. It has been receiving the attention of the Government for some time. The Bill is now almost ready for presentation, and will be introduced in another place very shortly.
Harbor Charges at Capital City Ports.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is now in a position to answer a question I put to him some little time ago, regarding harbor charges to oversea vessels entering the different capital city port?
– On the 2nd August the honorable senator asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, through me, the following question -
Will he have a return prepared showing the port charges for oversea ships tradingwith the State capital city ports in each State of the Commonwealth?
I am now in a position, on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs, to supply the return asked for. As it is lengthy, I propose to lay it on the table of the Senate.
Treatment of Natives
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether his attention has been drawn to remarks which have been made concerning the treatment of the natives of
Nauru Island, and whether the Government will take an early opportunity to deny statements which I feel sure are not true?
– It must have been obvious to honorable senators that this matter has already had the close attention of the Government, since our representative at the League of Nations; in communication with the . Government, took certain action in the matter. However, I will bring the honorable senator’s question under the notice’ of the Prime Minister, and see whether any further steps can be taken to put the truth of the matter before the people of the world.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether, in view of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition in another place comes from New South Wales ; the Leader of the Country party in that Chamber comes from the same State; the Leader of the Independent Labour party, the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) also comes from New South Wales; the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate comes from that State, and the Leader of the Government in this Chamber also comes from New South Wales-
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
T.Givens). - Order! The honorable senator is making statements, and is not asking for information.
– I am mentioning facts. I ask whether in view of those facts and the possibility of the continuance of the habit of going to the State of New South Wales for leaders of political parties, there may not be some fear that the supply of candidates will run out, and a redistribution of seats in that State may be necessary to keep the supply up?
– Order! The honorable senator’s question is frivolous, and, therefore, is not in order. It is unbecoming the dignity of the Senate to make a travesty of its proceedings in any way.
– In view of the high cost of living, including newspapers at twopence per copy in Melbourne, and the statement recently made by Senator Earle in Tasmania that the general election is to be held in December, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if, without disclosing any high policy, he can give honorable senators some information as to when the general election will be held?
– I do not quite see the connexion between newspapers at twopence per copy and a general election, except that, perhaps, both are luxuries which should be avoided at all costs. I cannot give the honorable senator any further information on the subject.
Pensions to Limbless and Incapacitated Soldiers
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
When does the Government intend to introduce the Bill necessary to give reasonable pensions to the limbless and incapacitated soldiers of Australia?
– The Minister for Repatriation supplies the following answer : -
A Bill dealing with such pensions will be introduced at the earliest moment possible.
Introductionof Powder Post Beetle
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs intimates that the information asked for is. being obtained.
Preference to Returned Soldiers
-BROCK MAN asked the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral supplies the following answers : - 1.Yes. 2 & 3. Briefs are invariably given to returned soldiers except where, owing to the nature of the case, or other sufficient reason, this cannot be done.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Earle) read a first time.
Redistribution of Victoria(no. 2).
.- I move-
That the Senate approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. R. C. Oldham, A. B. Lang, and R. H. Lawson, the Distribution Commissioners for. the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the sixth day of September, 1922, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report and indicated on the map referred to therein be adopted.
I should like briefly to put a few facts before the Senate in connexion with this question. This is the first time that a proposal for the redistribution of Victoria has come before this Chamber since 1912. The previous scheme did not get past the House of Representatives, and as there has been a considerable amount of discussion in the press and elsewhere, it might be as well to place on record the facts. The redistribution of the State of Victoria is necessary pursuant to paragraph a of sub-section 2 of section 25 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, owing to an alteration of the representation of the State in the House of Representatives. There has been no redistribution of the State of Victoria since 1912. The redistribution of that year was based upon the population as disclosed by the census taken in April, 1911. Between that date and the census of 1921 the population has increased from 1,-315,551 to 1,531,529, or 16.41 per cent. With the exception of Tasmania, the rate of increase, however, is the lowest of any State in the Commonwealth. The following table shows the population of the States as ascertained at the census of 1911 and 1921, together with the percentage of increase in the meantime:-
Subject to a provision in section 24 of the Constitution that each original State shall be entitled to choose at least five members of the House of Representatives, the representation of the States in the Federal Parliament is governed by population. Section 10 of the Representation Act reads -
For the purpose of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, the following procedure shall be followed: -
A quota shall be ascertained fay dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth as shown by the certificate (for the time being in force) of the Chief Electoral Officer, by twice the number of senators.
The number of members to be chosen in each State shall, subject to the Constitution, be determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, as shown by the certificate (for the time being in force) of the Chief Electoral Officer, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than onehalf of the quota, one more membershall be chosen in the State.
The determination now in force, of the number of members to which each State is entitled, was made in pursuance of the foregoing provisions upon the result of the recent census -
To the failure of the State of Victoria to keep pace with the progress, in the matter of population, of the other mainland States is due the inevitable result of the loss to the State of one member of the House ofRepresentatives. The Distribution Commissioners were, therefore, faced with the problem of dividing the State into twenty divisions. Their duty is clearly set out in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which reads : -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions, the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
Existing boundaries of Divisions and Subdivisions, and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
The Law authorities advised in a cognate case in connexion with the distribution of Western Australia in 1912 to the following effect: -
It may be stated as a general matter of interpretation that the ideal distribution which the Act aims at is an exact distribution according to the quota; but the Commissioners are empowered “ whenever necessary “ to deviate from the quota to a limited extent.
At the time of the distribution of the State in 1912 the metropolitan area contained 349,902 electors, distributed over ten divisions, with an average electoral quota of 34,990. In the extrametropolitan area there were 377,699 electors in eleven divisions, having an average quota of 34,336. The electoral population of the metropolitan area has increased in the meantime from 349,902 to 472,417 - an increase of 122,515, or 35. per cent. ; whilst in the extra-metropolitan area the number of electors increased from 377,699 to 383,367, namely, 5,668, or 1½ per cent. only. The total electoral population of the State is 855,784, and the electoral quota . 42,789. It will be within the recollection of honorable senators that the Commissioners submitted a report which was dealt with by another place on the 28th July last, and that a resolution was passed disapproving of the Commissioners’ proposals; and that on the 29th July the Minister, in pursuance of section 24 (2) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, directed the Commissioners, in the following terms, to propose a fresh distribution : -
Whereas the House of Representatives did, on the 28th day of July, 1922, pass a resolution disapproving of the proposed distribution of the State of Victoria into Electoral Divisions, I hereby, in accordance with the provisions of section 24 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, direct the Distribution Commissioners (Messrs. Ryton Campbell Oldham, Alexander Bruce Lang, and Robert Hazlewood Lawson) to propose a fresh distribution of the State into Electoral Divisions. (Signed) G. F. PEARCE,
Minister for Home and Territories.
In the first report submitted by the Commissioners they proposed to divide the State into eleven metropolitan divisions, with an average quota of 42,947, and nine extra-metropolitan divisions, with an average quota of 42,596. That proposal involved the constitution of one additional division, which it was proposed to designate “ Deakin “ in honour of a former Prime Minister, and the merging of the divisions of Corangamite and Grampians into other extra-metropolitan divisions. The proposals were objected to in the House on the ground that extrametropolitan areas should have received the benefit of the marginal allowance below the quota for the State. The Commissioners, in submitting their fresh proposals, have stated: -
We sought in our first proposals to provide for the representation of the electors as nearly as practicable in proportion to their numbers wherever located, subject only to such variations as were, in our opinion, rendered “ necessary “ by the provisions of section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and also to present proposals which, having regard to the provisions of section 25 of the Act, would, if adopted, maintain an equitable measure of electoral voting power for a reasonably lengthy period of time - a principle of redistribution which was approved by Parliament in 1912.
Section 25 of the Act provides, inter alia, that a redistribution should be made whenever in one-fourth of the divisions of the State the number of the electors differs from the quota, ascertained as provided by section18 of the Act, to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
As shown in the comparative statement in pur report the area usually referred to as the “ metropolitan area “ has, since the redistribution of 1912, increased in electoral population by 122,515, whereas the electoral population of what is termed the “ extrametropolitan area” has increased by only 5,668.
Although no express direction has been conveyed to us by the resolution of disapproval passed by the House of Representatives, it is gathered from the Parliamentary Reports forwarded by the Minister for our perusal, and to which we feel it incumbent upon us to have regard in framing fresh proposals, that the House desires that Parliament shall have an opportunity of considering a redistribution which affords greater representation to what is known as tho extra-metropolitan area than that originally proposed, but which involves a departure from the quota to a much greater extent than was considered by us to be necessary or desirable when framing our former report.
In framing their new proposals the Commissioners have excluded from the “metropolitan area” the subdivisions of Ivanhoe and Heidelberg from the division of Bourke; Mentone from the division of Henty; and Box Hill, Doncaster, Mitcham, and part of Surrey Hills from Kooyong; and some small areas from the division of Maribyrnong, which have been absorbed in the divisions of Flinders and Corio. The electoral population of the subdivisions so excluded amounts to 18,438. The reduced “metropolian area” contains 453,979 electors, and the enlarged “ extra-metropolitan area “ 401,805. The Commissioners have, as a result of this alteration and by using the marginal allowance to a greater extent than formerly, been enabled to submit a proposal for the constitution of- ten metropolitan and ten extra-metropolitan divisions, but this has involved a considerable departure (amounting to an average of 5,217 electors per division) from a uniform quota, though they have kept within the marginal permissible allowance. The ten proposed metropolitan divisions will have an average quota of 45,397, and the ten extra-metropolitan divisions 40,180 electors. The greatest range between the electoral populations of the divisions amounts to 9,588, that is, between the divisions of Indi with 38,071 electors, and Melbourne with 47,659 electors. Those are the principal facts in connexion with the proposed redistribution. When similar redistribution proposals have been before the Senate it has generally been considered that iti was more within the province of the -members of the House of Representatives to concern themselves with the allocation of the divisions, as when matters affecting the Senate have come before members of another place they have always allowed the Senate to determine that which directly affected it. Therefore, I take it that while the Senate retains its right to amend or refer back the proposals,’ it will not do so in this instance unless there are extreme reasons for such action.
– I wish to lodge an emphatic protest against the proposed redistribution of Victorian divisions as outlined by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), because I do not think it is either necessary or fair to deprive Victoria of one seat. Professor Harrison Moore, an eminent authority, has clearly laid it down that under the Constitution it is not necessary that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be twice the number of senators, but that the number shall be “as nearly as practicable “ twice the number of senators. Despite the fact that’ the population of Victoria has increased by approximately 200,000 since the last census was taken, it is proposed under this scheme to deprive Victoria of one constituency. Victoria, while not having increased its population to the same extent as New South Wales, can show an increase of 16 per cent, as against Tasmania’s 11 per cent., which latter State cannot be deprived of any of its members owing to the provisions of the Constitution. It is generally agreed that Victoria is one of . the most progressive States of the Commonwealth, and the State which has made the greatest success of its closer settlement schemes. The number of returned soldiers settled on the land is greater than that in any other State.’
– But not on a percentage basis.
– Perhaps not.
– But a comparison can only be made in that way.
– If we were to institute a comparison with New South. Wales on that basis it would make the position of Victoria much stronger, and yet), notwithstanding that, New South Wales is gaining a seat at the expense of Victoria.
– But New South Wales has the population.
– Under the proposed scheme the number of electors in each electorate will be in Victoria 76,929, in New South Wales 74,791, in Queensland 74,762, and in South Australia 70,762, or in the case of South Australia over 6,000 less than in Victoria. The figures submitted by the Leader of the Country party in another place (Dr. Earle
Page) are unanswerable. If Victoria retained its twenty-one members there would be 70,762 people per member. It is clearly laid down in the Constitution that the number of members representing the States , shall be in proportion to the numbers of the population. Prior to the Minister’s statement I felt very strongly concerning Victoria being deprived of a country seat. The Minister has pointed out in the report submitted, that the quota for the city electorates is approximately 5,000 greater than for the country electorates, but it should be so. City electorates are confined, while country electorates cover a huge area., which fact makes it very difficult for their chosen members to give them adequate representation. We are always told that it is the people of the country who keep the cities, who produce practically the whole wealth of the land, and who pay the majority of the taxes; which is quite true. In the Victorian Legislature these facts are recognised, and the proportion of country to city members is as 60 to 40, as previously stated. It is laid down in the Constitution that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be proportionate to the number of people in the States, and not necessarily to the number of electors therein. These proposals will rob Victoria of one of its country representatives, which is altogether unjust. This State is more rapidly and successfully progressing along the lines of closer settlement than any of the other States.
Now regarding the naming of the electorates, the Minister (Senator Pearce) has apparently overlooked the fact that a deputation waited upon him some time ago asking that the name of the electorate of Corio be altered to Geelong. 1 The deputation was a thoroughly representative one; it included representatives of the National Federation and of various councils and other bodies in the division. I understood the Minister to say, at the time, that there would be no objection on lie part of the Government to the proposed alteration. Geelong is the second provincial city in Victoria, and, at its present rate of progress and increase in population, it will soon be the second city in the State. The Bendigo electorate is named after the city of Bendigo, which is a smaller and less important centre than Geelong. The division of Ballaarat is named after the city of Ballarat, which will soon be ranked as a smaller and less progressive centre than Geelong. The division of Echuca is named after the town of that name; and it is the same with Kalgoorlie; while there are other instances of Federal electorates being named after more or less prominent towns in those electorates. The name of Corio, however, as applied to an electorate, is altogether out of place. It is a misnomer; it means practically nothing. There is a little railway station of the name, 6 miles from Geelong, on the Melbourne side. It has forty voters, while in Geelong and suburbs there are about 20,000 voters.
Confusion and delay often occur owing to the fact of voting papers which are addressed to the Returning Officer for Corio being delivered at the Corio railway station. These letters are not conveyed over the 6 miles to Geelong, but, in accordance with postal regulations, they are sent on to Melbourne, and are then returned to Geelong. Thus they are twentyfour hours late in reaching the Returning Officer. I protest against the whole scheme of redistribution. I protest against the unfairness of robbing Victoria of one of its representatives, and particularly of one of its country representatives. There is no justification for the reduction. I draw the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories particularly to the report of Professor Harrison Moore upon the subject, and I complain again of the Government failing to keep the promise of the Minister in the matter of altering the name of the division of Corio to that of Geelong.
– I recall that Senator Guthrie introduced a representative deputation from Geelong, and that various speakers urged the alteration of the name of the Federal electorate from Corio to Geelong. . I replied that if the alteration were duly proposed in the House of Representatives, I would recommend the Government not to oppose the suggestion. I carried out my part of the bargain. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) would have been ready, had the proposal been made in another place and at the proper time, to intimate that the Government acquiesced. However, the suggestion was not put forward. I therefore am not responsible for the fact that Corio still stands as the name of the division in which Geelong is situated. The matter is one which should have been dealt with in another place. Senator Guthrie has done all he could, and he is in no wise blameworthy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), when he presented’ the Budget-papers in this Chamber and moved that they be printed, gave honorable senators ‘the greater part of the informationhaving to do with this Bill. However,in orderto refreshtheir memo- ries, Ipresent the followingparticulars: -
Thetotal amount of the expenditure out ofloanwhich was embodiedin the Estimates was £17,250,924.The figure which appears in theLoanBill is £17,039,099. The reason for the difference inthese figures is that in the Estimates certain amounts were deducted which, it was anticipated, would be unexpendedat the end ofthe year. The amounts which appear in the Estimates as being unexpended are subscription to capitalof Amalgamated Wireless Limited, £150,000; construction of ships, £200,000; and post-office buildings, £54,000; making a total of £404,000. In addition,there is an amount to be credited inrespect of receipts which are anticipated from services in the Federal Territory. After allowing for the unexpended appropriation of last year, and making the necessary adjustment with regard to receipts, the additional amount provided for the Federal ‘Territory is £115,619. There is another amount of £7,500 required to make provision for a race for the shipment of live cattle at Port Darwin. These items, together with the expenditure included in the Estimates, namely, £17,250,924, make a total of £17,778,043. From that amount has to be deducted the sum which is availableunder appropriations previously made. Those balances total £738,944. Deducting that sum from the total given previously, the total whichParliament is beingasked to appropriate under this measure is£17,039,099 . The position on the30th June last, the end of the financial year, was that there was an amount to the credit of the Loan Fund of £9,711,000. The amount required for the redemption of war gratuity bonds is £3,000,000, and deducting that from the £9,711,000 in hand, there is available for the purpose of this year’s loan programme the sum of £6,711,000. In addition to the sum of £17,039,099 to be appropriated by this Bill, there is also available an amount of £738,944 under appropriations previously made, making a grand total of £17,778,043. The cash balance in the Loan Fund, after deducting £3,000,000 for the redemption of war gratuities, is £6,711,000, reducing the amount to be raised to carry out the loan programme set out in the schedule to the Bill to £11,067,043. The Bill asks for authority to raise £12,000,000, and allowing £840,000 for flotation expenses, the total amount available for loan expenditure will bo £11, 160, 000, giving a margin of £92,957. Ifhonorable senators have any points to raise in connexion with the Bill, I shall be glad to reply to them in Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreedto.
Clause 2 (Authority to borrow £12,000,000).
– I rose to speak on the second reading of the Bill, but I was informed that I had missed my opportunity, and I hope to be pardoned if on this clause I say what I had intended to say on the second reading. I desire to express my dissatisfaction in regard to certain Government expenditure in the purchase of the Canungra mill and certain timber areas, in Queensland.I am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) is not present. In moving that the Budget-papers be printed, the Minister took my views in a heated fashion, and I believe other honorable senators also regarded my statement as one making charges without sufficient information having been obtained.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator is proceeding to discuss a previous debate in regard to certain expenditure by the RepatriationDepartment. I draw attention to the fact that, neither clause 2 nor any part of the schedulerefers to expenditureon the Canungramill.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine himself to the limits allowed by the Standing Orders in regard to the discussion of individual clauses.
– I shall have to take a later opportunity of discussing the matters I wish to bring under notice. This clause will give the Government power to raise another £12,000,000, and the expenditure incurred in the past docs not lead one to expect that further money will be wisely disbursed.
– A good deal of the money proposed to be borrowed is to be spent on the building of ships. I understand that the policy of the Government is that shipbuilding, so far as they are concerned, is to come to an end, because it is costing something like £30 per ton to construct vessels in Australia, whereas they can be purchased abroad for about £10 a ton. To continue such a policy would be to court disaster. There is an item of £5,000 in connexion with the Williamstown shipbuilding yard.
– Why not discuss these items when we come to them?
– The clause is of a very general nature, and as the second reading was passed in record time, a little leniency might be shown. I ask what benefit the Government shipbuilding policy has been to the primary producers. Does the Minister (Senator Pearce) know that the cost of carrying wool to England, until the day before yesterday, was ld. per. lb. ? Compare that , with the cost of freight from New Zealand, which country has not spent any money on shipbuilding. Until recently, the freight from New Zealand was 1d. per lb., and now the charge from both New Zealand and Australia has been reduced byd.
– Commonwealth ships trade to New Zealand.
– But New Zealand does not patronize those vessels.
– New Zealand gets the benefit of the competition.
– Australia is paying the highest freights in the world. When we find that it costs our Argentine competitors one-tenth of what it costs our people to carry their wool to England, it is clear that the back-bone industry of this country is in a parlous position.
– What we need to do is to repeal the Navigation Act.
– There are two or three things about which the shipping people complain. One is the high cost of berthing at our ports, whilst another is the extraordinary interference with oversea ships at our different ports. The export of merino wool, which is practically only grown in Australia, is not seriously interfered with, but present conditions do very seriously interfere with the export of the lower-grade wools produced by farmers scattered all over Australia. There are 80,000 wool-growers in Australia, and a great many of the small farmers, who grow the coarser wools, are not making ends meet at the present time. They get about 6d. per lb. for their wool, and it costs them 9d. per lb. to deliver it at the ship’s side. They are losing money. It makes me feel very indignant when I consider that New Zealand producers, who have not to bear a penny of expenditure in shipbuilding, are being given an advantage over our own producers ofd. per lb. in the carriage of their wool to the Old Country.
– Can the honorable senator explain how the difference comes about ?
– I cannot. I know only that the shipping people complain of high charges for berthing ships in our ports. They are higher than the charges in New Zealand. Another matter which must weigh with ship-owners is that oversea ships are not allowed to engage in our Inter-State trade.
– I do not think that that can affect the matter, because oversea shipping can do very little purely New Zealand trade.
– I am giving the facts, but I am unable to account for them. Those who have the interests of our primary producers at heart should look into the matter. The Argentine people have practically wiped out our cattle industry. Cattle cannot be produced here now at a profit. The Argentine people are not making much profit themselves on cattle, and before very long they will be looking around for something else to do with their land, and they may turn to the growing of cross-bred wool, and so very seriously injure that industry in Australia. More and more of our country, which in the past has been devoted to growing merino wool, is being used to grow cross-bred wool, and it seems to me to be an outrage, after all the money we have spent on shipbuilding, that our producers should be called upon to pay Jd. per lb. more for exporting their wool than is asked for from the producers in New Zealand.
– The honorable senator’s contention is that the Commonwealth Shipping Line is not helping the primary producer?
– Has it not kept down freights to and from Australia?
– I have just been giving figures to show that our producers are called upon to pay the highest freights in the world. One of the overseas shipping people gave as a reason that there is no back loading from the Old Country to Australia. That argument should apply equally to New Zealand, and yet notwithstanding the fact that we have a Commonwealth Shipping Line, our producers have to pay §d. per lb. more freight on their wool than is charged to producers in New Zealand. If that additional charge for freight is worked out it will be found that Australia is paying £600,000 a year more in freight on wool than we would have to pay if we were charged only the freight charged to New Zealand producers. In the circumstances the sooner we bring our schemes for shipbuilding to an end the better. I would not altogether like to see the Commonwealth Government give up their shipping line, because I do not desire that we should be thrown entirely into the hands of the Shipping Ring. The shipping business should be dealt with, as I believe the Government contemplate dealing with it, free from political influence. I should like to see the business managed in much the same way as it is proposed to manage the business of wireless telegraphy. The Commonwealth Government might put a controlling amount of capital into the business of a shipping company that has done good work in the past, and might then hand their ships over to that company. It costs £12 10s. per ton to ship Australian wool to London at the present time. The cost of shipping wool from the Argentine is vastly less than that, and I direct atten- tion to the way in which the most important industry in Australia is being handicapped. We have clung to the idea that Australian wool will always beat the wool grown in other parts of the world. I hope it will.
– Our merino wool is the best in the world.
– We have said so, and have considered that we are entrenched in an impregnable position, but we know what science can do, and we know the low cost of producing wool in the Argentine as compared with the cost of its production in Australia. Shearing ia done in the Argentine for about onequarter of what it costs here, wages are infinitely lower there than here, and when we remember that it costs to carry wool from the Argentine to London one-tenth of what it costs to carry wool to London from Australia, one may well be alarmed for the future of our main industry. We should give up shipbuilding as quickly as possible. There must be other enterprises in which £2$00,000 could be spent to better advantage. There is an item in the schedule to this Bill appropriating £2,300,000 for the construction of ships. I regard that as an alarming item, and I ask the Minister now leading the Government in the Senate to look into these things with the utmost care in the interests of the primary producers of wool, who are engaged in the backbone industry of Australia.
– It is well that some latitude has been- allowed in the discussion of the clause, because I apprehend that honorable senators may desire to express an opinion as to whether there should be an appropriation of £12,000,000 or of a lesser sum. Senator Fairbairn, in giving reasons for his objection to a particular item in the schedule, gave the Committee some very valuable information, which cannot be repeated too often. He referred- to the big lump of money that is set down in the schedule for shipbuilding, and to the position in which Australian rural producers are placed in the matter of freights in competition with producers in New Zealand. We have a Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and Senator Fairbairn has supplied sufficient information to make the most thoughtful amongst us pause before we vote any more money for the purpose of shipbuilding. The honorable senator has explained that the New Zealand producer in the matter of freights is given an advantage over the Australian grower of wool- of f d. per lb., and the Australian grower is handicapped to that extent.
– To the extent of £600,000 a year.
– When we ask the electors to sustain us in perpetuating the State-owned shipping line, the figures are against us. I was pleased to hear Senator Fairbairn say that he does not desire that the Commonwealth Line of Steamers should be abolished. He desires that it should be maintained as a check upon those operating at present in the maritime carrying trade between Australia and the Old Country. The matter is of vital importance to us because we are at the extreme end of the globe, and have to pay the highest freights to land our products in the consuming centres of the world. We must have cheap freights, and the fact that although we have a Commonwealth Line of Steamers we have not cheap freights, is an indication that there is something rottenly wrong. I believe that there is, and that the time has come to say to the people who are running the Commonwealth steamers, as I have said before in this Chamber and out of it - and I am referring now particularly to the labour element - “ The sooner you get down to the level of common sense, and! recognise that this line of steamers, is not established for your special purpose, but for the benefit of the vast body of the producers who are citizens of the Commonwealth, the better it will be for you.”
– They are paid £16 a. month as against £6 paid to sailors on British ships.
– We cannot carry on under those conditions, unless we can find a way to put a quart of water into a pint pot,, or to perform! a miracle when we are told that the day of miracles has passed.. If something cannot be done with the Commonwealth Line of Steamers to make it of some benefit to- the silent, patient multitude of rural producers in. this country, we shall have no alternative but to get rid of it. That would be a very hard pass to come1 to, but we must tell the people to whom I refer very plainly- that if’ they do not accept the terms offered them, and do not stop bringing the operations of the Line to a stand-still by creating such confusion as they halve created in the past, the steamers will be sold at the instigation of this Parliament. In common with others, I was looking for years to the establishment of a Commonwealth Line of Steamers as the one remedy which would give relief in bridging the distance between our producers and the Old Country. There is no reason why it should not be so, if only common sense prevailed amongst those working the Line. A few thousand people hold, up the 5,000,000 of people in Australia, and say, “ Until our requests are conceded, these ships must remain idle.” That is intolerable. Up to a point, the Government showed! unmistakable weakness in handling the problem. I would have taken the problem in hand, and would have said, “ If you are going to hold up these ships, they will be put on the London register.” If the impact is to come, let it come at once. Why should the ships be held up to meet the demands of a few thousand men, who are treated better to-day than they ever have been before in their lives. I know that is so, because I have “ been there.”
– They have come to terms all right now.
– Of course they have come> to terms when they are getting what they want. That is the method adopted by the present Government for settling things. They give these people everything they want. That is the way in which the New South Wales coal miners’ trouble was. settled. Any one oan settle a trouble by conceding all that an opponent demands1. There is no necromancy about that kind of settlement. Unless the Commonwealth Government Line lines up to the expectations formed of it,, and- delivers the goods, it must go out of existence. No onethought that it would not render decent service. It was established to help the producers of this country, and. those engaged1 in operating it would be- bettertreated and better paid than they would be in any private service if only thepeople of this country could get a fair deal from them.
– We have never got it.
– There has been, something wanting’ in the human el* ment. The sooner the Government - if” they can find a backbone - tell these people, in a voice that will warm the wool in their ears, that they intend to run the Shipping Line, the better. Unfortunately, up to date the Government have not found a backbone in dealing with this problem.
– What is that? Since the difficulties with the Moreton Bay and the Largs Bay they are eating out of our hands. The honorable senator must have been asleep.
– Then the Government have at last found a backbone. They certainly did not have one when they were dealing with the other disputes that arose previously. I suppose that we can only agree to this proposed vote now, and hope that some change will come over the scene. In the expenditure of this money we must, if possible, get back to the contract system. I was one of those who, in my young and greener days, thought that if the Government gave men a fair chance by means of the day-labour system, they would get a fair return, and the taxpayer would be benefited, and without the least doubt that was so until recently. But now I am obliged to say that I have less faith in that nostrum in which I then believed so firmly. Even the Official Labour party, on occasions, departs from this principle now. I believe the Labour party in Western Australia recently returned to the contract system for the carrying out of a certain work.
– That was in the building of their own Trades Hall.
– Yes, that is one example of a lost faith. If they feel that, because of the intervention of the human element, they cannot get a fair deal, then those of us who worked so hard to have this principle embedded in the public policy of this country must regard the results of its operation with feelings of dejection. And yet they call themselves “Socialists,” “comrades,” and all the rest of it, always forgetting, however, that some other “comrade” has to foot the bill. The primary producers of the Commonwealth are now in that position to the tune of £600,000 a year, according to figures quoted this afternoon by Senator Fairbairn. This Loan Bill ought to contain a special provision that inthe expenditure of these large sums of money for land settlement and assistance to immigrants, the contract system shall, where possible, be resorted to side by side with the day-labour principle, to insure a fair deal for the taxpayers of this country. If this money is to be spent on works to be carried on by day labour, we may be sure that the bulk of it will be wasted, as has been the case in the past. I should like to see the Government take a definite stand and instruct that the contract system be tested side by side with estimates of costs under day labour.
On the general question as to whether £12,000,000 is enough, all I can say is that, notwithstanding the false political doctrines that have been preached hitherto about the wisdom of not borrowing, I look to the future of this country with a light heart. I am satisfied that we can in all good faith and with every assurance of success borrow on the security of the Commonwealth, and, if we are wise, invest the money in such a way as to insure an ample reward for all. We have a vast country to develop, and we have every right to anticipate the future with confidence. Even now people are busy about this undertaking from all points, going west from the eastern seaboard and east from the western seaboard into the interior. They need to be followed by all those necessary facilities of everyday life - water supplies, roads, telegraphs, railways, and mail services. I am glad to know that, as a result of what has been said in this chamber and elsewhere, the Government have departed from the policy of depending upon revenue sources for the development of the Postal Department, and that loan money is now to beused for this purpose. Last year there was only a paltry £750,000 of loan money earmarked for this work. Even some of our municipalities would not say very much about borrowing a sum closely approaching that figure for their parochial undertakings ; but when the Commonwealth came down with a proposal to spend £750,000 to put the Postal Department on a proper basis, they thought they were doing something extraordinary. I am glad they listened to criticism, and that a substantial sum is now to be made available for the development and extension of our postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services. It will be expedient to see that this money is expended in the most economical manner. If it can be shown that the contract system, as against day labour, offers advantages to the Commonwealth, then there should be no delicacy about the matter at all - it should be adopted.
– ls it not a fact that the contract system has been tried and found wanting on other occasions?
– I am very well aware that the two systems have been found wanting in turn. And still I say there is no reason why the day labour system as such should not be successful if - and, unfortunately, that little “if” intervenes - we can be sure that the taxpayers who find the money will get a fair deal.
– What about the slumming of work under the contractsystem ?
– I am quite prepared - and, perhaps, in this matter I would go farther than the honorable senator - to bring any contractor guilty of slumming his work up with a round turn. The only difference between the honorable senator and me is that, whenever it has been necessary, I have never been afraid to raise my voice in reprimand of the daylabour system. The honorable senator knows, as I do, that to do this means lost votes and, perhaps, an end to his political life. I am not afraid of that. I repeat that if we cannot be sure of a fair day’s return for a fair day’s wage under the day-labour system it should be set on one side. If only others would speak in the same strain we should have a more healthy public opinion in regard to our political and industrial life, and the progress of this country would be assured.
– The question of shipbuilding and freights is of the utmost importance to Australia. In fact, the prosperity of this country is bound up in it.” Without adequate shipping facilities and reasonable freights, ‘we can never expect to be in the van of prosperous nations. The figures given by Senator Fairbairn are very illuminating, and we must keep them in mind if we are going to do the right thing by the primary producers of Australia. Our producers should enjoy at least the same freightconcessions as obtain from New Zealand. Australia and the Dominion are both at a much greater distance from the markets of the world than other competing countries, and, consequently, freights charged to our producers should be on the lowest possible scale. I cannot indorse all the criticism that has been levelled against the Commonwealth Shipping Line, for I know that, so far as Western Australia is concerned, the inauguration of the Line has led to reduced freights. Prior to this competition, Western Australian producers, although one week nearer the markets of Europe than those in the Eastern States, were obliged to pay higher rates on their produce, but since the inauguration of the Commonwealth Line they are paying the same freight charges. I should be very sorry v indeed to see the Line change hands or abolished, because I believe its operation has an important effect upon the prosperity of our primary producers and, consequently, upon the Commonwealth itself.
– But we are not enjoying cheap freights.
– I have already pointed out that the producers in Western Australia have received better treatment, but I admit that as compared with New Zealand freights, there appears to be something wrong. Freights from Western Australian ports to Java and the East are now lower by from 5s. to 10s. per ton than they were formerly. These are matters which we should not forget in our criticism of the Commonwealth Line.
– Freights would be very much higher but for the existence of the Commonwealth Line.
– Undoubtedly that is true so far as Western Australia is concerned, at all events. The Governmentshould ascertain why our producers are at a disadvantage as compared with New Zealand. Another important competitor, the Argentine, is only about one-half our distance from, the European markets, and, consequently, freight charges from that country to Europe, give ‘ our competitors there an important advantage. These are points which we cannot ignore. We must also remember that the men employed on the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, as well as those on the vessels under the control of private companies, are receiving much higher wages than those who produce the commodities which the vessels are carrying. It will probably be a long time before this disparity is removed; but all we oan do is to keep pegging away until- more reasonable conditions prevail.
– If the man on the land cannot successfully compete he must go out of business.
SenatorDE LARGIE. - He has to take whatever he can get for his produce, and there does not appear to be any valid reason why the man who carries the product to market should receive a much higher return for his labour than the producer. It is generally recognised that those engaged . on the* Commonwealth Line of Steamers are extraordinarily well paid. In fact, they are too well paid when a comparison is made between their earnings and those of the primary producers. Personally, I believe that the man on the land is a more skilled worker than the man employed in, say, the stokehold of a steamer, although the conditions under which the former works may be more favorable. I trust, therefore, that, instead of suggestions being made to abolish the Commonwealth Line, we shall endeavour to improve the service to such an extent that the men on the land will get a fairer deal in the matter of freights.
.- I have been wondering what item we are discussing, and I am not going to run the risk of being called to order from the Chair by entering into a debate on shipping or any other item, as we shall have an opportunity of obtaining information from Ministers and criticising the different proposals when we are discussing the schedule. In the first place, I desire to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) on having recognised the necessity of dealing with the public affairs of the Commonwealth as I think they ought to be dealt with. During the last session, or the session before, I brought under the notice of the Senate the desirableness of dividing the expenditure on public works between the present generation and the generations to come. I cannot understand why the expenditure on such public works as post-offices, and telegraph and telephone lines should be borne by the present generation; and I am very glad that the Government have at last recognised the fairness of the proposal I have previously submitted. If we compare this schedule with those of previous years, it will be found that a large proportion of the expenditure on public works is to be met out of loan money, whereas in the past we have been overburdening the people by drawing too much from revenue for public works of a permanent character, and, consequently, imposing heavier taxation than ought to have been necessary.
– Changed conditions have necessitated that.
– The conditions do not affect the question at all, as it is a matter of policy. When permanent public works are to be undertaken by the Government, surely it is reasonable to expect that the cost should be met out of loan, and not out of revenue, because those who are to follow us will derive possibly as much benefit from the works as we shall. It is the duty of honorable senators to carefully peruse the schedule to see if any items included therein should be paid for out of revenue, and not out of loan. I have marked several on which I shall require information; but I rose particularly to express my appreciation of the fact that at last a change is to be made in the direction I have indicated.
– In view of the rapidity with which the press seize upon random statements made in this chamber and elsewhere, and which soon become eternal truths, to be used at election time, I think it advisable to give the Committee some information concerning the shipbuilding vote.
– It has been suggested that discussion on that question should be delayed until the schedule is under consideration, but as clause 2 covers all the items in the schedule, I do not intend to prevent the matter being debated at this stage.
– Statements have been made which will convey the impression that the Government arc proceeding with their shipbuilding programme, and are constructing new steamers ; but I may explain that the amounts set out in the schedule in connexion with shipbuilding are merely for settling existing liabilities. A number of “ E “ class steamers have been built under contract, and payments in this connexion have to be met. No fresh contracts are being made, and the amounts included in this Bill under that heading,and which total £418,940, are for clearing up the contracts in relation to those steamers.
– They were built in Australia.
– Yes. Some of the “Bay” class steamers were constructed overseas and some in Australia. Although a number of the vessels are already in commission, payments are still due on some of them. The total liabilities on the “Bay” class steamers included in this measure amount to £1,411,570. In some instances, these will be final payments, and in others further commitments will have to be met. This vote does not entitle the Government to place any new orders, but merely covers payments on orders already placed. In the case of the Largs Bay, there is a final payment of £104,000, and there are also payments of £173,000 on the Hobson’s Bay, £329,000 on the Esperance Bay, and £324,000 on the Jervis Bay. In some cases they are final settlements, but in others further payments will have to be cleared up. Two vessels are being built at Cockatoo Island, and in this Bill £380,000 has been provided in that connexion. It is estimated that the first vessel will be completed by October, 1923, and the second by about April, 1924, so that our friends on the press will not be able to say on the authority of Senator Fairbairn or Senator Lynch that orders are being placed for additional boats. I think it is necessary to place these facts before the Committee, so that the statements made by some honorable senators may not cause misunderstanding.
The information given by Senator Fairbairn concerning freights is certainly startling, and why there should be a difference ofd. per lb. in the freight on wool from New Zealand to the United Kingdom and Australia to the United Kingdom is difficult to understand. I should imagine that the harbor and other dues in the Dominion ofNew Zealand and in the Commonwealth would be practically the same. Wages are about the same, and I do not think that a steam-ship company is put to greater expense in an Australian port than in a New Zealand port. The cost of coal in New Zealand must be about the same as it is in Australia, otherwise New Zealand coal would be coming into the Commonwealth, because no duty is imposed. I have not had sufficient time to have a thorough investigation made, but I shall do so in order to ascertain if the figures are correct, and, if they are, why there should be such a difference. There is one authority - I am not at liberty to mention the name - that has dealt with the question of freight, especially on wool, and that authority has informed me that, according to an article contributed to the press in this city recently, freight from New Zealand isnotd., butd., per lb. less than the last-quoted freight from Australia. As the figures were contained in a contributed article, they may not be reliable, and the statement made here to-day is sufficiently startling to justify an investigation. It is obvious that the Commonwealth Line of Steamers is not the cause, because if that Line has had any effect on the freights it would be in the direction of cheapening them. If freights are cheaper from New Zealand I do not think that fact can be used as an argument for the abolition of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. I have given the assurance that the Government do not contemplate placing any further orders for vessels, and that the vote referred to will not commit Parliament in that direction. It is, however, proposed to introduce legislation at the earliest possible moment to place the Commonwealth Line under a Board of Commissioners, and thus remove it from political control.
.- I have always regarded it as an established fact that the existence of a Commonwealth Line of Steamers has been the means of keeping down freights between Australia and the United Kingdom. One has only to read statements made by chairmen of shipping companies to prove that such is the case. It was not long ago that LordInchcape opposed the continuance of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers because, he said, it was unfairly competing with private enterprise. Notwithstanding the arguments of Senator Fairbairn and others to the effect that the Commonwealth Line has not been the means of reducing freights, we must admit that they have been reduced. Personally I am entirely in favour of the Commonweath Line, and I think the primary producers of Australia owe a debt of gratitude to the Commonwealth Government for undertaking the enterprise. Commonwealth ships have assisted to keep freights down, and to carry
Australian produce to the markets of the world. The president of one of our Chambers of Commerce has referred to the debt of gratitude which business men owe to the Commonwealth line. In his opinion there was not the slightest doubt that freights had been kept down by the operation of the Line. It is stated that Mr. Larkin is coming to Australia to make ‘ arrangements for handing over the management of the Line to a nonpolitical body. Whatever that may mean, I do not know. It is a very vague, indefinite thing. At one time we heard a great deal about handing over the War Service Homes Department to a non-political body. The suggestion seems to be that politicians are incapable. I do not know that there are any politicians who are capable of running a shipping line, and I am not aware that there has been any interference by the -Government with the management of the Commonwealth Line. I noticed a newspaper paragraph last night which insinuated that if political interference did not cease, Mr. Larkin would resign. I have seen no definite statement in the press as to where political influence has interfered. I am strongly in favour of the Line being put under proper management. If it could be shown that the Government had interfered with the management of the Line in regard to wages and conditions of labour, then I would be behind Mr. Larkin in having such interference removed. The Line must compete with other lines on an equal footing; if it does not do this the taxpayers, . and especially the primary producers, will have to carry an extra burden. We have seen how the Seamen’s Union treated the Line. They refused to regard it as a national asset, and did everything they could to injure it in the eyes of the public and increase the expense of running it. If political control has conceded to the men conditions that ought not to have been allowed, then an alteration should be made in the form of management, and’ it should be placed on a similar basis to the Commonwealth Bank.
Regarding the alleged excessive cost of shipbuilding, I would like to point out that during the investigations into the conditions at Cockatoo Island, it was disclosed that machinery for the ships built in Australia was under order. The money we are asked to vote is for the purpose of completing work undertaken some time ago. Even if we can purchase ships for £10 a ton it would not pay us .to do so and throw- away our machinery, plates, and contracts. Any ships that we could buy would not be up to the quality of workmanship of Australian ships. The excellent quality of Australian ships was admitted by everybody concerned, even by those who were opposed to Government control and to Cockatoo- Island. Even if the ships are costing a little more, that is unavoidable, but we have to recollect that shipbuilding is keeping a good class of men in employment, and we also have the compensation of knowing that good work is being put into the vessels. I am entirely in favour of finishing the ships in hand and continuing the Commonwealth Line. The very existence of that Line has been a check upon shipping combines which were uniting to put up freights. Unfortunately there is not much inward freight, owing to the Customs Tariff which we passed to support the local industries.
– The Customs revenue has increased.
– The tendency is for the Customs Tariff to create local industries. If we create local industries for the employment of our own people and immigrants, it is one of the drawbacks that we must put up with, in running our Shipping Line. If the Tariff is commencing to operate already against the importation of goods, it shows the benefit that we are getting from it. If the shortage of goods cannot be explained in this way, it shows that Australia is suffering from a depression. Not long ago the cry was that Australia had over-imported, and that the warehouses were full of goods purchased at very high prices.
– Under the control of the Department of Defence there is an item “ Employment of temporary staff, advertising, and other expenditure connected with sales of surplus, war equipment and stores.” I am unable to see how that can legitimately come out of loan expenditure. If we bring under loan expenditure items which obviously should be paid for from, revenue, we must be careful what we are doing. It seems to me to be stretching loan expenditure to its elastic limit. .
– Posterity will want to know what advantage it gets from advertising.
– I am not worrying about posterity. Posterity can look after itself. I have a hard enough job looking after things as they are.
– Posterity has done nothing for us!
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. I consider that the item should certainly not be under loan expenditure.
– This Bill opens up an entirely different avenue of outlook, particularly in regard to works for the Postal Department. It has been said that we ought to leave these things to posterity, as though posterity will not have its own troubles. It is easy to see that Australia has suffered very largely already from a spirit of unlimited borrowing in times past.
– The Post Office is suffering because we did not borrow.
Senior SENIOR.- I grant that.
Senatorcox. - Should we have had any railways if we had not borrowed money?
– I thought that my remarks would provoke interjections of that character. There is a tendency on the part of some people to become wedded to the ideathat the only way to develop anything is by borrowing. It has to be recognised, however, that there are certain things which perish long before they are paid for, and which should be paid for before they perish. One has only to read to discover that there are many things which have gone out of existence except for the mortgage on them. We ought, as a people, to be prepared to take such steps as will pay for a post-office before it becomes defunct or has to be scrapped. There are many railways for which money has been borrowed for laying rails, and although the rails have wasted away, the money has not been repaid. Unless some provision is made to repay such money before the asset has wasted away the borrowing becomes reckless. I am certainly not in favour of that, as I am also not averse to capital outlay in connexion with the Post Office, provided the debt is repaid before the assets have decayed. There ought to be a sinking fund large enough to pay for these things before they are “ dead.” I cannot see how we shall be able to keep pace with the growth of population and to assist to disperse it over the country by any other process than a legitimate policy of borrowing.
Touching upon the question of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, in policy it is as sound as Government control of the railways. There is nothing more immoral in carrying goods over the water than in carrying them over the land. Those who say that it is wise to spend money on railways should be able to see that it is also wise to spend money on water carriage.
– It should be remembered that our railways have no competition to face, but that our ships have.
– The Commonwealth Line of Steamers came into existence at a time when it was discovered that, owing to the absence of control over shipping, Australia was likely to be left in a very difficult position as an outlying nation, and I think a wise policy was adopted. I agree that shipping should be kept free from political control, and if the Commonwealth Line of Steamers is maintained, as I hope it will be, it will be necessary to continue it on sound principles. It has been stated that the Commonwealth steamers are competing unjustly with other lines. It should be remembered that the provision made for the employees on the Commonwealth steamers, from the captain to the cabin-boy, is of a better class than on any other steamers trading to Australia, and if the Line can successfully compete, at the same time as it gives this superior accommodation to its employees, there need be no fear of freights being kept at such a level as to justify a cry of profiteering. It would be well to proceed slowly in connexion with the Government shipping policy, in order to keep within safe limits. The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) is seeking power to raise certain moneys, and I take it that the loans will be available to investors in Australia. People will thus be investing their money in their own enterprises, and the interest on that money will be distributed in the Commonwealth, which will be much more advantageous than allowing the interest to be paid to investors in other countries. It is certainly wise for the Treasurer to make use of any money available for investment in Australia.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Department of the Prime Minister.
Proposed vote, £863,896.
.- There is an item of £125,002 for “ Subscription to capital of Refinery Company in accordance with Oil Agreement Act 1920.” What has been the outcome of the agreement, and has the company begun Work in Australia in a practical way yet?
– The amount required is £150,001. The total amount to be contributed by the Commonwealth is £250,001, and £100,000 has been paid in calls to date. The amount to be appropriated under the Bill is the balance of the Commonwealth’s contribution for which the Act provides. Substantial progress has been made towards the erection of a refinery in Melbourne.
– Can the Minister give any information as to the position of the AngloPersian Oil Company to-day, owing to the agreement not having been ratified by Great Britain? The company has had to withdraw from part of Persia, and I want to know if that is the part from which its supplies have been drawn.
. - Our agreement did not have to be ratified by Great Britain. The company has other fields of operations and other sources of supply than those which have been abandoned in Persia. While it is deplorable that it should have to withdraw from any part of Persia, the company lias not been prevented from carrying on.
– What stage has the company reached now?
– The company has been formed, and the Commonwealth is paying up the remainder of its share of the capital. Land has been acquired, and the company is proceeding with the erection of a refinery in Melbourne.
.- Referring to the item of £300,001 for “ Subscription to capital of Amalgamated Wireless Limited,” I would like to know if the Government intend to insist that lenders be called for the erection of a high-powered plant in Australia. The Parliamentary Committee last year found that the proposal by the Marconi Company in London was to erect a plant for £600,000, and a counter proposal had been made by the Radio Communication Company of London to erect an equally efficient plant for £280,000 odd. Will the Government give an assurance that they will insist on tenders being called, and that the Marconi Company shall not have the work of erecting the station without either plans and specifications or competition ?
– The honorable senator will remember that this proposal has been in a state of suspended animation owing to the difficulty of filling the position of the seventh director. That difficulty has now been got over, and the Government are proceeding to apply themselves to questions of policy, of which that mentioned by the honorable senator is a most important one. There is another important matter in regard to the indemnity, and to both these questions the Government now propose to apply themselves. We have not yet come to a decision on either of the matters, but we are fortified by the evidence taken before the Committee of which the honorable senator was a; distinguished member, and I am sure that the Government in coining to their decision will be influenced by the expressions of opinion of that Committee.
.- There is a vote proposed under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department of £200,000, of which £171,849 is to be appropriated by this Bill for the. payment of passage money of assisted immigrants. I think it is open to question that this item should be debited to loan expenditure. I have taken the trouble to look into the practice adopted in the States, and I have found that money they have expended on the assistance of immigrants has been taken from revenue. I ask the Minister (Senator. Pearce) whether the Government consider it a fair thing to charge this money to loan? I want it to be clearly understood that I am not opposing any policy which has for its object the introduction to Australia of immigrants of the right kind, but I do question whether it is sound business to charge to loan account expenditure incurred in assisting immigrants.
– I think the honorable senator will find that this money is in the nature of an advance which has to be repaid.
– If that is so, I assume that when the advances are repaid the money will go into revenue, though we shall still have this expenditure debited to loan. I should like to have some explanation of the matter from the Minister.
– I have no desire to rob the State Governments of credit for any virtues they may possess, but whether they charge such expenditure to revenue or to loan, I do not think they can claim any credit in connexion with this particular item, because the Commonwealth will pay the whole of the money as a grant in aid to cover the passage money of immigrants.
– I was referring to what happened years ago in the States.
– In the good old days, when we had an overflowing revenue, we built post-offices out of revenue, but we cannot do that now. If there is any expenditure which can be truly said to be reproductive it is expenditure on immigration. The best reproductive work in which we could engage is the bringing of taxpayers into this country. The Government has no compunction at all in using loan money for this purpose.
– Is the vote not in the nature of a loan to immigrants to be repaid?
– No, it is a grant in aid of the passage money of immigrants, portion of which will be paid by the immigrants themselves. The State Governments will pay no portion of this’ money at all. The Commonwealth Government will pay the whole of it, and it is charged to loan, because it will be reproductive expenditure in the truest sense.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £8,344,119.
– I wish to draw attention to the proposed vote of £6,000,000 for loans to the States for the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. This is one of the biggest individual items in the schedule. I quite realize that we cannot cut this amount down, and that is not my purpose; but it is my purpose to suggest that, so far as it is possible for them to do so, the Commonwealth Government should see that this money is wisely spent. They make themselves responsible for borrowing the money, and the intention is that it shall be spent for the benefit of returned soldiers. I would say, from my knowledge of the activities of the State Governments in the lending of money to soldiers for settlement on the land, that it has not always been put to the best advantage. When the Commonwealth Government take upon themselves the responsibility of raising money for this purpose, I think they should lay down hard and fast conditions, which the State Governments must observe, to insure that the returned soldiers will get the benefit of the expenditure of this money.
– The honorable senator would have two Governments undertaking a task which can be better done by one.
-When the State Governments, in advancing money for the land settlement of’ returned soldiers, lay down conditions under which the land is to be acquiredand under which the soldier settler shall work his land to the best advantage, I say that we can at least expect that inquiries will be made by the Commonwealth Government to see that the advances proposed to the States for this purpose shall be properly expended. It should be open to Commonwealth officers to satisfy themselves that the money is being spent to advantage. That is all that I suggest. I am not asking that there should be any star chamber methods adopted, or any inquisitorial business, but merely that the Commonwealth Government should take the same precautions as are taken by bankers when advancing money to farmers and others for the purpose of land development. If we have not in the past ‘taken all the care that we should to see that moneys advanced for this purpose have been wisely spent, we should insist that such care is taken in the future.
– There is a good deal of force in the remarks of the honorable senator; but he must bear in mind that we have to steer a very careful course in this matter. Honorable senators know the tendency there is for Government Departments to grow. We have to be very careful that we do not build up two sets of Government Departments to deal with the same business. The position is that the States have the land, and we simply raise the money for the State Governments. It will be a liability of the State Governments in the long run. Though we bear a certain proportion of the interest for a given period of years, the States concerned, and not the Commonwealth, must ultimately refund the money. If the Commonwealth Government are to follow up the advances, and say to the State Governments, “ We will establish a Department to see that you spend this money properly,” we must have a Department as big as that engaged in the spending of the money in every one of the States. The State Governments will themselves, I am sure, admit that in some cases they have not received full value for the money they have advanced for the purpose of soldier settlement. They are getting a crop of troubles where returned soldiers are being asked to work over-capitalized properties. We have learned something in connexion with the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, and we have the same problem to face in connexion with the immigration scheme. I can assure honorable senators that the Government are giving that problem very serious attention at the present time. We do not desire that past mistakes should be repeated. We want to see whether some scheme cannot be devised to enable some supervision by the Commonwealth of the spending of this money without the building up of another Government Department. That is the problem to which we are at present devoting our attention.
– I know that it will be absolutely necessary for some of the State Governments to write off the capital advanced in many cases to returned soldiers for the purchase of lands on which they are settled. The State Governments will be coming later to the Commonwealth and saying, “We have had bad luck in these advances to returned soldiers. We have had to let them off, and can you not do the same now with us?” If eventually the obligation is thrown upon the Commonwealth Government to make good money which the State Governments have expended unwisely, that will be only an additional reason lor Commonwealth supervision of the expenditure of this money.
– I do not believe that the State Govern.ments have not exercised reasonable control and supervision over the expenditure of these advances to returned soldiers.
– I do. I say that they have not done so.
– I can only speak of the State in which I live. I admit that in many instances the value of property acquired for returned soldiers with money provided by the Commonwealth Government will have to be written down. Senator Garling’s remarks would convey the impression that the Government of Tasmania and the other States have been somewhat neglectful of their obligation.
– I did not include Tasmania.
– It is suggested that the State Governments have’, not exercised proper supervision over the expenditure of money borrowed for this purpose. I know that the Tasmanian Government have been very keen to see that tine returned soldier has received good value for money borrowed and advanced to provide him with a home and a farm. They were not content to have the business dealt with exclusively by official valuators. They appointed Advisory Committees from every .municipality, constituted of gentlemen supposed to understand the true values of land in the districts in which they resided. The wisdom of that arrangement is obvious. A man who might be a competent judge of the value of land in the southern part of Tasmania might not be competent to assess the value of land in the northern part of the State. The Advisory Committees acted, I understand, in an honorary capacity, and received only their out-of-pocket expenses in travelling. In spite of the care which was taken, I can say from my own observation that many blocks of land have been taken up by returned soldiers in Tasmania the value of which must be written down. I do not say that this can be charged to the negligence of the State Government.
– To whom would the honorable senator attribute it - to the man who sold the land ?
– No. I think it is probable that the difficulty has arisen from the fact that members of the Advisory Committee may have been disposed to over-estimate the value of lands in their own particular districts. I cannot see how the ‘Commonwealth Government is going to control this matter in any way without, as was suggested by the Minister, bringing into operation a large and expensive Department. I hope that in connexion with future transactions of this kind we shall be guided by the experience of the last few years, and that the State Governments will see that no more than the true value of land is paid for it. Prices (have been paid for land for returned soldiers that are much above the present value of the land.
– How are we to get at the true value of the land ?
– I do not know of a better method, because notwithstanding all the precautions taken we find the States in the position I have indicated. I do not think the difficulty would be overcome if the Federal Government appointed a Valuation Board.
– All honorable senators, I am sure, appreciate the spirit in which Senator Garling has tendered his advice, but if the Government attempted to carry out his suggestion, instead of requiring £6,000,000 for soldier settlement we should have to raise double that amount. In my own State, we have most elaborate machinery for settling men on the land. We have our Advisory Boards, Government inspectors, Agricultural Department, Lands Department, and Agricultural Bank, all of which are more or less closely associated ‘with the land. “Men who have been successful themselves on the land have been appointed to the Advisory Boards, and advise the Government with regard to land that may be taken up by returned soldiers. And still mistakes have been made. All this goes to show how difficult it is to be sure that we are getting full value in every proposition.
– The honorable senator must not make it appear that I blame the Advisory Boards. I said nothing about them.
– Very considerable expenditure would be incurred by the adoption of the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– It could not be done.
– That is so. Responsibility as to the expenditure of this money as well as for its repayment must rest upon the States. The Government would be foolish to add a fifth wheel to the coach.
– In my judgment, much of the blame in connexion with valuations has not been fairly apportioned. The cost of land for settlement is largely a question of supply and demand, and, naturally, when the State Governments entered the field to meet an urgent need, prices advanced. I hope the Government will look most sympathetically upon a number of returned soldiers whose farms are very much over-capitalized. These men are doing their utmost to make a success of their venture, but owing to the fact that a large sum of money has been spent in purchasing and stocking their properties, they are up against an interest proposition that makes their position extremely difficult. I have in mind a number of soldier settlers in Tasmania. I have seen their work, and I know that a large percentage of them are doing their very best to make good. We want to encourage them as much as we can. I agree with Senator de Largie that this matter cannot be dealt with by the creation of a Government Department with all its elaborate machinery and added cost, but I hope the Government will not seek to extract the last penny from returned soldiers whose farms are overcapitalized.
– I have seen a good number of farms in occupation by returned soldiers, and I know that in New South Wales, at all events, quite a number of them are doing very well indeed.
– Nobody said they were not.
– I know of men who have actually cleared the liability on their farms in a year. Why should we go croaking about these men in this way?. Why not give them a chance? If a man is putting forth a genuine effort the Government should treat him sympathetically, and I am satisfied that if the present Government are allowed to remain in power they will do so. A Beard, similar to that mentioned by Senator Payne, was appointed in one district that I have in mind, and I believe that nearly every returned soldier there has paid for his farm. They are all doing well. We should not let the world think that we regard these men as absolute failures. They are not; though I admit that we have some “ wasters “ among them ; but we meet such persons in every walk of life. Even the banks, which are supposed to be particularly careful, make mistakes sometimes in advancing money against land. If many of those people who talked so much about what the soldiers deserved had been patriotic enough themselves, and had not put fictitious prices on their land, there would have been no trouble, and no need for the appointment of Boards and all these precautions. Our soldiers saved Australia, and so they should be treated a little more sympathetically than some of them have been by men who owned land that was required for soldier settlement. We know, of course, that many owners have been very patriotic. One man at Kemps1e gave a beautiful estate, valued at about £.100,000, free for soldier settlement. We should look upon the bright side of this matter, and not attempt to decry Australia.
– No one is doing that. The honorable senator has just awakened, and apparently did not hear what I said.
– I heard the honorable senator.
– Then you did not understand me.
– I admit I did not. The honorable senator suggested that nothing that the’ Government were doing was right.
– I can only ascribe the nature of .Senator Cox’s remarks to the fact that while I was speaking he did not hear exactly what I said. I made no suggestion that many of these returned men were not doing well by means of their own failings. I only pointed out what is perfectly clear to every one, namely, that a considerable amount of this loan money has been practically lost owing to injudicious purchases, and I was urging the Government to see that proper conditions were laid down in connexion with the expenditure’ of future loans.. I did not attack the Advisory Boards. I was speaking of action that has at times been taken behind the Advisory Boards by State Governments in lending money on propositions that were not recommended. I have in mind an instance in my own State, in which the late Director of Soldier Settlement was shown to have urged the Government to indorse schemes which the Advisory Boards and various Repatriation Committees and executives had turned down. Had the advice of these local Repatriation Committees and executives been always taken, there would not have been half the muddle. I know that some of our soldier settlers are doing well, notwithstanding their heavy burdens, which should never have been placed upon them. I trust that when Senator Cox to-morrow reads what I did say, and then reads what he alleges that I said, he will realize that he must have been in a somnolent condition at the time, and did not understand what I was saying.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Federal Capital Territory.
Proposed vote (under control of Home and Territories and Works and Railways Departments), £284,762.
– I should like the Minister (Senator Pearce) to explain and justify, if he can, the items “ repairs “ and “ rabbit destruction “ in a schedule for loan expenditure. No one can, by the greatest stretch of imagination, regard repairs to buildings and the ordinary annual expenditure on rabbit destruction as a fair charge to loan money. Too much care cannot be exercised in the preparation of a loan schedule, in order that the public may be satisfied that their representatives in this Parliament are giving that care and attention to the allocation of loan expenditure that they are expected to give.
– Why are ‘ transport,” “nurseries,” and “bachelors’ quarters” included in the one item?
– I should like to have an indication of Government policy in connexion with the Federal Capital works. I have already referred to the necessity of the Government departing somewhat, and entirely if necessary, from the daylabour system. I hope the Government will give some attention to the position, and see that contractors have an opportunity of tendering. If the engineer in charge of a sub-department can show in his estimates that it would be an economy to carry out any particular work by day labour, then he should be called upon to do so. If, on the other hand, the advantage is with the contractor, he should bo .authorized to go ahead. .We have been veering between these two policies for some time. Unfortunately it has been found that our anticipations concerning the benefits of the day-labour system have not been realized, and I trust that the fixed and determined policy of the Government will be to see that the interests of the taxpayers are adequately conserved. The taxpayers have to be considered, because it is their money which is used in creating a sinking fund to pay off the loan. I am sure no one wishes the workers in this country to be ill-treated. I hope Senator MacDonald is listening when I say that if the workers are ill-treated there is always some one who will see that their grievances are ventilated in this Parliament, and a just grievance always found an echo here. The idea that the Government are out to tyrannize or oppress the workers has been run to death, and it is time we remembered that the other side shall be considered. Many of those who have to find the money to pay the high wages which are ruling, are working, harder and longer than those who get the benefit. In fact, there are some in our Government Departments who are idling on their job, while others who are striking a harder and longer blow are wondering all through the dark hours of the night how it will be possible for them to make their particular enterprise pay. , Those who are slowing down on their job should be brought up to “ scratch,” and by calling for tenders in the manner I have suggested,, it may be possible to have the work performed at a lower rate. If it is, let us do it.
– I intended to speak on this item, but Senator Lynch has given me added impetus by saying that the workers should consider their duty to the taxpayer generally.
– I said that long before the honorable senator came here, and before I was expelled by your party.
– Years ago the honorable senator pursued a different course, and my study of political tendencies leads me to the conclusion that those who are violent on one side and then on another, are not quite right on whichever side they are. Much can be said in favour of the workers, and if a few do make what- some persons consider excessive demands, it does not prove that the general body asks for more than that to which it is entitled. There may be some excuse for Senator Lynch taking a rather exaggerated view concerning the position of the workers in the Federal Capital Territory, as1 in regard to the political theories of the present Labour party he referred to it as a Communistic party.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the political ethics of parties.
– I realize that, Mr. Chairman, but I merely wished to say that we are not a Communistic party, but a Socialistic party just as we were in the days when Senator Lynch was expelled from the Labour party. As a large expenditure is proposed in connexion with the Federal Capital Territory, I trust the Minister, (Senator Pearce) will give some indication as to when those who are returned after the next election are likely to meet in that charmed locality known as Canberra. An amount of £379,000 is at present involved, and it appears that the expenditure will run into millions before members of Parliament are removedfrom the atmosphere of Melbourne, where they are daily dictated to by the press of this city, and under whose influence the Ministers apparently are, despite their statements to the contrary.
– Are we free from theinfluence of the press in Queensland?
– Yes, and if Parliament were removed to Canberra, it would be away from the influence of the Sydney and Melbourne press. The tendency appears to be for the population of the Commonwealth to be increasing north of the River Murray, and although it is said that Victoria is well managed, population here is not increasing to the sameextent as it is in New South Wales. A move should be made to Canberra as soon as possible, and I trust that the Minister will give the Committee some information as to when a transfer is to be made, so that we will know if it is to be in one year or in two hundred’ years hence.
– In regard to Senator Lynch’s query, I may say that in this instance the Government take the same view as he does. The cost incurred in connexion with rabbit destruction and repairs is really a maintenance charge. We charge maintenance against loan, and every penny we spend in the Federal Capital Territory is for establishing the Federal Capital. The establishment of the city creates an asset, and rabbit destruction is by no means the least useful means of creating that asset. Any one who doubts that should inspect the country outside and inside our boundaries, when it will be seen that we have added to the value of the land by spending money out of loans for the destruction of rabbits. All revenue received from the Territory is used in liquidating that portion of the liability from loan.
– There are two items in the schedule on which I should like the Minister (Senator Pearce) to give some information. One is a payment to the Government of New South Wales for working and maintaining the railway line from Queanbeyan to the Territory during the construction of the Federal Capital. I suggest to the Minister that by entering into the necessary arrangements he can have on the credit side an item of revenue by permitting that railway to be used for the benefit of those residing at Acton, the civic centre, Molonglo, and Duntroon. By permitting these people, on payment of the ordinary fares, to go to and from Queanbeyan twice a week when trains are running, the Government would be assisting many who are settled in the locality. If this facility were provided, these people would be able to visit the picture shows at Queanbeyan, inspect the shops, and so forth, and would then be more contented. I have recently come from the Territory, where I discussed the matter with the settlers, and I found that it would be of great advantage to them if this convenience were provided. I do not think any difficulties are in the way, as there are two goods trains a week that might be used for the purpose I have indicated.
– I shall have inquiries made to see what can be done.
– There is also an item of £379,234 towards the cost of establishing the Federal Capital, and I presume that the cost of constructing the hostel is included.
– A portion of it is.
– We have no opportunity of deleting items; but if I had my way I would not support the construction of the hostel by the Government, because I think that work should be done by private enterprise. In this -particular instance, I suppose, it is too late to utter a word against the proposal; but I may still express the pious hope that when visitors and members of Parliament are being accommodated there, the conduct of the hostel will be left to private enterprise.
– The honorable senator need not have any doubt about that.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Home and Territories - Proposed vote (excepting Federal Capital Territory), £117,313, agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed vote, £340,893.
– I should like the Minister (Senator Pearce) to explain why some of the items under this Department are being paid out of loan instead of revenue. For instance, the cost of medals, advertising, freight, handling charges, and so forth, is included, and it seems to me that this expenditure should be met out of revenue.
– During the war period a great part of our war expenditure, including the purchase of equipment, was financed from loan funds, and this is really a cleaning up of war expenditure. The honorable senator referred to the cost of advertising. This relates to the disposal of surplus stores purchased for the Australian Imperial Force with loan money, and which are being disposed of here and in Great Britain. In connexion with the disposal of such stores, an organization had to be established, and in the Commonwealth alone stores to a value of £1,000,000 have been sold.
– Has that money gone into revenue or to loan ?
– It has gone into revenue, and can be used in the liquidation of loans. Australian Imperial Force transactions have been charged to loan funds, and if that is right the cost of advertising, which is merely a branch of the work, should also be charged to the same fund. Medals are another branch of it. They have been purchased out of loan money, and there are certain insignia of rank for the Australian Imperial Force. While we purchased the buttons or shoulder straps out ‘of loan, why should we, as Senator J. D. Millen seems to suggest, purchase the medals out of revenue? Why should there be any distinction? If the honorable senator, says that the war should be wholly financed out of- revenue, I could understand him, but that is not possible. Therefore these items have been charged, to loan. They are all associated with the war. There is another principle which also applies. Why should this generation, and this particular year, bear the whole expenditure in connexion with these matters? It is recognised that this expenditure is a fair charge, not only against this generation, but also against the next. The War Loan will be paid off by a Sinking Fund. The items are all incidental to the return and disposal of the Australian Imperial Force and its equipment.
.- Up to a certain point, I agree with the Minister, but not iu regard to the item “ Employment of temporary staff, advertising, and other expenditure connected with sales of surplus war equipment and stores.”
– I desire to make a correction. The credits received all go to the extinguishing of the loan.
– Then I have nothing more to say about the matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs. Proposed vote, £12,000, agreed to.
Department of Works and Railways.
Proposed vote (excepting Federal Capital Territory), £830,681.
.- I would like some information regarding the item of £100,000 for the Port Augusta Railway. It appears to be an expenditure out of loan money for what is practically a new line, which is supposed to be completed. Is the expenditure necessary to equip the line, or is any portion intended for maintenance purposes?
– The explanation of the item is that of the sum of £100,000, £25,000 is required to meet expenditure on works in progress prior to the 30th June, 1922; the balance, namely, £75,000, is towards the cost of the following new services: -
Ballasting, completion of a section of the line, £30,000.
Accommodation, &c, at stations, carriage sheds, sidings, &c, £18,787.
Residential accommodation at Port Augusta, and along the line, £16,045.
Construction of new rolling-stock and improvements to existing rolling-stock, £15,474.
Maintenance and ballasting road chargeable to capital, £6,000.
Coal storage, Port Augusta, £5,000.
Water supplies, improvements, &c, £1,064.
Road and lands, £905.
Workshops and machinery, £565.
Motor section, cars, £565.
These amounts make a total of £99,903, which is all required for the equipment of the line.
– I would be glad if the Minister (Senator Pearce) would give the Committee -some information regarding the item of £9,500 for the Northern Territory railway.
– I would point out that an expenditure of over £100,000 on the East- West railway is hardly, in my opinion, enough, if we are to keep the line in a state that will not involve us in a great deal of additional expenditure in future years. Already 250 miles at each end of the line have been ballasted, and the centre portion, 500 miles, is unballasted. The unballasted portion includes the section extending through the sand hills. The result of the line being unballasted is that it is much more unpopular than it otherwise would be. I cannot express a professional opinion, but a heavy unballasted road appears, to the ordinary lay mind, to be very undesirable. It is doubtful whether it is the right kind of economy.
– The trains would be able to run half as fast again if the road was ballasted.
– That is quite true. They now run at an average speed of 30 miles an hour, but if the road was properly ballasted and the trains were run in accordance with the expectations indulged in when the Bill was before this Chamber, they would travel at a speed of from 60 to 70 miles an hour, including all stoppages. When all the items, apart from ballasting, are subtracted from the £100,000, there is but a very small amount left for ballasting. The line will not at present stand the speed that ought to be maintained. I think the feeling of this Committee is that it is false economy to leave the line in its present state. When the Bill was going through this Chamber it was estimated that the travelling time between Fremantle and Adelaide would be two days.
– The shortest estimate ever made was two and a half days.
– I will not contest the point, but my recollection is that forty-eight hours was mentioned. The time at present is far in excess of fortyeight hours. Passengers landing from overseas ships hesitate before undertaking the railway journey, especially when they learn that they cannot cross Australia as they can cross the United States of America or Canada.
– They do not complain of the transcontinental line.
– I quite agree with that statement. It is the two ends of the line, the “ fag ends,” that are the worst. They are a reflection on both the Governments concerned. Any one who has travelled the world will say that we do not know our business when we have such a disjointed line, and call it a transcontinental line. Hi is not entitled to the name. If the Government would consult the opinion of this Committee it would bring down a more substantial item to cover the expenditure of putting the road in such a state that a high speed could be maintained. As to what the State Governments of Western Australia and South Australia are doing, that is a totally different matter. I am anxious that the item, should go through, but I hope that the Government will bring down a proposal for the spending of a much larger amount for putting the road in better condition.
– The question at issue is the advisability of expending a large sum of money at one given time. It is quite true that a portion of the transcontinental line has remained unballasted. The engineer in charge would very much prefer to see the line ballasted throughout, but the train service, although, perhaps, not quite so speedy as Senator- Lynch desires, has been fairly satisfactory. It is doubtful whether the Government should rush into heavy expenditure at one time, or should do the work gradually. The work is still going on, but0 is progressing, perhaps, not so rapidly as the honorable senator would like. I think it will be generally admitted that the better plan is to proceed gradually rather than spend a large sum of money all at once, which would provide employment for many men for a short period, and leave them unemployed when the job had been completed.
The Northern Territory item to which Senator J. D. Millen has referred is for improvements to the wharf at Darwin, to provide for the shipment of live stock.
– The question of the wharfage accommodation at Darwin brings me to my feet The Public Works Committee, of which I am a member, has made certain inquiries into the existing facilities at the Darwin wharf. I am in somewhat of a difficulty! because the Committee will probably make some recommendations to Parliament regarding the wharf. I think that at an earlier stage the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) indicated that it was intended to make provision for shipping live cattle. That is very well in its way, but I regard this expenditure as being very largely a waste of money, because, later on very extensive alterations will have to be made to the wharf, which is quite unsuitable for any large quantity of traffic. Whilst I would not advocate a stoppage of the expenditure of money at Port Darwin as contemplated under the schedule, I would not like this comparatively small expenditure to interfere with the provision of the greater harbor facilities that must be supplied at Darwin at an early date. The improvement of the jetty would be of considerable benefit to cattle-shippers, who have an extensive market for live cattle in Java, Singapore, and other islands to the north of Australia. Since the railway authorities have undertaken the handling of cargo at Darwin, the work has been revolutionized. I believe it used to cost about £2 per ton to handle cargo between the railway yards and the ships’ slings, whereas the cost now is somewhere in the vicinity of 12s. or 15s. There is not the slightest doubt that Darwin could be made one of the finest harbors in the world.
– Better than Sydney ?
– It is ten times the harbor that Sydney is, and there are other harbors around the coast of Australia in which the Sydney harbor could be lost.
– The proposed vote will not in any way interfere with alterations required later to the jetty at Darwin. The expenditure is simply for a cattle race, which will be placed alongside the existing jetty on the same system as has been adopted at Wyndham and other places on the northwest coast. Exporters of cattle are begging for this convenience, which will enable them to get their stock away without killing them or, at least, without injuring them. With a rise and fall of the tide of 25 feet, great difficulty is now experienced in shipping live cattle.
– I notice that among the items already passed every State seems to have benefited considerably in the way of increased postal facilities and improvements to public buildings, with the exception of South Australia.
– South Australia got in early, as usual.
– I am glad to hear that that State has not been overlooked.
– I should like to know what has happened to Tasmania. My State does not seem to have got in either before or after, although there are several important matters requiring attention there, such as new post-offices, and extensions of existing premises. Tasmania ought to have some consideration in regard to works that are of a very urgent character.
.- Although South Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland are not specifically mentioned in the schedule, there is provision made for several works in those three States to be done out of revenue. There is also an appropriation under this Bill of £2,245,435 for “ construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones, also construction’ of conduits and laying wires underground. “ That expenditure will be spread overthe whole
Commonwealth, and, therefore, Tasmania., South Australia, Queensland, and, I think, the Northern Territory, to some smaller extent, will benefit.
– Honorable senators should not labour under the false impression that Tasmania is too small to warrant consideration.
– Is that why it got a grant of £85,000 a year?
– Yes, following the very good lead of Western Australia, which gets considerably more.
– Nothing at all for poor old Western Australia.
– The fate of Western Australia is in capable hands, and I am trying to do something for the State I have the honour to represent. It seems to me that practically every other State gets a considerable amount of Commonwealth money spent in it, while Tasmania has mighty little. More sympathetic consideration should be given to the needs of Tasmania in the expenditure of Commonwealth money. The Federal Government treats it as the Cinderella among the States; but, like the fabled princess, I predict it will eventually become the brightest jewel in the Federal Crown.
– It would be a very valuable convenience to honorable senators, as well as a great innovation, if in the compilation of the schedule the expenditure for each State was shown. It is impossible to add up the huge sums allocated to the big States of New South Wales and Victoria.
– It is all in the Budgetpapers.
– I would be very happy to hear the Minister state what is in the Budget-papers for Western Australia. I have not the Budget-papers by me. It is not possible to say at a glance from this schedule how much of the proposed loan of £12,000,000 is to be appropriated for expenditure in Victoria, New South Wales, or Queensland. I can quite understand the protests which have come from Senators Newland and John D. Millen on behalf of South Australia and Tasmania, because, just as kissing goes by favour, apparently the big States near the centre of authority get much more of the expenditure than is their legitimate share. I am thankful to see that£194 is put down in the schedule for “ sundry offices “ in Western Australia. That should give hope and cheer to the people of that State!
– Let the honorable senator cast his eye over the next page of the schedule.
– I see that an amount of £147,000 is down there for a new post-office, which could no longer be done without. I have not the time to add up the vote for the various States. I hope that my hint will be taken and that in future in schedules of this kind there will be some indication of the total appropriations proposed for each State. So far as I can. see Western Australia, under this schedule, is in about the same position as South Australia and Tasmania. When the people of Western Australia learn that there is £194 set down for sundry offices in their State there will never be a sorry day for them again.
Sitting suspended from 6.25 to8 p.m.
Rural Development: Taxation
.- I move-
That the Senate is of opinion that, in order to insure the more active development of the rural areas of the Commonwealth, prevent double-banking in the function of collecting taxes, and properly delimit revenue raising spheres as between the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth Government, except in case of national emergency, should leave the field of land taxation to be exclusively exploited by the State Governments.
The purpose of my motion, stated briefly, is to insure, in the Commonwealth, fiscal simplicity as well as fiscal equity. It is quite clear from the present practice that obtains in the Commonwealth and the States in the matter of raising taxation that this is not secured, for both authorities are found in the same field in nearly every State. We have double income taxation, double land taxation, double succession duties, and, in some of the States, double entertainments taxation, all of which must lead to the inharmonious working of the Commonwealth and State governmental machinery. Anything that we can do to relieve the position without unnecessarily checking the wellsprings of revenue for either Commonwealth or States we should do. My motion merely asks that the Commonwealth should retire from the field of land taxation except, of course, in time of nationalemergency. I am solicitous in this matter because the Federation itself is the outcome of a desire on the part of the people comprising the several States to come together under one Central Authority, whose function it would be to watch the larger or national interests, leaving to the States full legislative jurisdiction in regard to matters of local concern. Possibly if there had not been organized Governments in the several States we should have had some other form of national government, such as exists in South Africa. The financial conceptions of the fathers of Federation’ were very moderate. They believed that the Central Authority would require but a very small amount of revenue for its own particular purposes, and it is quite true that, in the early days of Federation, a comparatively small sum sufficed, but later progress in the raising and spending of revenue by the Commonwealth Government has been astounding. I do not object to that. In fact, if I were asked to point to any particular item of expenditure in which the Commonwealth should not have embarked, I confess that I would find it difficult to indicate one. The States voluntarily surrendered authority in matters of national concern to the central governing power. This principle must be upheld if we are to reach the full fruition of the spirit of nationhood that animated the people of that time. We cannot go back. We must reserve to the Central Authority the necessary revenues to administer its affairs efficiently. It must be endowed with unlimited power to raise money in certain circumstances. But at the same time we must retain to the States ample means to raise the revenues required for their own purposes also. The States, it is true, have these ample means, but unfortunately in almost every field of taxation we find the Commonwealth there first. While these two governmental authorities no doubt have a perfect right to enter the same field of taxation, it is most confusing and exasperating to the taxpayers, and unquestionably leads to considerable friction, which, in every well-ordered community, ought to fee reduced to a minimum.
Our Constitution has been moulded on the American pattern. The thirteen States comprising the original American Federation came together under the stress of desperate circumstances, and the Constitution that was evolved served its time and purpose very well. When Thomas Jefferson drew up the Declaration of Independence the States comprising the new Federation had been founded under charters granted by the British Parliament, and in the exercise of their legislative functions they “ kept the ring,” so to speak, giving free play for the exercise of individuality on the part of their people. For instance, they did not build a railway system, which is the very life-breath of our industrial, social, and economic welfare. They were not concerned in the establishment of huge waterworks, tramway systems, or, as in the case of Tasmania, extensive electric-power systems. They did not follow the path-finder in the forest and bring within his reach the many facilities that ,our States provide for him to-day. We have to be careful, therefore, to see that, while we certainly require sufficient revenue for the central governing authority, the needs of the States are not overlooked; but that, on the contrary, they have ample revenues to administer to the special needs of their people.
What is happening to-day? Many of the States are in a most embarrassed position from a financial point of view. It may be asked why they do not put their financial houses in order. It must be remembered that the citizens who send us to this Parliament also send the representatives to the State Parliaments, and it is rather singular that while we have an overflowing Treasury in the Commonwealth Parliament, the State powers, exercising the same choice to search out capable men to manage their States’ affairs, in recent years have failed to maintain their finances on a sound basis.
– The Commonwealth has been endowed with a most fruitful source of indirect revenue, hence our comparative financial ease.
Senator Lynch. 1
– That is the point. I refuse to believe that the selection from 5,000,000 of people of 111 men constituting this Parliament has exhausted, the list of public men capable of managing the public business of the people in the realm of State activities. In the State Parliaments are to be found men just as capable as those in this Parliament; but, nevertheless, the State Treasuries^ are empty. It is a significant fact that for the last four years the whole of the States, excepting only Victoria, have shown deficits aggregating £4,500,000, whereas in the Commonwealth there was a surplus last year of a little over £5,000,000. People to-day are asking for the reason. They want to know it. And especially is this question being asked by that class of citizen who is far out; and he is the man about whom I am always most concerned. He wants to know why there is an overflowing Treasury in the Commonwealth, while the State authorities that minister to his needs are unable to provide him with the commonest facilities of which he stands so much in need, and which are so essential to the success of his occupation. My belief is that we should take, before we are made to take, some steps to remedy this position. We cannot continue to live in financial opulence, whilst the .State authorities are unable to minister to the needs of their people. If you divide the cycle of the intimate concerns of each citizen, you will find that about ninety points of that cycle are ministered to by the State Governments, and perhaps ten points represent concerns that are ministered to by the Central Authority. I may be wrong, but I do not think I am far out. At all events, it can safely be said that the more intimate concerns of the people in the Commonwealth are ministered to by the near and local authority. In the first year of Federation the Commonwealth spent, for its own purposes, exclusive of the sum paid to the States, £3,500,000, and in the second year a little lea - £3,300,000. Last year, for the same services, we spent, approximately, £35,000,000. The revenue raised, in the first year of Federation, compared with the revenue of last year, raised by the States, was in the proportion of 20s. to 50s., where- as the revenue raised and applied for the ordinary services by the Commonwealth for the first year was £1, as compared with £9. For the purpose of putting the financial arrangements of the Commonwealth and the States on a sound basis, and cutting out at least those activities on the part of the Commonwealth which cause constant friction and wrangling in consequence of the two parties foraging in the same area, it is not right for us to continue any longer in the field when our efforts are not tending to accomplish those ends.
I supported the first Federal Land Tas Bill because I was anxious that the Central Authority should take upon itself such a taxing power in order that large estates throughout the Commonwealth, under the pressure of taxation, should be what is commonly termed “ burst up,” and brought within the reach of those who were looking for land.
– The objective should not have been effected in that way.
– I do not intend to get my feet burned by discussing such fine points at this juncture. One cannot dispute the fact that the Commonwealth has unlimited power. There is nothing that it cannot tax when we consider its Charter, and realize that it can legislate for the peace, order, and good government of the country. Under such an embracing power one could hardly mention anything that could not come within its purview. I voted for the Federal Land Tax Bill in the belief that the imposition of a land tax would be. the means of compelling the holders of large estates to dispose of at least a portion of their holdings, and rightly so, ‘ too, because I cannot conceive of a man holding a larger area than he could use in his time, or which could be used in the life-time of his sons and great grand-sons. That measure has not accomplished all that: was intended, and we have now reached the point where results are of a stationary order. If the Commonwealth remains in the field as a taxing agency on land, it will either have to increase the rate, or remodel its legislation in order to effect what was intended. The tax came into operation in 1910, and it is set out in the seventh annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation, which includes the work of the Department, since 1910, that the value of the taxable land forced from the taxable zone to the non-taxable zone was £11,000,000. The figures for the following years were:- 1911, £11,000,000; 1912, £8,000,000; 1913, £7,000,000; 1914, £6,000,000; “1915, £5,000,000; 1916, £5,000,000; 1917, £5,000,000: and in 1918, £5,000,000. In the foregoing I have given only round numbers. What has to be learned from those figures? It will be seen that from the year 1910 to the year 1918 there has been a reduction in values from £11,000,000 to £5,000,000, and the difference has passed from the taxing to the non-taxing division, and that during the last four years the figures have remained stationary. Apparently the taxing authority has either not exercised sufficient pressure on those holding large estates or has arrived at the point where further revenue from this source cannot be obtained unless a higher rate is imposed..
– Certain legislation for the compulsory acquisition of land passed by the States synchronizes with the operations of the Federal land tax, and the result shown .must not be ascribed solely to the operations of the Federal land tax. t
– That argument is applicable to the present situation, because we know that some of the States have very drastic forms of land taxation, which are effecting the purpose mentioned by Senator Bakhap. As to the tax itself, this report shows that, in a fiscal sense, it is a tax of falling quantity. On page 4 of the report the amounts recovered are set out as follows : - 1910, £1,400,000; 1911, £1,400,000; 1912, £1,400,000; 1913, £1,500,000; 1914, £2,200,000; 1915, £2,200,000; 1916, £2,100,000; 1917, £2,100,000. In 1914 a very stiff addition was made, which was responsible for the sudden jump from £1,500,000 to £2,200,000 in the following year, and just as it. suddenly jumped, owing to the impulse given by the heavier rate in the year mentioned it started to taper off, as from that year it decreased to £2,100,000, which shows that even this form of taxation is a diminishing quantity.
– What is it now?
– Approximately, £2,114,000. If it is wise to maintain this form df taxation we shall have to increase the tax in order to effect its fundamental purpose, or further disintegrate the large States. But before we do that we would have to consider the popularity or otherwise of such a proposal. We have, undoubtedly, arrived at the stage where we shall have to consider what our future policy shall be.
The other feature of this form of taxation is that it is very hard to collect. I do not know whether those who have to contribute the tax are financially embarrassed owing to a succession of unsatisfactory seasons ; but in the report to which I have referred, special reference is made to the difficulty of collecting the tax owing to the bad seasons in various parts of the Commonwealth. In the financial year 1917-18, the amount of leviable tax assessed was £2,600,000,and the amount of outstanding taxes and fines was £567,000. In other words, over 20 per cent. of the tax levied was not collected in that year, which represents a fairly respectable lump of what the Government are entitled to receive, but. did not collect.
– That does not compare unfavorably with the amount outstanding in the form of income tax.
– I do not know how the amounts compare.
– There is a larger proportion.
– In the year 1918-19 the taxation assessed amounted to £2,800,000, and the ‘amount of taxes and fines outstanding was £760,000. or over 21 per cent. For the year 1920-21 the tax assessed amounted to £3,200,000, and the taxes and fines - outstanding represented no less a sum than £1,209,000, or over 36 per cent.
– Is not that’ an accumulation over many years?
– I imagine that the amounts I have given are for each year.
– For several years.
– I believe that they are. the amounts outstanding for each year, because it gives the assessment for that year.
– According to the latest Budget, that is not so.
– It does not, however, affect the argument very much. This particular form of taxation is becoming increasingly difficult to collect, but whether that is due to the fact that the form of tax is unpopular, or that the people who have to pay it are less prosperous, I do not know. The records, however, show that it is becoming harder and harder for the Commissioner to collect what is due, and, according to the figures I have quoted, 36 per cent. of the amount owing for the year 1920-21 is still outstanding. That is no joke, so far as the Federal Treasurer is concerned.
I know that I may be met with the statement that the main difficulty has yet to be faced, as the distribution of land is not what it should be, and I quite believe that. Speaking particularly of Western Australia, I know there are large areas close to the railways and to the road systems which should not be in the position they are in to-day, and necessity still exists for the taxing authority to make the owners of those lands either use them or dispose of them to some one who will. If we say that it is the duty of the States to move in that direction, I may be met by the statement that the States are not so well placed as the Federal authority for giving effect to such a democratic principle. I dispute that, and call to mind the experience of New Zealand, which was the first country to pioneer this particular reform. In the Dominion of New Zealand a stiff land tax was imposed long before the inception of Federation, and before many of the States had adopted an effective form of taxation for the bursting up of large areas. In New Zealand they have the same franchise, with an elective Upper Chamber, such as we have here. In one State at least there is a nominee Upper Chamber, which only re-echoes the opinions of the political party of the hour. We have examples in the Government of New Zealand, and in corresponding types of Governments throughout the States, of attempts to do justice in the matter of this particular problem..
I do not think it is right for members of this Parliament to be in the privileged position of being able to impose a tax that does not touch the great bulk of taxpayers. Whether honorable senators agree that it is right or wrong, I do not know; but it is not right in my opinion. We impose a form of taxation that touches but a fractional part of our taxpayers, and a still smaller fraction of those on the voters’ rolls. Thus our action may influence public opinion at the ballot-box in our own favour. The States have to take on the unpopular part of the task, and tax what, we leave below the £3,000 limit. It enables certain people on one side of the line which we draw to escape, while we come down hot and heavy upon others who have no influence at the ballot-box. If we impose land taxation’ we ought not to discriminate. We ought to hold the scales fairly. There should be no opportunity for one party to frame legislation which may bring them less into collision with one section of the people than with another section.
My proposal will mean- only - and I use the word “ only.” advisedly - a sacrifice of £2,000,000 odd, scattered throughout the States. This amount of money is a serious matter to those States that want to devote themselves energetically to the development of the out-back country. The New South Wales Government left that field of taxation to the local authorities almost entirely. It felt that it ought no longer to exploit that particular domain of revenue and come into collision with the local authorities. There is no reason why we should not do likewise, unless we are animated by the one desire to hold fast and firm to every power we possess to raise revenue, and to show a carelessness and indifference to that section of the population which is far afield, and wants facilities that the State Governments cannot provide because they have not the money. 1 want to see the State Govern ments get a better chance of raising revenue, and they can only obtain that by the senior, predominant partner getting out of the field of this taxation, and allowing them to take possession. If economic trouble comes the States can deal with it as the New Zealand Government did under its legislation. I venture to say that New Zealand did even better than we did, and that fact meets the objections which may be raised on economic grounds. I ask the Commonwealth to put its machinery of taxation on a more common-sense and business-like basis. It is not right that two parties should continue in the same field. It promotes friction, bad feeling, and especially great irritation to the taxpayers concerned. I suppose I am correct in saying that the spirit which animates the State Governments towards the Central Government is not so friendly as it might be. I do not think there is anything to complain of in the spirit shown by the Central Government towards the State Governments. The Central Government is in a position in which it can afford to be large and liberal minded. The rich man, the man with power, can afford to be magnanimous to the man less fortunately situated. If the Commonwealth Government levies tribute until it dries up the springs of revenue throughout the Commonwealth, to the consequential impoverishment of the State Governments, it will not be serving those people whose interests it should zealously safeguard- and advance. The people far afield are wanting facilities which they cannot get, or,, if they get them at all, get them too late. I am not forgetting that I have seen men in the western State cart water 20 miles, while 8 and 10 miles was quite common. ‘ When men go out to their block of land, instead of working upon it they have to be 10 miles away carting water and cutting tracks, work that the Government should do, but cannot. It is the same in the other States. Is it to be imagined that I cannot feel for them, knowing that the State Government has not the money to assist them ? Is this fair as between the Commonwealth Government on the one hand and the State Governments on the other? If the Commonwealth will sacrifice that amount of revenue it will create a more agreeable feeling between the two authorities. We ought to say to the State Governments, “ Here is a chance for you to exploit this area of taxation. The lands belong to you; we give you the exclusive power of taxing them.” Thirdly and lastly, if we give the State Governments a chance of managing their own affairs and securing extra revenue, without which the States cannot be developed and become prosperous, ‘ it will be conducive to fiscal simplicity, fiscal justice, and the smooth running of governmental machinery in theCommonwealth. I have much pleasure inasking the Senate to agree to the motion..
– I second the motion, and ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed) :
Department of Works and Railways.
Proposed vote (excepting Federal Capital Territory), £830,681, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £2,245,435.
– I would like to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he can give the Committee any information as to how the amount will be apportioned as between the city and country districts, and as between the different States? It is of the greatest. importance that if possible the larger proportion of the amount should be spent in the direction indicated by the Postmaster-General recently, and as urged by me in this Chamber on the 29th June last, namely, in extending the facilities which the man upon the land, and in the places far back, has to enable him to keep in touch with his markets. It has been suggested by the Postmaster- General (Mr. Poynton) that the policy of the Department is to extend as far as possible the idea of group lines throughout the country districts, with telephone connexions and so forth. There are other ways in which this money can be spent, and it will greatly assist the Committee in coming to a conclusion regarding the expenditure if it is informed in what proportions it is proposed to spend the money as between the city and the country and the various States.
– Has anything been done by way of investigating the possibility of installing wireless telephony in the Commonwealth? I asked a question on the subject recently, and the answer I got was conditional upon what South Africa was doing. If South Africa has installed this system, and it is working with success in that comparatively small Dominion, there is no reason why we should not have it installed and used in Australia. If it is likely to be installed, there seems to be a necessity for great care in spending money in extending existing telephone lines which the new system may supersede. Has the Government in mind the installation of the new system?
– I am advised that the proposed expenditure of over £2,000,000 will be spent proportionately between the town and country. The actual expenditure as between town and country will be in the ratio of sixty to forty; but there will be a re-appropriation of many articles which are not suitable for the cities, but can be used in the country. It is estimated that the transfer of these articles will raise the expenditure in the country by another 20 per cent. Of the actual expenditure, at least half will be spent in the country as against the cities. I think the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) could more effectively reply to the question raised by Senator Lynch, because he has under consideration at present the installation of wireless telegraphy and wireless telephony in the Northern Territory. Although we are still experimenting in this particular science, we are quite convinced that we cannot go wrong in proceeding with the budget of expenditure now placed before the Senate. I have no doubt that in future years the system of wireless communication will be considerably improved, but for the present we must continue with the method with which we are familiar, and which we know is efficient.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Repatriation.
Proposed vote, £4,000,000.
– I think this is an opportunity for me to refer to the matter of the cost of a certain War Service home that I mentionedin a previous debate. I allude to Hanman’s case, and I am now in a position to show that my previous statement was correct, although I was challenged at the time by the Minister (Senator Earle).
– I did not challenge that.
– I think that the Minister, on looking at Hansard, will find that he did. The Court decided in Hanman’s favour. The Department has since taken the case to the Full Court, which refused to allow the appeal, so the case was definitely decided against the Department. In the course of the previous debate it was said by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) that Hanman broke bis contract. I challenged that statement at the time, and in fairness to this returned soldier, and in justification of my own attitude, I propose to read portion of Hanman’s statement that was put in in Court.
– Can the honorable senator connect the matter to which he is alluding with the item in the schedule t
– Yes. I regard the item under consideration as a serious expenditure of money. We are asked to authorize the raising of a loan of £12,000,000, of which £4,000,000 is to be devoted to War Service Homes. In view of the manner in which money has been spent in the past in this direction, one cannot view with equanimity the possibility of further wasteful expenditure in this” direction. After pointing out that the cost of his house had been increased from £700 to £775, and afterwards, when a new Deputy Commissioner was appointed in Queensland, the price was raised to £922, Hanman proceeds^ -
I might mention that ever since the date of occupation I have been making repayments at the rate of £4 2s. 4d. per month, such sum being indicated in my repayment book. Bates, taxes, and other expenses have also been borne by me. Meanwhile”, I have been continually harassed by the Department, and have been compelled to attend numerous interviews with various officers of the Department. This case, with many others, was typewritten, and submitted to the Acting Minister for Repatriation, Mr. Rodgers, on the occasion of his visit to Brisbane. That gentleman said that if the facts were as alleged by me - and they have never been disputed - then there was certainly something wrong, and he would rectify any errors on his return to Melbourne. Mr. Bradshaw (Director of Works) also re-, quested me to meet him, and explain the position clearly, and this I did to his certain satisfaction, and at the close of the interview - to use his own words - stated that “ there was such a thing as honorable trading, and a Britisher’s word was his bond.” He was quite satisfied the house did not cost .£922, and he said most emphatically that the Department would abide by the agreement made with me. He notified me that I would not meet with further difficulties, and that finality would be reached in the course of a day or two. At the same interview I brought to his notice other cases practically similar to my own, and he promised that they would also be settled satisfactorily for the occupiers of those homes.
Further, I was also challenged as to the accuracy of my statement on a previous occasion, and the somewhat unfair insinuation was made that I had introduced the matter in a manner that was not ex actly in keeping with the best traditions of the Senate. The facts I formerly gave to the Senate were quite accurate. So far from Hanman breaking his contract, his statement shows that he did nothing of the’ kind.
As to the high prices paid for the timber areas, my hesitancy in the previous debate was because I’ did not wish to bandy about the names of vendors, not being sure as to how far those names had relation to the transactions of the Department; but the information I gave was quite sufficient to enable the transactions to be identified. Those figures were not disputed, and there was certainly an admisson by the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) that the prices paid were very much higher than the original sums given for the land. His explanation, which I accept, was that the cost was due to the fluctuations in the royalties paid to the Queensland Government for Crown lands. Those fluctuations reacted on the selling value of private lands, and caused the increased price. If the timber areas were sold at present, there would be a very considerable loss to the taxpayers. There are other matters that I could bring forward to show why I am chary about assisting to pass this item.
– In the unavoidable absence of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), I am unable, without reference to the Department, to make any reply to Senator MacDonald, but I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the Minister.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The total amount to be appropriated by the Bill is £830,030, this being the amount proposed to bie charged to revenue for Works and Buildings during the financial year 1922-23. The estimated expenditure for 1922-23 compares with . the actual expenditure for 1921-22 as follows : -
It will be noted that the large reductions axe in respect of the Defence Department (£991,142) and the Postmaster-General’s Department (£690,114). The result of the Washington Conference made the reduction in Defence expenditure possible. After full investigation by the Government, and after consultation with the Council of Defence, it was decided that the sum of £516,617 for Defence works in 1922-23 is the minimum amount necessary for the preservation of the safety of the Commonwealth. Honorable senators are doubtless alive to the necessity for providing improved services by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. This matter has received careful consideration. It was decided that it was not possible to place these services on a proper basis out of revenue without unduly increasing the burden of taxation. From full inquiries concerning the methods adopted by other countries to provide the necessary funds for capital expenditure in respect of postal, telegraph and telephone services, it was ascertained that the practice adopted is to provide for such capital works out of loan, provision being made for repayment by means of a Sinking Fund based on the life of the assets. The Government have, therefore, adopted a scheme on those lines. Over a period of three years- 1922-23, 1923-24 and 1924-25 - it is proposed to provide £9,750,000 for these works. This sum, it is hoped, will allow of arrears being overtaken and improvement in technical equipment being effected, and will permit the services generally to be placed on a modern basis. The estimated expenditure in 1922-23 in respect of the capital works of the Postmaster-General’s Department is as follows: - From loan, £2,700,000; from revenue, £250,000; total, £2,950,000.
In the course of discussion on the Loan Bill, just dealt with, honorable senators from South Australia and Tasmania expressed some disappointment, because there were no allocations to their States. If they will turn to the schedule to this Bill they will note that, under the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, their States are the most favoured, while there is no reference to other States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department (Proposed vote, £160) ; Home and Territories Department (Proposed vote, £17,500) ; Department of Defence (Proposed vote, £516,617); Department of Trade and Customs (Proposed vote, £5,013); agreed to.
Proposed vote; £250,000.
– I note that the sum of £168,232 is set down for construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones. Last year the amount of the vote was £750,000, while the amount spent was £893,166. I desire to have it made clear that the estimated total for the current year, to be spent out of revenue, is in addition to the two and a quarter millions sterling which has been voted by Parliament under another measure. Further, I wish to know how much of the £168,232 is to be allotted as between town and country. I am anxious to see that the greater proportion shall be devoted to the erection and extension of postal, telephonic and telegraphic facilities where they are most needed; that is, in the direction of assisting the man on the land.
– The amount provided in the schedule is additional to the sum of more than £2,000,000, to which .Senator Garling has referred. The apportionment of the £168,232 will be the same as in regard to the amount provided for in the loan measure just previously dealt with.
– Can the Minister say whether the amount of £4,000 allotted in respect of the Burnie post-office represents the total expenditure, or if it is only an instalment?
– Of that sum £500 was expended last year; the remainder had been unexpended before the close of the last financial period. The proposal is to erect a new building upon a site near to the old office. The latter is unsuitable; it will not readily permit of the required alterations and additions being made. The new office will be more centrally situated. The sum of £4,000 is intended to complete the whole of the work.
– There is no reference to the requirements of Western Australian post-offices in the schedule. I am aware that, in the Loan Bill which has just been dealt with, the groat western State is not overlooked; but I desire to remind the Government of one or two important circumstances. There is likely to be considerably more rapid development in Western Australia than in the other States, owing to the impetus which has been given to immigration. Western Australia is the largest of the States, and it contains vast areas of unoccupied Crown land which are likely to be opened up in the near future. It is to be expected, therefore, that there will be urgent claims for the construction and extension of services under the control of the Postmaster-General. With the new settlement already rapidly extending, there is likely to be a rush of work in the Western Australian branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department, with which the officials may be unable to cope. I desire to put the Government on their guard, rather than to launch any formal complaint of my State being ignored.
– I call attention to the proposed expenditure of £800 upon the Lilydale postoffice, and of £870 upon the Ulverstone post-office. The former item is classed as a new service. What will the expenditure in that town represent? And will the amount of £870 unexpended from last year’s vote complete the building of the Ulverstone office.?
, - I am pleased that Senator de Largie has not complained of the treatment which his State has received. Although no specific sums are set out in this schedule for the Western Australian branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the amount involved in a previous Loan Bill is £154,000, and that is independent of Western Australia’s pre*portion of the very large sum to be raised from loan for the extension of the ser-vices under the control of the PostmasterGeneral. Altogether, Western Australia will be well catered for. Unfortunately, it is the one State in which the Department suffers an annual loss. That is accounted for by the enormous area over which operations have to be conducted! Much better results may be- expected in> future, when the population of Western Australia will have greatly increased. With regard to the Lilydale- post-office,. I have to inform Senator Payne that business is at present being conducted in rented premises, which are unsatisfactory, but which are the only offices obtainable. The new building will involvecomparatively small cost, and, when completed, will represent a better financial arrangement for the Department. The item £870, for the Ulverstone post-office, is to meet expenditure on work authorized during the last financial year, but not completed at 30th June. Last year, £1,350 was spent, and the total cost will be about £2,200. A new office is being: erected, as the accommodation hitherto provided has been insufficient for the requirements of the public and the staff. The work is being carried out under contract, and it is anticipated that it will be completed about the end of September.
.- I do not care to contrast- one State with another, although I find that as compared with Victoria, for instance, Queensland may -be regarded as a Cinderella State. Under the fire of certain heavy press-guns in this State, Victoria is getting £80,000 allocated for certain works as compared with £30,000 allocated for Queensland. I should like some information about the postal facilities in South Brisbane, which is a thickly populated urban area. The existing accommodation is a standing disgrace to the Department, being no better than in preFederation days. The office is a dingy, rented shop opposite the Adelaide Shipping Company’s wharf in Stanley-street. The Brisbane Central Post Office is not an ornament to the city, as is the ease in both Melbourne and Sydney. Brisbane certainly deserves something more handsome and befitting the needs of the City
Senator EARLE (Tasmania- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [9.20). - There is provision for an expenditure of £12,000 at South Brisbane, of which £6,000 is included in the present Loan Bill. Next year the balance of £6,000 will be provided.
– Have you (bought the site* vet!
– I understand the matter is in hand.
– The item in this Loan Sill is for the South Brisbane automatic telephone exchange, quite a different matter altogether from the postoffice.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health (proposed, vote, £40,740), agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion, (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the report fee now adopted.
– I wish to inform Senator MacDonald that the site for a new POStoffice at South Brisbane has been purchased at a cost of £3,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce), read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 9.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220907_senate_8_100/>.