9th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and. read prayers.
Senator FINDLEY brought up the first report of the Printing Committee.
The following papers were presented: -
Invalidand Old-age Pensions Act- Statement re Pensions for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1925.
Public Service Act- Appointment- AttorneyGeneral’s Department- E.E. L. Lloyd.
War Service Homes Act- Report of the War Service Homes Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1925, together with statements and balance-sheets.
Senator LYNCH brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on* Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of Hotel No. 4, Canberra.
Senate J. GRANT. - I should like to know whether the revenue derived by the imposition some time ago of an additional charge of one half -penny for the conveyance of letters is credited to the Department of the Postmaster-General or to the Department of Defence?
– The whole of the revenue received from postages is credited to the Department of the PostmasterGeneral.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Wilson) read a first time.
Bill returned from House of Representatives without amendment.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether there are any restrictions against the delivery of mails to the Golden Casket lottery in Queensland similar to those operating against the Tasmaninn lottery known as Tattersalls?
-No . The Golden Casket is not an institution similar to Tattersalls, but is an art union conducted by the Queensland Government for charitable purposes.
– As I announced on Friday last, His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has intimated his intention to be ready at 3.30 o’clock to-day to receive the Address-in-Reply agreed to by the Senate, and I propose now to proceed to Government House to present the address. I shall be pleased if as many honorable senators as can find it convenient to accompany me will do so.
Sitting suspended from 3.8 to4.30p.m.
– I have to announce to the Senate that, accompanied by honorable senators, I visited Government House, and presented the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General, to . which His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
I receive with much pleasure the Address which has been adopted by the Senate in reply to the speech which I delivered on the occasion of the opening pf the third session of the ninth Parliament of the Commonwealth, and I desire to thank you for your expression of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
Senator WILSON (South Australia-
Minister for Markets and Migration) [4.32].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill in which provision is made to increase the salary of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner from £2,000, as provided in the original act, to £3,000. It does not necessarily mean that the present Commissioner will receive the higher remuneration, but in view of the importance of the works under his control, which I shall shortly enumerate, it will be admitted that it will be necessary in the future to pay a higher salary in order to secure the services of the best man available. Under the act passed in 1917, the maximum salary of the Commissioner was fixed at £2,000, and Mr. Bell was appointed to the position of Commissioner in that year at that salary. Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, Mr. Bell was engineerinchief, and since then he has continued largely to exercise the functions of engineer-in-chief, as well as to carry out the work of Commissioner. Since 1917. the responsibilities of the position have largely increased. Mr. Bell is also military director of railways under the War Railway Council, the chief adviser to the Commonwealth Government on all Australian railway matters, and chairman of the Uniform Railway Gauge Council, now considering the question of a uniform gauge between Sydney and Brisbane, which work is to cost £3,500,000. Mr. Bell is responsible for the construction of Commonwealth railways, and also for the conduct of those now in operation throughout Australia.. Railway assets to the value of approximately £12,000,000 are under his control. From the 1st January, 1926, the working of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, now under the control of the South Australian Railways Commissioners, will be undertaken by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. The railway mileage open for traffic under the control of the Commissioner will then be approaching 2,000 miles. Apart from railway operations, many questions of importance, such as those relating to new railway proposals, their bearing upon strategic questions, and their effect generally upon the development of Australia arc considered by the Commissioner. A very heavy programme of railway construction is now under the consideration of the Government, and the magnitude of our railways operations may be gauged by a reference to the estimates for the year ending 30th June, 1926, now before Parliament. Apart altogether from the ordinary maintenance of railways, it will be seen that over £2,250,000 is being provided on the estimates for the current year alone for capital works and new railway proposals. An extract from the loan estimates shows that provision is to be as follows: -
With the responsibility devolving upon the Commissioner, and having regard to the decreased purchasing power of m’oney since the present salary was fixed in 1917 the Government consider the present remuneration inadequate. The salary of the present Commissioner has been reviewed by Cabinet, and will be adjusted as may be necessary. This measure, however, relates only to the position of Commissioner, and not to the individual. Mr. Bell, whose term of engagement has been extended, does not retire until towards the end of 1927, when it may be very difficult to obtain the services of an officer with the requisite qualificalions. In these circumstances, Parliament may be asked to approve of the payment of a still higher salary than that now proposed. Honorable senators may be aware that during the last few years the salaries of the Railways Commissioners throughout Australia have been largely increased. In New South Wales. Queensland, and South Australia, £5,000 per annum is being paid to the chief commissioners, and salaries approaching £3.000 per annum are paid to some of the assistant commissioners. In the commercial world high salaries are paid to those in control of commercial undertakings which do not possess anything approaching the assets and trading possibilities of any one of our Australian railways departments. As the Commonwealth develops, the business of the Commonwealth railways will increase, and the Government, therefore, confidently asks the Senate to provide for the payment of this maximum salary of £3,000 per annum.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21st August (vide page 1643), on motion hy Senator Pearce-
That the bill be now rend a second time.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) [4.411. - The Minister, in moving the second reading of this bill, stated that the proposed memorial was to be erected on the slopes of Mount Ainslie, in the Federal Capital territory. I know of no more appropriate place for the erection of a memorial to Australia’s valiant dead than the capital city of the nation for which they surrendered their lives. I believe that already in the hearts of the Australian people there is an inextinguishable memorial to those men of the Australian Imperial Forces, who faced the foe on the shellswept crests of Gallipoli and the blood-soaked fields of France. Every nation should perpetuate the memory of its gallant dead in the very best possible way. I am not saying that the proposed memorial is the best way in which we may perpetuate the memory of Australians who lost their lives in the Great War; but I understand that the money for the memorial has been raised by public subscription, and through the activities of members of the Australian Imperial Forces. . The proposal is worthy of the approbation of the people. I support the bill, because it is an attempt to perpetuate the memory of those who fell, and particularly because living comrades of the dead men request that we should provide a building in which to house the .relics of the Great War. I support it, also, because it is the desire of those who subscribed to the various funds that the money should be devoted bo the purpose indicated.
Senator Sir THOMAS GLASGOW (Queensland) [4.44]. - As one who has been closely in touch with the development - of the Australian War Museum since its inception in 1917, I welcome this bill, designed to provide for the establishment of an Australian national war memorial for the preservation of its collections. The success of the museum is due very largely to the enthusiasm with which the idea was adopted by the men of the Australian Imperial Forces. There was the keenest rivalry between the units to secure worthy representation in these national collections. Many gifts were made in the names of the fallen by- their comrades or relatives. Australia is, therefore, in a fortunate and unique position in having a memorial which was created by the men and, I may add, the women, whose achievements it is intended to honour. No one who has inspected the collection in Melbourne or Sydney can have failed to be impressed with the fact that emphasis is rightly laid on the human factor. The relics, pictures and models all record incidents illustrative of the self-sacrifice, courage, fortitude and initiative of the men of the Australian Imperial Forces. These qualities count for as much in peace time develop’ ment as they do in time of war. For this reason the collection must always be a powerful inspiration to Australians of the present and future generations. I may be permitted at this stage to recall one or two incidents which came under my personal notice during the war, illustrating the extraordinary courage displayed by men of the Australian Imperial Forces. On the 7th August, 1915, following the landing at Suvla Bay, an attempt was made to capture the heights known as Sari Bair. A party of Australians, attacking from a certain portion of the old- Anzac line, succeeded in reaching the third enemy trench. The operation proved very costly and their numbers were so reduced that they were hard put to it to keep the enemy off. They were in an angle of the trench, and were being bombed from all directions. Their situation was rapidly becoming extremely desperate, as they were running out of bombs, so they signalled to their comrades in the old original line acquainting them of their difficulties. In a very short time one of their comrades was observed to jump out of the old trench and run across “ no man’s “ land with a sugar bag full of bombs for his Australian mates in the captured enemy trench. I may add that this’ area of “no man’s” land was covered by the enemy with both rifle and machine-gun fire, and had a bullet struck one of the detonators in the bag, the man would have been blown to pieces. His clothes were practically shot away, bub, fortunately, he escaped unhurt. His action was the most gallant I have ever seen. On the same day, in an adjoining section known as Walker’s Ridge, a man was wounded, and fell over a precipice, lodging on the side of a hill just below. His comrades on a point known as Pope’s Hill, saw the wounded soldier, and noticed that he was moving. Accordingly one of them rushed down -Pope’s Hill along the gully, up the side of Walker’s Ridge, and brought the wounded man back to safety. All this happened within 200 yards of and in full view of the enemy. For some reason the enemy - either because they were so surprised that any man should have the audacity to attempt such a daring feat, or else because they recog- nized his gallantry, and were chivalrous - did not fire at this Australian soldier who was rescuing his comrade. Quite recently, also, I heard an English officer, who commanded one of our divisions during the war, tell of an incident that came under his notice at Pozieres, in France, where the Australians made their first offensive. The attack had succeeded up to a certain line, but it was thought necessary to continue the advance. Accordingly, a message had to be sent to the various units in the line. Across the road over which the runners had to travel with the message a very heavy enemy barrage had been put down. One runner noticed, when he came to this road, that several of those who had preceded him had been killed. One of the instructions issued to them was that a message had to be carried in the right hand breast pocket, and as every runner wore an arm band,, any who fell were thus easily distinguishable from their fellows, and would be searched for the message to ensure its delivery. Thinking that it would be essential to draw attention to the fact that he carried a message, this runner, when he saw his dead comrades, took the message from his pocket and held it in his outstretched hand. Ha attempted to cross the road when he considered that there was a slackening in the barrage, *but he also, unfortunately, was killed. He was found lying in the road, having dropped forward with the message held aloft in his hand. These are instances of the wonderful courage shown, and great sacrifices made, by men in the interest of their comrades and their units. It is our bounden duty to see that the names of these men and their great achievements are not forgotten. I can conceive of no better means of ensuring that than this proposed Australian war memorial, with its great hall of memory, on the walls of which will be engraved the names of the 62,000 Australians who died as the result of the war. Those men who fell believed that Australia was destined to be the greatest and best country in the world. They cannot make her so now. Those 62,000 of the very best we had are out of the struggle. They lie on the battlefields in foreign lands. As long as the world lasts the name of Australia will be forever present to all who pass over those foreign fields and hillsides. It cannot pass away. Lying there in their thousands, they have fixed it. They can Fever finish, the fight which they began for Australia. But we and our children can do it for them. This memorial, containing their names and the relics of their great achievements, will be a constant reminder of our responsibility to their memory - our responsibility to make Australia the great nation they believed she could become. It cannot be said that the people of Australia do not want these relics and records. That was convincingly demonstrated by the facts which the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) supplied in his speech last Friday - facts which were based not only on the splendid attendances at the Museum in Melbourne and Sydney, but also on the distribution of relics throughout Australia. Only a few days ago, on behalf of a certain town in Queensland, I made a request for some war relics, which the Museum had great difficulty in satisfying; so keen has been the demand, that practically all tha available relics have been distributed. From a sentimental and an historical point of view , the collections are priceless. They are also of great intrinsic value. It is, therefore, most desirable that they should be provided with suitable and adequate accommodation at the earliest practicable date. The appointment of a board of management, with a permanent and legal status, to advise the Minister, as proposed in this bill, is a step in the right direction, and will, I am sure, facilitate the establishment of the memorial. Honorable senators are, doubtless, aware- of the value of a special fund to an institution such as a museum, enabling it to take advantage of opportunities which occur of acquiring suitable exhibits. An outstanding example of that fact is, of course, the Felton Bequest, which places the Victorian National Gallery in a most enviable position in regard to the acquisition of works of art. The fund referred to in this bill will similarly strengthen the position of the war memorial in the acquisition of exhibits that would not be available other than by purchase. I am glad to see that the bill makes provision for the fund to receive donations and bequests, as I feel sure that the object of the memorial and the uses to which the fund will be put will appeal to Australians who are interested in keeping green the memory of the Australian Forces, and may, therefore, be glad of the opportunity to assist financially. In this way the fund may be increased to a considerable amount, returning a substantial income, which will enable the Minister and the board of management to develop the memorial in a worthy manner.
– The bill has my most cordial support. One cannot help being struck with the fact that in almost every town and hamlet in Australia ‘ war memorials have already been erected as an appreciation by the inhabitants of the deeds of those who made such tremendous sacrifices for the people of Australia. Although I speak only for South Australia, I feel quite sure that in every other State also, when the. Government, decided to distribute to local bodies certain war trophies, the difficulty was not’ to secure their acceptance, but to cope with the demand by the various districts, through their local governing representatives. To-day, in addition to the memorials that have been erected in public thoroughfares and parks, practically every town in Australia exhibits in a public building some trophy commemorative of the deeds of the Australian soldiers, who performed such a wonderful service for Australia and other countries overseas. Instances of heroism such as those related by General Sir Thomas Glasgow are constantly being multiplied. It must be a source of gratification to the people of Australia to know that the Government intends, at the earliest possible moment, to establish this memorial at the national Seat of Government, and there display the wonderful collection of trophies . which it possesses. I am confident that the people of Australia will never view those exhibits with other than feelings of pride and admiration. In addition to housing the trophies and other evidences of the wonderful ability and daring of the Australian soldiers, this memorial will have upon its wall the names »f those gallant men who made the supreme sacrifice in the interest of Australia. If the building offered no other attraction, it would draw to it thousands of people who will regard it as a shrine sacred for all time. The bill requires no word of commendation. I have not the slightest doubt that the object which ‘ underlies it has the cordial endorsement of every man and woman in this country. The sooner the building is erected, and the trophies placed in it are made available to the people, the better they will be pleased. I cordially approve of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Delegation by board).
– This clause provides that the board may delegate the whole of its powers to any one of its members. If that may be done, is there any necessity to have twelve board members ?
– The object of the clause is to give the board power to delegate its authority and power to sub-committees. The present board has formed a number of subcommittees, one of which is the. finance committee, of three members. As chairman of the board. I should like to say that I am under a heavy obligation to that committee for the fine work it has done. It is really the active section of the present board, and does practically all the routine work. If .occasion should arise for the new board to delegate its powers, it may be trusted to do so wisely. It is not intended, of course, that one man shall exercise all the functions of the board, but it might be desirable, in certain circumstances, to vest such authority in one man to. do work in a particular state.. Otherwise it might be necessary for a sub-committee, or even the full board, to visit the state to do what is needed. The clause is inserted for convenience in administration.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
The fund shall consist of -
– Will the Treasurer, pursuant to the provisions of this paragraph, have authority to allow the Minister to contribute to the fund from the Consolidated Revenue ?
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Minister for Home and Territories) [5.7]. - That is not the intention. A sum of money was earned some time ago by a cinema exhibition which was the property of Ohe board. No other authority had any claim upon it, and the Minister, with the concurrence of the Treasurer, paid it into this fund. The money did not belong to the taxpayers; it had not been raised from them : it was raised by the soldiers. This paragraph provides that any moneys raised or earned by the board in the future shall be paid into the War Memorial Fund. The Treasurer is brought into the matter as the guardian of the Consolidated Revenue. The Minister, as chairman of the board, will naturally desire that all possible moneys shall be paid into the memorial fund, but a question may arise as to whether particular sums ought not to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue. The Treasurer will be a party in determining any question of that kind.
– Are any moneys at present held in trust which may be affected by this provision ?
– No; all amounts that have been raised in that way have been paid over. The provision is to meet similar cases in the future.
– Only money that may be earned in the future is covered by it? The paragraph has no reference whatever to contributions from the Consolidated Revenue?
– That is so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Use of funds).
– Previous clauses indicate that the sanction of the Minister is required for augmenting the fund by the sale of relics and so forth, but this clause places no qualification on the board’s power to dispose of the fund. The board is not required to consult the Minister as to how or in what manner the fund may be expended, and I should like to know if the Minister is willing to give it this free hand.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Minister for Home and Territories) [5.12]. - The clause certainly gives the board power to dispose of the fund, but the sources from which this fundmay be built up are limited by clause 10, and the Minister is chairman of the board, and the Government appoints all the members of the board. The bill lays down very rigid lines upon which the boardcan operate, and it is thought only right that it should have control of the disposal of the fund, provided, of course, it is disposed of within the purposes set out in the bill. If men of character and ability are to be asked to serve on the board they must be given a certain amount of autonomy. The Government is not anxious to allow the board to have merely the power of recommendation, especially when it has to conform to the conditions upon which the bill will allow it to expend money.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 and 15 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 21st August (vide page 1644), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I gather from a perusal of the bill that its purpose is to ratify an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government for the surrender of a certain area in New South Wales to the state Government, the area in question being portion of Goat Island. I conclude that the arrangement is mutually satisfactory to both Governments. At any rate, I have heard no complaint from either Government, and therefore I see no reason for offering any objection to the passage of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia -
Minister for Home and Territories) [5.18]. - A slight amendment has been made in the agreement, necessitating the insertion of a second schedule.
Debate resumed from 13th August (vide page 1338), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the Estimates and Budget-papers, 1925-26, be printed.
– I congratulate the Treasurer, Dr. Earle Page, on having continued the practice he initiated when he first assumed office of presenting the budget very early in the session, thus giving Parliament an opportunity to review the Government’s proposals, and the expenditure in which the Commonwealth will be involved long before the money isspent. I hope this commendable practice will be continued by his successors, because it has been my experience that the budget is usually presented to both branches of the legislature at a time when the greater portion of the money set out in the Estimates has been spent, so that all criticism of the Government’s proposals, no matter how severe it may be, is futile. It is not my intention to deal exhaustively with all of the Government’s proposals in this year’s budget. I have chosen a few to comment upon. In his speech the Treasurer made the very interesting statement that during the last financial year the total amount made available for the reduction of the public debt of the Commonwealth was £5,500,000. It is a laudable ambition to reduce the public debt. I do not believe that the task of wiping out the public debt should fall entirely on the present generation, but I regard it as imperative that those who are living to-day should make some effort to reduce it as far as they can. Dr. Page has been Treasurer for three years. I believe that he is now in his last year of that office.
– Do not be a prophet.
– I am not attempting to prophesy. I believe that the beginning of the year of grace 1926 will see an end of Dr. Page as Commonwealth Treasurer, because early in that year the people will determine upon a change of government, and in the new government I am sure he will not find a seat.
According to the figures given by the Treasurer the gross national debt and the net debt during .the last three years have been as follow -
I cannot ascertain from these figures where £5,500,000 has been set aside for’ the reduction of the national debt. The net debt was £335,371,000 in 1922-3. It was £335,197,000 in 1924-5. I admit that during the period the Commonwealth borrowed £15,000»,000 to help the States, but the statistical table .1 have quoted does not coincide with the Treasurer’s assertion that £5,500,000 has been set aside for the reduction of the national debt. The Treasurer also stated that £1,500,000 has been appropriated from revenue for the reduction of the public debt. During the year under review a profit of £1,278,000 was made from the note issue, but the Treasurer does not state whether the profit from this source has been devoted to the reduction of the national debt. When the Labour party introduced the note issue, it was decided that the profits from that source were to be devoted to the reduction of the public debt, but I have looked in vain through the figures to ascertain whether any of the money set aside by the Treasurer for the reduction of the national debt has or has not been obtained from this source, or how the profit, of £1,278,000 obtained from the note issue has been disposed of. Whilst I recognize the necessity of gradually reducing our obligation in that regard, the present generation should not be wholly responsible.
The Treasurer has introduced an amending Commonwealth Bank Bill, which makes provision for a system of rural credits. The proposal, although commendable, is somewhat belated. When an amending Commonwealth Bank Bill was before the Senate some time ago, honorable senators on this side of the chamber unsuccessfully endeavoured to embody in it a similar provision to that now proposed. When the measure was before another place, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) moved -
That the Government should consider the advisability of extending the functions of the
Commonwealth Bank to provide for rural credits for the following purposes : -
To advance money on broad acres;
to assist co-operative finance in primary and secondary production;
to assist in land settlement and development;
to establisha grain and fodder reserve against periods of drought.
When that proposal was before another place no discussion was allowed, owing to the application of the guillotine, but when a division was taken only the members of the Labour party supported it. In these circumstances. I do not wish honorable senators to think that the members of the Government, and those supporting them, are the only ones who favour a system of rural credits.
I now come to the questionof main roads, which are of great importance to the Commonwealth, both as regards Australian development and from the stand-point of defence. General Sir John Monash, when giving evidence before the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, emphasized the fact that Australian main roads are of more importance than the railways in the matter of defence.
– Other competent engineers agree with him on that point.
– It cannot be disputed that attimes troops can be moved more rapidly over roads than by means of railways. Although £1,000,000 was appropriated during the past two years for the maintenance and construction of main roads approximately only £650,000 has been expended, leaving a balance of £350,000, to which the Government now proposes to add £750,000, making a total of £1, 100,000 for this financial year. Why has the unexpended balance of £350,000 voted by Parliament for main roads during the previous financial year been added to the £750,000 which it is proposed to allot this year 1 At least £1,000,000 should have “been provided on this year’s Estimates, to which should have been added the unexpended balance of £350,000.
– The states cannot spend the amounts already allotted.
– That is owing to the restrictions placed upon the vote itself, particulars of which were given the other evening by Senator J. B. Hayes, when submitting a motion in relation to main road grants. At present the spending of the money is controlled by federal officers.
– So it should be.
– I admit there should be proper control over the expenditure of the money. Although the amount allotted to Western Australia was comparatively small, the operations of the state authorities were restricted because the act deals only with main roads. In the south-western portion of Western Australia, where the State Government is engaged in the group settlement system commenced by Sir James Mitchell, when Premier, and continued by the present Premier (Mr. Collier), hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent in settling migrants on the land. The State Government has been faced with numerous difficulties, but it is gratifying to know that the conditions have improved, and the settlement should prove a great success and an example to the rest of Australia. In the district to which I refer, the federal authorities determined that a certain road was not a main road - that it merely connected one group settlement with another.
SenatorReid. - By whom was that determined ?
– By a representative of the Federal Government. The State Government desired to spend money on a certain road connecting two group settlements, or a series of group settlements, but it was determined by the federal authorities that it was not a main road.
– That may be so.
– Possibly, but it is a question for determination. I understand that these grants are paid to the States to assist in developmental work such as in the case I have quoted.
– Could not the difficulty be overcome by the State Government placing such roads on its main roads schedule?
– No. The Federal Government representative was adamant. I am not altogether blaming the federal authorities, but what applies to Western Australia is equally applicable to other States, as was instanced by Senator J. B. Hayes a few days ago. Under the present method the group settlement system in Western Australia is experiencing great difficulty. I trust that the vote for main’ roads Will not only be increased, but that the Government will introduce an amending measure under which money can be expended on roads other than main roads which are being used for developmental purposes. If that is done, the objective sought by Senator J. B. Hayes will, to a great extent, be achieved. I do not wish Senator Thompson to think that I am opposed to federal supervision, but as the advice of the State Public Works Department is, in most cases, accepted by the federal authorities in respect of Commonwealth works, its decisions in these in-, stances should be accepted.
I now pass on to the question of defence. For the financial year 1913-4, the expenditure on naval and military defence was estimated at £2,960,000; in 1924-5, it was £4,400,000, and for this year it is slightly more. One naturally wonders why our defence expenditure should be practically double what it was in. 1913-4. In 1914 we were involved in a world shambles, and we have now to pay the penalty. As the bill we have justdealt with sets out, we are about to erect a memorial to the 60,000 Australian dead who fought, and fought well, in that great world conflict. We were told that it was to be a war to end all war; but it has not ended war; nor has it led to a decrease in our defence expenditure. Our defence expenditure has not decreased in consequence of the last war, and we are not alone in that respect, as all the allied nations who were involved in that great international upheaval are now spending more money on defence than they were in 1914.
– Is the honorable senator sure that he has included all the items of defence expenditure in the budget for 1913-4? I do not think he has.
– I think I have. At all events the honorable senator will not contradict my statement that we are spending more money on defence now than we were, in 1914.
– Possibly we are.
– Not if we take into consideration the purchasing power of the £1.
– I have borne that factor in mind, and maintain that we are spending more money on defence than we were eleven years ago. In this, as I have said, we are not alone. Our allies in the great war are also spending more money on defence than they were in 1914, notwithstanding that the purpose of the Washington Conference was to bring about disarmament. When Senator Pearce, who represented Australia at that conference, returned, he told us that, as far as the Pacific was concerned at all events, there was security for at least ten years. But what has been the good of that disarmament conference ? It is true that certain naval vessels were scrapped by the nations represented at the conference. In Australia, we sank our leading capital ship_, and other allied nations took similar action, but, to-day, the shipbuilding yards of practically all countries are busily employed building bigger capital ships.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Washington pact has been broken?
– I do not say that, but it is a fact that various nations are -busily employed arming themselves to the teeth. The war, which was supposed to end all wars, did not achieve its purpose. A war is in progress iii Morocco at the present time. Did honorable senators read an article in the press recently, disclosing the cause of that trouble ? It might be wise, even now, for the British Government, following the example set by the late President Hardin? Qf the United States of America, to summon a disarmament conference. There would surely be a representative gathering of the nations, and perhaps something of a practical nature might be achieved to put a stop to this continuous increase in armaments, which is going on despite the existence of the League of Nations. I would be the last to decry the usefulness of the League. So far as its limitations will allow, it is doing good work. Unfortunately, it is a league, not of all the nations, but of some nations, and therefore its authority is, to some extent, circumscribed.
– I have just been looking up the budget-papers, and I find that the honorable senator’s figures relating to defence expenditure are not accurate. Iu 1913-4 our expenditure on the navy and army totalled £4,743,505.’ The provision for this year is £4,362,000.
– I am satisfied that my figures are right, and that although we are spending more money today on defence in Australia than we spent in 1913-4, our position is not at all reassuring. In this view I am supported by General Monash, Mr. Bowden, former Minister for Defence, and Senator DrakeBrockman, all of whom are entitled to speak with some authority. They, have said that the position is deplorable - that there is not enough munitions to keep an army going for 24 hours, and that even if an army were raised we could not properly equip it.
– Was not that statement truer in 1914 than it is to-day?
– It is as true of the position to-day as it was in 1914. In proportion to the amount of money expended, we have not that assurance of security that we should have. I make one exception. The report of the Public Accounts Committee, which has been inquiring into munitions supply, discloses that the Munitions Supply Board is doing excellent work to make Australia selfcontained in defence.
I welcome the somewhat tardy recognition of the claim made on behalf of our old-age and invalid pensioners for an increase in pension payments. I note, however, that the Treasurer’s intimation of an additional 2s. 6d. a week comes, as it were, on the eve of an election. In 1919, when I was appealing to the electors of Western Australia to return me to the Senate, I said that if the Labour party were returned to power it would authorize an increase of 2s. 6d. a week. At that time the pension was 15s. a week. There was another increase of 2s. 6d. a week in 1922. It follows, therefore, that if Labour had been returned in 1919, our old-age and invalid pensioners would have been drawing this promised increase of 2s. 6d. long ago. Whilst I welcome the. statement in the budget speech, I remind the Senate that it is the result of pressure from members of the Labour party inside and outside of Parliament. There is another anomaly to which I desire to direct attention. I do not blame the present Treasurer, or his predecessors. The act should be amended. To put the position clearly, let me quote an article which appeared in the Western Australian Worker of the 14th August last, commenting on a letter which I received from the Commissioner of Pensions -
Under the law the Commonwealth is liable to pay 17s. 6d. per week to the aged or invalid who substantiate their claim for a full pension.
Should a pensioner enter a home, hospital, or asylum, however, the Commonwealth suspends the pension absolutely for 23 days, and pays to the pensioner a pension of but 3s. per week thereafter.
Then, as “ an act of grace,” it pays to the authorities of the institution in which the pensioner is being cared for an allowance of 10s. 6d. per week for the pensioner’s maintenance.
On the transaction the Commonwealth makes a profit of 4s. per week out of each pensioner who is in residence in a public institution. The joke is that the Commonwealth provides none of these: institutions, which generally are maintained by the States.
As the payment which the Commonwealth makes to charitable institutions - the so-called “act of grace “ - is said to total about £100,000 a year, it is seen that some 3,663 pensioners arc” involved. If these 3,663 persons were not in a charitable institution the Commonwealth’s pension bill on their account would be £166,166 instead of £100,000 plus the 3s. a week - a clear saving to the Commonwealth of £38,005 per year.
This is a portion of the letter which the Commissioner for Invalid and Old-age Pensions sent to me in reply to my representations -
When a pensioner becomes an inmate of a charitable institution, payment of his pension is suspended in accordance with the requirements of the law, as set out above. After he has been an inmate for 28 days, however, he becomes entitled to a pension of 3s per week, and the department takes the necessary action to make payment. In addition, an amount of 10s. 6d. a week is paid by the department to the authorities of the institution as an act of grace for the pensioner’s maintenance. The department is, however, under no obligation whatever to make these payments, and it would be quite legal to discontinue them at any time. I may mention that the amount so paid to charitable institutions for the maintenance of pensioners amounts to approximately £100,000 per annum. As the amount of pension which may be paid to inmates of institutions is fixed by law at 3s. per week, it will be seen that it is not possible to authorize the payment of an additional 4s. per week. If such payment were authorized, the Commonwealth would be involved in an additional liability of approximately £50,000 per annum.
– Do not those institutions provide food and clothing for the inmates ?
– Those are provided at the cost of the states, not of the Commonwealth Government.
– For what purpose is the payment of 10s. 6d. a week made?
– I shall come to that later. From information that has been given to me in the Senate, it will be found that the amount works out, not at 10s. 6d., but at 7s. 6d.
– The States, then, are making a profit out of the transactions?
– The Commonwealth Government is making a profit of 4s a head. That is proved by the figures that have been furnished by the department. The article proceeds -
It will be seen that the difference of 4s. a week is claimed by the Commonwealth to involve £50,000 per annum, whereas on our computation the amount saved is about £38,000. The difference, however, is neither here nor there, as we are unable to get precise details.
– Was that written by the editor of the Worker?
– This article appeared in the Western Australian Worker. I understand the editor, Mr. J. Curtin, wrote it.
– Is he a friend of Tom Walsh’s ?
– He is a citizen of Australia, and will be a member of this Parliament after the next elections. A further paragraph in the article reads -
The point which is of importance is that, as a result of old-age pensioners entering charitable institutions, the Commonwealth Government is enabled to save, on its own statement, £50,000 per annum. This sum would be paid to old-age and invalid pensioners were they not in residence in a charitable institution, and the Commonwealth would have to meet the bill.
I do not wish to introduce personalities into the debate, or to say whether Mr. Curtin is oris not a friend of Tom Walsh’s. My point is that this article contains a good deal of sound common sense. The 4s. which the Commonwealth Government now withholds should be given either to the pensioner or to the State Government.
– Have not the State Governments agreed to do this service for that sum?
– I do not know. There is no mention of an agreement in the act or the regulations. The states are taking merely what is given to them.
– Can the honorable senator quote figures showing the actual cost to the states?
– I have just quoted the figures that were furnished to me in reply to a letter that I sent to the commissioner. I will leave the position as it is until I receive replies to the questions that I to-day placed on the noticepaper. Were I to attempt to anticipate those replies I should immediately come into conflict with you, Mr. President.
– Can the honorable senator inform us whether the States are making a profit out of the payment of 10s. 6d.?
– When I receive to-morrow replies to the questions that I shall ask, the honorable senator will be as well informed as I shall be.
– I thought the honorable senator mentioned an amount of 7s. od.
– That was an amount that I had in my mind. It may be correct or incorrect.
– That is equivalent to saying that the State Governments are making a profit.
– I do not intend to allow myself to be led off the track by Senator Lynch.
– The honorable senator is treading on spongy ground.
– I am never afraid that any ground upon which. I tread will give beneath my weight, which is not so great that I should be likely to sink. Let me clinch my point. The Commonwealth Parliament, by its law, has said that an invalid or old-age pensioner who is able to prove his claim to a pension shall receive 17s. 6d. a week. If a pensioner becomes an inmate of a charitable institution in a State he gets only 3s. a week, whilst the State receives 10s. 6d. a week for maintaining him. On each of such transactions the Commonwealth profits to the extent of 4s. a week.
– Who should profit?
– The pensioner should get that additional 4s.; or, alternatively, the State should receive it.
– The States say that they are content at present.
– I believe that before the proposed increase of 2s. 6d. a week can be granted to the invalid and old-aged an amending bill will have to be introduced. If I am here when that bill is being considered by the Senate I propose to suggest an amendment to remove the anomaly to which I have re- ferred. I pass on to the question of immigration.
– The honorable senator should pass on to a discussion of the fact that Mr. Curtin would not slate the Labour Government in Western Australia for “ diddling “ these State institutions out of 3s. a week on his own showing.
- Senator Lynch ought to be old enough now not to be so impetuous. I have not made any such statement, because I have not given him the information that I anticipate will be contained to-morrow in the replies to my questions. The honorable senator now lays the blame on Mr. Curtin. I do not know why he should be so angry. I assure him that when I have received those replies I shall afford him ample opportunity to place Mr. Curtin and the State Government of Western Australia in the pillory. I am sure that he is eager to place them there.
– I have the utmost sympathy for them, but I want to see the Commonwealth get a fair crack of the whip.
– I hope that the honorable senator will cease his personalities.
I come now to the question of immigration. I notice that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) said in his budget speech that last year £206,000 was spent out of loan by way of advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees to assisted immigrants. Let us compare the action of the Treasurer with a statement that he made when he was a private member. In 1921 Dr. Earle Page, discussing the budget which had been delivered by one of his predecessors in office, said -
He proposes to spend from the loan funds, instead of revenue, £162.000 on passage money for assisted immigrants, which, under no consideration can be considered a charge against loans.
I shall not discuss the question whether the expenditure of loan money in assisting intending immigrants can or cannot legitimately be charged against the loan fund. I content myself by showing the change that has taken place in the opinion of the Treasurer regarding that policy.
I wish to devote a few minutes to the subject of the tariff. I expected an amending tariff bill to be brought down concurrently with the budget, but we are still awaiting a move by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) in that direction. It is high time that something was done. The threat of an amendment of the tariff has frequently been made, but it has not yet materialized. I have heard it prophesied for at least two sessions. Anticipating it, importers have rushed goods into Australia from other countries. I do not say that they have definite information as to the date when the bill is to be brought down, nor do I say that the revenue has been defrauded as a result of the largely increased imports. I do not know whether the proposed amended duties will increase or reduce the tariff. If, however, there is to be an increase on important items, the revenue will suffer to a very considerable extent. Any government contemplating an amendment of the tariff laws should keep its intention as quiet as possible.
– The honorable senator has criticized the Government for not giving an indication of its intentions.
– How could the matter be kept quiet when the Tariff Board has been going all over the country holding inquiries?
– I am not a believer in the Tariff Board. I opposed its appointment.
– Still, it is the law of the country.
– Either the Tariff Board or the Government should decide definitely what is to be done. When the amending bill does come down I do not know whether it will show the Government to be a “Pro-trade” or a “ Freetectionist “ Government. The present Cabinet consists of two elements. It has a pronounced freetrade element, as well as a pronounced protectionist element. Which will dominate the new tariff proposals I do not know. The attitudie of the Government on fiscal matters reminds me of a story I heard many years ago of a candidate for election to the Queensland Parliament, when freetrade and protection were really the only issues before the electors. At the conclusion of an eloquent address, this man was asked, Are you a freetrader or a protectionist?” He replied, “I am.” That is the position of the Government. Let me read from a newspaper report a few figures to indicate how goods are being rushed into Australia from abroad -
Almost a record amount - £300,925 - of Customs duties was collected last week in Victoria. The duties paid during the previous week wore £227,076. The amounts collected on eachday last week were -
August8- £49,021 13s
August 10- £27,058 15s. 6d
August 11- £41.991 4s. 9d
August 12- £44.284. 3s. 3d
August 13- £75.63818s.11d
August 14- £62,931 13s. 4d
August 15- £21,9131s.10d
– They are not the amount of duty paid on spirits. Senator Thompson must know that in the last three or four years a tremendous increasehas occurred in our importations.
– Is the honorable senator a freetrader?
SenatorNEEDHAM. - I am not afraid to avow my fiscal creed. Senator Greene piloted the last tariff measure through the House of Representatives, and he didit well, but I havebeen forced to wonder many times since then whether it was really a protective or revenue tariff that was adopted. If it had been really protective we should not have received such tremendous duties through our Customs Department. My own belief is that it was a revenue tariff.
– Undoubtedly there were many revenue items in it. Everybody knew that at the time.
SenatorNEEDHAM. - The revenue items submerge the protective items.
– I disagree with the honorable senator.
– If it were not a protective tariff, how is it that industries have developed under it?
– What industries have developed?
– The honorable senator may see for himself in the budgetpapers.
SenatorNEEDHAM. - I found very few there.
– The honorable senator has not yet told us whether he …is a freetrader or a protectionist.
– I am not afraid to avow my fiscal creed.
– The honorable senator has not done so.
SenatorNEEDHAM. - Senator Ogden can, without much trouble, find my views in Hansard. If he does not care to look there, I assure him that if he will be patient he will be informed on the matter when the Government’s tariff proposals are before us. I wish to make a few remarks respecting the need for the payment of a bounty on gold. I am not particularly partial to the bounty system, bur if any industry in Australia requires and deserves a bounty, the gold-mining industry does. Western Australia produces about 70 per cent. of the gold output of Australia. Last session a bill was passed which helped the industry to some extent, but further assistance is essential. In consequence of the embarrassment caused to the industry during the war through the Government commandeering the gold output, and the much lower grade ores. that are being worked now. the Government should see that adequate assistance is given to it. It would be well advised to introduce a measure to provide for the payment of a bounty on gold produced in the Commonwealth. The gold-mining companies of Boulder pay £750,000 per annum in wages to their employees. If a bounty were offered for all gold produced, the mining companies would be able to work lower grade ore than is now possible. In a pamphlet entitled : The Gold Bonus; Opinions and Comments Thereon of the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia Incorporated, the following appears with regard to the gold production of the state in 1923 : -
In this state the gold production amounted to £2,105,483 from 781,769 tons of ore treated; and the number of men employed in producing it was 5,347. The goldflelds towns of this state are practically isolated, and it is therefore easy to learn what is the proportion of people who live in the neighbourhood of the mines, and depend for their livelihood upon the mines, as compared with the number of men actually working on the mines. Wefind that the proportion is at least six to one. If we multiply 5,347 by six the result is 32,082. The value of the state’s gold production divided by this figure shows a production of £65.6 per head for the year.
– But why pay a bounty on something that does not exist?
SenatorNEEDHAM. - A good deal more gold could be produced if a bounty were payable.
– It might cost too much.
– I wish to quote further from the pamphlet.[ Extension of time granted.) I thank honorable senators for their courtesy. The pamphlet reads -
To serve the goldfields of this state 1,100 miles of railway have been built, 2,000 miles of roads made, 350 miles of piping to deliver 5,000,000 gallons of water per day laid down, Innumerable reservoirs for water constructed, 1,700 miles of telegraph and 3,000 miles of telephone lines erected.
I could quote still further from this pamphlet, but I think I have said sufficient to indicate how necessary it is for the Commonwealth Government to keep the gold-mining industry in mind.
– Are not the gold mines becoming exhausted?
– So far as Western Australia is concerned, there is every possibility of two or three other Kalgoorlies being found. However, the existing mines in Western Australia are working on very low-grade ore, which it is very costly to work, and, as other Australian industries are being encouraged by bounties, I think the Government should bring down a bill to grant a bounty to the gold-mining industry.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greene) adjourned.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia -
Minister for Home and Territories) [6.221. - I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I am hopeful that we shall have a Supply Bill and a Loan Bill before the Senate next week. These are bills which it will be necessary for the Senate to pass at an early date; but they must, of course, be dealt with in another place before they reach us . Another place has to consider the Estimates and certain tariff amendments, and an Arbitration Bill is also to be brought forward. It is obvious that 35 senators can pass legislation at a much greater rate of speed than can 75 members in another place, so that when we dispose of the Supply Bill and the Loan Bill next week, and possibly one or two other small measures, it will be necessary for us to adjourn for some time to enable another place to catch up to us. The fact that this is inevitable is not a reflection on the Senate, as some journals regard it. It is merely an indication that, because it has fewer members, it is more expeditious in passing legislation than is another place. If the programme I am now indicating is carried out, we ought to be able to have an adjournment which will be sufficiently long to enable honorable senators whose homes are not in Melbourne to spend some time in their own States. It is very inconvenient for honorable senators from distant States to be brought to Melbourne to attend a few sittings, and then for the Senate to adjourn for a week or two.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 August 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1925/19250826_senate_9_111/>.