10th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senator theHon. J. Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Use of Australian Timbers
– Arising from the answers given to my questions yesterday, will the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories (1) invite the Age newspaper to furnish, if it so desires, an explanation of the statement made in its columns in relation to the main entrance door of Parliament House at Canberra, and (2) will he endeavour to furnish, before Parliament adjourns, a reply to my question as to the proportion of imported and Australian timber used in the construction of Parliament House)
SenatorPEARCE. - I am afraid that the task suggested by the honorable senator in his first question is beyond the power of any Ministry.
– An invitation could be issued.
SenatorPEARCE. - I issue that invitation now, publicly; but I cannot Bay that I expect a satisfactory response. I shall endeavour to expedite the supply of the information asked for in the honorable senator’s second question.
– I have received from Senator Barnes an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate until 10 a.m. to-morrow in order to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely. “ the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.”
– I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 10 a.m. to-morrow.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
– I very reluctantly move this motion; but feel it necessary to do so in order to ventilate what ap- pears to me to be a grave injustice that has been done to at least one person in Australia, and, possibly, to thousands of others. Having exhausted every conciliatory means of obtaining justice for the person concerned, I now bring the matter forward, on the floor of the Senate, so that the people of Australia may know how the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is being administered. In order to conserve the time of the Senate in discussing this subject, I propose to read a departmental communication, which sets out the facts. When honorable senators have heard it, I think that not one of them will stand for the act being administered in the way the letter indicates. The letter, which is from the Commissioner of Pensions, Melbourne, and is dated 31st March, 1926, is as follows: -
With reference to your personal representations, I have to say that the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, Melbourne, has submitted to me the whole of the papers relating to the case of Mrs. Catherine Patterson, Ch’esswasstreet, Penshurst.
Mrs. Patterson applied for a .pension in July last, and stated in her claim that she was born in August, 1865. She produced a marriage certificate allowing that she was 25 years of age at the date of her marriage in 1890, but search in the records of the Government Statist’s office, Melbourne, showed that, according to her age, as given at the births of two of her children, she was ‘born in 1867, and was, therefore, only 58 years of age at the date of her claim. The Government Statist’s records were searched over the period 1864 to 1867 inclusive, with a view to obtaining a record of claimant’s birth, but without success.
The law provides that, in order to qualify for an old-age pension, a woman must have attained the age of 60 years. As the weight of evidence indicated that Mrs. Patterson had not reached the statutory age, the Deputy Commissioner had no option but to disallow her claim.
On 20th December last, Mrs. Patterson wrote to the Deputy Commissioner, Melbourne, applying for further consideration of her case, and submitting satisfactory evidence that she was born on the 6th June, 1863. The claim was immediately re-opened by the Deputy Commissioner, and a pension at the maximum rate of £52 per annum - £2 per fortnight - was granted as from the following pension payday, namely, the 31st December, 1925.
The law provides that the date of commencement of a pension shall not be earlier than the date of the claim. For the reason shown above, it was necessary to disallow the original claim for .pension, and any subsequent grant of pension could be made only in respect of a further claim. Mrs. Patterson’s letter of 20th December was treated as a new claim -
Why should it have been treated as a new claim ? Why should not the pension have been paid as from the date of the original application ? - and pension was granted as from the succeeding pension pay-day. In view of the law, I regret to say that I am unable to approve of payment being made as from any earlier date.
Section 33, sub-section 3, of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, by which the commissioner is governed, reads -
The determination of the commissioner or the deputy-commissioner shall, if in favour of the claim, set out the rate of the pension and the date of its commencement (which must not be prior to the date nf the claim), and a pension certificate in the prescribed form shall -thereupon be issued to the claimant.
The decision of the department is, in my opinion, most unjust, and since it may be operating in thousands of other cases, I have every justification for bringing it before the Senate. It has always been the desire of Parliament, that the act should be sympathetically administered in the interests of the aged and infirm of this country, but it would appear that in cases of this character there are some who are not administering it in the manner intended. We know that some persons advanced in years cannot conveniently produce the necessary documentary evidence to establish their correct age to the satisfaction of the officers of the department, but although this applicant eventually did so, she is being deprived of money to which she is justly entitled. I admit, of course, that it is the duty of the authorities to guard against imposition, but in this instance nothing of the kind is suggested. When this old lady failed in her original application to establish her age to the satisfaction of the department, the deputycommissioner was justified in refusing the claim for a pension; but when, later, she was able to obtain from the official records the information which the commissioner and his staff could not, she should have been granted at once a pension as from the date of her first application. According to the departmental letter which 1 have read, she is not only 60, at which age she was entitled to draw the pension, but is actually 62 years of age, and, therefore, could have been drawing it for two years had she been “ able to establish her claim at the outset. This poor woman, after fighting her battle for six months, eventually convinced the deputycommissioner that she was entitled to a pension, but he, in a cold-blooded manner, disregarded her original application, and treated her subsequent application as a new claim. I hold unhesitatingly that the pension should have been paid as from the date on which the first claim was made. I have interviewed the deputy-commissioner, the commissioner, and the Treasurer, but without success. It is amazing to find the authorities, in the fact of a plain statement of facts, repudiating this just claim. To some people the sum of ?22, of which this woman has been deprived, would be of little consequence, but to a poor person it means a great deal. I cannot imagine why the department should adopt this attitude. As the action taken in this case may have been taken in thousands of others, it is evident that some alteration will have to be made in the administration of the act. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Minister ‘ will give an assurance that justice will be done. I have given a plain statement of a plain case. It cannot be denied that a great injustice has been done, and even at this late hour it should be remedied.
– As Senator Barnes notified me that he intended to move the adjournment of the Senate to-day to discuss this matter, I was able to get in touch with the Treasury, from which I have received a statement concerning the case. In a minute from the Assistant Commissioner of Pensions to the Treasurer, the position is set out as follows: -
Mrs. Patterson lodged a claim for old.age pension on the 14th July, 1925. In her claim she declared that she was born on the 3rd August, 1865. Thus, according to her own statement, she was under the statutory age of 60 years at the date of her claim. Mrs. Patterson appeared before the magistrate on the ‘ 6th October, 1925, and produced a marriage certificate showing that her age was 25 years at the date of her marriage on the 31st December, 1890. The magistrate, however, was not impressed with the value of the document, because he noted the minutes of evidence - “ Better proof of age might be obtained,” His finding on the claim was that age of 60 years was “ insufficiently proved,” and he recommended that better proof of age be obtained.
To show that the department has not been unsympathetic, I direct honorable senators’ attention to the following: -
In view of the magistrate’s remarks, ‘the department endeavoured to obtain satisfactory evidence of the claimant’s age. A search was made at the Government Statist’s Office over the years 1864 to 1869, inclusive, for a record of the claimant’s birth, but without result. A further search was also made regarding claimant’s age as recorded at the births of two children. According to these latter records claimant was born in 1867, and was, therefore, not of the statutory age of 60 years at the date of her claim. On this evidence the Deputy-Commissioner of Pensions properly rejected the claim in October, 1925. Nearly two months after her claim had been rejected, Mrs. Patterson produced an extract of birth entry, which showed that she was born on the 6th June, 1863. According to this record claimant was more than 60 years of age, and the department’ immediately approved of a full pension being granted from the 31st December, 1925. The date of commencement fixed was the first pension payday following the date on which satisfactory evidence was produced to the department that the claimant had attained the statutory age. Section 33 (3) of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides that the commissioner or deputy-commissioner who determines a claim shall set out the date of commencement of the’ pension. Under this section a pension cannot be granted as from a da’te prior to the date of the claim. Mrs. Patterson’s claim for pension was properly rejected in the first instance, because the evidence then furnished indicated that the claimant had not attained the statutory age. Any subsequent decision to grant a pension could only be made as the result of a fresh claim. The receipt of the birth extract in December, 1925, was treated as equivalent to a fresh claim for pension, and pension was made available from the first succeeding payday. This was the earliest date from which pension could be granted in accordance with the law.
The practice followed in this case has been observed during the whole seventeen- years of pensions administration, and is in conformity with the .requirements of the law. The necessity for such a provision is obvious. It is frequently found that a pension claimant, for various reasons, delays making application for pension for many years after he has attained the statutory age. When at length the claim has been made, the claimant has frequently asked for the pension to take effect as from the date on which he attained the statutory age. In many instances this request, if granted, would involve the payment of arrears extending over a period of several years. Obviously, requests of this nature could not bo granted, because of the heavy additional expenditure which would be involved.
Additional expenditure, I may add, which could not be foreseen, and provision could not be made for it.
– That case is not on all-fours with the case of Mrs. Patterson.
– The minute of the department concludes with the following paragraph: -
In the circumstances outlined above, it will be seen that Mrs. Patterson has received the full amount of pension to which she is legally entitled.
The point to which I direct the attention of Senator Barnes and other honorable senators is that the first claim was rejected, and could not later be treated by the department as the claim upon which the pension should be granted.
– Why, then, did the department tell me that they had “reopened” the ease?
– That was a misuse of words. The first application having been rejected, the second claim is the only one upon which the pension could be granted.
– Why is that?
– Because, when a claim has been rejected it is dead. The amount involved in this particular case, about £22, is small; but the department point out that if they were to strain the law - and they contend that it would be a straining of the law - to follow the practice suggested when the amount is small, they would be placed in a difficulty if a similar request were made and the amount was large. . Take the case of a man who applied for a pension when he had reached the age of 70 year3, and asked that his claim should be antedated to the time when he became eligible to receive a pension.
– That is not the case in this instance.
– That principle would be introduced.
– It would not. All I want is that payment be made from the date of the first claim.
– That claim was rejected on good grounds. Supposing that Mrs. Patterson had waited for two years before submitting her second application, would the honorable senator contend that the pension ought to be paid from the date of her first claim? The line must be drawn somewhere. I want to make it clear that it is not the department which draws the line; it is the law that has been passed by this Parliament.
– If the woman had been paid from July, who would have questioned it?
– The AuditorGeneral would have been entitled to question it.
– He could not, and he would not.
– Senator Barnes referred to the sentiment of the people. That is expressed in the law.
– I contend that I am reading the law aright.
– The officers of the department are concerned only with the carrying out of the law. In this case they have done that.
– They have not.
– The question is, should the law be altered ?
– It will have to be altered if it is administered in this spirit.
– I have no personal knowledge of or feeling in this matter ; I have merely stated the case that has been put up by the department. I promise to bring before the notice of the Treasurer the remarks that Senator Barnes has made, to see whether there should be some amendment of the law to enable cases of this kind to be met.
– Do not the facts cf the case indicate that an amendment of the law is necessary to punish a woman who wrongly states her own age when she registers the birth of her child ?
– Such a law is already on the statute-book.
– It ought to be enforced.
– The department says that it cannot pay this claim without breaking the law, and that an amendment of the law is necessary to enable it to do so.
.- The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), has not given an effective reply to the case that has been made out by Senator Barnes in support of Mrs. Patterson’s claim for an old-age pension. I have had considerable experience with the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department, and have always received sympathetic treatment from it. Senator Barnes himself has admitted that the administration is sympathetic. I do not think that it is his intention - it certainly is not mine - to attack the officers who are so ably administering the act. Senator Pearce and his advisers have not been seized of the true import of the case that has been made out by Senator Barnes. The right honorable gentleman quoted sub-section 3 of section 33 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, which reads -
The determination of the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner shall, if in favour of the claim, set out the rate of pension and the date of its commencement (which must not be prior to the date of the claim) and a pension certificate in the prescribed form shall thereupon be issued to the claimant.
The point that Senator Barnes endeavoured to emphasize, and that I again emphasize, is that allowance should be made for the ignorance of a claimant regarding age at the time of making a claim. Senator Pearce said that if such a practice were followed a claim might be made four years after a person became entitled to receive a pension,’ and the claimant might ask to be given the arrears of pension. Such a case has no analogy to this. At the time that she made the claim, Mrs. Patterson thought that she was over the age which entitled her to receive a pension. . She subsequently discovered that she had understated her age by two years. There was no intention on her part to impose upon the department. Her actions prove Tier honesty. When, by reason of her own efforts, and with the assistance of the department, proof was furnished that she was entitled to a pension, it would not have been out of place for the department to have granted her the arrears to the date when she first made her claim. That would not be a straining of the law j on the contrary it would be a correct interpretation of the spirit of the act. I admit that the officers who administer the act must exercise care to prevent imposition. But if we are to be tied down to the interpretation given by the Treasury in this case the act must be amended with a view to prevent a repetition of these occurrences. The system of registration of births, which was in force at the time when present day claimants were born, was not comparable with that which exists to-day. Many claimants are put to a considerable amount of trouble to ascertain their age, and the department frequently gives assistance in that direction. The case that has been made out by Senator Barnes deserves further consideration by the department. This is a genuine and honest claim. Had the claimant been aware of her age she would have been entitled to receive a pension for the two years that preceded the date on. which she made her claim. I cannot conceive why the department should look upon the claim on which the pension was granted as a second claim, especially in view of the fact that the claimant was not endeavouring to impose upon it. I respectfully suggest to the Minister that in addition to having this matter further considered there ought to be an investigation to ascertain whether the act should be amended to prevent a repetition of injustices of this nature. Probably there are similar cases that have not been brought to the notice of the Senate. Parliament is the highest court of appeal. I join with Senator Barnes in asking the Government to review the matter. Although the amount involved is small, an important principle is at stake. If the act were properly interpreted, the applicant would receive the pension from the date of her original application. I hope that the Minister will impress upon the Cabinet and the Department the importance of acceding to this request, and taking action to prevent a similar decision being given in future.
– The decision in this case is similar to that given in like cases for year’s past, but I think that Senator Barnes has rendered a public service in bringing the matter before Parliament. The position is that the applicant failed in her first application to establish her age, and, so far as the department was concerned, the business was at an end. ‘But when her further application was made, she was able to furnish information which established the fact that at the date of her original application she’ was two years older than necessary to qualify for the pension.
– Did not the age of the lady, given in the registration of the birth of her two children, show that she was two years younger than she claimed to be when applying for the pension ?
– Senator Givens has no intention to obscure the issue, but bis interjection may have that effect. The first application should not be dissociated from the second, since there was really only one application. The births of children are carefully registered to-day, and people are kept under surveillance by the State until their death; but at the time when this applicant was born parents were less careful than they are to-day in the matter of the registration of births. The Minister should give immediate and sympathetic consideration to the application, and, if necessary, instruct the Chief Commissioner of Pensions that the act should be so interpereted as to enable the application to be granted. That would be giving bare justice “to the lady. The fact of an application not having been made at an earlier date caused her to lose the pension for two years, a sum amounting to about £90, although she was morally - and, I think, legally - entitled to it. The Minister need not be afraid of the Auditor-General complaining if such ‘ a course were adopted; it is merely a matter of the interpretation of the. law. Numerous cases of this kind have come under my notice. The Minister should not hesitate to change his mind, since the’ facts are incontrovertibly against him, and are strongly in favour of the’ applicant.
– Even Senator Barnes changed his mind recently on the referenda issues.
– Order !
– I did not.
– As a matter of fact, the whole of the Nationalist party.
– Order ! “’
– The whole of the Nationalist party, in Sydney, after being addressed by Senator Pearce–
– Order !
– Changed its mind.
– The honorable senator will kindly take his seat. I have called order on several occasions. The honorable gentleman will have to learn that the Chair is entitled to respect. ‘ He will also have to learn that when I call for order he, in common with every other honorable senator, is expected to obey the ruling of the Chair. I shall see that in future he does so. Senator Foll, by interjection, introduced a subject quite foreign to the matter under consideration, and I summoned him to order; but when I called Senator Grant to order he continued to discuss the irrelevant matter that had been introduced. I ask him to obey the presiding officer ; otherwise, action will have to be taken.
– I had not the slightest desire to contravene your ruling, Mr. President. My remarks were due to inadvertence. I appeal finally to the Minister to regard this case as typical of many others. I suggest that if in future an application is rejected for a reason such as that advanced in this instance, and it is subsequently established that the applicant was entitled to the pension, the application should be regarded as continuous. Mrs. Patterson should not be deprived of her legitimate right on a mere technicality. I hope that the Minister will instruct the department to deal sympathetically with this case.
.- The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be administered sympathetically, because invariably applicants for the pension are without friends to advise them. I have filled in hundreds of claims, and I have noticed that many applicants have little or no idea of what the questions mean. It is possible that Mrs. Patterson received some- assistance from a friend, who asked her how old she was. Possibly she told him she was born in a certain year. It is conceivable that, acting on- the assumption that she was 60 years of age, he made an error and calculated that she was born in 1867. Quite properly her claim, stated in those terms, was rejected, but I notice that the pensions officials searched from the year 1865 onwards. Had they gone back a few years they would have ascertained that she was born in 1863.
– They searched as far back as 1864.
– It is as well to remember that mistakes are easily made in these matters. I am sure that the department is anxious to assist these old people. I was surprised at the interjection by Senator Givens, whilst Senator Pearce was speaking, to the effect that steps should be taken to prosecute people who give the wrong date in connexion with the registration of the birth of their children. In many cases they forget. The fact that Mrs. Patterson had not made an application’ until she was 62 years of age is. I think, conclusive proof of her honesty. In the circumstances, I submit that the claim made by Senator Barnes on her behalf should be accepted, because, had she known, two years earlier, that she was entitled to a pension, and had she applied, there is not the slightest doubt that she would have collected approximately £85 or £90 more. I interpret the law as a layman, and I keep in mind the peculiar difficulties of these old people whose memories may be failing, and who have no one to guide them. If men in business wish to make application for shares in a public company, very often they seek the advice of lawyers or other professional men. But these old people, many of whom are illiterate, have to depend upon friends who also may be without education. Mrs. Patterson should receive the pension as from the date of her first application. I am inclined to think that the view taken by the department could not be sustained at law, but, of course, Mrs. Patterson has no money to test her claim in that way. Parliament is the only tribunal to which people in her circumstances can appeal. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will treat the claim sympathetically. I am sure that the consensus of opinion in the Senate is that she should receive her pension as from the date of her first application, and certainly no moral law would be broken if the Minister instructed the department to do that.
.- One point raised in the debate makes this subject intensely interesting’ to me, as one who has had a good deal to do with pension claims, and that is whether a rejected claim made under similar conditions cannot be re-opened. The Minister has stated that a second application is treated as a fresh claim. I was under the impression, and I am still, that many claims rejected owing to the lack of sufficient evidence as to age arer afterwards reopened.
– The practice of the department for 17 years has been to deal with those cases as fresh applications.
– I believe 1 have heard of cases where the claim for the pension, granted on a second application, has been paid as from the date of the first claim.
– Undoubtedly; so have I.
– The department is not acting fairly by this old lady. There is a difference between her case and that of other applicants who do not claim the pension until they are long past the statutory age. No honorable senator will contend that persons who fail to make application until they reach the age of 70 years should be paid the pension as from the date when they reached the statutory age. The two cases are not parallel.
We ought to have this point cleared up. We should know definitely whether a claim rejected on. account of insufficient evidence can be re-opened. I .always understood this was the practice. In many cases, it is almost impossible for old people to state their exact age. Therefore, if a claim is disallowed owing to mistakes of this nature, it should be possible to reopen it.
– I am advised that sometimes applications are deferred for inquiry without any decision being given, but that, if a claim is rejected, a subsequent application must be treated as a new claim.
.- I have listened very carefully to the debate on this subject. The time is ripe for a revision of the act. There is no doubt that the sympathy of the Senate is with this dear old lady. Most honorable senators are of the opinion that her claim should be accepted. I have another case, that of a lady who, whilst in receipt of the pension, lived on a small property in the bush with her son. Subsequently she handed the land over to her son, and went to live with her daughter in the city. Immediately, her pension was reduced to 8s. per /reek. Had she continued to reside on the property with her son, she would be receiving £1 a week to-day. I wrote to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in relation to her case, but without success. Recently, I put further facts before him, and they are now receiving his consideration. A little more of the spirit of the act should be shown in its administration. It was the intention of Parliament to deal with these old people in a sympathetic manner. Senator Barnes has done a great service to them by bringing this matter before the Senate. While the Government is considering the case brought forward by him, it should ascertain whether there are any others of a similar nature which require attention.
– Did the lady to whom the honorable senator referred receive any rent for the property ?
– No; it was her home, where she had reared her family. I should be glad if the Minister would also make inquiries into this case.
.- Hundreds of applications for invalid and old-age pensions have passed through my hands, and, excepting in this instance, I have had no cause forcomplaint as to the manner in which they have been dealt with by the department. My purpose in ventilating this matter to-day is not to reflect upon the officers of the department; I believe that invariably they endeavour to act justly, but because in this case it appears to me that a glaring wrong has been committed I have followed it up. My action to-day is not inspired by vindictiveness. I claim to be a fair man, as able as are most people to see the merits of a case. Because I considered that this woman had a just claim I patiently exhausted every means of obtaining justice for her. I am satisfied that a great wrong has been done to her. I take the Minister’s assurance that he will make further representations to the Treasury in her case as an indication that there is still hope that she will obtain justice. I ask, not for mercy, but for plain justice. When a woman makes a claim in July, which is rejected in October, and continues to fight, believing in the justice of her claim, eventually convincing the department of the correctness of the information supplied by her, her pension should be paid from the date when her application was first submitted - in this case, the month of July. In view of the Minister’s assurance I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that naval trainees who are away on seventeen days’ service on one of the Australian Naval boats will be compelled to make up the drills they miss while on such service, in some cases amounting to three drills?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following reply:
The Defence Act prescribes that, in the case of Naval trainees, the training shall be 25 whole-day drills in each year, of which not less than seventeen shall be cotinuous training. The continuous training is carried out afloat whenever possible, and the remaining eight days are made up by half-day and night drills. When H.M.A. training ship visits a naval sub-district for continuous training, the half-day and night drills listed during such period are necessarily deferred to a future date; but the total drills required by the act are not exceeded.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following reply: -
Such of the information as can be furnished is being obtained; but it will not he possible to supply particulars that will disclose the business transactions of any particular firm.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following reply: -
The whole question is being investigated by the Government; but no measure will be introduced during the ‘present sittings of Parliament.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The reply to the honorable senator’s questions is: -
Proposals for the amendment of the existing law are at present under consideration of the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the urgent need for oil production in the Commonwealth, the Government will make available a sum of money to enable the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to do research work which would assist in the commercial production of oil from shale?
– The honorable the Treasurer has forwarded the following reply:
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has already given considerable attention to the question of carrying out research work on the production of oil from shale, and a statement outlining the Council’s attitude on the matter will be available very shortly.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the enormous importance of the sheep industry to Australia, and of the serious economic loss due to the prevalence of footrot disease, will the Government instruct the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to immediately make a thorough investigation with the object of discovering an anti-toxin?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follow : -
A conference of leading veterinary pathologists is being held in Sydney this week to consider and advise upon the whole question of investigations on animal diseases and pests to be undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The question of footrot disease in sheep will be considered by that conference.
Motion (by SenatorPearce) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Crawford) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Crawford) read a first time.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Vice-President of the Executive Council) [4.6]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the measure is simply to extend for another year the provisions of the States Loan Act 1925, so that the Comonwealth Parliamentand the Government may, in accordance with a resolution of the Australian Loan Council at its meeting on the 27th May last, borrow moneys for the States for the financial year 1926-27. It merely enables the Commonwealth, during this financial year, to borrow for the States in exactly the same way as was done last year. During the last two and a half years the loan operations of the Commonwealth and the States have been conducted in accordance with agreements made by the Australian Loan Council. The generalpolicy of the Loan Council includes the following points: -
Under the act passed last year the Commonwealth floated in Australia for the States a loan of £5,100,000. The rate of interest offered was5¼ per cent., or¼ per cent, below the rate at which £67,000,000 of our own war loans, which matured on the 15th December, 1925, had been converted. The5¼ per cent. loan raised for the States, I might say, was over-subscribed - a total of £6,274,810 having been raised. Later, the Commonwealth was able, by private negotiation, to secure a further sum of £1,640,000 at the same terms on behalf of the States. As regards borrowing overseas, the States participated in the £15,000,000 loan raised by the Commonwealth in New York to the extent of £5,008,733, so that the total borrowings for the States, in Australia and overseas under the act of last year, reached the sum of £12,923,543. As the measure is only to renew the existing act for another year, I trust that it will have a speedy passage.
– I have no objection to offer to the measure, seeing that it simply enables the Commonwealth to continue to borrow on behalf of the States. The State Loan Council has done good work, but I should like to know if the Minister is able tosay whether there is any possibility of New South Wales coming into the scheme.
– There is no indication at present, but we are still hopeful.
– As the present arrangement seems satisfactory, I haveno objection to offer to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for the continuance of the Shale Oil Bounty Act 1917-23, for another three years from the 1st September, 1926. The principle of assistance to this industry was established in 1917, when the Shale Oil Bounty Act No. 29 was passed, providing for the payment of a bounty of2¼d. on each gallon of crude oil up to 3,500,000 gallons, produced in Australia, with lower rates varying from 2d: to 1½d. per gallon on greater production. By Act No. 6 of 1921, the period of payment of the bounty was extended until 31st August, 1922. In that year the Tariff Board made a very thorough investigation into the industry. In view of the position as shown in the board’s report, an amending Act, No. 40 of 1922, was passed further extending the period for one year, and at the same time increasing the maximum rate of bounty to 3£d. per gallon. A further extension of the period was effected by Act No. 23 of 1923, until 31st August next, and, unless renewed, will expire on that date. The amount appropriated by ihe Shale Oil Bounty Act, 1917-23, was £270,000, of which £125,491 has been expended, leaving £144,509 still available. At the maximum rate of 3½d. per gallon, this amount will be sufficient to pay the bounty for the extended period now proposed. I feel sure honorable senators will agree that if the industry is to continue it is necessary to renew the bounty, particularly as the products of the industry are exposed to the competition of several countries possessing natural oil wells from which oil is produced much more cheaply than from shale. This com- ^petition would result in closing up the Australian industry unless it received protection in some form. From 1917-18 to 1924-25, approximately 13,000,000 gallons of crude oil have been produced or an average of 1,625,000 gallons a year. The highest year’s production during that period was about 3,000,000 gallons. The output is, however, only a small proportion of Australia’s requirements. The company interested in the industry in New South Wales has recently installed an up-to-date plant costing £100,000, for the treatment of crude oik. This represents the very latest machinery for the complete extraction of the valuable oil contents with a minimum of residual oil, for which residue the market in. Australia is very limited. The New South Wales deposits have been idle for some time, but their re-opening is at present under conaidderation by the company. In addition to the New South Wales industry, a Tasmanian company has commenced operations on the shale deposits of that State. If the bounty is allowed to lapse it is quite certain that the New South Wales works will not be re-opened, and that the Tasmanian project will be abandoned. The Tariff Board, which recently conducted an investigation into the industry, recom- mended a continuation of the payment of the bounty for a further period of three years, and in adopting the board’s recommendation the Government believes it is acting in the national interest and assuring to Australia the establishment of a most vital key industry. As the bill merely provides for a continuation of existing legislation, I trust honorable senators will be prepared to continue the debate to-day.
.- In 1917, Parliament passed a Shale Oil Bounty Bill, under which £270,000 was appropriated to encourage the production of shale oil in Australia. Of that amount £125,491 has been expended to date. When provision was first made for the payment of a bounty on shale oil, operations were being conducted on the. deposits in the Newnes Valley, in New South Wales, but owing to a dispute arising between Fell and Company and the employees, work has been suspended for some time, and consequently scarcely any bounty has been paid. Of the amount originally appropriated, £144,000 remains unexpended. New South Wales is the only State that has produced shale oil in large quantities. In making that statement I hope that I do not offend the susceptibilities of my Tasmanian friends. That State has produced a little oil from shale.
– But it has spent a good deal of money.
– I admit that it has spent a considerable amount of money in endeavouring to obtain oil from shale. I have visited the shale oil deposits in both States, and it is my belief that the working expenses in Tasmania are much lower than those in New South Wales. In the Newnes Valley, where the great shale oil deposit exists, the working expenses axe large, because the shale band is in the centre of a large quantity of other material that does not possess any value, but has to be taken out before the shale deposit can be worked. In the Latrobe Valley, Tasmania, there is a face of shale, with a 6-ft. seam, that does not present any obstacles.
– The only thing required is the right process for retorting it.
– That is the vital point. I understand that, in the Latrobe Valley, experiments are being conducted with the Bronder system of retorting.
– In the Newnes Valley the plant is being worked by what is known as the cracking process, from which it is hoped to obtain nearly double the quantity of petrol.
– The vital necessity is to obtain the proper system of retorting. The value of the New South Wales. shale is greater than that of the Tasmanian shale. It has been claimed that 100 gallons per ton is obtainable, and has been obtained from the former.
– That is a very high percentage.
– It is richer than the Scottish shale.
– Sworn evidence has been given before the Accounts Committee to that effect. I understand that the value of the Tasmanian shale is 40’ gallons to the ton.
– It also is richer than the Scottish shale.
– All the Australian shale is richer than the Scottish. According to a geological report, New South Wales has approximately 40,000,000 tons, and Tasmania approximately 12,000,000 tons, of shale.
– Is it fairly compact?
– Yes, in both cases. The biggest proportion of the shale that has so far been produced in New South Wales has been taken from Wolgan. Valley, in the western area of the State. I quote the following figures regarding production in New South Wales andTasmania :-
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research could very well have referred to it the question of ascertaining what process would be most suitable for retorting our shales. Senator Ogden, I think, will admit that that is a very vexed question. There is a vast difference between the shale that is found in the Latrobe Valley and that in the Newnes Valley. Those; who are engaged in the production of oil from shale are at .their wits’ end to deters mine the best system of retorting. When! the Minister (Senator Crawford) is reply-: ing, I should like him to inform me whether there is a regulation which states that a condition of participation in the bounty is an output of not less than! 250,000 gallons per annum. The Committee of Public Accounts recently in”vestigated the expenditure on oil exploration, development, refining, &c, in the Commonwealth and Papua. I shall quote, from its report to show the importance of this matter and the position which Australia would occupy if we had at ourdisposal oil from shale, not only for commercial purposes, but also to meet our requirements if we were to be subject to aggression. At page 4 of the report the,’ following statement is made: -
In New South Wales- it is estimated that, there are 40,000,000 tons of shale, representing. 3,500 million gallons of oil of which 20,000,000 tons, or 2,000 million gallons, are in the Newnes’ district. . The Newnes deposit, extending from.: the Capertee Valley to the Wolgan Valley, is the most extensive yet . developed, being proved’ over an area of 5,000 acres, the thickness of the seam varying from 14 to 50 inches. The NewSouth Wales shale is stated to be one of the richest shales in the world, containing from GO to 150 gallons’ of oil to the ton, and averaging in actual distillation about 101 gallons.. Large quantities have in the past been exported for use by gas manufacturers. The quantity of shale mined in that State from 1865 to 1924 has totalled ‘ 1,919,685 tons, the annual amount varying considerably. In Tasmania the reserves and probable reserves of’ shale are set down at 42,000,000 tons, or 1,700’ million gallons of oil; the Mersey Valley repre’‘senting 10,000,000 tons of actual reserves and’ 27,000,000 tons of probable reserves, or 1,000- million gallons of oil.
Another interesting extract in relation to. the Newnes Valley deposit is the following: . -s
During the periods of their activity, viz.,from 1909 to 1912, and from 1915 to January,- 1923, these works have produced 25,260,015: gallons of crude oil and crude naphtha, from which were derived the following products : -
The disastrous effects of the closing of such works, consisting of shale and coal mines, power plant, retorts, and complete distillation plant for the preparation of refined products From the crude oil, as well as the railway, the locomotives, and rolling-stock, can only be properly appreciated by a personal inspection. At the time of the Accounts Committee’s visit, December, 1924, the shale mine was falling into decay, the drives were gradually closing in, and the works generally, including the railway, were rapidly deteriorating for want of use and through absence of proper maintenance. As a result of its inspection, the committee was impressed by the urgent necessity for early action being taken to prevent further loss, as it was apparent that the longer such a state of affairs continued the more expensive it would be to remedy it.
There is only one other quotation that I desire to make from this report. Dr. Wade was brought out to Australia by the Commonwealth Government as a crude oil expert. He visited the Wolgan Valley district, and inspected the shale deposits and works. Special reference thereto is contained in his report on petroleum investigation in New South Wales - Parliamentary Paper No. 38 of 1925. Hia concluding paragraph reads -
I should like to point out that, in the long run, these kerosene shales may be more profitable to Australia than oil wells, especially if only small wells and limited pools be eventually discovered. Moreover, there is no certainty, that such pools will be discovered. In the meantime, the amount of shale can be ascertained definitely; we can find out what our resources are, what can be done with them, and make plans accordingly. Beds of kerosene shale are not so erratic and uncertain as oil wells. Water troubles and careless drilling will not affect them. They remain where they are, and will not “ peter out “ when most wanted, as oil wells sometimes do. Their profitable development will depend upon research and business methods, and not so much on wild-cat speculation. I consider them to be one of the greatest assets that Australia possesses, and the day of their very great importance may yet come.
Instead of keeping the shale in reserve in the event of an emergency, we should develop the deposits to the extent of providing a nucleus supply of oil, so that there would be a reserve for the purpose of meeting any emergency that might arise. We should not allow the deposits to lie untouched, but should encourage the industry until the fields in the Newnes district and in the Mersey Valley are in full operation. We should take the opportunity in time of peace to develop the deposits, so that they will be available as a reserve in the event of war.
– I support the bill, but I regret that the bounty is not offered for a longer period than three years. Thiswill cause uncertainty in the minds of those who are commercially interested in the deposits, or are prospective investors. I have no intention to submit an amendment of the bill; but I urge the Government to give closer attention to the matter than it has received in the past. In speaking on the budget last night I referred to the importance of the deposits, and the need to develop what has been rightly described as a “key” industry. In the course of time oil will be of even greater commercial value than it is to-day in the industrial sphere. The burning of coal is fast going out of favour as a means of developing power for ships, and oil is being substituted for it.
– Great Britain has not yet given up coal.
– No, but it is proposed that some of the locomotives in the Old Country should be fitted up as oil burners, and I am under the impression that several of the railway companies there are already burning oil fuel. Its use in ships and locomotives has passed the experimental stage, and it seems to me that it might well be tried on the long stretches of the north-south railway, since oil is more economical to haul than coal. In New South Wales and Tasmania large sums have been expended in efforts to develop the deposits of oil shale. The Government, which has directed its attention particularly to attempts to discover flow oil, should be generous in its assistance to those interested in the commercial production of shale oil. The report quoted by Senator Needham indicates the extensive nature of the deposits in the Mersey Valley and in the Newnes district of New South Wales, and I remind honorable senators that since that report was prepared, further enormous deposits have been discovered. It is impossible accurately to state their full extent. I do not agree with Senator Needham that, when a nucleus supply of shale oil has been provided, further development should cease, the deposits being held in reserve. If the bountywere limited to a given quantity of oil, there would be no incentive for private enterprise to develop the deposits vigorously,
Some years ago Lord Jellicoe visited Australia; he drew attention to this latent wealth, and pointed out that in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth the earliest consideration should be given to its development. I have on previous occasions suggested that the Government should request the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to cooperate in the efforts being made to produce shale oil on a commercial basis. If the attempts to discover flow oil prove unsuccessful - I sincerely hope that they will not - the Government will have to turn its attention to the shale deposits in the event of overseas supplies of oil failing. The Government should give every possible encouragement to those who have done the spade work in this industry, and are still endeavouring to develop a great national asset for the benefit of the Commonwealth. Five or six years ago the Naval Board entered into a tentative agreement with the Tasmanian Government to purchase 8,000 tons of oil per annum for naval purposes, but the efforts to get the necessary legislation passed by the State Parliament failed, and the negotiations ceased. The amount of the bounty might well be increased in order to give greater encouragement to. the pioneers of the industry. I hope that the Government will consider the advisability of increasing the three-year period.
While I welcome this bill, I point out that a bounty is regarded as a protective duty on a commodity being manufactured or produced. Up to the present time shale oil has really not been commercially produced in Australia, and the history of our shale deposits has been disappointing. Although they are richer than those in Scotland, the latter are being successfully worked, and oil is extracted from the lower grade shales. Paradoxical as it may seem, the richer the shale the more difficult becomes the process for the extraction of the oil from it. What I want to impress on the Government is that, instead of assisting a foreign company, it would be better to expend money to help those companies that are incurring considerable expenditure in experimenting to get the right system of retorting.
– The company referred to by the honorable senator is not a foreign concern, because the British Government holds one-half of the shares.
– What I meant was that we are assisting a company that is not producing oil in Australia, and our purpose should be to encourage the production of oil in this country. Since our only potential source of supply lies in our large oil shale deposits, we should concentrate our expenditure and attention upon them. I am afraid this bounty will not do Very much. I think the ‘ Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) stated that, before advantage could be taken of the measure, any company claiming the bounty would be required to produce 250,000 gallons of oil. That is a rather large order, in view of the fact that as yet the industry is m its experimental stages. ‘ This afternoon the Minister, replying to a question which I had on the notice-paper, informed me that the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research had already given this subject a considerable amount of attention, and that a statement outlining the attitude of the council would be made available very shortly. I should like to see the council provided with funds and instructed to assist private companies to solve the very difficult problem of evolving the proper kind of retort. The huge deposits in Tasmania are easily accessible to the seaboard, and can be mined economically and profitably with the right system of retorting. I cannot speak so authoritatively about the position in New South Wales, but I know that there are large deposits of oil shale in that State. If we can produce larger quantities of oil in Australia, we shall become, to some extent at all events, independent of those foreign corporations and monopolies that were so vigorously denounced the other day by the Prime Minister.
– The fact that) up to the present, flow oil has not been discovered in Australia, is a good reason why we should offer every encouragement to companies that are prepared to experiment in the production of oil from our shale deposits or other sources. I hope that the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research will be instructed to make a careful inquiry into the possibility of producing oil from our coal deposits. This is being done in Germany, though not as yet on a commercial basis. We have enormous deposits of coal, if only we can devise the right system for the extraction of oil from it.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Limited is experimenting.
– We have the largest supplies of coal in Queensland, ranging in quality from what might be called brown lignite to semi-anthracite coal; and if we can only evolve the right system for the extraction of oil from coal, on a commercial basis, we shall be absolutely independent of the foreign oil companies. This problem might well be regarded as one of the most important that could be submitted to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and I hope that something will be done in that direction without delay.
.- Since the industry is in its experimental stages, it has occurred to me that the period for the payment of the bounty should be extended up to even ten years, in. order to encourage those who may invest their money in the business to place it on a commercial basis.
– If that were done, we should have to increase the amount of appropriation.
– It will be necessary to extend the period if the investing public is to become interested. The industry has great possibilities, and in the interests of the Commonwealth it should be encouraged.
– It is about time that a halt was called in this business of paying out public money to encourage experiments in the extraction of oil from our shale deposits. This work has been going on for many years, and, as far as I can see, with unsatisfactory results.
– Not unsatisfactory, because if the oil is not extracted from the shale, the Government as not called upon to pay the bounty.
– The people should be encouraged to depend upon their own resources, and not to be continuously asking for assistance from the Federal Treasury.
– It is a policy that is endorsed by the honorable senator’s party.
– Nowadays, immigrants expect to receive large sums of money before they go about the business of settling on the land. This was not always the case. The history of the pioneering of Australia shows that men came here of their own volition, and made their way unaided by the Government. The position is different to-day. Even a great wealthy State like Western Australia is holding out its hand for assistance.
– What has that to do with this Bounty Bill?
– Everything. It is time that men and wealthy companies relied on their own resources, instead of leaning on the Government. Why should the people of Australia be called upon to find money for a bounty to enable John Fell and Company to build up a monopoly in New South Wales ? In 1868, when no Government assistance was forthcoming, 17,000 tons of shale oil were produced in Australia,presumably at Newnes, in New South Wales. In 1919 the production was 25,453 tons, and in 1920, 21,004 tons. Practically the whole of it came from Wolgan, in New South Wales. In recent years, oil shale deposits have been discovered in Tasmania, and, of course, as usual, the Tasmanians have been holding their daily caucus meetings, and have come to the conclusion that this bill gives them another chance to hold out their hand for assistance from the Commonwealth Treasury. Oil produced from shale cannot compete with flow oil. We have voted large sums of money at various times in connexion with proposals to ensure an adequate supply of oil in Australia. At present the Government holds a controlling interest in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, because it recognizes that we cannot rely upon the few million gallons of oil that may be extracted under the most laborious conditions from our oil shale deposits. In 1923 and 1924 we obtained 50 per cent. of our oil from the United States of America, and from the north-east Indies, and 4,000,000 gallons from Borneo. The proposal outlined in the bill does not appeal to me. The Government should hold shares in the companies that receive the bounty. Senator Thompson would not invest his money in a concern unless he held scrip corresponding to the amount of money he invested. The proposal to pay a bounty on shale oil is a matter of considerable interest to those who are engaged in the exploitation of Australia’s cil supplies.
– They have lost thousands of pounds in the search for oil.
– Some of them have, and some -of them have not. But even if they have lost money, is that any concern of the Commonwealth ?
– Yes. Does not the search for oil provide employment?
– So far as I know, no work has been done in the Newnes Valley for about three years. No doubt there is a good reason for that. For a number of years Australia will have to depend almost exclusively on oil imported from the United States of America or South-East Asia.
– The time may come when we shall not be able to get it.
– That is quite likely, and for that reason we should take care to ensure that adequate stocks of oil are stored in Australia. Our oil requirements are increasing each year. In the year 1923-24, Australia imported 66,608,949 gallons of oil, at a cost of £4,206,846. In the following year our importations of oil increased to 89,667,820 gallons, the value being £5,375,133. The quantity of oil which we could obtain from shale, even with the expenditure of large sums of money, and after much work, would be negligible. I understand that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited makes a profit of only 10 per cent. The Government might do more to increase the business of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries limited. A determined effort should be made to secure additional supplies of oil. The tendency is for oil to replace coal as a fuel, both on land and sea. No one can estimate with any degree of certainty the oil resources of Asia or America.
– Or Australia.
– Our knowledge of the existence in Australia of flow oil is limited. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the only place in Australia where definite indications of the existence of flow oil have been found, is the Roma district in Queensland. In that locality a bore was put down, but when it had almost reached the depth at which it was expected that oil would be found, something went wrong with the machinery. A similar fate befell a second bore at about the same depth. An inquiry should be held to ascertain why those accidents occurred when the bores had almost reached the depth at which oil was supposed to exist.’ There may, or may not, be flow oil there. While oil may be discovered in Australia in the future, the fact remains that it has not yet been discovered. Very little flow oil has been discovered in New Guinea. The Government should make a determined effort to secure, at the lowest possible cost, large supplies of oil, and to provide a substantial reserve of oil in Australia. With Senator H. Hays, I agree that if our supplies of oil from abroad were cut off, we should be placed in a very awkward position. The quantity of oil which can be obtained from our shale deposits with the existing machinery is very small in comparison with our requirements. I do not agree that the mere payment of a bounty of 2d. per gallon will have any appreciable effect in increasing the output of shale oil in Australia.
– What would be necessary to increase the output?
– In view of the price at which oil can be obtained from abroad, I doubt whether anything that we could do would have the effect of producing large quantities of oil from Australian shale. In view of the fact that the price of oil in Australia is nearly three times as great as it is in the United States of America and Mexico, it may reasonably be inferred that Australia has been substantially robbed by the Vacuum Oil Company and the British Imperial Oil Company. Unless the Government fears to do anything of which those companies might not approve, it should consider whether it would not be wise to acquire an oil well in Mexico or the United States of America, with a view to obtaining direct supplies of oil. That would be more economical and more satisfactory than to pay excessive prices for the oil required in Australia.
– If that were done, how should we obtain oil in the event of war?
– We should be unable to get it. Australia’s oil requirements are about 115,000,000 gallons mer annum. Last year the quantity of oil produced from shale in Australia was about 2,500,000 gallons. It is, therefore, evident that we cannot rely on shale oil, but must import oil for many years to come. The Government should be prepared to tackle the question of oil supplies in a large way. It- should obtain a fleet of oil tankers, and, if necessary, purchase an oil well in Mexico: or elsewhere. The vessels could be used to convey oil from that well or from Persia, although I do not know the extent of the Persian oil supplies. It would not be a difficult matter for the Government to ascertain where oil could be obtained at the best price.
– Some of the Government’s business ventures have not been particularly successful.
– Some of them have been successful. At any rate, the oil companies now operating in Australia have been successful. Probably no company in Australia pays better dividends to those who came in on the ground floor than does the Vacuum Oil Company. It is probably true that the other oil. companies operating in Australia also make large profits. I intend to vote against the bill. I shall do so because, in the first place, the Government will have no share in the companies to which the money will be paid; and, in the second place, because I do not think that the payment of a bounty will result in any genuine reform, or in any great increase in the volume of oil obtained from shale in the Commonwealth. Some years ago an appropriation of revenue to the extent of £270,000 was made to assist in the extraction of oil from shale. Of that amount £144,000 is still available for payment to any company which extracts oil from shale. That shale oil has not been produced in Australia in greater quantities is not because of lack of encouragement.’ There is, therefore, no justification for the measure now before the Senate, but there is every reason why the Government should provide for a greater and cheaper supply of liquid fuel than is now available. If this is a business Government, as has been stated, it should give some tangible evidence of its business acumen by endeavouring to assist a very important section of the community. Motor lorries are a necessity, and motor cars have ceased to be a luxury, but every one who uses these vehicles, or who employs stationary engines in which power is generated by liquid fuel, has to pay higher prices than those ruling in Canada or America. The Government should, therefore, endeavour to ensure to Australian users a plentiful and cheap supply of oil, and also build up sufficient stocks to meet requirements in any emer gency. That cannot possibly be done by means of oil obtained from shale. Under the present system, a small industry may be kept in operation, but it will never be a serious competitor with the big oil producers at present supplying us with this necessary commodity. Instead of continuing this policy, which does not produce satisfactory results, the Government should launch out in a businesslike way to supply the people of Australia with a cheap and plentiful supply of liquid fuel.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of Senator Grant, concerning Australia’s requirements and the possible sources of supplies of liquid fuel. In the Wolgan Valley, and at Joadja, there are some of the richest shale deposits in the world, and it is the duty of the Government to assist those who, in endeavouring to develop the shale oil industry, have spent large sums of money. Considerable expenditure has been incurred in treating the deposits in the Wolgan Valley, and new machinery is being installed with which it will be possible to extract more oil than has previously been practicable. Although the development of this industry has been seriously retarded owing to industrial troubles, and operations have for some time been discontinued, I have been informed that a new method has been discovered by which the oil can be profitably extracted. I was surprised to hear Senator Grant suggest that a larger quantity of oil should be obtained from Persia; in time of danger that source of supply might be interfered with. .
– He also suggested that the Government should purchase an oil well in Mexico.
– Yes, in a country where they have a revolution almost every day in the week. It has been stated that if an effective method of extraction were discovered, we could obtain, from our own deposits, sufficient liquid fuel to meet our requirements for 200 years. As private enterprise has expended considerable sums of money in the purchase of modern plant, Senator Grant should persuade some of his supporters to refrain from causing industrial trouble and thus give the industry an opportunity to prosper. If that were done, we mightnot then have to depend on outside sources for the supply of an essential commodity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Extension of period during which bounty is payable).
– As the Minister did not reply to the debate on the second reading, perhaps he will now state the minimium quantityof oil to be produced before a bounty is payable.
– The minimum production upon which a bounty will be paid is 40,000 gallons.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Preamble agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides that “ brushware” shall be added to the list of goods that may not be imported into or exported from Australia, unless there is attached a trade description in such manner as is prescribed. This will be effected by adding to section 15 of the principal act the words “ ; or (g) brushware.” The Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 was passed in 1906, and has been in operation ever since. Briefly, that act prohibits the importation into, and the exportation from, the Commonwealth of all goods bearing false or misleading marks as to nature, number, quantity, quality, origin, purity, weight, &c. In addition to this, it authorizes the issue of regulations whereby the compulsory marking or labelling of certain classes of goods, whether imported or exported, can be insisted upon. Those goods are enumerated in section 15, and include -
Regulations under this act which have been issued, require that, so far as imports are concerned, all goods of the classes mentioned must, at time of importation into the Commonwealth, have attached to them in as permanent a manner as is practicable, a true and correct description of their composition or general make-up, also an indication of the country or place in which they were made or produced. This amending bill provides for the inclusion in section 15 of brushware, which is considered necessary in the interests of the Australian’ importers, British and Australian manufacturers, but, most important of all, the Australian public. Under this amending measure, regulations can be issued requiring all imported brushware to be stamped with an indication of the country of origin. Australian manufacturers and importers, and Australian representatives of British manufacturers, have already urged the necessity of such action being taken in the interests of the public health. Recently an outbreak of anthrax was traced to a person who had been using a shaving brush imported from an eastern country, and similar cases have been brought under notice on previous occasions. Many imported brushes bear no indication of the country of origin, and it is an easy matter for a seller to offer them to the unsuspecting public as Australian or British goods. If it is made compulsory for imported brushware to be stamped with the name of the country of origin, the public will be protected. As this is a very simple amending bill, I trust that honorable senators will be prepared to discuss it forthwith.
– I quite see the necessity for this measure, the purpose of which is to ensure that all articles which enter Australia’ are properly labelled and bear the name of the country of origin. Under the Trade Descriptions Act the Minister is given certain powers to enforce the labelling of various goods in relation to both exports and imports. This bill, as the
Minister has stated, applies those provisions to brushware. I think that that is wise, because we shall thereby be made acquainted with the origin of brushware that is imported. It has been asserted by experts that anthrax has been disseminated among our people by imported shaving brushes. The country of origin of those brushes is well known. If the only effect of this measure is to prevent the dissemination of that disease, much will have been accomplished. I believe that all articles should be labelled with the country of their origin, so that the people of Australia would not only know whence they come, but also have impressed upon them the necessity for encouraging local production. I offer no opposition to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to give effect to two matters that have been mutually agreed upon between the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand. First: Provision- is made to prevent any loss of revenue owing to the wording of the reciprocal agreement contained in the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Acts between the Commonwealth of Australia and theDominion of New Zealand. Clause 2 of that agreement reads -
The Commonwealth shall not impose any Customs duty or increase the rate of any Customs duty on any article entering the Commonwealth fromthe Dominion . . . . until after six calendar months notice to the other party to thisagreement. ,
Under a strict interpretation ofthe wording of that clause, Australian importers could receive British or foreign goods entering the Commonwealth via New Zealand,’ and pay the tariff duties in force until the six months’ notice provided for had expired. Itis now proposed to amend the clause by adding, “ the produce or manufacture of the Dominion.” This will exclude the application of the agreement: to importations of foreign goodscoming to Australia, via New Zealand.The amendment corrects a defect in the wording of the original agreement. Secondly, the opportunity is being taken to provide for a slight concession which has been granted by New Zealand, by including in item 26 of the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Act 1922, after the words “Meats, potted, or preserved,” the words “ (not including mutton birds).” This concession affects the small trade which is done with New Zealand by the inhabitants of the Islands in Bass. Strait. The effect of the amendment in the New Zealand Tariff is to reduce the duty from 2d. per lb., which equalled 66 per cent., to the rate of 20 per cent. The amendment does not make any alteration in respect of goods coming from New Zealand. As the proposed amendments, although necessary, are slight, I trust that honorable senators will be prepared to proceed with the second reading of the bill.
.- Whilst I support the bill, I regret the necessity for it. If care had been exercised when the agreement was drafted, there would not have been that necessity. The object of the bill is to tighten up an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of New Zealand in connexion with the importation of foreign goods. Under the Customs Tariff Act, as it stands to-day, I believe that importers could, without payment of duty, obtain certain foreign goods from New Zealand after they had remained in that dominion for a certain length of time. Consequently the Commonwealth Treasury might have been deprived of a certain amount of revenue. The Customs authorities have realized the danger, and have suggested the tightening up of the agreement. The insertion of the words “ The product or manufacture of the dominion “ will prevent that leakage. This Parliament has determined upon a certain fiscal policy, under which duties are imposed on goods that come from other parts of the world. It should not be possible for payment of duty to be evaded, because foreign goods remain for a certain length of time in New Zealand. I support the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time,and reported from committee without request.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time!
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 4th August (vide page 4854), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the papers be printed.
– I deny that the framers of the Constitution ever intended that this Parliament should undertake either the construction of new roads or the maintenance of existing highways. No suggestion of that nature was made during the Federal convention debates; but the present Government has a surplus, and is at its wits’ end to know what to do with the money. It has decided to impose an additional tax on petrol to provide a substantial part of the revenue required for the purpose of carrying out its roads policy. Ministers have announced that good roads are highly desirable, and their supporters are repeating the cry. Everybody is prepared to admit the accuracy of that statement, but the Government imagines that those who use petrol for locomotive purposes should be specially taxed to assist in roadmaintenance. With that view I entirely disagree, because a tax on petrol is a recrudescence of the spirit that prevailed when toll bars were used in this country. In many parts of Australia, long after the toll gate was abolished, toll’s were still demanded for the right to cross bridges.
– A toll is paid in Sydney to-day . by those who cross the bridge at the Spit.
– That is true, and it is due to the fact that those responsible for that demand are elected, not by the people of New South Wales, but by the property-owners of Manly and its vicinity. One of the results of building the bridge at the Spit was that the magnificent building sites available between the Spit and Barrenjoey were rendered easily accessible to thousands of motor car owners, with the result that land formerly sold for £7 a foot is to-day priced at from £12 to £14 a foot. It is a deplorable situation from all points of view, except that of the land-owners. The Sydney Harbour bridge will be a much more magnificent structure than that at the Spit, but a toll will not be charged. For .that we have to thank the New South Wales Labour party. The bridge will be paid for, to a large extent, by a straight-out tax on the unimproved land valued of Sydney, which amount to about £44,000,000, and of the district between the north side of Sydney harbour and the Hawkesbury river. No matter how much or how little land an owner may hold, he will pay the nominal sum of £d. in the £1 per annum. From that source a substantial and everincreasing revenue will be derived. I have no doubt that, if some of the reactionaries had had their way, motorists and other users of the new bridge - probably even pedestrians - would be called upon to pay a toll; but, fortunately, an enlightened party is in office in my State, and a small step in the right direction has been taken. I do not know of any other bridge in New South Wales, apart from that over the Spit, where a toll is imposed. The road between Melbourne and Sorrento is one of the best in the Commonwealth, and it is always kept in perfect order. Consequently the value of the land along it has enormously increased, and is largely maintained because the land is made easily accessible by the good road. If the petrol tax is imposed the motorist, instead of the property-owners along that highway, will ‘be called upon to keep it in repair. The almost invariable practice of this Government is to impose taxation on industry, and allow the landowners to escape taxation as much as possible. Although the petrol tax amounts to only 2d. a gallon, I hope that the bill will be rejected. The State that
I represent is opposed to the Government’s road policy. So long as the States are willing to build the necessary roads and maintain them, this Parliament should not interfere with them in their legitimate functions. I doubt if the Commonwealth could carry out the work better than the States are doing it. In any case, I do not think it is the duty of the Commonwealth to enter that arena. The expenditure of a. large sum of money on the making and maintenance of roadways immediately increases the value of the adjoining land. Why should we allow those land-owners to escape taxation? Why should we compel motor car owners and lorry owners to pay taxation in proportion to the quantity of oil they use? The Government’s proposal is undoubtedly a direct tax upon industry.
– Order ! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I do not intend, in the few remarks I propose to make, to touch upon subjects which have been discussed by other honorable senators. Nor do I wish to anticipate the debate on the Roads Bill, the petrol tax, or the per capita payments, which subject, for the moment, is sub judice. I propose to bring under the notice of the Government one matter only, and to deal with it as briefly as possible. I refer to the establishment and maintenance of, and the conferring of proper dignity upon, the national observatory which the Government is starting at Canberra. Up to the present, Australian observatories have not been generously treated by State Governments. I cannot help thinking that it would have been much better for some if they had never been started, because, whilst efficient scientists have been placed in charge of them, the money necessary for the proper maintenance of these institutions has not been made available, and they have been allowed slowly to starve to death. I should like to receive an assurance, when the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) is replying to the various points that have been raised in the debate, that the Government does not intend to be guilty of such neglect in connexion with our national observatory at Canberra. The site is eminently suitable. The gentleman who has been chosen as Astronomer Royal of Australia is a man whose reputation is better known in England than it is in this country. He brings to bear on his work, a vast store of knowledge acquired at an early period of his life; he is in every sense eminently fitted for his position, and is full of enthusiasm for his work. Therefore it should be a matter of national pride with us to make this national observatory at all events equal to any in the world. The cost in any one year will not be very much, because the expenditure on its equipment must necessarily be spread over a number of years. I understand that the largest telescope in the world has a reflector with a diameter of 108 inches, and that it would cost approximately between £80,000 and £90,000 to erect at Canberra a telescope with a diameter of 120 inches. I know that some honorable senators will think this is a large sum to spend on what some call a fad. Some people say that astronomy is of no real value. Of course, they are quite wrong. During the last two or three decades many of those raTe elements, whose existence was not even suspected, have been traced by the spectroscopic analysis of the stars, and their existence upon the earth established. For example, helium, a gas of extreme lightness, without inflammability, which has very largely entered into the development of dirigibles, was discovered by spectroscopic astronomical analyses. There are other matters that are well worthy of attention. But, above all, looking at the matter from the point of view of national dignity, it were better for us never to start the observatory at all than to establish it and then neglect it. The present equipment of the observatory is, I understand, of the most meagre description. I think the telescope reflector has a diameter of only 9 inches, and I understand that another telescope with a reflector 30 inches in diameter has been presented to the observatory. In Australia, we possses an astronomical field that has not been investigated to any extent, and it is a duty which we owe to ourselves, as well as to other nations which have fostered and encouraged this great science, to do the best we can to place this country on a scientific level with them. In other countries, especially in America, private individuals have given valuable assistance in this direction, and I put it to the Government that when the Prime Minister is in England it might be possible for him to get in touch with some of the great and wealthy astronomical societies in the Mother Country to see if some assistance cannot be given to the Commonwealth for the equipment at Canberra of a national observatory equal in status to observatories in other parts of the world. I hope that honorable senators will not think that this is a fad. If we are faddists in this matter then we are in good company, because every other nation with an advanced civilization has spent much time and money in the fostering of this wonderful science which is well worthy of the attention of this young country. That part of the sky which is within our astronomical field is hidden from other parts of the world. Therefore, I hope that when the Leader of the Senate is replying he will indicate that it is the intention of the Government to equip cur observatory at Canberra in a way that will make it worthy of Australia, and that steps will be taken to get in touch with similar scientific institutions in other parts of the world. I have alluded to the fact that the money necessary for the purchase of the telescope need not be found all at once. Since it took three and a half years to grind the lens for the largest telescope in the world - a telescope with a reflector 108 inches in diameter - which, as honorable senators are aware, is in America, it is possible that it will take at least five or six years to properly equip the observatory at Canberra, if, as I hope, a telescope with a reflector 120 inches in diameter is erected there. The annual expenditure onthe observatory need not be very heavy, because once the instrument is in position the necessary staff to operate it should not be numerous. I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to my request, and do all that is possible to make our national observatory at Canberra an institution of which we may be justly proud and from which we may expect marvellous scientific results.
– I agree with much that was said by Senator Barwell yesterday, and especially his references to taxation. I had not the opportunity to listen to Senator Duncan, but I gathered from what Senator Chapman said in reply to him that he criticized rather severely the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and referred at length to statements made by that honorable gentleman as Leader of the Country party, before he took office. I am not one of those who expect the Treasurer to apologize for or withdraw anything that he said prior to his joining the Ministry. His objection then, if I remember rightly, was to the amount of the budget, and the tendency of the Government to increase taxation. I take exactly the same stand to-day. To me it seems strange that a private member should say anything that he is not prepared to say when he becomes a Minister, at all events on fundamental principles. The budget anticipates a revenue of over £50,000,000. It behoves us to see if something cannot be done to reduce taxation, which undoubtedly, as Senator Barwell has said, is a burden upon industry. The Treasurer, as we all know, was a severe critic of the late Government during his leadership of the Country party, and he gave the people to understand that things would be different when he attained to power. His attitude reminds me of that incident in biblical history where the people appealed to the son of a king, who had just died, to relieve them of some of their burden which his father had put upon them. Disregarding the good advice of the old men who - spake unto him saying: If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day and wilt serve them and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever, he followed that given by his young men, and said to the people -
My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.
And now, whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: ray father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
The result was that trouble followed. Had the Treasurer reduced taxation each year, he would have been esteemed more highly as time went on. I admit that it is easy for any one who is not in office to find fault with budgets, and to say that governments are extravagant. But when a man takes office, he often finds that much to which he has previously taken exception is unavoidable. I have noticed in the press lately that it is the intention of the Government to appoint another commission. I congratulate the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) upon his versatility. Senator Barwell, recently, in support of his arguments against compulsory arbitration, instanced the United States of America as a country where wages are better than they are in Australia, although in that country there is no compulsory arbitration. In reply, the Minister pointed to the United States of America as a country where sweating conditions existed, and children were compelled to work at ages at which they would not be permitted to work in Australia. Now the Government wants to appoint a commission to inquire into industrial conditions in the United States, of America, and so the Ministry supports his contention in a subsequent speech delivered in Sydney, that wages are higher and production more in America than elsewhere. The Ministry seems to have an obsession for the appointment of commissions. Apparently it does not think that it is possible to appoint further commissions in Australia at present, there being sufficient already in existence to cover every field into which inquiry could be made. For that reason, a commission is to be sent abroad. Should the present Government remain in office for a considerable time, which I hope will be the case, the position will be reached when, like Alexander of old, who wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, they will groan because they will be unable to find a reason for the appointment of further commissions. I am opposed to sending a commission to the United States of America, because I cannot see that any good will come from it. It is true that wages in that country are higher, and production greater than in Australia, but is it necessary to send a commission there to ascertain the reasons, which are obvious?
– What are the reasons ?
– In the United States of America there are 110,000,000 people with- no Customs barriers between them, as compared with Australia’s population of about 6,000,000. The home market in the United States of America is much greater than it is in Australia. There is perfect freedom of trade within the borders of that country. Moreover, in the United States of America there is only one railway gauge, whereas in Australia there are five or six gauges. It is as bad to have different railway gauges between the States as it is to have Customs barriers between them.
– At one time there was a number of railway gauges in the United States of America.
– I am speaking of conditions there to-day. Another factor of importance is that the workers in the United States of America are prepared to accept piece-work ; and we know that the results from the system are better for the moment than from the day-work system. What the effect of piece-work on the individual will be after a number of years is, perhaps, difficult to say.
Debate interrupted under sessional order.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I move-
That, in the opinion of the Senate, a royal commission, with power to send for persons and papers and to move from place to place, should be appointed to inquire into and report upon the moving-picture industry in Australia.
The motion-picture industry has engaged the attention of the British Parliament, both branches of this legislature, and also numerous commissions and committees in various parts of the world, and considerable time has been spent in an endeavour to discover what action can be taken to prevent the United States of America having a complete monopoly of the business. It is difficult to definitely state what can be done ; but I have not the slightest doubt that effective action can be taken, both in Great Britain and in Australia, to ensure the production of British pictures. I have, therefore, submitted this motion for the appointment of a royal commission, because it provides the quickest, most economical, and effective way of submitting to this Parliament reliable information concerning the ramifications of the industry. The grip which this form of entertainment has upon the people of the Commonwealth is generally admitted. According “to published reports, there are, approximately, 600 picture theatres in Australia, in addition to which there are 400 or 500 other places in which moving pictures are exhibited, so that in round figures the number of establishments in which moving pictures are projected is considerably over- 1,000. We are informed by those engaged in the picture business that no less than 100,000,000 persons patronize picture theatres every twelve months, and present indications suggest that the number is substantially increasing. That may be due to the improved character of the pictures displayed or to the higher cost of other forms of amusement. As persons attending picture shows usually do so with their minds relaxed and in a receptive mood, it is of great importance that the ideas conveyed to them should not be inimical to our interests and that British sentiment should at least be given a certain degree of prominence. The general opinion throughout Australia is that that is not done. For that I do not blame the American picture combination. It is its business to protect its interests, and no doubt it is doing so. Up to the present Australian producers have been so severely handicapped in the production of moving pictures that, unless they receive some assistance, they cannot possibly survive. As Australia is a protectionist country, we ought to do whatever is humanly possible to assist the industry. It is comparatively easy for us to produce a locomotive equal to the best imported, but I do not suggest for a moment that we can economically produce a picture which will equal the best of the imported productions. Some years ago, we were told that railway rolling-stock could not be manufactured in Australia, and once when walking through the railway yards at Kalgoorlie, I noticed truck axles that were manufactured by Krupps, of Germany. But most of our rolling-stock is now manufactured in Australia, and is equal to the best imported. A locomotive can be put into action immediately it is completed, and commences to render a payable service; but larger audiences than are at present possible would he necessary to justify the production of moving pictures in Australia on a large scale.
– Could not the matter be inquired into by the Tariff Board ?
– -The import duties on films has been investigated by the
Tariff Board, but it has not been able to give us any helpful information. That is one reason why I am seeking the sympathy and support of honorable senators for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the motion picture industry, as I believe the report that would be presented would be of assistance to the Government. I am informed that it costs from £40,000 to £50,000 to produce a big modem picture, and practically all of that amount is spent on labour of some kind. The expenditure of such a large sum in Australia on one film would be of substantial benefit to the community. Efforts to produce pictures in Australia have been systematically frustrated by the American combination. I do not wish to be understood to object to its doing that; it is a part of its business; but it is no part of our business to sit tamely by while that is being done. I am informed that the combination has established what is known as the block booking system, under which every picture theatre proprietor must make arrangements in advance for the supply of pictures for a period of twelve months. If he wishes to exhibit one picture a week he must order at least 52, and if he wishes to exhibit two pictures a week he must undertake to accept 104. The Australian pictures are so heavily handicapped that few, if any, of the proprietors are prepared to screen them, and the combination has succeeded in practically excluding them from the local screen. Another practice of the combination has a very far reaching effect. If a picture is to succeed in the suburbs it must first be well advertised in the city. If the combination either declines or neglects to give it that advertising it is not patronized when it reaches the suburbs. The locally produced picture is thus frozen out of the business, and the combination goes on its way rejoicing. We are assured that the combination, by schemes that are known only to themselves, succeed in evading the payment of both State and Federal income tax. I am not prepared to vouch for the accuracy of that assertion. For several years the United States of America took no part in the actual fighting in the great world war. The attention of that country during those years was devoted to the building up of the motion picture industry. The start, which it received, was so great that no other nation has since been able to overtake it, and to-day the American film industry has a stranglehold on the business in not only Australia, but also Great Britain. It has been reported in the press that not more than 5 per cent.- of the pictures which are screened in Great Britain are produced in that country. Some persons claim that the climate is responsible; others that the climate has no effect, but that, on the contrary, nine-tenths of the pictures produced are made in a strong artificial light. The percentage of pictures that are made in Australia is not any greater than in Great Britain. We heavily tax motor cars and other goods that .are imported from America, in an endeavour to build up Australian industries. I doubt whether the taxation of imported films would prove successful unless it was made exceedingly heavy. There must be sonde other means by which we can ensure the production of pictures in this country. I desire to create such an interest among the people of the Commonwealth and the members of this Parliament that steps will be taken to that end. A royal commission would, in my opinion, be able to suggest the most effective means that could be adopted. It has been suggested that provision should be made by regulation that a certain percentage of the pictures that are screened in Australia must be produced locally. That suggestion has a number of good points to recommend it, and is worthy of careful consideration, but I do not think it goes sufficiently far. I have not seen the statement contradicted that 50 per cent, of the pictures which are exhibited on German screens must be of German manufacture. That, clearly, would be a way out of our difficulty. If we said that 50 per cent, of the pictures exhibited in Australia must be of Australian manufacture, an immediate fillip would be given to local production.
– Is that a matter for this Parliament?
– I think that it is. This Parliament has very wide and extensive powers.
– - We should encroach on State rights if we did that.
– We take any action that we think will be of benefit to the country, and we are justified in doing so.
I have been informed that nearly all the picture theatres are controlled by one or two companies. I do not object to that, but I think the fact ought to be made widely known. A great deal of intelligence is not necessary to enable one to realize that, if those companies can make a greater profit by handling American productions, they will not pay a price for Australian pictures that will enable the local producer to continue in the business. If this Parliament or the Parliaments of the States insisted that 50 per cent, of the pictures screened should be of Australian production, the position would be quite different. Then the Australian producer would have an opportunity of showing what he- could do. I do not blame people for hesitating to invest large sums in ventures of this kind unless there is a fair prospect of a satisfactory return. I am informed that a number of pictures have been produced in Australia, but the exhibitors have offered the producers only a fraction of the cost of production. No doubt our American friends are delighted to know that Australian producers have been frozen out of the business. I am also told that plenty of capital’ would be available in Australia for the production of films if a guarantee could be obtained that the American combination would allow them to be screened. They certainly would not do that unless action of a character not hitherto determined upon were taken. If a royal commission were appointed to investigate the problem it might be able to suggest steps that could be taken to put that combination in its proper place. The people of the United States of America boast that trade follows the .films. If Australian pictures were more commonly exhibited, our own goods, instead of American commodities, could be advertised more extensively than at the present time through the medium of the screen. Although Australia is not yet in a position to export manufactured goods, it would be well to draw attention in Great Britain and other countries overseas, by means of moving pictures, to the excellence of its primary products. I understand that the Australian climate is similar to that of California, which is eminently suitable for the production of films. During the war, however, the Americans got a stranglehold on the industry to the exclusion of Australian producers. American pictures may be well produced, but they do not appeal to me ; they are neither amusing nor instructive. Australians would get more benefit from pictures illustrating the scenery and the fauna and flora of their own country than from foreign films. The “shows” now presented are patronized because there is nothing better offering. People in the Old Country know little of the agricultural and pastoral industries of the Commonwealth, which could be well described by means of moving pictures. Switzerland is a beautiful country, but our own mountain scenery is unsurpassed. No river is more remarkable than the Murray, and no plain is comparable with the Nullarbor Plain, in “Western Australia. Where can better beaches be found than those on the shores of Australia? The population of this country is so scattered that only a small proportion of the people can ever visit the majority of our beauty spots, but, with the aid of the cinematograph, the great scenic attractions that Australia has to offer can be enjoyed in even the remote parts of the Commonwealth. If “ Miss Australia “ of 1927 were brought before the people by this means, she would be even more popular, if that were possible, than “ Miss Australia “ of 1926. I do not lose sight of the fact that strong opposition will be offered to any proposal to. interfere with the present organization of the American film companies; but- I doubt if any honorable senator will allow considerations of that nature to influence his vote. If the commission is appointed, it will obtain a great deal of first-hand information, and it should be in a position to make a definite recommendation to place the business in Australia on a satisfactory footing. It has been stated that an American film company proposes to produce a picture entitled “ For the Term of His Natural Life.” For my part, and I believe my view is shared by very many people in this country, I should be very sorry indeed to see that done. The Minister for Trade and Customs should intimate at once that the picture must not be shown abroad.
– We cannot prevent the American companies from producing it in their own studios.
– The screening of that picture will present Australian life in its most unfavorable light. Many people in other parts of the world have no idea of what life in the. Common wealth is like. They do not know whether the people in this country are white, black, brown, or yellow, or whether they speak the English language. At least, this is what we have been told. The picture to which I have referred will show in awf ul detail all the horrors of that regrettable and horrible period when people were transported from Great Britain to Tasmania. The Minister should issue peremptory instructions that it must not bt. shown abroad. If the American film companies desire to make pictures in Australia, let them show some of the scenic beauties of Queensland, as well as life on the cane fields and sheep stations of that State.
– That is being done now.
– Let them show pictures of life on places like the Dunlop sheep station away beyond Bourke, or on some of the cattle stations in Northern Queensland, as well as the Darling river in flood, or moving pictures of Sydney harbour, so that people in other coun-. tries may get some idea of life in Australia. I realize how difficult it is to persuade the Government to do anything that will interfere with business enterprises with big capital behind them. I do not know what amount of money is invested in the American picture business, but I do know that, by means of propaganda, the American companies have secured a footing in nearly every country, and they mean to maintain their position in Australia. If I had my way, they would not be here for five minutes. I would exclude them all to-morrow, and insist upon Australian-made pictures being shown in Australian picture houses. If American films were excluded, we should quickly devise ways and means for the manufacture of Australian films, which could be shown anywhere in the world. It should be the duty of this Government to take the necessary steps to prevent Australian enterprise in the moving picture business from being crushed by American competition. I do not anticipate that we shall be able to oust the American film companies without a great deal of effort, but I believe that Australians have sufficient ability and intelligence to produce excellent pictures, and they should be encouraged in every way.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pearce) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 4928).
.- Prior to the dinner adjournment I was referring to the proposal of the Government to send a commission or delegation to the United States of America to inquire into the industrial life in that country. I doubt if the mission will be of much value, because its report - like other reports - will probably be pigeonholed. If, however, the commission visits America, it should be instructed to inquire into the effect of prohibition on industry in the United States. I do not ask that the moral and social effects of prohibition should be inquired into, but only its effect on industry. SirErnest Benn, in his book The Confessions of aCapitalist, said -
Prohibition is without question the most serious industrial force in the world to-day.
Sir Edward Paisch, one of the leading economists of England, stated some time ago-
If America remains dry, England could not compete commercially with her unless England also went dry.
In this country, Sir George Fuller, who at different times was Commonwealth Minister of Home and Affairs and Premier of New South Wales, on one occasion said -
The liquor trade under the conditions by which it is conducted is productive of a vast amount of misery, poverty, and unhappiness in our midst. It fills our gaols, is responsible for terrible crimes, breaks up what otherwise would be happy homes, and saps the manhood of our land. This is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt.
– Is not crime greater in America under prohibition than it was before ?
– I ask only that the industrial effects of prohibition should be inquired into. Lloyd George said -
America is prosperous, not because of our gold, but because of prohibition.
It is reported that Henry Ford, who it is admitted is one of the greatest leaders in the industrial world, at one time opposed prohibition; to-day he is an ardent advocate of prohibition, which has enabled him to raise by a dollar a day the wages paid to his men. Mr. Clapp, the Chief Railways Commissioner in Victoria, shortly after his arrival in Australia, attended a meeting of railways commis sioners in Sydney. In reply to one of the New South Wales commissioners, who asked him his opinion of prohibition in the United States of America, Mr. Clapp said that, while he would not say that prohibition had settled all the problems of that country, or that it had settled the industrial problem he would say that since prohibition had been the law there it was easier for employees and employers to settle their differences. Mr. Arthur R. Baxter, president of Keyless Lock Company, said -
From an economic stand-point, prohibition is the greatest asset of America. while the opinion of Mr. Cowdery, president of the America Fork and Hoe Company, is that employees who formerly wasted a portion of their wages in drink are, since prohibition, better workmen and not so liable to be agitators. Mr. B. B. Comer, president of the Avondale Cotton Mills, said that the effect of prohibition on the health and prosperity of those engaged in the cotton and other industries had been wonderful. Mr. Wm. H. Lever, afterwards Lord Leverhulme, who died recently, was probably England’s greatest manufacturer and business man; and one of the world’s greatest travellers. He had business connexions in almost every country. After one of his visits to the United States of America, where he studied the effects of prohibition, he stated -
If we had prohibition in the United Kingdom, the saving in our drink bill would be. sufficient to repay our indebtedness to the United States of America in less than five years.
That was the judgment of a keen, successful, business man whowas in a position to make comparisons. If a commission is to be appointed to visit the United States of America, it should be asked to. report on the effect, whether beneficial or otherwise, that prohibition has had on the industries. of that country.
– The debate on the budget is one of the opportunities we have of reviewing the legislation which has been introduced by the Government. We are probably so close to the events which are taking place that we are in danger of viewing them narrowly. Later generations, when reviewing the work accomplished during this session, will admit that at least the
Bruce-Page Government strove to do right. While there may be differences of opinion regarding some of the legislation introduced by the Government, it cannot be gainsaid that its programme makes for the advancement of Australia. The Government’s attempt to deal with the difficult subject of finance in a scientific manner, and to adjust the relations between the States and the Commonwealth. is deserving of our support. We have already had an opportunity to express our views regarding the Government’s migration policy. The programme is indeed a national one, having for its object the advancement of Australia, so that we -may be able to tak 6 our place worthily as the lonely sentinel of the white races in the Pacific. The Government is to be especially commended for its effort to secure a measure of industrial peace in this country. In no country is co-operation between all classes of the community more essential than it is in Australia. One factor which influenced the electors at the last election was the intention of the Government, if returned to power, to make some adjustment of State and Commonwealth finances. The Government proposes no longer to collect the entertainments tax, land tax, estate duties, and 40 per cent, of the tax on the incomes of individuals; and ultimately to abandon entirely the field of direct taxation. It cannot ‘be denied that the present system is unscientific, and can only lead to disaster. Some years ago, it was suggested by the then Commonwealth Treasurer that the per capita payments should be reduced by 2s. 6d. each year. That may have been a more diplomatic proposal; but it would not have been so satisfactory as the proposal to discontinue them altogether. By the Commonwealth vacating the field of direct taxation, the taxpayers of this country will be placed in a better position than if the per capita payments were continued. In my opinion, the closer the taxing authority is to the taxpayer the better, because he is then able to keep a better check on expenditure. The revenue of the Commonwealth should be derived from Customs and excise duties alone, as by that means it would be taxing the whole of the people of Australia. The several States levy taxes upon only a section of the people. It has been suggested that the Government’s proposals are unconstitutional; but there is no foundation for fear in that direction. We must not lose sight of the fact that, allied with the Government’s proposal to discontinue the per capita payments is its intention to reduce direct taxation. If the Customs revenue continues to flourish, it should soon be possible gradually to reduce the taxation of incomes until the Commonwealth disappears entirely from that field.
The Government is also submitting a national roads policy to assist the development of the Commonwealth. I do not think one member of this Parliament, or of the State legislature, would say that road-construction -is not a necessary work. An extensive migration policy is closely associated with roadconstruction, which leads to further development and settlement. We have scarcely awakened to the fact that future railway construction must be confined to main trunk lines, as in many instances the country can be more satisfactorily and economically developed by good roads. As it is utterly impossible for settlers to transport their produce to market unless good roads are provided, the Government at the last elections, announced its intention to ‘ submit a main roads scheme. This proposal, which I supported, was also strongly favoured by many candidates, and an overwhelming majority of the electors, but it was quite obvious that a policy of road-construction could not be embarked upon unless the necessary funds were provided. The necessity for goods roads is manifest. In South Australia the Government has imposed a tax on petrol consumption in order to provide money to meet the cost of main roads development and maintenance. It is competent for the Federal Parliament to make advances to the States, and also to enter into agreements with the States, but the obstacle in this instance is that the financial control ultimately rests with the Commonwealth. Some of the States have already recoiled from the position which they adopted in the first instance, and have decided not te accept the benefits or burdens imposed by the agreement. It is unlikely that the Commonwealth would levy a tax and hand over the proceeds to the State Parliaments or to any State body to spend without exercising any control whatever. It would, of course, have been much easier for the Government to constitute a board consisting of State Ministers for Public Works and the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways, or to appoint an independent board, but probably it would then have been said that the Government had already appointed too many boards. The scheme has, however, been embarked upon, and has beeu accepted by some of the States.
– Three States have accepted the agreement.
– Yes, I think Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania have accepted it, but why Tasmania, whose allocation will be on the basis of three-fifths as to population and two-fifths as to area, should do so I do not know, because she is bound to suffer. New South Wales has positively and definitely declined to be a warty to the agreement, but, judging from recent experiences in that State, considerable sums of money could be spent to advantage in New South Wales, particularly on some roads in the vicinity of Sydney. In the first place, the South Australian Government expressed its , intention of accepting the agreement, but later the State Parliament unanimously decided not to have anything to do with it. Our migration and land settlement policy is so closely associated with the construction of main roads that I am hopeful that practically all the States will bc parties to the agreement.
There does not appear to be any justification for an increase in the price of petrol in consequence of the imposition of a petrol tax, as has been suggested. I am a motor owner, but I do not think for a moment that motor users will be affected to the extent that some suggest. A person of some experience in the motor trade in Australia assured me the other day that motorists will ultimately accept this policy with open arms. There are about 300,000 motor users in Australia, and if each averaged 5.000 miles a year the additional cost they would incur if a petrol tax were imposed, and added to the price would not exceed £2 a year, but that expenditure would be. more than compensated for by the reduced wear and tear on their cars, as the result of better roads.
– Of what advantage will better roads be to a man who does not use them?
– I do not think, fora moment, that the Government has any intention of taxing persons who use petrol for other than transport purposes; and in such cases probably provision will be made for a draw-back, as was done in South Australia. It is the duty of members of this Chamber, and of another place, to deal with this matter in a businesslike way, and, when the opportunity arrives, to ensure that no hardships are imposed upon any one. Under this arrangement, South Australia would receive a little more on a 2d. tax than is at present being collected on a tax of 3d.
Frequent reference has been made to the increasing expenditure of the Commonwealth, but according to the figures submitted by the Treasurer there is very little expenditure to which the pruning knife could reasonably be applied. The estimated revenue for the ensuing year is £51,382,000, and the estimated expenditure, exclusive of business undertakings, territories under Commonwealth control, and payments to or for the States is £49,287,443. The principal items of expenditure include war and repatriation services, £29,219,906; Department of Defence, £3,800,000; special defence, £1,000,000 ; interest on sinking fund, £1,152,000; invalid and old-age pensions, £9,000,000; maternity allowance, £675,000; and wine export bounty, £150,000. In passing, I may say that the wine export bounty is, I believe, the only revenue-earning bounty in existence. The figures show that the extra excise which the Government is receiving from spirits used for fortifying wine shipped overseas almost equals the amount of the annual bounty to the wine producers. That is a matter which should not be overlooked by the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration. Other items of expenditure include iron and steel products bounty, £250,000; bounty on cotton and cotton yarn, £150,000 ; other special appropriations, £401,000; ordinary votes of departments, £2,794,000; and miscellaneous services, £494.000. These items of expenditure, including those already mentioned, amount to £49,287,443. Notwithstanding that, there is a deficit of £317,848 on business undertakings. An honorable senator suggested this afternoon that the Government should enter upon some other commercial enterprise. The contributions from the general revenue for payments to or for the States amount to £1,226,789.
The proposed payments to the States have been worked out on a Commonwealth basis, but I understand, from observations made in another place, that, whatever method is adopted, the Commonwealth Government will from time to time see that the States are not the losers. Duringthe delivery of his budget speech the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), in reply to an interjection, said that the matter had to be adjusted from year to year as occasion arose. There need be no fear on the part of State Treasurers that the position will not be met. This Parliament - at all events this Chamber- can be trusted to see that that is done. The policy with which I was dealing before I passed somewhat cavalierly to the figures, which I have just quoted is one that I think appeals to Australians, and should appeal to our national sentiment. Although we may criticize the Government for loose business methods we must realize the difficulty of exercising supervision over expenditure in a country so vast as Australia. I have particularly in mind the construction of the Grafton to South Brisbane railway. It appears to me that that matter could have been handled in a more business-like way. It would have been much more advisable if firm tenders had been obtained for the construction of that railway. The Commonwealth would then have known where it stood in relation to the cost.
– The tenders were firm enough. The States cannot exceed the amount at which they tendered.
– Why, then, was it necessary for this Parliament to make available a further £500,000?
– The tenders exceeded the estimate of the Railway Council.
– A centralized administration, such as the Commonwealth Government must be, is not so well equipped for dealing with matters of that sort as is the authority which is on the spot. In such matters the Government should, where possible, enter into contracts, so that it would know what it had to pay, and would not subsequently have to meet claims based on additional wages or shorter working hours.
– Does not every contract contain a provision that the Government shall make good any extra cost caused by increased wages ?
– Not as a rule. A wise contractor seeks to have that provision inserted in his contract. As a rule contracts in which that provision is inserted are for cost, plus commission. Then it does not matter to the contractor if wages are increased, because he receives commission on the additional cost. That is not a desirable contract for any government to enter into. Linked up with the policy of high protection is. no doubt, the movement to increase the flow of migrants to Australia. The migration scheme of the Government is a big and a bold one, and we all hope that it will prove successful. . Associated also with that scheme is the policy of national roads.
A matter about which we have not heard a great deal this session is the marketing of our produce overseas. The slogan, some little while ago, was” Men, markets and money.” We are to get the men and the money, but we are far from securing a stabilized market for our products. Last year 1 had the privilege of investigating the marketing of our produce overseas. I arrived at several conclusions from the lessons of a practical nature that I then learned. I may be prejudiced in favour of Australia, but I know of no produce that for flavour, quality, and appearance is equal to some of the Australian produce that could be sent overseas. We must see that only the quality which is acceptable to the people of the United Kingdom is sent there. That is my first postulate. I saw on my voyage to England apples that I have since ascertained were permitted to be exported from Tasmania. It would have been better for the Government, for the good name of Australia, and the reputation of Tasmania, if those apples had been dumped into the Hobart Harbour at the expense of the Commonwealth Government. They were an exceedingly bad advertisement. They pursued me throughout England. I met them going overseas; I mot them in the provinces, and at Keswick, near the Lakes, where a man refused to expose them for sale because they would have a detrimental effect upon the other produce in his window. As a contrast, let me say that I was told by the man who was in charge of that very same shop that no better canned pears ever went across the seas than those which he stocked. They were sent from South Australia, and they bore the brand, “ The Keswick Fruit Preserving Co.” I have since been informed that they were packed by Henry Jones and Company. The price which was paid for those pears was 17s. 6d. a dozen, compared with 14s. 6d. for the Californian pack. The people of Keswick, which is not a small town, purchased them in preference to the Californian article on every occasion. The man to whom I spoke was so pleased with them, that he not only kept them for his own use, but also pushed their sale. They were a good advertisement for Australia. In the back room of his shop were the apples that had been sent from Tasmania.
– They passed the inspection of a Commonwealth officer.
– I have been informed that special permission was given for them to be exported.
– At the urgent request of Tasmania.
– I am not blaming the Minister. It is unfortunate for Australia that they were exported. I have fed pigs on better apples. In the markets which I attended I saw those apples being sold for whatever they would fetch;
-What was wrong with them?
– They appeared to be poor in quality; they were very small; and they were marked by hail or something else.
– Black spot.
– That may be so. There are no better purchasers in the world than our brothers and sisters in Great Britain, and none are so anxious to take our produce provided it is up to standard. My second postulate is that we must maintain continuity of supplies, and at all times keep open our overseas trade routes. At Colombo I found that canned fruits and other products of the IXL Company were in universal use and stocked by the big emporiums. Colombo has a very big European population, which lives tolerably well. When I arrived there the overseas shipping strike was, unfortunately, in progress, and no Australian produce was on the market. A cable for supplies was sent, not to Australia, but to California, and that market was lost to us. It may be possible for us to regain it. Another, and an even more important, matter, is the supervision of our produce when it arrives overseas. It may astound honorable senators to learn that some friends of mine purchased at Wembley a commodity labelled “Australian Honey,” in the making of which no bee had participated. It had been synthetically made. In a shop window at Dorset I saw stuff marked “ Colonial Lamb,” It was one of the worst forequarters of a lamb that I had even seen. I was told by the man in charge of the shop that it was Canterbury lamb. When I questioned the accuracy of his statement he promptly produced a ticket with the mark “ N. Z. lamb.” He may have had that ticket for several years. The one thing certain is that our produce is not getting a fair deal, and it is necessary for steps to be taken to appoint men who are skilled and versatile in the business, to see that it is not misrepresented by retailers and others who are charged with its disposal overseas. We were given a wonderful advertisement at Wembley, and unless it is followed up by further publicity the money which we then expended will have been thrown away. New Zealand sets us an excelleut example by having in the Strand a refrigeratedshop, where its produce is kept fresh from day to day. For every person who passes Australia House, where our produce is displayed, I believe I am not exaggerating when I say that from 500 to 1,000 pass the New Zealand shop in the Strand. It is necessary that our publicity shall equal that of New Zealand. Our produce will stand any inspection that is applied to it, and we should take the necessary steps to bring it before the notice of the best consumers. Organization is necessary to achieve this result. I made a suggestion for what it was worth to the Agent-General of my own State that in the heart of London - say, in Piccadilly Circus - there should be a moving exhibit under glass of Australian products in a refrigerated condition. Large business establishments in Great Britain are holding out their hands towards the Australian producer, and it might be wise to employ their organizations and knowledge in the interests of this country. I heard Senator J. B. Hayes say the other day that the prices realized for our products were unsatisfactory. I examined the books of a number of wholesale houses in London - they were put before me quite openly - and I came to the conclusion that the toll they were levying on the producer was small indeed. But the price that has to be paid for the Australian article to the retailer is exceedingly high, and it seems to me that a selling organization on business lines must be established to enable the trade to be developed. Efforts are being made by various bodies throughout Great Britain to promote Imperial trade, and we should seize every opportunity to assist people overseas to obtain an article superior to any procurable from other parts of the world.
I urge honorable senators, in considering the legislative programme of the Government, to keep in mind the larger issues that are at stake. Whatever faults may be found regarding the details of the policy can be remedied; but as a young member of this Chamber I hope that we shall all assist in legislating in a manner that will lead to progress on a national basis, and on broader lines than heretofore, remembering that this is a young country situated, almost in isolation, in the Pacific.
– Taking up the thread of Senator McLachlan’s argument regarding the marketing of Australian products in the Homeland, I remind him that some of the matters mentioned by him have been discussed in. this Chamber during the last three years. We have heard a good deal about the marketing, not true to label and badly packed, of not only fruit, but also cheese, butter, and other commodities. Honorable senators from Tasmania recently complained that 2,000,000 cases of apples exported from that State had not fetched a price sufficient to cover the cost of transport. Comments have been made overseas regarding the effect of the arsenical spray with which apples are treated ; but the fact has been established that the quantity of arsenic in the spray is so small as not to be deleterious. There is a “ ring “ on the other side of the world known as the Californian Fruit Company, and it has exercised control over the market for canned fruits. Australia is capable of producing canned fruit equal, if not superior to, that of California or any other part of the world, and if fruit not true to label is exported from this country to Great Britain, there must be something wrong with the supervision in the Commonwealth. The exMinister for Markets . and Migration (Sir Victor Wilson), stated that it was impossible prior to the opening of the Wembley Exhibition to buy a pound of Australian butter in London, although thousands of tons of it were annually sent there. It was explained by the exMinister that the best brands of Australian butter had been used to sweeten up butter from other countries. The trade should be properly controlled in order to ensure a fair deal to the Australian exporter. I can understand an occasional mistake in labelling being made in a big factory, but if large quantities of Australian canned goods have been placed on the London market under wrong labels, I venttire to say that a lot of the trouble has been caused by the Californian Fruit Company trying to injure the Australian trade.
– Are the goods relabelled in Great Britain?
– I do not think so. There must be something wrong with the supervision in Australia.
– Can those statements be verified?
– We were told by Sir Victor Wilson that those things had occurred. He has placed Australia under a debt of gratitude to him for what he has done to improve our methods of marketing in the Old Country. It seems to me that the only way to overcome the difficulty is to have an organization there that will take charge of the fruit on its arrival, and supervise its distribution. The Tasmanian apples which failed to return a price sufficient to cover the cost of transport were wrongly graded, were small, had “black spot,” or were damaged by hailstones. One shipment of apples in that condition is sufficient to prejudice the sale of a large number of subsequent consignments.
A great deal could be said for and against the budget, but up to the present time, only one honorable senator on the Government side - Senator
Chapman - has spoken in favour of it. It is impossible to say whether it meets with the approval of the majority of members of this Chamber. Three years ago the Government increased the invalid and old-age pensions from 17s. 6d. to £1 a week, and the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) expressed regret that a larger sum could not be provided, although he admitted at that time that the purchasing power of £1’ was equal to only 9s. 3d. in pre-war days. I do not regard the pension as a charity dole; the recipients are entitled to it as a right. Many of them are worthy pioneers who assisted to blaze the track, and were unable in their young days to provide for a rainy day. The pension should be further increased by at least 2s. 6d. a week. The Government has not made sufficient provision for the promotion of public health. The Council of Industrial and Scientific Research should receive sufficient money to enable it to investigate the cause and cure of such diseases as cancer and tuberculosis.
Senator Guthrie deprecated the failure to make more money available for defence, and referred to the damaging statements made by Sir Harry Chauvel, the Inspector-General of Commonwealth Military Forces. In view of the fact that since 1914 successive Nationalist Governments have spent no less thai £36,000,000 on defence, any responsibility for unpreparedness now must unquestionably be placed upon their shoulders.
Senator Guthrie also had something 1o say of the attitude of the Labour party towards migration. His statements were absolutely misleading, because migration is part of the Labour party’s platform. “We believe in encouraging the introduction of people of our own kith and kin. Senator Payne quoted a statement that appeared in the newspaper John Bull, to the effect that whilst thousands of young men in Great Britain were being encouraged to come te Australia, there were 11,000,000 acres of arable land lying idle in the Mother Country. Unfortunately, the majority of migrants coming to Australia are not suitable for farm life, with the result that after a little experience in the country, many of them drift to the cities. The Labour party welcomes migrants, but it takes the stand that Australian-born citizens should have an equal chance to ob tain land.
Reference was also made by Senator Guthrie to the contract for the two Australian cruisers. I am a strong protectionist. I believe in an adequate measure of protection for everything that can be produced in Australia, where the working conditions are more favorable than in other countries. The cruisers contract should have been placed in Australia. It has been argued that we would have been compelled to import 60 per cent, of the material. Even if we could produce only 40 per cent, of the materials in this country, I should still favour work of that nature being carried out here. We have ample supplies’ of iron for the manufacture of the steel plates, and our mechanics are equal to any in the world. Unfortunately, many thousands of them are out of employment. In the circumstances, the Government was not justified in placing the order for the cruisers, costing between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000, in Scotland for the relief of the unemployed there. We have our own unemployment problem. Yesterday there were no less than 1,500 unemployed people marching in a procession past Parliament House.
– I doubt if there were more than 150 when I saw them.
– There was . a large number; and I am informed that about 3,000 people are out of employment in Melbourne. I have already stated that many of the migrants, having had no experience of farm work, are like square pegs fitted into round holes. They have to apprentice themselves to farmers at low rates of wages in order to gain a knowledge of farming conditions in this country.
Senator Guthrie also criticized the altered conditions for the training of lads intended for the Australian Navy, stating that they ‘are not being taken now until they reach the age of seventeen years. We have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on our naval training establishments, but even when our lads finish their course they are not given any of the higher appointments. With one recent exception, all the more remunerative posts are filled bv officers from the British Navy. Australians, provided they are efficiently trained, should be given an opportunity to fill the higher commands in the Navy. 1 am opposed to the Government’s proposal to withdraw the -per capita payments. This course will very seriously affect the finances of Western Australia. If the payments are withheld, the State Government will be obliged to impose additional taxation to make good the loss in revenue. No State has lost more through coming into the federation than Western Australia.
I turn now to the Government’s proposals for the encouragement of the goldmining industry. The sum of £40,000 is set aside for this purpose, but as £15,000 of that amount is to be expended in the Northern Territory, only £25,000 will bo available for the. several States. Western Australia could very well do with the whole of the amount. As a matter of fact, it could all be spent with advantage in Kalgoorlie and Boulder. The Government has not dealt fairly with the goldmining industry. During the war the embargo on the export of the gold deprived the industry of a legitimate profit of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, and, strange to say, it is about the only industry in the Commonwealth that has not received a bounty. If it had not been interfered with during the war period, many mines that have now closed down would be working full-handed. At the beginning of the war a number of mines were working profitably on an average of 8 dwt., and were employing nearly 2,000 more hands then they are employing to-day. Although in 1914 it was possible to continue on the basis of 8 dwt. to the ton, the mines have since got deeper, and costs have increased, so that it now requires ore containing 11 dwt. to the ton to make them pay. To obtain ore of that quality only the best portions of the lode are dealt with. The Ivanhoe mine, which at one time employed over 1,000 men, has closed down, with the result that probably 5,000 or 6,000 people have been affected. Other mines could not employ the men thrown out of work. Recently, the Golden Horseshoe mine also was shut down, adding another 2,000 miners to those already unemployed. The Commonwealth Government is to blame for these things. In all mines it is the custom to mix a proportion of the better- grade ore with ore of a lower grade; but now that only the better-grade ore is being worked, the mines will soon become worthless. In all probability, the Great Boulder mine will shut down in a year or two. I urge the Government to do something to assist this industry.
When the Government sold its woollen mills, I. understood that the reason given was that it did not intend to compete against private enterprise ; but I was surprised to find, only a day or two ago, that the Government still has a clothing factory. The Geelong mills were disposed of for £155,000. I cannot call it a sale - it was a gift.
– Was it not sold in the market on public tender?
– I understand that the purchasers of the mill, twelve months after they had acquired it, said that it was worth £112,000 more than they gave for it.
I ask the Government to do something for those public servants who, after many years’ service, will be called upon to transfer to Canberra almost at the end of their term of service. Should they not see their way clear to break up their homes in Melbourne in order to fulfil the remaining two years of their term, I trust that the Minister will agree to their pensions commencing forthwith. This matter is agitating the minds of a number of public servants.
I desire to urge the Government to do something to increase the remuneration paid to its lower-paid officers. Many of the attendants in this building are receiving salaries which are altogether inadequate for the services which they render. Some of them receive only £4 17s. 6d. a week, which is not a large salary for men who have to dress well and maintain their families. I hope that in the Supplementary Estimates something will be done to relieve them.
– That is a matter for the President of the Senate.
– Then I hope that you, sir,. as President of this’ Senate, will do something for these men. They should be paid a salary commensurate with the services which they render. One man, after 26 years’ service, is receiving only £5 17s. 6d. a week. That is insufficient remuneration for a capable officer.
I agree with the remarks of Senator McLachlan regarding the Government’s roads policy. Outside the metropolitan districts, most of the roads in Australia are in a deplorable condition. In Western Australia, there are thousands of miles of roads that require attention; but, because of the limited means at the disposal of the State Government, it is impossible to keep them in a satisfactory state of repair. The Government’s proposals are a step in the right direction.
During the debate Senator Duncau referred in somewhat caustic terms to certain statements made by the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) when a private member. It is true that, when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was Treasurer, Dr. Earle Page, in urging the exercise of economy in public expenditure, severely criticized the National Government of that day. On one occasion he said -
Is the slovenliness of the budget a reflection of the irresponsibility and general methods of the administration of tbe Leader of the Government? …. I urge them to give up shuffling and deceiving the public…… I urge the Government to withdraw the budget, to grasp the nettle firmly, and to do what every business house is doing, namely, try tosquare the ledger and prepare for lean years.
In those days the present Treasurer strongly advocated economy, but in the last budget which he presented thereis no indication of any attempt on his part to reduce expenditure, and he and the ex-Treasurer, whose budget he so strongly criticized, are now sharing the same political bed. I trust that the Government will give further attention to health matters, and also to the mining industry, which, in Western Australia particularly, has been declining for some time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Thompson) adjourned.
.- In moving-
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I wish to inform honorable senators that, as it is the desire of the Government to conclude the present sittings of Parliament next week, it will be necessary for the Senate to meet on Tuesday nest. There are some important measures still to come from another place, including the Appropriation Bill, the Federal Aid Roads Bill, the Petrol Tax Bill, as well as the measures on the notice-paper for to-morrow. In these circumstances, I ask honorable senators to assist the Government by disposing of the motion for the printing of the budget-papers as early as possible, to enable the measures which I have mentioned to be proceeded with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260805_senate_10_114/>.