9th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Gi vens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is it the intention of the Government to resubmit for the consideration of the Senate the reciprocal tariff arrangement with Canada 1 If so, in view of the fact that the Senate agreed to the arrangement on the assumption that it was not permitted to make any alterations in the schedule, will the resubmission be in a form which will enable the Senate to consider the items on their merits, and, if necessary, alter them as the Canadian Parliament has done?
-I think it is intended to submit the arrangement by way of a resolution, but in order that I may furnish the honorable senator with a, complete reply, I ask him to place his question on the notice-paper.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) . - A few minutes before the Senate met I received from Senator George Matthew Foster a letter dated 30th June, 1925, conveying to me his resignation as senator for the state of Tasmania. In accordance with the practice laid down in the Constitution, I shall as soon as possible send to the Governor of Tasmania an urgent telegram, which will be followed by a letter leaving by the first mail, informing His Excellency that a vacancy has occurred in the representation of that state in the Senate.
– On the 25th June Senator Grant asked, amongst other questions relating to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea -
What is the total amount of education tax for the last financial year?
I am now in a position to advise the honorable senator that the total amount of education tax collected during the last financial year was £5,092.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
No tenders were received in connexion with the contemplated sale of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. One offer was submitted to negotiate for the purchase of portion of the fleet, with an expression of willingness to discuss the carrying out of the conditions required by the Government. The Government made it perfectly clear that it would not accept that offer, and has not pursued the negotiations’ any further.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Employees whose wages are not governed by Public Service Arbitration awards, but are fixed by industrial tribunals on the basis of the basic wage for a family consisting of wife and three children are not eligible under the Public Service Regulations for payment of child endowment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The recommendations contained in the report of the Royal Commission on the Assessment of War Service Disabilities are still under consideration by the Government, and it is proposed at an early date to make a full statement to the Senate on the subject.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I oppose the third reading of this bill, because of certain statements made by Senator Pearce in moving the second reading yesterday. The Minister declared that at one time the Government considered it desirable to repeal the Aliens Registration Act because it was a dead-letter. I realize that it is a deadletter. In fact, it is worse than that; it is a dead limb on the tree of legislation. Why allow it to remain? Why not cut it off immediately and prevent it from continuing to encumber our tree of legislation? It is obnoxious. On the admission of the Minister (Senator Pearce) himself it is useless. The honorable senator said the only thing that could be said on behalf of the Ministry - that the Government of the day will have the power to re-impose this obnoxious legislation at its’ own sweet will. No circumstances exist in Australia to-day to warrant the continuation of the act. It will remain on the statutebook even though its operation be suspended. Should any circumstances necessitate its again being made operative, it ought to be the business of Parliament, and not of the Government of the day, to restore it. I said yesterday, and I repeat to-day, that this legislation is a relic of the days of strife and turmoil - the days when the world was a shambles. Those days, thank God, do not now exist. The Senate should reject the motion for the third reading of the bill, and thus compel the Government to cut away this dead limb from the tree of legislation, and leave to the Parliament of Australia the power to restore it if necessary.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time- put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . .8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
(3.19].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Whatever may be the views of honorable senators regarding the merits of this measure, I think they will all agree that it deals with a very important subject. Whatever attitude is assumed by the Parliament towards the proposal, it will in some form or other affect the future history of a very important portion of Australia. Before dealing with the bill itself, it will, I think, be interesting to review a little of the history of. not only this part of Australia, but also of self-government in Australia, because both have a very important bearing upon the proposal. It is interesting to notethat it was in September, 1824, just a little over 100 years ago, that the first British settlement was established on the north coast of Australia, namely, at Port Dundas, Melville Island, . 40 miles from Darwin, by Captain Bremner, of H.M.S. Tamar. This action was taken as the result of representations to the British Government by the then government of New South Wales that, in view of rumours of proposed annexation by a foreign power, it was advisable to establish a British settlement on the unoccupied coast of northern Australia. The reason then given for British settlement in North Australia is significant. In 1827 the whole of the Northern Territory was attached to New South Wales. In 1863 it was taken over by South Australia, and designated the Northern Territory. It remained under the control of that state until the 1st January, 1911, when it was transferred to the Common wealth, together with the whole of its debts. In 1865 the first government resident appointed by the South Australian Government landed at Darwin, and fixed upon that town as the capital of the Northern Territory.
Under the Northern Territory Administration Act of 1910 the GovernorGeneral has power to appoint an administrator, who is charged with the duty of administering the government of the Northern Territory on behalf of the Commonwealth, in accordance with the tenor of his commission and such instructions as are from time to time given him by the Minister for Home and Territories. All South Australian laws in force prior to the 1st January, 1911, continue to apply to the Northern Territory unless otherwise altered or repealed by Commonwealth laws. The administrator may authorize expenditure on the maintenance of public services and general administration up to the whole of the amount appropriated by Parliament. It is his duty to prepare the annual programme of works in connexion with the estimates to be submitted to Parliament. Upon the ascertainment of the amount provided, the Minister considers the proposals submitted, and decides on the programme to be adopted. Any departure from this programme must receive the sanction of the Minister, but small” balances unexpended on approved works may be utilized on works up to £100 without reference to the Minister. All requests for works or services are transmitted by the administrator to the Commonwealth Works Director, Darwin, whose duty it is to furnish estimates of cost and. to carry out the works when furnished with requisitions therefor by the Administrator. Although, under the Northern Territory Ordinance of 1911, the Administrator is charged with the duty of administering the government of the Northern Territory on behalf of the Commonwealth, it may be mentioned that several departments are entirely removed from the control or supervision of the Administrator. For example, the railways arecontrolled by the Railways Commissioner), Melbourne; Customs by the Collector of Customs, Brisbane; postal matters by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral at Adelaide; public works by the Works and Railways Department, Melbourne; taxation. by the Taxation
Department in Melbourne; and quarantine by the. Quarantine departmental officer at Brisbane. It will be seen, therefore, that), with the exception of New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania, every state of the Commonwealth is in some respects associated with the administration of the Northern Territory under the present system. The land board, which was appointed under and in pursuance of section 7 of the Northern Territory Crown Lands Ordinance passed last year, is - under thecontrolof the Minister of State for the time being controlling the Northern Territory -charged with the general administration of. Crown lands in the Territory. Under the Encouragement of Primary Production Ordinance of 1924, the three members of the Land Board are appointed as the Primary Producers Board, which, out of moneys votedby Parliament,expends such sums as itdeems necessary for the purpose of granting assistance to producers. Thisis a brief sketch of the somewhat cumbersome machinery for the administration of the Northern Territory.
– The Minister does not consider it ispossible to effect any improvement without materially altering the existing condition of affairs?
– No, unless we create a miniature staff within the Home and Territories Department for the effective control of each of thevarious branches mentioned. An examination of the finances of the Northern Territory, at the 30th June, 1924, discloses the following situation: -
Total indebtedness taken over from South Australia, £3,931,086.
Accumulated deficit to the 30th June, 1924, £2,899,476.
Expenditure on new works, £395,197.
Capital expenditure on railways, £565,622.
Total public debt at 30th June, 1924, £7,791,381.
Deficit (administration and interest on loans) for 1923-4, £215,635.
Expenditure outof revenue for new works fin 1923-4, £17,163.
Total deficit for 1923-4,£232,798.
The area of the Northern Territory is 523,620 squaremiles. The European population is2,240,andthe coloured population, excluding aborigines, 1,018, making a total of 3,258 Europeans and coloured people.
– I understand there hasbeen a considerable decrease during the last few years.
– There was up till last year, when, apparently, the tide turned, and there was a slight increase. If honorable senators will examine the map displayed on the walls of the Senate chamber, and take the area north of the 20th parallel of south latitude, they will see that the territory may be divided into two districts. The northern district, which we may call North Australia, comprises an area of 287,220 square miles, and the southern district, which we may call Central Australia, has an area of 236,400 square miles. Let me interpolate at this stage that in the consideration of this problem the Government has come to the conclusion that the present geographical boundaries are arbitrary, and were notdetermined upon the basis of convenience for satisfactory development.
– Can the Minister say what is the population of Central Australia ?
– No. The figures I have given refer to the population of the whole of the Northern Territory. The geographical boundaries, as I : have stated, are notconvenient, and are not calculated to ensure development. This is true not only of the boundaries of the Northern Territory, but also of the boundaries of the contiguous states. If, in later years, after the difficulties of development had been understood, the boundaries had had to he defined, it is obvious that they would have been very different, from what they are to-day. Since the Government is now proposing a scheme which may lead to the establishment of a new state orstates, it may be possible, by the exercise of forethought bythe Commonwealth and some of the state authorities, toavoid that blunder in the future, and so determine the boundaries of anynew stateor states thatregard will be had to geographical and developmental considerations rather than mere arbitrary marks on a map.
Ifhonorable senators will turn their attention to thesmaller map on my lefthand side,they will see two areas defined, one in Western Australia and one in Queensland.Geographical boundaries havebeen discarded,seeing that these areas obviously have interests in common with the Northern Territory. If honorable senators look at the area marked in Westtern Australia, to the west of the Northern Territory, they will see that its interests are identical with those of the western portion of the Northern Territory itself. It is largely a pastoral proposition, and even to-day, with the inadequate means of transport available, cattle from the Northern Territory find their way to the meatworks at Wyndham, and occasionally live cattle for transport to - the East are sent from the northeastern part of Western Australia to Darwin for shipment. It is obvious, therefore, that the interests of the people in that portion of Western Australia and the western portion of the Northern Territory are inter-related.
– The Minister suggests that there is community of interest?
– Yes. Furthermore, when one glances at the eastern portion of the Northern Territory, one sees that the Barkly Tablelands country has interests in common with the adjoining area in Queensland. Portions of the latter area have been partially developed by the state of Queensland. Ports have been established in the Gulf of Carpentaria, but there are other gulf ports capable of development which are in the Northern Territory itself. . One would think it should be our aim to allow trade to flow in its natural channels rather than cause produce to be hauled over a railway for thousands of miles, if we could get it to a good port a comparatively few miles distant. It will be realized at ;once that that portion of Queensland has a community of interest with the north-eastern portion of the Northern Territory. Therefore, the Government has already communicated with the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland, suggesting that they should consider the advisability of placing the areas which have been marked in the way I have described under the control of the commission provided for by the bill, for the purposes of development. It is not contended for a moment that these areas should be handed over to the Commonwealth, but that the states mentioned should join with the Commonwealth in the work of development by bringing these areas within the control of the commission.
– How would it affect pastoral rents in the areas to the west and east of the Northern Territory?
– Not <at all, because sovereignty over those areas would remain with the states of Western Australia and Queensland respectively.
– Have suggestions in this direction been made to the state governments concerned ?
– Yes, and they are now under consideration.
– Have those states consented to this proposal?
– No; they are now considering it, and their reply is awaited. If this step were taken, the approximate area of the Territory which would come under the control of the commission, south of the 20th parallel of south latitude, would be 236,400 square miles, and the area north of that parallel would be 287,220 square miles. The portion I nave marked on the map in Western Australia comprises an area of 120,500 square miles, and the portion marked as being in Queensland has an area of 38,000 square miles. If those two areas were brought within the scope of this bill for the purposes of development, there would be under the commission’s control in Northern Australia an area of 445,720 square miles. These estimates of areas are approximate. *
It will be admitted, I think, that that is a big proposition for any commission to tackle. Northern Australia is in a similar position to-day to that occupied by the various states in the early days of their settlement. This fact was brought home forcibly to me the other evening when reading the very interesting notes published in the Melbourne Herald and reprinted from their own news columns of 50 years ago. In one of the extracts it was stated that an urgent appeal had been made to the Parliamentary members for Victoria to bring forward a policy for the construction of harbour works and railways. It was stated that it was better to pay interest to the English capitalists than allow the colony and trade of Victoria to languish and decay. When that paragraph was written the now thriving and prosperous state of Victoria was facing a situation identical with that now confronting us in the north of Australia. For nearly 100’ years the Northern Territory was dependent on New South Wales and South Australia, and during that period its settlement and development were necessarily subordinated to the more urgent needs of those states. The Territory has been under the control of the Commonwealth, for a little more than fourteen years, and considerable criticism has been directed at the Commonwealth authorities, it being alleged that during the period of Commonwealth control little or no progress has been made. But, Mr. President, I invite honorable senators’ attention to the fact that during half of that period, at any rate, all the energies of Australia were concentrated upon the prosecution of the war or upon those serious problems which demanded our close attention during the years immediately following the war period..
All the states of Australia were started on the road to prosperity by considerable grants of money or guarantees by the British Government. When we refer to the gratitude due by us to Great Britain the fact is too often lost sight of that in their infant days practically every colony received substantial financial assistance of that character which helped it to take its first steps in progress and development.
– And they have paid interest ever since.
– In many cases no payment of interest occurred since direct grants were made. The Commonwealth Parliament should, and does, occupy in relation to the north of Australia the game position of responsibility as, and even a closer and greater responsibility than, did the Mother Country towards the colonies in their early days. Therefore, we cannot, and must not, shirk the duty, especially difficult though it be, that confronts us now in north Australia. This problem is different from that which confronted any of the colonies in the early days of their development, for in all the states the best, lands were easiest of access and less difficult to develop because they lay near the coast. Their poorer country lies in the hinterland, which is exactly the reverse of the position in the Northern Territory, where the best country, and that most capable of profitable development, is in the hinterland. The poorer land, and that less capable of successful development, is adjacent to the coast. Every Australian who has read the history of this country knows that it will be more difficult, and more costly, to develop much of this territory because of the different conditions. There is, therefore, every reason why a special effort should be made by the Commonwealth Government to improve the position.
– Do those conditions apply all round the coast of the Territory?
– Ye3, to all the settled portions. The north coast can only be developed and populated by internal development, and Darwin, owing to its position and its fine harbour, will eventually become a port of great importance. Wyndham in the north-west of Western Australia will also become a port of equal prominence. If we. consider these two ports not merely in relation to the hinterland, but in relation to the countries overseas which they may serve, we .see what an important part they will play in populating and developing the north. It is quite feasible that development during the ensuing years will be such that Darwin, in the Northern Territory, and Wyndham, in Western Australia, will eventually be the points of arrival and departure for great airships which will be maintaining communication with European countries. Darwin has already been the point of arrival for aeroplanes flying’ to Australia, which should be an indication of the exceptional position which Darwin and Wyndham will eventually occupy in relation to other parts of Northern Australia. When we consider the enormous populations of Asia, and the position these two ports occupy in regard to them, we realize even more the importance attaching to the development of this country.
The difficulties of administration under the present system cannot be realized by any one who has not actually experienced them, either from the point of view of attempting to administer the Territory from Melbourne, or from the point of view of those who have suffered from the administration in the Northern Territory itself. Considerable delays are experienced, especially in regard to the construction of works and development generally when reference has to be made to Melbourne. That cannot be avoided, as the seat of government is in Melbourne, and the difficulties would be the same if the seat of government were -at Canberra”. While we have the present system of government, .reference must be made to the responsible Minister and .to the responsible department in Melbourne. Let us consider some of the ‘difficulties in relation to communication. There is only one mail a month from Melbourne to Darwin, and it .is not possible to receive a reply to a communication sent from Melbourne to Darwin under seven weeks. In addition to this disability considerable inconvenience, delay, and expense is incurred in the transmission of telegrams between Melbourne and the Territory. There is also great delay in the administration of Central Australia owing to the remoteness of Alice Springs from Darwin. When we remember that the affairs of the people living in the southern portion of the Northern Territory are -administered from Darwin, we can see that their disadvantages -are multiplied. Whilst the people at Darwin suffer owing ‘to :the fact that they are controlled from Melbourne, those at Alice Springs are even more remote from the point of view -of time. The distance between Darwin and Alice Springs is approximately 930 miles, and communication is maintained by a mail service consisting of .pack horses, which runs every six weeks. ‘Communication between Alice Springs and Oodnadatta, which is at the head of the railway, is maintained by a fortnightly service of camel teams. The distance -from Darwin .to the South Australian -border is 1,167 .miles. A communication from Melbourne to .Alice .Springs, directed through the Administrator at Darwin - assuming there was a convenient mail connexion - would take nearly three months to reach its destination, and it would be double that time before a reply could be received.
In view of all these circumstances, it .will readily be seen that it is impossible to -attempt to administer from Darwin that part of the Northern Territory . situated south of the 20th parallel of .latitude. It is .therefore proposed to arrange .for -the administration to be carried out .direct .from Melbourne through an administrative officer at Alice ‘Springs. At present, there is no medical officer for a ‘distance ‘ of 1,100 miles .south of Darwin, and it is proposed that the administrative officer at Alice Springs shall be a medical officer, who will then be able to serve in a dual capacity. As it is proposed to connect Alice “Springs with the southern railway system, it is hoped that the construction of that railway will lead to considerable pastoral and mining development in the southern portion of the Territory. This will, I think, justify the separation of -the administration of the southern from the northern portion of the Territory.
There is another difficulty that ‘honorable senators probably do not realize, but one with which everybody who has had anything to do -with the administration of the Territory is fully conversant. The isolation -and tropical conditions of the Territory ma’ke it difficult to carry on developmental work, or to construct new buildings or undertake other works under our present -financial system. The Estimates for ‘the Northern ‘Territory are erabodied in the ‘Federal Estimates, and when an attempt is made to expend the money voted the authorities are circumscribed to a degree owing to the periods during which the rain falls. As honorable senators are aware, there is a wet and a dry season in the Territory, and in the wet season, owing to the absence of railway facilities, transportation absolutely ceases. Our financial year ends in June, and we have no authority to spend money beyond that date” until further Supply is granted. As the wet season occurs in the middle of the financial year, there is a certain period during which no money can be spent on public works in the Territory. Although we vote money for twelve .months, there are only two broken periods, each of three months, in which expenditure can be incurred on public works. Similar conditions do not apply in any other part of the Commonwealth.; elsewhere public works can be carried on during the whole year. It is therefore necessary to provide a different financial system to meet the conditions in the north. These difficulties will .be eliminated under the Government’s proposals, because the commission to be appointed .will , have control -of its own funds, and will be ‘able ‘to carry out -an uninterrupted policy of development on the lines approved ‘by Parliament. I referred just >now- to ‘the revenue of tie Northern Territory. When we look at the annual deficit we must make allowance for the fact that the Customs duties on imported stimulants, narcotics, drapery, foodstuffs, hardware, &c, consumed in the Northern Territory are collected in the states, from which, they are transhipped to Darwin. The Territory itself does not produce these goods. The consumers there actually pay the duties on them, but the Territory is not credited with the revenue so received. It is, as it were, a concealed revenue which can only be roughly estimated at about £30,000 a year..
In this bill,, and in all future references to the Territory, it is proposed to drop the term Northern Territory and speak of it as Northern Australia. The bill itself is the Northern Australia Bill. It is proposed to divide the Territory into two areas,, to ‘be known as Northern Australia and Central Australia. Looking back over the history of the Commonwealth of Australia, it is interesting to note that, in 1845, when Mr. Gladstone was Secretary of State for the Colonies, all the territory of New South Wales north of the 26th parallel of latitude was constituted a new colony, and designated North Australia. However, in the following year, Ear,l Grey, who succeeded
Mr. Gladstone, abandoned that idea, and in 1859 the colony of Queensland was proclaimed, practically embracing all the territory which had previously been designated, under Mr. Gladstone’s proposal, as North Australia.
The first reference to any form of local government in Australia is contained in a dispatch by Governor Phillip, dated the 17th July, 1790. Governor Phillip recommended that free settlers should be sent out to Australia so that, from time to time, local magistrates could be appointed from them. In 1800 Governor Hunter recommended the appointment of an advisory council. Those were the first proposals made in Australia which had any reference to a form of local government. The first constitution was granted in 1823 to the colony of New South Wales. It provided for a nominee legislative council of fifteen members, eight being official nominees and seven unofficial.’ New South Wales at that time included the territory now embraced by the states of Victoria and Queensland, and its population was about 4.0,000 people.
Some persons may contend that the time has arrived when we should hand over the Northern- Territory to the people living- there to govern as they think- fit, but, when> it is - realized that the whole European population of the 500,000- square miles in the Territory is only a little over 2,000 people, I think that even the most earnest advocate of local self-government will not contend that such a small number could possibly govern themselves. As a matter of fact,, the Territory could not get on without financial assistance from the Commonwealth, and, until sufficientpopulation can be established there, it is quite obvious that for some years to come the control, whether it be ‘ designated government or not, must be exercised by the Commonwealth.
– That is what the advocates of the new states claim. .
– That you must have population first?
– This bill is the means by which we hope to get population in the ‘north. But there are many reasons why it is necessary, apart altogether from a self-governing standpoint, to get population there. There is, for instance, the consideration of defence. The north of Australia has been referred to’ as the Achilles’ heel of the Commonwealth. It is. the least populated, and therefore the most difficult to defend. For that reason we must try to get population there. We cannot have effective local, government without population. I doubt if- we can have substantial development without it. The difficulties of finance alone are insuperable. Unless we can get population we cannot have development, except at a heavy cost to the Commonwealth.
There is a diversity of opinion- as to the possibility of development. On this point it is interesting to peruse many of the reports submitted from time to time by people who have visited the north. One man who has gone there at a certain time of the year will describe it as a paradise. Another man traversing the same country at another time of the year will write a description of it which reminds one- of descriptions of the Sahara. The truth lies between the two. It is neither a paradise nor a desert. Those who know the pastoral country of Western Australia and western Queensland, and have seen the Northern Territory, declare that it is capable of tremendous pastoral development, and that it can carry large numbers of sheep and cattle. There are many opinions as to its agricultural possibilities. The portion which will most likely be devoted to agriculture lies within the tropics. It is not tableland country like the pastoral’ areas, which are undoubtedly suitable for rearing a healthy, virile, white race. It is lowlying country, and the products which can be grown there will come into competition with products raised by coloured labour in other countries. There are, however, some things - such as cotton, peanuts, and tobacco - which even under White Australia conditions, can be grown profitably. If the cost of living can be reduced, and if people can get their goods at reasonable prices, I see no reason why cotton cultivation should not flourish in the north as well as it does in Queensland.
– What part of the Territory would be fit for agriculture?
– The northern portion, bounded by the Gulf of Carpentaria on the one side and the Arafura Sea on the other contains patches of country suitable for agriculture. I would not say that more than one-third of the area is suitable for that purpose, but even one-third is a large area to be developed.
– Would the honorable senator care to bring up a family on that agricultural area?
– That is not the way to test the question. The fact remains that families are being brought up in the Territory. When I was in Darwin I met people of the second generation born there, and they looked as healthy and as well developed as any I have seen in other parts of the Commonwealth.
There are great possibilities of mineral development in various portions of the Territory, but unless we can reduce the cost of production the mineral deposits cannot be developed. At Maranboy there is a splendid deposit of tin. If it were in Tasmania or one of the southern states hundreds of thousands of pounds of capital would be available for its development, but because the Northern Territory has a bad name, and because of the high cost of production there, capital is not available for the development of this deposit. The backward state of the Territory is attributable to the difficulties of communication, and the absence of railways, roads, water, and telegraph lines. It is a reflection on the Commonwealth that in the fourteen years it has had control of the Territory it has not built a mile of telegraph line there. The railway has only been extended from Pine Creek to Katherine River. T do not suppose that £200,000 has been spent on roads. There has certainly been some money spent, and well spent, on water supplies, but it is a comparatively small amount considering the vast extent of territory to be developed. How much development would there be in the western district of Queensland if there were no railways, water supply, or telegraph lines? These facilities are essential for the development of any district. Under present conditions the cost of transport in the Territory is enormous. Until the Commonwealth Government entered into a recent contract for a steamer service to Darwin the freight on goods shipped from the southern states was very high. It has now been reduced to something reasonable. The cost of handling goods at the ports has always been high. The railway freights have also been high. Roads have been almost non-existent. All these things have contributed to the high cost of living, and have ‘ deterred the settlement of the Territory. What is the Government aiming at? The development in connexion with the Murray waters scheme, I think, points the way out of the difficulty facing the Commonwealth.
Some years ago all the states came gradually to recognize the value of the Murray valley. Mr. Elwood Mead had been preaching the doctrine of irrigation, and telling -the people of Australia what could be done by irrigation and by settling the land adjacent to the river Murray. Several conferences were held between the State Governments of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, but nothing came of them except the passing of many resolutions. Eventually the three states mentioned and the Commonwealth came together and constituted a commission whose task it was to submit a scheme for the locking of the Murray waters. That commission drew up a scheme of development which was placed before the various states concerned and also the Commonwealth. It proposed to have a series of locks and weirs on the river to permit of its navigation, and of the irrigation of the land. The states concerned and the Commonwealth adopted the scheme, which embraced a ten-years’ programme, and it was decided that these partners should be jointly responsible for the carrying out of the work. Although in each state, as well as in the Commonwealth, Parliaments and Governments have almost entirely changed since then, there has been no departure from the scheme. Despite changes of Government it has been carried on steadily towards the ultimate objective. What has happened in regard to the Murray valley shows us how we can handle the problem of the north. The Government is asking for the appointment of a development commission to raise money and carry out work for the development of the north.
The bill commences on a date to be fixed by proclamation, thus enabling the two systems of administration to be harmonized. When one dies out the other will take its place. The Northern Territory is to be divided into two districts. The position of administrator is to be abolished, and a developmental commission of three persons is to he appointed. Provision is made for a Government resident and an advisory council in each district. The carrying out of developmental work is tobe removed from the department in Melbourne to a commission in North Australia. The commission is to he appointed for five years. Its powers are set out in clause 17, which reads as follows: -
Subject to this act, the powers of the commission shall extend to the following matters in relation to the development of so much of the Territory as is situated north of the 20th parallel of south latitude (in this act referred to as “The prescribed part of the Territory”):
The maintenance and operation of railways ;
The construction and maintenance of roads;
The erection of telegraph and telephone lines;
Water boring and conservation;
Such other matters in relation to the development of the Territory as are specified in any regulation made under this act.
The Governor-General may by proclamation declare that, as regards any power conferred on the commission by this act, the power shall not extend to the whole of the prescribed part of the Territory, but only to a specified portion thereof, or may, byproclamation, exclude any portion of the prescribed part of the Territory from the scope of any power conferred on the commission.
The object of that is to exclude, for instance, Darwin, if it is thought necessary to do so.
– It is not proposed to place what is known as Central Australia under the control of the commission ?
– Not in relation to the carrying out of works. I desire to direct particular attention to sub-clause 4, because it is very important. It reads -
In additionto the powers specified in subsection (1) of this section, the powers of the commission shall include the administration throughout the Territory of Crown lands in accordance with Ordinances made or to be made in pursuance of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910.
Sub-clause 5 reads -
In the exercise of its powers under this act the commission shall utilize as far as possible the services of officers of the Commonwealth Public Service.
The effect of sub-clause 4 is that the commission will supersede the Land Board and administer, under the Government, the land legislation of the Northern Territory. It will, therefore, have the developmental works and the lands under its authority.
SenatorFindley. - What will become of the Land Board ?
– The Land Board will cease to function. As in the case of the Murray Waters Commission, this commission will prepare schemes relating to development. It is intended that it shall, at the outset, prepare two sets of schemes, one outlining its ultimate aim during a period of five years, and the other setting forth the first year’s programme directed towards that end. The Government and Parliament will, therefore, have placed before them not only the whole of the works upon which the commission proposes to embark, but also those which it intends to undertake during the first year. Parliament will then be asked to vote the money necessary for carrying out those works.
– Why is the construction of railways excluded from the powers of the commission ?
– That isincluded. Railways,however, must first be authorizedby Actof Parliament. This will be theprocedure : In its proposals the commission will state therail ways that it considers should be built. It may be that inthe early stages perhapsnone, perhaps only one or two, willbe proposed. It would be extremely inadvisable, and very costly, for the commission to at once set about getting together a railway staff for construction purposes. It is, therefore, proposed that when any railway project has received the endorsement of the Government, the procedure set out in the Railway Commissioner’s Act shall, with one exception, be followed; that is to say, the Railway Commissioner will then act as the agent of the commission in preparing the necessary data, determining routes, and carrying out the surveys required. That report will be placed before the Government, which will refer it to the commission in the sameway that to-day similar reports are referred to the Public Works Committee. At the present time the Public Works Committee reports whether, in its opinion, any work that has been referred to it is expedient. In this case the commission will say whether, in its opinion, any specified work is expedient.
– It is proposed to dispense with the services of the Public Works Committee in that connexion ?
– Yes. When the Government has received a report from the commission giving its opinion, a bill will be prepared, and the Railway Commissioner will be instructed to collect all the datathat is required trader the provisions of the Railways Act, such as plans, estimates of the cost of resuming land and constructing bridges, and so on. That data, with the opinion of the commission, will be placed before Parliament. A bill will be introduced, and before the work can proceed Parliament will have to authorize the construction of the railway. A similar procedure is provided for in regard to works estimated to cost over £25,000 ; they also will have to be authorized by Parliament, which will have the report of the commission stating whether it considers that the work is expedient. If the work will cost over £25,000, it will have to be constructed through the Department of Works and Railways, as is doneat present. That department will either call for tenders orcarry out the work by day labour.
SenatorLynch. - Will the commission have exclusive power in regard to works that are estimated to cost less than £25,000 ?
– Yes. It may also haveexclusivepower overthe moreexpensiveworks;Parliamentwillhave to determine that when it isacquainted with the natureof the work.
I should like to say aword or two with regard to the reason for the supersession of the Public Works Committee by the commission. It is obvious that if all these works had to be referred to the Public Works Committee considerable delay would take place. A committee sitting in Melbourne would not be competent without visiting the spot to decide upon the advisability of carrying out work in the Northern Territory. When works affecting the Northern Territory have been referred to the Public Works Committee in the past, some at least of the members of that committee have had to visit the Territory before a report could be furnished. I have already referred to the time that a letter takes to reach the Northern Territory from Melbourne. A comparatively recent visit paid to the Northern Territory by the Public Works Committee necessitated the circumnavigation of Australia. The reference was to wharf construction. The committee took evidence in Perth and at the ports on the north-west coast of Western Australia. It then proceeded to Darwin, where it sat for some time, and subsequently came down the eastern coast of Australia, touching at ports in Queensland and NewSouth Wales. It is obvious that if every work aiming at the development ofNorthern Australia had to be referred to that committee, and the committee had on every occasion to visit the Northern Territory, very few members would be able to spare the time that would be involved. If development is to take place in the Northern Territory, these inquirieswill have to be very much more frequent than they have been. If it is provided that the Public Works Committee shall inquire into any proposed work in the Northern Territory, theresult will be that decisions will be arrived at without visits being paid to the Territory, unless members of the committee spend the greater part of the year in touring round the north of Australia. The only alternative would be to have two Public Works
Committees - one for the north and one for the south of Australia.
– The Public Works Committee has frequently found it necessary to divide itself into sections in order to carry on simultaneously two investigations.
– I do not say that the committee is behind with its work, but I know that it is working full time in order to cope with the great pressure that is being put upon it. As the construction work in the Federal Capital Territory proceeds, that committee will have a still greater amount of work placed upon it. In these circumstances the Government thought that it would be better for Parliament to be advised by the people who would have the responsibility of carrying out the work, who were on the spot, and who, because of their knowledge of the local conditions, would, be able to furnish information that would warrant Parliament in saying whether the work should or should not be carried out. That decision is not intended to reflect in the least upon the capabilities or the qualifications of the members of the Public Works Committee. The Government acknowledges to the full the very valuable assistance that has been rendered to it and to Parliament by the many useful reports which that committee has from time to time furnished on matters that have been submitted to it.
The bill makes provision for a fund to be called the North Australia Commission Fund. The commission will have
Certain borrowing powers, similar to those of the Federal Capital Commission. It will be in a position to borrow, with the consent of the Treasurer and under the conditions laid down by him. There is also a provision that the commission must present its annual estimates in the same way that the Federal Capital Commission submits its estimates to the Minister. Before any expenditure apart from the Estimates can be incurred it will require the approval of the Minister and the Treasurer. The approval of Parliament will, of course, need to be obtained when the Estimates are placed before it. When the money has been made available, however, the commission will have full power over its expenditure. It will not be necessary for it to obtain the approval of the Minister on individual items.
I have already said that the bill provides for portions of the territories of contiguous states to be placed under the commission, with the consent of those states. The terms and conditions of such transfer will be a matter for mutual agreement. This is a permissive power, that can be availed of if the states so desire.
– Have the states concerned been furnished with draft copies of the bill?
– No. It is only within the last day or two that the bill has been in print. The Government is desirous that, at the earliest possible moment, local government should be established in northern Australia. It believes that to be the best form of government. It hopes that the population of Northern Australia will so increase that before many years the inhabitants there will have full power over the government of their own country. The purpose of the bill is to make a commencement towards that end.
Certain services will not be dealt with by the commission, such as the administration of law and justice, police, education, mines, fisheries, aborigines, and many minor services. It is proposed that those shall be dealt with by Government Residents, one in Darwin and another at Alice Springs.In each case the Government Resident will have a council of. advice, consisting of two elected and two nominated members. The whole of the district will vote as one, the election being on the parliamentary franchise. Members will be elected for three years, and in addition to having the power to advise on questions of administration they will have also the power to advise on the framing of ordinances, the amending of existing ordinances, and the making of recommendations as to the repeal of ordinances. There is in that provision the germ of local self-government. As the population increases and. the people show that they are capable of and willing to take upon themselves the responsibility of government the structure can be built up until full local selfgovernment obtains in both of those districts.
– The voters must be residents of the districts ?
– Oh, yes.
– Are the members to be remunerated ?
– There is no provision regarding remuneration.
-Will the taxation that is raised go direct to the commission?
– No. The commission will not have any power of taxation.
– The local councils will have such power?
– The councils will have certain powers regarding the levying of rates. The income tax, the land tax, and the customs duties will not be dealt with by the commission. The object that the Government has in view is to establish a population in northern Australia in order to bring about its selfgovernment. There is no other purpose in view . The Government says quite frankly that it is aiming at the establishment of one or two new states. It believes that these territories are suitable for the creation of new states. Their geographical situation is obviously a convenience in that respect. Of course, the creation of these new states will have to come in the future; but I am confident that it will be possible, if the same development takes place there that has taken place in the western districts of Queensland. In those districts one finds towns such as Longreach, with a population of probably 10,000 people, living absolutely on pastoral development. There is no cultivation withinhundreds of miles of the town.
– And there is no country in the Northern Territory like the Longreach country.
– I differ from the honorable senator. I came through the Longreach country and also over the BarklyTablelands, and saw in the Tablelands exactly the same grasses that are making wealthy the pastoralists around Longreach.
– Pastoralists tried sheep raising on the Barkly Tablelands, but could not get the same percentage of lambs as in the Longreach country.
– There are two essential points of difference between the two areas. In the first place, artesian water is available at Longreach, whereas in the Barkly Tablelands the water is sub-artesian. It has to be pumped to the surface, and therefore it is more costly. The Barkly Tablelands is well supplied with sub-artesianwater at from 200 feet to 400 feet. One of the difficulties there is the absence of timber, which has to be transported very many miles, mostly by camel teams. I was informed that it costsfrom £8 to £12 a week to keep the pumps going. I may point out, however, that Darwin is contiguous to Borneo, where there is an ample supply of oil fuel. Tank steamers bringing oil to southern Australia pass Darwin, and the Government is making arrangements to establish oil fuel and petrol depots at Darwin. It will not be long before the railway goes through to Daly Waters from the north, a distance of365 miles, and soon we shall be able to deliver oil fuel and petrol at Daly Waters as cheaply as at Sydney or Melbourne. The cost of pumping water on the Barkly Tablelands will then be reduced from £8 or £12 a week to 30s. a week.
– We pumped all the water we required by windmills up there.
– I did not see many windmills on the cattle runs on the Barkly Tablelands.
– We had to give up pumping on account of the high cost of timber, andused windmills with earthern storage tanks.
– All the government bores along the stock routes are served by windmills, with big earthern or galvanized iron storage tanks to conserve supplies.
– What about natural water supplies?
– There is very little surface water on the Barkly Tablelands. I saw it only in one or two places. But, after all, the Tablelands comprise only one defined district in the Northern Territory. In the Victoria River country there is magnificent surface water, as well as ample sub-artesian supplies. When I visited the Northern Territory, the northern portion of Australia was suffering from a severe drought, but, if honorable senators will examine the rainfall map for the past 25 years, they will find that monsoonal rains seldom, if ever, fail in the Northern Territory. They come well down over the Victoria River country, and also over, the Barkly Tablelands, but in a drought year they do not extend very far into Queensland so that whilst during my visit there was abundance of feed over the Barkly Tablelands, which were luxuriantly clothed with Mitchell grass, Flinders grass, and bluegrass, the country around Longreach was as bare as the floor of this Senate chamber, and cattle were dying in hundreds.
– That may have been because of the different stocking conditions in the two areas.
– I am aware, of course, that Longreach is a centre of the best pastoral country in Australia, if not in the world, and I was very much impressed with the fact that the Barkly Tablelands, whilst comprising in every essential feature similar country, were not so liable to drought conditions. This is one important reason why we should push on with railway development in that country.
I submit the bill in the earnest hope that it will receive sympathetic consideration, and in the belief that honorable senators will see in it an honest effort on the part of the Government to create machinery by which we may get development in the Northern Territory. I am quite satisfied that if the Northern Territory is to be left to the ordinary departmental methods of control it will never be successfully developed. I believe that a new system of administration is desirable and necessary. The Northern Territory, in my opinion, can only be developed from within the Territory itself. I hope that this experiment will be given a trial, and that, as a result, we shall establish a thriving population in the north as the beginning of a self-governing community which will justify the creation of new states there, and thus remove from Australia the danger that lies in an empty north.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under the provisions of sub-section 5 of section 39 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and section 41 of the Constitution, aboriginal natives of Asia are disqualified from Commonwealth enrolment, unless they were enrolled as electors for the more numerous House of Parliament of a state prior to the coming into operation of the Franchise Act 1902, and have continuously retained the right to such state enrolment. At the Imperial Conference in 1921 the following resolution was adopted, . namely -
The conference, while reconfirming the resolution of the Imperial War Conference of 1918, that each community of the British Commonwealth should enjoy complete control of the composition of its own population by means of restriction on immigration from any of the other communities, recognizes that there is an incongruity between the position of India as an equal member of the British Empire and the existence of disabilities upon British Indians lawfully domiciled in some other parts of the Empire. The conference accordingly is of the opinion that in the interests of the solidarity of the British Commonwealth it is desirable that the rights of such Indians to citizenship should be recognized.
In four of the states, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, natives of British India are not disqualified on racial grounds from the state franchise, and the adoption of this measure will bring the Commonwealth and state franchises into closer harmony. The object of the bill is to remove the existing disqualification on racial grounds from adult natives of British India who are inhabitants of the Commonwealth and have lived in Australia continuously for the period of six months. The number of persons affected by the bill is limited. The Chief Electoral Officer has obtained figures from the Commonwealth Statistician to show that there are only 2,300 British Indians resident in the Commonwealth. Since the introduction of Indians is now controlled by our Immigration Restriction Act there can be no further introduction. In the ordinary course of events, therefore, their numbers must decrease, because British Indians cannot secure the right of entry and permanent domicile. They can come in only under permit and obtain temporary domicile.
– Does the bill refer only to those British Indians now in Australia?
– That is all. No others can obtain lawful domicile. Permits are usually for a period of from twelve months to two years. They are given only to a limited number - chiefly merchants,traders, students, Mohammedan priests, and tourists.
SenatorKingsmill. - Can the Minister say who represented Australia at the Imperial Conference, and what his attitude was?
– This subject was dealt with originally at the war conference in 1918. The 1921 conference was attended by Mr. Hughes, and at the last conference the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) represented Australia.
– Is there any record of the attitude taken by the Australian representative at the 1921 conference ?
– Yes, it is set out in the records of the conference. There was no disagreement except on the part of the South African Union, which abstained from voting.
SenatorKingsmill. - Natal would not be enthusiastic over it.
– Has this measure anything to do with Mr. Sastri’s visit?
– No; he came to Australia after the conference.
Debate (on motion by Senator Need- ham) adjourned.
.- I move-
That this bill be now read a second time.
This is a purely machinery measure, intended to rectify one of those technical anomalies which from time to time creep into various acts. The law as it stands enables an interest settlement to be made only up to the day of judgment.In other words, a successful litigant can only recover interest up to the day when he obtains a verdict in his favour, whereas it sometimes happens that settlement takes place mouths after a judgment has been delivered. The amending bill simply gives permission to charge interest until the actual day of settlement. That is the only point involved. The bill contains no provision of a contentious character.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1st July (vide page 534), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill may at first sight appear tobe unimportant, but financial measures are at all times of a most important character. Australia is staggering under a huge debt, and it is realized that a sinking fund is required to assist in reducing the burden. Sinking funds are effective when they are properly and honestly applied, but there are some members of this Parliament who are suspicious of such schemes One of them is the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), who, speaking as a private member in the other branch of the legislature on the 15th May, 1924, stated-
Various sinking funds have been established, some with good intentions, others with pious aspirations, some suggested, possibly, by expediency, and some -I say it with bated breath - in a spirit of hypocrisy. Of course, the mention of sinking funds tickles the ear of the electors, and provides a muchneeded soporific in connexion with our financial outlook.
I do not know whether the Minister still subscribes to that view, but it is possible that the remarks that I have quoted are applicable to the present Government with respect to this: bill. In 1910 the Australian Labour party, despite serious opposition in both. Houses, introduced the note issue. It was stipulated that all money received from that source should be invested in government Securities, and that the profits should be paid into a redemption fund for the reduction of the national debt. I find that up to June, 1925, the profits derived from the note issue have amounted to approximately £12,873,000, but this Government, instead of paying that amount into the fund for the redemption of the national debt, has paid it into revenue. On the 20th July, 1921, when Sir Joseph Cook was Treasurer of the Commonwealth, he made the following observations in this connexion : -
We have had a windfall during the year by the transfer of the Notes Branch of the Commonwealth Bank, which gave us £7,780,524. That was the amount of profit that had accumulated over a number ofyears, and I thought that the best ‘thing to do was to put it out of the way of temptation by applying it to the redemption of the public debt.
Sir Joseph Cook, unlike the present Government, observed the stipulation, that the profits of the .note issue, should be used for the reduction of the national debt. The profit from the note issue now amounts to £1,000,000 a year.
This bill provides that the money received by way of reparations shall be paid into the sinking fund. Up to the present time £257.692 has been received.
– Does the honorable senator agree that this money should be paid into the sinking fund’!
– Yes. My contention is that the whole of the profits from the note issue have not been so dealt with in accordance with the original intention. I hope that the Minister, in his reply to the debate, will inform the Senate what sum Australia may ultimately expect by way cf reparations when it is likely to be paid, and whether it will be paid in money or in kind. If Australia’s share is to be paid in kind, it will have a very serious effect on the industries of the country. Let us look at the figures of the last few years, and see what the national debt now is. The position may be summarized as follows : -
It will be noticed that the gross debt has not decreased, and that the net debt remains practically stationary. It has also to be remembered that next year loans aggregating £69,000,000 fall due, while in 1925-6 loans amounting to £19,000,000, aud in 1926-7 to £72,000,000, fall due It will be seen, therefore, that every effort should be made to reduce our financial burden. If the establishment of a sinking fund,, as proposed under this bill, is an honest attempt on the part of the Government to reduce the national indebtedness, the measure deserves the favorable consideration of the Senate ; but, after all, it might not be advisable to attempt to wipe out the debt in the present generation. It was incurred during the troublous years of war, and it might be preferable to reduce it at a rate that would not prejudice the industrial prosperity of the Commonwealth. If, however, the object can be achieved without affecting our prosperity, the undertaking is tn be commended.
– I again voice my protest against the continuance of those sections of the principal act which authorize the Government to appropriate annually half the profits of ‘the Commonwealth Bank,’ and place them to the credit. of the national debt sinking fund.
– This bill has nothing to do with that matter. It provides merely for the reparation money to be transferred to the sinking fund.
– I desire to intimate that I intend ‘ to propose the insertion of a new clause to give effect to the view I have just expressed. I think I shall be in order in doing that. I am merely expressing my opinion concerning the appropriation of one half of the profits made by. the Commonwealth Bank.
– Order! I have already informed the honorable senator that he cannot discuss the operations of the Commonwealth Bank under this bill.
– I shall, however, have an opportunity when I move the amendment of which I have given notice.
.- In reply to the point raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) regarding the profits on the note issue, I can only say that it is useless crying over spilt milk. The present Government has, however, shown signs of repentance in that it has during its regime paid the profits into the National Debt Sinking Fund. In regard to the question raised by the honorable senator as to whether the amount received from Germany by way of reparations will be paid in cash or in kind, I may say that the arrangement as -communicated to the -Government is that indemnities will be paid by Germany either in cash or in kind. During the earlier years deliveries in kind will ^predominate, but the dominions will be paid their proportion of cash available, and will be credited by Great Britain with their proportion of deliveries in kind. There will be no actual delivery in kind to the dominions. The dominions will be credited with the value of the deliveries in kind, and the credits we receive will be paid by Great Britain in later years when cash is available.
– The amount will not be written off our debt to Great Britain ?
– No. I indicated during my second-reading speech the total amount which Germany has to pay, the proportion the British Empire will receive, and the proportion of that received by Great Britain which will be paid to the Commonwealth. I gave the amounts we anticipated receiving each year, which are, of course, only approximate estimates. The amounts range from a minimum during this financial year of £239,000 to a maximum of £365,000 and the amount to be paid will be somewhere between those two figures. The amounts increase in the year 1928-9 to a minimum of £239,000 and a maximum of £909,000. Honorable senators will see that under the arrangement we cannot say how much we will be credited with in respect of payments in kind made by Germany.
– It will not mean that the Australian market will be flooded with German goods?
– No deliveries in kind will be made to Australia, and there will, therefore, be no flooding of the Australian markets.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Payments to the sinking fund).
– I move -
That the following new paragraph be added : - “’ and (d) - by omitting sub-sections 2 and 3 thereof.”
Sub-sections 2 and 3 read -
I have submitted this amendment to provide that one-half of the profits made by the Commonwealth Bank shall ‘ not be credited to the national debt sinking fund. I have, of course, no objection to any reparations received from Germany being paid into that fund, neither have I any substantial” objection to certain other amounts being credited to it. I am, however, strongly opposed to the continual appropriation of one-half of the profits of the Commonwealth Bank. What are we doing? The profits of any other bank are not operated upon in this way, and under the present system this important financial institution has no opportunity of progressing. During the last six months the depositors in the savings bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank have withdrawn £800,000 more than they deposited, and if this continues the savings bank branch must soon cease to exist. This action on the part of the depositors is due largely to the decision of the board to pay depositors interest at the rate of 3£ per cent, when other banks, whose security is quite as good, are paying 4 per cent., or even more. The profits of the Commonwealth Bank should be at the disposal of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Since the death of the late governor, Sir Denison Miller, no additional branches have been established. That, in itself, is most deplorable ; but I believe I am correct in saying that one or more of the branches previously in existence have been closed during that time. I should like to know why the Commonwealth Bank Board does not establish branches for conducting general banking business in localities where they find it profitable to conduct a savings bank business. There is only a limited number of towns in the Commonwealth where branches for the conduct of general banking business are established.
– Does this measure deal with the operations of the Commonwealth Bank?
– The discussion of this measure-gives me the opportunity to moveto omit from the National Debt Sinking Fund Act certain provisions under which one-half of the profits of the Commonwealth Bank are placed to the credit of the national debt sinking fund. I am anxious that the profits made by the bank shall be made available for the extension of its business. Those who advocated the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank had no idea that the profits would be used in this way, at least until branches were established at all important centres. If the bank is not progressing, it is only natural that dissatisfaction exists in the minds of the bank officials, who cannot possibly see any prospect of promotion.
-(Senator Newland). - Under this measure the honorable senator cannot discuss the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. I ask him to confine his remarks to the amendment he has moved.
– I was under the impression that I was doing that. The profits derived by the Commonwealth Bank should be used for the extension of its business. One-half of the profits of the savings bank branch are also placed to the credit of this fund, and that is probably a reason why the bank does not contemplate the establishment of a home-building section, which would be beneficial to many people. It is true that the directors of the bank are carrying out the spirit and letter of the law, but the result has been that the Commonwealth Bank is now a bankers’ bank-
– The honorable senator must confine himself to the amendment.
– As I warmly support the extension of the Commonwealth Bank, I resent any attempt to cripple the institution. I have moved my amendment to give the bank a reasonable opportunity to extend its operations, and to prevent its officers from coming up against a dead-end. My purpose is to enable it to carry out the ideals that were in the minds of those who advocated its creation. Having been deprived of half its profits, it has been driven into channels which it ought to have been able to avoid. For instance, it has been obliged to increase the rate of interest on overdrafts to 7 per cent.
– The honorable senator cannot on this bill discuss the rate of interest on overdrafts.
– I hope the good sense of the committee will lead it to adopt my suggestion, and openly and fearlessly give the Commonwealth Bank a fair chance of competing with other tanks. It has not had that chance, and cannot possibly have it whilst half its profits are annexed as proposed by the Government.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Home and Territories) monwealth Bank as if it were a private bank depending on private capital. He forgets that when the Commonwealth Bank Act was amended last year the whole of its accumulated profits, amounting to ?4,000,000, were made available to it. It is not like a private institution. It has the guarantee of the Commonwealth behind it. If it sees fit to establish branches anywhere, there is nothing to stop it from doing so. As a matter of fact, new branches have been established since the death of Sir Denison Miller.
– Where ?
– I cannot say where, but I am speaking from information supplied to me by the Treasury. There is no need for this money to be paid into the Commonwealth Bank. It already has plenty of money, and does not need any more. I ask the committee, to reject the amendment and enable this money to go into the national debt sinking fund.
– I have made fairly close inquiries, and, notwithstanding the statement of Senator Pearce, I do not know of a branch of the Commonwealth Bank that has been opened since the death of Sir Denison Miller.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 1st July (vide page 534), on motion by Senator Wilson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This may be, as Senator Wilson says, merely a technical amendment of the act; but, after all, it provides for an extension of the powers given in that measure, which was strongly opposed in its passage through this and another place last year. The act enables the Government to appropriate ?500,000, and such further sums as are necessary from time to time, to make advances in connexion with the marketing abroad of primary produce, the advances to be limited to 80 per cent. of the value of the produce. Last session, honorable senators of the Labour party urged that this gave the Government too much power, and that after 80 per cent. of the value of certain produce had been advanced prices might drop to such an extent that the Government might be unable to regain the amount advanced, and consequently the community would have to bear the loss. That danger still exists. I do not know that fruit is any more immune from it than wheat is likely to be. We all know that the price of any commodity may drop in a very short space of time. Quite recently, we had that experience in regard to wool. My opinion is that instead of guaranteeing 80 per cent. to the exporters the Government should go wholeheartedly into the whole business of exporting produce. I can well remember Ministers in the past combating the socialistic ideas of the Labour party, but to-day they are themselves getting very close to socialism. At any rate, they are risking public money in helping every one who comes along for assistance to export produce.. The act contains a definite statement of the class of goods to be exported before assistance can be given, but. the proposal now is for advances to be made on “primary produce used or to be used in the manufacture or preparation of goods of a kind suitable for export.” The Age has summed up the position of the Government very well. In a leading article it describes it as - a Government that is squandering unproductive millions, and tacitly inviting each avaricious trading concern to come as a mendicant for public largesse.
I should join heartily with the Government in this kind of work if it were truly a socialistic effort, but Ministers will only get as close to socialism as they can in order to placate some of their friends. However, as this amendment will not make very much difference to what is now the law I shall have nothing further to say, except to express the hope that the Senate will not again be asked to pass a small amending bill to enlarge the scope of a measure passed in the preceding session.
– In moving the second reading of the bill I told honorable senators that the spirit and intention of Parliament in passing the Export Guarantee Act had been vetoed by the Crown Law Department. We are now asking the Senate to do only what it was Parliament’s intention to do last session. I can assure Senator Needham that the Government have no ambition to enter into trade. They want to get out of it as far as they can, but they feel they are responsible for assisting to stabilize and market the products of this country. That is the idea of the bill. It is not desirable, nor is it intended that the Government should commence to run this business.
– I wish that it would.
– Those who are engaged in the Public Service are not trained to run businesses in the way suggested; it is not their job. The Government is endeavouring to assist those who are engaged in various industries to place their products on the markets of the world, so that they may reap from their labours a fuller reward than they are now getting, and consequently bring greater prosperity to Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Assistance to primary production) .
– Can the Minister state how many persons have availed themselves of the provisions of the act in relation to the export guarantee, and outline the action that has been taken by the Government ?
– It is rather difficult to answer off-hand such a comprehensive question. I think that the total amount advanced is somewhere in the vicinity of £200,000. The advance on sultanas has been at the rate of £9 a ton, and on currants, £1 10s. a ton. That amount will be refunded, of course, when prices have been stabilized, and the industry has been placed on a proper footing.
– To whom have advances been made ?
– Directly to the growers. Every precaution possible has been taken to ensure that any grower who is in difficulties shall obtain an advance.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. Under the existing law provision is made that when an estate passes to a widow, children, or grandchildren, th-3 amount of duty shall- be only two-thirds of that which would be charged if the estate passed to strangers. It is a generallyaccepted principle in the Estate Duty Acts of the various states that preferential treatment should be meted out- to widows and children. In other directions in the legislation of the Commonwealth and of the states steps have been- taken to confer upon widows privileges that are not enjoyed by ordinary citizens. In the case of the payment of estate duty that principle, to my mind, does not go quite fatenough. Under the Estate Duty Assessment Act of 1914 there is a general exemption in the case of all estates of a value of £1,000. If the value of the estate after the deduction of debts exceeds £1,000, but does not exceed £2,000, the duty payable is at the rate of £1 per cent. If the value of th,. estate exceeds £2,000, the duty is at the rate of £1 per cent., together with an additional percentage of one-fifth of £1 for every £1,000 or part of £1,000 by which the value exceeds £2,000, but so that the percentage shall not exceed £15 per cent. That section has been in operation ever since the act was first passed in 1914, although the measure has been amended in many other directions at different times. I wish, first of all, to compare the position of a widow with that of a stranger. Then I shall endeavour to show what financial alteration would follow the adoption of this proposed amendment of the act. It may, of course, be admitted at once that no really vital principle is involved. There is nothing in this measure, for instance, comparable with the principle underlying the imposi tion of a land value tax. This duty is imposed merely for the purpose of raising revenue. It has been stated repeatedly that the Estate Duty Act of 1914 was a war measure introduced because of the necessity for raising large sums of money to finance Australia’s operations during that period. Even had there not been a war, I believe that such a measure would have found its way on to the statute-book. It affects a very considerable number of people in the Commonwealth. According to a return that I have received from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, based upon the census of 1921, there were then in Australia 164,480 widows) - 60,701 in New South Wales, 54,928 in Victoria, 19,039 in Queensland, 15,262 in South Australia, 8,526 in “Western Australia, 5,965 in Tasmania, 33 in the Northern Territory, and 26 in the Federal Capital Territory, making a total of 164.480. Since 1921 the population of the Commonwealth has increased considerably, and I have no doubt that the number of widows has increased correspondingly. The exact number of widows in the Commonwealth at present is not ascertainable, but it may be assumed that they number at least 170,000. Only a limited number of those would, in the ordinary course of events, be called upon to pay estate duty, because estates of a- dutiable value are not bequeathed to them. It will, I think, be granted that a wife during her life is just as much, responsible for a substantial banking account as the husband is likely to be. To me it is absolutely wrong that, when the husband is taken away by death, the Commonwealth or the states should individually or collectively annex any portion of that banking account. I am opposed to estates duties generally, but 1 emphatically protest against that provision which operates against widows and children. When a wife dies and leaves property to her husband he can continue his usual occupation. His salary goes on. and to all intents and purposes - apart from the loss of his partner, he is not in any worse position than he occupied before her death. He is, therefore better able to stand up against the exactions of the various taxation authorities. I am not quite sure what the law is in relation to estates that are held jointly, but the state should not, when a husband dies, step in and annex portion of the value of the estate, in the acquisition of which the widow may have played an active part. It is bad enough for a widow to be called upon to face the added responsibilities of attending to the wants of her family as well as meet all legitimate claims against her. She should have the benefit of a fairly substantial exemption altogether apart from the general exemption at present allowed under the act. Those who have any knowledge of estates must know that frequently the actual amount of cash available to a widow is limited, and that not infrequently an estate is encumbered. Frequently a widow is obliged to raise money on second mortgage; and we all know that, however estimable our legal friends may be, they are not disposed to work for nothing. In these circumstances, it is very difficult to raise money to meet all the expenses following the death of a husband, and satisfy the demands of the Taxation Commissioners. In a rich country like Australia it should be unnecessary to have an army of well-trained, lynx-eyed taxation officers ready, almost at a moment’s notice, to pounce upon a widow like hungry crows upon a wounded dingo, and claim portion of the estate, which, jointly with her husband, she may have been responsible in securing. The law does not prevent the accumulation of estates. It seems that those who favour this class of legislation, under which estates are built up, are quite satisfied that, upon the death of a husband or wife, as the case might be, the state should come along and annex a portion of the estate. I feel certain that if the people of Australia gave serious attention to this matter they would approve of the’ amendment to the act, which would be highly appreciated by those directly “concerned, because it would relieve them from the responsibility, at probably the most trying time in their lives, of having to find, at very great cost, the necessary money to meet the demands of the Taxation Department. The act produces, in round figures, £1,000,000 per annum. It has been on the statute-books of Great Britain for very many years. Probably because it was a British law, it was enacted in this country. But it is entirely wrong to raise public revenue in this way. In 1921 the administration of the act produced £1.119,913; in 1922, £1,040,668; in 1923, £1.169,928; and in 1924, £1,332,049. Evidently the officers of the department are industrious in the collection of this tax, because the total amount outstanding at the end of the financial year 1923:4 was only £100,038. It is important that we should know to what extent the revenue might suffer if this proposed amendment of the law were agreed to, but it is difficult, if not impossible, from the information at the disposal of the Taxation Commissioners, to make any reliable estimate. I am aware that many people, including., no doubt, ministerial supporters, object to any proposal that is likely to interfere with the revenue. But if it is only a small matter, and if it is spread over a large number of persons, it should receive favorable consideration, particularly in view of the large amount collected by way of customs, excise, land and income taxation. I find, from a perusal of the eighth report of the Taxation Commissioners for the year ending 30th June, 1921, pages 81-82, that the number of estates dealt with, the value of which did not exceed £5,000, was 3,985. After the necessary deductions had been made, the dutiable value of the estates was £8,975,853, and the total amount received was £84,183. But, unfortunately, it would require an examination of the whole of the estates involved before the commissioners could say to what extent the revenue would be affected by this amending bill. Probably there would be a loss of revenue of from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent. ; but at the very most the loss could not be more than £84,183. This would not be a serious matter in view of the healthy state of Commonwealth finances at the present time. As the average value of an estate is £2,700, the total loss should not be very serious. Of course, those estates exceeding £5,000 in value would also, under the operation of this bill, receive the benefit of the exemption of £5,000. In 1922, the last year for which figures are available, the total number of estates for probate in Australia was 5,311. The number of dutiable estates of a value of over £5,000 in 1922 was 1,381, and even if all those estates passed to widows the sum involved would not be very substantial. My proposal should appeal to all honorable senators. There is no reason why we should continue to impose taxation of this character, especially upon widows. I am well aware that the suggestion will meet with some opposition, but I regard the present time as most opportune for its adoption. Federal revenue is buoyant. and this year it will amount to over £60,000,000. Some people suggest that the Commonwealth should retire from the whole field of direct taxation, hut it is of far-reaching importance to the parties concerned that Ave should at least cease to impose duties on the estates of widows.
– What would the honorable senator do if the widows married again?
– If the husbands obtained possession of their estates and died a few years afterwards, the taxation officers would again relieve them of as much as they possibly could for the purpose of further augmenting the national revenue. I have been unable to secure from official sources the exact amount of revenue that would be lost by the adoption of my suggestion, but it would not be a considerable sum.
Debate (on motion by Senator Crawford) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1st July (vide page 548), on motion by Senator J. D. Millen -
That the Government forthwith give an assurance to the people of Tasmania in particular, and the people of the Commonwealth in general, that there will be continuity of transport service for passengers between Tasmania and the mainland; and in the event of any strike, lockout, or discontinuance of this service from any cause whatsoever, the Government will immediately take the necessary action to maintain, without interruption, this vital service.
.- When the debate was adjourned yesterday I. was about to deal with the position of the primary producers who are and have been seriously affected by the cutting off of the transport services between Tasmania and the mainland. An article published in the Launceston Examiner of the 14th January of this year, which tersely set out the position, included the following passage: -
Supplies of certain lines are short. Trade generally is seriously hampered. In this event it is always the producer who suffers most, and he is now in that unenviable plight, lt has been announced, for example, that unless a shipment of sugar can be obtained Jones and Company’s jam factory will have to close down. If jam making and preserving are suspended, much of the small fruit crop will be worthless. The grower will not be able to sell it. Not so very long ago the slogan was frankly uttered by a somewhat over-zealous Labourite of “ To hell with the farmer.” The sentiment, of course, was disowned, and as far as Labour and unionism in the main are concerned the disavowal will be accepted. Still the producer must feel that in certain socialistic quarters there is little thought and less sympathy for him. Not only is it sought to confiscate and communize his means of production - the farm that he may have carved out of the bush - but whenever there is industrial trouble in the -transport business he is always the sacrifice. His year’s crop can rot if at the time of gathering there is one of the periodical upsets in the sea-carrying trade.
I need hardly point out that in Tasmania, in common with other parts of the Commonwealth, a great number of soldier settlers have established themselves in the soft fruits industry. It is obvious that crops of soft fruits, such as raspberries, strawberries, and currants, must be garnered at a particular time and treated without delay. If, owing to some dislocation of snipping, sugar cannot be obtained by the canning and preserving factories, there is no alternative but that the crop must rot. This, has been the experience in TasmaniaSeveral growers, whose livelihood depended on the successful operation of~ the industry, found that when the time came for the gathering of the crops, tho factories were not prepared to purchase: the fruit because, owing to the cutting off of the sugar supplies attendant on the shipping hold-up, there was no means o£ preserving it. The whole of their year’swork therefore went for nought. Tharis the position in which some of the small? growers of soft fruits found themselves. Similarly, hotel-keepers, boardinghouse proprietors, small shop-keepers, and motor car proprietors, have all been seriously injured in their business during the1 tourist season. Just as they anticipated securing some return to compensate them for the lack of business during the off season, shipping communication ceased, and they were left practically poverty stricken. Many people who have entered into financial obligations irc Tasmania find that they are unable to meet them simply because their ordinary business avocations, because of these frequent hold-ups, have proved unprofitable. I endeavoured last. evening to focus the very serious position” of Tasmania. Tasmania is regarded by the people of the mainland as the garden of Australia. Her scenic beauties are referred to in terms of admiration. Her mountains, I was going to say, rival those of Switzerland, but I prefer to say that the mountain scenery of Switzerland rivals that of Tasmania. Her lake scenery is wonderfully wild, and its grandeur is such that people travel great distances to admire it.
– When they can reach Tasmania.
– Yes, when they can go there and return. Although visitors are very voluble in their praises of the beauties of Tasmania, they are equally loud in their protestations when they find that certain conspirators, acting against the best interests of the community, can prevent tourists from returning to their home states. In order that it may not be thought that the picture is overdrawn, I shall read portion of a report that was published in the Hobart Mercury of the 12th January last, at the time of the shipping hold-up. The article indicates the tragic position in which a number of stranded tourists in Hobart were placed, and states, inter alia -
It is estimated that, despite the fact that over 300 were able to return to the mainland in the s.s.Hobson’s Bay, there still remain some 1,000 stranded visitors from the mainland in Hobart, whose prospects of return in the early future are far from bright. The majority of these had made application for passages to Melbourne in the s.s. Largs Bay, of the Australian Commonwealth Line, which was originally scheduled to leave Hobart for Melibourne to-morrow. Owing to the hold-up of this vessel in Sydney at the last moment, hope of relief for these unfortunate persons has vanished. A . groat number of them have already long overstayed their holidays, and their immediate return to their positions is pf the utmost importance to them. Many others, who 5iad arranged their finances, to allow of their joining the Largs Bay to-morrow, have been completely nonplussed by the uncertainty of -this steamer’s movements, and are faced with the prospects of becoming stranded with no money. The situation in which these people have found themselves bids shortly to become desperate - it is indeed desperate with many of them now.
Each and every one of them has his or her particular story of hardship, anxiety,- and inconvenience. There are the clerks, the salesineu, shop assistants, mechanics, and the like, whose positions cannot be held for them for any length of time - some have been lost already - and there are the typists, stenographers,, lady clerks, and shop assistants, who in parties of three or four came over to Tasmania a short three weeks ago with, for the time being, not a care in the world and the prospects of a happy holiday before them, and are now stranded here with scanty money, no relations, and no prospects of early release. There are the business men, to whom return by a stipulated date may mean the acceptance or the loss of some valuable contract, or the difference between financial prosperity and loss. There are the students, who must get back in time for their examinations or see years of hard study wasted needlessly; and the sailors from the Australian navy, who must return to rejoin their ships to go to Singapore or China; and there are those - many of whom are not tourists - who have been hastily summoned to attend a dying relative’s bedside, only to find the summons impossible to obey because of the arrogant attitude adopted by a few seamen. The misery, anxiety, worry, loss, and inconvenience whichhave been caused already in this state by the dislocation of its shipping services can never be estimated or expressed.
That is a brief outline of the position in which a number of peojjle who had gone to Tasmania found themselves at that period. Girls employed in shops and offices who had been saving up money for the whole year in order to enjoy a short holiday in Tasmania, and who had retained only . sufficient to purchase a return ticket, were stranded. On the day they intended returning they were notified that communication with the mainland had ceased. This obviously was to them a serious matter. They had no banking accounts on which to draw, and no relatives or friends in Tasmania to assist them. We can readily imagine the joy they experienced when it was announced that the Commonwealth Government had decided to arrange for a vessel to be manned to restore communication ; but when the Government called for volunteers to man the Nairana to carry passengers back to the mainland, to transport necessary food; stuffs, and continue the mail and other services which should be maintained between states, the vessel was declared black by these enemies of Tasmania. It is amazing to read of the happenings at the time the vessel was to leave for Tasmania on this errand of mercy, and to realize that unionists, who were objecting to the running of this boat, were inconveniencing not only their opponents but also many of their own friends. The sympathies of many of these people who were stranded in Tasmania with no possible hope of getting away were with Labour, yet the Nairana was declared black. On perusing the newspapers of the 16th January last, we find that the call by the Federal Government for a volunteer crew met with a ready response, but that just as the vessel was ready to sail she was declared black, and the services of a body of police were required to enable the volunteers to go on board to work the ship, and thus enable communication to be re-established. It is remarkable that so little sympathy for their own friends should have been shown by those who desired to disrupt the roots of society.
It is unnecessary to labour the question. What the Tasmanian people have gone through is obvious to all. I do not, however, wish to conclude without making certain suggestions by which this difficulty could be overcome. An agreement exists between the Postmaster-General and Huddart Parker- Limited and (he Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited for the conveyance of mails between Melbourne and Tasmania. In subsection c of section 3 of this agreement it is provided that -
In the event of -
Seizure and detention of any steamship employed under this contract in consequence or anticipation of hostilities or warlike operations;
Any of the ports or places hereinbefore mentioned being or being within a proclaimed place within the meaning of the Quarantine Act 1908-20, or any amendment thereof;
Strikes or lock-outs affecting the running of the said steam-ships; the service or services thereby affected may be suspended by the contractors, and if suspended shall (except where any steam-ship is seized and detained as aforesaid), be resumed at the expiration of not more than twenty days from the date on which the cause of such suspension ceases.
That provision, in my opinion, should be amended to read as follows: -
The service or services under sub-sections (a) and (b) thereby affected may be suspended by the contractors, and if suspended shall (except where any steamship is seized and detained as aforesaid) be resumed at the expiration of not more than twenty days from the date on which the cause of such suspension ceases; but the service or services under sub-section (c) must be resumed within 48 hours from the hour on which such suspension occurs, the Commonwealth Government, if required, to find the necessary labour for manning such ship or ships.
Paragraph C (2) a should be amended to read -
I submitted these suggested amendments to the Municipal Association of Tasmania, and they were received with considerable favour. It appears to me that relief would be given if the Commonwealth Government would do exactly what it did when the men last ceased work, save that instead of waiting for a fortnight before arranging for a vessel to be manned in order to provide a continuous service, it should call for volunteers within 24 hours of a hold-up. We recognize, of course, that there must be a delay of 24 hours or so, but that would not be of serious consequence to the people concerned so long as they knew the service was’ to be continued within a short period. I sincerely hope that if such a suspension again occurs, the Governmentwill immediately intervene, and either call for volunteer labour or direct the Department of Navigation to provide a regular service between Tasmania and the mainland. I also suggest that the following provision be added to section 3 of the agreement -
If the Postmaster-General nominated a representative it would be of little moment whether such a representative had or had not a vote. With a representative on the board, however, the PostmasterGeneral would be kept in close touch with all that was happening in connexion with what is a vital service to one of the states within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government pays certain mail subsidies to shipping companies, andin similar circumstances we find that in other parts of the world representation is given to the Government on different shipping boards.For instance, in a publication entitled Government Aid to Shipping, published by the Department of Com- merce, Washington, we find that -
Under the recent mail contracts made with the leading Japanese steamship lines the Japanese Government has practically as much control over the affairs of these companies as would be possible under direct government ownership. The extent of governmental control is indicated by the fact that all passenger Tares and charges are subject to modification by the Minister of Communication, who must be consulted also in regard to arrangement of routes, ports of call, number of voyages to be made, and time of voyage.
In Austria also a subsidy was paid to steamship mail contractorsunder these conditions -
In the Dutch mail contracts there is a similar clause which reads -
Appointment of directors and representatives, and adoption of statutes and by-laws to be subject to the approval of the Dutch Government, which would also have the right to be represented at all meetings of the company, and the power to examine all its books ana papers.
I f a clause such as that I have submitted were added to the contract it would be a means of assisting the Government to avoid some of the difficulties that are bound to arise. I desire to state definitely and clearly that such difficulties cannot be overcome unless we have a Government sufficiently strong to act. The people of Tasmania and the supporters of the Government read with a great deal of pleasure the news that the Prime Minister has stated definitely that this condition of affairs must cease.
– He has at last made a definite statement.
– Yes, and he is bound by it. For six years Tasmania’s trade has been dislocated, and its business and everything else has gone by the board. Yet hitherto no action has been taken to remove the cause of it all. Now we have the assurance of the Prime Minister that the Government intend to act. The statement of the right honorable gentleman has given considerable relief. The people now feel that in the event of any dislocation of the shipping service in the near or distant future definite action will be taken. I submit the motion, and trust that it will be adopted by the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Payne) adjourned.
Effect on Tasmania.
.- I move -
The motion I am submitting differs very materially from one which I moved last session. That motion, after being adjourned from time to time, lapsed at the prorogation. It read as follows: -
That in the opinion of the Senate the operation of Part VI. of the Navigation Act is decidedly detrimental to the interests of the producers of Tasmania; and, therefore, Ministers should provide relief by exorcising the powers conferred by section 286, which authorizes the Governor-General to exempt British ships from the coastal provisions of the act.
Whereas that motion asked for the exemption of Tasmania from the operation of the whole of the coastal provisions ofthe Navigation Act, the motion I am now submitting merely asks that these provisions be relaxed in order to permit overseas vessels to carry passengers between the mainland and Tasmania. I modified my original proposal because I realized that it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, under existing conditions, to exempt one state from the operation of the coastal provisions of an act which prohibits overseas vessels from carrying cargo or passengers from one port of the Commonwealth to another. But I do not think there can be any objection to the modified proposal that overseas vessels should be allowed to carry passengers between the mainland and Tasmania. I can assure my honorable friends of the Opposition that my proposal has the approval of the Labour party in Tasmania, and I do not think that there is any serious objection to it on the part of the trade unions concerned. Of course, one is treading on dangerous ground in attempting to interfere with an act which has been placed on the statute-book not only for the protection of those who go down to the sea in ships, but also to prevent Australian ship-owners from having to face unfair competition. It is not right that vessels which are not obliged to comply with the conditions laid down in the Navigation Act should be permitted to come into unrestricted competition with vessels which are obliged to comply with them. It is not claimed that the whole of Tasmania’s troubles are due to the Navigation Act. Far from it. But it is claimed that, owing to its isolated position and to the fact that, in order to find a market, all its produce has to be shipped, it suffers considerably from the operation of the provisions of that act. Just as a small boat is the first to rock in a storm, so is Tasmania the first to be injured by the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. I have before me the report of the royal commission on the effect of that legislation. It is a rather peculiar report. There are really three reports - one by the chairman (Mr. Prowse) and Mr. Seabrook; one by Mr. Anstey, Mr. Yates, and Senator McHugh; and the third by Senators Duncan and Elliott. The first report I have mentioned shows clearly that Tasmania suffers hardship under the Navigation Act. While Senators Duncan and Elliott admitted in their report that Tasmania did suffer somewhat under this act, they said that its troubles did not arise entirely from that cause. The third report, by the Labour members of the commission, attempted to prove that, although Tasmania had suffered in some respects, its position had actually improved since the coming into force of the Navigation Act. It is natural to expect that Labour men would attempt to justify legislation which was really the creation of a Labour government. The report signed by the chairman and Mr. Seabrook says -
The question arises as to what has been the effect on Tasmania of the cessation of these services.
That is to say, the services between Hobart and New Zealand, via Sydney and Melbourne.
The various effects are dealt with separately as follow : -
For many years we have claimed that the tourist traffic is of great importance to the little state of Tasmania. Prior to the coming into operation of the Navigation Act a considerable number of people visited Tasmania, a fact that is borne out by figures given in the report of the royal commission. The report points out that certain visitors to Tasmania who formerly travelled by overseas boats, because they were more comfortable, now neglected to visit the state under conditions which compelled them to travel with less comfort on interstate boats.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The royal commission that inquired into the effects of the Navigation Act reported as follows in relation to the Tasmanian tourist traffic:
These tourists came by what was known as the “apple trip.” They could travel during the apple season by mail steamer between say Sydney or Brisbane - Melbourne - Hobart, and return by another mail steamer. These vessels began to build up a separate branch of the tourist traffic. It is claimed that most of those people do not now visit Tasmania, because they desired comfortable travelling which, it is stated, is denied to them bythe present facilities, consisting of comparatively small coastal vessels, with frequently crowded passenger accommodation, and the LauncestonHobart railway.
The evidence that was taken from the director of the tourist bureau in Hobart led two of the commissioners to the following conclusion: -
Your Commissioners are of the opinion, in regard to the tourist traffic: -
That the tourist traffic to Tasmania has suffered by reason of the operation of the coastal trading sections of the Navigation Act; and
That the shipping facilities to Tasmania for passengers during the summer months of each year are inadequate for tourist traffic.
That is the opinion of the chairman (Mr. Prowse) and Mr. Seabrook. Other commissioners who made a separate report also admitted that Tasmania had suffered.
I shall deal now with the effect of :the act on the timber trade, which is one of Tasmania’s chief industries. That state has large supplies of hardwood, which it is anxious to send to mainland markets, where it meets with very serious competition from timber that is imported from America and the Baltic -ports. Oversea boats used to call at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Hobart, and then proceed to New Zealand, giving a regular service. At that time Tasmania did a considerable trade in timber with New Zealand. When the Navigation Act became operative that monthly service ceased; the oversea boats would no longer call at Hobart, because they would be classed as coastal traders, and would have to comply with the conditions of the Navigation Act. Tasmania was thus deprived of a considerable amount of business in railway sleepers and hardwoods of all descriptions. At the present time she cannot rely upon any vessel being available to take that timber to New Zealand. Occasionally a ship calls at Hobart, but the service is so irregular that a saw-miller cannot make contracts. The competition with oversea softwoods is sufficiently severe without this additional handicap. From Launceston to Melbourne the rate of carriage ranges from 5s. 3d. to 5s. 9d. v 100 super, feet. From Baltic ports softwoods can be brought to Melbourne for 3s. 3d. a 100 super, feet.. The royal commission on the effect of the operation of the Navigation Act made a comparison of the freight charges, and in the report presented by Messrs. Prowse and Seabrook it is stated that -
Evidence was placed before your Commissioners that since the Navigation Act came into force the timber trade of Tasmania with New Zealand has practically been lost. A good timber market for Tasmanian timber existed there. The lack of shipping facilities killed the market, and the only export to New Zealand is by an occasional vessel. The same evidence was brought forward in regard to Adelaide. There is a hig market at Adelaide for Tasmanian timber, as South Australia has practically no timber production and relies on Western Australia, and formerly Tasmania, for its supply. Evidence was placed before your Commissioners that contracts could not be obtained in South Australia because shipping facilities were not reliable.
– South Australia gets only one kind of timber from Western Australia.
– That is so. It may be surprising to honorable senators from Western Australia to learn that there was a possibility of Tasmania working up a considerable trade with Western Australia in hardwoods, particularly flooring boards, if a direct steamer service was available. When I last addressed the Senate on this matter I mentioned the case of a firm that had been asked, to send a trial shipment, if it could be done at a reasonable cost. There is no direct shipping service between Hobart and Fremantle, and it was found that the miller would have to ship the timber to Melbourne, transhipping it there to Western Australia. That made the price prohibitive.
– Western Australia can provide millions of feet of that timber.
– The fact remains that these inquiries were made for Tasmania’s hardwood. The Hobart Mercury published the following recently in ‘relation to the matter: -
Orders have been received in Hobart for timber for shipment to Western Australia, subject to approval of a sample lot of 10,000 feet, and that it is shipped direct in order to save the extra cost of transhipment via Melbourne. There is no direct interstate service from Hobart to Western Australia, and the only opportunity of shipping direct is by an overseas steamer calling there on the way to England after loading fruit at Hobart.
The paragraph proceeds to say that the total cost of shipping timber from Hobart to Fremantle, if it had to be transhipped at Melbourne, would be 22s. a 100 super feet. That, of course, makes the price prohibitive. One would imagine that the Commonwealth Shipping Line was brought into being to rescue producers from over-charges of this description. Those who desire to ship timber to Western Australia approached the management of that line, and asked whether a small shipment could be sent on a “ Bay “ liner. They were met with a refusal.
– Was any reason given ?
– Yes. I have here a speech that was made in Hobart by Mr. Kneen, the representative of the line in Tasmania, on 24th April, 1925, when he was requested to reconsider the matter. He said -
It was never the policy of the line to compete with Australian coastal steamers,
That statement “ let the cat out of the bag.” If the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers is not prepared to compete with the interstate steamers, of what earthly use are they to the producers of Australia? I was led, because of this, to the decision that if the matter was raised in the Senate I would vote for the sale of the line. That is by the way. Mr. .Kneen went on to say - although they had done so in special circumstances for Queensland with frozen meat, when there was no direct boat from that state to another.
There was no direct service between Tasmania and Western Australia, yet the management of the line refused to carry timber for Tasmania. Mr. Kneen also said -
From the point of view of possible delay to the vessels concerned the Bay steamers could not very well handle interstate cargo, for the boats sailed to a close itinerary, and during the fruit season they. had little time in ports. Further, assuming that they agreed to handle the Tasmanian timber, they would have every Tom, Dick and Harry howling out for them to take their cargo, and there would be so much that the steamers would be unduly delayed.
That is a remarkable confession.
– Did not Mr. Kneen distinctly say that the refusal was due to the f act that he did not want the boat3 to waste time in port during the fruit season ?
– He did. The loading of timber would take only an hour or two. If that would affect the itinerary it would be an easy matter to so re-arrange the itinerary that an hour could be spent in those ports in which cargo was offering.
But we have other produce which, we would like to send to Western Australia. Tasmania grows hops, and on one occasion recently we desired to send a shipment to that state. It was found that the only means open to us was to ship first to Melbourne, and at extra cost tranship to a vessel trading with Fremantle. These are two items of the primary production in connexion with which Tasmania, owing to the absence of reasonable interstate shipping facilities, has been directly penalized by the Navigation Act.
– Has the honorable senator prepared any figures showing how much Tasmania has lost as a result of the operation of the Navigation Act?
– It would be difficult to express the loss in figures. It is definitely established, however, that the Navigation Act has seriously interfered with an extension of Tasmanian trade in certain lines of primary produce.
– Does the honorable senator think that, if steamers of the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line were permitted to carry cargo. Tasmanian difficulties would be overcome?
– It certainly would help considerably. But I am not asking for overseas vessels to be permitted to carry cargo. I am merely asking that they be permitted to carry passengers during the fruit season to Tasmania. I would gladly go further if I thought I had any chance of persuading the Senate.
– And include cargo
– Yes; I would ask for the right of overseas vessels to carry cargo, but he is a wise man who knows when he is beaten. I know that I would have no chance of carrying a motion to. that effect. On the question of tradinggenerally, the chairman of the commission and Mr. Seabrook reported - Much evidence was placed before your Commissioners to the effect that not only have the coastal trade provisions of the Act seriously affected the particular classes of trade, but that trade generally has received considerable set-backs.
Mr. E. H. Thompson, a director of Henry Jones and Company, Hobart, in bis evidence before the commission, stated -
As regards manufacturing business and that with which we are particularly acquainted, the Navigation Act has operated to direct disadvantage inasmuch as it was a great convenience when the overseas steamers were loading here to be enabled (before the act cameinto force) to make direct shipments of our goods from Hobart to South Australia and Western Australia. There is very seldom an opportunity of making direct shipments to these states now. The interstate companies, do not provide a regular service from Hobart to South Australia and Western Australia. The fact of it having been practicable to ship products by these direct fast overseas steamers (without the objectionable delays and knocking about to which goods are subjected during transhipping) was a very big factor in working up our trade with Western Australia in particular, and this has steadily fallen off until it is now only about half what it was when direct shipments were possible, the falling off being largely attributable to the unsatisfactory means of delivery.
He was asked -
You say that previously you had an opportunity of direct trade with Adelaide and Perth, which is not now possible. Do you contend that if it were possible, you would be assisted in developing it?
To this question he replied -
Yes, I am certain of that. A few’ days ago there was ft buyer in Adelaide for a quantity of our pulp. He required direct shipment. We have looked everywhere, and cannot get an opportunity for shipment. We may have to wait a month or two, and then the pulp will be valueless.
This is another illustration of how Tasmania is injured by the operation- of the Navigation Act. It is quite obvious, without going into all the details, that a state like Tasmania, which has to place all its produce on board ship before it can reach its principal markets, must be severely handicapped when transport facilities are so limited. I now direct the attention of honorable senators to the minority report, signed by Senators Duncan and Elliott, who recommended -
Since the members of the commission were so divided on this subject, we must decide ourselves whether it is desirable to take action to give relief to those states which are suffering through the operation of the act.
– How many minority reports were published?’
– I think they were all, in a sense, minority reports. At all -events there was not a majority report.
I wish to make it perfectly clear that I have no intention whatever of doing anything to interfere with those Drovisions of the act that particularly affect seamen. I have no desire to make the conditions of seamen worse than they are under existing conditions. I believe that our seamen get no more than they are entitled to. Therefore. I do not wish to interfere with the main provisions of the act. Some people may say that the adoption of my motion would be a blow to the White Australia policy.
– So it would.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. I fail to’ see how the carrying of passengers from Brisbane to Hobart on oversea boats can be construed as a blow at the White Australia policy, because unionists, under present conditions, handle cargo carried by ships employing black labour. The Peninsular and Oriental steamers, which call at Hobart during certain seasons of the year, are manned entirely by coloured crews, and the waterside workers make no protest about landing cargoes from those vessels. All that I am asking is that those ships be allowed to carry passengers, who can walk ashore. I am a strong believer in the White Australia policy. I believe also that every honorable senator would hesitate before he did anything to jeopardize that principle, which has been agreed to by all parties. My motion is no infringement of the White Australia policy. All that I am asking is that Tasmania shall be afforded reasonable opportunity to develop her industries, and maintain her tourist traffic. I remind the Senate again that Western Australia also suffers from the operation -of the Navigation Act. When the bill was introduced, very many years ago, a provision was inserted expressly exempting Western Australia from the operation of its coastal trade clauses, until that state was linked up with the eastern states by a railway. This was deemed to be necessary, because Western Australia then was entirely cut off from the eastern states. Tasmania has no railway connecting her with the mainland states. The steamship service is our railway. We cannot leave that state except by water. If, then, it was deemed advisable to exempt Western Australia from the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act, surely there is every reason Why Tasmania, which has no means of’ communication with the mainland other than by sea, should get some relief now. Some people consider it a crime to be poor. *
– It is a terrible inconvenience.
– I agree with the Minister. We in Tasmania have experienced this inconvenience pretty seriously of late. The burden of taxation in Tasmania is heavier than in any other state of the Commonwealth.
– Heavier than in Queensland ?
– Perhaps not heavier than Queensland on the actual figures, but heavier according to the taxable capacity of her people. In this respect we are the most highlytaxed state in the group. As a result, many of our citizens are leaving for other states, where opportunities are greater. There has been some talk of secessionin Tasmania of late, and I want to make it, clear that I am not a secessionist, nor would I urge that policy even if secession were possible. But I do urge that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to take some action to make conditions easier in Tasmania, so that our people may become prosperous and contented. It may be urged by some that we are always crying out and airing grievances. We have undoubtedly suffered as the result of federation, which we joined without imposing any conditions at all.
– Is it not a fact that Tasmania suffers just as much from strikes as from federation?
– Probably a good deal more . I have no doubt that we shall have something to say on that question in this chamber before long. There should be no room in this country for strikes. This Parliament should consider the rights of the weak state, and lend a helping hand in its difficulties. I trust that the Senate will accord Tasmania the modest degree of consideration for which I have asked, and thus help it to be more contented than it has been under federation inthe past. Whilst I am suggesting that passengers may be allowed to travel to and from Tasmania by any boat at any time, there is only one period of the year when overseas vessels call there, and that is during the fruit season, from February until the end of April.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilson) adjourned.
.- I move -
We were assured by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who introduced the measure pledging the Commonwealth to advance portion of the money required for the construction of this railway, that the work was to be the commencement of the unification of the railway gauges from Brisbane to Fremantle. With that general idea I feel sure that the great majority of honorable senators were in accord, but at that time the Minister gave no indication that it was not intended to construct the track sufficiently wide to carry a double line. Tenders have now been invited for the construction of the line. I find that the distance from Kyogle to the Queensland border is 26½ miles, and from the border to South Brisbane 69 miles, but tenders are being called for only 60½ miles. The balance of the line in the neighbourhood of Brisbane, I understand, is to be built by day labour. On the New South Wales side there are to be three tunnels measuring 215 yards, 198 yards, and about 1,240 yards in length respectively, and the two former will take a curved course, this being necessary in order to maintain a grade of not more than1 in 60. Or. the Queensland side there are to be two tunnels, one 226 yards in length, miles from the border, and the other 462 yards long, 2½ miles from the border. One does not need to know very much about railway construction to realize that a single-line tunnel is not as expensive to construct as one sufficiently large for a double line, but it would be far more costly to construct two single-line tunnels than one wide enough to carry two lines of rails. On the line from Sydney to Newcastle all the tunnels are sufficiently wide for, and now carry, a double line of rails.
– Was that the case when they were first laid down?
– Not inevery in stance.
– Can the honorable senator tell me any line in Australia on which double-line tunnels were provided at the outset?
– The Woy Woy tunnel was originally built to carry two lines, and so was the Hawkesbury bridge. The tunnels between the Hawkesbury bridge and Sydney may have been built originally only wide enough for one line, but the line has since been deviated, and some of the tunnels eliminated. Now the whole line from Sydney as far as Wallarobba is wide enough for two lines of rails. The country between Newcastle and the Clarence River, known as the Northern Rivers district, is unequalled. No land commands a higher price than this rich country.
– What is its value?
– Up ‘ to £150, and even £200 an acre. The fact that confronts us at every turn is the lack of confidence shown by politicians and others in the future of Australia. It is gratifying to know that in the case of t’hf! new bridge to be built over the Sydney Harbour an optimistic view was taken. The track will be, approximately, 50 feet in width and about 170 feet above high-water mark. It will carry a double railway line, several tram lines, and roadways for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The Kyogle to Brisbane line is to be constructed conjointly by the states of New South Wales and Queensland and the Commonwealth, and the officers who comprise the railway council are the Commonwealth Railways. Commissioner (Mr. Bell), the Chief Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales (Mr. Fraser), and the Railways Commissioner of Queensland (Mr. Davidson). Honorable senators should take a broad view of this important subject. Brisbane is making very rapid progress; in fact, no capital city in the- Commonwealth has gone ahead at greater speed than has the capital of Queensland. The state of which Brisbane is the capital is one of the largest, wealthiest, and certainly one of the best governed in the Commonwealth. In New South Wales, more particularly between the Queensland border and Newcastle, the country is, as I have just stated, particularly fertile. We do not need to draw upon our imagination to’ realize that cities such as Grafton, and towns such as Lismore and Macksville and other potential cities in that area must before very long become larger even than Brisbane. The traffic between Sydney and Brisbane, with the exception of perhaps a negligible quantity, will in time be conveyed over the proposed new railway, as it is approximately 100 miles shorter than the existing route via Toowoomba. I believe the best possible route has been selected, especially through the mountains dividing New South Wales and Queensland, and it does not require much consideration to realize that when it is eventually decided, as it undoubtedly will be, to duplicate the railway it will be far more difficult to construct tunnels sufficiently wide to carry two lines of rails than if the work were done now. This miserable policy was in operation some years ago when a line was constructed between Sydney and the South Coast. What was the result? It was soon discovered that a single-line tunnel at Oxford, where there was a stiff grade, was positively dangerous. In most tunnels there is a substantial grade - in the one I have just mentioned through the mountains between New South Wales and Queensland there is a grade of 1 in 60 - and at Oxford it was even steeper. Even with a moderate load an ordinary locomotive was almost incapable of hauling a train, with the result that with a following wind the smoke and steam could not be left behind. The passengers and train crew suffered so severely that it was eventually decided to construct a double-line tunnel in an entirely different position. Had such a tunnel been provided in the first instance the extra expense thus incurred would have been avoided. In the construction of the proposed railway the Commonwealth, New South Wales, and Queensland are committed to the extent of approximately £4,000,000^ and when the tenders are opened the contract prices should be published. Irrespective of the amount involved, this is an opportune time to instruct the railway council to get in touch with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland with a view to having the decision reconsidered, and the necessary steps taken to ensure the construction of tunnels capable of carrying two sets of rails. Open cuttings are, of -course, not of such vital importance, as they can be widened at comparatively little extra cost. When another tunnel has to be constructed alongside an existing tunnel the difficulties are accentuated, because blasting operations may cither injure or totally destroy the existing tunnel. In such circumstances great risks are incurred, and construction work has to be carried out at such a slow rate that the cost becomes excessive. I do not know why contractors should not be asked to submit alternate prices for single and double line tunnels to enable a comparison to be made. I have not before me figures showing the cost of tunnelling, but the cost of excavating per cubic yard for a single-line tunnel is, comparatively speaking, much more than would be the cost of a double-line tunnel.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the engineers have considered that aspect of the question ?
– If they had, surely they would not have decided on single tunnels. I do not suppose the engineers are aware of what the cost would be in either case; if they were asked ‘ they would probably say they were relying upon the prices put in by the contractors. When the New South Wales Government were building the western line across the Blue Mountains, the engineers of those days thought they were performing a wonderful feat in constructing a . zig-zag on both sides of the mountains, but in a few years it was found to be quite unsatisfactory. Notwithstanding the enormous cost involved, the line was discarded and an effort made to get over the mountains by a different route. Instead of following a zig-zag course, a long detour was made on one side in order to obtain a satisfactory grade, and a doubleline tunnel had to be built. On the Lithgow side there are many tunnels all built to carry a double set of rails. It is only in insignificant parts such as Tasmania, where the traffic is small, that single-line tunnels are used. The contractors, in this instance, should be compelled to state a price at which they would construct tunnels sufficiently wide to carry a double set of rails. The construction of bridges should also receive the serious consideration of the authorities, as a bridge sufficiently wide to carry one set of rails would, comparatively speaking, cost more than one to carry a double line. I have some respect for the qualifications of Mr. Bell, Mr. Fraser, and Mr. Davidson, but I do not think they are infallible. They have made a great mistake in this case. Many of our large cities were laid out in the belief that they would remain small villages. When Sydney was surveyed no provision was made for wide streets such as we have in Melbourne and in Adelaide. In the planning of Canberra advantage was taken of the knowledge gained by other cities, and in consequence of the wider vision of Mr. Griffin, whose opinion was, fortunately, endorsed by the Commonwealth, a magnificent city has been designed. In a continent, such as Australia, consisting of 3,000,000 square miles, with only two persons to each square mile, we must expect enormous progress to be made. In moving the second reading of the Northern Australia Bill, the Minister (Senator Pearce) said it was only 100 years since the first white settlement occurred in the Northern Territory. We ought to recognize that, instead of having only two persons to the square mile, as we have to-day, Australia will, in the course of a few years, be as closely populated as America, where there are 120,000,000 in an area not much greater than Australia. It will possibly be as closely populated as portions of the Old World to-day, but long before that time arrives our railway facilities, if they are to be built only to meet present requirements, will prove totally inadequate. We should take the necessary steps to have an inquiry into the necessity for building the tunnels on the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway wide enough to take two sets of rails. It is my opinion that a huge blunder has been made, and that in the not distant future the Commonwealth will be saddled with the very unnecessary expense of having to widen the tunnels on that railway. As the line passes through country which is equal to the best in any other part of the world, its population is likely to be trebled in the next few years, so that there is every possibility that the proposed railway will very soon prove totally inadequate. In these circumstances, I think we should take steps to have the specifications amended, so that we may ascertain what extra cost would be involved in making the tunnels wide enough to carry two sets of rails. [ submit this motion fully believing that I am acting in the best, interests of the Commonwealth.
– I do not think that Senator Grant has made those inquiries that ought to be made by an honorable senator before submitting a motion of this description. Under the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act, this Parliament gave certain powers to the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales and Queensland, acting in conjunction with the Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways. Section 2 of the agreement ratified by that act provides that a council shall be set up consisting of the Chief Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales, the Commissioner of Railways in Queensland, and the Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways, and under section 10 that council is given entire control of all the works contemplated by the agreement and of the expenditure thereon. The council is further given power to determine the order in which, and the terms and the conditions under which, works are to be carried out, and the times at which each portion of the works is to be commenced and completed.
SenatorGrant. - The agreement contains no reference to single-rail tunnels.
– Surely the honorable senator will admit that the tunnels will be portion of the works to be determined by the council of commissioners. He can rest assured that three of the best railway experts in Australia are in control of the work of construction, and that every reasonable precaution has been taken. Had the honorable senator asked the Minister for Works, he might have learned that the question of whether the tunnels should be single or double rail had been given every consideration.
– Were the commissioners unanimous on the point ?
– Evidently the honorable senator has some inside information, but in the public interest I think he ought to have interviewed Mr. Bell, Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways, because then he would have learned that every precaution had been taken. The motion claims that lack of foresight has been shown. The honorable senator has a vivid imagination if he thinks that he can tell three such experts as I have mentioned how to build a railway. In this respect I think the Commonwealth Government has shown much wider vision in the development of Australia than has been displayed by any of its predecessors. It has endeavoured to extend the 4-ft. 8½in. gauge for the development of the country.
– But with single-rail tunnels.
– That question has been decided after the most careful consideration. The very fact that the honorablesenator has interjected that the decision on the point was not unanimous is conclusive proof that he is aware that the experts have given the matter careful consideration. I shall bring the honorable senator’s remarks under the notice of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), and if there is anything in them that has not had the consideration of the Commissioners, the Minister will be delighted to call their attention to it. However, I am afraid that he will have some difficulty in discovering anything that has not already had most careful investigation. With this assurance I ask the honorable senator to withdraw his motion; otherwise I must ask the Senate to reject it.
– I will not withdraw it.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 6
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Senate the fact that in the Sunday Sun, a reputable newspaper published in Sydney, which I believe has been circulated among honorable senators during the last day or two- a very serious statement is made regarding an alleged evasion of taxation by wealthy American corporations that are engaged in the production of picture films. If the allegations contained in the article are correct, the Commonwealth Treasury has been very considerably exploited in recent years. The allegations are to the effect that these American corporations have subsidiary Australian companies handling their films here. When those films are sent to Australia, they are invoiced at exceedingly fantastical prices - prices that are very many times in excess of their real value - in order that, at the close of the year’s operations, the subsidiary company may show either a loss or a very small profit, instead of an enormous profit. Consequently the income tax that is collected is comparatively very small. I hope that the Minister (Senator Pearce) will bring the matter before his colleagues in the Cabinet. The charge is so serious that the Government should institute a full inquiry. The writer of the article points out that a continuance of the position could be obviated by an amendment of the Customs tariff to enable an ad valorem duty, instead of a fixed duty of so much a foot, to be charged. If the allegations are true, that suggestion appears to me to be a reasonable one.
. -I shall take an early opportunity to bring to the notice of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) the statements that have been made by the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 July 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1925/19250702_senate_9_110/>.