10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 8 p.m. and read prayers.
Arms For Telegraph Poles
– On the 30th September, 1927, Senator Herbert Hays asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following questions : -
The following information has been received in reply to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Chinese Traders at Rabaul.
– On the 7th October Senator Chapman asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to make the following replies. -
Allocation of Commonwealth Grant
– On the 6th October, Senator Millen asked the following questions: -
I promised that the information would be obtained, and I am now able to supply the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. Up to 30th June, 1920, the Commonwealth made available the following sums to the States for road development, construction or maintenance: -
The total amount actually paid over to the States was £2,334,000, and the balance of £1,416,000 was held in Trust Fund at the 30th June last on behalf of the States. 3 and 4. The total collections from the special duities on petrol since 1st August, 1926 to 30th September, 1927, were £1,389,372. Special duties on motor chassis were only imposed as from 29th September, 1927. Particulars of revenue from this item are not yet available.
[3.5]. - (By leave) - In connexion with the reported massacre of white people in the Solomon Islands, I desire to inform the Senate that on Sunday last the Navy Office received advice from the Admiralty to the effect that a radio telegram had been received from the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, reporting a massacre at Malaita, in the Solomons, requesting the despatch of a war ship immediately, and asking whether we would despatch one of our cruisers to meet the request. In view of the urgency indicated in the Admiralty telegram, and the fact that the Solomons are included in the Australian Station, the Commonwealth Government arranged at once for the despatch of H.M.A.S. Adelaide from Sydney for the Solomons on Monday, the 10th inst. A cablegram has subsequently been received from the Dominions Office, stating that the request for the despatch ofa cruiser to Malaita has the British Government’s full support, and that they are grateful to the Commonwealth Government for the prompt action taken. The British Government has also stated that it is in urgent communication with the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, and will further advise as to what action it is desired the cruiser Adelaide should take. No further advice has come to hand.
The following papers were presented : -
Canned Fruit Bounty Act - Return for 1926-27.
Cotton Bounty Act - Return for 1926-27,
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 109.
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted up to 30th September, 1927.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Return for 1926-27.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Return for 1926-27.
Power Alcohol Bounty Act - Return for 1926-27.
Shale Oil Bounty Act - Return for 1926-27.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for 1926-27.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate if in view of the consistently expeditious manner in which the Senate transacts its business the Government will consider the advisability of initiating more legislation in this chamber than it has in the past.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The Government has already introduced certain legislation in this chamber; but as the honorable senator is aware some measures must originate in another place.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The policy of the Government was fully stated in the policy speeches during the election. At present a Royal Commission is enquiring into the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, and into the working of the Constitution. Amongst other matters it is to examine the question of New States from a constitutional view point.
Debate resumed from 7th October (vide page 344), on motion by Senator Sir William Glasgow -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When speaking last week on the motion for the printing of the budget papers, I laid particular stress upon the Government’s borrowing policy. I now intend to emphasize some of the references I then made to that policy, which, accord ing to the measure now before us, it intends to pursue. I pointed out, as is clearly shown in the budget, that there had been a manipulation of loan moneys, in order to show a book surplus. In 1922-23, £2,572,000 was spent on new works, buildings, &c., out of the Consolidated Revenue, whilst lastyear only £215,000 was obtained from that source. The point I wish to stress is that the Government has established a very unsound policy of lavishly spending loan money upon other than reproductive works, and that unless the policy is changed we shall find ourselves in a difficult position. As the loan expenditure on new works increased from £5,000,000 in 1921-22 to £7,000,000 in 1926-27, it will be seen that the alleged surplus of £2,635,000 has been obtained by the simple method of conserving over £2,500,000 of revenue moneys which were once spentonnew works, buildings, &c. Compare this Government’s policy of spending loan moneys on this class of works with that of the Labour party when it was in power. The elections of 1910 gave the Labour party a sweeping victory, and theFisher Labour Government, which then took charge, remained in office until 1913. In 1913-14 it went out of office ; but after the double dissolution of 1914, was returned and remained in power until 1916. During that time the money spent out of Consolidated Revenue on new works, buildings, &c., excluding money spent on naval construction, was as follows : -
During 1913-14 Labour was out of office, and under the Government of which Sir Joseph Cook was the leader £2,546,000 was spent out of revenue on new works, buildings, &c. The figures for subsequent years were -
These figures show that it was the policy of the Labour party, so far as was possible, to meet the cost of new works out of Consolidated Revenue, and not out of loan moneys. One of the first things Labour did when it came into power in 1910, was to repeal the Naval Loan Act, which proposed to build the Australian navy out of loan funds, and it built the navy out of revenue.
– Did the Labour government make provision for a sinking fund for the repayment of its loans?
– I shall come to the sinking fund directly. The amount spent annually out of revenue on additions, new works, and buildings by the present Government, is as follows: -
It will be seen that the amount has diminished gradually, and that latterly almost the whole of this expenditure has been met from loan funds. In the five years that Dr. Page has been Treasurer, the expenditure out of revenue on additions, new works and buildings, has decreased by £2,356,000, proving conclusively that the present Government has seized every opportunity to finance works out of loan money and not out of revenue. And upon analysis, I venture to say that not all of the works upon which loan money has been spent are of a reproductive nature. I do not say that Australia can get along without borrowing. It would be foolish to take up that attitude; but this Government has gone to the other extreme, and is borrowing freely for everything. The gross debt of the Commonwealth is £461,000,000.
– Including moneys borrowed for the States.
– I admit all that.
– Why not deal with the net indebtedness of the Commonwealth ?
– If the Acting Leader of the Senate will give me a chance, I shall do so. It is evident that Dr. Page is now practising what he condemned as a private member.
I expected to be reminded of the existence of the sinking fund. We are told that in a certain number of years the national debt sinking fund will provide for the liquidation of our debts. But if that is so how is it that our net indebtedness does not decrease? On the 30th June. 1922, it stood at £339,000,000; to-day it is £341,000,000. It seems strange that whilst on the one hand we are told that the national debt sinking fund is reducing our debt, on the other we find our net debt and our gross debt increasing, our borrowing increasing and our interest bill increasing. When will the one overtake the other ? My only explanation is that the sinking fund is being taxed beyond its capacity. It is too severely handicapped. Like a horse carrying too much weight in a race, it cannot overtake the field. Our sinking fund is not commensurate with the liabilities we are incurring. I have already said that a State Premier was termed a disloyalist when he borrowed money in America, but we know now that the Commonwealth has also borrowed in America. Mr. Monell Sayre, a leading New York banker, speaking recently of Australian borrowing and the high rate of interest that Australia is paying for its loans, said: -
It seems to me that Australia is borrowing too much for current expenses.
And that is so; this Government is not pursuing a sane financial policy. I find in the columns of the press that support my friends opposite, particularly at election times, consistent condemnation of the borrowing policy of the present Government. The Age in a leading article said recently -
The truthis that, under the members who constitute the present cabinet, federal finance is becoming more and more chaotic.
We have been told that the people will soon be relieved of some of their taxation burdens; but while the man in the street has to foot the bill for the interest on our loans he cannot get relief from taxation. It is true that there have been a couple of reductions in the income and land tax, but it is only the richer people who have benefited, and not the men on the bread line. To meet her war obligations Great Britain imposed a super-tax on certain incomes - I believe it is still in existence - but Australia did not. As a result the workers have been obliged to bear a greater proportion of the burden of repaying the war debt than is borne by those who profited by the war. During those awful years of struggle we heard a good deal about the profiteer, the man who was amassing a fortune from the shedding of human blood. We were told that he would be called upon to bear a heavy share of the liquidation of the war debt. It is certainly true that for a while, and a very little while, we imposed a tax on war-time profits, but I venture to say that the profiteer has escaped his fair share of the burden of taxation, while the men and the dependents of the men who went away ro fight have had to pay more than their fair share. I claim, therefore, that the borrowing policy pursued by the Government is not beueficial to Australia.
In the schedule to thebill provision is made for £300,000 for advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees to assisted immigrants.I cannot see what justification the Government has for spending loan moneys for this purpose. From 1921 to 30th June, 1927, the Commonwealth paid £1,037,136 as free passage money to assisted immigrants. What have we to show for that expenditure, either in the number of migrants who have come to our shores, or by wayof an accession to productive work? Nothing at all. Yet we are asked to consent to a loan bill to appropriate £300,000 for passage money, landing money and medical fees of assisted migrants! During the same period the sum of- £372,661 was loaned to assisted migrants for passage money, landing money, and medical fees. Of that amount £206,906 has been repaid, leaving a balance outstanding of £165,755. With a wellconsidered scheme under which migrants were carefully selected, they could help to solve our problems. The existing system does not confer any benefit upon Australia. We have a Development and Migration Commission and a Departof Markets and Migration. A special officer recently left Australia to join the staff at Australia House. The High Commissioner, Sir George Pearce, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) have toured England in the interests of migration, yet no good results have accrued. Recently a deputation waited on the Premier of Victoria with the request that he should provide work for the unemployed in Melbourne. He replied that he did not have the money necessary to put in hand works that would afford relief.Yet the Commonwealth Government proposes to incur an additional expenditure in bringing to Australia migrants who will accentuate our . unemployed difficulty, as they have done in past years. That is a wrong practice. The policy of the Government should be first and foremost to see that Australians are provided with work. It could then assist migrants to come to Australia to take a part in the development of our natural resources. This expenditure out of loan funds cannot be termed reproductive. I shall be interested to learn in what way it has resulted in further productivity. I remind honorable senators that the money thus spent is not recoverable. When Dr.
Earle Page was a private member, be strongly denounced the expenditure of loan money to assist migration. He acted rightly. Since he became Treasurer, however, he has continued the practice which he then condemned. From 1921 up to the 30th June last £1,037,136 was expended in providing free passages for assisted migrants, and of the amount loaned £165,755 has not been repaid. Thus the Commonwealth is out of pocket to the extent of £1,202,891. A halt should be called to this extravagant policy that the Government is pursuing.
– Does the honorable senator believe that migrants add to the ranks of the unemployed?
– The migration systems under which we have been working for many years has accentuated the unemployed problem. Before bringing migrants to Australia we should make available land that is now locked up by land monopolists in the various States.
– How can that be done?
– By the imposition of an effective tax on the unimproved value of the land. The land monopolists will not till it, and, adopting a “ dog in the manger “ attitude, will not allow anybody else to do so. Until that land monopoly is destroyed and the land hunger of our people is satisfied, no system of migration will be of benefit to Australia.
– The figures show that the percentage of unemployed persons is gradually decreasing.
– I have studied those figures, and I have also had some experience in the handling of armies of unemployed men. I have seen amongst those men in Western Australia migrants who were assisted to come to Australia. Ostensibly they were brought out to go on the land, but within three or four weeks they returned to the city and sought employment as boiler makers, carpenters, engineers, and so forth. Although both Commonwealth and State money is expended upon migrants, they compete with Australian workmen in the labour market during the winter months.
– The honorable senator was brought out to Australia and competed with Australians for the work that was offering.
– I throw that back in the teeth of the honorable senator. I was not brought out to Australia ; I paid my way. I was very glad to come here, and I have never had any desire to leave.
– I did not say that the honorable senator was brought out as an assisted immigrant.
– The honorable senator did; I ask him not to make that statement again. I regard it as an insult.
– I did not mean the statement in the way the honorable senator has interpreted it.
– Does the honorable senator regard such a statement as a reflection on all assisted migrants ?
– I regard it as a reflection on myself; but I shall let it pass. The Government should call a halt in connection with loan expenditure, and so far as is possible, confine its borrowing to works of a reproductive nature.
– The major portion of the amount included in this bill is for various works to be undertaken for the postal department. The loan expenditure of that department for this year is estimated at about £4,000,000. To that I have no objection particularly as the department pays interest on the money borrowed and also provides a sinking fund. A considerable portion of the money is for extending telephonic and telegraphic communications in districts where such facilities are greatly needed. An even larger sum could with advantage be spent in that direction. My objection is not to the expenditure of the money but to the absence of information as to how it will be spent. There is nothing in the bill to indicate the nature of the works on which the money will be expended, or how much the various buildings are expected to cost. All the information it contains is that a sum exceeding £4,000,000 is to be spent in connexion Avith the Postal Department alone. Heads of the department like money to be voted in this way. In saying that, I cast no reflection on the present administration of the Postal Department. For the Postmaster General and his administration I have the highest regard; but those who have had experience know that in all big spending departments there are opportunities for extravagance and waste. One of the most effective checks against extravagance is for Parliament to control the expenditure. Parliament will not control the expenditure of this large sum of money. The department must know how it contemplates spending the money, otherwise the aggregate amount could not have been arrived at. The estimates having been prepared, it would not have caused much trouble to include the items in the bill. That might delay slightly the passing of the measure, but in dealing with it the Senate would know what it was doing, and honorable senators could ro some extent check the cost of the works later. It might happen that a building estimated to cost £10,000 would cost £15,000. If Parliament had agreed to only £10,000 being expended on it, parliamentary approval would have to be obtained before that amount could be exceeded. Thus Parliament would control the expenditure. But under the present system, if a building costs 50 per centmore than the estimate, . the money is taken from some other work. There might be a departmental, inquiry to ascertain the reason for exceeding the estimate, but Parliament would not know anything about it. In travelling throughout Australia I have often wondered what various public buildings and other works have cost, but usually no one has been able to tell me. We shall never know the cost of individual works if loan bills giving only a lump sum instead of the separate items are presented to Parliament.
– The amount to be appropriated under this bill is not over £4,000,000, as the honorable senator has suggested, but only £2,960,650.
– More than £4,000,000 is to be spent by .the postal department this year from loan. We have already appropriated over £1,115,000 under the first Loan Bill, and we are now dealing with a sum exceeding £2,900,000. The principle is the same whatever may be the amount included in the bill. I was referring to the year’s expenditure, which is estimated at £4,076,000. When ‘dealing with Loan Bill, No. 1, the’ Senate had before it no more information than it now has in connexion with this measure. My suggestion is that in dealing with a loan bill we should not have to seek information from the Minister, but that it should be definitely set out in the bill itself. The Minister is always courteous, and gives any information asked by honorable senators; but the information should be in the bill itself. Honorable senators would then know how much money was to be expended in certain directions, and could then approve or disapprove of the items We know that a number of new post office buildings will be erected, but we do not know their types or their cost. I have had some experience in introducing similar measures, and I suggest that in future loan bills the individual items be inserted so that Parliament will know what it is doing. The practice would provide a wholesome check on any mistakes that might occur.
– Has not the usual practice been followed in connexion with this bill?
– The practice of which I complain has been carried out for some time; but if a practice is a baa one,” the sooner it is altered the better. No head of a department will advocate a departure from the existing practice.
– To depart from it would unduly restrain his operations.
– Not at all. But it would give Parliament the control of public money, and that is what we are here to do.
– What does it matter whether portion of the money is to be spent at, say, Geelong, or somewhere else ?
– The information should be in the bill. Why should not the representative of a district where a post office is to be erected, know the nature of the proposed building and its estimated cost? We should not be satisfied to leave those matters in the hands of the heads of departments. At present members cannot find out what proposed works are likely to cost.
– The honorable senator suggests that the. schedule should contain a more detailed statement?
– The information should be more definite; the details should be given in the schedule to the bill.
– Is it not possible, if that were done, that the department would be tied down to a definite amount it? respect of a particular work set out?
– That is what I wish to see done. At present the department makes an estimate and adds probably 10 per cent, for contingencies. Why should it not be tie’d down to that amount? It has to make an estimate in order to arrive at the aggregate amount required. The only extra work entailed would be on the part of members of Parliament in examining the schedule.
– Is the honorable senator aware that what he suggests was* the practice formerly but that it was abandoned?
– If it was the practice of departments to do as I suggest, I regret very much that it was abandoned.
– If £(3,000 were set down for a work at Geelong and £4,000 for another work at Warrnambool, and if a department could not spend the full amount at Geelong, but required more for the Warrnambool work, would not both works be held up if the honorable senator’s suggestion was adopted.
– No, because if the full amount required for a particular work is not spent in one financial year, it can be expended in the next. These estimates, unlike the revenue estimates, are not submitted up to 30th June of each financial year. If the required amount were set out in the schedule it would be an extremely wholesome check on the department. Parliament should have an effective control over all expenditure..
– Surely the honorable senator does not expect that ?
– If we do not ask for it we shall not get it. As a rule, members of Parliament have not the faintest idea of the cost of certain work*. This is not because they are neglecting their duty, but because the information is not available to them.
– What would happen if the cost of a work were underestimated ?
– In that case the departmental officials would in the following year admit that a mistake was made and ask Parliament to authorize a further expenditure. We should then have an opportunity to ask for on explanation. I am not aware of the procedure in the Federal Parliament, but I know that what I am suggesting has been the practice in Tasmania, and that it has proved a wholesome check on extravagance. It is not derogatory to heads of departments to say that a certain amount of unnecessary expenditure is incurred in all departments; we know how difficult it is to check all items of expenditure. I have had some experience in this matter, and I know that I am on right lines in asking that Parliament should have a more effective control over expenditure. Therefore I commend my suggestion to the Government.
I have placed on the notice-paper certain questions with regard to wire-netting. I notice that there is an item of £100,000 for expenditure this year on that account. I have been asked over and over again by farmers why they cannot obtain netting, and I cannot tell them. There appears to be some difficulty between the Commonwealth and State Governments. I shall be glad if the Minister will make the necessary inquiries, and let me know what the trouble is.
The bill gives the Government authority to borrow money. I am aware that it is properly the prerogative of the Government to say where and’ how money shall be raised ; but all honorable senators are entitled to make suggestions. For my own part I hope that the money to be borrowed - under this bill will be obtained overseas. At present it is extremely hard to raise money in the Commonwealth for the development of secondary industries and agricultural operations. If, therefore, the Commonwealth Government goes on to the local market, the difficulties of the position will be accentuated. At present we have a conversion loan to meet. It is being offered at a higher rate than was the case in connexion with the last loan; because whilst the interest rate is the same, viz., 5¼ per cent., it is being floated at a discount of 30s. per cent.
– Is the Government asking for new money?
-That is a debatable point. The issue price gives a return of £511s. per cent. in respect of the shortest term, and as the loan is free of State income tax, it is equivalent to nearly six per cent. I know it will be argued that, as it is a conversion loan, it does not matter whether or not the Government is asking for new money, because if someone takes £100 out of the loan, someone else will . put £100 in. That is true to a certain extent, as a considerable amount of loose eash will, no doubt, be invested in the loan, but it is likely that many stockholders will fail to convert, because they have hypothecated the money for some other purpose, probably for reducing their overdrafts.
– What does matter is the difference in the rate of interest between the respective loans.
– That is true. The Government is setting the pace. Industrial concerns and farmers generally have the greatest difficulty in securing money to carry on their enterprises.
– But could the Treasurer make a better bargain in the market at the present time ?
– We have the soundest security in the world, and I believe the Treasurer can get all the money he wants without making the loan too attractive. It stands to reason that if investors realise that they can get practically six per cent. for money on what is acknowledged to be the best security in the world, industrial concerns and primary producers who are in need of accommodation to extend their operations, will find it more difficult to secure the necessary finance. I know of men who have the Greatest trouble in the world to get money, notwithstanding that their margin of security is. fully 50 per cent. of the amount asked for; and I believe that much of this difficulty is due to the policy of the Government in offering attractive terms for local money. It is much better to curtail borrowing altogether than to endeavour to obtain toomuch Government money in the local market. I have no knowledge that the Treasurer proposes to do this in respect of the sum to be borrowed under this bill, but I hope it is net his intention, because this is not a conversion loan - the money is required for the carrying out of certain public works. I think the terms of the conversion loan now being offered are too high, and certainly they are not fair to the people who put money in the last loan.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Treasurer would get the money on the old terms?
-If the issue price is not considered high, then it is equivalent to an admission that money is going up all round. Consequently industrialists and primary producers will have to pay more for their requirements, and as we all know, the f armers and pastoralists are not in a position to do that. If the Commonwealth is offering practically six per cent., other people will have to pay seven per cent. If the Treasurer intends to borrow money locally, he should take into account the positionof those who would be injured by that course, and make some provision to. allow them to get the money they require under the credit foncier, rural credits, or some other scheme. I wishit to be clearly understood that, although I may be criticising the financial policy of the Government, I am not doing so in a hostile spirit. I am speaking, as I think, in the interests of Australia.
– It does not matter very much whether the people are taxed through the State or through the Commonwealth Government, or through both. What does matter is the amount they are called upon to pay. The annual interest burden of the taxpayers of Australia is appalling. In Great Britain the interest bill is. in round figures, about £1,000,000 a day. It is a staggering load to carry. The amount which the Australianpeople have to pay in the form of interest on Federal and State loans is, approximately £1,000,000 per week. That is a fairly heavy burden to bear and. immediate action should be taken to reduce our responsibility in that regard. The financial experts opposite have always favored the old method of borrowing money abroad on which interest has to be paid for an indefinite number of years. I wish to again stress the point that when we borrow money in London or in New York, no money actually comes into the country. We receive only foreign goods.
– Surely that is not a discovery.
– Of course it is not. It is rather amusing to hear protectionists favoring overseas borrowing and at the same time advocating the local manufacture of all the goods we require. They do not seem to realize that only a limited quantity of goods can be used in the Commonwealth, and that goods manufactured in low wage foreign protectionist countries are imported into the Commonwealth, to the extent of our borrowing, to compete with Australian manufactures. Senator J. B. Hayes hopes that theTreasurer will obtain abroad the money required, but he seems to forget that if he does so an even larger quantity of foreign goods will be imported.
– He is a protectionist.
– No, he is a high revenue tariffist, and in advocating such a policy assists in misleading people. The honorable senator knows that when loans are floated abroad no money actually comes into the country, but that foreignmade goods are sent instead. Those who support such a policy are arrant humbugs.
– Can the honorable senator explain why importations increase under high Customs duties?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that this bill does not deal with Customs duties.
- Senator J. B. Hayes said that farmers and others find it difficult to secure the necessary financial accommodation, and that the money is not in the country. That statement is distinctly misleading. In the Commonwealth Gazette, No. 107, of the 6th inst., I find on page 2047 the statement that Australian notes of various denominations issued and not redeemed are of the value of £48,393,226 10s. Of that sum. £22,950,957 is held by the banks and £25,442,269 10s. by the public. Gold valued at £20,721,000 is also held. Why should we borrow abroad while the banks are holding £22,950,957 ?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that that amount is not in use?
– It is under the control of the banks, and is not being used.
– But it is earning interest.
– It is held against liabilities.
– It is held by the banks. In continuing its present borrowing policy, the Government is systematically robbing the people who have to meet the interest charges. Prior to the war, it was thought to be impossible to raise loans within the Commonwealth. It was also considered disloyal and objectionable to go outside the Empire for money. A State Premier was severely criticized when he floated a loan in New York; but it is now the policy of this Government to obtain financial accommodation in the United States of America. The amount now sought, in conjunction with that raised under Loan Bill (No. 1), will total £9,211,046. If £8,000,000 were required, it could be raised free of interest, and the debt liquidated without loss to the community. Honorable senators will remember when the Commonwealth Bank was established and an arrangement was made under which £5,000,000 was made available without the necessity of borrowing. Instead of going to the London or New York money market and paying heavy commission, advertising costs, and other incidental expenditure, the Government should, in this instance, ask the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to advance £S,000,000 free of interest, from the £22,950,957 held by the banks. I should like honorable senators to show where the scheme I have put forward is at fault. If the Commonwealth Bank agreed to make available an addition £8,000,000, notes to the value of £400,000 could be destroyed at the end of each twelve months. That would be at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum. Our present method is to borrow £S,000,000 in London and each year, for twenty years, to send to London goods valued at £400,000. But at the end of the twenty years nothing has been paid off the £8j000,000 and we are then obliged to refloat the loan, in all probability at a higher rate of interest, or take steps to convert it. Under the scheme I propose the £S,000,000 would be paid off in twenty years at the rate of £400,000 a year, and during the twenty years the Commonwealth would have the use of the money without the liability to send goods abroad in payment of interest.- We have a sinking fund, but as we are still borrowing, there is a steady advance in our indebtedness, which, to my mind, should be brought to an end. The scheme I have submitted is feasible feasible and would forever stop the payment of interest. It is a serious drain upon our resources that the Commonwealth Bank’s activities, and before a week in interest. When Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister and he proposed to issue Australian notes for a certain amount we were told by a number of wiseacres that these “ flimsies “ would be of no value, and that it could not be done. But now we find that we can buy as much for an Australian £1 note as we can for a sovereign. The reason is that the Australian bank note has behind it the credit of the Commonwealth. If there is any real desire on our part to minimize our enormous interest bill we should put into operation some other scheme than that which now obtains, and I invite financial experts on the other side of this chamber, if there are any, to show what is wrong with the scheme I have propounded. It is time we departed from the mischievious and out-of-date method of raising loans and adopted a policy whereby the payment of interest would be completely obviated.
– The honorable senator is advocating the manufacture of paper money.
– The Commonwealth already has paper money to the extent of £48,393,226 10s.
– But that has a gold backing.
– It has some gold behind it.
– To the extent of 40 per cent.
– But behind all that is the credit of the Commonwealth.
– There is a limit to the credit of the Commonwealth. We could not continue issuing bank notes indefinitely.
– That is quite true, and that is why I do not propose to stretch it unduly.. I propose merely to deal with the bill now before us and I suggest £S,000,000 which in twenty years with annual retirements of notes to the value of £400,000 would be completely wiped out. No doubt at a later date the scheme could be applied to other small loans. I shall be told, of course, that such an issue of notes would result in the inflation of the currency, but we have heard that talk so often that it passes by as so much empty wind.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the currency cannot be inflated?
– No; the currency could be inflated if we adopted some of the silly schemes that have been suggested, but I am only suggesting a paltry £S,000,000. Towards the end of this year the Treasurer will be issuing flaring posters throughout the Commonwealth and paying fabulous sums of money to various newspapers to advertise the fact that we want money for the payment of a Commonwealth loan which will then mature. The whole of that expense has to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers.
– But why docs the honorable senator limit his proposal to £S,000,000?
– Because the Government at the present moment does not want more than £7,000,000 odd, and I am going a little better, and making the amount £8,000,000 for the sake of having round figures.
– But if the scheme the honorable senator propounds is good for this year would it not also he good for next year?
– When Ave come to next year Ave may or may not extend the scheme. I have been told that when one of the Channel Isles put a similar scheme into operation to liquidate the payments involved in building a market it worked most satisfactorily. Whether that is so or not honorable senators must not forget that our weekly interest bill of about £1,000,000 is a serious drain on the people of Australia, and if any scheme can be devised to relieve us of that financial strain Ave ought to put it in operation. The present time is opportune for the Treasurer to abandon the old method of borrowing, and in this case adopt the scheme I have suggested, particularly when most of the works for which the money is intended are directly or indirectly revenue producing. Our indebtedness is almost unbearable. We know what has taken place in Russia. The public, in revolt against the payment of interest on the national debt of the country, has wiped it out altogether. We also know that in England quite recently, in order to avoid great trouble, arrangements were made to pay annually £60,000,000 in doles to those who could not find employment. Scheme after scheme of that sort has been put into operation, but the real basis of the trouble has not yet been touched. I make my suggestion believing that it is a good one, and commend it to the approval of honorable senators.
.- It is not my intention to attempt to- cross swords Avith the honorable senator who has resumed his seat, after endeavouring to make us believe that he is the only one in Australia who is an authority on financial matters. But in this respect I am of a conservative turn of mind, and judging by the experience of countries that have done what Senator Grant is now proposing Australia should do, if seems to me that Australia could very well leave his scheme alone. We have had a pretty good example in Russia and Germany of what can be done by issuing paper money ad lib.
– I did not suggest that.
– The honorable senator said that Ave should raise £8,000,000 in that Way. If such a principle were adopted it might lead to a further inflation of the note issue by a similar amount next month.
– Why not confine the sum to £8,000,000?
– That would not be possible if the precedent were established. We should soon have in Australia a repetition of the experience of other countries that have adopted such a policy.
– I do not propose that
Ave should go beyond the £8,000,000.
– A government would establish a very dangerous precedent if it took action along those lines. The opinion of those who have made a study of financial questions is that it is advisable to reduce rather than to enlarge the amount of paper money in circulation, and to keep the gold reserve well up to safe and desirable limits. 1
Senator Graham endeavoured to show that the Government Avas actively assisting, by its legislation, to bring Southern Europeans and other foreigners to Australia. The assertion is not of recent origin. It Avas made frequently throughout the length and breadth of New South Wales during the election campaign which has just concluded in that State, and which fortunately led to the return of a commonsense Government. The object always has been to discredit the Com.monwealth Government. Senator Findley waxed wrath whilst he was discussing’ the matter; but we recognize that his anger Avas more simulated than real. Hetried to make the public believe that the Commonwealth Government was encouraging Italian migration.
– It is not doinganything to discourage it.
– I am glad to havesuch a statement from the Leader of the:
Opposition, because it must carry some weight by virtue of the position that he holds in this chamber. If he took the trouble to ascertain the facts, he would find that a tremendous effort has beer. made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Government to discourage in every possible way the migration to Australia of foreigners. The Leader of the Opposition is aware that Queensland has suffered probably to a greater extent than any other State as a result of the influx of foreign migrants. Some time ago a great friend of Senator Needham - Mr. Jock Garden, of Sydney -
– Who says he is a friend of mine ?
– Mr. Jock Garden stated definitely that this Government was actively assisting foreign migrants to come to Australia so that the wages of our workers would be reduced, and their conditions adversely affected. On numerous occasions the Prime Minister, at public meetings that he has addressed in different parts of Australia, has referred to the volume of correspondence which has passed between bis Government and the Consuls of these 1 countries, with a view to discouraging foreign migration. We must not lose sight of the fact that many of those who have come to Australia in recent years fought side -by side with our soldiers in the Great War. I do not, however, advance that as a reason for unrestricted migration.
– They are keeping some of our returned soldiers out of employment.
– Senator Needham makes that statement for propaganda purposes. If he will study the statistics, he will find that when migration, foreign and otherwise, was in active operation the number of unemployed did not increase but, on the contrary, in some years decreased. The amount set aside by the Governments of Great Britain and Australia to assist migration to this country does not benefit to the extent of one farthing any person who lives outside the British Empire. It is as well that the general public should be made aware of that, because it rebuts the statement which is continually made th r.t foreign migration to Australia is being assisted by the British Government.
– It has not discouraged foreign migration to the extent that it should.
– Probably not in the way that the honorable senator would like to see it discouraged. The Commonwealth Government has done everything possible, short of taking action that might lead to international complications, to discourage it.
– The honorable senator is aware that the fear of raising international complications is merely a bogey.
– An act of this Parliament lays it down that those who come to Australia must possess at least £40. Many foreigners who have failed to meet that requirement, have not been permitted to land. The figures relating to the net gain to Australia by the excess of arrivals over departures during the last three years show that there is no fear that the British preponderance in our population is in any danger of dilution. We claim that at the present time 98 per cent, consists of pure British stock. Sena tor Graham is prepared to lower that figure to 90 per cent.
– The honorable sena tor has mis-read my speech
– I do not wish to wrong the honorable senator; but T thought he made it clear that he was prepared tr. allow the foreign element in our midst to be increased from 2 per cent, to 10 per cent. The figures in relation to excess of arrivals over departures are as follow : -
During this session honorable senators opposite have frequently expressed alarm at the number of Italian migrants who are coming to Australia. Lit us contrast that with the unedifying spectacle which was witnessed in Sydney a few weeks ago, when hundreds of good Australian workmen were called away from their work and marched past the Cenotaph in Martin Place as a protest against the execution in America of two Italian murderers. Many of those men lost their employment as the result of that action. In the light of that demonstration, honorable senators opposite are not consistent when they op pose the migration to Australia of Italians who pay their own fares to Australia, and are proving desirable citizens.
– A very inconsistent attitude to adopt.
– Senator Needham challenged my statement that when the flow of migrants to Australia was greatest unemployment was at its lowest point. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show that during the three or four years immediately prior to the outbreak of the Great War, when the percentage of migrants to the population was probably greater than it has ever been, unemployment was lower than at any other time in our history. The quarterly returns of the trades hall authorities in the several States, giving the number of unionists unemployed, show that for the years 19-25, 1926, a«d 1927 the percentage of unemployed unionists to the total membership of the various unions has decreased. For New South Wales the respective figures were 11.5 per cent., 7.5 per cent., and 6.S per cent.; for Victoria, 9.8 per cent., 7.1 per cent., and 6.S per cent.; for Queensland, 6.5 per cent., 4.3 per cent., and 5.5 per cent.; for South Australia, 4.8 per cent., 4.4 per cent., and 5.6 per cent. ; for Western Australia, 6.1 per cent., 6.7 per cent., and 4.4 per cent. ; and for Tasmania 11.2 per cent., 14.2 per cent., and 6.8 per cent. Taking Australia as a whole, thepercentage of unemployed unionists to the total membership of the unions decreased from 9.4 per cent, in 1925 to 6.7 per cent, in 1926, with a further reduction to 6.4 per cent, in 1927. It will therefore be seen that, although Australia’s net gain from migration in 1927 was 50,28S persons, as compared with 44,686 in 1925, the ratio of unemployment decreased from 9.4 per cent, to 6.4 per cent. Notwithstanding that Italians comprise the majority of the non-British European migrants, the Italian Government, with its highly organised immigration’ depart ment, acting in conjunction with the Italian Consular Service in Australia, takes care to see that Italian migrants are not permitted to leave for Australia unless there is a reasonable prospect of their securing employment on arrival. Because of the feeling in Australia that Italian migration should be restricted, the Italian Government has issued a new set of regulations, which provide that Italians may only enter Australia to join close relatives or to work under definite contracts. Those regulations, which came into operation on the 1st August last, will, in the opinion of the authorities here, reduce Italian migration by about 50 per cent. While we all desire that Australia should be peopled by Britishers, we should not forget that in the past numbers of migrants have come here from Germany, and proved themselves admirable settlers. Many of them settled in the farming districts of Queensland long before the Great War, and often their sons fought side by side with the sons of British parents in the Australian Imperial Forces. For the most part those German settlers have proved worthy of the land of their adoption. It is true that in parts of Queensland large numbers of Italians have settled; but, in view of the action recently taken by the Italian Government there need be no fear that Australia’s British-born population will fall below the 98 per cent, at which it now stands. For political reasons the opponents of the Government constantly complain of the large influx of foreigners to Australia; but they take care not to quote the statist’s figures. The Government and its supporters are as anxious as are honorable senators opposite to provide work for Australians, to maintain the present standard of living, and as far as possible to people Australia with Britishers. Honorable senators opposite cannot claim a monopoly of patriotism. When they advocate that migration should cease until every Australian has been found employment, they overlook that Australia is a vast continent, which cannot be developed unless it is peopled. We owe a great deal to the Mother Country, and it is not unreasonable -to “expect that in return we shall extend the hand of welcome to our kith and kin from overseas.
.- The discussion on this bill seems to have centred on the Government’s migration policy, whereas the measure before us contemplates the borrowing of a sum of money for various purposes.
– Including migration.
– For migration the sum of £300,000 is to be set aside. The question arises whether the money to be borrowed should be obtained in Australia or elsewhere. The Treasurer will, no doubt, seek the advice of financial experts before completing the negotiations for the loan. In consequence of the present season not being so good as we expected earlier in the year, a number of primary producers will probably require financial assistance. If we strain the local money market we shall injure our primary producers. A large percentage of the money to be obtained will be expended on reproductive works. Although a large sum is to be appropriated for postal purposes, the Postal Department, as now managed, is a satisfactory business undertaking, in addition to being a great public utility. Money spent in extending our telephonic and telegraphic services will assist to develop the country and keep the people on the land. Unfortunately, conditions in Australia tend towards centralization. In some States more than half of the population is centred in the capital cities. The policy of the Postal Department should, to a certain extent, check the drift of people from the country to the cities. We cannot evade our obligations arising out of the war. We must do all we can for the men who left Australia to fight for their King and country. I feel sure that no honorable senator will raise any objection to all legitimate expenditure incurred on their behalf.
The debate on this Loan Bill, I repeat, has been directed chiefly at the Government’s migration policy. I have studied the position very carefully, and find that, for the last seven months of this year, the total of arrivals from overseas was 63,264. Of that number 52,394 were British, and 10,870 were immigrants from 30 European countries. During the same period the departures totalled 39,362, and included 35,496 British and 3,866 other Europeans. The net gain to Australia for the period mentioned was 23,902. Of that number only 7,004 were migrants of foreign extraction. These figures show that we are maintaining our presentstandard of racial purity and keeping this country British as much as possible: the more British we have here the better.
The expenditure under the Home and Territories Department is chiefly for properties upon which, if necessary, the Government could realize. The same may be said of the expenditure under the Defence Department, one of the principal items being £100,000 towards cost of construction of buildings and works generally foi’ the production of munitions at Maribyrnong and Footscray, Lithgow and Wakefield. Under the Department of Trade and Customs, the principal expenditure is for lighthouses, which, as honorable senators will admit,, are very necessary to ensure the protection of shipping around our coasts. Under Works and Railways there is a contemplated expenditure of £1,345,000, to further the Government’s policy- to provide railway facilities for people in Central and Northern Australia. The United States of America, in its earlier years, was in much the same position that Australia occupies to-day. Railway construction work was undertaken to induce the people to settle on the land, instead of requiring them to face all the hardships of a pioneering life and then come, cap in hand, to the Government with requests for railway communication. The present policy is a sound one, because it is calculated to open up large areas for production. Under the Department of Health the expenditure proposed is £36,000 for serum and health laboratories and acquisition of properties and sites. This depart- ment is a most valuable one. The health of the people is of paramount importance. We need have no fear as to our future progress if our people are healthy. Cancer, tuberculosis, and other kindred scourges are causing the authorities grave concern. Unfortunately, tuberculosis has levied a heavy toll upon the people of Australia. Owing to faulty ventilation in so many mines, in former years, mining was an exceedingly unhealthy occupation. Happily tuberculosis appears to be declining, but, on the other hand, the mortality rates for cancer are steadily rising. Research work in connexion with all such diseases is of the greatest importance. Most of the expenditure contemplated under the bill is for works of a reproductive character, and it is only reasonable that posterity should bear its share of the burden.
– Several honorable senators who preceded me directed their attention to expenditure in connexion with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which is rendering an important service to the people of this country. A few days ago an official of the department, in giving evidence before a committee of which I happened to be a member, stated that some years ago the telephonic branch of the department was highly profitable ; but as a result of heavy expenditure for the extension of telephonic services throughout country districts all over Australia the revenue now was not sufficient to meet expenditure. No honorable senator will object to the policy because it means so much to the people in our country districts.
I direct attention to the recent report submitted by the Wireless Commission and the recommendations made by that body. The evidence disclosed that “ A “ stations in the principal capital cities have practically a monopoly of the revenue from listeners’ licence-fees. The complaint is that they are not rendering an adequate service, and that those who control those stations are using them to further their own interests. It is undesirable that the “A” stations which derive such a handsome revenue from licence-fees should be allowed to broadcast advertisements. This field of income should b°. reserved for the “ B “ stations. I happen to be very well acquainted with the people connected with one “ B “ station, and I know that their principal object is not to make profits but to give a good service to the people, especially those in country districts. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not interfere in any way with the work which such stations are doing.
I should like te offer an apology to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham). During his remarks on migration this afternoon I made an interjection which I fear was misunderstood. What I intended to convey was that if the honorable senator, who was himself a mechanic, had been brought to Australia under any migration scheme he would have been an excellent investment. Much of the developmental work in Australia has been done not so much bytralians as by British migrants. Therefore we should always be ready to welcome any British mechanics who may be induced to come to Australia. As the Leader of the Opposition came to Australia at his own expense and succeeded, he and other honorable senators opposite should not object to others having a similar opportunity. Even when a member of the Labour party I could not understand their opposition to migrants coming to Australia. I know their attitude is largely due to the pressure brought upon them by their supporters. This opposition to migration is humbug, seeing that Australia can, I think, absorb all the mechanics and unskilled labourers of our own race who care to come here. Even, if the supply of labour is temporarily in excess of the demand, I believe that they will succeed, and assist in making Australia prosperous. As many of those opposing the Government’s immigration policy were themselves immigrants, I cannot understand why they adopt a dog-in-the-manger attitude. In portions of Queensland and New South Wales unsatisfactory seasonal conditions have been experienced ; but that is merely a passing phase, and is not unusual in Australia. Immigration will not have the effect of lowering wages as some suggest, because under our present arbitration system that is impossible. The wages and conditions of workmen are fixed by the court, and not by the employer. The Leader of the Opposition, like myself, came to Australia as an immigrant, and as we have succeeded surely others should be given an opportunity to do the same. I trust the Leader of the Opposition will accept my explanation, as I had not the slightest intention of saying anything offensive.
– I accept the honorable senator’s explanation.
– I support the opinion expressed by Senator J. B. Hayes that sufficient information has not been supplied to honorable senators concerning the items and the amounts to be expended. Under the Department of Trade and Customs provision is made for certain expenditure on lighthouses, including the upkeep of vessels engaged on construction work, &c. In this connexion I wish to bring under the notice of the Government the urgent need for more lighthouses on the north-west coast of Western Australia, which mariners agree is one of the most inadequately lighted coasts in the world. In the absence of details, I do not know what provision is made in the bill for this work. I realize that additional lighthouses have been constructed on that coast, but there is still urgent need for more. The Government should also take into immediate consideration the matter of a new marine survey of that coast. Navigators are at present depending upon charts based on soundings taken in 1 820, which are altogether unreliable. For instance, the charts show that in King’s Sound, near the entrance to the Gulf at Derby, the water breaks 911 a rock at low water, whereas in fact the rock is standing 15 feet out of the water at high water. There is a rise and fall of the tide on that coast of over 30 feet. Under the Department of the Treasury provision is made for the expenditure of £1,322,000 on the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway, the engineering estimates, of which I understand have been largely exceeded. Twelve months ago £3,000,000 was voted by Parliament towards the cost of constructing the line. The Commonwealth and the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales are parties to the contract. Each contributes towards the cost of the work; but I do not know whether the agreement provides that if by legislative enactment any party to it increases the cost of the work it shall bear the whole of such increased cost. If no such provision has been made in this instance it should be in similar contracts in the future. Provision is also made in the schedule for a large number of new post offices.
– Hear, hear !
– I agree with the honorable senator that additional post offices are necessary. A large number should be provided, particularly in Western Australia, where the agricultural industry is rapidly expanding. Many districts, which a few years agowere sparsely populated, but are now becoming closely settled, have only allowance post offices. I understand that the postal regulations provide that when the revenue of an allowance office reaches £400 a year an official office may be provided; but if in such circumstances an official office isasked for, the departmental reply isusually to the effect that the provision of such a post office is not compulsory. The revenue from the Morowa, Perenjori, and Pithara post offices ranges from £800 to £1,000 a year each, and is likely to increase materially in the near future, because settlement is only now beginning. Residents in these and other similar localities, however, are compelled to conduct their postal business in shops. That is not satisfactory. I do not suggest that those in charge are not rendering a satisfactory service; but, as every one knows, those conducting allowance offices in their business premises have an unfair advantage over their competitors. In the course of their duties they are able to obtain information which others in a similar business cannot.
I recognize that if provision were made to meet the cost of all urgent works, £70,000,000, instead of £7,000,000 would be needed. I bring these matters under notice in the hope that something will be done to bring about improvement’s as speedily as possible.
– I heartily concur in the adverse comments of honorable senators with regard to the way in which this bill has been presented. Even if details were not furnished in the bill itself, it would be a decided advantage to us if more (particulars were given by the Minister in moving the second reading. Fuller details as to the manner in which the money was proposed to be spent would enable honorable senators to keep in touch with works, more particularly those in their own States. Let me take the Murray Waters Scheme as an example. When the scheme was first launched and the Commonwealth agreed to be jointly responsible with certain States, for the carrying out of what was’ undoubtedly a national undertaking, it was estimated that it would “ cost between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000.
– The honorable senator is aware that since then the scheme has been considerably amended.
– I am aware that the capacity of the Hume reservoir has been considerably increased, but that fact does not account for the enormously increased expenditure now involved in completing the scheme. I make due allowance for the increase in the cost of labour, the rate of interest, and the cost of material, but the responsible officers to whom we look for guidance in such matters, should have been able to give us a more approximate estimate of the cost of the work which it is now admitted by the Minister for “Works and Railways will involve an expenditure of £14,000,000. No private individual or company would tolerate such a thing - a work costing nearly three times what it was at first estimated to cost. We have no guarantee even now that the expenditure will not amount to £20,000,000. The work was originally estimated to cost under £5,000,000. Allowing £2,000,000, an extravagant figure, for the cost of increasing the capacity of the Hume w7eir, there still remains £7,000,000 to be accounted for on the estimate now given by the Minister for Works and Railways.
– It shows the advisability of doing the work by contract.
– There is certainly nothing to indicate that the £14,000,000 will not be increased in the ratio by which the original £5,000,000 has been exceeded over the five years during which the work has been in progress. If in dealing with a bill like this, we had before us the estimates framed by those who had advised the Government, we should be in a position to submit questions to the Minister in charge of the measure, and the Minister himself would be able to explain why any particular estimate had been exceeded. We are dealing with the money of the people. It is our duty as custodians of the public purse and as representatives of those who have sent us here to safeguard the public expenditure, as we would safeguard our own personal interests. We must ask ourselves, therefore, if we are justified in voting large sums of money for public works without requiring that public tenders shall be invited. The calling for tenders for such works is a useful check on the officers who prepare estimates for submission to Parliament. There is no desire on my part to impute any wrong motives to those officers, but they must know from experience that it costs much more to have work done by day labour that it does to have it done by contract. They must also know that in their estimates they are obliged to make a substantial allowance for any work that is proposed to be done by day labour. The Murray waters scheme is not an exception. The remarks I have made apply to other works.
– Does the honorable senator assert that it is more costly to have work carried out by day labour ?
– I do. If the honorable senator were spending a large sum of his own money he would call for competitive prices, and have the work carried out by contract. My experience and that of other honorable senators is that one undoubtedly gets a better result by letting a contract than by having work done by day labour.
I submitted a question the other day relating to the acceptance of tenders for the supply of 120,000 arms for telegraph poles. A tender for stringybark from Tasmania was 7$d. an arm cheaper tha ti the accepted tender, but the PostmasterGeneral’s reply to my question was : -
The explanation is due to the difference in class of timber from the point of view of suitability for our special work. The lowest tender was for stringybark, whilst the accepted tender was for jarrah.
Jarrah may be an exceptionally good’ timber, but it is extraordinary that the Department of the Postmaster-General should only now have made the discovery that stringybark is unsuitable for arms for telegraph poles.
– The answer does not say that stringy bark is unsuitable.
– I cannot say what the Postmaster-General wishes to infer by the use of the word a “suitability for our special work” Tenders were submitted in the ordinary way for arms for telegraph pole?, and to justify his acceptance of a tender 7½d. an arm dearer than the tender submittedby Tasmanian millers the PostmasterGeneral says that jarrah is more suitable for the department’s special work.
– Does not stringybark split very easily?
– In every part of Australia it is regarded as a wood suitable for special kinds of work. When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) was asked to have the duty on soft woods increased he replied that the Tasmanian hardwood was suitable for special work, and he, therefore, thought it was inadvisable to use it for ordinary building purposes. The inference to be gathered from the reply, which was given to my question, is that it is not suitable for the manufacture of telegraph arms, although it has been devoted to that purpose for many years.
– The Postal Department is paying an additional £3,750 to get jarrah.
– I should like the Minister to inform me whether jarrah is to be used generally throughout Australia, including Tasmania?
Provision has been made for an expenditure of £5,700 on civil aviation. In what way is that money to be allocated? I trust that the claims of Tasmania will not be overlooked.
I agree with those who argue that in the raising of new loans the Government ought not to exhaust the resources of the local market. I recognize, of course, that there is a certain amount of surplus money awaiting investment in Australia, and that the policy of making interest payments to our own people has a great deal to commend it; but we must not disregard the tightness of the money market and the difficulty that is experienced by those who are engaged in primary production in obtaining additional capital for further development. Every loan that is raised on the local market by either the Commonwealth or the States must accentuate that position. We should limit our borrowing to the minimum amount necessary. Our interest bill is increasing rapidly, and additional burdens will have to be placed upon taxpayers to enable us to meet our commitments. The Government should as far as possible finance worksout of revenue rather than from loan funds. When money is readily available, there is always the danger that works which are not directly reproductive will be undertaken. The conversion loan that is now on the market will carry a rate of interest substantially higher than what is now being paid. Australia’s prosperity depends largely upon primary production, and we should hesitate before placing further burdens upon it.
[5.59]. - It was refreshing to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) and his followers object to borrowing.
– I did not object to borrowing except for non-productive works.
-None of the money which has been borrowed in the last five years has been expended on non-productive works. I believe the honorable senator’s chief desire was to score off the Government, not to make suggestions for the improvement of our financial position. If he is concerned regarding excessive borrowing in Australia, I suggest that he should use his influence to endeavour to curtail it in those States that have a Labour Government. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has shown that since 1922 the net debt of the Commonwealth has increased by £2,000,000. The dead-weight war debt was reduced by £36,000,000, and we borrowed approximately £38,000,000, which was invested in reproductive works. During that period also the population of Australia increased by 600,000 persons; consequently the net debt was reduced by £6 per head of population.
– The Minister’s figures are wrong.
– The net debt on 30th June, 1927, was £340,978,952. I have added an amount of £25,632,553, which is repayable in cash to the Treasury, making the total approximately £366,000,000. The £25,632,553 has been invested in War Service Homes and similar reproductive works. On the 30th June, 1922, the net debt was £364,000,000. Between 1922 and 1927 the population increased by 600,000 persons. Therefore, the reduction per head of population was approximately £6; and an unproductive debt of £36,000,000 was converted to a productive one. The £21,000,000 invested in the post office is returning not only the interest chargeable to it, but also a 30s. per cent. sinking fund. The sinking fund provided is quite sufficient to enable those assets which have a short life to be paid for before they become of no further use. It is an exceedingly creditable performance for the Government to have improved the financial position to such an extent.
Senator Needham also complained that the Government was borrowing for migration purposes. Every migrant who is brought to Australia is an asset to the country, because through him we increase our products and consequently our wealth. That is obvious. There is no reason why this item should not be charged to loan. Of the amount to be borrowed for migration purposes, a proportion will be repaid to the Treasury.
– A very small amount.
– Some of it will be recovered from the British Government and some from the migrants themselves. Senator Needham should have made himself conversant with the facts, and not have made such rash statements.
asked whether the post office pays interest on the money borrowed and also provides for a sinking fund. It does both.
Senator Herbert Hays referred to the lack of detailed items in the schedule. The present procedure has been adopted because in the past when the various items were included money not expended on works for which provision was made could not. be utilized elsewhere. It is proposed to raise overseas the moneys to be appropriated by this bill.
Senator J. B. Hayes said that the price of the conversion loan now being floated was too high. I point out that it was fixed only after careful investigation by the Government in consultation with its experts. The price is such that the flotation of the loan is assured.
Senator Grant referred to the interest bill of the Commonwealth, which he said is £1,000,000 a week. In order to reduce the amount paid by way of interest the Australian Loan Council was created. With only one authority negotiating the loans, the rate of interest is not likely to be so high as would be the case with the various States competing for the money. The Loan Council meets periodically, and after consultation with experts, determines the rate of interest which shall be offered for the loans to be raised.
– What happens if the money cannot be obtained at the rate of interest offered ?
– The rate offered is not decided upon until after the fullest investigation has been made.
Senator Reid referred to the telephones in the country being a charge on the post office. An officer of the department is now in the United States of America studying automatic telephones with a view to their installation in country districts. If it can be done economically the department will instal automatic telephones in such districts.
Senator Carroll referred to the cost of the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway being greatly in excess of the estimate. I point out that, in consequence of an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, that the States should build the railway for the amount of their estimate, the extra cost will not be a charge on the Commonwealth.
– Was that not to have been the position with regard to the River Murray waters scheme?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.No. Senator Carroll also urged that more post office buildings should be erected in country districts of Western Australia. The policy of the department is to extend services rather than to build post offices.
The people in the country will he better served by an extension of the existing services than by the erection of post-office buildings. In England, even in towns of considerable size, the post office is frequently situated in a local store, with the storekeeper as postmaster. To erect post offices and residences in all the larger towns of Australia would cost an enormous sum of money, and prevent the extension of the services which the people require.
-Where the revenue justifies it, are official post offices provided?
– Yes. The original estimate for the control of the Murray waters was £5,000,000. That estimate, however, was made before the war. Since then constructional costs and prices of material have increased considerably. Moreover, the capacity of the Hume dam has. been increased by 2,000,000 acre feet.
– I mentioned that.
– The policy of the Government is to have all these works, if possible, clone by contract. It will then know what a work will cost, and how long it will take.
Reference has been made to the action of the department in not accepting the lowest tender for arms for telegraph poles. In such matters we can safely rely upon the officers of the department using the timber most suitable for the work. Senator Herbert Hays suggested that stringy bark was equal to jarrah for the purpose.
– They are both hardwoods.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.I feel sure that the departmental officers would not recommend the acceptance of a higher tender without good reasons.
– It would be interesting to know the reasons for accepting the higher tender.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.I shall see the Minister and endeavour to obtain the report of his officers.
The £5,700 set down for civil aviation is to provide aerodromes, regular and emergency landing grounds, and various buildings on our air routes. Most of the amount will be spent on the projected air routebetween Perth and Adelaide.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £230,000.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia [6.24]. - In directing attention to the item £300,000 for advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees of assisted immigrants - including £70,000 provided under Loan Bill No. 1- I should like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the apology tendered to me a little while ago by Senator Reid in connexion with an incident that took place during my speech on the second reading of the bill, and when I was dealing with the Government’s migration policy. I realize that the honorable senator did not mean what I thought he meant by hia interjection, to which I took exception at the time. During the past few days I have put a series of questions to the Ministry relating to the cost of the Government’s migration policy, and I have ascertained that over a number of years £1,037,163 has been advanced on account of passage money, medical fees, &c., and that the repayments by migrants have totalled £206,900. We are now asked to provide another £300,000 for the same purpose. Up to the present I have not been informed how many migrants have been brought to Australia as a result of this expenditure, and how many have come out to each State. I am still waiting for that information. Senator Foll took up the challenge from this side of the Chamber on the subject of foreign migration. He stated that the majority of the foreigners referred to have come from Italy, one of our allies during the war. I remind Senator Foll that the presence of Italian migrants has been responsible for unemployment amongst Australian returned soldiers.
– That is not correct.
– The latest figures show that unemployment is decreasing.
– That may be so to some extent, but it does not dispose of my contention that Italian migrants have displaced Australian returned soldiers in certain avenues of employment. In the first six months of 1926 the net excess of Italian arrivals over departures was 805, and in the first six months in 1927 th e excess - comprised of Italians - was 2,996.
– None of the money provided for in this bill will be used to assist foreign migrants.
– I am aware of that.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
– In the matter of Italian immigration, the net excess of arrivals over departures for the first six months of 1926 was 805, and for the first six months of this year the figures were 2,996. In 1924 the figures were 4.971; in 1925. 5,762; and 1926, 3,921, or an average for the three years 1924 to 1926 inclusive of, roughly, 5,000. In South Australia and Western Australia the situation is particularly acute.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– That Italian migrants should not be permitted to land here while we have so many unemployed.
– That would involve discrimination.
– The question of international relationship does not arise. Mussolini has stated that he does not wish the Italian people to leave their own country. The Government should prevent Italians landing in Australia until our own people are placed.
– But these men place themselves.
– Yes ; to the disadvantage of Australian workers.
– Would the honorable senator be in favour of placing a similar restriction upon Scandinavians?
– I am speaking for the moment of Southern Europeans.
– But they are members of unions.
– Yes. When they come to Australia we have to extend to them the rights of citizenship. As there is no fear of international complica tions arising, the Government should take drastic action to prevent such a large influx of Southern Europeans.
Senator REID (Queensland [8.5].- The question of foreign immigration affects Queensland perhaps more than any other State. It was said that the recent industrial trouble at the South Johnstone mill in Queensland was due to the presence of certain Italians. I was in the South Johnstone district during the strike and am able to say that the number of Italians concerned in the dispute was infinitesimal. Why do Australian sugar cane-growers sell their farms at high prices to Italians? They are not compelled to dispose of their properties to foreigners. The plantations have been sold in many instances because the owners have been harassed by the Australian cane-cutters. If they had been fairly treated by the Australian cane-cutters the Italians would not have been able to purchase plantations. The Italians realise the value of co-operation. Many of those who came to Queensland possessed little money and commenced cane cutting. When the season was over they pooled their funds, paid a deposit on a plantation, and then worked it on a co-operative basis. During their spare time they took contracts on other plantations in order to obtain more money. They have always been willing to work, and by their industry have allowed the cane growers to keep their contracts with the mill owners. It is useless denouncing the Italians who are coming to Australia, as they are doing their work well, and not giving any trouble. Their womenfolk are often employed to do the cooking for the men.
– Is the Italian a better man for the State than an Australianborn citizen.
– I say, definitely and clearly, that according to information supplied to me, the Italian is more reliable as a cane-cutter than is the ordinary gang of cane-cutters. That is the opinion held by those who employ them. There has been no sweating; they are paid the award rates, and carry out their work under the inspection of officers.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Italian is better than the Australian as a workman?
– I am not saying that ; but repeat that the persons who employ them say that they are more reliable as cane-cutters than the others.
– There are other industries in which they are engaged.
– This money is not to be spent on foreign immigration.
– I am aware of that; but it has been said that the Government is giving preference to foreigners in the matter of immigration. Police magistrates and others in North Queensland say that the Italians are sober men, and are seldom seen hanging about the townships. . All the cane-cutters are members of the Australian Workers Union, otherwise the workers at the mills would not handle the cane. A. member of the Australian Workers Union, in giving evidence before a royal commission on Alien Immigration, said -
In ray opinion, the Italian is a man who will stick up for his rights. He does his work well, and I should say that an Italian is as good a unionist as any other class of workman. . . . The Italian members of the union are loyal to the union. They are anxious to carry out the awards and laws of the country. The Italian does not wish to work more than eight hours a day. Every member of the union demands the full rates laid down by the award. As far as I know, the Italians do not under-cut the rates of the sugar award.
An organizer of the A.W.U. who was organizing the Italians, told me that in their camps they lived very much better than the average British cane- cutters. I have seen few men of any other nationalities in the cane fields who were better specimens of humanity, physically, than the Italian cane-cutters. There are few weeds among the latter ; they are well fed and well clothed ; they are a fine speciman of manhood to bring to Australia. I have no racial prejudices, but I stand second to none in my pride in my own race and in my desire that people of my own race should come to Australia. How- “ ever I do not shut my eyes to the fact that Italians can set us an example in the matter of co-operation. The way in which by mutual effort they acquire farms and start industries is a most valuable lesson to Australians.. In any case the British race is not as pure as some think it is.
I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the proposed vote.
– The .British race is a mixture, and a blending of the British with the Italian would not be bad. We have, anyhow, a strong strain of the Romans who invaded Britain. I have such faith in the Anglo-Saxon stock that I think it is strong enough to combat any vicious features that might be feared from a blending with the Italian race. If we could absorb a little of that spirit of co-operation that is possessed by the Italians, and is not acquired in a clay or a week, it would not be a bad thing for Australia. In this talk about the migration of Southern Europeans there is a great deal of gallery play and a great deal of appeal to the passions of the people. We are all anxious to see maintained in Australia the present proportion of British-born. lt. will not be interfered with by a slight admixture of people from Southern Europe.
– Why should we have a black and white race.
– I do not know that any Europeans can be called black. I stand for the upholding of the British race; but that is not to say that I think the British race has all the virtues. I would welcome to Australia men of any nationality physically fit and capable of becoming absorbed in the community as good citizens of this country, and willing to obey our laws. There is an immense lot of humbug indulged in about this question, and prejudice is often uppermost in our minds. When the matter is considered fairly, Ave must realize that there is no danger of a mixture of races detrimental to the future well-being of Australia. If our friends opposite would only be as strong in their support of people of the British race coming to this country and developing it, as they are in their prejudice against Italians, they would not need to trouble about the migration .-f the latter. Our own people would give us all the population we need. But if we do not populate our country with people of our own race, we cannot help our vacant spaces being filled by people of other races.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
[8.20]. - I do not know how this discussion arises on the proposed vote now before us. Not one penny of the money is to be devoted to foreign migration - it is solely for the purpose of assisting migrants from Great Britain - yet Senator Needham has raised the question of foreign migrants. No foreign migrant enters Australia unless he pays his own passage, and has in his possession £40 on landing here, so that he will not be a charge on the State. Statistics show that at the present time the proportion of Britishers in Australia is 98 per cent., and according to the latest figures in regard to births, 98per cent. of the children born in Australia are ofBritish parentage. There is no indication that this very large proportion of Britishers is being interfered with. Senator Needham has tried to prove that the Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to encourage people of other than British origin to come to Australia. On the contrary, every effort has been made to discourage the migration of such people. We, however, cannot put a ring fence around our continent and prevent every one from coming here. After all, the Italian belongs to a very old civilization, a much older civilization than the British, and he is as white as we are. But while honorable senators opposite attack the Government in regardto foreign migration, they are opposed to all forms of migration to this country. I question whether we havea moral right to prevent white people from coming to such a large country as we possess, seeing that it is so sparsely populated, whereas a very large part of the old world is thickly populated. It is an obligation on us to see that our country is populated and developed, and it is an obligation on the Government to see that the people who come to Australia have employment. The Government holds that development should precede migration, and it is doing all it possibly Can to open up the great resources of this Continent, so that when people arrive here they may find employment. Honorable senators must realize how essential it is to spend money judiciously in assisting migrants to come to this country. We have a very fine type of manhood here, and by the records of the Australian Imperial Force show that a tremendous number of those who left Australia to fight in the Great War were the descendants of migrants. Why should those who have come here and now enjoy the privileges and the very high standard of living we have in this country, seek to prevent their own kith and kin from coining to Australia? This discussionhas arisen on a vote to assist British migrants, and not foreign migrants, to come to Australia.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [8.25]. - I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) to this extent, that it is a matter of the utmost importance to Australia that we should only assist such migrants as can be immediately absorbed in the industrial? and social life of our country, and that the migrants so assisted should be, as far as possible, people of our own kith and kin. The item relates only to assisted migrants, and the Government does not assist any one but Britishers at the present time. But the further question raised by the Leader of the Opposition is whether we can prevent people who come here at their own expense from entering Australia - whether we should prevent any one belonging to any other race from coming here.
– Does the honorable senator think that matter is quite relevant to the item?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.No, but the matter having been raised and debated, I want to say that it has a. very serious international complexion.
– The item in the schedule does not give the Chairman any guide as to the exact purpose to which the money is to be devoted, but the Minister for Defence having now made it clear that not one penny will go to assist foreign migrants, the debate must be limited to the question of assisted migrants.
– I quite agree with you, Mr. Chairman ; but the debate has been allowed to proceed on totally different lines and statements have beenmade which ought to be refuted. It is of the utmost importance to do so in view of what has recently taken place at the League of Nations, where an endeavour has been made to take migration out of the sphere of matters of domestic concern and make it an international question. Once migration becomes an international question we know the stand which will be taken by other nations unless Australia does everything possible to develop its resources and people its territory. Great Britain will be placed in a very peculiar position if a vote goes against her and us at the League of Na- tions. She must abide by it, or must repudiate the League itself, which she has done so much to build up. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for permitting me to say this. Now, on the question of assisted migration, I want to say that, if sound methods are followed, a great deal may be done to enable Australia to accept a constant and ever increasing flow of migrants. It is unnecessary, I think, to stop all migration until the Development and Migration Commission has laid out grandiose schemes that can be proceeded with. There are forms of migration that can be pursued right away and which should have been going on constantly for years past.
– Boy migration?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes, there was the boy migration scheme, which was stopped by the Labour Government in South Australia. It was the best of all schemes ever devised. It was praised not only by legislators of Australia, but also by the British Empire Migration Commission that visited us. Did not Mr. Wignall, a Labour member of the House of Commons, say that of, all the schemes he had inquired into, there was none to beat the boy migration scheme of South Australia ? He said that he had interviewed 600 or 700 boys who had been brought out to Australia under that scheme, and that there was not one who had cause for complaint. One or two minor matters were fixed up immediately he referred them to the authorities. Fortunately, a Liberal Government has been recently returned to power in South Australia, and the scheme is to be revived. The nomination system is the simplest that could be adopted. Under it a friend or a relative undertakes to receive, house, and find employment for the migrant immediately on arrival. Variations of that scheme could be adopted. One would be to have families nominated by public or religious bodies, which would undertake to receive and find accommodation for them on arrival. There is also a big demand in Australia for girls for domestic service. It is against the best interests of the social life of this country for housewives to be unable to obtain suitable girls. There are in England many girls who would be willing to come to Australia to engage in those duties. A similar scheme could be applied to the migration of artisans. The Liberal Government in South Australia of which I was the head, induced contractors to requisition for a certain number of artisans, and to undertake to find accommodation for them. The introduction of artisans to Australia would not increase unemployment; it would have a contrary effect. There is at the present time a shortage of artisans, and necessary works have to be postponed on that account. If there were a greater number the unskilled labourer would be kept more fully occupied. I have mentioned only a few of the methods that could be adopted in all the States. The trouble with which the Commonwealth is confronted is that it cannot bring migrants to Australia without a requisition from the Government of a State unless it can place them in its own territory. The Governments of the States now send to the Commonwealth a requisition setting out the number and the class of migrants they are prepared to receive. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to select those migrants in England, and arrange for their transportation to Australia. As soon as they arrive here the State Government concerned is responsible for their absorption in the industrial and social life of the country. Therefore, if there is any fault to be found it rests at the door of the different State Governments, and not that of the Commonwealth. The Labour party undoubtedly takes the view that Australia cannot absorb any more migrants. That is a mistaken idea, and is likely to lead to trouble with the League of Nations. If we continue along the lines that we have been following in recent years it will become an international question, and not only we but the Old Country also may be involved in serious trouble.
– I cannot allow to go unchallenged the statement of the Acting Leader of the Senate (Senator Glasgow) that the Labour party is opposed to immigration. Proof to the contrary is furnished by Western Australia, which has had a Labour Government for over three years, and is carrying on the group settlement scheme under the migration agreement to which it, the Commonwealth Government, and the Imperial Government are signatories. The Labour party realizes that the handful of people in Australia to-day is not large enough to develop such a vast continent; but it says further that the system of migration” which up to the present has been in operation is not the correct one. The selection of migrants has been bad. In many cases undesirable persons have been allowed to enter Australia, and we have not been able to make them productive citizens. We would welcome an influx of British stock if we could place them, and make them useful citizens, so that competition with our own people would be eliminated. The trend of the debate so far has been to set the Italian on a pedestal above the Australian as a workman and a citizen. I will not follow Senator Reid in his discussion of eugenics; but as a law-abiding citizen, the Italian cannot compare with the Briton. If two Britishers fall out they settle their argument in a manly way with their fists. The average Italian uses the knife.
– Order ! The honorable senator is now dealing with a matter that is not before the committee.
– It is said that migrants who are not of British stock join our trade unions. The trade unionists of Australia must work along lines that lead to self-preservation.
– I am not disregarding your ruling, sir. The class to whom I refer are to be assisted out of this vote of £300,000.
– The vote has nothing to do with trade unions.
– This £300,000 is to be placed at the disposal of the Development and Migration Commission for advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees to assisted migrants. Those people will join our trade unions after their arrival in Australia. We insist upon their doing so, for the protection of the Australian citizen. In the same way we insist that the foreigner also shall join our trade unions. I ask the Acting Leader of the Senate whether there is to be any improvement in the selection of migrants in London? The regulations should be tightened up, and only the best type of men should be permitted to come to Australia.
. - I am familiar with what has been taking place overseas recently in relation to migration, having been in constant touch with the Leader of the Senate (Sir George Pearce). A great deal of care has been exercised in the selection of migrants. There is no evidence that it has not been. The percentage of migrants who have had to be repatriated or otherwise dealt with, is exceedingly small. It has been suggested that the Loudon office has not shown sufficient activity. Since Sir George Pearce has been overseas he has kept in close touch with the whole of our migration activities at Australia House, and has inspected a number of provincial centres. Following upon his investigations, Colonel Manning, from Western Australia, has been appointed Director of Migration. He is now travelling in the eastern States in order to familiarize himself, with the conditions existing there. Later he will proceed to London to take charge of the immigration work in England. Mr. Barnes is still associated with that work. The flow of migrants of the best type has not been stayed during the year, and we can look forward to even better migrants coming here in the future. The boy migration scheme, from which good results are expected, has been revived. Reference has been made to the advances made to migrants. Of the total amount advanced since 1921, 54.2 per cent. has been repaid; the sum of £4,500 has been written off, and 45.8 per cent. is still outstanding. Under the arrangement entered into with the British Government and the migrants, the money, in many cases, is not yet due. The amount repaid by the migrants to date is £13S,0.00. The Commonwealth need have no fear regarding the balance.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Departmentof the Treasury, £1.322,000, agreed to.
Home and Territories Department.
Proposed vote, £23,000.
.- It is difficult to follow the schedule because of the absence of detail. I should like to know whether any portion of the £20,000 to be set apart as a loan to the Territory of New Guinea for works will be expended in improving the wharfage accommodation at Rabaul. When in the Mandated Territory recently the only good wharf I saw was at Madang. I understand that it is intended to restore the old wharf which was built by the Germans at Rabaul. Better wharfage accommodation is needed there. I should also be glad to know that money will be made available to provide lights and beacons to guide navigators in those waters. On our recent trip we several times had narrow escapes ; indeed, had it not been for the skilful navigation of the vessel some of us might not now be discussing this item.
[8.51.].- The £20,000 includes an amount for improving the wharfage accommodation at Rabaul. The total cost of the improvement will exceed that sum; £20,000 is the amount which it is proposed to spend this year. No provision is made in this bill for lights and beacons, and I am unable to say whether the Navigation Department proposes to do anything in that direction.
.- Will the whole of the £20,000 be devoted to providing wharfage accommodation at Rabaul, or is it contemplated that other works also will be undertaken in New Guinea?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [8.53]. - Provision is made for wharfage accommodation at Rabaul and for various other small works of which I am unable at this juncture to give particulars. Among the works contemplated is the construction of a road from Salamoa to Edie Creek.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department or Defence.
Proposed vote, £318,480.
– For machinery and plant for the manufacture of munitions not now produced in Australia it is proposed to spend £23,469 during the current financial year. Is the Minister at liberty to say what munitions will be manufactured, and whether their manufacture will reduce the importation of munitions? I have frequently contended that, instead of importing munitions, we should make them here.
[8.55]. - Hitherto the only weapons made in Australia have been rifles, but provision is now being made at Lithgow for the manufacture of pistols and Vickers machine guns. Within twelve months the factory there should be able to turn out complete pistols and machine guns, with the exception of a few small parts, such as the sights.
– Will they make Lewis guns ?
– No. At Maribyrnong a forge shop and a machine shop for the manufacture of 18-pounders and 4.5 howitzers are being completed. In addition, the reconditioning of a 6-inch gun from one of the forts has been undertaken there. Within eighteen months the factory should be able to manufacture guns for the artillery, Impounders, and 4.5 howitzer guns, with the exception of the sights.
– What about gun ammunition?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The factory is able to provide cordite and shell for the 18-pounders. A new machine is being obtained for the making of fuses. I saw the Maribyrnong plant working a few weeks ago; it should be able to turn out splendid guns. It is reassuring to know that, if necessary, we shall be able, within the time named, to manufacture our field guns, machine guns and rifles.
– The Minister told us this afternoon that the bulk of the £5,700 to be set aside for civil aviation will be spent in connexion with the projected air service between Perth and Adelaide. I am glad that that is so; but the amount appears to be very small. I have here a magazine which gives particulars of the various air routes of Europe. It shows that the German and French air routes are much longer than those of Britain. Iu addition, there are German-Danish lines, Soviet Russian lines, which are longer than the British routes, and also German-Russian routes. England is far behind some other countries in the matter of air routes. Not only for civil aviation purposes, but also for purposes of defence, our air services should be developed. I understand that tenders have been called for some of these services, but more should have been done. We have splendid air services in the eastern States and in Western Australia, but there is no connecting link between them. The proposed service between Perth and Adelaide will connect east with west, and expedite communication generally It will mean that the English mail, together with Western Australian letters will be delivered in the eastern States days earlier than is at present the case. It is going to revolutionize business methods. I shall be glad if the Minister will inform me of the reason for the delay in linking up.
– I should like to ascertain from the Minister what are the Government’s proposals with regard to establishing, aerodromes at Rockhampton and Townsville. The people atRockhampton are particularly anxious to have this matter settled. The purchase of a site would be regarded as an earnest of the Government’s intention to do something in the direction indicated.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [9.2]. - In reply to Senator Chapman, I may say that the amount provided in the bill is for aerodrome sites and emergency landing grounds between Perth and Adelaide.
– £5,700w ill not go very far.
– That is true; but I remind the honorable senator that £200,000 was allocated from the surplus of the last financial year for the establishment of new air routes.
– Then this item is in addition to the sum mentioned by the Minister ?
– Yes. The item now under consideration represents expenditure out of loan: The first new air route to be established will be from Perth to Adelaide. Very shortly tenders will be called for that work, andI am hoping, that the service will be in operation at an early date. It is expected that before long the machines flying on that route will be carrying from 5 cwt. to 6 cwt. of firstclass mail matter. It will be the first aerial mail service in the Commonwealth to be self-supporting, because of the large amount of mail matter to be handled. In reply to the question raised by Senator Thompson, the only aerodromes to be provided by the Commonwealth are on routes already established or on routes which we contemplate establishing; but the Government is prepared to assist, by way of advice, any municipality that decides to secure a reserve in its district.
– Does not the Government propose to look after the coast line?
– It would be impossible to establishlish aerodromes in the various ports of the Commonwealth. If we were obliged to secure sites in all the larger towns, we should very quickly expend the whole of the £200,000 allocated from the surplus for the establishment of air services.
– Would the Government build an aerodrome if a municipality provided the site?
– What would be the use of building hangars on aerodrome sites if there was only a spasmodic service to be provided for?
– There should be a good service on the coast.
– It is difficult enough now to find all the money required for those areas which boast of aero clubs, and on the established air routes. It is not proposed, therefore, to secure other sites in even the larger towns throughout the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote agreed to.
The Department of Trade and Customs.
Proposed vote, £56,508.
.- I direct attention to the item - New Lighthouses (including upkeep of vessels for construction work) and optical and other apparatus for lightships, £25,751. Is it the intention of the Government to improve the means of communication with the lighthouse on Tasman Island south-east of Tasmania? A year or two ago a dreadful accident happened there, one man being killed and another seriously injured. There was no means of communication with Hobart, but a passing vessel sent a wireless message to the capital city. As that station is not open during the night, the injured man was forced to stay on Tasman Island for nearly two days. Is it the intention of the Government to erect an aerial on the island?
[9.6]. - I am unable to give the honorable member any information on the subject, but I shall see that the responsible Minister is informed of his remarks, and let him know later.
– Is it the intention of the Government to spend any portion of the money in providing more lights around the north-west coast of Western Australia ?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.No; the expenditure is to be incurred chiefly for optical and other apparatus for lightships.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Works and Railways, £1,533.900, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £2,960,650.
.- I. shall be glad if the Minister will explain the reason for the manner in which the vote is presented. The provision asked for in this financial year is £4,076,000, and the amount appropriated under Loan Act No. 1, 1927, is £1,115,350.
– The latter sum has already been appropriated.
– Then the amount to be appropriated under this bill is £2,960,650. I notice that no provision is being made to extend the telephone trunk line between Adelaide and Perth. The line between Adelaide and Brisbane is already in operation. Such a service is of great value to the commercial community. I hope, therefore, that steps will be taken at once to connect Perth with the eastern States.
– I am. unable to tell the honorable senator if or when it is proposed to carry out that work, but I shall ascertain, and let him know.
– I should like to know if it is the intention of the Government to improve the . long-distance telephone and trunk-line service between the capital cities and provincial centres in the several States. At present a great deal of inconvenience is caused by delays in getting connexions between country districts and the cities.
– I endorse what Senator Needham has said as to the need for telephonic communication between Adelaide and Perth. Similar communication has been established between Adelaide and Brisbane. I trust it will not be long before the Adelaide-Perth telephone is an accomplished fact. I should like also to direct attention to the disabilities suffered by settlers on the western side of Spencer Gulf, where approximately one-fifth of the wheat produced in South Australia is grown. I spoke on this subject about twelve months ago. The Minister treated the matter sympathetically and gave instructions to push on with the work, with the result that to-day about one-half of that district is linked up by telephone with Adelaide, but there is still a considerable area without telephonic facilities.
– What is the population of Eyre Peninsula?
– I cannot give the population offhand, but. the district has developed during the last fifteen years to such an extent that it now produces one-fifth of the wheat grown in South Australia. At present only one third of the land on the Peninsula is under cultivation, but the population is sufficiently large to justify telephonic communication with the capital. I ask the Minister to push on with this connexion as far as Fowler’s Bay.
– The Minister representing the Postmaster-General claims with a good deal of justification that it is the policy of the department to extend mail and other services. I admit that it is doing good work, but something has just come under my notice which seems to indicate that a retrograde step is being taken. I quote the following from the Western Champion of 1st October, 1927: -
We are advised that a trial is to be given from to-day (Saturday) in terminating the travelling post office van on the mail train at Jericho. Of course this will not interfere with the delivery of western mails.
The last sentence may be regarded as sarcasm, because if the T.P.O. or travelling post office does not go beyond Jericho very serious inconvenience will be caused, particularly in the direction of Longreach.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that the proposed vote is for new works, not services.
– With due deference to you, sir, I may say that honorable senators have been given some latitude, and as the subject of services has been introduced I thought that I might take this opportunity of asking the Minister to enquire into the matter which I have just brought under his notice.
– (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [9.17]. - I shall bring the point raised by Senator Thompson concerning the travelling post office van on the mail train to Jericho under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. For the information of Senator Chapman I may say that it is the policy of the department to extend telephonic services throughout country districts. The number of country telephone services established during the last two or three years is exceptionally large. An officer of the department is now in America studying the latest automatic telephone appliances, and it is hoped within a few years to provide a continuous service in country centres by means of automatic equipment. The trouble of which Senator Andrew speaks is probably due to the fact that the telegraph wire as being used. Wherever the traffic justifies it the department is installing copper wire to improve the service.
.- Under the Postmaster- General’s department there is an item of £50,001 for subscription to capital for Amalgamated Wireless Limited. Does that mean that the capital is being increased?
– The capital has not all been called up ; this represents the balance.
– The capital is not likely to be increased.
Senator CARROLL (Western Australia) [9.21 1 . - Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General’s department say if the proposed new building at Warrawagine is to be constructed on Government or privately-owned property?
– (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [9.22]. - I am unable to supply the honorable senator with the information at present. I shall have inquiries made and let the honorable senator know.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £33,400.
– The Minister in charge of Health (Sir Neville Howse) stated in Western Australia the other day that the States are devoting a certain sum of money towards cancer research. I should like to know if the Commonwealth Government is assisting that necessary work.
[9.23]. - The Government is establishing a fund to assist in the matter of cancer research, and is allocating £100,000 for the purpose.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Redemption - Port AugustaOodnadatta Railway Loans - £1,587, agreed to.
War and Repatriation Services.
Proposed vote, £738,171.
– I wish to know why the sum of £50,000 to meet expenditure arising out of the requisition and use of vessels for transport services in connexion with expeditionary forces is still outstanding. There is also an amount of £25,776, for liability to the Imperial Government in the respect of Australian prisoners ofwar in Turkey. Can the Minister explain why these amounts have not been paid before.
[9.26]. - The delay in settling the first mentioned amount is due to the fact that the owners of vessels used for transport services presented claims which the British Government would not accept. After protracted negotiations an agreement has been reached and the amount represents the Commonwealth’s portion of the liability. The American Ambassador was requested by the British Foreign Office to supply certain food and clothing to Imperial and Dominion prisoners of war in Turkey and the £25,776 represents our share of the cost.
– Why has there been so much delay?
– The accounts had to be exhaustively examined. This matter was investigated by the Minister for Defence when in England last year.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir William Glasgow) read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 7 th October, vide page 361).
Clause8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section ninety-two of the Principal. Act is amended -
by omitting paragraph (f) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph : - ” (f) If the elector’s sight is so impaired … person appointed by the elector “ ; and
by inserting in paragraph (g), after the word “assistance”, the words “and no person is appointed by the elector to mark his vote for him “.
Amendment (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) agreed to -
That at the end of the proposed new paragraph (f) the word “ and “ be left out.
[9.31].- I move-
That after paragraph (b) the following new paragraph be inserted: - “ and
by a lining at the end thereof the following sub-section: - (2.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, in any case in which a postal ballotpaper, if posted or delivered as provided in paragraph (e) or paragraph (f) of the preceding sub-section, would not reach the Divisional Returning Officer for the Division in respect of which the elector claims to vote, before the close of the Poll the envelope in which the ballot-paper is enclosed may be addressed to, and posted or delivered to, any other Divisional Returning Officer, who shall deal with it in the prescribed manner ‘ “.
The purpose of the amendment is to enable a person who has a postal vote to post it to the nearest divisional returning officer, but the ballot-paper must be received by that divisional officer before the close of the poll.
– The proposed amendment will improve the bill, but a further improvement will be effected if later on I am permitted to move to extend the time for the receiving of the ballot-paper until seven days afterpolling-day.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 12 agreed to.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [9.341. - I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 12a. Section ninety-six of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after the words ‘ close of the poll ‘ the words ‘ by him, or by any other Divisional Returning Officer in pursuance of sub-section (2) of section ninety -two of this act.’”
Section proposed to be amended -
At the scrutiny the Divisional Returning Officer shall produce all applications for postal vote certificates and postal ballot- envelopes containing postal votes received up to the close of the poll, and shall -
if satisfied that the signature on the certificate …. accept the ballot-paper for further scrutiny; but, if not so satisfied, disallow the ballot-paperwithout opening the envelope in which it is contained.
This amendment is consequential on the amendment made in clause 9.An elect or may post his ballot-paper to the nearest divisional returning officer, instead of to the returning officer in the division for which he is enrolled. If a man enrolled for a Brisbane division is returning to Australia and lands at Perth, he may at once secure a postal ballot-paper, and post it to the divisional returning officer in Perth if there is time for it to reach him before the close of the poll. It will not be necessary for the ballot-paper to reach the returning officer for the Brisbane electoral division in which he is entitled to vote before the close of the poll.
– I want to have the time extended for the receipt of the postal ballotpaper until seven days after polling-day. In the far-flung parts of Australia the select committee found that it was quite impossible to get postal ballot-papers to the divisional returning officers in the time required by the act. Fourteen days was asked for in some planes; but the committee has suggested an extension for seven days. This is what the committee reported : -
Many complaints were made by witnesses before the committee with regard to the present practice of disallowing of postal votes received by the divisional returning officer after the close of the poll.
The evidence shows that many voters were, as a result of this system, disfranchised, especially in the country districts.
An extension of the time for receiving the postal votes was urged by the majority of witnesses questioned on this point. In some cases an extension of the period up to fourteen days was asked for.
– The amendment made in clause 9 will overcome that difficulty.
– The provision referred to will not help people in many parts of Australia.
– It cannot help people in some parts of the Kalgoorlie electorate.
– We got a good deal of our evidence on this point in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. The amendment I propose to move is as follows : -
After clause 12, insert the following new clause: - “ 12b. Section ninety-six of the Principal Act is amended -
By inserting after the words ‘close of the poll,’ the words ‘ or after the close of the poll and not later than the hour of seven o’clock in the evening of the seventh day after polling day “ and
By adding at the end of paragraph (b) the following proviso: -
Provided that the Divisional Returning Officer shall not accept for further scrutiny a ballot-paper contained in an envelope received by him after the close of the poll unless -
The envelope in which the ballot-paper is contained bears a post office date stamp bearing a date not later than polling day; and
The envelope was received by him not later than seven o’clock in the evening of the seventh day after polling day.’ “
I cannot do better than read what the select committee says on the subject -
Having considered this matter very carefully, the committee is of opinion that an extension of time for receiving postal votesof seven days should be allowed, provided that the envelope containing the ballot-paper bears the clear impression of a postal date stamp not later than the polling day. This extension of time should be sufficient to meet all the cases of hardship referred to by witnesses without unduly delaying the scrutiny of the ballot-papers and the declaration of the results.
The question of post marks having been referred to the Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, that officer states that measures are being taken to ensure as far as practicable that post marks of electoral correspondence shall be legible, and it is proposed that prior to each election a special intimation shall be forwarded to the staff reminding them of the special need for ensuring that correspondence bears a clear and distinct impression of the office date stamp.
To give effect to the proposal of the select committee would be to confer a real boon on many people who are now disfranchised. Ample safeguards are proposed in the paragraph relating to the date stamp of the Postal Department.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [9.43]. - The committee has already agreed to an amendment fixing the time for the return of a postal ballot-paper. Therefore, I submit the honorable senator’s proposed amendment would not be in order. In any case, it is a very good principle to see that all ballot papers are in the hands of a divisional returning officer before the poll is closed. Itwould be fatal to have them floating, through the post, all over the country after the closing of the poll. Notwithstanding what the select committee has said with regard to making the date mark of the post office legible, it is a fact that mails are often carried in country districts in wet weather, and sometimes it is very difficult to keep the date stamps legible.
– The Minister has voiced the opinion that I was going to express if he had not done sp. He made perfectly clear the position of the Government. The bill contains a specific and definite provision that the hours of polling shall be from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The meaning of that is that every elector must record his vote between those hours, either in person or by post. Why should an invidious distinction be drawn in favour of a particular State because it comprises a vast area ? A great deal of danger is to be apprehended from the proposal. As the Minister has pointed out, postal votes might be floating about in the post for seven days. There would be no finality. By this measure we propose to go much further with our electoral system than we have gone on any previous occasion. I appreciate the fact that this is a move to convenience those people who are absent from their electorates on polling day and may even be returning to Australia from overseas. The postal vote need not necessarily be forwarded to the divisional returning officer for the division in which the elector is enrolled ; it may be returned to the divisional returning officer nearest to the place in which the elector happens to be. Under those conditions the divisional returning officer for the division concerned might not receive it forfour or five days.
– He might not receive it for ten days.
– I have no objection to the proposal that it shall reach a divisional returning officer before the close of the poll, but I strongly object to the amendment suggested by Senator Thompson.
– A postal vote could, in the language of the Minister, “ be floating through the post,” even if it were posted seven days before the day of election. Senator Findley has the idea that it must be recorded on the day of election. That is not so; it may be recorded and. posted several days previously, so long as it reaches a divisional returning officer before the close of the poll. I contend that there is a particularly good case in support of the commitee’s proposal, and it will be a great pity if it is not incorporated in the bill.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [9.51]. - So long as a postal vote has to be in the hands of a divisional returning officer before the close of the poll, the legibility or otherwise of the postmark is of no consequence ; but if the vote may be received seven days after the close of the poll, it is of the greatest importance.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 12b. Section ninety-six of the Principal Act is amended -
By inserting after the words ‘close of “the poll,’ the words ‘or after the close of the poll and not later than the hour of seven o’clock in the evening of the seventh day after polling day “ and
By adding at the end of paragraph (b) the following proviso:-
Provided that the Divisional Returning Officer shall not accept for further scrutiny a ballot-paper contained in an envelope received by him after the close of the poll unless - (i)The envelope in which the ballot-paper is contained bears a post office date stamp bearing a date not later than polling day; and
The envelope was received by him not later than seven o’clock in the evening of the seventh day after polling day.’ “
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [9.54]. - I urge the committee to reject the proposed new clause. It has already agreed to limit the time in which apostal ballot shall be received. This might lead to the encouragement of all kinds of malpractice. It is a very good principle to insist that every ballot-paper shall be in the hands of a divisional returning officer at the close of the poll.
– The point raised by the Minister could be met by prefacing the proposed new clause with the words “Notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained.” That method of stating an exception is frequently resorted to. I am, however, strongly in accord with the Minister’s contention that it would be a very serious thing to leave a loop-hole for votes to be recorded even a short time after the close of the poll. The temptation to endeavour to bribe postal officials in the event of only a few votes separating the candidates would be very great. Postal officials have been bribed to place an incorrect mark on communications passing between bettors and bookmakers, so as to make it appear that they were lodged prior to the race. I should strongly oppose any proposal that would make it possible for corruption to be practised.
– The position is perfectly safeguarded by the act as it stands. It is a very fine piece of legislation. Some persons are always seeking concessions. The question that we have to consider is, whether they need them.
– It is a good thing to improve our legislation.
– When you give people all they want, you sometimes bring about their damnation. It may be alright to mollycoddle them when you are looking for their votes. Political parties have frequently entangled themselves by altering an act to please a few people. Every adult can get a vote if he wishes to do so. We ought not to enlarge the provision already made. If Ave allowed divisional returning officers to receive postal votes up to as late as seven days after the close of the poll, Ave should be playing into the hands of unscrupulous people.
– I am in sympathy with the proposed neW clause moved by Senator. Thompson. At the last election it was impossible for many doctors in the outback portions of Western Australia to get their votes’ to the returning officers in time for them to be counted. At. Wyndham, for instance, many people who were unable to attend the polling booth, were disfranchised. Electors living at Geraldton had to A-rite to Kalgoorlie via Perth for the necessary papers, and by the time they were filled in and returned the election day had /passed. In many cases the local electoral officers were unable to supply the necessary forms. That caused further delay, Avith the result that more electors were disfranchised. laws which 1 meet the needs of settled districts will not necessarily meet the needs of outback districts, where the mail services are infrequent. Yet those people outback have as much right to representation in this Parliament as have the people in our cities. The committee is to be complimented on 1 its recommendations. If this bill, which contains a number of those recommenda-. tions, is agreed to, our electoral law will be greatly improved. Although I see some danger in the proposed new clause, the benefit it will be to outback settlers is such that it has my support.
.– Some honorable senators seem to be of the opinion that the proposed new claus;; would do more than is necessary to meet the needs of electors. If there is one section of the community to whom special consideration should be given, it is tha: comprising the pioneers in the outback , country. Our existing electoral laws provide for postal voting; but before somé electors can get their ballot papers to the electoral officer the election has taker, place.
– Would seven day. meet every case? J
– Perhaps not every case, but it would meet most cases. Throughout Australia there are numbers 1 of cattle stations, at some of which there may be polling booths; but, in addition to the men employed on those stations, there are miners and others living many ‘ miles from any polling booth. They should be considered as well as the people in the ci ties. The suggestion of the committee is along right lines, although I admit that it opens the way to unscrupulous practices. If it could be properly safeguarded, I would vote for the proposed new clause.
.- -The proposed new clause is in accordance with the committee’s recommendation, which was made after evidence had been given by supporters of all parties living in the outback country. The committee considered that they should not he disfranchised.
– Is the honorable senator supporting the proposed new clause?
– I am supporting the recommendation of the committee, because I do not wish any elector to be disfranchised. The committee came to the conclusion that the act should bo amended, and it hoped that the Government would accept this recommendation. At present certain electors lo not get a fair deal.
– The distinction between the amendment of the Minister and the proposed new clause submitted by Senator Thompson is rita]. The Minister’s amendment con forms to the principle of the Electoral Act, in that it provides that .t returning officer or some responsible person contemplated by the act, shall have control of the ballot-paper when polling ceases. Senator Thompson’s proposed new clause conflicts with that underlying principle. It provides that a vote, distinctly bearing a certain postmark to indicate that it has been recorded within the hours set aside for the polling, shall be accepted. There should be no opportunity for any one even to suspect that anything done under the electoral law is not absolutely pure. I trust, therefore, that the proposed new clause will be negatived.
– I cannot follow the reasoning of the Honorary Minister (Senator Mclachlan). I submit that the provisions of the Electoral Act are compiled with if a ballot-paper bears on its fac9 the postmark of the date of polling. Other honorable senators have dealt with the objection raised by Senator Verran, so it is not necessary for me to say anything about “ coddling “ the electors. The committee, after a careful inquiry into this problem, came to the conclusion that its recommendation would safeguard the position entirely. In this view it was supported by many divisional returning officers throughout the Commonwealth, to whose efficiency I wish to pay a tribute. They are doing their work particularly well. In this matter we were guided by their recommendations. I ask the committee to support my amendment.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Senate adjourned at 10.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 October 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19271012_senate_10_116/>.