10th Parliament · 1st Session
friday, 5 February 1926
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read pray era.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways whether the utilization of concrete’ instead of steel or wooden sleepers was considered by the Government in connexion with the proposed railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
– I am informed that that matter has been very carefully considered.
– Has the decision been in favour of the utilization of concrete sleepers?
– I shall obtain that information from the Minister for Works and Railways.
– Has the Leader of the Senate yet received the information that I sought some considerable time ago regarding the Kidman-Mayoh contract; or have I, like Kathleen Mavourneen, to wait “ it maybe for years or it maybe for . ever “ ?
– The information is not yet to hand. . I shall ask the Secre tary to Ministers in the Senate to see that the preparation of the reply is expedited.
– Will the information be available on the next sitting day of the Senate 1
– I cannot say, but 1 shall endeavour to procure it by that date.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, so far as members of the . Senate are concerned, have leave to sit during sittings of the Senate.
– I understand that the committee has a considerable amount of very important work to proceed with, and that, whilst Parliament is sitting, it can advantageously deal with some- of it. Realizing the importance of the work that it has to perform, I have no objec- tion to the motion.
– The motion introduces a somewhat pernicious principle which is. contrary to accepted parliamentary practice throughout the British Empire. If this permission is granted to the committee it should be for a limited period only.- We should make it abundantly plain that nothing whatever should be allowed to keep members from their parliamentary duties here. The essence of the practice is that a parliamentary committee shall not sit whilst Parliament is sitting. We should place a. limitation of one month upon the permission to depart from .that practice.
– I shall not oppose that.
– I move-
That after the word “That” the words “for one month from this date “be inserted.
If the matters which have been referred to the committee are very urgent, they should be brought to a completion within one month. It is with extreme reluctance that I support the motion even in the form that I propose, because it strikes at the very root of the purpose for which members are elected to this or any other house.
– If this traditional practice is strictly adhered to the work of the committees will be made very difficult. For a number of years it has been found necessary for the committees to sit on the days on which Parliament sits, but not during the particular hours. If the rule were slavishly followed the committees would not be able to carry on their work. Senator Pearce. - The motion refers to the hours during which the Senate is actually sitting.
– The programme of the Public Works Committee in relation to the investigation of the railway project from Port Augusta to Adelaide has already been mapped out, and it is not intended to sit during the hours that Parliament is actually sitting.
– I hope that neither the motion in its original form nor as proposed to be amended will be agreed to. I have no doubt that the Public Works Committee has very important work to perform. But ever since the Commonwealth Parliament came into existence it has been the practice for the committees to do their work during the hours when the Houses were not actually sitting. I have heard you, Mr. President, point out to honorable senators that their presence was required firstly in this chamber, and that the Senate could not take cognisance of their absence when they were engaged upon other matters. A month is only a short period, I know. The Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) would not have submitted the motion if he had not given the matter careful consideration, and had been convinced that the work of the committee was so urgent that this action was absolutely necessary.
– Theother House passed a similar motion without discus- sion.
– There is noreason for our following slavishly whatthe other House does. What is to prevent the committee from meeting on days when Parliament is not sitting?
– Many of its members do not live in Melbourne, and they want to go home occasionally. The honorable senator appears to think that because he lives in Melbourne every one else should be kept here.
– That is a justification for appointing only Victorian members to the committee. I suggest that course as a way out of the present difficulty.
– When Parliament is moved to Canberra we may suggest that. We shall then hear what the honorable senator has to say about it.
– I do not think thatI would adopt an inconsistent attitude towards the principle that is involved.
– The honorable senator will look at the matter from a very different angle when he gets to Canberra.
– Are not honorable senators expected to be in this chamber attending to the business of the country when the Senate is sitting? How can they look after the requirements of their constituents in this chamber and, at the same time, attend to other matters in another part of the building 1 This will establish a very bad precedent, and I do not think there is any justification for it. I enter my protest against it.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the motion, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority …… 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce to Parliament this session a bill to amend the Bankruptcy Act?
If not, when does the Government intend to issue a proclamation bringing the Bankruptcy Act into force?
It is intended to introduce a short measure embodying a few amendments to facilitate administration.
As soon as the necessary preliminary arrangements have been made.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
[11.23]. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill,. I am sure, will be welcomed particularly by the representatives of Tasmania and Western Australia, and I trust that itwill receive the general support given to the two important measures affecting South Australia,which have just been disposed of. It is framed, not merely to benefit the States I have named, but in the interests of the whole Commonwealth. One provision of the Navigation Act to which probably more attention and criticism has been directed than to any other is that which provides that no ship shall engage in the coasting trade unless licensed to do so. The condition of a licence is, shortly, that Australian standards of manning, pay, and accommodation shall be observed so long as the ship is engaged in the coasting trade. If proof were needed that these standards are the highest in the world, at any rate as regards wages, hours, and conditions, it may be found in the fact that, although the act leaves it open to ships of any country to obtain a licence, no oversea vessel has so far done so. As a result, the coasting trade, both in passengers and cargo is virtually a monopoly of the locally-owned shipping. Ever since these coasting trade provisions of the act came into effect, on 1st July. 1921, the people of Tasmania, and more particularly of Hobart, have persistently urged that their enforcement is seriously affecting the prosperity of the island State. Prior to the enforcement of the coasting trade provisions, tourists from Brisbane and Sydney were in the habit of travelling to Hobart on the large oversea vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental, Orient, Aberdeen, and other leading lines calling there for cargoes of apples for the United Kingdom. These tourists either landed at Hobart, and, after spending a holiday in the island, continued on to Melbourne in another vessel of the same line”, or contented themselves with short excursions during the time the vessel was in port loading cargo, and proceeded with her to Melbourne. From here they returned to their northern homes either by coasting vessel’ or by rail. These trips, known as the “ apple trips,” became very popular, and large numbers of people from the northern States availed themselves of the facilities offered. When the licensing provisions of the Navigation Act came into force, however, the mail steamers and other oversea liners, not beinglicensed, could no longer carry tourists on the apple trips. The tourist traffic is a great benefit to any country, as visitors usually spend a good deal of money, and take little away with them. They also assist materially in advertising the country which they have visited. I have made numerous attempts to visit Tasmania, but pressure of business has always prevented me from doing so.
– The Minister has had many invitations.
– Yes, and I am sorry I have been unable to accept them. When I am relieved of my present responsibilities, I hope to do so. It was no doubt inevitable that in according locally-owned shipping the protection of the Navigation Act against unfair competition by ships employing low-paid, and in some cases coloured, labour, a number of interests would be detrimentally affected. The Navigation Act is the expression of the policy of Australia to protect and encourage Australian shipping, with a view to building up a strong and prosperous mercantile marine. Such protection and encouragement should be, however, at the expense of Australia generally. Tasmania has the largest tourist traffic of any of the States, notwithstanding that her business in that respect has declined in a disastrous way in the last five or six years. The prosperity of the State, as a matter of fact, depends upon the income from that source. Honorable senators are, no doubt, aware of the great importance of the tourist traffic to Canada. . That dominion cordially welcomes every tourist, for it realizes that he will become an advertiser of the country. I understand that Tasmania offers to tourists one of the finest trips that may be enjoyed in any part of the world. In that circumstance, surely, no honorable senator will wish to retain a section of the Navigation Act which virtually prevents our own people from taking advantage of such a tour. Unfortunately, the greatest burden imposed by that section has fallen on the shoulders of the State least fitted to bear it. Tasmania is at once the smallest - both in point of size and population - and the poorest of all of the States. By reason of her insularity, she is wholly dependent upon shipping for the transport of her goods and for all communication with the mainland. Any interference with the shipping service which injures or retards her tourist traffic imposes on her a very serious disability. At the beginning of each tourist season, since the Navigation Act came into force, appeals have been made by the Government and the people of Tasmania for relief from the coasting trade provisions of that measure. Consideration has been given to these appeals bv successive Governments, but the great difficulty in the way has been the provision in section 99 of the Constitution, that “ the Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce;, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any “part thereof.” This prohibition does not apply to a territory,, and consequently to meet conditions of hardship imposed by the act, the trade of the Northern Territory and of the territories of New Guinea, Papua, and Norfolk Island have been exempted by orders in council made under section 7 of the act. Passenger trade has thus been open to unlicensed oversea ships. This has been responsible for a considerable amount of misapprehension in regard to Tasmania. The question has frequently been asked, both in this chamber and outside: Seeing that the Northern Territory and other Territories have been exempted, cannot the same concession be given to Tasmania? The answer, as honorable senators will perceive from what I have just said, is that the distinction has not been made by the administration, but is in the Constitution. Several proposals for an amendment of the act to give relief to Tasmania have been put forward and examined from time to time, but they have invariably been rejected on the ground that they involved a contravention of the provisions of section 99 of the Constitution. In the present proposal, however, a means has been found of granting to Tasmania, without violating the Constitution, the relief she desires in respect of so much of the tourist traffic as is involved in the “ apple trips,” to which I have already referred. The proposed addition to section 286 does not specifically refer to the tourist traffic of Tasmania or of any other single State. Each State- of the Commonwealth has a tourist traffic of its own, but in most cases it is of small significance. It is doubtful, also, whether in the case of any State other than Tasmania this traffic has suffered substantia] injury by the incidence of the Navigation Act. The privilege provided in this measure is open, in law, to any State, but as a matter of practice Tasmania -will probably be the only State that can substantiate a claim- to exemption. In announcing the policy of the present. Government in his election speech at Dandenong, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) stated that a bill would be introduced to amend the Navigation Act to grant relief to Tasmania in respect of her tourist traffic. This bill is introduced in fulfilment of that promise. The measure is entirely non-party, and has the support of all shades of political opinion in Tasmania. It is. designed to benefit Tasmania as a whole. I confidently anticipate, therefore, that honorable senators will unite in facilitating its passage.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Before discussing the provisions of the bill. I wish to ask honorable senators to do their best to facilitate its passage. The Government would like this measure, and the Petroleum Prospecting Bill, which will follow it, disposed of as early as possible. May I respectfully suggest to the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) that if he is not prepared to go on this morning, he will forgo his customary privilege of moving the adjournment of the debate, so that other honorable senators who are ready to proceed with the debate may do so.
– Why all this haste?
– The Government desires to press on with these two proposals for the reason that only a few months remain in this financial year. Any part of the vote made available by this and the following bill that is unexpended at the 30th June will lapse. The introduction of these measures was delayed by the election. The Government desires that this money shall be made available to the States as soon as possible, so that they may spend all of it in this financial year. The bill is designed to stimulate prospecting for gold and precious metals throughout the Commonwealth. We all recognize the value of the gold-mining industry to every State in which gold has been discovered, and I think we all believe that we still have undeveloped gold areas to be exploited. Only this morning a report appeared in the press that at the Mining Warden’s office at Southern Cross, in Western Australia, where Mr. Bailey made known to the world his discovery of gold at Coolgardie, a prospector has announced that he had found a new gold-bearing area in an entirely new district. In applying for a reward lease to work his claim, he intimated that he had delayed making his application until he was satisfied that he had found a really good gold-bearing area. The Commonwealth Government, having a surplus of revenue, looked round to see whether it could spend some of it to encourage languishing industries, and it determined to do something for mining. The prospector is the pioneer of that industry. He takes great chances with life, limb, and fortune. Most of the’ State Governments are already doing something to stimulate prospecting. The Commonwealth Government, therefore, decided that it would augment the expenditure of the States. It is not proposed to interfere in any way with the present practice in the various States, nor will this money be “ leg-roped.” The Government pro poses to subsidize the States by an amount equal to that which they are already spending.
– Are we to understand that the grants will be made to the prospectors by the State Governments?
– Yes. There will be no pettifogging interferences by the Common wealth Government.
– But this is a pettifogging amount.
– It is as much as all the States are now spending.
– If a State Government, through reasons over which it had little control, was unable to vote any money for this purpose this year, would it be excluded from the provisions of the bill?
– Will the subsidy be on a £1 for £1 basis )
– I wish to be quite frank about this matter. I was approached by the Premier of Tasmania (Mr. Lyons), who intimated to me that on account of the unsatisfactory financial position of the Government, it was able to vote only a very small sum this year for prospecting, and asked whether in that circumstance Tasmania would be helped on only the £1 for £1 basis. The Government realizes that a State may bo placed in a position like that, and for that reason the bill provides that the money may be made available to the States under such conditions as the Minister may determine. I ask honorable senators not to attempt in committee to substitute for that provision a £1 for £1 subsidy.
– Only about four months of the financial year remain.
– That is why the Government desires the bill to be dealt with rapidly. It wishes the States, to take full advantage of the money that will be .made available. I propose to give more consideration to Tasmania than it. would be entitled to receive merely on the basis of its present expenditure in encouraging prospecting.
– Has any assistance been given to prospecting in the Northern Territory?
– Yes, in the past. At .the present time, however, the assistance is confined to the granting of rations to certain persons. Considerable sums of money have been spent in the past in helping prospectors, and all of it, I fear, has not been wisely disbursed. In another State - perhaps I had better not mention the name at this juncture - when one comes to analyse the expenditure under this head, it is found that money spent in assisting mining companies that have got into financial difficulties is claimed to be part of the amount devoted to assistance to prospectors. For instance, there may be an inrush of water into a mine, and the company may have to instal an additional pump to cope- with the trouble. State subsidies have been granted in such cases, and it is now suggested that the Commonwealth Government should regard expenditure of that nature as assistance to prospectors. I do not take that view of the matter. The figures submitted by the States will need to be carefully analysed. As an old prospector I ought to know the class of assistance required. Every effort should be made to help the man who is prepared to face the real hardships of prospecting, and look for new fields.
– They are fairly hard to find, too.
– Yes. Unfortunately, that type of man seems to be dying out. I do not intend to weary the Senate by quoting in detail the figures I have before me as to the decline of the gold-mining industry; the facts are only too well known to need emphasis. The value of the total gold production of the Commonwealth in 1911 amounted to £10,551,624, and in 1924 it had declined to £3,143,830. The Government does not pretend that this bill will in any sense strike at the main causes of that decline because it is due, not merely 1,0 the absence of prospectors, but also to other serious facto-s. But the Ministry realizes that increased production on exist ing fields, and the- discovery of new areas of alluvial gold would have a very important effect in stemming that decline which has continued since 1911. Prom another point of view, the prospector renders a. very valuable service to the community. When a new field of production is discovered it not only creates fresh avenues of employment, and brings increased wealth into circulation, but it invariably leads to settlement either for agricultural or pastoral purposes.
– - Any discovery of mineral does that.
– Yes, but particularly gold. It is interesting to know that the Kalgoorlie fields, declining as they are to-day as gold producers, are now becoming centres of pastoral production. Especially is that the case in the - North Kalgoorlie country which was once regarded as useless,, and which is now becoming a great’ sheep carrying district. Had it not been for the discovery of gold there, many more years would have elapsed before the possibilities of this country’ for stock raising were recognized’
– The same remark applies to Gympie, which is now a dairying centre.
– Yes, and similarly we hope that settlement will follow the discovery of gold in the. Northern Territory. The prospects in the Tanami district are certainly encouraging. Many men with brave hearts are prepared to face the hardships there, and if I have the opportunity I shall help them financially from the vote authorized by the bill. If a gold-field were discovered there, it would lead to the opening, up of that country for pastoral purposes. It is virgin land to-day, and no leases have been taken up. I realize that the sum provided under the bill is small, but the measure is a step, in the right direction.
– What would be the basis- of allocation between the States?
– We intend to take into consideration- the amount that each State is now spending in encouraging prospectors.
– Is that to be the- basis of allocation?
– Not an arbitrary basis. We also propose to have regard to the circumstances’ of individual States. In the case of” Tasmania, as” I have already pointed out, the amount now expended is limited, not because there is no scope for prospecting,but because of the financial difficulties of that State. I think, therefore, that the Government should take into consideration the possibilities of successful prospecting in any State. That is why I ask the Senate to leave considerable discretion to the Minister. It is obvious that if the small sum provided under the bill were used in encouraging prospecting for all minerals it would be insignificant.
– It is insignificant already.
– Again I reply that it represents as large a sum as the States are now spending in this direction. Whilst it is desirable to encourage prospecting for other minerals, this vote is insufficient for that purpose. It is better to confine the assistance to prospectors for gold and other precious metals leaving it to be decided in future whether, having regard to the financial circumstances of the Commonwealth, assistance should be given in other directions. I again remind honorable senators that if they are ready to speak to the measure today I shall welcome the continuation of the debate, so that the passage of the bill may be expedited and the work contemplated put in hand.
Motion (by Senator Needham) - That the debate be now adjourned - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I do not wish to delay the Senate, because I understand, from what the Minister (Senator Pearce) has said, that if the proposed assistance is to he of any use this year, the bill should be passed as soon as possible. I commend the Government for its attitude. Tasmania has contributed in no small measure to the output of precious metals and minerals; and knowing, as I do, the difficulties encountered by prospectors, and the arduous nature of their work, I welcome the measure. Although the amount to be provided by the Government is not large, it will “be of great assistance to prospectors and companies engaged in the search for precious metals and minerals. Forty years ago, there was in Tasmania a very large army of prospectors, who were prepared to make almost any sacrifice in the search for precious metals. Not long ago, I visited the west coast district, and there met two men who had been engaged in prospecting for over 40 years. One man was between 70 and 80 years of age, and the other was in his eightieth year. These prospectors are typical of the men to whom Australia owes so much for having opened up its mineral wealth. I believe there are vast deposits of precious metals and minerals still awaiting discovery in various parts of Australia, and this bill should provide the means to enable prospectors to carry on the work. I anticipate that the measure will receive the unanimous support of the Senate. I regret that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) has lost his chance to speak on the bill to-day, for I am sure that he would support it. As this is a genuine attempt to help prospectors for precious metals, I hope it will have a speedy passage.
– The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Pearce) has informed us that it is proposed to set aside £40,000 to encourage prospecting throughout Australia; but as £15,000 of that amount is to be ear-marked for expenditure in the Northern Territory, there will be only £25,000 for distribution amongst prospectors in the several States. The Minister is well acquainted with the hardships that have to be faced by prospectors in our own State. I do not !know whether he has any knowledge of conditions elsewhere in Australia, but in Western Australia the prospectors, with water-bags, picks, and pans, have blazed the track, so to speak, and have played no inconsiderable part in the development of that State. I regret that the amount to be made available is not larger.
– The honorable senator must remember that it will represent expenditure only for the remaining four months of the financial year.
– Yes; but £25,000 will not go very far, especially if prospectors have to use camels, which, I presume, will be provided by the Government. Some of the largest goldproducing mines in the world are in Western Australia. Unfortunately, they are declining; but I believe that, if the Government could see its way to assist them to carry out prospecting work at lower levels, they would tap payable ore, and provide employment for a large number of miners for many years. I cannot claim to be a miner, but I lived for 30 years in the atmosphere of mining, and I am thoroughly conversant with all the vicissitudes of the industry. If the Government had set aside £100,000 instead of £25,000, it would not have been too much. I am not opposed to the bill, but I regret very much that, the amount to be made available is not larger. In Victoria, where the climatic conditions are more favorable than in Western Australia, the decline in the mining industry was not such a serious matter, because it was possible to develop the primary industries, with a result that farms are now well established on old mining fields. It is not possible to do that in Western Australia, although, as the Minister has said; cattle runs have been established in the vicinity of certain fields, and in some instances farmers are doing fairly well. But nothing .can take the place of the mining industry to provide employment and to hold the population at Kalgoorlie. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to give further assistance to the industry.
– I endorse what has been said hy Senator Graham as to the amount to bo provided by the Government for the assistance of the mining industry. . But whilst the amount is meagre, it is not to be despised. Five thousand pounds would be no mean form of help to three or four prospecting parties in a State. As for the industry itself, I can only repeat that it is high time that the Government recognized its claim upon the community. Nearly every other primary industry has received assistance in some form or other. I know of none except that in which I am engaged myself, namely, wheatgrowing, which has not enjoyed Government patronage. The pastoral industry, which, we have been told, is ruled by “beef barons,” and also our fruit and vinegrowers, have been helped, and those engaged in secondary industries are on the doormat of this Parliament practically every day of the week asking for assist- .ance in some form. The only occasion when the mining industry receives any attention at the hands of the Government is when the Customs tariff is under consideration, and then increased duties are levied on it. I welcome this break in the clouds, and I hope that the assistance now to be rendered to the-mining industry may be regarded as an earnest of greater consideration in the future. I believe I was the first to mention this matter to the Federal Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). Last year I approached him with a suggestion that the Government should set aside £100,000 to encourage prospectors in the search for precious metals. The Minister received the proposal in a very friendly manner, and whilst I welcome the bill, I am disappointed that the amount to be set aside is not larger. I remind honorable senators of the position of the industry during recent years. When war broke out the Government very properly took steps to safeguard the gold reserve, and although the markets of the world were ready to take our gold at enhanced prices, the Government placed an embargo upon its export in order to husband the nation’s resources in the mortal combat then in progress. Our gold producers had to be content with less than world’s parity during the war and for some years afterwards. Contrast their position with that of the woolgrowers, engaged in what is regarded as the leading industry in the Commonwealth. We all know of the arrangement under which the flat rate for wool was fixed at 15£d. Those engaged in, the industry practically threw their hats in the air with joy when the announcement was made, because they realized that at the time 15 1/2d. all round was an excellent price. The gold miners, however, were obliged to sell their product at the old standard price up to the time when the embargo was removed. During the war wheat was sold at prices which paid the growers handsomely. But for the prices that were then received the industry would not now occupy such a flourishing position. The fruit and other subsidiary industries also benefited from the enhanced prices that were caused by the war. What has the Commonwealth Government done for the gold-mining industry? One of the points of difference between me and the Government is that nothing has been done to discharge the obligation which the people owe to that industry. Calculations have been made by the Gold Producers’ Association which show that, had there been a free market, the industry would have been £3,000,000 better off. . The loss of that sum is inflected in the present position of the industry. I do not say that that was the sole cause; many causes have contributed to it; but if the gold producers were to that extent better off to-day, it is obvious that the industry would be in a more flourishing state. It has always been my contention that, having compelled the gold producers to receive less than they could have obtained from sales in the world’s markets, the country should compensate them.
– There was not a free market for wool.
– There was. The price was fixed at 15-^d. per lb.
– If there had been a free market, the wool would have realized double that amount.
– We should endeavour to hold the scales evenly between all industries. This is but a feeble attempt that the Government is making to assist the gold-mining industry. I hope that the States will second its efforts in a substantial manner. I am pleased that something is to be done to test the old gold-mining fields to a greater depth.
I believe that much can be done in that direction. On the broad question of whether aid to prospecting is warranted, we derive no comfort from history. I believe that every gold-mining field was discovered without assistance from any Government. Charters Towers, Croydon, and Kalgoorlie were discovered without any prospecting- parties being subsidized in the manner that is now contemplated. While that is so, however, we know that subsidized parties have directed attention to different parts of the Commonwealth in a way that would not have been possible but for that assistance. An integral part of the policy of every State to-day is assistance to gold mining. I believe that that is one of the most worthy objects to which the Federal Treasury could devote some of its surplus cash. I do not wish to be understood to say that this proposal will discharge the obligation which Australia owes to the industry. I look forward to the day when a. great deal more will be done in this direction, even though some of those who suffered by the action of the Government during the war period have gone out of the industry. This is a good move on the part of the Government to direct attention to the remote portions of the Commonwealth. It is a disgrace to Australia that her population should be huddled around the fringe of the continent. There is a vast interior which is comparatively unknown. This proposal will have the effect of sending out bands of men who, as Senator Graham said, are more entitled to assistance than any other section of the community, and will give a greater return for that assistance. I cannot refrain from mentioning what Mr. William Laurie told. me on one occasion. He said that he discovered most encouraging mineral prospects in the vicinity of Tanami, in the Northern Territory. It is quite open country, and at present is a no-man’s land. That applies , also to the north-west portion of Western Australia. There is ample elbow room for those who desire to avail themselves of this proposed Government assistance, which I hope will be the forerunner of a bigger measure of aid to those who are prepared to search for precious metals in those parts of the Commonwealth that are at present unknown.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I regard this measure as the most practical and definite step that has yet been taken by the Commonwealth Government to assist in the discovery of petroleum oil in Australia. For many years the offer has been made of a reward of £50,000 for the discovery of petroleum oil in commercial quantities. A large number of companies have been formed to prospect for oil in places that were thought by various people to be favorable to its discovery. A great deal of money has been spent, much of it in what might be called “ blind stabbing.” In some cases the information has been inaccurate and misleading, and in other cases’ decidedly curious. It is hard to say whether those who have incurred expenditure in the endeavour to discover oil were attracted by the offer of the reward, or by the knowledge that a sure fortune awaited the lucky discoverer. If is quite possible that equally as much boring and prospecting would have been done if there had been no offer of a reward, because unlimited wealth, in comparison with which £50,000 would be a mere bagatelle would result from such a discovery. The Government considered whether the offering of a reward was the best means of encouraging prospecting for oil, and came to the conclusion that there was a better way. One of the difficulties confronting prospectors for oil in Australia has been the absence of geological plans and data, which, in searching for oil, are possibly more essential than in prospecting for minerals.
– They are a help, but are not everything.
– They are essential, and to undertake boring for oil in the absence of geological plans and data is merely stabbing in the dark. We have been faced with so many important problems during recent years that a geological survey of the Australian continent has not been made. Consequently, when a report has been submitted that indications of oil have been found in a certain district, and in some cases samples have been produced, which were alleged to have been obtained from seepages from rocks or in the bed of a creek, some persons have always been willing to invest money in an oil-boring venture in the locality. In such circumstances the geologists at the disposal of the State Government have been asked to inspect the areas, and in reporting adversely on the possibility of discovering oil have received, not the gratitude of investors but abuse. The qualifications of the geologists concerned have also been questioned. The Commonwealth Government felt, therefore, that if it were merely to make an offer to subsidize boring for oil in any locality millions of pounds might be spent, and that the greater portion of the money might as well be cast into the sea for all the good it would do. The indications have been that without any subsidy at all there are persons willing to spend their hard-earned money in this blind stabbing work, and they would have been encouraged to spend even more if for every pound they expended the Government had contributed a similar amount. In these circumstances the Government called to its assistance Australia’s greatest geologist, Sir Edgeworth David, and asked him to supply the Government with the names of persons of high standing in the geological world whose advice would be of the greatest value to the Commonwealth. He supplied the Government with the names of two gentlemen in the front rank of their profession, and gave reasons for his choice. One of these was Dr. Arthur Wade, and after entering into communication with him the Government secured his services, and brought him to Australia. Later, arrangements were made for him to visit all the areas where there seemed to be some prospect of oil being discovered, and after making such surveys as time, and circumstances would permit, to report to the Government. Dr. Wade has visited these areas, and made certain definite recommendations. Honorable senators are able to read Dr. Wade’s reports, which have been supplied to them with other parliamentary papers. The reports are most interesting even to a layman, and they disclose that at present Dr. “Wade recommends boring in only two States and in only two localities. That does not mean that he disregards the possibility or discovering oil anywhere else in Australia, but, having examined various sites in the different States he mentions these two as being most suitable for boring to be undertaken. He refers to Queensland, but at this stage he does not recommend boring there. Although he considers the indications favorable, in he absence of a closer geological survey and detail he is unable to say where bores should be put down. He does not say that the Government should not subsidize boring in Queensland, but that beforewe do so, we should have the geological survey and data to enable us to determine the best site. He arrives at a somewhat similar conclusion in regard to the south and south-west of Victoria, in the direction of South Australia. For the benefit of those who have not had an opportunity to read Dr. Wade’s report. I propose to quote pertinent passages in justification of the action which the Government contemplates taking under the bill. Of the sum of £60,000 provided, £22,500 will be spent on boring operations on the Fitzroy River and in the vicinity of what is known as Price’s Creek, in Western Australia. The exact site on which boring is to be undertaken will be selected by a geologist appointed by the Commonwealth Government.
– Who will advise the Government on the appointment?
– We are arranging with the Western Australian Government to make one of its geologists available. The sum of £22,500 is also to be made available for boring operations at Belford Dome, in the Hunter River district of New South Wales. These are the two sites definitely indicated by Dr. Wade, and any competent geologist with a knowledge of the strata can indicate the best sites on which boring shall be undertaken. A sum of £5,000 is to be made available to enable geological surveys to be made in the region of Longreach, Blackall and Ruthven, and such other areas as may be agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the State Governments. That leaves £10,000 at the disposal of the Government. We have deliberately set that amount aside, because the data that will be available shortly may justify the Government in subsidizing boring in other localities. Dr. Wade has. not said that it would be undesirable to bore in other areas, but suggests that more geological data are necessary.
– He has simply indicated his preference.
– He has done more than that. He has said that, generally speaking, the prospects are hopeful, but there is not sufficient detailed information available to determine upon a definite locality. The Government is, therefore, keeping £10,000 as a reserve amount to be spent in boring elsewhere. It is not intended to spend money in subsidizing any company in the purchase of plant, but only on actual boring where, in the opinion of Dr. Wade, there is a possibility of discovering oil.
– The Government will exercise, I suppose, a fair amount of control over the manner in which the. money is spent on the site selected !
– Certainly. We are negotiating for the temporary service of a geologist to advise us because the Government departments have no special knowledge on this question. We shall have the service of a competent geologist, and shall thus be able to check the work done. It is not proposed to spend any portion of this money on company promoting; expenses incurred in this connexion will not be taken into consideration. Only the money actually expended on boring will be subsidized. I trust the Senate will agree that the Government is wise in conducting investigations within the limits of Dr. Wade’s recommendation because honorable senators will realize the invidious position in which the Government would be placed if action were to be taken oh the advice of many in Australia, who claim to have a knowledge of petrology, and some of whom claim to have qualifications equal to those of, Dr. Wade. It would be impossible for the Government to say that it preferred the advice of Mr. Smith, of New South Wales, to that of Mr. Brown, of Tasmania.
– Dr. Wade is a good man.
– Yes. It would be unreasonable, as I have said, to depart from Dr. Wade’s recommendations. For the information of not only the Senate, but those who require guidance also in making applications, it is necessary for me to quote from the report to indicate the localities in which Dr. Wade recommends the Government should assist. In the report which was laid on the table of. the Senate, and ordered to be printed on the 26th August, 1925, Dr. Wade, in dealing with the Lochinvar and Belford Dome areas, in New South Wales, says -
The geological map accompanying this section of my report gives an adequate idea of the nature of these two dome-like structures, <ind the configuration of the outcroppings qf the beds which have been so folded. The map is based on Professor David’s map of the area, with two or three modifications.
He sets out the modifications, and goes on to say -
Both these modifications were checked in the field by Mr. Millard. A full geological description of the area in great detail is contained in Professor David’s work already cited-.
That is the area in New South Wales where Dr. Wade is of the opinion that boring should be assisted. In this quotation, he says that the geological survey has been completed in greater detail. He goes on to examine the case for and against the discovery of oil in this area, and on page 10 says -
The Belford Dome is open to no objection, so far ns I was able to discover, from a structural point of view. It is developed in the Branxton Beds and the Muree Rock of the Upper Marine Series. The Muree Beds outcrop in a complete oval orientated north and south; the long or north and south axis being 10 miles in length and the east and west axis 5 miles. The village of Belford lies almost exactly at the centre of the Dome.
He then deals with the nature of the country, and continues -
This alone justifies the work which Mr. Millard has done, and may prove very profitable to the State of New South Wales in due course. The fact that the Greta coals come much closer to the surface in this locality has been confirmed by a boring put down at the point indicated on the map. This penetrated to a depth of about 1,460 feet, and passed through 5 feet of coal at this depth. Some bursts of gas were met with during drilling operations, but I was unable to obtain particulars as to the nature of the gas.
On page 15 he gives a summary of his conclusions. The first three are- ^
The seventh is -
That the Belford Dome should be tested for natural gas by drilling to at least 3,000 feet, and that, in addition to possible gas supplies of great commercial value, this boring should also prove a workable extension of the Greta coal measures, which provide the best export coals in Australia.
It is on those recommendations that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to spend £22,500 in subsidies. In his report on the Western Australian possibilities, Dr. Wade says, at page 15 -
Oil in small quantities has certainly been found in porous strata in these Fitzroy River areas at two localities, Mount Wynne and Price’s Creek, at the first place in the massive sandstones in the bore at Mount Wynne, ana at the second in the lower limestones in bores put down at Price’s Creek. lt is important to consider how far these ureas satisfy the conditions laid down. The only sedimentary strata, which we have seen in the Fitzroy area from which oil might have originated, are the shales, thin limestone, and flags of the upper carboniferous (permocarboniferous). These beds contain thin coal seams in places, one such place being the shallow boring for water 6 miles a little east of north of Lower Liveringa Station.
A little lower on the same page he observes -
Finally, the oil may have originated in the fossiliferous limestone of the lower carboniferous. It has not been proved that ofl does not sometimes originate in such limestones, and instances are known where oil may have so originated. If, however, the limestones are the parent rocks, they show little evidence’ of it. Some oil is disseminated through them near Price’s Creek, but the amount is inconsiderable from a commercial point of view.
On page 17, in a general chapter on his conclusions, Dr. Wade says -
These marginal areas on the Fitzroy are the most favorable for the accumulation of oil that I have yet examined in Australia.
Up to the time of making this report, Dr. Wade had not examined the .Belford Dome, in New South Wales, or the Ruthven area, in Queensland. He proceeded to say -
I have set out the case, both in favour of them and against them, as clearly and as impartially as I could. Australia’s great need of oil and the importance of its discovery lead me to discount some of the objections. “There may be a chance of obtaining oil in commercial quantities in this region, possibly in the Price’s
Creek area, though the structure cannot be proved to be satisfactory on present knowledge. A bore there would not have to be drilled so deeply to test the underlying strata as it would on the other areas examined. The area is nearer to the margin of the carboniferous basin, so near that if the oil accumulation is of limited extent, and is being held against the junction with the underlying and rapidly rising metamorphic floor, there is a chance of striking it in this area. Moreover, there is greater evidence of the accumulation of oil here than elsewhere. Normally, I would expect the oil to be trapped on the down-throw side of the fault, since the fault forms a kind of limit to the rising beds of the carboniferous basin. The evidence at Price’s Creek is that the oil has escaped either through or along the fault, and has reached the upthrow side, since the only evidence of oil found so far at Price’s Creek are on the upthrow side of the faulting.
The Government is also prepared on this recommendation by Dr. Wade to subsidize the boring operations in this locality in Western Australia to the extent of £22,500. I wish now to refer to the report Dr. Wade submitted on “ The Possibility of Oil Discovery in Queensland.” This, too, is a parliamentary paper. He speaks very favorably of the prospects in the country running north of the railway line between Miles and Roma, around Juandah, Orallo, and Injune. On page 17 of his reporthe says -
In dealing with this section of Queensland, we can include also the area between Longreach and Isisford,in which the Ruthven bore is situated, since it is underlain by the Walloon strata, which constitute the most promising ground so far as oil prospects are concerned.
Later, on the same page, he observes -
The only geological series with which we need to interest ourselves is the. Walloon series, for it is from this series that the best evidences of the existence of oil and gas have been obtained in Queensland. (See map.)
Dealing with the structural geology of this particular area, on page 20,’ he says -
Practically no detailed geology, which would facilitate the working out of minor structures, has been done in this Walloon area, and such work will not he an easy task.
I ask honorable senators to compare that remark with his observation about the Belford Dome. He goes on to say -
The country consists mostly of low rounded hills and broad depressions, together with extensive plain areas. It is covered for the most part with forest and scrub, and in parts of the area, as in the country on either side of the railway line between Miles and Juandah, prickly pear has taken such hold as to be almost impenetrable except on horseback, and even then the horses suffer badly from the spines, which the rider cannot altogether avoid either. Again, over wide areas outcrops are scanty and uncertain. The beds dip at low angles, or are nearly horizontal, and are covered with a mantle of soil or sand. In spite of all these difficulties, I am of opinion that much could be accomplished by detailed surveys, and such surveys will be very necessary if satisfactory structures are tobe defined in this region. With the exception of the prickly pear, similar difficulties have been overcome elsewhere, and it is surprising how structures reveal themselves and piece together when isolated fragments of a territory, not too far apart, are worked out in accurate detail. Sufficient of the area was traversed and sufficient outcrops were observed for me to come to the conclusion that both folding and faulting are present in these Walloon strata, and that detailed structural mapping can be done in some areas. Some of the folding observed is on too small a scale to be considered in connexion with oil supplies, butthere are some indications of larger structures in places. Reverse dips were noted both near Juandah and Injune, and again with less certainty north of Orallo, though time would not permit of any attempt to follow up such indications. Dr. Jensen, withmore time at his disposal, thinks that dome-like structures are present, for example, near Flagstone Creek, north-west of Orallo, and near the head of Bungil Creek, while Mr. Ball tellsme that he noted evidence of a similar structure in the neighbourhood of Tambo. Detailed mapping is the only way in which the existence of such structures can be confirmed and made certain.
On page 21 he says, in regard to the necessity for surveys -
Any one who attempts to form an opinion as to the existence of petroleum in commercial quantities in the Walloon strata of this part of Queensland from surface evidences must find himself faced with very great difficulties. In the first place, no seepages of either oil or natural gas have been observed throughout the whole extent of the area with which we are dealing. The value of such surface evidences is very great indeed. I know of very few oil-fields the development of which has not been due, either directly or indirectly, to their presence.
On page 23, speaking of ‘this most likely locality, he remarks -
If oil has originated in such quantities, are the structural conditions so satisfactory that the oil so formed may have accumulated in commercial quantities? This is another question which is difficult to answer. While I have suggested that such structures may exist, they require to be proved by much more detailed geological work than has been done up to the present time.
A little later, he says -
It is necessary, therefore, to know just how persistent beds are, and detailed geological survey work will throw much light upon this, as well as upon the finer structural features present in the area.
On page 30 he states -
I suggest that an attempt should be made to geologically map this area in as great detail as possible, and that special attention be given to localities where there is any indication of suitable structural conditions. Even if natural gas only be obtained, provided that it is in such quantities as were proved to exist in the No. 3 bore at Roma, the exploitation of such gas should prove profitable, and would be likely to lead to the development of secondary industries in this part of Queensland.
At the foot of the same page he adds -
I sincerely hope that the work which I have indicated to be necessary will be embarked upon, and a greater area will be methodically prospected than is the case at present, and that success will attend these efforts to find oil for Australia.
Last week, the Queensland Minister for Mines waited upon me to request that the Commonwealth should do something to help the Lander Oil Company to sink another bore at Orallo. There was a suggestion of something sinister in connexion with the second borethat it had sunk, and, as honorable senators know, the first onecould not be completed. I replied that the Government could not contemplate subsidizing any boring for oil in Queensland or elsewhere until the geological surveys which Dr. Wade said were essential had been made.
– That is a sound position to take.
– The Minister assured me that, as soon as Dr. Wade’s report was published, the Queensland Government set about the work of making a geological map of its oil areas. I then said that, if the Department of Mines would notify that the surveys mentioned by Dr. Wade had been properly made, the Commonwealth Government might be disposed to subsidize the boring operations.
– The first bore that was sunk at Orallo provided the authorities with some valuable data.
– That is so. Dr. Wade in his report, favorably comments on that. He was very much impressed with the prospects there. He said that the prospecting was in good hands, and would probably be successful. Unfortunately, that bore was not completed. Personally, I do not intend to budge from the condition laid down by Dr. Wade, that geological surveys of all the country that is prospected must be made before any assistance in boring operations will be given by the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 12.56 to2 p.m.
– I have dealt with the position in Western Australia and New South Wales and Queensland. I now come to Victoria and South Australia. Dr. Wade was requested to report on the areas on the border between Victoria and South Australia in the vicinity of the lower reaches of the Glenelg River and of Mount Gambier; around Lake McDonnell, near Penong on the Great Australian Bight; and also a tract of country extending from the Fitzgerald River to the Inlet at Nornalup, west of Albany, on the southern coast of Western Australia. All these areas have been indicated by companies as having features favorable to the discovery of oil. The report that I am now about to read is not yet a parliamentary paper, but I understand that it is before the Printing Committee. Dr. Wade stated -
From a purely geological point of view the remaining areas possess features upon which I should have been glad to have spent more time, but since I found them to be geologically unsuitable as potential producers of petroleum in commercial quantities I could not have spent more time in their examination to any great advantage for the purposes of this report.
I should like to pay tribute to many of the men who have been earnestly and persistently prospecting for oil in Australia, encountering many difficulties and enduring many hardships in the best pioneering spirit; also to those who, with patriotic and unselfish motives, have spent much time and money in putting down test bores in certain areas. If it had been possible to have got some of these men together, and, by means of one or two lectures, given them better ideas of what the necessary conditions are, and of what is of importance and what is not, I think it would have been good. But in the ultimate stages of prospecting trained geologists are absolutely necessary, since they alone could work out the structural conditions in most of the areas I have seen, and structure is the most important of the conditions which affect the possible presence of commercial supplies of oil.
I have dealt with that part of this area which lies on the South Australian side of the border, in my report to the State Government in 1915. Nothing has been brought to my notice since that report was written which would lead me to alter any of the opinions therein expressed. Old sand dune formations overlie the tertiary deposits, which consist mostly of fossiliferous limestones at the surface over the whole of this area. The false-beddings so prevalent in dune formations have been taken for true dips- and structures worked out from them which are quite unreliable. These old dune formations can be observed to be dipping in every conceivable direction within a very few yards. Satisfactory structural conditions cannot be worked out from such data.
There is undoubtedly some folding in the underlying tertiary deposits, a strong monoclinal fold being observable in the strata forming the gorge of the GlenelgRiver, a few miles above Donovan’s Landing. Before any “wildcat” drilling is done for oil, however, it is necessary to ascertain that the structure is a closed one, and there is no reliable evidence that such a structure has been located in this area. It is possible that such structural conditions exist, but it would take at least six months, and possibly twelve months, of patient work by a well-qualified geologist, who would have to work, in this case, in collaboration with a palaeontologist with such sound knowledge of the tertiary fossils that he could divide the sequence of these tertiary strata into recognizable zones, before such a structure could he worked out and definitely located. In my opinion, it is useless to continue boring holes in the ground until this is done. . . I thinkit would be worth while making the detailed geological examination of this region which I have suggested. If a good closed structure is revealed, or a series of such structures, then a satisfactory site for a test bore can be selected, and a well can be drilled to such a depth as may be necessary to test the oilbearing possibilities of the underlying strata. One test bore so located will settle the problem finally, and at less cost than continuing to drill wells which have been located on unsatisfactory data.
That is clear, even to a layman, and therefore this Government takes the view that if the Governments of Victoria and South Australia, either jointly or separately, will undertake to carry out the geological survey recommended by Dr. Wade, it is prepared to share in the cost of the work. If the data then obtained indicates sites favorable for putting down bores the Government will then be prepared to consider the subsidizing of boring.
– Willhe Government do the same in Tasmania?
– We have no recommendation from Dr. Wade in regard to that State.
– But if the prospects were good in another State would not the Government consider the granting of assistance ?
– If the area is one that Dr. Wade has not examined it will be necessary to have it inspected and reported upon by an acknowledged authority on the subject.
– Is not Dr. Wade returning to Australia?
– He may do so, and I certainly hope that he will come back. Dealing with the Lake McDonnell district in South Australia and the Western Australian area, he does not recommend the expenditure of any money on geological surveys, nor does he recommend any expenditure on boring. He concludes his report in these words: -
With regard to the remaining areas visited in South Australia and Western Australia, I regret to say that, no matter how much I should like to be able to report in their favour, I can only say that I regard them as absolutely without value from the point of view of obtaining oil in quantities which would pay to work.
I have put these quotations into Hansard so that they may afford an indication to companies and prospectors as to the lines upon which the Government will proceed in regard to this bill. Possibly there are other areas that have not yet been examined, but which some persons consider are worth examination. The Government is prepared to consider in the future the claims of such areas; but in regard to areas that Dr. Wade has reported upon the Government is not prepared to go beyond his recommendations. Otherwise we should have to rely upon local experts, and invidious distinctions would have to be made. In regard to oil prospects we can only accept the opinions of men such as Dr. Wade, who has a high standing in the geological world. His many years’ experience is acknowledged by companies that have backed their opinion of him by- the expenditure of their money, and generally with satisfactory results. If the amount voted by the bill is disbursed it does not necessarily follow that greater assistance will not be given subsequently in other parts of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a. second time.
This measure does not contain any very important principles. It is mainly a drafting bill. The New Guinea Act 1920’, made provision for the acceptance of the mandate from the League of Nations for the Territory of New Guinea, and the amendments made by this bill are required merely for the better working of that act.
As to clause 2 of the bill, section 9 of the act empowers the Governor-General to appoint a person to act as Administrator when the Administrator is absent from the Territory or is unable by reason of illness or incapacity to perform his duties. There is, however, no provision in the act to permit of the Administrator retaining his powers when on duty outside the Territory. This official pays periodical visits to Melbourne to consult the Minister in regard to matters connected with the administration of the Territory, and it has been found that during these visits occasions frequently arise on which it is desirable that he should take action in his official capacity. The amendments proposed in clause 2 of the bill will enable him to retain the powers of his office when he leaves the Territory. As to clause 3 (a) of the bill, section 14 of the act provides that the Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in the Territory. To facilitate the administration of the laws of the Territory and to overcome certain legal difficulties, which are likely to arise by virtue of the laws of the Territory only having force within the limits of the Territory, it is considered desirable that the act should be amended to enable the Governor-General to make ordinances having the force of law “in and in relation to “ the Territory. No specific cases have yet arisen, in connexion with the laws of New Guinea, where the difficulty mentioned has presented itself, but such a difficulty might at any time arise in connexion with the administration of an ordinance such as the Lands Registration Ordinance of the Territory, which allows persons outside the Territory to take certain action while such persons cannot, as the law now stands, be dealt with in the same manner as persons in the Territory. As to clause 3 (b) of the bill, section 14 (c) of the act provides that ordinances made by the Governor-General shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament, within fourteen days of the making thereof, or, if Parliament is not then sitting, within fourteen days after the next meeting of Parliament. Difficulty has been experienced in complying with the requirements of this section, as it is not always possible to obtain printed copies of the documents within the time specified.It is therefore desired that the period within which the action required by this section should be taken be extended to 30 days. The measure does nothing to lessen the control by Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
.- I moveThat the bill be now read a second time. This measure was before the Senate last session. During the late war, and for some time afterwards, it was found necessary to have the legislation for the suspension of which this bill provides to enable the registration of aliens to be taken up as a precautionary step in the interests of the Commonwealth. That power is not required at all times during peace, but we never know when events may render it desirable to have it. I remind honorable senators that it may become necessary at any time in connexion with our White Australia policy. It is a most desirable power to have on the statute-books, so that it can be brought into operation if the circumstances demand it. At one time it was proposed to repeal the measure, but on further consideration it was thought desirable to retain power to suspend its operation so that it could be brought into force at any time when the circumstances warranted the adoption of that course.
– Is there any precedent for the suspension of an act in this way ?
– I do not know that there is. But this class of legislation stands by itself. It is really a part of our defence law, and it is a very good power to have dormant so that if the occasion warrants it may be brought into operation by proclamation.
– When addressing myself to this measure last session I said that the act to which it related was a relic of war legislation, and I would prefer to see it repealed instead of suspended.
If, however, the Government deems it advisable at any time to bring it into operation by proclamation, Parliament will be consulted before any such proclamation can become effective. In the circumstances I have no objection to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
.- I move-
That the hill be now read a second time.
This is the complement of another measure which deals with the payment of bounties on the production of certain tropical products in the territories mentioned. It provides for the granting of preferential duties on certain tropical products of Papua and New Guinea coming into Australia. Although Papua has been a territory of the Commonwealth for so long very little has been done to encourage trade with Australia. On the contrary, by the provision of the Navigation Act we have hampered trade. This bill and the other measure referred to, represent a change of heart on the part of the Commonwealth, because their purpose is to encourage tropical agriculture on certain defined lines by means of preferential duties and bounties so as to establish such industriesin those territories and help to make them selfsupporting. This policy should be mutually advantageous, especially if future legislation is on similar lines. Papua is being assisted to the extent of £50,000 a year, and the Territory of New Guinea is also receiving a special grant of £10,000 a year. In addition, there has been other expenditure, notably in connexion with mail services amounting to many thousands a year purely for the benefit of the Territories. At this stage I should like to acknowledge and express thanks for the very great assistance rendered to the Government by Mr. Percy Wilkinson, the Government Analyst, who was sent to Papua and New Guinea to advise on the best means for the encouragement of tropical agriculture there. Mr. Wilkinson was particularly fitted for this task because he is something more than a chemist. He is recognised as one of the world’s leading experts in tropical agriculture, and on more than one occasion has received tempting offers to leave Australia to take up the direction of tropical agriculture in other countries. However, his interests are here, and we have been able to retain his services. The work which he has done for the Government in Papua and New Guinea is by no means the least valuable of services which he has rendered to this country. In deciding the commodities upon which bounties willbe paid, the Government adhered to the principle that as far as possible encouragement should be given for the production only of those commodities which do not come into active competition with similar commodities produced in the Commonwealth itself. For example, it is not proposed to pay bounty on the production of sugar or maize. Both may be grown in the Territory, but both are also produced extensively in the Commonwealth. Copra and rubber, which are the main products of the Territories, are also excluded because persons engaged in those industries have had considerable relief by the suspension of the provision of the Navigation Act as from the 1st of September last.
– And the industries are showing good profits now.
– The rubber market was depressed for many years, but it is buoyant now, and I understand that the rubber companies with plantations in the Territories are doing very well. Copra was also depressed for many years, but prices have risen lately. The consumption of copra in Australia represents only about 9,000 tons a year, and as the total production of Papua and New Guinea in 1924-25 was over 45,000 tons, it is evident that the industry is fairly well established, and can hold its own in the markets of the world. The tropical products selected by the Government, after most exhaustive inquiry, for the application of bounties and a preferential tariff, are those specially adapted to the climatic conditions of the Territories, and for which an established market already exists in the Commonwealth, representing value at the present time of nearly £2,,000,000. Products such as bananas, citrus fruits, maize, peanuts, and sugar, which can be readily produced in thf Territories, have been omitted from the Government preference and bounty proposals for the reason that they are commercially grown within the Commonwealth. A few figures relating to these Territories, and covering the last five years, may be interesting. The imports into the Commonwealth, from Papua in 192.0-21 amounted in value to £325,773; in 1921-2, to £163,232; in 1922-5, to £209,193; in 1923-4, to £471,953; and in the last financial year, 1924-5, to £295,199. The value of our exports to Papua was, over the five years, respectively £292,851, £172,419, £219,225, £214,839, and £259,302. The exports from Australia to Papua include goods not of Australian origin. The value of goods of Australian production exported to Papua over the five years was, respectively £163,449. £88,643, £111,442, £116,954, and £141,309. The value of the import and export trade of Papua over the five years was, respectively - Imports, £484,770, £305,705, £315,423, £354,965, £459,080. Exports, £172,672, £220,236, £179,452, £239,408, and £367,629. The exports from Papua in order ‘of value are - Copra, rubber, pearls, beche-de-mer, pea~l shell and trochus shell. In 1924-5 the exports from Papua were valued as follows: - Copra, £172,905; rubber, £68,507; copper, £41,674; pearls, £19,300; beche-de-mer, £10,351; pearl shell, £8,773; gold, £14,980; osmiridium, £3,630; and sisal hemp, £13,141. These figures show that the commodities to be affected by the proposals of the Government are produced in Papua in minor quantities only. The Territory of New Guinea has reached a higher state of productiveness than the Territory of Papua, as the figures of the import and export trade clearly show. In the last five financial years the value of goods imported -.’into the Territory of New Guinea was, respectively: - £661,441, £468,711, £516,855, £485,634, and £537.940. The value of the exports was, respectively- £673,992, £499,197, £630,892, £718,535, and £858,990. The exports are similar in value and variety to the Papuan exports, with the exception of pearls; and the export of copra and rubber comprises from three-quarters to seven-eighths pf the total exports of those Territories. The value of’ the
Australian import and export trade with the Territory of New Guinea for the year 1924-5 was - Imports into Australia, £470,574; and exports from Australia, £268,664. The Australian exports to> New Guinea include also a considerable number of oversea products. The foreign goods that go through Australia consist mostly of petrol, kerosene, cotton goods, and machinery. Nearly the whole of the foodstuffs that are consumed in both Papua and New Guinea are of Australian origin. Papua has a Legislative Council that possesses certain legislative powers. It can, if it thinks fit, give a preference to Australian imports, and I have no doubt that it will take reciprocal action to give a preferential tariff to Australian goods. Under the terms of the mandate it is not possible for New Guinea to give a preference to Australia, although Australia may give a, preference to it.
– Has Papua indicated its intention to give a preference to Australia?
– Is the Papuan Government free to frame its own tariff?
– Yes. The Commonwealth Government believes that these measures will have the effect of stimulating production, and, what is more important, that it will assist to link up the trade of Papua and New Guinea with Australia. When one realizes what an important country in the Pacific Australia is, and how necessary it is for us to link up with all British communities in the Pacific, one must see that this is a step in the right direction. We have today practically a monopoly of the trade with both Papua and New Guinea. Anything that we can do, by bounty or preference, to still further increase that trade and hold it must have a beneficial effect upon Australia.
– Burns, Philp and Company have the monopoly.
– That company has a hold upon the carrying trade. The articles that are subject to preference are coffee,, dried and fresh fruits of certain kinds, edible fungi, green ginger, Rangoon beans, nuts of various kinds, and kapok. When I deal with the bill that is complementary to this I shall give particulars regarding the consumption in Australia of those articles, to show what a splendid market Australia offers ‘for them. The mere mention of their names does not convey a very great deal, but a consideration of the extent to which they are used in our manufacturing industries will bring a realization of the fact that this is a valuable instalment of preference and bounty to the Territories.
– Are the goods upon which it is proposed to pay a bounty being produced in the Territory ?
– Some of them are not, but all of them can be. I shall give the facts regarding those goods when I deal with the next bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now reada second time. This measure is complementary to that with which we have just dealt. The Commonwealth has at different times granted to the Territory of Papua loans amounting to £100,897. The amount which still has to be repaid to the Commonwealth is £93,302. That money was made available for the construction of reservoirs, wharfs, and roads, for general development, and for the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. In addition, the Commonwealth has granted an annual subsidy, which started at £20,000 a year and was increased at various times until it now stands at £50,000 a year. On the 1st July, 1901, we subsidized the Territory of Papua at the rate of £20,000 a year. That continued for eight years, and on the 1st July, 1909, we raised the subsidy to £25,000 a year, at which amount it remained for three years. On the 1st July, 1912, it was further increased to £30,000, where it remained for about eight and a half years, until the 1st January, 1921, when it was increased to £50,000 a year. The total subsidies, therefore, that the Territory of Papua alone has had from the Commonwealth since we took it over amount to the large sum of £752,000. In addition to these subsidies to enable Papua to carry on the services of government, the Papuan portion of the shipping subsidy for the Pacific Islands amounts to £12,000 a year. To the Territory of New
Guinea the Commonwealth grants an annual subsidy of £10,000 for the benefit of the natives, and that is spent on agriculture and health matters. The Commonwealth grant of £10,000 for medical services in the Territory of New Guinea was made in 1922. A Commonwealth loan of £67,000 was also granted this year for the construction of wharfs and for drainage; and the New Guinea proportion of the mail subsidy amounts to £16,000. It will be seen that the Commonwealth has spent, and is spending, considerable sums of money on those Territories. It is in the interest of the Commonwealth to make them self-supporting. The bill provides for the payment of a maximum sum of £25,000 a year by way of bounties, over a period of ten years. A carry-over can be made from year to year, but not more than the amount appropriated - £250,000 - can be spent in the period of ten years. In other bounty measures the Commonwealth has limited the period to five years. The reason for the difference in this case is that nearly the whole of these bounties will be payable on tropical agricultural products, some of which do not come into bearing for periods ranging from three to five years. A bounty limited to five years would not be an inducement to persons to grow those tropical products. A very careful calculation has been made regarding the developments that can be expected to follow the application of these proposals. It has been calculated that the appropriation of an annual sum of £25,000 over a period of ten years will cover the developments that can reasonably be expected. It may be stated with every assurance that most of Australia’s requirements of kapok, coir, sisal, and manila hemp, rubber, cocoa beans, bamboo, and rattan, coffee, coco-nuts, desiccated coco-nut, vanilla beans, spices and sago can eventually be produced in the Territories. Australia imports every year tropical products to the value of. nearly £2,000,000. The details of these importations for the year 1923-24 are, approximately: kapok, £350,000; coir, £13,000; sisal and manila hemp, £300,000; rubber, £456,000; cocoa beans, £231,000; bamboo and rattan, £45,000; coffee, £130,000; coco-nuts, £3,000; coco-nut, desiccated, £98,000; vanilla beans, £18,600; spices, £135,000; and sago, £3,500: making a total of £1,783,100. The Government believes that the passage of these bills will help it to dispose of the expropriated properties. Many of the goods that are the subject of these bounties can be grown as catch crops, or as crops associated with the main crop of copra or rubber by those who are considering the purchase of the expropriated properties. Let me give a few of the details regarding some of these items. Cocoa beans (raw, whole or roasted), and cocoa shells (raw), are at present admitted free from all countries.Those goods provide raw material for our manufacturers, particularly confectionery manufacturers. During 1923-24, 9,500,000 lb. were imported, the value being £231,719. They were valued at from 50s. to 108s. per cwt. During that year there were no importations from Papua, but 215,370 lb. were imported from the Territory of New Guinea, the value being £5,353. The principal countries from which cocoa beans were imported during 1923-24 were-
There is no reason why the Territories should not supply the great bulk of our requirements in that very important article. Take fibres, such as manila and sisal hemp. They are at present duty free from all countries. The imports for the year 1923-24 amounted to 155,000 centals, of a value of £307,300. The import price of manila hemp averages about £95 a ton. The proposed bounty of £6 a ton will therefore mean a protection of little more than 6 per cent. Sisal hemp averages about £50 a ton, and the proposed bounty of £6 a ton is therefore equal to about 12 per cent. The importations of this commodity are principally from the Philippine Islands, Netherlands, East Indies, and New Zealand. It is the raw material required by our rope and twine manufacturers. Take coir, which is really a by-product of the copra industry. It is obtained by treatment of the coco-nut husks, which at present are wasted in both Papua and New Guinea. The importations of coir into Australia for the year 1923-24 totalled 18,129 cwt., valued at £13,15S. Practically the whole of our imports come from Ceylon. The pro- posed bounty of £3 will be equal to about 20 per cent, of the average value of the coir which we import. This industry should undoubtedly be commenced and stimulated by a bounty. The imports of sago for 1923-24 amounted to 262,443 lb., valued at £3,530. The greater part came from British Malaya. Vanilla beans are at present free of duty. The imports for 1923-24 totalled 22,850 lb., valued at £18,673. They came principally from the Society Islands, in the South Seas. Bamboos and rattans are at present free of duty. The value of the imports in 1923-24 was £45,886. The principal countries from which they came were the Netherlands, East Indies, China, and British Malaya. The average value was about £51 a ton, and the proposed bounty is approximately 8 per cent, ad val. Nothing is more suitable in a hot climate than cane or rattan furniture. It is a mistake to think that that furniture is made with the ordinary bamboo; only certain selected varieties can be used. There is an indigenous bamboo in both Papua and New Guinea, but it is not the kind that is used in furniture malting. That will have to be cultivated. In both Papua and New Guinea the climate and the soil are suitable for its cultivation.
– Will the bounty be paid on true sago, or on tapioca?
– True sago. The sago palm is indigenous to the Territory.
– The sago from Malaya is almost wholly tapioca.
– The present import duty on spices is 2d. per lb. Spices unground, for manufacturing purposes, are free from all countries. During 1923-4 nearly 3,627,359 lbs., valued at £124,472, were imported, and during that year there were no importations from the Territories. There is no reason why the whole of this quantity should not be grown in the Territories, seeing that the climate and soil are suitable. The importations of kapok during 1923-4 totalled 5,854,642 lb., valued at £349,000, practically the whole of which came from Java. The kapok tree has been successfully cultivated in New Guinea and Papua; and one aspect of this question is of great importance to the copra industry. The kapok tree is a natural habitat of the .red ant known in the Territory as Kurakum, which is one of the most active natural controlling agencies of the coco-nut leaf disease due to the beetle known as Promccotheca antiqua. This beetle, which is very prevalent in New Britain, and is also found at Manus and the Solomon Islands, has already worked considerable havoc and heavy financial loss in numerous coco-nut plantations, causing the palms to look as if a plague of locusts had passed through them. The planting of frequent rows of kapok, followed by the introduction of the red ant, is regarded by competent entomologists as a most effective method of combating the Promecotheca beetle. Honorable senators who are aware of the work done by what are known as ladybirds in eradicating the pests which infest some of our apple orchards, will realize that the introduction of the kapok tree as a commercial source of kapok floss will also enable us to introduce the red ant to combat the ravages of this destructive beetle. This industry inPapua and the mandated Territories should profit by the extended experiments and experience ofthe Dutch kapok planters, by starting with only the strain of seed obtained from selected cultures in mid-Java. Australia imports about 2,600 tons of kapok annually at an average value of1s. 2d. a lb. Returns cannot be expected from the kapok tree in less than five or six years, but instead of importing supplies from Java, as we have been doing in the past, we should be able to establish a valuable industry in the Territories under our control.
– Will any portion of the £25,000 unexpended at the end of a financial year be added to the money available in subsequent years?
– Yes, so long as the total of £250,000 is not exceeded within the ten years period.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal provision of this bill, which honorable senators will remember was introduced during the last Parliament, is to amend that section of the act which provides that, if a referendum is to be taken, a pamphlet shall be issued, setting forth the case for and against the question to be referred to the electors. That may or may not be necessary. Where it is considered desirable, the necessary steps may be taken under this bill to have the pamphlet prepared and circulated. But as there may be some instances where it is generally conceded that an alteration is desired, and that the issue of a pamphlet is unnecessary, the act should be amended so as to make it unnecessary to incur such expense. If the principal act is amended in the direction desired, a great deal of money will be saved, as under it the issue of a pamphlet is automatic and arbitrary.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to the reply of the Minister for Markets and Migration (Senator Wilson) to certain comments I made a few days ago concerning the Commonwealth migration policy and our representation in London. I hasten to do so, because I am afraid I must have been misunderstood, at least in regard to one particular portion of my speech. The point to which I wish to specifically refer is that in relation to Mr. Shepherd, the Official Secretary to the High Commissioner. The reply of the Minister was that the High Commissioner’s Office did not understand my reference to Mr. Shepherd. I had not the slightest intention of commenting upon the absence of Mr. Shepherd from Australia House. I merely stated that when Mr. Cann visited Australia House, not on business, but merely to pay a call, he saw Mr. Southwell, who in a courteous way suggested that he should interview the High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook). Mr. Cann had no official business to transact with the High Commissioner, but he decided to call on him. He found that Sir Joseph Cook was attending the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva. I have, of course, no objection to the High Commissioner attending such a gathering, because there is no more important work upon which Australia’s representative in London could be engaged. Mr. Cann was then advised Lo see Mr. Shepherd, who, it was found, was- keeping an appointment, and would not return to his office until 3.30 p.m. Mr. Cann was then asked to see the Chief Clerk, but found that he, too, was attending to an appointment, and would not be returning until 2.30 p.m. The Agent-General for New South Wales was then called upon, and as he was absent Mr. Cann visited the AgentGeneral for South Australia (Mr. Price), who happened to be in. If I have been misunderstood, I am at fault for not having expressed myself as clearly as I intended. I had not the slightest intention of doing Mr. Shepherd an injustice. My principal complaint in regard to the administration of the Migration Department has not been answered by the Minister. Mr. Cann was informed that he could not nominate migrants from London. We are also told that the nominations were duplicated, which seems to support my contention. Mr. John Cann, who was in London, was not permitted to nominate his friends, and consequently his brother in Australia, Mr. George Cann, was requested to make the nomination. The three families, as I mentioned when discussing this matter on a previous occasion, were medically examined on the nomination of Mr. John Cann, and, although they passed the medical and character test, were again medically examined on the nomination of Mr. George Cann. That point has not been answered. Further, when Mr. John Cann wished to nominate three persons, he was told that he could nominate only one, but some time afterwards it was discovered that the embargo had been removed and that a person could nominate more than one. If the embargo has been removed for two years, as I believe it has, why were not the officials in London aware of iti This point is emphasized by a paragraph which appeared in the press yesterday to the effect that a Mr. Waddy had complained that nominations in England were not accepted. If that is the case, we should know why. We have been informed that some of the Australian governments object to nominations being made in England, and if that is the case,- we should know the reason.
– It is done every week.
– That makes the position even worse. I should like the Government to ascertain which of the State Governments are opposed to the nominee system, and why? When I referred to this matter on the 27th January, the Minister in reply said that it must be remembered that we were dealing with flesh and blood. I freely admit that; but it is no reason why we should not attempt to solve this great problem. I was not asked by either Mr. Cann or the members of the family concerned to mention this matter on the floor of the Senate. T did so on general principles. I am exceedingly sorry if I suggested that Mr. Cann had complained that he was not properly received at Australia House, for I did not intend to do so. I should like the Minister to reply to the complaints that I made, for I do not think he has yet done so. If his reply the other day satisfied him, it did not satisfy me.
[3.3]. - After Senator Thomas made his complaint about the unsatisfactory way in which the nominee system was being managed, I sent a cablegram to London to ask for details. The reply that I received, and gave subsequently to the honorable senator, was that owing to the shipping strike more than 1,000 immigrants were delayed in London. The authorities there very rightly, in my opinion, decided that they should be sent away in the order of their selection. It would be folly for the honorable senator or anybody else to suggest that the shipping strike did not delay immigrants and other travellers as well. If the inference from the remarks made by Senator Thomas about Mr. J. H. Cann’s visit to Australia House was not that the officers there were negligent, I should like to know what it was. It seemed to me that their sole object was to show that Mr. Cann was not received with that courtesy that he or any other Australian visitor to London has the right to expect. He said that when Mr. Cann arrived he was met by Mr. Southwell, who treated him very well. The High Commissioner was not in, nor was Mr. Shepherd; and when they went to the office of Sir Arthur Cox, the Agent-General for New South Wales, he was also out. Why’ did Senator Thomas give all this detail if it were not to show that the officers were inattentive to their duties!
– If the Minister will read my remarks he will see that I said nothing like that.
– I am glad to have Senator Thomas’s disclaimer. A littlelater in the same speech the honorable senator remarked that he had learned only recently that I had charge of the Department of Markets and Migration. I must confess that I am astonished that an honorable senator, who has just been through an election campaign, did not know until lately who were the Ministers in the Government he was supporting. He observed -
Since it is his department I should like to have information from him as to why this sort of thing is allowed. Perhaps the Minister will be able to answer this riddle : If in nine months you cannot bring one nominated immigrant here, how long will it take to bring 100,000? If results like these are achieved under Sir Victor Wilson, whose ability has carried him to such dazzling heights in so short a time, what may we expect from a less talented migration administrator?
Those remarks are a little beyond a joke. As head of the Migration Department, I resent keenly unfair reflections on its officers. If the honorable senator had any real grounds for complaint he might have referred them to me personally before he mentioned them on the floor of the Senate. I am glad at any time to investigate, and, if possible, remove any ground for complaint. We have not reached perfection, and honorable senators should realize it. Before I replied to Senator Thomas’s questions the other day, I took the precaution to communicate what I proposed to say to Mr. Cann. He said that it was a very effective answer.
– Since the Minister thinks it right to refer to a private communication with Mr. Cann, I think I am at liberty to say that Mr. Cann told me that it was nonsense to say that the shipping strike was responsible for the delay in the arrival in Australia of these particular nominated immigrants.
– Every sensible man in the community must admit that the strike was responsible for a great many delays.
– These people expected to leave England long ago, and, in anticipation of an early departure, sold their house and furniture.
– The shipping strike was responsible for the delay. I assure honorable senators that the department is anxious to remedy anything that is wrong. I appeal for their co-operation and ask them to desist from any unnecessary adverse criticism.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 February 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260205_senate_10_112/>.