10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to know if it is a fact that it has been decided to confer a title upon each member of the Federal Parliament when we meet at Canberra?
– Order! The honorable senator is not in order in asking a frivolous question.
– If it is a fact, will the authorities make it known that nothing leas than a dukedom will satisfy honorable members of this Parliament?
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate when the information for which I have asked as to the number and cost of boards and commissions appointed by the Government, will be available.
– It would not take more than half an hour to ascertain the number of boards and commissions in existence, but, in order to arrive at the actual cost of each, considerable time must be occupied in an examination of the records of the various departments. Until that work is completed, the information for ‘ which the honorable senator has asked, cannot be made available.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What were the amount and value of supplies purchased by the Defence Department from the F ederal Woollen Mills during the past twelve months?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the followinganswer to the honorable senator’s question: - 126,296 yards of clothing material (cloth, serge, cord, &c.) for the Naval, military, and Air Services and clothing factory, to the value of £47,906, were purchased from the Federal Woollen Mills during the period 1st July, 1925, to 30th June, 1926.
Business Sites - Designs of Houses : Resignation op Architect.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories^ upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable senator is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the architect who designed the homes for civil servants shown in the pamphlet recently circulated by the Federal Capital Commission, has resigned his position?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW Inquiries are being made regarding this matter, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Was any offer, direct or indirect, made by the Government to any person to fill a position on the Commission to be created under the Migration and Development Bill before that bill had passed its final stage in the Senate?
– The Prime Minister supplies the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
Prior to the determination to submit to Parliament the proposals embodied in the Migration and Development Bill, consideration was given to the matter of making of suitable appointments to the commission which the Government proposed to constitute. In this connexion, the Government has in view a suitable appointee as chairman of the commission, who was approached in order to ascertain whether he would be willing to accept the appointment, if selected.
– Arising out of that answer, may I put to the Leader of the Senate the question I put yesterday?
– The time for asking questions without notice has passed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW. The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions. -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime. Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1, 2, and 3. The question of suitable arrangements in connexion with the proposed visit of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York, is receiving close attention by the Commonwealth Government, but no decision on the lines indicated by the honorable senator has yet been reached. His suggestion with regard to the representation of senators and members of the House of Representatives on any committees which may be appointed by the Commonwealth Government will, however, receive careful consideration.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
In committee (Consideration resumed from 21st July, vide page 4397) :
– I should like to ascertain from the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways the intentions of the Government concerning the ballasting of the east-west railway. Honorable senators who have travelled over the line realize that the section through the Ooldea Hills, owing to the peculiar nature of the country, needs ballasting, not only to ensure a greater rate of speed over the whole system, but also to minimize discomfort to passengers. During the summer months the dust in that locality is a source of trouble to the mechanical equipment, and also causes inconvenience to travellers. It has been admitted by those who have travelled the world that the service is excellent, but the Minister controlling the department should be reminded that improvements are necessary in order to make it even more efficient.
– Of the amount provided £44,000 is for ballasting.
– On what portion of the line? I should like to see the money expended wisely, and greater attention given to the ballasting of the sandy country than, say, the Nullarbor Plain, where the rock formation is close to the surface. Heavy trains swinging round curves on the unballasted portion of the line necessarily damage the permanent way considerably. In this matter of ballasting we should, I think, hold to the maxim “first things first,” that is to say, ballast first those portions of the line that most need attention.
– The government of the day established an excellent precedent by applying a considerable portion of the profits from the note issue to the construction of the east-west railway. In this way the sum of £3,428,518 was pro vided without interest, and although the total cost of the line at the 30th June, 1924, was £7,425,845, the amount upon which interest has to be paid is only about half that sum. This has been a very substantial help to the finances of the line. As the profits now being derived from the note issue and, to a less extent, from the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, are not being used for the extension of the bank’s business, some portion should be set aside for either the construction of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs or for the unification of the railway systems of the Commonwealth.
– What about the track on the Nullarbor Plain?
– The east-west line is provided for in this schedule to the extent of £130,000, and we have just been informed that about £40,000 will be expended on ballasting. That portion of the line which crosses the wonderful stretch of country from Tarcoola to Golden Ridge, is almost unique. It follows almost a straight line for 330 miles, the blue bush on both sides of the line giving the traveller the impression day and night that the train is crossing an ocean. It should not cost very much per mile to ballast thatline, because the quarries are readily accessible, and the country is of hard limestone formation. My chief concern is to persuade the Government to set aside some portion of the profits from the note issue, free of interest, for the construction of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
– What advantage would that be?
– It would reduce the interest charges on cost of construction, and as, according to the latest information, the line is not likely to be profitable for a great many years we should, if possible, keep down the interest bill as has been done in connexion with the capital cost of the east-west railway. I hope that the Treasurer will pay some attention to my suggestion. I notice that the sum of £1,240,000 is provided for new railway construction. Does this mean that the Alice Springs to Oodnadatta line is to be proceeded with without delay? Up to the present I have not had any information as to whether the trial or working surveys have been made. I should like to know how the matter stands. Furthermore, in view of the decision in favour of the standard gauge of 4ft. 8£in., has it been definitely decided that the line to Alice Springs shall be built on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge?
– On page 5 there appears the item, £252,500 for expenditure under the River Murray Waters Act 1915-23. If the Minister (Senator Crawford) has the information available, I should like him to give me some idea as ‘ to the amount of money that has been spent to date, the amount which it is now proposed to spend, and the total that is likely to be involved before the River Murray Waters Commission accomplishes its purpose - if, indeed, that purpose is not to be everlasting.
– There is one aspect of this matter upon which I should be exceedingly pleased to be furnished with definite information. I have tried on a number of occasions to obtain it, but for different reasons it has not come to light. We know that the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and the Commonwealth are responsible for the construction of the Hume reservoir, beyond Albury, and they are making a good and a quick job of it. It will be one of the largest reservoirs in the world. A vast volume of water is to be impounded. Arrangements have been made for the locking of the Darling and the Murray at various points. At many of those points the locks are already in operation. But a dead silence is maintained in regard to the intention respecting one of the most important parts of the whole scheme, the outlet to the ocean. Hitherto the influence of Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide has prevented steps from being taken to ensure the construction of a suitable Outlet for the river Murray. In the past that has been due to interstate jealousy. A deepwater port at the mouth of the Murray would be the natural outlet for the produce of that immensely fertile area.
– That is impossible.
– Had settlement been begun at the mouth of the Murray, instead of on Sydney Harbour, the subsequent settlement of Australia would have proceeded upon lines entirely different from those that it has followed. The basin of the river Murray is probably one of the most fertile in the world. It has a watershed of probably a little over half a million square miles. The natural outlet for the produce from, the Darling and Murray watersheds is the point at which the Murray enters the sea, yet nothing has been done to make it possible for deep-sea vessels to go there. Apparently no portion of the £7,000,000 that has been made available under the River Murray Waters Act has been expended at the mouth of that river.
– Has the honorable senator ever been at the mouth of the river Murray.
– I have not; but I have been at the Hume weir, and have travelled for considerable distances along the river. The land along both sides is equal to land that can be found anywhere. It is time that interstate jealousy, which has been responsible to a greater or less extent for the lethargy that has been displayed by the commission - in regard to works at the mouth of the Murray - was brought to an . end. I should like the Minister to tell me whether he has any information as to when the commission proposes to take steps to provide a satisfactory outlet to the ocean. Has it any intention in that direction ? If it has not, will he consider the advisability of placing upon the commission persons who will take a wider, a more up-to-date, and a more progressive view of the situation than appears to have been taken by the existing members ?
.- The locking of the Murray is one of the finest works in the Commonwealth. The States of New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, have entered into a partnership. The River Murray Waters Commission is composed of the Ministers of Public Works of the States and the Commonwealth, and, in addition, there is a River Murray Waters Conservation League, of which I am a vice-president. This, very fine work will considerably develop the Riverina district, and will make available land that will be of untold value to the Commonwealth. I believe that the locks at Mildura and Wentworth have been completed. The. commission has under consideration the carrying out of work at the mouth of the river, with a view to allowing deep-sea vessels to load there. I feel sure that, with the engineering ability and brains that are available, a tangible scheme will be devised for getting over the present difficulty. I have not found any interstate jealousy manifested in connexion with the scheme. When it is completed, the people of the States concerned - but particularly the settlers who will reap the direct benefit - will commend the governments for the excellence of the work. It will be a legacy that coming generations will deeply appreciate. A considerable amount of settlement is bound to take place, because the land along the Murray fiats is amongst the finest in Australia.
– In reply to questions that have been asked, I have to say that of the £130,000 set down for the transcontinental railway, £44,000 is for ballasting between Kingoonya and Tarcoola. The Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Act provides for the construction of a railway of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, a distance of approximately 300 miles, at an estimated cost of £1,700,000. The preliminary work is well in hand, and orders for the rolling-stock; &c., have been placed. No provision for a port at the mouth of the river Murray is made in the act under which the River Murray Waters Commission operates. The whole of the works under the jurisdiction of the commission are set out in the schedule to that act, which also stipulates the amounts to be contributed by each of the States concerned, namely, Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, as well as by the Commonwealth. Last session’ amending legislation was passed varying the schedule in certain particulars.
– It is time something was dome to provide a port at the Murray mouth.
– Senator Grant did not state what good purpose would be served by spending, at the present time, the large sum of money which would be required to provide at the Murray mouth a port capable of accommodating overseas vessels. The sum of £252,509 set down for works in connexion with the river Murray represents the Commonwealth Government’s share of the estimated expenditure for 1926-27, in respect of works to be carried out in pursuance of the River Murray Waters agreement. The total expenditure is estimated at £1,010,000. The works on which it is proposed to incurthis expenditure are - In New South Wales, Hume Reservoir, £390,000; weir and lock No. 10, £110,000; surveys and borings, £5,000. In Victoria, Hume Reservoir, £170,000; weir and lock No. 11, at Mildura, £70,000 ; surveys, investigations, and supplies of material for other weirs and locks, £30,000. In South Australia, weir and lock No. 2, £73,000; weir and lock No. 4, £75,000; weir and lock No. 5, £30,000; weir and lock No. 6, £40,000; weir and lock No. 9, £5,000; Lake Victoria storage, £12,000. The expenditure incurred during 1925-26 on works carried out. by the River Murray Waters Commission was £785,294. The total expenditure to the 30th June, 1926, was £4,225,185, of which the Commonwealth Government’s share was £1,074,125.
– I thank the Minister for the information supplied, so far as it goes, but I also asked him if he could give the Senate any idea of what the works to be carried out by the River Murray Waters Commission would cost when completed. I am not aware whether the mouth of the river Murray is within the scope of the commission’s operations; I do not think that it is.
– It is not included in the works provided for in the River Murray Waters agreement.
– The opening of the mouth of the river Murray has, to my knowledge, been a subject of discussion for many years. The only solution that seems possible is, so to speak, to shift the mouth of the Murray about 60 miles along the coast, to a point referred to by Admiral Creswell in a pamphlet issued by him some time ago. It is a new plan, which involves making use of that natural sheet of water, the Coorong, for river traffic, and providing for a port in the vicinity of Kingston, where there is fairly deep water, and where produce could be loaded from the river steamers and barges into overseas vessels. That, possibly, is a State concern; but I do not suppose that any State could carry it out without assistance from the other States. Even Queensland produce is sometimes conveyed along the river Murray. It is high timethat either the Commonwealth, or three or four of the States combined, made some provision in the direction of ascertaining the engineering possibilites of this scheme. It appears to be absolutely hopeless to expect a satisfactory port in the vicinity of the Murray mouth, as must be admitted by any one who has been there, and has seen the ceaseless surf which not only makes navigation impossible for large vessels, but might also in one night shift silt and sand that it would take years to remove.
– There has also been a suggestion to construct a canal through Goolwa, where there is deep water, to Victor Harbour.
– I know that; but the project which I have mentioned utilizes the Coorong, a natural canal, which only requires deepening. The only excavation would be a few miles at its southern end. I think that something might be done to ascertain whether such a project is feasible from an engineering point of view. I rose to get the information which the Minister has so kindly supplied, and not in any way to criticize or pour cold water on the project which is now under construction.
– I regret very much that I am unable to furnish Senator Kingsmill with the information he requires in relation to the probable cost of completing the works provided for in the River Murray waters scheme. The honorable senator is probably aware that the Commonwealth must find one-fourth of the total cost, whatever it is, but there is no definite information available as to what it is likely to be.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether Dr. Smalpage, who it is rumoured is about to leave Australia, has completed his agreement with the Commonwealth in connexion with the prepreparation and use of his serum for tuberculosis, and whether any results have been achieved from the tests to which that serum has been subjected.
– I have not the information desired by the honorable senator, but I shall obtain it from the Minister for Health and see that it is communicated to the honorable senator.
.- Parliament has just passed the Development and Migration Bill, under which a commission is to be appointed to carry out certain duties. In this schedule an amount of £348,380 is to be voted for immigration, and is to be spent in advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees of assisted immigrants. I should like to know what period this amount will cover.
SenatorCrawford. - It will cover the expenditure for the current year.
– I should also like to know what number of immigrants the Government expects to receive during the period, and whether the Development and Migration Commission, when appointed, will handle any portion of this £348,380. I also wish to ascertain from the Minister representing the Treasurer how much of the £500,000 provided in the schedule for advances to the States and to the administration of the Northern Territory for the purchase of wire and wire netting will be spent in the Northern Territory. If this is not a new provision for the Northern Territory, I should like the Minister to inform the committee how much has already been spent in the territory on the purchase of wire and wire netting ?
.- It is expected that the item of £348,380 for immigration will be spent in bringing out immigrants. The expected arrivals, and the cost of their passage money, is shown in the following table: -
When the Development and Migration Commission is appointed, it will be one of its functions to deal with migration. In the meantime the vote will be handled by the Markets and Migration Department. Of the £500,000 for wire and wire netting, I am informed that £45,000 has been allotted to the Northern Territory.
– The Minister has not told as where the boys whose passages will be paid out of this vote are to be placed. I should like to know if they are to be placed on the land, or if they are to be permitted to enter into competition with Australian youths in secondary industries. Already many Australian parents are faced with the problem of what to do with their boys. They cannot get them apprenticed to trades as readily as they would like, and if boy migrants are to be permitted to come into competition with them, the position in this regard will be still more acute. The Minister should tell us if these boys are to be placed on the land and trained to be farmers. He might also tell us when the Development and Migration Commission is to be appointed. Judging by the haste with which the Development and Migration Bil] was rushed through Parliament, it is to be appointed forthwith. We learnt to-day from a reply given to’ a question put by Senator Findley that one gentleman has practically been selected to act as chairman of the commission. When this body is appointed to handle whatever portion of the vote for immigration remains unexpended, and place the migrants on the land or anywhere so long as employment is found for them, what is to be done with the Department of Migration f
– It has been said over and over again in this chamber, and, therefore, all honorable senators must be aware of it, that all migrants brought to Australia through the agency of the Commonwealth are brought at the request of the States. A great many of them are nominated immigrants. None of them are brought to Australia by the Commonwealth except at the request of the States, and it is the responsibility of the States to see that al] immigrants are placed on the land or provided with employment in other avenues.
– The Commonwealth is bearing a portion of the cost.
– The Commonwealth is providing one half of the passage money. Migrants are brought to Australia only at the request of the States, which apply for migrants of different types and accept the responsibility of placing them on arrival.
– Are boys under twelve accompanied by their parents?
– Tes, and also some over that age. Various organizations deal with boy and girl migrants on their arrival.
– Have any alterations been made in the arrangements previously in force in the matter of the repayment of advances for, and the distribution of wire netting ? Last year £500,000 was made available for this purpose, and the assistance provided for Tasmania was availed of by a large number of farmers, but this year applications have been sent in to which there has been no response. If the arrangements have not been altered why are not advances available?
– I understand that no advances have yet been made out of the vote of £500,000. The conditions under which advances are made are as follow : -
– That scheme differs in some respects from that previously in operation.
– That is the scheme under which the Commonwealth and the States are at present operating.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [4.11]. - Can the Minister (Senator Crawford) give the actual amount expended last year in advances to the States for the purchase of wire and wire netting ? This scheme originated when I was the Leader of the South Australian Government, and we then said that as we had an Advances for Wire Netting Act under which settlers were generously treated, there was no occasion for the Commonwealth to interfere. We contended that it was a matter for the States. The South Australian Government said that as it did not need the advances it was not going to accept them; but we were placed in the unfortunate position of having to contribute towards the costs of administration and the interest charges on the advances made to the other States. Wire and wire netting was supplied to settlers under conditions laid down by the Commonwealth, whereas the South Australian Government was making more liberal advances under its own act. That led to unnecessary duplication. I do not know whether advances are now being made to South Australia, but if not, it is very unfair that that State should have to contribute towards the cost of those made to other States. I do not think it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to interfere, but I should like to know what expenditure has been incurred, and the extent to which the different States have participated.
– I regret that I am unable to supply the whole of the information required by Senator Barwell. The advances last year amounted to £75,000, but South Australia did not participate.
– What States did?
– All of the States excepting South Australia. The principal advances were made to Western Australia and New South Wales.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 9th July (vide page 3987), on motion by Senator Crawford -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The principal feature of the measure is to provide an additional sum of £500,000 for the construction of the . Grafton to South Brisbane railway. I am not opposed to the additional amount being granted, but I should like further information before I support the second reading of the bill. The unification of the railway gauges of Australia has engaged the attention of the Parliaments of Australia probably more than any other subject, and even now it is doubtful if a tangible commencement has been made, although a number of men are employed on the construction of a line from Grafton to Kyogle. Simultaneously with the construction of the line from Kyogle to South Brisbane, the Government should build a line on the 4-ft. 8½ -in. gauge from Kalgoorlie to Perth. It has always been understood that that work would be undertaken by the Western Australian Government, but as that Government has apparently no intention of doingso, the Commonwealth Government should shoulder the responsibility. The Government should also undertake the construction of a line from Hay to Port Augusta, in order to connect the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge in New South Wales with the line of that gauge now terminating at Port Augusta. In view of the proposal to transfer the Seat of Government to Canberra at an early date, consideration should also be given to the question of continuing the 4-ft8½-in. gauge from Wodonga to Benalla. If that were done, the journey from Melbourne to the Federal Capital would be considerably improved. If that were done, the Victorian members of this Parliament would not show the same reluctance as they now do to the early removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra. I do not know what the cost would be, but it should not be very much. The Government is asking for £4,000,000, all of which is to be expended on construction work between Grafton and South Brisbane. More provision should be made for a great national work of this character. If the Ministry wasin earnest, it would immediately set about the unification of the gauge between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle, and also extend the standard gauge from. Wodonga to Benalla. We all expect that before long the Government will construct a line to connect Canberra with Yass Junction. This work should be undertaken by the
New South Wales Government, but apparently it does not propose to do anything in the matter, so probably it will have to be done by the Federal Government.
– It should have been built long ago.
– It was part of the duty of the New South Wales Government to construct .a line, and I am surprised and disappointed that it has not been done. That connexion, when made, will materially lessen the distance between Melbourne and Canberra. The New South Wales members of the Federal Parliament will, I am sure, be very pleased when they see the first train leaving Canberra with Victorian members on board after the first meeting of Parliament at the Seat of Government. But it would afford them much greater satisfaction if, instead of having to make the journey via Goulburn, they could go direct to Y.ass Junction and join the express there. And if, as I suggest, the standard gauge line is extended as far as Benalla, the train journey between Melbourne and Canberra will be robbed of many of its unpleasant features. 1 hope that the Government, supported as it is by so many South Australian and Victorian members, will give early and favorable consideration to this suggestion. We have been informed that additional provision has to be made for the survey of the line, the acquisition of lands, for rails and fastenings, signalling and interlocking, railway station at South Brisbane, locomotive depot and transhipment station at South Brisbane, railway watering station en route, construction work from South Brisbane station, outside that for which the contract had been let. This accounts for a total extra expenditure in New South Wales .of £112,000, inclusive of provision for a 44-hours week, and in Queensland of £967,000,- or a total of £1,079,000. It would appear that the original estimates of the cost were made on insufficient information, but I fail to see how we can avoid voting the additional sum now required. There is one phase of the subject to which I wish to direct attention. Honorable senators will recollect that a few days ago at Ardglen, on the main northern line in New South Wales, where there is a single-line tunnel, the driver of a goods train lost his life through suffocation, and the fireman was rendered unconscious by fumes in the tunnel. The train was entirely out of control until the fireman recovered consciousness about 2 or 3 miles after the train had emerged from the tunnel. The Railway Council, which has charge of the construction of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line, comprises men of recognized railway ability in Mr. Bell, Commonwealth Railways Commissioner ; Mr. Davidson, Railways Commissioner of Queensland; and Mr. Frazer, Chief Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales. It is unfortunate that they have decided upon the construction of singleline tunnels. It is not too late, even now, for them to review their decision. From every point of view it is a shortsighted policy. We have had convincing evidence of the foolishness of constructing single-line tunnels in New South Wales. There was one infamous tunnel at Otford. It was so dreaded by all drivers and firemen that finally it was scrapped, and a double-line tunnel built alongside it. We have had similar experiences in connexion with many other single-line tunnels in my State. There are now double-line tunnels on the whole of the railway line up to Walarobba. The long tunnel at Woy Woy was built to carry two lines of rails, although only one was laid down. The Government has made provision for the storage of an additional 1,000,000 acre feet in the Hume reservoir, and has taken similar action in connexion with the Cotter river dam at Canberra. The Sydney Harbour bridge has been designed by a man with a vision. It is 169 feet wide. There is provision for several railway and tramway lines, as well as ample room for motor traffic. Nevertheless, it. has been said that if Sydney develops as rapidly in the future as it has of late years, another bridge will be required in the near future. It is extraordinary that in the construction of this line the Government should make provision for only single-line tunnels. The railway will be a very important link between Sydney and Brisbane. It will shorten the distance between Brisbane and Sydney by over 100 miles, so that practically the whole of -the traffic between the two capital cities will be diverted over the shorter route. This traffic will be so heavy that, in all probability, the duplication of the line will be advisable. Consequently, double-line tunnels should be provided now.In my judgment, this decision in favour of single-line tunnels is a fatal mistake. I have endeavoured to ascertain the probable additional cost of double-line tunnels. I am not sure that my figures are correct, but I understand they are not far out. There are three tunnels on the New SouthWales side. One is 250 yards long, another is 198 yards, and the third 1,240 yards, or a total of 1,653 yards. On the Queensland side there are two tunnels, their respective lengths being 226 yards and 462 yards, or a total of 688 yards. The grand total is 2,341 yards. To take the railway over the mountain range the track on the New South Wales side has had to be carried along a spiral, and in the language of the aviators the train loops the loop. As one of the tunnels on the spiral is 1,240 yards long, it is obvious that the train crews and passengers will be seriously inconvenienced whenever there is a following wind, as it will be impossible to ventilate the tunnels properly. I am informed that singleline tunnels cost £150 a lineal yard, making a total of £351,150. Double-line tunnels cost £200 a lineal yard, or a total of £468,200. The difference is only £117,050, which, at 5 per cent., represents £6,000 a year. That sum should not stand in the way of the construction of tunnels which will carry a double line of rails. If at a later date it is decided to duplicate the line, either other single-line tunnels will have to be constructed, or the present single-line tunnels discarded, and double-line tunnels constructed. That would be a wicked and wanton waste of public money. The Government should obtain from its responsible engineers a report as to the extra cost that would be involved. The through and the local traffic warrant the construction of double-line tunnels. They would make for the safety of the employees and thepublic, and the proper working of the traffic. I offer no objection to the expenditure of an additional £500,000. The work is being carried out under the day-labour system in both New South Wales and Queensland, and I have no doubt that it will be done a good deal better and cheaper than if it were carried out under the contract system. I urge the Government to take every step possible to have the true facts placed before honorable senators, so that, if necessary, we can provide whatever additional sum is required to construct tunnels that will carry two lines of rails.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Ratification of agreements).
– I trust that this will be the last occasion upon which we shall be called upon to rectify mistakes that have been made in the estimates by State Governments or officials, and to give our approval to the variation of contracts that have been solemnly entered into. There is no surety that next session we shall not be called upon to ratify an agreement providing for the expenditure of a further additional sum. We have before us an illustration of the adoption of very loose business methods by those who have been in charge of the compilation of the estimates. We are entitled to ask for an assurance that there will be no repetition of this procedure. If an ordinary contractor or business man adopted methods similar to these he would find himself in the bankruptcy court, and he would not have a Parliament to relieve him of his liability. In future I shall not be a party to the righting of costly errors which ought not to have been made by the Government.
– The Commonwealth Government was not responsible.
– The Commonwealth Government must take some share of the blame. Provision ought to have been made for the governments concerned to stand up to their estimates. This railway is only the first to be constructed in accordance with the generally accepted policy for the unification of the railway gauges of Australia. Doubtless it will not be long before we shall be asked to give our approval to the construction of other links in that chain ; and unless steps are taken to ensure accuracy in the estimation of the probable expenditure Parliament will be asked to consent to the voting of other large sums to rectify mistakes that have been made in estimates or to provide for additional costs caused by rises in wages or reductions in working hours. That is not a proper way to conduct the business of government, and I shall certainly not be a party to it in the future.
Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland- vernments of the States of New South Wales and Queensland are bound by the terms of their contracts. So far as it is possible to make a forecast, it can be said that the amount now asked for is not likely to be exceeded. Senator McLachlan is aware that contracts for railway construction do not make provision for the payment of a lump sum, but are based upon the number of cubic yards of earth works involved, the bridges that have to be constructed, and other factors. Deviation from the estimates is always a possibility. The contract makes provision for a decrease or an increase in the price in the event of wages falling or rising respectively.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Issue and application of £11,650,839).
– I so strongly advocated the construction of this line when it was originally before the Senate, that had the amount which was then involved been £4.000,000 instead of £3,500,000, I should have supported it; but I deprecate the manner in which this additional £500,000 has been sprung upon us. I did not ‘regard the Minister’s explanation as entirely satisfactory. This additional sum is necessary, largely because of the desire of the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland to have the work carried out on the day labour system.
– Increased wages and shorter working hours account for £150,000.
– I dare say they do. But if there had been no delay on account of the desire of those two governments to use the day labour system, contracts would have been received and accepted, and the country would have been saved a good deal of money. I admit that there have been increases in the cost on account of the curtailment of working hours and the payment of higher rates of wages. I join with Senator McLachlan in hoping that the committee will not again be asked to vote money in similar circumstances.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 21 of 1926- Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association; and others.
No. 22 of 1920- Australian Postal and Electricians’ Union; and others.
No. 24 of 1926- Australian Telegraphists and Clerical Assistants’ Union.
No. 25 of 1926- Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trades and Customs Department.
Debate resumed from 8th July (vide page 3915), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the papers be printed.
.- The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has claimed to have established a record, because on this occasion he presented the financial statement of the Commonwealth within eight days of the close of the financial year. It is true that he has done that; but that is no cause for satisfaction. If ho had presented a complete budget I could have congratulated him; but he has not done so. Information that we should have is not contained in the budget. A President of the United States of America once said, “ Government is finance, and finance is government.” The budget is the foundation of all governmental activities, and when presented to Parliament, it should contain full particulars of those activities. In view of our present financial position, the Treasurer should have placed all possible information before Parliament. But this budget is incomplete. In his complacency, the Treasurer stated that the information contained in the budget was sufficient. I do not agree with him. Like many proposals of the Government, the budget is ill-considered and incomplete. The Treasurer places his views before us, and expects us to accept them without question.
– In what respect is the budget incomplete?
– Yesterday the Leader of the Senate was annoyed because some honorable senators interjected while he was speaking. He told them that he had not reached the points to which “they referred. I remind Senator Pearce ;that I have been on my feet only a few minutes, and I suggest that he possess his soul in patience. This Government has a mania not only for rushing legislation through Parliament, hut also for establishing boards and commissions. Parliament now is working against the clock, mainly because the Prime Minister will be leaving for Great Britain shortly to attend the Imperial Conference.
– It must be a oneman Government.
– That is evident. While the Prime Minister is away, Parliament will be closed. A glance at the Senate business-paper shows that we are now dealing with the last item Of government business. The state of the. business-paper in another place suggests that the Senate will soon have nothing to do.
– Parliament has been in session for the greater part of the year. Does the honorable senator want to sit all the year round?
– If the Government were true to its election promises, Parliament would remain in session during the Prime Minister’s absence. The ex-Prime Minister, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, was regarded by many as an autocrat; but when he went to Great Britain Parliament did not go into recess; the business of the country was conducted under the leadership of Sir Joseph Cook. Before the present Primo Minister left for Great Britain in 1923, Parliament was “ bludgeoned “ - .to quote the public press at the time - in order to pass necessary legislation. What happened then is being repeated to-day. We are asked to pass legislation in a hurry. Time after time this session, the Leader of the Senate has moved for the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders in order that certain bills might be passed without delay. Notwithstanding that all the legislation promised in the Prime Minister’s policy speech has not been placed upon the statute-book, the business of Parliament is being rushed in order that the Prime Minister may go to England. I do not object to his presence at the Imperial Conference. I think that all the dominions should be represented at that conference, because matters of great importance to the
Empire will be discussed there. But, in addition to the Prime Ministers, representatives of the Opposition in the various dominion parliaments should also attend the Imperial Conference in order that both sides of the nation’s thought might be expressed. The Opposition appreciated the compliment paid to it, when the Government decided to include the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Charlton) as a member of the delegation to the Fifth Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva. The precedent then established should be repeated in connexion with the Imperial Conference. The Assembly of the League of Nations is certainly a gathering of great importance; but so is the Imperial Conference, and the views of His Majesty’s Opposition should be heard at it. The present Government is composed of members of the Nationalist and Country parties.
– The Country party is nearly dead, I believe.
– - If it is not really dead, it is dying. Among the supporters of the Government are my genial colleague, Senator Carroll, and next to him my youthful and irrespresible friend, Senator Chapman, both members of the Country party. Others are ex-Labour men-, like the right honorable the Leader of the Senate, Senator Pearce, and some, like my honorable and learned friend, Senator Barwell, are exLiberals. Senator Abbott is, I understand, a Pitt-street farmer.
It may be said that I am reviving ancient history; but there are times when these matters ought to be. mentioned. Not long ago members of the Country party were violently opposed to the gentlemen with whom they are’ now associated. Before Dr. Page joined the Cabinet he was most hostile in his opposition to the Nationalists of that time. He moved no less than sixteen votes of no-confidence in the Nationalist Government, but because the County party was divided the Government won on each occasion. After the 1922 election, when the Nationalist party got a heavy set-back, negotiations were entered into between the Nationalist and Country parties for the formation of a composite Ministry. Dr. Page was then, as it were, the king-pin. At the commencement of negotiations the Country party stipulated that Dr. Page was to be Prime Minister, otherwise no binding alliance would be undertaken, but merely a working arrangement. Eventually, the Country party gave way on that point. According to the Melbourne Age of the 18th January, 1923, the Country party representatives stated that-
The verdict of the country was, in effect, a vote of censure upon the Hughes administration, and that they would be stultifying themselves and proving recreant to the whole attitude they had taken up during the election campaign by now allying themselves with a government which had received such a heavy and significant set-back.
– That is ancient history.
– I know that it is, but it is often wise to revive these matters in order to refresh the public mind. The lure of office was too strong for the Country party. It came into the political arena a young, vigorous party, determined, like the Labour party, to stand alone, paving its own way and carving its own destiny. But when the lure of office was held out to its leader, he fell. He thought more of office than he did of the fate of the party he was leading, and, as a result, his party was swallowed by the Nationalist wing of the Parliament. In an endeavour to safeguard himself, Dr. Earle Page afterwards said that the Administration he had joined had very little resemblance to the old and discredited Administration. That was after Mr. Hughes had been given the “ order of the boot.” At the same time his colleague, Senator Pearce, who was reported to have said that he would follow Mr. Hughes, out of the Government, but did not do so, said -
The policy of the present Ministry is but a continuance of the last Ministry’s policy.
Dr. Page was not to be outdone. In February, 1924, in replying to a statement made by Mr. Hughes, he used the words -
Considering the state in which we found things when we came into possession of the treasury bench.
Evidently he had found things in a bad way. The Country party, which had an individuality at one time in this Parliament, has now lost it and has become entirely absorbed by the Nationalist wing which it joined.
– That is ridiculous. The Nationalists are saying that the Country party has too much influence.
– The honorable senator has just recalled to my mind the fact that out of thirteen members in the Country party’ in this Parliament there are only two who are not in the Cabinet or on some Parliamentary Standing Committee.
I come now to some of the election promises made by the Government. During the 1925 election it promised, among other things, that it would bring in a scheme of child endowment. That statement was published in every newspaper in the Commonwealth, and was incorporated in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. Mr. Bruce in his policy speech said, “A man with a family is the greatest asset to the community, and it is essential and desirable that the greatest encouragement and assistance should be given to such a man.” What has the Government done to carry out that promise ?
– It has appointed a commission.
– When the Prime Minister made that promise, the commission referred to by Senator Ogden had ‘been .in existence for quite a long time. In any case, the Government should have brought in legislation dealing with child endowment without waiting for the report of that commission. The Prime Minister qualified his statement by saying that the matter would be submitted to Commonwealth and State arbitration judges, but there was no need for this.
– The arbitration judges have only been appointed within the last few days.
– When the Prime Minister made his statement, there were Arbitration Court judges in existence.
– No, not Arbitration Court judges.
– Why does the honorable senator quibble? Was not Mr. Justice Powers President of the Arbitration Court?
– He was a justice of the High Court.
– Was he not President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court?
– It was called a court, but it was actually not a court.
– My friend is evidently quibbling. The fact remains that there was in existence at the time an arbitration court.
– We have just altered the scheme in an important particular, giving the judges of the court a life tenure and pensions.
– It is true that by a recent measure we have somewhat altered the act, but that does not alter the fact that when the Prime Minister made his promise that this matter would be submitted to Commonwealth and State .arbitration judges, we had a judge and deputy judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and judges in State arbitration courts. In any case, the Government had at hand sufficient statistics and information to prove the necessity for a child endowment scheme without referring the matter to arbitration court judges.
– Does not the honorable senator see the connexion between such a scheme and the basic wage?
– I admit that the one has relation to the other, but nothing has been done to fulfill the Government’s election promise.
– We have to get the Arbitration Court to fix the basic wage.
– Of course; but pending the determination of the basic wage by the Arbitration Court the legislation for. child endowment could have been brought in. Some time ago, when the right honorable W. M. Hughes, as Prime Minister, appointed a royal commission to inquire into the basic wage he said that he would give effect to the recommendation of that commission, but when it submitted a unanimous report fixing a basic wage and the right honorable gentleman was confronted with his promise to put it into operation, he declined to do so. All he did- was to send a memorandum to the chairman of the commission. The present Government should have anticipated the fixing of a basic wage by introducing legislation for child endowment, which no doubt would have assisted the body appointed to determine the basic wage.
In regard to national insurance, all we know is that the royal commission is still inquiring. I am not alleging that it is in any way dilatory, but it has spent a considerable time in inquiring into a matter of great urgency and vast importance. And when one realizes that legislation dealing with national insurance is in force in other parts of the world, one must come to the conclusion that we might have reached finality in this regard long ere now. I believe that the commission has presented some interim reports. However, I am not blaming it. I blame the Government for not endeavouring to hasten its determinations.
I come now to the question of finance. Before Dr. Page became Treasurer he was most hostile in his attacks on the several budgets presented by his predecessor (Mr. Bruce), and it is interesting to compare his remarks at that time with his present statements. For instance, in 1922, in condemning the budget presented by Mr. Bruce, he said -
A close examination of the present budget indicates that, although many of the old defects are better covered up, it is tragically full of objectionable features.
Those words surely can be applied very aptly to the budget he has just presented. I do not know of any other budget that has contained more defects than are to be found in it. Dr. Page went on to say -
The Treasurer, instead of trying to stem the stream of extravagance, has been content to go with it.
I invite honorable senators to look carefully at the figures in Dr. Page’s budget to-day, and say whether or not he himself is not going with the stream of extravagance. I venture to say, and I shall prove it before I have concluded,, that he is going with a very rapid stream of extravagance, and is using no effort to stem it.
– Why does not the honorable senator prove the extravagance?
– If my old and honorable friend will possess himself in patience I shall come to that proof. As Senator Reid is a practical man, he should know whether Commonwealth expenditure has increased or decreased since the present Treasurer has been in office.
– Commonwealth and State expenditure has increased.
– Yes ; but has the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth Government during recent years been of any practical advantage to Australia ? The figures are -
That expenditure is exclusive of that mentioned in Part IV. of the budget, which relates to payments to or for the
States. During the four years mentioned our expenditure has increased by £9,200,000. At the time to which I was referring the present Treasurer said -
I own to being very disappointed that . . . through the whole service there is the same old war-time scale of expenditure, that there is no cessation of new appointments, and that the Commonwealth has not even begun to follow the example of Canada, New Zealand, and Great Britain in trying to get back atthe earliest possible moment to something like a pre-war standard of finance.
A careful scrutiny of the budget will show that we are not even approaching a prewar standard of finance. As a private member, and the Leader of the Country party, the present Treasurer was very dogmatic, but since he has been the Commonwealth Treasurer he has not made any attempt to economize in the directions he previously suggested..
– Would the honorable senator be in favour of salaries and wages being based on a pre-war standard ?
– Although salaries and wages are higher to-day than they were in the pre-war period, their purchasing power has considerably diminished. The additional expenditure to which I have referred has not been occasioned by the payment of higher salaries and wages, but in other directions which I shall mention later. The present Treasurer, when a private member, complained of the numerous appointments being made, but he is now a member of a government which is making new and important appointments almost every week, and consequently increasing expenditure. The additional amount paid in salaries and wages to public servants is not a big factor in this connexion, but that incurred in meeting the cost of boards and commissions is enormous. Many of these boards and commissions have been appointed during the regime of the present Treasurer. A commission has recently been established to control development and migration, whilst the Department of Markets and Migration, which is already in existence, should be able to do all that is required. In these circumstances are we likely to return to a pre-war standard of finance?
– Is the honorable senator ignoring the difference between pre-war and present conditions?
– We cannot possibly get back to the pre-war standard of finance, but some attempt should be made to approach it. Until recently we have been labouring under taxation which is; a relic of the war period.
– We still owe over £330,000,000.
– The honorable senator was eager that we should incur a war debt.
– I was not at all eager, but the expenditure had to be incurred to ensure the safety of the Commonwealth.
– Yes, and those who rendered military service to assist in ensuring the safety of the Commonwealth are now contributing a substantial portion of the taxation collected.
-Food, clothing, and equipment had to be supplied.
– Of course, but those who fought and were spared to return are now meeting a great deal of our war expenditure. The net debt of the Commonwealth for the past four years has been as follows : -
The figures indicate our present financial position. Despite the Treasurer’s boast of our war debt having been reduced by £28,500,000 in four years, our net debt has increased by £3,000,000.
– What is our net debt, apart from war obligations?
– Those figures include the war debt.
– In dealing with the question of direct taxation, I wish to quote the present Treasurer, who said -
The electors must know, and will know as far as it lies in the power of the Country party to inform them, that the proposed reduction in taxation cannot continue unless there is a permanent reduction in the cost of government
The Treasurer has stated that direct taxation has been reduced by 47 per cent. ; but the figures for direct and indirect taxation per head are as follow : -
Direct taxation has been reduced, and indirect taxation has increased, but the total taxation over the period I have mentioned has been increased by 2s. lOd. per head. The figures in relation to the actual amount ‘ of taxation received are as follow: -
The amount received in the form of indirect taxation has increased by £4,300,000, and that by way of direct taxation has decreased by £1,400,000, so that the total amount of taxation received has increased by £3,000,000. Commonwealth taxpayers are, therefore, carrying a burden of £3,000,000 greater than they were when the present Treasurer was a private member. As the Customs and excise duties are responsible for the increase in indirect taxation, it is interesting to note what was the attitude of the Treasurer and his colleagues in the Country party some time ago. Dr. Page and his colleagues then spoke very strongly against the protective policy of other parties. The present Treasurer, when speaking of the tariff on behalf of the Country party, once said, before he took office -
In regard to the tariff, I will fight for a reduction of duties on the staple necessities of the producers, and for the admission of implements and tools of trade free of duty when made within the British Empire.
Later he said -
The collection of nearly £1,500,000 worth of additional duty through the Customs Department is due to causes which are not advantageous to Australia….. The increase in Customs revenue is not a matter of which the Treasurer should be proud. It should, rather, cause him to go into sackcloth, and place ashes on his head.
The Treasurer has been in office over three years now, and, despite his utter- ances, and the policy of the Country party, he has voted for higher duties.
– That is not so. Country party members have voted against higher duties.
– If Senator Chapman will study the division lists in connexion with the debate on the last tariff schedule, he will find that, with one or two exceptions, Dr. Page and other members of his party voted for increased duties.
– Mr. Prowse and Mr. Gregory certainly did not.
– I repeat that, with one or two exceptions, members of the Country party voted for higher duties. On this subject Mr. Marr, the Honorary Minister, was reported in the Sun as having said that -
Cabinet had unanimously agreed to the tariff proposals that had been laid on the table of the House of Representatives, and that there had been no disagreements.
Honorable senators will recollect that prior to the last general election exSenator Drake-Brockman withdrew his candidature in Western Australia in pursuance of an arrangement made between the Nationalist and Country parties in that State, led by Senator Pearce, that the Nationalists were to have two candidates, Senators Pearce and Lynch, and the Country party one candidate, Senator Carroll. It was well known also that part of the arrangement was that the three candidates should oppose the imposition of higher duties. Despite that compact, Senator Pearce is still a member of a Cabinet that has imposed higher duties. My position on the fiscal issue is well-known. I am a protectionist. It is obvious, however, that Dr. Earle Page has discarded the main plank of the Country party’s platform which, as Senator Chapman must know, is the one dealing with the tariff. I shall listen with interest to the honorable senator when he addresses the Senate, in the hope that I shall be able to ascertain his views on fiscal matters generally. The Customs revenue in 1922-23 totalled £32,872,000, and in 1925-26 £39,198,000, the increase being over £6,000,000. This does not suggest that the tariff is protective so much as revenue producing. Certainly it has been responsible for a substantial increase in indirect taxation.
I pass now to the subject of defence. Recently the Director-General of the Australian military forces,. Sir Harry Chauvel, made a startling statement–
– It was staggering.
– According to the newspaper reports, Sir Harry Chauvel stated that our defence system was in a precarious condition. The Labour party has been taunted from time to time with having no defence policy, but I venture to say that it would stand the closest examination of any unbiased military expert in the world. Since the signing of the armistice in November, 1918, successive Nationalist Governments have spent approximately £40,000,000 on defence. What have they given us for that expenditure? Recently General Monash who, will be accepted as an authority on this subject, said we were less prepared for war to-day than in 1914. He also stated that our Air Force was a sham. The Labour party has been charged with having no defence policy. As a matter of fact, we have a very definite policy, especially as regards the provision that should be made for munitions. Part of our defence platform is the establishment of factories which, in times of aggression, may be converted for the manufacture of munitions. Sir Harry Chauvel has told us that, if war found us, we could not last 24 hours. In other words, if a hostile army landed on Australian shores we should not have sufficient munitions to keep our forces in the field for. 24 hours.
– What has become of the millions of pounds spent on defence during the last few years?
– I do not know. In seven and a half years Nationalist governments have succeeded in spending on defence £40,000,000 of the taxpayers money, and to-day, according to the report of the Inspector-General, our military forces could not last 24 hours, in the face of an invading force. Some time ago exSenator . General Drake-Brockman said that we were not getting full value for the money we were spending on defence. Recently the Melbourne Herald made a scathing attack on the Government’s defence policy. The Minister, when I read portion of it, endeavoured to show that the writer was not an authority on the subject. Since then Sir Harry Chauvel has made a still more damning statement about our unpreparedness for defence. It is evident that for years the Government has been throwing away millions of pounds. In 1924 Sir John Monash stated that the present system of compulsory training was farcical. Here, again, is the statement of a military expert. . Senator Duncan, who did his “bit” during the war, will admit that Australia’s untrained men proved to be admirable soldiers. Therefore, we are justified in assuming that, even without a system of compulsory military training, we would have the men available and, provided they had adequate supplies of modern munitions, they would be able to defend Australia. This Government, following the lead of earlier Nationalist governments, has wasted millions of pounds on defence and has nothing to show for it, yet Ministers have the audacity to condemn the Labour party for desiring to abolish a system of compulsory military training which has. proved to be useless. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in an attempt to combat the views expressed by Sir Harry Chauvel, stated -
The Government’s policy of defence, whilst aiming at a definite and a balanced programme, was based primarily on the Navy.
From that statement, I gather that the Government is pinning its faith to the Navy.
– A very wrong thing to do.
– Where is our Navy? At the moment it consists of a few vessels that are practically obsolete.
– And the two 10,000-ton cruisers.
– If modern cruisers or battleships are to be built, for the defence of Australia, they should be built, not on the Clyde, but in Australia. [Extension of time granted.] We must first take into consideration the cost, and, secondly, the fact that military authorities consider that the day of the battleship has passed. We know full well that battleships become obsolete in a very short period. Science is constantly discovering improvements, and it frequently happens that, before a vessel has been completed, additional improvements have been devised. I admit that that argument can be applied also to submarines. Science is daily endeavouring to improve that arm of defence. Australia would need a navy as large as those of Great Britain and the United States of America combined to adequately protect its shores in the event of aggression. I shall quote the remarks of prominent naval authorities in support of my contention that the day of the battleship has passed. The following paragraph, published in 1924, stated the view of Admiral Sir Percy Scott : -
During recent years Admiral Sir Percy Scott has led the British naval school which advocates the use of the submarine as against the heavily-armoured capital ship. He has rarely lost an opportunity of putting forward the claims of the submarine, and was repeatedly asked the question, “ Of what use is the battleship?” He claimed that he had received only one effective reply to this query. It came from a midshipman, and was, “ No damned use at all.”
Because of his belief that the submarine was the naval weapon of the future, Sir Percy Scott was a strong opponent of the proposal to build the naval base at Singapore.
When Australia and New Zealand are properly defended with aeroplanes, submarines and “destroyers (as regards invasion) they will have nothing to fear.
Rear-Admiral Sims of the United States of America Navy, voiced the following opinion in 1925 : - “ I thinkthe Navy should build light aeroplane carriers instead of cruisers,” he said. “ It is a curious thing, but you cannot change the minds of naval conservatives. You have to shed their blood before theywill change, or they hang on until disaster comes. With adequate air and submarine protection no nation can bother us.”
Another opinion given by Admiral Sir Percy Scott was as follows: -
Another bogy put before the Australians is that on account of their enormous coast-line they must have battleships. That is just what they do not want. If the waters of all countries are protected by submarines, all waters will be wrong waters for battleships.
Admiral Kerr, of the British Navy, is reported to have said -
The Australian line of defence obviously comprised of aeroplanes, submarines and torpedo boats against which no hostile fleet dare approach within 200 miles.
Admiral S. S. Hall, of the British Navy said -
We had a grand fleet with a preponderance of nearly two to one over Germany alone. We had the assistance of the American, French, Italian and Japanese Navies, and yet our main naval purpose - the protection of our trade - could not be carried out.
I think that I have quoted sufficiently from naval authorities to prove that the Prime Minister’s idea of having a navy as the principal means of defending this country cannot be supported.
I come now to the proposed petrol tax. During the election campaign the composite party that comprises the Government stressed the point that it intended to make available a sum of £20,000,000 over a period of ten years for road construction. Many persons at the time considered that that was an exceedingly generous offer. But no sooner was the Government returned to power than it was made manifest that there was a catch in the proposal. In the first place, the condition was imposed that the States should provide £2,000,000 for every similar sum provided by the Commonwealth Government. That condition was subsequently reviewed, and the contribution of the States was lowered to 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth.
– Where are the States going to get the money?
– The Commonwealth proposes to raise it for them. It is now intended to impose a duty on petrol, tires, and chassis to enable this Government to make good its promise to provide £20,000,000. If that is not “ robbing Peter to pay Paul,” what is it ? The Prime Minister, in his policy speech, said that the provision of good roads should be regarded as a national problem. I entirely agree with that sentiment. It naturally follows that the nation as a whole should find the money for the upkeep of our roads. The right honorable gentleman also stated that the money necessary to finance the scheme would be raised through the Customs Department; but he did not explain in what manner it was to be carried out. The majority of the people believed that the expenditure would be defrayed from ordinary revenue, not that one section of the community would be singled out to “foot the bill.” If the duty on petrol which has been introduced by the Government is agreed to by Parliament, the Standard Oil Company, the British Imperial Oil Company, and the Vacuum Oil Company will pass on the increase, and John Citizen will have to shoulder the burden. The proposed petrol tax is neither more nor less than a revenue-raising device.
– Does the honorable senator think that the companies he has mentioned can pass on the increase ?
– Does Senator McLachlan know of any Australian law that can prevent them from taking such action ?
– There is the law of competition.
– They will have very little regard for that. Their only competitor is the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I should like to see it flourish, but I realize that if the tax is imposed by Parliament the companies to whom I have referred will recognize no law except that of “ passing it on.” Senator McLachlan knows that there is no Commonwealth authority that can prevent them from doing so.
– Would it be all right if they did not pass it on?
– I do not think that it would be right even in those circumstances. But if it is passed, a number of citizens in Australia will suffer. Already two of our States impose a petrol tax to enable them to raise revenue for the maintenance of their roads; they are the States of South Australia and Western Australia. As I view the matter, other persons in addition to the users of roads will be penalized. If it were confined to road users, there might be some equity in the proposal. The farmer, who uses petrol to drive his farm machinery, will be obliged to pay an increased price; and numbers of persons in other occupations will be similarly situated. Thisis really an invasion of one of the functions of the States, and in view of the fact that two of the States are already operating in this field, I can see no justification for it.
I now desire to make a few observations in relation to the condition of the goldmining industry in Australia, but particularly in Western Australia. The Government of that State has offered assistance to the mining companies. Those who have closely followed the affairs of the gold-mining industry are aware that it is in a very unsatisfactory state at the present time. It has been one of the greatest industries that Australia has had. Up to 1923 something like £616,000,000 worth of gold was extracted from Australian mines, but during the past few years the industry has been gradually declining. In Kalgoorlie to-day the mines are closing down, and men are leaving the district to find work elsewhere.
Glancing through the budget, I notice that £217,000 was paid out by way of bounty to the wine industry during the last financial year, and that the iron and steel industry received assistance to the extent of £242,000. Up to September, 1924, different industries were assisted by way of bounty to the extent of approximately £5,000,000.
– Over what period ?
– I cannot state exactly what the period is. I have always supported by voice and vote the payment of bounties, though it appears to me that practically every industry except the gold-mining industry is able to secure assistance from the Government. I do not lay the entire blame at the door of this Government, because its predecessor in office was approached, and declined to give assistance.
– Did not the Senate recently pass a bill making provision for a grant of £25,000 to the mining industry ?
– That was for prospecting. I remind Senator Andrew that that amount could easily be disposed of in one portion of Kalgoorlie alone. It must be remembered that £10,000 of that £25,000 is allocated to the Northern Territory, leaving only £15,000 for the remainder of Australia. That is a mere pretence at giving asistance to the mining industry. It was never intended to assist the industry as a whole, as the grant was specifically confined to prospecting in new areas. To show how mining, and especially gold-mining, has decreased in Western Australia, let me quote the following figures : -
In 1910, 17,711 persons were engaged in mining in Western Australia. By 1919 that number had decreased to 8,346, with a still further reduction to 6,497 in 1923.
– Some mines are worked out.
– Gold is still obtainable in Western Australia, but many difficulties confront the gold-mining industry. To overcome those difficulties, Government assistance is necessary.
– Is it not true that in many cases it costs more to obtain the gold than it is worth?
– I admit that there is a lot of low-grade ore, which, because of the high cost of production, is unprofitable to work; but a saving in overhead expenses would probably alter that. The Western Australian Government has made suggestions in that direction. The Commonwealth Government could assist the State Government in its efforts to get the best possible results from the gold that is there. During the tariff debate I endeavoured to secure a reduction in the duty on mining machinery, but the Government refused to grant it.
– During the war period the gold-mining industry of Western Australia was robbed to the extent of nearly £3,000,000.
– That is so; and no restitution has since been made. A year or two ago a deputation waited upon the Prime Minister to ask for assistance for the gold-mining industry. That deputation comprised representaTtives of all political parties as well as of the Chamber of Mines, yet the Government has done nothing. Mr. R. Hamilton, president of the Western Australian Chamber of Mines, in his evidence before the royal commission which inquired into Western Australia’s disabilities, in April, 1925, at Kalgoorlie, said -
Briefly, the alarming and continuous decline of mining is attributable to the great increase in working costs since 1914, which precludes the treatment of any but high-grade ores. Of this increase the two principal causes are the war, with its general enhancement of prices, and the high Federal tariff.
– That does not apply to the gold-mining industry only.
– I admit that; but the gold-mining industry has a special claim on the Commonwealth Go1vernment because of what was taken from it during the war period.
– I remind the honorable senator that numbers of copper mines as well as gold mines have closed down. “ Senator NEEDHAM.- I do not dispute that, but I am dealing now with the gold-mining industry. Other honorable senators may, if they wish, refer to copper-mining. Before concluding, I desire to quote from a pamphlet issued by the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia. Referring to the gold bonus, it says -
To serve the gold-fields of this State, 1,160 miles of railways have been built, 2,000 miles of road made, 350 miles of piping to deliver 5,000,000 gallons of water every day laid down, innumerable reservoirs for water constructed 1,700 miles of telegraph and 3,000 miles of telephone .lines erected. Many towns have been built; but, taking the towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder only, these, on municipal value, based oh five years’ purchase, represent over £1,000,000. To these may be added the value of the mine plants as shown in the Western Australian Mines Department annual’ report for the year 1923, £1.950,000. It is an easy matter to prove that these items added together have a total value of over. £8,000,000.
I thank honorable senators for their courteous hearing, and say, in conclusion that, while the Treasurer can be congratulated on having introduced the budget early, thus enabling us to criticise it before the money is expended. I regret that a more perfect budget has not been presented.
Debate (on motion by Senator Duncan) adjourned.
Tasmania: Statement by Right Hon. W. A. Watt.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) proposed-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I wish to refer briefly to a statement made in another place by a member of this Parliament, the Right Honorable W. A. Watt, who, in reply to an interjection by Colonel Bell, is reported to have said, “ The voice of the sluggard State speaks truly for that State.” To that, Colonel Bell interjected, “ Why sluggard ? “ and Mr. Watt replied, “ Is any proof needed ? If ever a statue is built to Tasmania, it will have its band extended for a tip.” The representatives of Tasmania are justified in protesting against a statement. >f that kind, coming from ;i responsible member of the Federal Legislature. Not only is it untrue, but it i« alao unworthy of one who, for many years, whether rightly or wrongly, has occupied a high place in the public life of this community. I cannot imagine that those sentiments are shared by any member of the Federal Parliament, or by any considerable section of the people of Victoria.
-I point out to the honorable senator that Standing Order 416 reads -
No senator shall allude to any debate of the current session in the House ofRepresentatives or to any measure impending therein.
The honorable senator, therefore, is not in order in referring to remarks made in another place during the current session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at6.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260722_senate_10_114/>.