10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon.J. Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In the event of the Prime Minister deciding not to adopt the suggestion I made yesterday, that the Government should increase from eight to twelve the number of delegates that are to comprise the proposed industrial commission to visit the United States of America, will the Government- take into consideration the advisability of allowing the Trades and Labour Councils in Australia to select their four delegates from the eighteen that have been nominated by the six States?
– I shall bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the suggestion that has been made by the honorable senator.
– Can the Leader of the Senate inform me whether it has been decided by another place to complete its business by to-morrow evening; and, if so, whether it is his intention to complete the business of the Senate concurrently ?
– With the goodwill and concurrence of honorable senators, I hope that that course will be rendered possible.
– (By leave) - I lay on the table of the Senate the report of the royal commissioner who was appointed to inquire into matters connected with the British Phosphate Commission. This report has been considered by the Government, which, in view of its terms, has decided that there is no option but to dispense forthwith with the services of Mr. Pope, the Australian representative on the commission. Mr. Pope will be paid out of the funds of the commission, in lieu of notice, a sum equal to three months’ salary. The Government does not intend to proceed with the appointment of a commissioner to represent Australia until the Prime Minister has had an opportunity, whilst in Great Britain, of discussing the matter in all its phases with the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and New Zealand. In the meantime the secretary to . the Prime Minister’s Department will act as the commissioner representing Australia. The Governments of Great Britain and
New Zealand have been communicated with by cablegram, and no further steps will be taken to remove the central office from Australia pending the personal discussion of the matter in London.
– Will the Leader of the Senate supply details of the proposed tour of the Duke and Duchess of York through Australia and New Zealand?
– The details of the tour have not yet been decided, and I am, therefore, unable to disclose them at this juncture.
Mr. MARK YOUNG.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister -
– The replies are as follow : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Whether legislation will be submitted this session providing for the payment of a special allowance to Tasmania, or, if not, will other provision be made for such payment.
– The Treasurer has supplied the following reply: -
It is proposed that for the present Tasmania shall be paid the moneys provided in the SurplusRevenue Act 1910 and the special payment provided for in the Tasmania Grant Act 1924, and that the question of adjusting the basis of the payments to Tasmania shall be dealt with during” the next part of this session of Parliament.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following replies: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, regarding the training of boys for the Australian Navy -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Senator J. B. Hayes brought up the interim report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts relating to the Commonwealth Government shipping activities.
Senator Barnes brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the proposed erection of cottages at Canberra.
The following papers were presented : -
Library Committee - Report with reference to the Hardy Wilson collection of drawings of Old Colonial Architecture.
Tariff Board. Act - AnnualReport of the Tariff Board for year ending 30th. June, 1926; together with schedule showing Board’s recommendations.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) ActRegulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 104.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That standing order No. 68 be suspended up to and including the 14th August, 1926, for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after half-past 10 o’clock at night-.
Motion by Senator Elliott (through Senator J. B. Hayes) agreed to -
That the report from the Printing Committee, presented to the Senate on the 10th August, 1926, beadopted.
Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland-
Honorary Minister)[1 1.14]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the proposed petrol duty is to provide a proportion of the Commonwealth’s contribution towards the cost of constructing in the Commonwealth good roads, which are so essential to the development of the resources of the country and for facilitating communication and’ the transport of the products of our primary and other industries. It will surely be admitted that a portion of the contribution necessary for that purpose is. properly obtainable from the users of our roads. As, generally speaking, the advantages of good roads are enjoyed mainly by the owners of petroldriven vehicles, it is but just that they should contribute, by increased taxation on petrol, towards the cost of the construction and maintenance of the country’s highways. The Government’s road proposals were very fully dealt with in the policy speech which was. delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) at Dandenong in October last, when he said -
The revolution which has taken place in road transport with the development of the internal combustion engine, has produced a new problem. In the past the question of roads has been one exclusively within the jurisdiction of the States. This question has, however, be- come ‘one of national - importance, and of too great a magnitude for the. States to handle themselves.
This factor has been recognized by the Commonwealth Government, and .for the last two years a grant of £500,000 . has been made to the “States, on the £1 for £1 basis, for the construction of main developmental roads. This grant was increased in the present year by an additional amount of £250,000 to be spent on the reconstruction and strengthening ‘ of existing main roads. The Government, however, now feels that the time has come when a progressive forward movement must be made in connexion with a roads policy for Australia. The Government proposes to make available to the - States a sum of £20,000,000 spread over a period of ten years, such amount to be provided out of the’ revenue derived by the Commonwealth from taxation to be collected from motor users through the Customs Department. The provision of this amount is, of course, subject to a policy of national road development being evolved at a conference between the Commonwealth and the States which is acceptable to the Commonwealth. One fundamental principle which will have to be embodied in any scheme which can. be approved by the Commonwealth is that provision must be made for the permanent maintenance and upkeep of roads constructed or reconstructed under -the scheme.
It is recognized that a certain proportion of petroleum oils is consumed for purposes which have no. direct connexion with the use . of roads, and the Government, therefore, decided to amend its original proposals with a view to the exemption from increased taxation of the oils used for such purposes. Petroleum spirit oils are, for example, used to some extent by farmers and others as -fuel for stationary engines employed for a variety of power purposes. Petrol is also used as fuel for motor boats. No doubt there are other directions in which these oils are used for motive power and other purposes which have no connexion with the use of roads. The Government, therefore, decided to redraft the original proposed items in such a manner as would permit the admission ofpetrol and similar spirit oils for purposes other than consumption and road-using vehicles at the rate of duty in force prior to the introduction of the present proposals. Spirit oils used for such purposes will receive the careful consideration of the department, and will be admitted at the lower rate subject to such conditions as may be found necessary. About £1,000,000 is expected annually from the petrol duty.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Austra
Federal Aid Roads Bill which was before the Senate yesterday, I do not intend to vote for the second reading of this measure because I consider an additionalduty of 2d. a gallon on petrol is totally unjustifiable. The South Australian and Western Australian Governments have already levied a tax upon petrol consumption to meet the cost of road construction in those States, and there does not, therefore, appear to be any reason why the Commonwealth should intervene. During the recent election campaign we were told that the Commonwealth Government intended to assist the States in constructing main roads, and I believe 90 per cent, of the electors were under the impression that the funds for this purpose would be taken from ordinary Customs revenue, and that no special tax on petrol would be imposed.
– I have read that speech very carefully. The right honorable gentleman’s statement, which was very vague, was that the money would be obtained from Customs revenue. There was no mention of the imposition of a special tax on petrol.
– Yes, a tax to be paid by motor users.
– The Prime Minister did not say that there was to be a special impost upon motor users, or on any one else using petrol. As there was an overflowing Treasury, particularly as a result of the heavy Customs receipts, it was thought that the money would foe paid out of the general Customs revenue. The first proposal of the Government was that the States should contribute on a £1 for £1 basis, but as a result of representations made by the States the Commonwealth Government receded from its position, and the States are now to contribute 15s. for every £1 paid by the Commonwealth. If the Commonwealth wishes to assist the States in the matter of road construction it should earmark a portion of the Consolidated Revenue, and not impose a special tax which will have to be paid by motor users, many of whom will not benefit in the slightest degree. That is ray vital objection to the bill. There is ample money available to assist the States in constructing roads.
– Apparently the honorable senator has not read the “Obligations of the Commonwealth,” issued by the Treasurer.
– I have read so many of the Treasurer’s statements that the more 1 read the less attention I give them. The tax which is now being collected will undoubtedly result in the price of petrol being raised.
– It has been collected for a month, and prices have not been increased.
– The British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company, the principal distributors of liquid fuel in Australia, have already said they intend to pass on the tax to petrol users, and notwithstanding the hysterical utterances of the Prime Minister in another place they will’ undoubtedly do so. I am surprised at the outburst of the right honorable gentleman, who, knowing the manner in which these combines have been operating for years, could have easily given utterance to the same remarks long ago. I do not hold any brief for these oil interests. The party to which I belong directed attention years ago to the injury which these monopolies are doing, not only here, but in other parts of the world. The Prime Minister further stated that he intends to ask Parliament to grant further moneys to enable the Comonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to combat the evil influence of these two companies. The Government had an opportunity some time ago to duplicate the plant of the Commonwealth Oil- Refineries Limited, and thus enable its output to be increased. The desirability of doing so was suggested by a committee which inquired into the whole question of the supply of liquid fuel in Australia. The hysterical outburst of the Prime Minister was merely an attempt to justify the action of the Government in imposing a higher duty on petrol. If the position had been clearly put before the people at the last election their verdict would have been totally different.
– The position was clearly put before the electors.
– I deny that. Did the Prime Minister say that an additional tax of 2d. a gallon would be imposed on petrol? He said that money would be obtained from Customs revenue!
– He said it would be paid by motor users.
– Any one reading the policy speech would conclude that it was the intention of the Government to obtain the money from general revenue: Fully 70 per cent, of the tax will be paid by persons resident in the metropolitan area, who will not benefit under this scheme, since under clause 7 of the agreement, cities and towns with a population of over 5,000- cannot derive any advantage. The Prime Minister, when referring to Sir Harry Chauvel’3 report, referred to the necessity of spending money on road construction in the interests of defence, and if that is the objective of the Government the money should be contributed by the whole community. The States should be allowed to levy a petrol consumption tax as two> of the States are already doing.
– The States cannot levy a Customs duty.
– No, but South Australia and Western Australia are, as I have said, already levying a petrol consumption tax “to provide funds to cover the costs of road construction.
– The legality of that action is to be tested.
– I am surprised at a member of this Government speaking of the legality of any action. Although certain legislation introduced by this Government, and passed by Parliament, was found to be unconstitutional, one of its Ministers now speaks of the legality of the action of State governments. Dr. Earle Page stated -
There has been no agitation against these proposals except from the newspapers.
He is wrong. I have received innumerable telegrams from various bodies throughout the Commonwealth protesting against the imposition of this tax, and I have no doubt that -other honorable senators also have received similar communications. During the election campaign, Dr. Earle Page boasted that since he had been in office he had been responsible for a reduction of direct taxation. On a former occasion I was able to show that the reductions made by the Treasurer affected mainly the wealthier sections of the community, and were of little benefit to men on the lower rungs of the ladder ; also that during the same period indirect taxation had increased appreciably. Whilst a private member of the Country party, the honorable gentleman frquently attacked the Government of the day in connexion’ with its taxation proposals, stating that the time had come when we should cut our coat according to our cloth. It is a pity that the Treasurer does not, as a Minister, practise what he preached as a private member. The money for these road proposals should come, not from a special tax on motor users, but from the general revenue. Personally, I am opposed to the bill. Again I say that I am expressing my own opinion. Other honorable senators associated with me on this side of the Senate have perfect liberty to state their views, and vote in accordance with them.
– I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without expressing my entire disapproval of the proposal of the Government to raise the revenue for roadmaking schemes from Customs taxation. I disagree entirely with my leader (Senator Needham) as to the way in which the scheme should be financed. On several occasions I have endeavoured to enlighten honorable senators as to the source from which this money should come. Unfortunately, they are prepared to accept any proposal, bo matter how ridiculous it may be, rather than go to the right source. It has been said over and over again that every one is in favour of good roads. There appears to be complete unanimity on ‘this point, but when it comes to paying for the roads there is the widest possible divergence of opinion. Some people say that the money should be provided out of loan. That idea does not appeal to me, and, unlike my leader, I disapprove of the proposal to draw upon the general revenue for it. If our general revenue were derived mainly from the proper source, which I shall indicate presently, possibly it would be sound finance to pay road construction out of general revenue, but at present the bulk of our revenue is derived from the taxation of goods made in foreign, lowwage, long-hour, protectionist countries.
– What does the honorable senator suggest? A tax on land values ?
– I can see that Senator McHugh thoroughly understands the subject. I have no doubt that Senator Hoare and Senator Barwell are likewise well informed upon it.
– I have heard the honorable senator state his views frequently.
– And I hope that before long we shall hear Senator Barwell publicly expressing the faith that is in him regardless of the caucus ties which unfortunately bind him to this retrograde and out-of-date Ministry.
– Some of us thought we understood the subject until we listened to the honorable senator’s speeches.
– I am sure that Senator Thomas could, if he had his way, tell us how we could get free roads and free railways. He is a believer in the policy that revenue should be derived from land value taxation.
– Now he believes in taxing beer and whisky.
– Fancy getting a Consolidated Revenue from that source and handing it to the States, which, in turn, would hand it to municipalities and district roads boards for road-making purposes ! The idea is unworthy of any intelligent citizen. The immediate effect, as we all know, of the making of good roads is the enhancement in the value of land on both sides of such roads.
– The honorable senator told us all this last night.
– Apparently the Minister and his friends have not assimilated the information whichI gave them last night. I may add that the immediate effect of making good roads is to immensely increase also the value of lands in the metropolitan area. I did not say that last night. I hope that in the recess the Minister will be able to assimilate what I am saying. I am sure that nine-tenths of the people endorse the views I am stating, and how they permit themselves to be dragged unceremoniously at the heels of the troglodytes who are in control of the Treasury benches is beyond my understanding. About 91 years ago the site upon which this building stands was virgin Australian bush.
– If the honorable senator will sit down I will vote against the bill.
– It does not concern me what Senator Thomas proposes to do. My purpose now is to put before the Senate what I regard as the correct method of raising revenue for the construction and maintenance of roads. Instead of obtaining the money from the proper source, the Government proposes to impose a tax upon petrol. I remind the Ministry that the time has long since passed when motor cars were the exclusive property of the allegedly rich. They are coming more and more into general use. But for the fact that this protectionist Government some years ago imposed a duty of between £50 and £60 on imported motor cars, we should be able to buy a “ Lizzie “ for about £125, instead of having, because of our great national policy, to pay nearly £200. The price of every other class of imported motor car has been correspondingly increased. But the Government was not satisfied with the petrol tax. It concocted a scheme to levy duties on imported tires and motor chassis. Fortunately public opinion proved too strong, and the Government had to abandon those duties. ‘ If there is one thing I am more opposed to than another it is this idea of taxing a man who renders service to the community. Under the Income Tax Act we levy a tax upon citizens in proportion to the value of services rendered. The Government now proposes to penalize the users of petrol, whether for commercial purposes or for pleasure, for every mile they run along our roads. The more the Government taxes petrol users the more it will discourage the , employment of capital and labour. I am reminded of the time when people in the Old Country were taxed at every point if they did anything useful in the service of their fellow men. The roads of Sydney are made and maintained from the proceeds of ,a straight-out land value tax of about 4d. in the £1, which falls fairly on every land-holder in the city. Every motor owner there will be required to pay the petrol tax, but no portion of the revenue so raised will be spent on Sydney roads. One section of the people is to be penalized for the benefit of another. The general community will receive no advantage from this tax ; all the benefit will be derived by the land-owners. The Govern ment should have profited by the fine, example of municipal government set ira Sydney.
– Does the honorable senator seriously suggest that the Sydney City Council affords a good example of municipal government?
– Yes, the best in the Commonwealth. No penalty is imposed in Sydney on a man who decides to employ labour there; but in Melbourne we see armies of unemployed.
– The roads scheme will give employment.
– It is intended for the sole purpose of increasing the value of land.
– It will minimize wear and tear on motor cars.
– Yes. I approve of good roads, but the Government proposes to defray the cost of the scheme in an inequitable manner. When the Minister and I were in New Guinea some time ago we drove over a road, the equal to which is not to be found in the Commonwealth.
– But it was built by forced labour.
– The honorable senator isdigressing from the subject-matter of the bill.
– The petrol tax will provide only a small portion of the money required for road construction.. If the States are unwilling to make their own roads, or are incapable of doing so, we’ should adopt a proper basis of taxation for the purpose. I regard the bill as an effort to limit the use of motor cars and motor lorries. Does the Government desire to abolish motor traction and return to the conditions obtaining in the dark ages? Surely the manufacturers, importers, and users of motor vehicles are rendering a service to the community. The taxes and fees already extracted from motor owners are almost sufficient to pre-, vent people from purchasing oars. Although the petrol tax may assist in the work of road construction, it is an unfair impost on motor users. I have sufficient faith in the business acumen of the oil companies to believe that they will pass the tax on to the consumers.
– They know better than do that.
– They could stop our industries in a week.
– Of course. All efforts made to increase the output of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries have been more or less thwarted. Although three shifts are being worked at Laverton in order to duplicate the plant, the output is not more than 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 gallons per annum, and it is estimated that Australia’s annual requirements have increased to 120,000,000 gallons.
– There are not sufficient “ C.O.R.” agencies in the various States.
– That is so. I hope that the measure will be defeated.
– It has been stated by the Minister (Senator Crawford) that when the Government’s road policy was announced, prior to the last -elections, the public was given to understand that a special tax would be levied, for the purpose of defraying the cost of the scheme. If that is so. I have no recollection- of it. I remember the roads policy being, received with a good deal of favour, but I think that it was generally understood that the Government had such an overflowing Treasury that it would have no difficulty in financing the scheme by means of surplus revenue. The definite promise given by the Prime Minister during, the election campaign, that there would be a reduction of taxation, had a greater influence on the electors than had even the ‘ Government’s road- policy. Wherever I went during that campaign I stressed that this Government was one to which we could look for economical administration; that during its occupancy of the Treasury bench it had reduced taxation on several occasions, and that we could continue to look to it for further reductions of taxation, if that was at all possible. I pointed out that good seasons and high prices for primary products were likely to continue, with the result that large revenues would be received, and that because of careful administration the Government -would probably be able to further reduce taxation. The Minister will not deny that the prospect of reduced taxation had a great influence upon the result of the election. But what- do we find ? Notwithstanding that there is every, prospect of a larger surplus this year than in previous years-
– There is no indication of- that.
– Yes, there is; but, nevertheless, the Government, instead of reducing taxation, now brings forward a proposal to further increase it.
– Should not honorable senators honour their election pledges 1
– If the Minister says that Government supporters who oppose the Government’s taxation proposals are not standing up to their election pledges, I remind him that by introducing this legislation the- Ministry has broken the pledge given by its members on the platform.
– The Government gave no promise to reduce taxation.
– It did. It stated that- it had reduced taxation in the past, and hoped to make further reductions in the future.
– The Government boasted that it had reduced taxation.
– Yes. Yet it is now proposed to further increase taxa tion and that in a way which will create, the maximum of resentment in the minds of the people of this country. This is a class tax, although the Government has always contended that it does not stand for class legislation. The Government has taken credit for having reduced the amusement tax.
– The honorable senator is getting outside the scope of the bill.
– The bill proposesto increase taxation.
– Yes, but only along certain specified lines.
– Surely I am in order in pointing out that the Government, which has granted relief to the taxpayers in certain directions, is now increasing taxation in other directions ! A tax on amusements, which, after all, are not essential to the welfare of the community, is taken off, whereas it is proposed to place a tax on transport, which is vital to the progress of this country. The Government has adopted an entirely wrong course. I am opposed to this measure. The Government must claim that the revenue to be derived from this tax is necessary, otherwise it would not have introduced this legislation. The Minister has disputed my statement that the revenue of the Commonwealth this year will probably be greater than that of last year. The Treasurer has estimated that the revenue of the Commonwealth for the year 1926-27 will be approximately £51,000,000, of which £40,500,000 will be derived from Customs duties. In my opinion, he has under-estimated the revenue from Customs this year, as he has under-estimated it in the past. In view of the necessity for other countries finding markets for their produce, and the fact that Australia has one of the best buying populations in the world, it is likely that the Customs revenue will show a considerable increase.
– An increase of Customs revenue has been budgeted for.
– Yes; but I predict that even that increase will be exceeded. The amount received from Customs duties, instead of being £40,500,000 as estimated by the Treasurer,’ is likely to be nearer £60,000,000. In addition, the Government, with the approval of Parliament, has made arrangements to borrow £10,560,000. This tax, I understand, is estimated to yield about £1,000,000 per annum, which is a large sum to be contributed by one section of the community - the motor users. If a tax on petrol were necessary in order to balance the ledger, the position would be different; but in view of the bounding revenues of the Commonwealth, the probability of another large surplus this, year, and particularly the Government’s pledge to reduce taxation, it is not justified.
– The Government gave no pledge to reduce taxation. If Senator Duncan, during the election campaign, gave such a pledge on behalf of the Government, he acted without authority.
– During the election campaign, it was freely stated that there was every indication of a reduction of taxation’ if the Government was returned to power. All that the Government proposes to do under this scheme could be done without additional taxation being imposed. Let us consider the position in which we should find ourselves in the event of the good seasons and -the high prices for our products, which we now enjoy, no longer continuing. In that event, Australia would find difficulty in raising the revenue necessary to meet its obligations. .
– The whole of the Commonwealth is not enjoying a prosperous season.
– Does the whole of the Commonwealth ever enjoy a uniformly good season? Speaking generally, the present season is a good one throughout the Commonwealth.
– More than half of the cattle of the Commonwealth are in Queensland, where, as the result of a severe drought, ‘ many thousands of cattle have died this year.
– I am aware o) that; but I remind the Minister that, f0 some years, we have not depended for ou; prosperity on our cattle. Had we been . forced to do so, we should indeed have been in sore straits. I was speaking particularly of our wool and wheat, and other primary produce upon which we are dependent for our material prosperity. It is to be hoped that the cattle industry will not always experience the bad times which, unfortunately, it is experiencing now. Should the Commonwealth experience a succession of unsatisfactory seasons, affecting our primary produc-tion, what would be our position if committed to this huge expenditure? Weshould be in “ Queer-street.” It is timethat the Government considered where its policy might lead the country. If there; is one thing in this . country which the Government should assist, instead of hampering, it is transport. Yet, this tax is a tax on transport.
– Transport is dependent upon roads.
– That. is so, to an extent; but in order to provide good roads, it is not necessary, to levy this tax upon transport. Good roads benefit the whole community, and not only the road users, seeing that they cheapen transport, and ultimately reduce prices. That being so, the Government is not justified in taxing only one section of the community -to provide good roads. ‘ We must not lose sight of the fact that motor traction is not the only means of transport in this country. Much of our primary and manufactured produce is carried in heavy horse-drawn vehicles, which probably do more harm to the roads than that caused by motor vehicles. I have said that this tax will be paid by motor users. In statements that have been made by tha
Minister (Senator Crawford) and supporters of the ; measure -in another place, it has been claimed that this tax will be paid by the oil companies with the exception of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the local company to which the Government is more or less committed, and which this Parliament has agreed to finance to a certain extent. I do not believe that the oil companies will pay the tax. I hold no brief for those companies. I know what they have done in many ways to Australia, and the influence which they have been able to exert in the United States of America and ‘other countries. They constitute a huge combine. I remind the Government that if the amendments of the Constitution, upon which the people are to : be asked to vote, are agreed to, it will have full power to take action against the Oil Trust and kindred bodies in any way that is thought desirable in the interests of the public. Does the Government consider- that the imposition of a duty of 2d. a gallon -upon petrol will have any material effect upon the oil companies, or that 1 they will consent to bear the additional expense? The Minister is aware that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited produces only 10 per cent; of -Australia’s requirements of petrol, and nearly, the whole of that quantity is used in Victoria. Those -who are able to secure supplies from that source’ - Victorians principally - may perhaps benefit by the imposition of this tax. But what will be the position of motor users in the other States, where it is not possible to purchase, the product of that concern ? They are now compelled to use the product of the trust, and they will have to pay the increased price that will he demanded. The contention has been advanced that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will be able to increase the number of its refineries, and that such will be established in Sydney. That has been denied: there is, at present, no proposal to increase the number of refineries that are controlled by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It is claimed that the imposition of this tax will hit the oil trust. From what source does the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited procure its supplies of raw oil? It makes its purchases from the Anglo-Persian Oil
Company. Will any honorable senator argue that that company has no connexion with the oil trust? There is a hard and fast secret agreement between them regarding the price that shall be charged, and it is not possible to purchase supplies from the Anglo-Persian Oil Company for a fraction of a penny less than from the Standard Oil Company or the other members of the trust.
– What proof has the honorable senator of that statement?
– Will the minister assert that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited purchases from the Anglo-Persian Oil Company at a cheaper rate than that at which it could purchase from the Standard Oil Company ?
– I say that the honorable senator has merely made an assertion, without having the slightest proof of its correctness.
– The facts are obvious to everybody. It is constantly stated that the Oil Trust makes huge profits.
– The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited made a loss of £53,000 last year.
– If the AngloPersian Oil Company had at heart only the benefit of the public, it would not charge the exorbitant prices that are alleged to be charged by the other oil companies. At any rate, its charge would be less to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The deductions that we are able to draw from facts that are in our .possession make it abundantly clear that there is a secret agreement between the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and the members of the trust. We should, therefore, be benefiting the former without penalizing the latter.. I am prepared to do my utmost to assist any local concern. I should like to see the Government give substantial assistance to a purely Australian company which would produce oil in Australia. We have the raw material in several districts, and with proper expenditure and good management we should make ourselves independent of outside sources of supply. At the present time we are entirely dependent on those outside sources, as our operations are confined to the refining of the oil. The Government is proceeding along wrong lines by increasing taxation at a time when the circumstances warrant a reduction. “For the reasons which I have stated I am opposed to the measure, and I hope that it will not be carried. Its rejection will not nullify the roadsagreement ; the only difference will be that the Government will have to find the money in some other way.
– Oh, no; these two matters go together. The roads bill is dependent upon the passing of this measure.
– I do not think so. We have in the past succeeded in financing a roads scheme without the imposition of a petrol tax.
– Not a scheme involving £20,000,000.
– I admit that this is an enlarged scheme. We were able to advance £500,000 to the States without imposing a petrol tax.
– That £500,000 per annum will still have to be. found from ordinary revenue.
– Our revenues are sufficiently large to enable us to embark upon this roads scheme without increasing the charge upon the people. This is an unnecessary and inequitable tax, which is not justified by any circumstance. For that reason I must, oppose it.
– When the vote is taken some of those honorable senators who are most outspoken in their condemnation of the course which the Government is taking will be found either absent from the division or standing behind the Government to prevent the defeat of the bill..
– That statement is not worthy of the honorable senator.
– Evidence is not lacking that members in another place who were very outspoken were conveniently absent when the division bells rang. I say definitely, and as vigorously as I can, that this kind of legislation does not appeal to me in any way. Lawyers have expressed the view that it is not constitutional. Some honorable senators who are not lawyers have said that, whether it is’ constitutional or unconstitutional, they will support it, because their States need good roads. Three of the States are apparently prepared to accept, this Federal aid, and, like Oliver Twist, to ask for more if they think there is any possibility of getting it. Everybody is agreed that good roads and other up to date means of communication are essential to the progress and welfare of the Commonwealth. We. have been told that the Prime Minister, in his policy speech, said that the money required to enable the Federal Government to assist the States in the making and maintenance of roads would be raised through the Customs Department. I venture to assert that 999 out of every 1,000 persons who read that statement believed that the surplus which remained out of the enormously large sums that were being obtained from Customs duties would be devoted to the Government’s roads policy No one believed for a moment that the Government had any other purpose in view. Yet it now proposes that a new tax shall be imposed ! I am not a believer in the imposition of a revenue duty. I am a protectionist, and if the Government came forward with a proposal that was protectionist in its incidence, and was for the assistance of an Australian industry, I should support it. The Government itself has admitted that this is a revenue duty,’ imposed for the purpose of raising the money necessary to enable the Commonwealth to assist the States in the construction and maintenance of roads. According to published reports, the Prime Minister has stated that, if this additional duty is passed on by the oil companies to the users of petrol, the Government will declare war on those companies.
– Quite right, too.
– Let us follow the honorable senator’s contention to its logical conclusion. When Customs duties are imposed to assist Australian industries, higher prices are charged to the community. Flinders-lane merchants are no exception in this regard. The firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce, with which it is said the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is closely associated - I do not know whether that statement is correct - are large importers. That firm, as well as other firms in Flinders-lane, distributes goods on which fairly high duties have been imposed. Does any honorable senator suggest that these importing firms do not pass on the additional duties ?
– Is the honorable senator attempting to justify the threat of the oil-distributing companies to put up their prices?
– No. I am pointing out that, if the Government de- clareswar on these companies, it must, if it wishes to be consistent, also declare war on all firms which pass on Customs duties.
– How can that be avoided?
– I do not think it can be; but I want the Government to be at least ‘ consistent. I have no -time whatever for trusts or combines, but I am surprised at this new-born enthusiasm of the Government in threatening these companies. The Government has declared war, not merely on the oil-distributers in Australia, but also on the States which will not fall into line with its proposals. We are informed that the users of roads are to meet the cost of construction; but under this proposal all the users of roads will not have to contribute. I am totally opposed to this antediluvian system. When roads are constructed in the interests of the nation, the cost should be a charge upon the whole- of the people, and not upon any one section as is now proposed. All the users of roads are not to contribute. Only those who use certain brands of motor spirit are to be taxed. The users of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ product will not be penalized.
– I am surprised at the honorable senator attacking a local industry.
– I am not attacking the industry. I am not surprised at anything done by this Government; one never knows what it is ‘ likely to do or undo. For instance, the form of the bill as introduced in another place was totally different from that in which it reached the Senate. The opposition to the measure by supporters of the Government was so strong that it was amended in such a way that it can hardly be recognized as the same hill. In the first place, a duty on chassis and tires was proposed, as well as a tax on all users of petrol; but later the duties on chassis and tires werestruck out, and petrol for farm mach.inery and other appliances not’ using public roads was made free of the extra tax. According to a statement made in another place by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who. was once a member of the Government, it will be almost impossible to discriminate, for Customs purposes, between petrol for vehicles which use the roads and petrol used for other purposes:
– To do that effectively would cost more than the additional tax will produce.
– It would be very difficult. The honorable member for Wimmera said that the power for some of the work performed on his farm - T think it was chaff-cutting- was provided by a motor vehicle.
– The South Australian Government had no difficulty in collecting a similar tax.
– That may be so, but I hope the Government will have great difficulty in getting this bill passed. . A few years ago a motor car was considered more or less of a luxury, but to-day very- few people keep motor cars purely for pleasure. With the passing of time thousands who never anticipated being the owners of cars now possess ‘ them, and nearly every- business man realizes that if he is to successfully compete with his opponents his transport work must he undertaken by motor - vehicles. The’ enterprising man, under this bill, will be at a disadvantage when compared with one who remains in the old groove. Those who have horse-drawn vehicles use the roads but will be free of this tax, whereas those who use motor vehicles will have to pay it. If they use other than the Commonwealth Oil Refineries brand of petrol they will be penalized to the extent of 2d. per gallon. To-day Melbourne is being more or less transformed. Where a few years ago there were but small establishments we now see immense edifices extending up to ten stories. The material for these modern structures is conveyed in most cases not by motor lorries, but by horse-drawn vehicles, which do considerable damage to the roads. I do not, however, approve of horse-drawn vehicles being specially taxed, although I believe . they do as much damage to the roads as” other ‘ vehicles. If a comparatively small section of the com.munity has to provide the revenue for national roads, where is this principle likely to stop? I do not intend to sup- port the Government in a policy under which all the money necessary for the construction of national roads is to be raised by a special tax on motor users.
– Five hundred thousand pounds is to be found out of general revenue.
– Why did the Government propose in the first place to come to the aid of the States in this way? Not because it was concerned about the operations of the companies, which it is alleged are associated with the Standard Oil Trust - that octopus, whose tentacles stretch to every part of the world. Not because it was solicitous concerning the progress of the States. The Ministry was associated with a party that believed in high revenue duties. Consequently it had more revenue than was necessary, and therefore made representations to the States that it was prepared to assist them in the making and maintenance of national roads. The States, finding it .more difficult than was the case prior to the war to obtain money for essential needs, naturally did not object to the Commonwealth coming to their assistance. When the Commonwealth Government announced its intention to vacate certain fields of taxation, involving a loss of over £1,000,000 a year, its supporters were led to believe that- it did not intend to impose taxation in another form. Certainly they did not anticipate that the Ministry would levy a special tax on petrol to provide the money for its roads proposals. The more I examine this bill the more convinced am I that if Government supporters were free and untrammelled, it would not pass its second reading. Many of the States have large areas to develop, and because, unlike the Commonwealth, they have not overflowing treasuries, developmental schemes cannot be proceeded with. Naturally, they ‘are not indisposed to accept further aid, but it is wrong in principle to tax a certain section of the community to provide good roads for all the people.
– That is not being done. Expenditure under these proposals will represent only a small proportion of the total amount spent on roads throughout the Commonwealth.
– But money obtained under this scheme will be spent on what are considered to be national roads. Assuming that the roads to be constructed under this scheme will be national highways for defence purposes, how can it be argued that a limited section of the people who use a certain class of motor spirit should be called upon to maintain them?
– If they wear the roads out they should pay.
– This is an entirely now doctrine. Would the honorable senator apply that principle to the railways of the Commonwealth, and argue that the losses on the railways should not be borne by the community ?
– There should not be losses in the operations of our railways. Before a Labour Government came into power in Queensland the railways in that State showed a profit.
– Some railways, it is believed, will not pay for a considerable number of years. Any losses incurred in the running of our railways should be borne by the people generally. The same argument should be applied to our national roads. It is manifestly wrong to require the users of our roads to pay for them, because, as a rule, they are used not for pleasure, but for business purposes. There is an enormous volume of business traffic over all roads leading to the wharfs and railway stations in our capital cities. Is it seriously suggested that the people who use these roads should be specially singled out for taxation to pay for them?
– Does the honorable senator believe that it was wrong to impose a heavy tax on motor buses in Melbourne recently?
– I have my own views in regard to that matter. I do not propose to open up that interesting subject now, except to remind the Senate that if owners of motor vehicles use Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited motor spirit, they may cut our roads to ribbons and not be called upon to contribute a penny of the special tax imposed for the maintenance of those roads.
– Would the honorable senator approve of an excise duty on Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited spirit?
– The right honorable the Minister does not know what is running through my mind. I have stated my” objections to the bill. If the argument is sound that the users of the roads should pay this tax, it seems anomalous that road users should be able to escape it by using a certain brand of motor spirit, especially in view of the statement that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited cannot supply more than one-tenth of the petrol required in Australia. I intend to vote against the . second reading of the bill.
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.30 p.m.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [2.30]. - Speaking on the budget, I mentioned various objections that I had to this bill as part of the road proposals of the Government. Apart from the fact that I considered the scheme to be unconstitutional, I mentioned that there had been no reference of this matter to the Tariff Board, as required by the Tariff Board Act, section 15, which reads -
The Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry, and report the necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and shall not take any action in respect of those matters until he has received the report of the board.
My second point was that the tax would be imposed on the users of a great deal of petrol that was not consumed in road . transport. I notice, however, that that defect has been rectified in the present bill. The third objection that I raised - and it has been mentioned by Senator Findley - was that the tax was not to be imposed on all road users. It does not apply to steam-driven, electricallypropelled, or horse-driven vehicles. Another matter that was also referred to by Senator Findley was that motorists using Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited petrol would escape the tax. That seems the very height of injustice. If there is to be a tax on petrol in connexion with a roads policy, in order that those who use the roads shall contribute towards the cost of their construction and maintenance, surely everybody using the roads ought to pay the tax. Any other system would be unfair. The more I look at the Government’s proposal, the more convinced I am that this is not in the nature of a national roads policy, but is an invidious tariff proposal for the purpose of bolstering up a State enterprise into which the Commonwealth Government launched for war purposes, and which it should have relinquished long ago.
– If it wants to build up that enterprise, why not do it in the proper way by means of a Customs tariff?
– I have no doubt that the honorable senator would encourage such an enterprise, because he is a State socialist; but I am not. At a time of war, there might have been some excuse for the Government embarking upon such an undertaking; but it has no excuse for continuing in this business at the present time. The users of petrol which is not consumed on the roads are to be exempt from the tax. I agree with Senator Findley when he says that the payment of rebates will occasion much difficulty. The Minister interjected that South Australia is doing this at the present time. I believe that that State does it through its Income Tax Department; the rebates could be more easily made through that department than through the Customs Department. The Income Tax Department has personal accounts which it can credit with payments by way of rebates of duty. Of course, some of those who use petrol other than on the road are quite small users; but there is a tremendous number of them, and the work of making the necessary rebates will be difficult and costly. It will probably mean the establishment of a separate department. The duty is now to be imposed on petrol only, and it is therefore a class tax. This bill is simply an attack on importers of petrol, with whom the Government, having entered into the business, are in competition. The States are already taxing road users by means of vehicle and petrol consumption taxes. Three of the States, which have rejected the roads agreement - New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia - use a large percentage of the petrol that is required in Australia for road transport. I suppose that those States would take five or six times, possibly seven or eight times, as much petrol as the other three States combined. South Australia has more motorists per head of the population than any other State - it has one motor vehicle to every nine persons. I believe that Victoria has one to every seventeen of the population, New South Wales having the next largest number. But those three States refuse to have anything to do with the agreement. The
Government proposes to allocate the grant on the basis of population and area, and it imagines that the States which are now standing out will eventually accept the scheme.
– Perhaps the Government will hand back to the States that have rejected the proposals the money collected by way of this special petrol tax.
– I am afraid that it will not. The Government blames the importing oil companies for the opposition to its proposal, but its attitude is unjust. It seems to me that it is attempting to cover the losses of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, whose operations in 1925 showed a loss of £53,000 - a result similar to that of other State enterprises.
– We are told that it is now making a profit.
– I have quoted the latest figures available.
– At the present time, and for some time past, it has been showing a profit.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) pointed out that the petrol trade of the world was in the hands of three groups - the Royal Dutch, the Standard Oil, and the AngloPersian Oil Companies. He made reference to the dividends being paid by some of those companies, and referred with much wrath to the operations of the British Imperial and Vacuum Oil Companies, as well as to their oversea connexions, both real and imaginary. But he did not say a word adverse to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and its” parent company, the Burmah Oil Company, which owns one-eighth of the shares in the former company. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is a branch of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The Burmah Oil Company paid dividends at the rate of 30 per cent, in 1923, and 35 per cent, in 1924 and 1925. For the year ended 31st March, 1924, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company paid a 10 per cent, dividend on ordinary shares and carried forward a balance of £1,750,000. The chairman, Sir Charles Greenway, in his report for the year ended 31st March, 1924, stated - .
As to our financial policy and administration. I claim we can show a record unequalled by any other company in the same period of time. “Since 1914- only ten years ago- we have provided out of our earnings a total of no less than £19.000.000, in addition to paying out the sum of £9.250,000 in dividends and debenture interests.
For the year ending the 31st March, 1925, a dividend of 12£ per cent, was paid on ordinary shares, leaving a balance of £2,072,799 to be carried forward. When moving the adoption of the 1925 annual report, Sir Charles Greenway stated -
A simple calculation would show that if, as a result of the board’s conservative policy, their shares appreciated in value during thenext five years to the extent of 100 per cent. - a not at all improbable assumption - the average return, even on the basis of the present dividend, would be equivalent to a dividend of about 52t per cent, per annum, which would be far better than getting an immediate return of, say, 20 per cent.
That is the company with which theCommonwealth Government is connected,, and of which it is practically a member, by reason of its connexion with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I point out that Sir Charles Greenway is a director of the Burmah Oil Company Limited, ‘and also chairman of directors of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited. The profits earned by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited, and also by the Burmah Oil Company Limited, afford ample proof that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company obtains a satisfying profit from the oil that it sells to the Commonwealth . Oil Refineries Limited. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company is on velvet, even if it does not get any dividends out of its shares in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, as it gets a profit on crude oil, and also on freighting the oil from Persia to Melbourne.
– What percentage of the capital of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited belongs to the Commonwealth?
– A little over onehalf of the total capital is held by the Commonwealth.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The amount invested by the Commonwealth in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited, by reason of its connexion with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, is ‘infinitesimal. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited cannot land crude oil in Australia at less than the world’s market price. The only oil company which has Australia in its grip is the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited, with which the Commonwealth Govern- ment is associated, because that is the only company which has the right to supply the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited with its requirements for the next fifteen years. The Minister said that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is making a profit. The latest figures available to me show that it is making a loss of £53,000 per annum.
– Those figures apply to the period when the company was working only part time. It is now working three shifts, and is making a profit.
– The fact remains that, until recently, the company was making a loss, and even now its profits are not great.
– All new industries have their initial difficulties.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.That is true. This industry will experience many difficulties if the Prime Minister’s threat is carried out. The Prime Minister has threatened that if the additional duty of 2d. per gallon, which was originally intended to be paid by the road users, is not paid by the oil companies, the Government itself will import refined oil. Anxious, apparently, to hit the companies which are in competition with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and to bolster up a state enterprise, the Government has lost sight of the very purpose for which the tax was originally intended. It will, therefore, be seen that this is not really a national roads policy at all, but an invidious tariff proposal to injure the oil companies now operating in Australia and to bolster up a State enterprise. I do not see how the Government will be able to carry out its threat to import refined oils and pay to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company the world’s price for petrol. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will have to go in for bulk distribution of oil, a policy which would involve the expenditure of at least , £1,000,000, if it is to compete successfully with the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company. It is clear that the Government cannot import and distribute petrol more cheaply than can private enterprise.
– Private enterprise is working on a big margin.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The Government will not improve that position by importing refined oil.
– Who said that the Government intended to import refined oil?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The Prime Minister said so.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The Prime Minister has been credited with having said publicly that, if the oil companies themselves do not pay the 2d. per gallon tax, the Government will import refined oils.
– The Prime Minister said that, in that event, the Government would take such action as would protect the motor users.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I have a distinct recollection of having read that the Government would take steps to import refined oil. The imposition of an additional duty of 2d. per gallon will have three results. In the first place, the duty will be paid, not by the companies, but by the road users; in the second place, the roads policy of the States will be interfered with; and, in the third place, an unfair advantage will be taken of the oil companies. In any case, the public will suffer. The Prime Minister also said that the price of petrol in Australia was inflated. He stated that, whereas petrol cost ls. 9d. a gallon in Australia, it could be obtained in the United Kingdom for ls. 5d. a gallon, and for lid. a gallon in the United States of America. That i3 an unfair comparison, because it does not take into consideration the cost of importation and distribution in a field where the consumption is comparatively small and where transport is expensive. The difference between the prices charged for petrol by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the importing companies was also mentioned by the Prime Minister. It is true that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited receives ls. 9d. a gallon for its petrol, whereas the importing companies receive ls. 10½d. a gallon; but, if the matter is investigated, it will be found that that ls. 10-Jd. a gallon represents ls. 9d., plus Id. duty and the £d rebate allowed to the retailers who hire pumps from the importers. Thus it will be seen that there is really no difference between the prices.
– Why did the importing companies increase the price of their petrol by 2d. per gallon a few months ago?
– Because of the advantages under which it operates, it should be possible for the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to sell petrol at a lower price than that charged by the importing companies. This legislation proposes to confer further advantages on the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which should be on exactly the same basis as its competitors. Owing to the absence of plant to handle petrol, excepting in Melbourne, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited at present supplies only about 8 per cent, of Australia’s petrol requirements. If this additional duty of 2d. per gallon is not to be passed on to the consumer, nine small importing companies now operating in Australia will have to go out of business. I have some figures here, which show that 2d. per gallon is equal to approximately 10 per cent, on turnover, or approximately 30 per cent, of the capital invested. It would appear that the investment of the taxpayers’ money in this business will be attended by considerable risk, for not only will the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited have to incur considerable expense iri installing plant for -bulk distribution, but there is. also a possibility of bad debts. . 1 have been informed that one importing oil company has considerably over £1,000,000 outstanding at the present time. If the taxpayers’ money is not to be used, then the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited will control, not only the capital, but also the sales of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. There are many other aspects of this question upon which I could touch, but I do not propose to do so now. With some of them I dealt fully the other day. I wish, however, to point out that the present proposals will mean that, in the smaller States, and in the country districts where Commonwealth Oil Refineries spirit is not procurable, motorists will have to. pay 2d. a gallon more than in the cities, and that merely to enable the Government to fight the importing oil companies.. I am not in favour of that discrimination. I am not in favour of the Government’s road proposals as a whole, with which this proposal is closely related. I consider that the roads legislation is unconstitutional; but, apart from that, I oppose it for- the reasons which I “have already set out. Even if I were prepared to grant that the road proposals were constitutional I should still offer strong opposition to the petrol tax, which is a purely class tax, and has very many objectionable features.
– I intervene in the debate merely to refer to two matters. One is the statement which was made .by Senator Duncan, that during the last election campaign the Government announced as p’art of its policy a proposal to further reduce taxation.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable senator did say it; he was challenged to name the Minister who made the announcement. I give it a flat denial. Such a proposal was not contained in the policy speech, but the Government pointed out that it had reduced taxation on several occasions during the last Parliament.
– And the inference was that similar action would be taken again.
– No promise was made that the Government would introduce measures for the reduction of taxation. It knew quite well that the liabilities which lay immediately ahead of it rendered it impossible to reduce taxation in any direction other than that which was involved by the transfer of certain fields of taxation to the States in return for the abolition of the per capita grant. I desire now to refer to one or two of the statements which were made by Senator Barwell. The first relates to the position of oil companies other than the AngloPersian Oil Company. The honorable senator quoted the profits which were made outside Australia by the AngloPersian Oil Company. They have no bearing on this case. Our sole concern is to see that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which within Australia is the rival company to these other companies, is not making an undue profit. T am in a- position to say that it is not. But what is the attitude that has been adopted by the other companies? On the 30th January last, the Vacuum Oil Company and the Shell Oil Company increased their prices to their distributers by 1½d. a gallon. That could not’ be justified on the ground that the price of petrol overseas had been increased. As a matter of fact, just about that time there was a decrease in the cost of petrol overseas. Therefore, that action of the two companies amounted to a barefaced attempt to tax the people of Australia to the extent of 1½d. a gallon. There was no public outcry, and no protest was made to this Parliament. Those two companies approached the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and asked that it should fall into line by raising its price. Its experience had taught it that so soon as it could obtain the full throughput of the refinery in Australia it could make a profit, and it informed the Government that it had no intention of increasing its price, because there was no necessity to do so. The only protection which the Australian motor user .has is that afforded by this refinery, which produces from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent, of the motor spirit that is consumed in Australia., Those two companies have retained that additional charge right up to the present time. When the Government, in pursuance of the policy that it announced at the elections, proposed to place a duty of 2d. per gallon on petrol, what was the result? We have undoubted proof that those two companies organized an active campaign against the whole of our road proposals. They knew that it would be too barefaced to organize a campaign against merely the petrol duty.
– Surely they would not influence the Labour Governments in New South Wales and South Australia !
– I do not say that they did. The attitude of those Governments is dictated by an entirely different motive. They want to raise and handle this revenue themselves. But public opinion has been organized at the direct request of these oil companies, through the. agents that they have scattered all over Australia. What is the present position? The tax is being paid, not by the motor users of Australia, but by the oil companies. The motor users have been paying what is really a tax of 1½d. a gallon imposed by these two companies since January last. Now that it is being diverted from the profits of the companies to the Treasury for use in the making of good roads throughout Australia, there is a squeal in opposition to the petrol tax.
– Does the Minister not think that the extra 2d. a gallon will be passed on to the .consumers ?
– It may be; but, so far, it has not been. There are very good reasons why they dare not do it.
– What are they ?
– One reason is the statement of the Government that if the tax is passed on, action will be taken to protect the motor users of Australia from further exploitation. We say that, without a shadow of justification, they have been exploited to the extent of l£d. a gallon since the 30th January last. From that date the Government has been examining the position apart altogether from its roads proposal, because it saw how dangerous it would be to leave Australia at the mercy of foreign oil companies. Its plans were partly laid to meet such a contingency in the future. The introduction of our roads proposals sprung the position a little earlier, because the companies have to hand back to the Treasury the money that they have been unjustifiably taking out of the pockets of the motor users of this country.
– Is it not a fact that ls. 9d. a gallon is the price charged by both the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the other companies ?
– No. Up to the 30th January last, the same price was charged by all, but on that date the two companies to which I have referred raised their price by l$d. a gallon, and it has since been higher than that of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Therefore, they have been exploiting the consumers of this country to that extent.
– Does the Minister intend honorable senators to understand that this extra tax is to be paid by the public and handed over by the companies to the Treasury?
– The tax is at present being paid by the oil companies out of the ill-gotten gains that they have accumulated. No ‘amount of sophistry can explain away the facts that I have stated; they cannot be refuted. They are a justification for support being given to this tax by honorable senators, who will have the knowledge that the Government has made the necessary preparations and will go ahead with them, to see that the oil consumers of Australia are not exploited in the future as they have been in the past.
. -Every honorable senator must realize the necessity for a national roads policy; but there is a good deal of difference of opinion as to the methods that should be adopted, and more particularly the manner in which the money should be raised. We all realize the way in which other countries are progressing. If our producers are to hold their own in competition with the world, they must be placed on an equal footing with the producers of other countries. Although I am in agreement with the roads policy of the Government. I confess that at the election I did not understand that so much of the money whichwas needed to carry out that policy would have to be raised by special taxation. We had experienced a number of prosperous years, and the coffers of the Treasury were overflowing to such an extent that the Government was able to give substantial financial assistance in quite a number of directions.
– And reduce taxation.
– It also reduced taxation. It was hoped that a great deal of the money required for the roads scheme would be taken from the ordinary revenue of the Commonwealth. But when the financial position was fully explained in the budget, I could not fail to realize that it was impossible for revenue account to furnish the whole of the money required. Senator Needham argued that it should be taken from the general revenue. No honorable senator has shown how that can be done. If we are to embark upon such an advanced roads policy, we must be prepared to raise some of the money by taxation. Had the Government adhered to its original proposals, I could not have supported it. I fought those proposals with some Ministers, my objection being that it was a. class tax upon motorists who already provided £3,500,000 in taxation through the Customs Department. I am pleased that the representations which were made led the Government to modify its proposals. There are three principles which we should recognize in raising money for the making of roads. The first is that the land-holders, who benefit, should pay a certain amount. That principle is recognized by district councils, who impose a direct tax upon land. The users of the roads also benefit, and they should bear a fair proportion of the taxation. Quite apart from those two aspects, however, roads are a national necessity; the community generally benefits, and should provide part of the sum that is required. That principle is recognized in South Australia, where a large part of the money required is provided from the general revenue. The general community should contribute something towards the cost.
– Motor-owners are also taxed as members of the community.
– I realize that. Although Parliament has for some time been imposing higher and still higher protective. duties, an additional petrol duty is now being collected to meet the cost of a comprehensive roads policy. Our financial position is becoming serious, and I would not support this proposal if the object was not such a worthy one. If, however, any further proposals are made to impose additional taxation in order to assist the States I shall oppose them.
– This is a first instalment, and the honorable senator is supporting the principle.
– Yes, for the reason I have given. It may be difficult to raise further Customs revenue, and if the proposed adjustment of the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States is carried out, we shall have to seriously consider our financial position. The annual report of the Tariff Board, which has recently been made available, contains some remarkable statements.
– Has the honorable senator seen the board’s report on this proposal ?
– I am referring to the imposition of duties generally, and their effect upon Arbitration Court awards. A portion of the report, which has an important bearing on the petrol duties, reads -
Particular reference is made to the disastrous policy of industrial unions in claiming wages increases immediately after increases in the tariff. This, the board considers, can result only in industrial paralysis and economic disaster.
– The Tariff Board was not the first to give that warning.
– No; but I intend to carry the matter still further. It is rather strange that’ the Tariff Board should criticize the Arbitration Court.
– It is not criticizing the court, but merely stating facts.
– I shall quote further from the report to . show the honorable senator that the comments of the board closely approach criticism. The report continues -
A suggestion was advanced that the recommendation for tariff increases should he granted only on condition that assurances were obtained from the various industrial unions connected with the industry that no further demand would be made for wage increases, or any other action taken which would have the result of defeatingthe effect of any increase in duties recommended.
That is all right as far as it goes. Some manufacturers may not increase prices, but others may do so, with the result that the cost of living is increased, and the workers are compelled to approach the Arbitration Court for higher wages.
– The honorable senator is entitled to make only a passing reference to the Arbitration Court in discussing this bill.
– I was merely endeavouring to show the effect of high Customs duties upon the cost of living. On a number of occasions, the representatives of unions have appeared before the Tariff Board and have assisted manufacturers in receiving the benefits of higher duties. The Tariff Board further reports -
In this way, a precedent was created for passing back and forth between the Federal Arbitration Court and the Tariff Board for increments in wages and duties. . . .
I do not know whether the Tariff Board inadvertently used the words “and duties “ - which can only result in an ever-increasing wage rate and an ever-ascending tariff. This course must ultimately defeat itself, and by continuously raising the cost of living, bring about an industrial paralysis.
That is a remarkable statement. Honorable senators should carefully consider the almost intolerable situation in which our primary producers in particular are placed. Many settlers on poor land are in a most precarious position, owing to the ever-increasing cost of production, and as one-fourth of the wheat produced in Australia is grown on poor land, many are showing only a small margin of profit. If the cost of production is to be further increased by the imposition of higher duties, we shall reach a stage when financial collapse will be inevitable. In concluding, I wish to again stress the point that, as the Government has practically only one important avenue of taxation available, it should carefully consider the whole position before embarking upon any other schemes of this nature.
Question - That the bill be now read a. second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The schedule to the principal act is amended as set out in the schedule to this act, and duties of Customs are hereby imposed in accordance with the first-mentioned schedule as amended by the last-mentioned schedule.
– I desire to say a few words as to the manner in which, in my opinion, the money should be raised. It has been said that the Treasurer cannot meet, out of the general revenue, the proposed expenditure on main roads.. because of the Government’s commitments in regard to interest on our war debts, old-age pensions, and other statutory obligations. It is proposed to provide £2,000,000 a year for ten years for roadmaking purposes. In my opinion, the money should be raised by a super-tax on the wealthier sections of the community. Many years ago Great Britain imposed a super-tax on all persons whose incomes exceeded £2,000, the rate ranging from1s. 6d. in the £1 on incomes of from £2,000 to £2,500 a year to 6s. in the £l on incomes of over £30,000 a year. In addition, there was an income tax of 4s. 6d. in the £1 on all payers of the super-tax. Iunderstand that recently the British income tax has been reduced by 6d. in the £1, and the super-tax by from 9d. to 6d., in respect of all incomes below £15,000. The Prime Minister of Great Britain stated recently that in three years the national debt had been reduced by £40,000,000, and that the floating debt had been reduced from £1,500,000,000 to £800,000,000.
– Is the honorable senator discussing the budget?
– No ; I am suggesting another method for raising the money required for the construction and maintenance of main roads.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s argument has nothing whatever to do with the clause before the committee.
– I have ho ‘desire to contest your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I contend that I am in order in discussing the means whereby the necessary money for road-making should be raised.
– The honorable senator is not in order. The Senate, by agreeing to the second reading of the bill, has decided that the money required to give effect to the roads scheme, as set out in another bill, shall be raised by an amendment of the tariff.
– I submit that, although the Senate carried the second reading of this bill, it is competent for an honorable senator in committee to suggest other ways and means of raising the money.
– To do that would be outof order.
– My experience, after nearly twenty years in this chamber, is that honorable senators are permitted in committee to suggest other ways and means of achieving the object of a bill, even after the second reading has been agreed to.
– Not in connexion with a Customs Tariff Bill.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman, I shall accept your ruling. Customs duties, which are paid by every citizen in Australia, represent a form of indirect taxation. But there are other citizens who, in my opinion, should be called upon to contribute to the revenue required for the construction of roads. I refer to the 26,282 persons who are in receipt of incomes from £1,000 a year to £10,000 a year; to the 679 citizens in receipt of from £10,000 to £100,000 a year ; and to the twenty persons whose incomes exceed £100,000 a year.
– This bill has no relation whatever to the Income Tax Act.
– Perhaps, then, Mr. Chairman, I may be permitted to refer to the position of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It has been said, in the course of debate, that that company could supply the whole of Australia’s requirements.
– Who said that?
– Some of the speakers in the second-reading debate.
– Not in this chamber.
– At all events, the statement was made. On this subject, I take the following extracts from the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which inquired into this subject recently : -
It having been decided that the company would undertake the distribution and marketing of its products throughout the Commonwealth, it became necessary to create a sales organization, and to establish distribution depots. Throughout Victoria, and in the metropolitan area of Sydney, the company has its own distribution staff, but in the country districts of New South Wales, and in Queensland and South Australia, Messrs. Dalgety and Company have been appointed selling agents on a basis which was stated, in evidence, to be a very fair one for the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
Senator Barwell stated that. last year the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited showed a loss of £53,754 on its business operations. I thought at the time that the honorable senator was in error, andI find, from the Public Accounts Committees report, that I was right. The committee states -
The published balance-sheets of the company show that for the first three years of its establishment, namely, up to 30th June, 1923, the losses on the company’s operations each year had been£ 3,060 10s. 6d.;£ 4,765 9s. 6d.; and £4,004 13s. l0d. respectively, or a total of £11,830 13s. 10d. Shortly before the close of the year ended 30th June, 1924, the company commenced refining and trading, and the profit and loss account showed a loss on refining and trading, after charging administration and other expenses and depreciation, of £1,909 7s. 8d. During that year the directors transferred to development and establishment account the balances against profit and loss and preliminary expenses account, at the 30th June, 1923, together with the portion of the current year’s expenditure applicable to the period prior to the commencement of the re- fining and marketing operations. It is proposed to write off the amount so transferred during the next few years as profits become available.
I understand that the amount has since been written off, and that the company is now making a profit. I hope, also, that instead of having one refinery at Laverton, in Victoria, we shall have one in every capital city of the Commonwealth, because this development of the company’s operations would be the most effective means of combating the influence of the oil combine. The report further states -
As the Common wealth Oil Refineries Limited provides at present only a comparatively small proportion of Australia’s consumption, in fixing the selling price of its products regard must be paid to the prices charged by competitors; and in the event of reductions the company must follow the market, or else lose its business. In the case of increased rates, however, the company can fix its own. price.
Recently, the other companies raised the price of their petrol, but the price of Commonwealth Oil Refineries spirit remained unaltered. T. rose merely to point out that the official report shows that the loss was not so great as Senator Barwell represented it to be.
.- I propose to move that the clause be amended, so that it will read -
The schedule to the principal act as amended as set out in the schedule to this act by striking out all the words after the word “ subitem” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ a flat rate on all alienated and unimproved land values of one penny in the £1.”
– The honorable senator cannot submit an amendment of that description in connexion with a Customs bill.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator would not be in order in moving that. Such an amendment would not be relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill.
– If the schedule is amended, the bill will fall to the ground.
– The schedule is not now under discussion.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Schedule - 229. By omitting the whole of sub-item (c) and inserting in its stead…..
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out all the words after the words “sub-item (c).”
If that is agreed to, the vital part of the bill will be deleted. That is the object I have in view.
– I cannot accept the request. The honorable senator can achieve this object by voting against the schedule.
– If you rule that I may not submit an amendment to the schedule, I shall appeal against your ruling.
– Cannot the honorable senator move that the schedule be omitted from the bill ?
– No. The honorable senator would be in order in moving a request that the words referred to be omitted with a view to the insertion in their stead of other words; but, if he desires that the schedule as a whole be omitted, his proper course is to vote against the question, “ That the schedule be agreed to.”
– I give notice of my dissent from your ruling.
– The honorable senator will give notice in writing.
In the Senate:
– While the committee was discussing the schedule, Senator Grant disagreed with my ruling disallow- ing a request for an amendment to leave out all words after the words ‘“‘sub-item (c).” I based my ruling on the ground that the requested amendment would leave the schedule absolutely meaningless unless he proposed to insert other words in their stead, and further that it would nullify the decision of the committee in agreeing to clause 3, which provides for the imposition of certain Customs duties.
– During the whole of the discussion of this bill I have shown that I am entirely opposed to it. When I moved the motion in committee it was my desire to destroy the bill. The Chairman has intimated to you that the schedule, if amended as 1 suggested, would be defeated. That is precisely the object I had in view. I could not achieve that object so directly by any means other than that which I adopted. I consider that I am entitled to move a request for an amendment, even if its effect would be to destroy the schedule either in whole or in part. I submit that the Chairman was in error in ruling my amendment out of order. He should have put it to the committee.
– I point out to the honorable senator that while the Senate is in committee the Chairman of Committees is responsible for the proper conduct of the business of this Chamber, The corn.mittee having passed clauses 2 and 3, particularly clause 3, which sets out the date from which the duties in the schedule shall commence, the requested amendment would stultify the bill, and nullify the decision of the committee itself in agreeing to clause 3. Had the honorable senator proposed to insert something in substitution of the words he desired to strike out, the Chairman possibly would have accepted his request, but the honorable senator has stated that it was his desire to make this bill as ridiculous as possible. It is not the function of this Senate to make itself ridiculous to please any honorable senator.
– I did not use the word “ ridiculous.”
– I rule that the Chairman of Committees was perfectly right in refusing to accept the request moved by the honorable senator.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable senator desire to dispute my ruling?
– No. I wish to say that I did not use the word “ ridiculous,” and that in using it you, Mr. President, were, in effect, putting into my mouth a word that I did not use. I used the word “ destroy.”
– I accept the honorable senator’s explanation that he did not use the word “ ridiculous,” and that his intention was to destroy the bill. If it will please him, I am prepared to substitute the word “destroy” for the word “ridiculous”; but I point out that if his requested amendment were agreed to, the bill would be ridiculous, and the Senate also made to appear ridiculous.
– 1 understand that turpentine substitutes are not manufactured in Australia. I have received a telegram from the Chamber of Manufactures, Adelaide, which reads -
This Chamber desires elimination extra duty turpentine substitutes or placing mineral turpentine under item 404 interest South Australian paint manufacturers.
I should like the Minister to give us some information regarding sub-item (3). If this duty will interfere with the manufacture of paint in Australia, I can see no reason for it, especially as turpentine substitutes are not produced in this country. Honorable senators know my views regarding the tariff generally; I am probably an extreme tariffist. I believe in a protective tariff, not a revenue tariff. Anything that we cannot manufacture in this country should, in my opinion, com? in duty free.
Senator CRAWFORD (QueenslandHonorary Minister) i.S. - Genuine turpentine, which is a vegetable product, is admitted free from all countries, but a duty is imposed on turpentine substitutes. The rates for turpentine substitutes set out in the schedule are the same as those under the old tariff.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported .without request; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Crawford) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Crawford) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– It was my intention when this bill was in committee to make a suggestion to the Minister in connexion with clause 9. I now take the opportunity to do so. I suggest that a condition of any grants in aid shall be that, when labour is being engaged by main road boards, or other agencies, the Government’s policy of preference to returned soldiers shall be adhered to.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion under the notice of the Minister, from whom I am sure it will receive sympathetic consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That Ordinance of the Northern Territory, No. 18 of 1926 - Crown Lands - be disallowed.
Among the very useful and interesting publications which I receive from time to time from Government departments is the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. It is difficult to say whether that publication or Hansard is the more interesting. I take a great deal of interest in all that appears in these very valuable public documents. Last week,. I received the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No. 77. I notice in it that it is proposed to amend the Crown Lands Ordinaince 1924-25, of the Northern Territory. The Minister for Home and Territories at the time (Senator Pearce) regarded that ordinance as of such vital importance to the Commonwealth that, instead of submitting it in the usual way, he very courteously, and, I think, properly and wisely, introduced it to the Senate in the form of a bill, which was discussed clause by clause, and, despite the opposition of honorable senators of the Labour party, ultimately adopted. The outstanding feature of the measure was the proposal of the Government to abandon the leasehold principle in relation to the lands of the Northern Territory, and in its place to adopt the fee simple method of disposing of land. The Minister made it quite clear that it was not his intention to permit very large areas to be changed from leasehold to freehold, and that he would exercise considerable care whenever any transfers were being effected. It is impossible for any one to grasp the significance of the alteration that is proposed by this ordinance. I am not at all surprised that the present Minister (Senator Glasgow) should quietly, unostentatiously, and innocently place the document upon the table, so that it would become law after it had lain there for 30 days. Having perused it, I realized what was behind it, and I deemed it my duty bo direct the attention of the Senate to what was being done. The only way in which I could do this was tosubmit this motion. It is many years since the Commonwealth took over from South Australia the control of the Northern Territory. Since that time it has constructed a certain length of railway, and agreed to the construction of another line from a point in South Australia into the Northern Territory at a cost estimated at a few million pounds. I have no doubt that that estimate will be very greatly exceeded. ‘ Although Senator Pearce has frequently offered’ to place, at my disposal facilities for visiting the Northern Territory, I very much regret that I have not had either the time or the opportunity to do so. But, by paying attenton to reports which have been furnished by the Minister, the Administrator, the Public Works Committee, and other organizations, I have arrived at the conclusion that it is not at all a bad place, and in many respects it is an excellent piece of country. The only reason that population has not gravitated to it is that an easier living can be found in the southern latitudes and on the western and eastern seaboards of the Commonwealth. The climate is similar to that of northern Queensland and the north-west portion of Australia. We learn from reports that the Territory possesses several magnificent rivers, and large tracts of very good country. Not long ago Senator Pearce, upon his return from a flying visit to the southern portion of the Territory, informed us that the country was so good that a foreign nation, which was capable of existing on a rice diet, could stock its commissariat without any trouble once it had obtained a foothold in Darwin, and it would then have complete control of that portion of the Commonwealth. He may not have been very wide ‘of the mark. The South Australian Government a number of years. ago leased areas of that country in stations so- large that the boundaries are defined not in the usual way, but by parallels of latitude and longitude. Those stations may or may not be governed by the ordinance that it is proposed to amend ; that will depend largely, if not entirely, upon the wishes of their owners. If those owners decide to come under the ordinance, they will be able to obtain an extension. of the 42-years’ lease which was granted to them by the South Australian Government, on the condition that they make available certain portions of their properties for what might be termed closer settlement. I admit that this Parliament has decided to abandon to a certain extent the leasehold principle of land tenure in the Northern Territory. I think that it made a mistake when it did so. I submit, in all earnestness, and with a thorough belief in the correctness of what I state, that nothing has had such a detrimental effect upon the welfare of the British people as the manner in which their lands have been held. With all its boasted advantages, there is amongst the population of Great Britain, to-day 1,500,000 persons who, unfortunately, are unable to secure any employment, and must be maintained by those who are a little more fortunate. That is due almost entirely to the fact that the lands of England are privately held. Although the Labour party in Great Britain is favorable to the nationalization of the mines, it maintains a deadly silence in regard to the nationalization of all lands.
– It knows that the lands do not pay.
– The facts are entirely against the honorable senator. The author of a small book which I received only a few days ago, Dundas White, estimates that the unimproved rental value of the lands of England amounts to no less a sum than £3,000,000,000 per annum. It is, therefore, idle for the honorable senator to say that they do not pay. They pay most handsomely, and provide a living for tens of thousands of men and women.
– Grazing lands can be bought in England more cheaply than they can in Australia. Taxes and other charges make them absolutely unprofitable.
– It must not be forgotten that all rates and taxes are in the first place paid by the tenants. £3,000,000,000 is the amount which Britishers pay to their landlords for the right to live in a country which they call their own. That is the basis of the trouble which exists in England to-day. I had hoped that a similar policy would not bo pursued in the Northern Territory. So far, we have not attempted to interfere with the leasehold principle in relation to the lands at Canberra, but I have no doubt that one of these fine days, after Canberra has been crucified - as it is being crucified to-day-
– It is the members of Parliament who will be crucified.
– When the honorable senator goes there he will find the air so healthy, and he will become so rejuvenated that he will wonder at his having remained in Melbourne so long. The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) should have submitted with the ordinance a memorandum. showingthe words to be deleted from the existing ordinance, as’ was done by his predecessor. With the possible exception of the Minister for Home and Territories, I am sure that no other honorable senator has studied the ordinance with sufficient care to realize the effect of the proposed amendments.
– Is the honorable senator objecting to clause 77 j?
– I am objecting to the amendments . which provide the machinery to give effect to the freehold principle. I do not think that clause 77 j is of more importance in that respect than many other clauses. The ordinance is divided into six divisions, namely, general, town lands, agricultural lands, garden lands, tropical lands, and miscellaneous. Clause 77 e, which relates to town lands, reads -
The lessee of any town lands, whether his lease is under this ordinance or any other ordinance repealed by this ordinance, may, at any time after the commencement of his lease, apply for the grant to him in fee simple of the land or any portion of the land included in the lease.
That gives the lessee the right to apply for the fee-simple of any town lands hitherto held under lease.
– There are large areas of freehold land in the Northern Territory. Nearly all the land on which Darwin is situated is held in fee simple.
– Darwin is only a microscopic portion of the Territory, which, as Senator McLachlan should know, is about eight times larger than the State of Victoria. Clause 77F reads -
Subject to this ordinance, the grant applied for in pursuance of the last preceding section may be made if the board is satisfied that the lessee has -
complied with all the reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions of the lease;
fenced securely the whole of the land the subject of the application;
erected on that land within the first twelve months after the commencement of the lease or such further period as the Minister approves, a residence of a value of at least Fifty pounds;
resided on that land continuously for twelve months immediately prior to the application; and
paid the purchase money and all moneys due in respect of that land.
That is to enable dwellers in townshipswhich, of course, are few in number - to secure the freehold of their land. Clause 77 j, to which Senator McLachlan referred, reads -
The maximum area of agricultural lands which may be granted in fee simple to any one person shall be -
in, the case of Class 1 lands - 1,280 acres; and
in the case of Class 2 lands - 2,560 acres.
Some of these “ pocket-handkerchief “ allotments may be on the banks of rivers or in the vicinity of the lagoons, where Senator Pearce said sufficient rice could be grown to feed a huge Japanese army; but whether the areas are large or small, or the conditions onerous or otherwise, the Government is apparently determined to give effect to the freehold principle.
– Unfortunately for the honorable senator it is not the Government, but the Parliament that has so determined.
– Unfortunately, today the decisions of the Government are the decisions of Parliament. Considering the condition of affairs in other civilized countries, where people are compelled to live on microscopic allotments, we should hesitate before we introduce into the Northern Territory a system which has been a complete failure in other parts of the world. I strongly protest against the action of the Minister in bringing this matter before the Senate a few days before the termination of the present sittings of Parliament, knowing, as he does, that unless objection is taken within 30 days, the ordinance becomes operative. The Northern Territory has been managed in such a way that it has failed to attract a permanent population.
– The leasehold system seems to have failed.
– I am satisfied that the freehold tenure which it is proposed to apply to certain lands in the Territory will not be successful either. I disapprove of the ordinance, and I ask the Senate to disallow it.
[4.48]. - Senator Grant has not advanced one good reason why the ordinance should be disallowed. His remarks should properly have been made during the debate on the bill to repeal section 11 of the Northern Territory Administration Act earlier in the present session. That section reads -
No crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this act.
– I must have spoken against the repeal of that section when the subject was under discussion.
– Probably the honorable senator did, and the Senate was against him. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who was then the Minister for Home and Territories, in moving the second reading of the bill to amend the Northern Territory Administration Act, indicated that it was intended to bring in this ordinance to provide the machinery for granting freeholds, under certain conditions, in respect of agricultural, garden and town lands, but not in respect of pastoral lands. The respective advantages of freehold and leasehold tenure were exhaustively discussed by both Houses in the debate on that bill. This ordinance to which Senator Grant objects amends the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1924-25, by providing for the granting of freehold, subject to certain prescribed conditions in respect of garden, town, and agricultural lands, and also of tropical lands north of the sixteenth parallel. The freehold of garden lands of a maximum area of 10 acres within 10 miles of any town or town site will be granted only in cases where the land has been securely fenced, and where one-third of it has been cultivated continuously at least two years. The applicant must also erect on the land buildings of the value of at least £50, must reside permanently on it, and pay all moneys due in respect of the area. An applicant for the freehold of town lands must fence the area, and erect within the first twelve months a residence at least £50 in value; he must have resided on it continuously for twelve months prior to the application for the grant of the freehold, and must pay all moneys due in respect of it. In no case will the price be less than £5 a block.. For agricultural lands the principal conditions required of an applicant are that he must fence the whole of the land, cultivate not less than one-tenth of the area; stock it under conditions as prescribed, erect a residence and buildings of the value of at least £50, pay all moneys due in respect of it, and agree to a purchase price of not less than 2s. 6d . an acre. The maximum area of Class 1 land will be 1,288 acres, and of Class 2 land, 2,560 acres. Any company registered in the Northern Territory may apply to the Minister for a grant of the freehold of tropical land north of the sixteenth parallel not exceeding an aggregate area of 20,000 acres. Applications will be forwarded by the Minister to the Land Board, which, if it approves of the application, may notify the company and prepare and execute an agreement in the terms of the second schedule of the ordinance. The freehold of tropical lands will be granted only in accordance with the provisions of the agreement, and all agreements must be laid before both Houses of Parliament. No transfer of any agreement will be permitted except to a company, and with the consent of the Minister, and no company shall be permitted to hold or acquire more than 20,000 acres. If the terms of the agreement are not complied with the land may be resumed. The ordinance gives effect to the statement of policy by the Minister for Home and Territories when moving the second reading of the bill to amend the Northern Territory Administration Act of 1911. I trust, therefore, that the Senate will not agree to the motion.
Question - That ordinance of the Northern Territory, No. 18 of 1926- Crown Lands - be disallowed - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 10th August (vide page 5103), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the papers be printed.
.- I desire to make some remarks concerning the defence forces of the Commonwealth. Senator Needham and others have challenged the Government to show, that good results have been obtained from the expenditure on defence during the past few years, and stress has been laid on the comments by Sir Harry Chauvel and Sir J ohn Monash. While criticism from such eminent authorities is valuable in showing that the forces are by no means adequate for our complete defence, we should not allow ourselves to be stampeded into a panic by thinking that we have no effective forces at all at the present time. Sir John Monash, who is now engaged in bringing to fruition a great industrial scheme, complains bitterly of the way in which he has been treated by the press in regard to that enterprise. He pleads for patience on the part of critics Until the scheme has reached the stage when its full effect will be perceived, and its full benefit felt. It is strange, then, that he should have offended in precisely the same manner as the critics of his industrial enterprise have done in regard to the defence system under which an army established on a small scale is being developed into an effective force. That sound progress is being made is apparent from the memorandum that has been circulated by the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse). If we turn to the Estimates of 1912-13, the year before the war began, we find that the expenditure then, although a Labour Government was in office, was almost as great as it has been since the war, notwithstanding the fact that the cost of wages and materials has enormously increased. If due allowance were made for that increase, the cost of the force to-day would be actually less than in pre-war times, although it is now established on a far sounder foundation than formerly. Take the Royal Australian Air Force. In 1912-13 we had an aviation school costing £5,600. One nf the planks in the platform of the Labour party is that the development of the Air Force should be vigorously proceeded with. Yet that is all it provided for the purpose in that year. To-day the Government is spending no less than £322,329 on this force.
– What have we to show for it?
– A visit to Point Cook will convince the honorable senator that we have a very efficient Air Force. For civil aviation, to’ which the budget of 1912-13 contains no reference, £73,965 is provided, and I think that even Senator Needham will, agree that good progress has been made in that direction. I do not think that any country has better air services than those in Australia, and no State is catered for in that respect better than Western Australia.
– And without the assistance of the Government.
– No. It is the result of heavy Government subsidies.
– The private companies admit that the services could not have been provided without the financial backing of the Government.
– They would not have been started without that assistance.
– That is so. I notice that a service is proposed for Canberra, and a subsidy is required to enable it to be established. Again, it is obviously useless to build up a large personnel and train troops unless we have munitions. One looks in vain for an adequate vote for this purpose in the budget of 1912-13. T notice £23,000 set down for the Small Arms Factory, £21,000 for the Cordite Factory, and other sums for the clothing and harness factories, but no provision was made for a supply of munitions. It is well known that throughout the war Australia was never in a position to manufacture a single round of shell.
– Was there not an amount on the 1912-13 Estimates for the Munitions Department?
– I can find nothing. The Government has now set down £231,220 for that purpose, and the memorandum issued by the Minister for Defence (Sir- Neville Howse) shows that good progress has been made. Supplies of munitions, of course, cannot spring up in a night like mushrooms. The memorandum states : -
The Munitions Supply Board is charged with provision of munitions of war for the Defence. Force, control of the Research Laboratories, inspection of supplies, and administration of the Government factories.
The board is at present working on a six years programme, which provides for maintenance of the existing factories on a nucleus basis, and the erection of new factories for the production of the more common types of munition’s which have been imported in the past.
Factories for the production of rifles (Small Arms Factory at Lithgow) and rifle ammunition (Small Arms Ammunition Factory at Footscray, and the Cordite Factory at Maribyrnong) are already in existence, and are being continued on a nucleus scale, but they are organized to permit of their being rapidly brought to’ full capacity should occasion require it.
It is most expensive to maintain those factories on a nucleus basis. It means that a rifle that can be bought at Birmingham for £3 or £4 costs £15 in Australia, but Senator Needham, I apprehend, would not criticize the policy of manufacturing them in this country, since it is necessary that we should have the means of rapidly extending munition works in the event of supplies from overseas being withheld.
– In the event of aggression, certainly.
– Nothing has been said to the effect thatthese factories should be closed, and that we should depend on supplies from overseas. It is idle, therefore, to complain of the excessive cost of rifles and other equipment. The memorandum continues -
The Research Laboratories, Maribyrnong, which are now fully equipped, play an important part in the scheme, as upon them devolves the duty of determining, by experiment, methods of utilizing Australian materials in production of munitions, studying processes of manufacture, particularly in regard to products used in connexion with high explosives and chemical warfare, assisting manufacturers to meet the high standards required by the Department, and conducting chemical and physical examination of goods required by the Department and other branches of the Commonwealth service.
I am unaware whether the subject of using light trench mortars has come under the notice of the department. There seems to be no provision for training men in their use, although they were found of great value both in trench fighting and in the open warfare that followed. The memorandum further states -
A competent inspection staff has been organized for ensuring that a high quality of stores is purchased or manufactured, and that they are in conformity with latest approved patterns.
The erection of new factories, for which funds have been provided in preceding years, is proceeding satisfactorily.
At the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, a building (costing £61,600) in connexion with the manufacture of machine guns has been completed and is being equipped. Tools and gauges for production of machine guns are being manufactured at this factory,some components of machine guns having been manufactured and issued to the services.
The cartridge case section of the Gun Ammunition Factory at Footscray has been completed, and manufacturing operations have been commenced. The buildings for fuse manufacture are completed, and installation of plant is being undertaken. A rolling mill and foundry will be required in connexion with this factory group, and provision for the necessary buildings has been made in the Estimates for 1926-27.
In none of these directions was progress made when the Labour party was in office. The memorandum goes on -
At the Ordnance Factory, Maribyrnong, the main machine workshops have been completed and plant is being installed. The manufacture of gun components is expected to be commenced during the year, and the manufacture of carriage components will follow. The construction of the large forge shop associated with gun and carriage manufacture is proceeding, and a wood-working shop is to be erected during 1926-27.
The shell production unit has been tried out, and it has been proved that 18-pdr. shell of the latest design can be manufactured in quantity.
Production of tools and gauges for various types of munitions is proceeding in the toolrooms at Maribyrnong and Lithgow.
The High Explosive Factory at Maribyrnong is ready for production, and construction of the associated factories for filling shell is being continued.
At Wakefield, South Australia, a commencement has been made with construction of a range for test and proof of artillery ammunition.
The bulk of expenditure during 1926-27 will be for new buildings and installation of plant and equipment, but it is also expected that some of the new factories will come into production of components. Plant and materials must be tested, and employees must be trained, however, so that full production is not expected until 1927-28.
As the result of representations by the New South Wales Government and representatives of colliery-owners and workers in that State, the Commonwealth Government has approved of the establishment of a station for the testing of commercial explosives at Maribyrnong, in conjunction with the Munitions Supply Laboratories, the estimated cost being £10,000 for buildings and equipment, and an annual expenditure of £2,500 for maintenance, the Commonwealth bearing one-half of such charges, the State Governments to shoulder the other half in proportion to their respective consumption of explosives. Certain of the necessary equipment is already available at Maribyrnong establishments, while the existing buildings meet immediate requirements in that connexion. One thousand five hundred pounds is provided on Estimates 1926-27 for purchase of other apparatus, installation, &c.
If we turn to the Navy, we find that there is a marked difference between what is . being done to-day and -what was proposed in 1912-13. At that time the naval expenditure amounted to £678,378, but to-day it totals £2,097,780: Australia’s first line of defence as undoubtedly her navy, and the second in order is her land force. Good progress is being made with the training pf the troops. The increase in the number of trainees caused by the addition of another year’s quota has made the units of a size which can be handled properly. Previously, the platoons were so small that no really effective work could be done in the field. To-day the regiments are almost up to fighting strength; they are, in fact, stronger than were many of the weaker regiments towards the end of the war. The larger number of trainees will have a great effect upon the training of the officers. I should like the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow), who has had a close association with military affairs, to impress upon the other members of the Cabinet the necessity for a larger appropriation of money for training schools for officers and non-commissioned officers. When I was at Broadmeadows at the outbreak of hostilities, I had a conversation with General McCay as to the men who had enlisted. At the time instructions had been issued by the Government that only those men who had formed part of the militia should be enlisted in the first contingent. I pointed out that in the area allotted to me it was impossible to comply with that condition; but General McCay said that he could not depart from the instructions. I asked him to suspend judgment for three weeks, and that if, at the end of that period, he could distinguish between the men ‘ who had received previous training and those who had not, I should consent to the discharge of the men who had not received previous training. At the expiration of the three weeks he could not tell which men had, or had not, received training previously. In the circumstances, General McCay asked whether the expenditure incurred in training soldiers was justified. I replied that, so long as there was a nucleus of properly-instructed officers and noncommissioned officers, it would not be difficult to turn out, at short notice, men who, though not fully trained, would be very good soldiers. The point that I wish to emphasize is that we must have efficient officers and non-commissioned officers to train the men. In this connexion, I regard the rank and file merely as material upon which the officers and noncommissioned officers can get the necessary training. Bricks cannot be made without straw; nor can efficient officers and noncommissioned officers be made without material on which to train. In order that they may get the fullest value from their camp training, greater provision should be made for these schools. For every school advertised there is an excess of applicants. ‘ That there are far more applicants than can be properly accommodated shows the eagerness of the young men of Australia to fit themselves for the defence of their country. It is a pity that the Government does not take advantage of that splendid voluntary spirit by providing for these schools a sum much greater than that now voted for the purpose. If the appropriation for this purpose were doubled, the advantages would far outweigh the cost. Senator Guthrie has drawn attention to the practice which obtains in the Navy of Australian officers being discharged without proper provision being made for them and of pensioners from the Royal Navy being appointed in their place. It would appear that there is a prejudice against Australians. The Government would be wise toinstitute a reserve of officers on half-pay, similar to that in operation in the Royal Navy, so that Australians will not be retired from the service of the Navy at an early age without any provision being made for their future. I understand that at the age of 45 years naval officers are compulsorily retired on a very small allowance. In the event of another war, a reserve such as I have mentioned would be a very valuable asset.
I desire now to refer to some unsatisfactory features connected with the administration of the territories of the Commonwealth. When the present Minister for Home and Territories joined the
Ministry I had great hopes of an improvement in certain respects. I hoped that the new Minister would not, as so frequently happens, allow himself to become a mere rubber stamp to the department. Recently, a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the administration of Norfolk Island. That inquiry appears to have been conducted in a most extraordinary manner. In the first place, the appointment itself is said to have been illegal. I have here a letter signed by Mr. G. S. Knowles, the acting secretary of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, which reads as follows: -
I am in receipt of your memorandum of the 7th April,. 1926, requesting advice as to the right of the Administrator of Norfolk Island to cross-examine witnesses giving evidence before the royal commission on Norfolk Island affairs.
The Administrator has not the right of cross-examining witnesses appearing before the royal commission. The. commission may conduct its inquiry in whatever way it thinks fit, and the Administrator can only put questions to witnesses if the commission requests or permits him to do so.
As the Royal Commission Act 1902-12 does not apply to Norfolk Island, witnesses cannot be compelled to attend, be sworn or give evidence, and the penal sections of the act cannot be enforced in the Territory.
That is an amazing position. It is evident that witnesses were free to perjure themselves at this extraordinary inquiry without the risk of incurring any penalty. Seeing that the Royal Commissions Act does not apply to Norfolk Island, it is remarkable that the Government, before appointing that commission, did not introduce an amending measure to enable the inquiry to be conducted properly. Extraordinary as was the conduct of the inquiry, the action proposed to be taken by the Government is still more extraordinary. I understand that, notwithstanding the manner in which the inquiry was conducted, and that witnesses were practically free to commit perjury, the Government intends to act on the report of the royal commissioner. That, attitude is the more strange in view of the fact that the Administrator has protested. He has, in fact, expressed his desire to lay a charge of perjury against two of the principal witnesses who gave evidence against him. Obviously, no prosecution could be proceeded with, because no charge would lie; but in view of all the circumstances, it is amazing that the Government proposes to act upon the evidence taken and the findings of the commission. Any action taken in that direction would be nothing more or less than a prostitution of justice. I have not the terms of reference to the commissioner before me, nor have I his finding; but I have been informed that some extraordinary matters were brought up at the inquiry. It is stated that a justice of the peace from Tasmania, who was present, was so disgusted with the proceedings that he expressed his opinion in the following definite terms : - _ This is the most remarkable royal commission I have ever heard of. There never has been one like it, and there never will be another. It is not a royal commission; it is a school for scandal.
I am not personally acquainted with the gentleman who was appointed as Administrator of Norfolk Island, although I understand that he and other members of his family were distinguished officers of the Australian Imperial Force. One of his associates in a large financial institution in Melbourne told me that he considered that Colonel Leane was one of the ablest of men, and one of the institution’s most trustworthy officers. It seems extraordinary that, on being translated to the South Pacific, he should have suddenly degenerated in the way alleged at the inquiry. I understand that one of the charges which was laid against him was that he was exclusive, and would not mix with the residents of the island. The charge was ventilated before the commission, and his version was that certain people were far from having a moral character, and naturally he did not desire his wife and daughter to mingle with them. In justification of his attitude, he proposed to call the vicar of the island, who held the same opinion, but the commissioner point blank refused to allow that to be done. Is that the action of a man who is anxious to do justice ? I am also informed that, before taking up his duties, the administrator was told that the administration of law in Norfolk Island was decidedly lax; that, though it was a prohibition area, the liquor trade was exceedingly rife, and that, whilst the law provided that no person should be supplied with liquor except on a doctor’s certificate, a member of the Government service had in three months issued to the inhabitants 1,500 bottles of whisky without any certificate from a medical man. Very soon after his arrival on the island, he ascertained that the shop of the principal storekeeper was nothing more than a slygrog shop for a certain period after the arrival of each ship. If a person tendered 12s. 6d. for a bottle of vinegar he was given “ a very satisfactory article,” but if he tendered only 2s. 6d. he received pure malt vinegar. Naturally, when those sources of revenue were suppressed there was a considerable outcry. There were other matters which this very able gentleman found on investigation required considerable amendment. I am informed that he learned of the existence of an old, discarded conveyancing system in relation to the transfer of land, although every State in Australia had adopted the Torrens system. The unfortunate islanders were under the further handicap of not being able to consult a solicitor. Some persons may say that they ought to congratulate themselves on that fact, but in the conveyance of land it is useful to have the advice of a solicitor, even under the Torrens system, let alone under the old cumbrous system which was in vogue on the island. The Administrator had had considerable experience in legal matters in South Australia. He discovered that hardly a title would hold good if it were contested. It may be said that that is the fault of the people themselves. These simple, ignorant folk are told that the clerk of courts will fix up all their legal matters. I believe that ithas been the custom to appoint’ to that position men who have but the merest smattering of legal knowledge.
– Who was the commissioner ?
– One would think that, in a matter which affected the honour and capacity of an officer like the administrator, a well-known man would have been appointed. I understand that the commissioner’s name is Whysall, but I have not been able to discover who he is, whence he came, or where he has gone. Apparently he was picked out to write a condemnatory report against Colonel Leane, so that he could be discharged.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the commissioner conducted a “ hole and corner “ inquiry?
– I am blankly ignorant at present. I hope that the Minister will explain what appears to me to be a very strong suggestion that the matter was engineered by the depart ment with the object of getting an uncomfortable man off their hands, in case he should make further disclosures reflecting upon it.
– Why not wait until the report of the commissioner is laid on the table to-morrow ?
– There is another matter into which I hope the Minister will look closely and carefully. In New Guinea there is an officer who, I understand, is the Crown law adviser. If his salary is compared with that of officers who hold corresponding positions in the other territories and Crown colonies, it will be found to be very low. The terms of his appointment provide that he shall be entitled to certain annual increments upon the Administrator certifying that he has satisfactorily performed his duties. Although he has been there for three or four years, his increments have been consistently and firmly refused, and the Minister and the department have turned a deaf ear to all appeals on his behalf. If the Minister supports the Administrator in the attitude which he has adopted, he must assume that this officer is not fit for the position which he holds. If he is’ fit, he will not be encouraged to improve .the quality of his work when he is denied even the opportunity of stating his case. Inquiry elicits the fact that in the early years of his appointment a petty quarrel developed between him and the Administrator. The latter formulated a list of charges, as long as one’s arm, against him, alleging all manner of offences. A proper inquiry was held, and every charge except one was contemptuously dismissed. That charge appears to have been the head and front of his offending. He was found guilty of rudeness towards the .Administrator at a meeting, because he failed to spring to attention at the moment that the Administrator entered the room. That is militarism in excelsis. Because of that rudeness, whether it was intentional or otherwise, his increments have been withheld for four years. Surely a further inquiry ought to be held. Are we likely to receive from these officers the service that we desire if they are treated in that fashion?
The only mention that I shall make of the Northern Territory is that more drastic steps ought to be taken to maintain a service of steamers. We have been told that the residents have been on the verge of starvation because the unions have refused to unload the steamers. The additional powers that are proposed to be conferred on the Government ought to enable it to put a stop to that sort of thing. I hope that the Minister will give the matter immediate attention, and see that a proper system is evolved.
The expiration of my time the other day prevented me from completing my remarks regarding Canberra. I am seized of the importance of having Canberra properly administered, but I fear that, unless the matter is very carefully watched, we shall have a repetition of the scandal which developed in connexion with the War Service Homes Commission.’ Although the Minister may believe that any praise or blame should be shouldered by the Federal Capital Commission, the people of Australia will look to him, as they did to the late Senator E. D. Millen, in connexion with the War Service Homes Commission, to see that that commission carries out its work successfully. The late Senator E. D. Millen felt his responsibility even after the War Service Homes Commission was appointed, and the worry which hastened his end was largely due to the unfair attacks that were made upon him in the public press. I should be sorry to see Senator Glasgow worried into an early grave in a similar way. The policy and acts of the commission ought to be explained by the Minister to the Parliament and the people as frequently as possible. He should realize that he is responsible for seeing that the commission does not run off the course at inconvenient angles. I have in my possession a design which was prepared by Mr. Murdoch, Chief Commonwealth Architect, of a combined shop and dwelling to be erected in the civic centre. It appears to be quite a reasonable type. Accompanying it are other drawings from which one can obtain a fairly reliable estimate of the cost. It is necessary that those who are to be tied hand and foot when they purchase or build in the Federal Capital City shall be able to obtain the fullest possible information in regard to costs. The type of shop to which I have referred has been discarded, and the Commission has sub stituted one based on an Italian style of architecture, which is more expensive and which, to me, does not appear to lend dignity to the civic centre. To erect buildings of the type the commission desire will impose a useless burden of expenditure upon the lessees. The specifications provide, among other things, that roofing shall consist of Roman tiles, which, from inquiries I have made, resemble a bisected drainpipe.
– Are Roman tiles expensive ?
– I have made inquiries, and find that they are manufactured only by Warburton, Franki and Company, of Melbourne, and are rarely used in Australia. If a person decided to roof his premises with Roman tiles instead of with ordinary tiles, the cost would be 100 per cent, greater.
– What is the advantage of using Roman tiles?
– The only advantage is that they are supposed to be in keeping with the type of building to be constructed, and which is to be found in northern Italy. If other than Roman tiles were used, the structure would be regarded as inartistic. Ordinary roofing tiles are manufactured at Canberra. If the specifications provide that Roman tiles, shall be used, it will be necessary to obtain supplies from Warburton, Franki in “ Melbourne, who will quote only for’ delivery free on trucks, Melbourne. If a large quantity of Roman tiles are to be used at Canberra, they will have to be bought at a much higher price than ordinary tiles, and the purchaser will have to pay freight, and bear the cost of breakage, which is considerable. I cannot understand why ordinary roofing tiles cannot be used on business premises in the civic centre. The general style of the building also calls for some comment, as on the ground floor provision is made for cloisters, similar to those to be seen at the cafes in France, where tables’ are provided at which patrons can take wine or coffee. The provision of such accommodation is quite unnecessary, particularly at Canberra, where the climate during some parts of the year is wholly unsuitable for refreshments being partaken of in the open air. The increased cost of the buildings to be constructed on the 20-ft. frontages will amount to £250, although the style of the structure will not result in an additional penny of revenue being obtained. If it was deemed essential that this style of architecture should be adopted, the commission should have erected the shops and let them to tenants at the best rent. So far as one can gather, the estimated number of people who will live in Canberra for the next ten years will not be sufficient to enable those who build on these allotments to receive interest on their capital. Some one must engage in business, but under the present policy the number of blocks . available has been limited by the commission. Notwithstanding this, it is forcing purchasers to erect structures of a type which is altogether too expensive. On the 4th August I submitted a number of questions to the Minister for Home and Territories, in an. endeavour to obtain some information concerning the method by which the commission had arrived at the value of the land. One question read - 1
What is the estimated cost of erecting a building at Canberra on subdivision No. 1 in the civic centre of the type required by the commission in the area on an allotment of 20-ft. frontage ?
The answer I received read -
The commission has not made an estimate of the cost of the buildings to be erected by private enterprise on the No. 1 subdivision of the civic centre.
It will, therefore, be seen that the commission has not the remotest idea of the price which unfortunate purchasers of leaseholds will have to pay for these buildings. It it quite usual to stipulate in building leases the class of building that shall be erected, but invariably a minimum cost is fixed. The commission has not gone to the trouble to arrive at a reliable estimate. I believe that the commission is afraid to commit itself to a specific figure. I also asked the Minister the following question : -
Is the commission prepared’ to erect such a building for a purchaser at the estimated cost?
The answer I received was in the negative. A further question was -
What is the estimated average income to be expected from a building of the .type referred to, erected on the site mentioned, over the next ten years?
The answer read -
It is not practicable at this stage to formulate a reliable estimate in this regard.
I also asked-
Upon what system of valuation is the upset price of the allotments in the Capital Territory, and particularly in the civic centre, arrived at?
The answer was -
The upset prices put on tho allotments in the 1926 sales were arrived at by expert valuators, after consideration of the results of the 1924 sales and other factors which affect land values.
– How were the 1924 prices arrived at ?
– By auction.
– An upset price was fixed.
– Yes, but the upset price was too high. The upset price they fixed for business sites was approximately £4,000 for an acre of land, for which only £4 an acre was paid. There is nothing to justify the increased price. Surely we should give the purchasers a fair deal. Calculations should be made as to the estimated cost of erecting build,ings, as specified, on these sites, and by that means a fair rental value could be arrived at. An expert valuator would not reach a. decision without giving careful attention to those details which form the basis upon which valuations are made.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– As a new-comer in the Senate, the Estimates and budget-papers are to me ,an interesting study. I do not intend to indulge in a destructive criticism of the budget. I propose to confine my remarks to a subject which I regard as of the utmost gravity, and upon which I think I can claim to speak with some knowledge. I refer to the training of our Citizen Forces. The amount set aside this year is £98,049 for the training of 45,000 officers, noncommissioned officers and men, including 9,333 recruits. Last year we had a total of 53,000, so that our numbers for training have decreased this year by 8,000. This financial provision is for camps of training, schools of instruction, staff tours, regimental exercises, railway fares and freights, expenses incidental to musketry during home training, and expenses in connexion with army musketry competitions. Speaking of my own Military
District, the sixth, which comprises the whole of Tasmania, I say emphatically that the amount provided is totally inadequate. I do not propose to give honorable senators a dissertation on a defence scheme for the Commonwealth, but I should like to remind them that citizen force officers on the active list, particularly those who have had some actual experience of modern warfare, cheerfully devote a great deal of their time to the study of military problems, with a view to determining upon the best line of action to take if. through temporary command of the seas being lost, a hostile force were suddenly thrown upon our shores. Thanks to that mighty shield - the British Navy - that menace does not confront us, but it is the business of officers on the active list to consider all possible eventualities. It is true that they receive a certain amount’ of pay for the work which they perform, but it is only a few pounds per annum, and is hardly enough to keep them in shoe leather. But that is by the way. We are to all intents and purposes a volunteer force, and we have to consider how best, with the forces at our disposal, we could meet the situation if two or three brigades pf a hostile force were landed on any part of our coast-line. The consideration pf these problems occupies a great deal pf time. Officers engaged upon it npt infrequently forego their annual holidays. Very often they spend their week-ends in the study of these matters. The proposals for compulsory universal training in the Sixth Military District have been, so emasculated as to cause alarm to every one who appreciates the seriousness of our position. There is plenty of splendid material, but, owing to the inadequate financial provision, ho means of utilizing it. In 1913 the battalion which I now have the honour to command, and of which, at the time, I was a subaltern, was practically at war strength and fully officered. I took the same battalion into camp this year. It is just about equal to a company at war strength, and we were woefully short of officers. It is a matter for deep regret that so much magnificent material is going to waste in some of these areas. The lads are there, but we cannot enlist them for training because, through retrenchment, they reside in exempted areas. Training centres in the Sixth Military District have been cut down to the bone, and we are now a mere skeleton of our former selves. I earnestly urge the Government to take steps to restore this Sixth Military District to its proper status. People who do not know what they are talking about complain that the system of universal military training inculcates in ‘ our youth ‘ a spirit’ of militarism - that damnable thing which the Australian Imperial Force assisted so materially to smash during the war. I say, emphatically, that universal military training, as w9 have it in Australia, so far from, inculcating a spirit of militarism.,, has a most beneficial effect upon: the rising generation.. It brings home to* the lads the fact that they owe a duty to their country and undoubtedly it. makes better citizens pf them. We had! ample proof of this shortly after the inauguration of the system. Police magistrates testified that the work which the lads were called upon to do improved them physically and mentally, and helped, to break down the push element. I sincerely hope that the financial provision for citizen force training will be increased so that we may be able to re-open a number of training centres that have been closed down in the Sixth Military District. I was much impressed recently by a statement which I read in an interesting book, giving detailed information of the negotiations that took place between the chiefs of the German and Austrian general staffs in 1913. It stated that Field-Marshal Conrad, the chief of the Austrian general staff, was in close touch with and writing f frequently to Field-Marshal Von Moltke, the chief of the German general staff on the eve of the war. These high military authorities had an intimate knowledge of the progress of events that were then leading up to the war, and Conrad’s reference to politicians in peace time was so significant that I should like to place it on record. Writing to Von Moltke, and complaining of his difficulty in putting the Austrian army into a state of preparedness, he stated -
It is most convenient in the conduct of
Politics in peace time, to keep the army Leaders responsible in war time at arm’s length and then when war comes, to turn all the responsibilities over to them. Politicians of. this school regard the army as an umbrella which they allow to rot in a cupboard and’ take out only when it begins to rain.
That is true of Australia to-day. I warn the Government that if and when the storm breaks, there will be no time for us to make a new umbrella. The umbrella which we have now - I speak, of course, of the financial provision we are making for compulsory military training of our citizen forces - is not half big enough, and we are not likely, as was the case in the last war, to have a six months’ breathing space in which to train our men. If the amount available for training could be increased by one-half, and if £140,000 were available we could make satisfactory arrangements for staff tours, regimental exercises and the other essential features of citizen force training. . I pay a tribute to officers and noncommissioned officers for the way in which they carry out their work under present conditions. They forego the pleasure of the racecourse, of football and cricket matches and other forms of recreation at week-ends, and holiday time, in order to perfect themselves in the study of a problem which may mean so much to Australia. If the amount available were increased as I suggest, we could give Australia good value for it.
There is another item in the defence vote to which I direct attention, and that is the amount of £57,965 provided for development of civil aviation. That is a step in the right direction. I urge the Government to make it possible at the earliest date for Australian citizens living in the island of Tasmania to act upon the advice that is stamped on letters that pass through the post office to “ use the air mail.” It is useless to broadcast slogans of that description in Tasmania, since no air mail is available. I submit that it would be a feasible and economical way of dealing with Tasmanian mails. There would be little likelihood of strikes on the part of air pilots. I hope that the subject of providing Tasmania with an air service will be favorably considered.
Recently I, and probably also some of my colleagues from Tasmania, heard with surprise that the States Grant Bill was to be abandoned for the time being. I am glad, however, to notice on page 375 of the Estimates an amount of £378,000 for a “ special payment to Tasmania.” I feel sure that that is an earnest of the Government’s intention to make the money available during the current financial year.
– I have no desire unduly to prolong the debate, but a number of remarks by honorable senators call for reply. According to supporters of the Government, the early introduction of the budget, reflects credit upon the Ministry, but, as Senator Barwell pointed out, a good deal of information which would be useful has been omitted, and might have been included had the budget been brought down later. There was a surplus during last financial year of over £2,750,000, but, to my mind, that is not particularly commendable; the people are possibly being over-taxed. The financial experts of the Government should have been able to make a closer estimate than that of the extent to which the revenue would exceed the expenditure in one year.
Without repeating what has been said regarding the proposed withdrawal of the per capita payments, I think that since the States as a whole are opposed to the adoption of that course the Government should move slowly before inflicting its proposals upon the people. The States have sovereign powers, and certain undertakings have been entered into between the Commonwealth and the States regarding their financial relations. I do not remember reading in the policy speech of the Prime Minister prior to the elections that he intended to abolish those payments. I understand that the Government intends to withdraw its proposals for about a year, so that the States can arrange for the collection of certain taxes now gathered by the Commonwealth; but the circumstances are not similar in all the States. A land tax, for instance, may be acceptable in Queensland, where there is no Legislative Council. There the direct representatives of the people may apply taxation, and there is no house of privilege to prevent them from collecting it. But in other States a different position obtains. In South Australia, for example, the House of Assembly electors number about 260,000, but only about 90,000 electors have a vote for the house of privilege, which has power regarding money bills, and may reject any legislation passed by the House that represents the will of the majority of the people. Is that fair or democratic?
– The Upper House represents the responsible people.
– Are the responsible people those who own bricks and mortar and land ?
– They have to bear the burden due to the mistakes of the others.
– Is the rich and selfish bachelor who, by reason of owning property, has a vote for the Legislative Council of South Australia of greater value to the community than the mother of six or seven young Australians? The Government urges that immigrants should be brought here in thousands, while those who rear families and spend their money building up this young nation are deprived of the vote. It seems to me that the States Grants Bill should have been introduced simultaneously with the budget. Then we should know the intentions of the Government. I have no doubt that it will do with that bill what it has done with the Federal Aid Roads Bill. According to my reading of history it is always wise for a government to temper authority with justice. South Australia has a Legislative Council that is, possibly, the most conservative in the Commonwealth. It can refuse Supply, and it exercises wider powers than the House of Lords did before the power of veto was taken from it. In a house of twenty the workers’ representatives number only four.
– In Western Australia the upper house has 30 members and the workers’ representatives number only five.
– Then that State is rather worse off than South Australia.
– What is the franchise for the Council in the honorable senator’s State?
– It is based on a property qualification. The elector must rent or own a house or own a block of land the annual value of which is £50. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) stated in the other branch of the Legislature that upper houses were morgues inhabited by slow-minded persons. That is an apt description of the Legislative Councils. This Chamber, however, is elected on the full franchise, and is, therefore, a democratic house. It is undemocratic for a chamber representative of 90,000 electors to have greater power than a popular chamber representing 260,000 people. I hoped that the Prime Minister would submit to the referendum the matter of the abolition of the Legislative Councils, or would endeavour to obtain for State electors a franchise similar to that enjoyed for the Senate. Every individual in the community is entitled to a full vote. Surely the upper house in the Commonwealth Parliament is of greater importance than the upper houses in the States. If every man and woman of the age of 21 years or more is entitled to a vote for the highest Chamber in the land, they should surely be permitted to vote for the election of representatives of bodies such as the Legislative Councils, which are subsidiary in comparison with the National Parliament. It is time the people awoke to the fact that they are not being truly represented, since the privileged class, by reason of its virtual monopoly of the representation in the State Legislative Councils, hold the power.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– From some of the speeches which have been delivered in this chamber during the last week, one would think that our taxation was decreasing each year. But that is not so. In 1923 the taxation per head of the population was £8 17s.1d.; in 1924 it was £8 16s.11d., and in 1925, £8 19s. 11d. That does not appear to be a very great achievement for a Treasurer who has always boasted of his economical administration, and who, in fact, received the portfolio of Treasurer because it was expected that he would be able to effect economies. It is proposed that the Commonwealth shall vacate certain fields of taxation in favour of the States. That may reduce the taxation levied by the Commonwealth, but it will not lessen the burden borne by the taxpayer. On the contrary, because the cost of collection will be greater, the taxes will be higher. I hope that the Government will not, as it were, place a pistol at the heads of the States, as was done in the case of the Federal Aid Roads Bill, but that the spirit of sweet compromise will be evident in the relations of the Commonwealth and the States. While we expect the Government to exercise reasonable economy, we do not expect . it to be parsimonious. We ask only that we shall get value for the money expended. I do not accuse the Government of wilfully wasting money, but money is being wasted. Something is wrong when a house which costs £950 -in Melbourne costs £1,300 or £1,400 at Canberra. Honorable senators opposite may attribute the additional cost of building at Canberra to the workers j.” going slow,” but I am informed, on reliable authority, that the reason for the high cost .of building at the Federal Capital is hot that the workmen do not. -do a fair day’s work, but that there is an honorable understanding” among the building contractors there. Many of the public servants who will be transferred to Canberra will be forced to dispose of their Melbourne homes at a low price. If, in addition, they are required to pay for a house at Canberra £300 or £400 more than they would have to pay for a similar house in Melbourne, some compensation should be made to them.
Senator Chapman said that the Country party, with four representatives, was gradually overtaking the Labour party in the Senate, seeing that the Labour party has only seven ‘ representatives in this Chamber. I remind the honorable senator that, were it not for the Nationalist organization, with its .vast .monetary resources, the Country party would have no representatives here. In his book, The Case for Labour, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes said that, in certain circumstances, murder might be excused, but that a coalition could never be excused. I hope that the Nationalist party will soon absorb the alleged Country party into its ranks. I have yet to see, in this Chamber, the representatives of the Country party voting against the Government.
– That is because they have no fault to find with the Government..
– In that case, they should do the honest thing and join the Nationalist party. Honorable senators of the Country party may say ‘that they do not believe in a tariff, but when Senator Foll cracks the party whip, they meekly submit, knowing that, unless they do so, there will be no money for their election expenses. I remind Senator Chapman that at the last election, the Labour party, standing alone, as always, polled 45 per cent, of the total formal votes cast. I doubt whether the Country party, without the support of the Nationalists, would have polled 10 per cent, of the total votes. Senator McLachlan said that the Government was successful at the last election because it had decided to vacate certain fields of direct taxation. The honorable senator may attempt to deceive himself in that way, but he must know that the election was won for the Government by the actions of a number British seamen who went on strike in Australia. The people of Australia were frightened by the many disquieting statements that were made, the revolution which was said to he inevitable unless the Government was returned to power. In order to avoid that chaos which they were told would result from Labour rule, they voted against the Labour party. Yet the Labour party has always stood for constitutional methods in the settlement of disputes. I challenge any honorable senator to point to any legislation enacted in Australia by a Labour Government - whether in the Commonwealth or State spheres - that has been harmful to Australia. It is significant that the Government has from time to time adopted various planks of the Labour party’s platform. Last night I read a speech delivered by Mr. Maxwell, a staunch follower of the Government in another place, in which he recommended the people to vote for the Government’s referendum proposals. Instead of spending probably £100,000 in a vain appeal to the people, the Government should expend that money in some re- productive undertaking.
– Does the honorable senator intend to advise the electors to vote “No”?
– Then he intends to repudiate his own leader?
– Members of the Labour party are free to vote as they desire in matters not dealt with in the party’s platform. Unlike members opposite, who invariably respond to the party whip, honorable senators on this side are free.
– Some honorable senators will find it difficult to explain their opposition to two planks on the Labour party’s platform.
– I have seen Senator Foll at work with his whip.
– Some whips have been cracking in Sydney lately.
– And there have been some in this building this week. The
Public Works Committee intended to leave forRabaul next week, but the whip has been cracked, and now the visit has been postponed, notwithstanding that the passages of members had been booked.
– That is not so.
– Senator Payne had made his arrangements to go. He had bought a quantity of red beads for the natives; but he will have to keep them until the referendum campaign is over.
A good deal has been said concerning the necessity of bringing migrants to Australia. So long as proper provision is made for their absorption, I have no objection to that. If a large number of migrants and their families are to be absorbed in Australia, they must be placed either on the land or in secondary industries. Action has been taken by this Parliament to build up our secondary industries by the imposition of tariff duties; but land settlement is a very much bigger question. I understand that it is proposed to give to each migrant a sum in the vicinity of £1,000 to enable him to acquire land. In these days one cannot obtain a great deal of land for that amount in districts that are accessible to markets. The Governments of the States will have to co-operate with the Federal Government in the matter of land settlement, because they own the lands that are within their own borders. Unless a greater mileage of railway is constructed, and big schemes of water conservation are embarked upon, a great deal of land, upon which men will remain, will not be available. The majority of honorable senators have been in outback parts, such as the Mallee, where living conditions are not very good. Those who come from a thickly-populated country like England will find the conditions hard if they are sent into unknown country, where they will rarely meet many people, have very few social comforts, andbe compelled to undertake pioneering work. Every practical man in Australia knows that, during the years when migrants were pouring into this country, there was a gradual drift from the country to the cities. I cannot say whether the migrants were or were not types suitable for land settlement. Those who are brought out must be prepared to go on the land. It is not of much use to expect a city man to place himself in an unpopulated part of Australia. I have no doubt that the Development and Migration Commission will do its utmost, and will receive support from every right-thinking person in the community. It has a very strong personnel, that is capable of carrying out the work which has been allotted to it. I wish its members the very greatest success, because there is room for a much larger number of people in Australia. But we must make land available, and see that markets are accessible.
My friend Senator Grant has handed me Henry George’s work, Progress and Poverty, which contains the following canons of taxation : -
The best tax by which public revenues can be raised is evidently that which will closest conform to the following conditions: -
That it bear as lightly as possible upon production - so as least to check the increase of the general fund from which taxes must be paid and the community maintained.
That it be easily and cheaply collected, and fall as directly as may be upon the ultimate payers-so as to take from the people as little as possible in addition to what it, yields the Government.
That it be certain - so as to give the least opportunity for tyranny or corruption on the part of. officials, and the least temptation to lawbreaking and evasion on the part of the taxpayers.
That it bear equally - so as to give no citizen an advantage or put any at a disadvantage as compared with others.
Another paragraph reads as follows: -
The tax upon land values is, therefore, the most just and equal of all taxes. It falls, only upon those who receive from society a peculiar and valuable benefit, and upon them in proportion to the benefit they receive. It is the taking by the community, for the use of the community, of that value which is the creation of the community. It is the application of the common property to common usage. When all rent is taken by taxation for the’ needs of the community, then will the equality ordained by nature be attained.
There is not very much wrong with that. I remember the present President of the Senate enunciating similar ideals when I was younger than I am now. Other honorable senators who sit opposite held, those views many years ago. But politics is a peculiar business. On a memorable occasion, when Senator Lynch and a lady spoke from the one platform on the conscription issue, a member of the audience said to the honorable senator, “ You have changed over.” He replied, *’ Yes, politics makes strange bedfellows.” Evidently he was right, because some honorable senators opposite held these views regarding taxation long ago, but have since discarded them. One of the greatest problems with which Australia has to deal is to find markets for its produce.
In recent years, many men have been settled on the land,- and to-day a great deal of fruit is being produced. I understand that Australia, . at the present time, cannot consume more than one-fifth of the quantity of fruit that it produces. Consequently, we shall have to find markets for our surplus production. The other day, an honorable senator made the wise suggestion that we might exploit the eastern markets. He said that he had spoken to a gentleman from India, who assured him that there was an opportunity of building up a good market there. The Government should use every means in its power to see that all available markets are entered. Hundreds of returned soldiers are growing fruit. A South Australian commission that went very fully into the fruit industry recommended the writing down of the capital values of the properties held by soldiers to the extent of a couple of million .pounds. I have no doubt that that will have to be done in other States also. The capital values are very high, and irrigation plants were put down when prices were at their peak. The whole of the cost was placed upon the shoulders of the returned soldiers. I was chatting the other day with a man who handles thousands of tons of the butter that leaves these shores each year. He said that the Government would spend money wisely if it set about improving the herds of
Autralia. He spoke as an expert, and he claimed that there was a lot of room for improvement.
– So there is.
- Sir Henry “Weigall, who was Governor of South Australia until a couple of years ago, proffered similar advice during the occupancy of that office. He said that a cow which gave a very small quantity of milk very often ate more than one which gave possibly twice the quantity. He impressed upon the owners of herds in South Australia and the Government the necessity for improving the herds in Australia. If this Government has any money to spare, it should use it in improving our herds, and so raise both the quality and quantity of the butter that is available for export. I understand that we shall always have, a good market for butter, and now that the price has been stabilized, a good return is assured.
I hope that when the Government orders its rolling-stock for the extension of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, it will see that it is built in Australia, even if it costs a little more than would be the case if orders were placed overseas. It is time that we refrained from going outside Australia for our railway rolling-stock. A few years ago in South Australia, when Senator Barwell was Premier, we witnessed the unhappy spectacle of orders worth £1,250,000 being sent to America for trucks, and a sum in the vicinity of £500,000 being sent to England for engines.
– The Queensland Government is now doing the same thing.
– It should not. Every engine and every truck that we require should be built in Australia ; otherwise we shall never build up that industry. The necessity for making provision to defend this country is frequently stressed. What better steps could we take to that end than to establish factories for the manufacture of engines and rollingstock in peace time, and capable of turning out munitions of war if a crisis should develop. If we were cutoff from outside supplies, and had no factories, we should not be able to hold out very long ; but if we had up-to-date, wellequipped factories, our position would be a much safer one. We cannot induce men to embark upon that business unless we give them orders. I have seen Australianbuilt engines that are the equal of any in the world. I do not suggest that the work can be. done here as cheaply as in longestablished factories on the other side of the world ; but unless we make a start we shall never build up the industry. During the last twelve months I have gone through a number of factories. A few years ago who would have believed that good silken hose, such as that which is being turned out bv Bond and Company to-day, could be manufactured in Australia? I have been told by persons who have worn the hose that it is equal to anything that can be obtained in the world, and that the cost is reasonable. I stand always for the protection and the building up of Australian industries. It is an axiom that the best market is the home market. If we build up our secondary industries, we create a market for our primary producers. The greater the number of secondary industries, the larger the population that can be settled on the land.
[8.30]. - In following this debate on the budget-papers, I have noted with pleasure the great interest displayed by honorable senators in the important question of defence, and am pleased that they agree that it is essential that the Government should provide the funds necessary for this purpose. In considering the provision that is made, however, honorable senators should have regard to our somewhat meagre population, to the commit- mentswhichhavealreadybeenentered into in connexion with the opening up and development of the Commonwealth, and also to the fact that we are already spending a considerable amount in the various branches of Commonwealth defence. A statement was made by the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) in another place, setting out what had been done during the last two or three years. In the course of this statement, he pointed out that -
It will be remembered that the Government, after careful consideration of the question generally, and with the object of establishing a definite defence policy upon a sound basis, approved, in July, 1924, of a developmental programme extending over five years (commencing with 1924-25) at an annual cost of £1,000,000, exclusive of the capital cost of two 10,000-ton cruisers, two submarines, and a seaplane carrier.
The developmental programme, for which £1,000,000 is provided for 1926-27 (i.e., third year), will be applied mainly to the following:
Navy. - The enlistment of personnel to provide for the manning of two submarines which will be commissioned towards the close of 1926-27, and the subsequent commissioning of the two new cruisers and one seaplane carrier.
Training an additional quota of R.A.N.R. trainees.
Filling one 8,000-ton oil tank at Port Darwin.
Approved increase in pay for Auxiliary Naval Forces.
Military. - Purchase of munitions (equipment, ammunition, &c).
Provision of storage and magazine facilities.
Training an additional quota of Citizen Forces, and extra training for Citizen Forces generally. Approved increase in pay of Permanent Military Forces.
Air Force. - Buildings and works generally at Laverton (Aircraft Depot), Richmond (N.S.W.), and Point Cook (No. 1 Flying Training School).
Increased personnel due to development of the Aircraft Depot at Laverton, and towards establishment of an additional squadron to be formed in 1927-28.
Civil Aviation. - Air route subsidies.
Establishment of lightplane clubs.
Munitions Supply Branch. - Machinery and plant for manufacture of munitions.
Maintenance of Munitions Factories at Maribyrnong and Footscray, which came into operation during 1925-26.
In addition to £1,000,000 provided for developmental purposes, Defence Estimates for 1926-27 (excluding War Services) total £4,069,089 from revenue, and £587,500 from Loan Fund,whilethe following special appropriations made available since the 1st July, 1924 (i.e., date of commencement of developmental programme), will be operated upon as occasion demands: -
Defence Equipment Act 1924 - £2,500,000 (£2,000,000 to be devoted to naval construction, and £500,000 for purchase of arms, armament, &c, survey of Great Barrier Reef, and other urgent defence services) .
Naval Construction Act 1925 - £1,500,000 for naval construction.
Defence Equipment Act 1926 - £1,250,000 (£1,000,000 for naval construction, £250,000 for purchase of aircraft equipment, provision of accommodation, &c. ).
From these figures, it will be seen that the Government is spending a large sum in the effort to provide an effective defence system, and that it has gone as far as its resources will at present permit, having regard to our somewhat limited population. One of the best means of providing for the defence of Australia is by making available the necessary funds to enable the country to be developed so that more people will be induced to settle here. I remind the Senate that the Government is devoting large sums to the attainment of that object. Then, too, it must not be forgotten that we already have the nucleus of naval and military organizations which, in time, will be able to operate in either defensive or offensive engagements. Our land forces are at present based on an. organization similar to that which was in operation during the great war. We have five infantry divisions and two light horse divisions. The department is making provision for the training of a nucleus staff of officers- and non-commissioned officers to command the various units, and also to provide the necessary arms and equipment for use by men Under training. We cannot expect trainees in the brief period allowed for training to be ready at short notice to engage in either offensive or defensive operations. Although during the war period we had the services of a large number of experienced and enthusiastic citizen force officers and men, it took approximately six months to train them to a sufficient standard to enable them to take part in military operations. Speaking from personal experience, I may say that, although we established our organization in 1914, and started training in Egypt at the beginning of 1915, the force did not reach the zenith of its efficiency until the autumn of 1917. The training that is at present being undertaken is all that can be done with the resources at our disposal.
– Will the Minister reply to the protests made concerning the training of recruits in certain areas under the Universal training scheme If
– When the trainees available in a particular centre are below a specified number, it is too expensive to train them. Some of the units have “been disbanded because the numbers are below what is considered a reasonable standard
In connexion with our naval expenditure, I may say that the. provision of cruisers, submarines, and a seaplanecarrier, in addition to other craft, will give us a self-contained unit capable of operating either independently or in conjunction with the British Navy.
– When is the seaplanecarrier expected to be completed?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.That depends upon the activity of certain persons in the State which the honorable senator represents. Honorable senators opposite have referred in a light and airy way to the defence policy of the Labour party. They believe in defending Australia with aeroplanes and- subma rines. Submarines, I would point out, would be attacked by fast and comparatively cheap craft, which would drop depth charges upon them. That would be the enemy’s answer to such a system of defence. In turn, these small craft could be attacked by destroyers, which would -blow them out of the water. The answer to the provision of destroyers would be fast cruisers, and they in turn would be met by battleships. The ideal naval force is one which can assist the various units.
– It is better to build friendships than battleships.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Yes; but when one’s friends are armed to the teeth, one may very well say to them, “ We will lay down our arms, if you. will do so first.” If there were any guarantee of international peace, I am sure Australia, in common with other nations, would be very willing to scrap its defence system.
During the course of the debate, Senator Guthrie, who has always taken a keen interest in naval trainees, and also returned soldiers, referred to the naval trainees, who, during their training, are not only learning the value of comradeship and discipline, but are rendering a service to their country. Senator Guthrie said -
By its recent decision to alter the system of naval training, the Government is undermining the personnel of the Australian Fleet tu such an extent that I fear we shall not bie training a sufficient number of Australian youths to man the new cruisers when they are placed in commission.
The system of naval training has not been altered. It remains the same as before, except that the entry of boys between the ages of fourteen and a half years and sixteen years has been suspended temporarily.
– That is where the damage is being done.
– The honorable senator also said that, in England, training starts when boys are thirteen years of age.
– For command rank.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.That is a different matter. Boys who are to train as seamen are not entered by the Admiralty at thirteen years of age. They are accepted between the ages of fifteen and a-quarter and sixteen and three-quarter years. The lower ratings do not start- at thirteen years of age.
The honorable senator had in mind the cadets at the Royal Naval College, who are training as officers.
– Is it’ the intention to increase the age at which they shall be admitted ?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Yes; for the time being.
– That is where the damage is being done.
– It is only for a time. I can assure the honorable senator that there is no need to fear that there will not be sufficient Australians to man the new cruisers. The Naval Board has made its plans, and has approved of the temporary suspension of the provision to take the boys for training between the ages of fourteen and a half and sixteen years. There is, therefore, no warrant for the statement of the honorable senator that the Minister has broken faith with the naval authorities or the Australian public* The Minister has given full consideration to, and is acting in conformity with, the recommendation of the Naval Board.
– Is it not a fact that the Naval Board definitely reported against the training of the lads at the Flinders Naval Base, and is it not true, also, that the Minister is acting against the wishes of the board?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.
I am not able, at the moment, to answer the honorable senator’s question. The department, as he knows, is not under my control. The honorable senator referred also to the proposed establishment of a training school at Osborne Souse, Geelong, and stated that the training of the lads at the Flinders Naval Base, adjacent to the men’s quarters, was against the practice of the naval authorities of other countries. In reply to the honorable senator’s statement, I may say that the proposal to establish a training school at Osborne House has not been abandoned. Steps are being taken to secure the site -from the State Government, and the scheme will be initiated when funds permit.
I listened with interest to Senator Elliott’s remarks concerning the grievance of an official in the Territory of New Guinea, and in reply I should- like to point out that that it is not possible for the officer to get his’- increment unless it is recommended by the head of the department. A Minister cannot be expected to be familiar with the position of every officer in his department, and it is for the departmental head to recommend the payment of an increment.
Senator Elliott referred at some length to the buildings being erected in the civic centre at Canberra. It is well known that the civic centre leases were sold subject to building covenants and the purchasers should have made it their business to become conversant with those covenants before purchasing. The building conditions have been laid down by the Federal Capital Commission, after Careful, consideration, with the object of ensuring the development of thb Capital City on approved lines. We cannot allow “ jerry-built “ structures, particularly .in the civic centre, because we wish Canberra to be a city of which we may be proud.
– Is. it .npt. a fact that the commission is insisting on the importation, from Melbourne,, of roofing material at a cost 100 per cent, higher than at the Canberra tile works.
– I cannot say; but I shall make inquiries into that statement.
– Senator Elliott, I remind the Minister, was informed by the Leader of the Senate the other day that further business sites would be made available shortly. That statement has since been denied by the Federal Capital Commission, which declares that business sites will not be offered for some considerable time.
– Senator McHugh stated that cottages which cost £1,300 in Canberra could be built in Adelaide for £950. On that point I direct his attention to the report of the Public Works Committee which was tabled in another place to-day. It shows that building costs in Canberra are about 20 per cent, higher than in Melbourne. The difference in cost is accounted for by the fact, amongst others, that Canberra being so far from Sydney, or any other large city, it is necessary to offer special -inducements to tradesmen to accept work there.
Debate (on motion . by Senator Foi.r.) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4th August (vide page 4817), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the paper be printed.
– I am very pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will shortly be leaving Australia to attend the Imperial Conference, which will open in London on 19th of October next. Australia will be worthily represented at that important gathering. I am particularly gratified that the Prime Minister of Great Britain has decided that the production ‘and exhibition of films in the British Empire is of such national importance that it occupies fifth place on the agenda paper. In this matter we have been given a good lead by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, who has been responsible for the establishment in Britain of the British National Film League. Presiding at a meeting of that league recently the Prince said -
It is well worth the British nation’s while to take the film industry seriously and to develop it to its utmost as a national industry. The British National Film League is to be congratulated, not only on its idea of organizing these British film weeks, to inaugurate which we are met here to-day, but also on the moment it has chosen to inaugurate them. It is up to us to see that the British film pictures . . . take their due place in the theatres of the world, and particularly on British screens.
It is as well that we should realize that the film-producing companies in the United States of America have practically captured the markets of the world and are using the moving pictures for propaganda along the lines of American thought and for the cultivation of American ideals, particularly amongst the rising generation of all countries. They are’ clever enough to know that trade follows the films. We cannot blame them for taking advantage of the wonderful opportunity that is presented to them per medium of the film. Comparatively few people realize its -remarkable advertising value. Figures relating to the industry are most impressive. Americans speak of picture shows as “ movies.” It is estimated that 100,000,000 people attend movie shows every day in the different countries of the world. It is known, further, that 50,000,000 people attend the movies in the United States of America weekly, and that the box ‘ office receipts total £100,000,000 a year. The figures relating to Australia axe equally startling. Though we have a population of only 6,000,000 of people, last year over 100,000,000 people paid for admission to picture ‘theatres throughout the Commonwealth. It is estimated that every man, woman, and child in the British Empire attended the movies 20 times last year. That America has a stranglehold on the industry is seen in the fact that last year American companies exported 200,000^000 feet of films, which, as I have said, are used so extensively for American propaganda. Australia imported and paid for 1,753 American films.
Ninety-five per cent, of the pictures shown in the Mother Country and 96 per cent. of. the pictures shown in Australia last year were of American production. They are shown not only in the heart of the Empire, but in every town and hamlet throughout’ our far-flung dominions. We cannot blame the Americans, because by this means they are increasing their prestige and trade throughout the world, even to the extent of crippling the prestige and trade of other nations. It is unfortunate that associated with American pictures is a great deal of an antiBritish propaganda. The producers are not satisfied to flaunt the Stars and Stripes, but according to their pictures the heroes and heroines in every walk of life, be it commerce, art, science, sport, or war, are Americans. In many of their films, as in their plays, the fools, rogues, inefficients, and cowards, are almost invariably depicted as Britishers. I recently witnessed in Melbourne a clever American play entitled “ The Best People.” It was amusing and well acted ; but, unfortunately, the coward and fool of the piece was depicted as an English lord who was kicked out of the room many times by a little drunken “ weed,” the son of an American millionaire, whom 99 out of every 100 Britishers could have put across their knees and smacked. This propaganda is so persistent that our children are beginning to wonder whether the power of the Empire is waning. I have taken the trouble, with the assistance of many eminent citizens, men and women, to ascertain the nature of the pictures exhibited to Australian children on Saturday after.noons, and the influence they have on their minds. They are beginning to think that the British Empire, after all, is not the power that counts to-day, but that the heroes and heroines who won the war and have done everything else worth while are Americans; in fact that the old Mother Country is decadent. Many of the pictures are not in the interests of the moral wellbeing of our children. As Professor Wallace said in his official report, the films are frequently of a very doubtful character. Is it not time that we Britishers bestirred ourselves, and realized the great power of the films, and the inevitable effect of this anti-British propaganda? We should take steps to show the people of our own- Empire, and particularly of our own country, something of the glorious traditions and deeds of our own race. We should have pictures illustrating the size and wonders of the British Empire, and the advantages enjoyed by Australia as an important part of the commonwealth of free nations that we delight to call the British Empire. I claim that the picture industry as it exists to-day is a menace to the prestige of our Empire and of the white race. It is in the grip of foreign combines.
Miles of films were excised by the cen.sor last year, and the parts excised were of a most degrading character. They were an insult to the intelligence and moral sense of the Australian people. It is essential for the. British Empire and the white races generally to uphold the prestige of white women and white men. Those of us who saw the films that were censored will remember that they depicted white women being sold as slaves to black men. We saw white women being disposed of at auction to Indians, Arabians, and negroes. When not submissive they were often whipped by coloured people, and submitted to lustful brutality. Films of this nature are being shown in India and the East, and they must have a most damaging effect upon the prestige of the white races. Australia is a big island continent in the Pacific, with an undefended coast line of 12,000 miles. We hold the richest, and one of the most tempting lands in the world, and we have rightly determined to retain it as a white man’s country. In India the coloured population out-numbers the whites by 1,000 to one. There, white women, and also white men, have been rightly placed upon a pedestal; but visualize the effect there of pictures showing the degradation of white women as the property of black men S
– I do not think that such films would help the United States of America much . with its own coloured problem.
– Possibly they are not shown in America, but we know that they are displayed elsewhere. How often do we see crude, lewd, suggestive American films in Australian picture halls? The criminal is held up as the hero ‘of the piece; the clever burglar is shown entering a house and making off with the spoils. I dare say that if we asked the Criminal Investigation Department of Victoria the cause of the increase in dime, especially among children, the answer would be that it is due largely to the class of pictures witnessed by the youth of this country.’’ The standard of morality in this regard has, sunk low in America. In that country’ there is much to admire, but the almightly dollar is apparently the chief god. In only six of the 45 States is a censorship exercised over films. In New York State it is now proposed that the censorship should be removed. I have no desire to curtail the amusement of the rising generation; but has our own Empire no traditions, no prestige, no flag? Have we no standard of morality and no heroes ? We are proud that our Empire comprises nearly one-fourth of known lands, and that onefourth of the total population of the world pays homage to the Union Jack. No empire has been so powerful or made such strides, in literature, exploration, colonization, heroism, athletics, and scholastic achievements as ours. No empire has such scenic grandeur. Loyal Australians are proud to know that no part of the world is more suitable for the production of high-class films than their own country. We have an ideal climate, wonderful scenery, tradition and achievement, and our fauna and flora are unique. We are proud of the deeds of our pioneers, who came to this country in cockle-shells of boats over 100 years ago, and blazed the trail through the Australian bush. They faced great hardships and eventually won through. We are justly proud of the record of the Australian soldiers. I am glad that- their’ incomparable, acts of heroism-.in the landing at Gallipoli are to be depicted on the film serpen. Although we will be faced ‘.with difficulties in combating the foreign picture combines, we can. at least remind our own children of that memorable episode of the Great War. The world has been shown a picture called “ The Great Parade,” an American production depicting how America won the war.- Honorable senators were privileged to see it at the censor’s office. The screening- took two .hours. At the beginning we saw, “ In 1917 all was peace and quietness, and then war came.” The war began in. 1917 ! The film then shows the men- of the’ United States, cowboys and others, rushing to the Stairs and Stripes. It shows them- leaving their native shores, but it does not show them being transported in British’ vessels convoyed by British warships. Nor does it state that every American’ soldier’s steel helmet was made in Manchester and his rifle in some part of Englan’d. f It does not state that not one of ‘ their ’ Liberty “ aeroplanes was fit to enter’ the fighting zone. All it does is to show”’ how America won the war. ‘ Fortunately,, that picture has not been liberated in Australia. I have received letters from many “ diggers “ telling me what they would do if it were shown in this country. I should not blame them for doing what they threaten. One of the bravest and most romantic incidents of all time was the Zeebrugge raid, in which the *Vindictive took a splendid part. That incident has been filmed by a British company, but it has not been shown to the world. Yet pictures like “ The Great Parade “ are shown in every country. Another picture which has been exhibited throughout the world shows the German fleet surrendering to the American navy at Scapa Flow ! The irony of it ! British producers also produced a wonderful picture” showing the battle of Ypres, but it was banned in the United States. Que would have thought that the people of that country would not object to a British film, depicting some of the great battles, being shown in their country; but no; it was banned because the Americans were not there. The people of the United States see only those films which are produced in their own country. I desire to pay a tribute to the work performed by the Commonwealth film censor in Melbourne,
Professor Wallace. He has a very difficult task to perform under’ the powers that are conferred on him, but he is doing his work honestly and well. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), who has some jurisdiction over the production and export of films, if. not over their importation, is also doing good work. The work performed by the Commonwealth film censor is so important that it might be wise to enact further legislation giving him extended powers. Of the feature films imported into Australia in 1925, the censor rejected 1,757,849 feet. Complete films of a length of 8,359,537 feet were passed, and an additional 9,104,522 feet were passed after portions had been eliminated. More than half of the feature films produced in America and sent to Australia were so bad that they were rejected, or passed only after cuts were made in them. Some of the films were of so filthy a nature that they were not even returned to the United States, but were burned at the censor’s office. Such films are an insult to the Australian people. Do the American producers think that our morals are so low that we would permit such pictures to be shown to our children? Notwithstanding the heavy cuts made in some films, the censor, because of his limited powers, has been forced to pass much which I and many others consider should not be exhibited in Australian theatres. Many people who would patronize picture shows as a cheap and convenient form of amusement now stay away because of the doubtful character of many of the pictures exhibited. In his report, the Commonwealth censor states: -
Generally speaking, the censors always delete assaults on women, indecent and vulgar attitudes, “ first-night-of -marriage “ scenes, prostitution, drug-taking, excessive brutality in any form, executions, murders if depicted in revolting detail, travesties of religion, the advocacy of free love, scenes’ of child-birth, excessive shooting, and scenes in brothels. In recent months it has been found necessary to take a more decided stand against films which represent criminals as heroic persons.
These are not pleasant things to refer to, but they show the necessity for a strict censorship. When in America, I found that many of the people there looked upon all Australians as the descendants of convicts, and therefore of no account. The censor’s report continues -
There are scenes in the films which sin grievously against good taste, but which the censors cannot rule out under the present regulations.
Some of the advertisements sent out with the pictures for exhibition on the hoardings are worse than the films themselves. I have here a number of “ catch lines “ suggested to Australian exhibitors for exhibition on hoardings and for newspaper advertisements. Some of them are so lurid that I do not desire to dwell on them, but I feel that I must mention some. They read as follows: -
Catchlines for advertising, programmes, Heralds, and throwaways: - ‘“Husbands and Demi-husbands”; “Mistress versus Wife”; “ Marriage is a game of give and take - give up your freedom and take the consequences “ ; “He thought a woman was overdressed if she wore a wedding ring”; “Sex is the curse of men and the currency of women”; “Boldly conceived episodes and situations to keep you guessing “ ; “ Can two live just as freely as one”; and so on.
I shall not disgust the Senate by reading further. Another column in the publication from which these catch lines have been extracted is headed “ Teasers,” and contains statements which are more, lewd than those I have quoted. It is unfortunate that one has to take this stand in the interests of the moral well-being of our people, especially our children; but it is our duty, as public men, to face facts, and to speak the truth without fear or favour. There is no doubt that these great picture combines, which are possessed of enormous wealth as well as great organizing ability, will do their best to make it hard for men like Senator Grant, myself, and others, who are prepared to say what we think of their productions. But I am not afraid of their threats. In Germany the picture industry has been protected to some extent. The Germans are the only people who, so far, have attempted to fight the great American picture combines. Germany has passed a law providing that 50 per cent, of the programmes in all picture theatres in that country must comprise pictures made in Germany.
– A good idea.
– Yes. Moreover, the German law provides that for every film imported into that country, a German film must be sent to the country whence it came. I understand that under this arrangement, although the United States of America buys a number of German films, they are not always produced there. Practically no British films are ever exhibited in the United States of America. The Victorian Parliament is the only State Parliament in Australia which has taken any steps to encourage the Australian picture film industry. A bill has been introduced to that Parliament providing that in every programme, 1,000 feet of film must be of Australian production. That is a step in the right direction; but when we remember that at each exhibition 14,000 or 15,000 feet of film is shown, the proportion is not nearly great enough. Unfortunately, most of the picture showmen in Australia are in the grip of the’ American combine, and they are forced to make that. 1,000 feet comprise what is known as Gazette. Frequently, the worst 1,000 feet of Australian film procurable is shown, with the result that at times the Australian portion of the evening’s entertainment is hooted, because ii compares so unfavorably with the more attractive films produced in the United* States of America. I am glad that throughout the British Empire there is a movement, led by the Prince of Wales, and backed by influential persons, to encourage the production in the British Empire, by Britishers, of films depicting the true history and deeds of Britishers. Is not our Empire the greatest in the world? Are not its history, its literature,’ its deeds of heroism and exploration, its” colonization, invention, science, commerce, its scenery, and everything that is essential to the production of the most attractive pictures, the best that the world can give? I am glad to say that the people behind this movement are determined to produce pictures in the British Empire, and to show them in the British Empire, even should they not be powerful enough to force their exhibition in other countries. An important branch of the company, with a capital of probably £500,000. is, I understand, to be formed in Australia. Honorable senators realize that to fight the American picture combines: money is needed. Fortunately, there are sufficient public-spirited men in Australia who view this project, not merely as an investment, but also as one of national importance, and who are prepared to devote their money and time to it in the interests of the British Empire. The Australian company proposes to establish in Sydney an up-to-date studio, which will be available for every producer, however poor or small he may be. Some very clever young men and women have produced good pictures in Australia, but they have not had sufficient capital to guarantee continuity of supply, and their productions have been frozen out by the combine which controls the picture theatres, and either pays them a paltry price, or screens their pictures at the commencement or end of the programme. If a company is formed, the poorest producer will have the right to hire its studio, and will not be charged an exorbitant rate. Australian producers have had a very lean time. They have had to combat what is known as the block booking system. Although the combine does not own the whole of the picture theatres in Australia, the proprietors are not at liberty to choose what films they will take. They must book a year ahead, and accept what is sent them. They are, therefore, entirely at the mercy of the combine. It may be argued that a large amount of profit is being made by the combine in Australia, because picture theatres are invariably crowded. I point out that 60 per cent, of the takings of the picture theatres is sent to America, the amount annually being between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000. There are numbers of good actors and actresses in this country, but no one with sufficient capital has stood behind them, and they have not had an opportunity to show what they are capable of doing. They have been forced to go to America in the past in order to make a living. It may be contended that the United States of America purchases some of our products. Certainly a small proportion of our wool is bought by that country because they cannot get such good wool elsewhere; but what encouragement is given to that trade? We impose a duty of Id. or l£d. on their films, but they charge ls. a pound on our wool. The balance of trade in favour of America and against Australia is equal to £35,000,000 per annum. I blame, not the Americans, but our own people for their lack of loyalty to Australian produce. We should build up an Australian sentiment, and should preach and practise pride in the Empire and Australia. When it was suggested that the British Empire Film Producing and Dis- tributing Company should be formed, opponents of the movement wrote to the press stating that it was impossible to produce pictures in the Empire. The. secretary of a theatrical union in Melbourne, who evidently took his instructions from the combine, .actually wrote to the Melbourne press stating that Great Britain had not sufficient money to enable her to make pictures. Ye Gods and little fishes! Our great Empire contains one-fourth of the population of the world. Its capital has been used more extensively in the development of the world than that of any other country. It did more to win the world war than any other nation. Great Britain lent Russia, Italy, France, Belgium, and other countries huge sums of money. Although it did not lend money to the United States of America, it equipped her soldiers, who were eventually sent to the war, with helmets, rifles, and aeroplanes. Britain is the only combatant nation that so far has made any attempt to repay its war debts. It is an insult to the intelligence of our people for any one to say that Great Britain has not sufficient money to make pictures, and it shows to what depths some persons are prepared to descend. Great Britain undertook the role of guarantor for weaker nations to the extent of hundreds of millions of pounds, so that they could purchase munitions from the United States of America, and she is repaying in gold those debts, which are not really her debts, to that country. In addition, she is foolishly sending across there £35,000,000 annually for. picture films. These little Australians who have no faith in their country, their Empire, or their fellow men and women, are a menace to Australia. They are either frightened, or are paid by the com:bine. The picture film combine is as big a menace as, and has a greater grip on Australia than the petrol combine. It is a powerful antagonist, because of its great wealth. During the war, the United States of America did not “ dig in “ at Flanders until late in 1917. But it dug into the picture film industry so firmly that it will be very difficult for any company to obtain a footing outside the British Empire. If we follow the German example by passing a law making it obligatory for 50 per cent, of the picture films that are screened in Australia to be produced “within the Empire the industry will flourish, expand, and be profitable, giving employment to thousands of people in the Old Country, and 4,000 or 5,000 in Australia. The American producers admit that, prior to the war, some of the best pictures were those produced in Great Britain. The war broke out in 1914, not 1917. Great Britain’s casualties numbered millions of men by 1917. Even Australia had 50,000 deaths before the United States of America sent her soldiers into the fighting line. That nation took advantage of the fact that the men and women of Great Britain who were not at the Front were fully employed in the manufacture of munitions and other necessaries of war. They had no time to develop the picture film industry. Consequently the United States of America had a clear field to organize thoroughly, and they obtained a strangle-hold on the industry.
– The American picture combine has successfully evaded the payment of taxation in Australia.
– I am pleased to receive that interjection. This Parliament foolishly rejected the proposal to increase the duty on imported films. I do not argue that the higher duty would have kept out those films, but I do say that it would have lent encouragement to the production of films in Australia. Substantial preference should be given to pictures that are produced within our Empire. Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, had an act passed providing for the payment of taxation on . the gross takings of picture theatres, but those assessments have never been sent out. I suppose the combine would have no difficulty in proving that no profit was made, by invoicing the pictures at an extraordinarily high price. This matter is to be discussed at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. I feel sure the Australian Government will lend its support to any company that is formed for the purpose of producing films within the Empire. . A company can be formed that will be in a’ position to fight the great combine. If only a percentage of the pictures that are produced were screened, the venture would be profitable. Those who are behind the movement are determined to recapture some of the Empire’s lost trade and prestige. In no way can that be more readily done than by producing and exhibiting pictures of which we shall be proud; that will amuse, educate, elevate, and at least be clean and fair. Some persons still contend that we are not able to do it. If honorable senators peruse the columns of the Sydney Bulletin, the Melbourne Age, the Melbourne Argus, and other newspapers, and study the statistics relating to the production of pictures in Australia, they will find that, with a very limited capital, a number of pictures have been produced in this country that have proved a financial success. Although big studios and financial backing were lacking, pictures such as “ The Mystery of a Hansom Cab,” were produced at a cost of between £2,000 and £3,000, and returned to the producers between £10,000 and £12,000. If a good studio could be equipped in Sydney or elsewhere at a cost of, say, from £200,000 to £300,000, a great deal more could be done. Our climate is suited to the production of pictures. Some of the best artists who are helping to produce pictures in the United States of America to-day are Australians. They can be brought back to this country. We could also obtain the services of the best producers and artists from the Old Country, and, if necessary, from the United States of America. We do not want to dig in the cesspools of history for our material. What a romantic picture could be built around the events that have occurred in Australia from the landing of Captain Cook to the opening of the Federal Capital city by the Duke of York at Canberra! What a romantic picture could be produced under the title of “ Sir Ross Smith Conquers Space,” depicting the wonderful flight from England to Australia of the late Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith as a foundation! With all our glorious traditions and conditions, why should it be necessary to import American producers, actors, and actresses to present, for instance, The Term of Bis Natural Life? That story is a black blot upon British history, and also on Australia. The story, which is 100 years old, is to be revived in order to show how persons guilty of small offences were cruelly and tyrannically treated by being placed in irons in dungeon snips and the dark cells. As we are often told that we are descendants of convicts, people in other countries who see that picture will naturally think that we have sprung from the type depicted, which, of course, is not true. Australians are descended from heart and branch families of the Old Country. It will also be said that Britishers settle their dominions with such persons, and that migrants coming to Australia will have to associate with and possibly marry the descendants of convicts. God knows, we need an increased population to help develop and defend this country, but migration is not likely to be assisted if The Term of Eis Natural Life is shown in other countries. Some honorable senators might think that I hold extreme views on this subject, but I honestly believe that it would be most harmful for American producers to come to Australia to produce a film depicting the convict system. Miss Eva Novak has, on behalf of the directors of Australian Films Limited, requested the pleasure of honorable senators at the Union Masters’ Studio, Bondi Junction, on the 16th August, to view the firm The Term of His Natural Life; and afterwards to partake of supper with this lady. I expect many of lis will be present. This is very clever propaganda on the part of certain interests.
– Does the honorable senator intend to accept the invitation?
– Tes ; but I do not intend to change my views concerning the undesirability of producing the picture, which will give to the people in other countries an entirely wrong conception of Australia and Australians.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that he will be the only one who intends to oppose its exhibition?
– No; I fully expect every honorable senator to support me. Australia is a great country, and we have every reason to be proud of it. I have been around the world on two occasions, and during my travels I have been astounded to find that, although literature concerning the other dominions is available, the infor mation relating to Australia is of the most meagre character. The only paragraphs of Australian news in British newspapers refer to Australia as a land of strikes, droughts, snakes, or bush-fires. On one occasion recently, in connexion with the bush fires here, a paragraph appeared in an American newspaper under the heading of “Australia Burnt- Off the Map*” All that is published in overseas newspapers is short paragraphs concerning the prevalence of droughts or snakes or about some burglary or other crime. No indication whatever is given of the opportunities afforded to migrants, no publicity is given to the fact that many who started in Australia without a penny are now millionaires. People on the other side of the world do not realize that we produce one-half of the world’s ‘supply of fine wool, and an enormous quantity of the very choicest wheat, butter, fruit, and other products of a very high standard.
– The honorable senator would make a good publicity agent for the Commonwealth.
– Yes, and I intend to advertise its potentialities through the medium of picture films which I hope will shortly be produced in this country. It is our duty to assist those who are willing to establish the industry, and who, if they receive the support of the people, will produce pictures of industry, romance, sport, and. what is most important, clean pictures which can be seen by the younger members of our community with advantage instead of harm.
– Such pictures are needed.
-Yes. Let us help our war-weary Empire, which has done so much to assist us. [Extension of time granted.] I shall conclude by saying that the Prince of “Wales has set a fine example. The Prime Minister at the forthcoming Imperial Conference will also have a unique opportunity to support this movement. It should soon be known that it is our desire that an Empire Picture Production and Distribution Company should be formed to produce films depicting the tradition, glories, wonders, and possibilities of this great Empire. I am glad to say that many leading citizens have already promised support, and all are working in an honorary capacity.If a company is formed there will be no promoters’ shares and no demand for excessive dividends. One gentleman told me that he was prepared to invest thousands of pounds in the venture, not with the idea of obtaining a substantial financial return, but with the sole object of assisting an industry which must eventually be for the benefit of the Empire, and particularly Australia. The intention of those interested in the venture here is to co-operate with those engaged in similar work in the Mother Country, and in the other dominions of our far-flung Empire. Picture films are displayed to 100,000,000 persons daily, and provide the quickest, best, and most impressive means of educating the peoples of the world.
Debate (on motion by Senator Crawford) adjourned.
– I move-
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 12 noon to-morrow.
I understand that the Appropriation Bill may possibly be passed by another place to-night, which will enable it to be considered by the Senate when we meet at noon.
– Will the Minister indicate the business yet to be transacted before Parliament adjourns. Are there any other bills, apart from the Appropriation Bill, to be discussed, and, if so, what are they?
– There is a bill providing for the payment of a bounty on cotton and cotton yarn, and also one or two minor bills relating to income taxation.
– What of the “mystery “ bill?
– I presume that the honorable senator is referring to a measure relating to the iron and steel duties. I am not quite sure whether that measure is to be introduced, or whether the resolutions will remain on the table of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– The Senate has not yet had an opportunity to discuss the Imperial Conference agenda paper.
– Senator Guthrie has just spoken on that motion.
– One or two honorable senators may have spoken. Although the speeches delivered have been of a high order, they have not by any means exhausted the subject. It is very unfair to allow certain honorable senators to discuss the agenda-paper at length, and to prevent others from having an oppor tunity to take part in the debate.
– The honorable senator is partly responsible for that.
– I do not agree with the Minister. It is quite true that during the last week or two I have spoken a few times in this Chamber, in order to throw light on the darkness of honorable senators opposite, but I do not know with what result. I rose particularly to ask the Leader of the Senate to review his decision as to the hour of meeting tomorrow, and to allow the Senate to assemble at 11 o’clock, so as to give honorable senators an extra hour for the discussion of the agenda-paper of the Imperial Conference. We shall have a number of very contentious measures before us to-morrow, including the Income Tax Assessment Bill, and, as I understand it is intended to close the session tomorrow evening, it is desirable that we should have an extra hour for the discussion of the subjects to be considered at the Imperial Conference. I suggest, also, that the Minister should circulate printed copies of the agenda-paper for the information of honorable senators.I happen to have a copy; but, so far as I know, other honorable senators have not received one.
.- I can only say that, if there has been any curtailment of the debate on the agenda-paper of the Imperial Conference, Senator Grant has been to some extent responsible. He cannot complainthat he has not had ample opportunity during the last week to debate the various measures that have been before the Senate. However, if an opportunity is presented to-morrow to allow the Senate to further debate the Imperial Conference agenda-paper I shall be glad to take advantage of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260811_senate_10_114/>.