10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
[3.4]. - I lay on the table interim reports of the Development and Migration Commission on the present position of Tasmania, and the goldmining industry of Western Australia. For the information of honorable senators I may state that these reports are in type-written form, and only a limited number of copies has been supplied. It is proposed to lay the available copies on the table of the Library.
The following papers were presented : -
Development and Migration Commission -
Inte rim Report on Investigation into Present Position of Tasmania, with Appendices.
Interim Report relating to the Gold Mining Industry of Western Australia -
Public Service Act. - Appointment - Department of Works and Railways -F. J. Lynch.
Tariff Board Act. - Tariff Board’s Reports and Recommendations -
Aluminium Sulphate, Sulphate of Alumina and Alumina Ferrie.
Carbide of Calcium.
Rape-seed Oil and Castor Oil.
South Australia’s Western System
– On the 18th instant Senator Chapman asked the followingquestion, on notice -
I have pleasure now in furnishing the following reply: - 1.. In 1921 the Prime Minister and. the Premier of the States, including South Australia, agreed to the adoption of 4 ft. 8½ in. as the standard gauge for the Australian railway systems. The conversion of the 3-ft. 6-in. lines of the western railway system to 5 ft. 3 in. was undertaken some time after the decision to adopt 4 ft. 8½ in. as the standard gauge. There were no notifications from the South Australian Government before the work was undertaken.
Senator REID presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed es tablishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Cottesloe, Western Australia.
Insolvency of Reynolds Driver
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether he has yet any information concerning the published statement, that the Income Tax Department is an unsecured creditor to the amount of £28,133 in connexion with the insolvency of Reynolds Driver, whose liabilities are stated to be £33,766. If the information has not come to hand, will the Minister state the reason for the delay ?
– The honorable senator’s question was at once communicated to the Taxation Commissioner. I have made inquiries, and I regret to state that the desired information has not yet come to hand from the Victorian branch of the commissioner’s office. I have asked that the matter be expedited.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received a communication from Senator Needham, intimating that, in accordance with Standing Order 64 (7), he intends to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The influx of Southern Europeans into Australia.” Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
– In accordance with the letter which I have forwarded to the, President, I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till 11 a.m. on Monday, 28th November.
I make no apology for submitting the motion to direct public attention to the influx of Southern Europeans into Australia. Instead of the numbers becoming fewer, as was stated by the Minister a few weeks ago, in reply to a question which I addressed to him, they are increasing. The Government appears to take the stand (1) that the influx of these migrants in no way affects the employment market or the economic conditions of Australia; (2) that the excess arrivals does not in any way materially affect the preponderance of Southern
Europeans in our population; and (3) that owing to the probability of a delicate international situation arising, the Government would not dare, even if it desired, to curtail the further influx of Southern Europeans into this country. Let me examine the first point put by the Minister. The Prime Minister, (Mr. Bruce) in reply to previous criticisms on this subject, stated definitely that the migration of Southern Europeans did not affect employment in Australia as the percentage of unemployed last year was only 7.1. I question if that can be taken as a correct guide, because the figures quoted by the right honorable gentleman were based on returns from trade unions. It is well known that all members of trade unions do not register themselves as unemployed when they are out of work ; and further, many men and women workers are not members of trade unions. My view of the position is borne out by the unemployment figures supplied by the statistician for 1921. In that year the percentage of unemployed was 11.4, and the total number of unemployed was given as 40,500. In April, 1921, a census was taken and it was reported that the result of such census showed that there were 159,188 people out of employment. I feel sure that if a census were taken to-day it would be found that the number of unemployed in Australia is much greater than it has been for some years. To further buttress my contention that the statistical figures do not give a true indication of the number of unemployed in our midst, I would point out that in 1925 the number out of employment, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, was 34,620, or 8.8’ per cent. ; and yet in September of that year, a committee representing the Trades’ Hall, the Employers’ Federation, the Socialist party and various churches and charity organizations, placed the number at between 40,000 and 45,000. The Government further contends that the arrival of these people in Australia is not in any way interfering with our economic conditions. In answer to that, I submit that the employment of a given number of Southern Europeans in this country displaces a similar number of Australian citizens. In his well-known work “ The Case for Labour “, published several years ago, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, states -
Nothing can be more inconsistent with the advocacy of immigration, than to neglect to utilize the whole of the available labour in the community. To cry for more men and to decline to employ those already here is folly, ov worse.
This Government’s indifference with regard to the increasing flow of Southern Europeans into Australia, is folly of the worst kind.
– What is the extent of that flow?
– I shall come to that in a moment. It might be argued for the Government that the responsibility for finding work rests with State Governments. The Commonwealth Government cannot, however, escape its share of blame, because it controls migration. The Development and Migration Commission has been appointed and has spent thousands of pounds; but so far as we know, nothing has been done by it to assist in overcoming the problem of unemployment. I cannot imagine that the stream of foreign migrants into Australia is haphazard. When I last referred to this matter, Senator Reid was loud in his praise of the Italian worker, and gave the Senate the impression that, in his opinion, the Italian was a better workman than the Australian. On this point I shall quote the Melbourne Herald of 20th October last -
Reviewing the operations of the Sugar Agreement before the Constitution Commission, Mr. A. JR. Townsend, accountant in the Customs Department, stated that the White Australian cane-cutter was the best in the world.
He stated that they cut 5 tons a day and stated also that in 1924, 23 per cent, of the labour employed in the cane fields in Queensland were Italians.
These men do not conform to the Australian standards of living, and their presence amongst us goes a long way towards endangering, those standards. Labour has long agitated to secure the best possible conditions for our workers, and it is not alone in its fear of the steady influx of Southern Europeans. According to the Melbourne Sun of 18th November last, the immigration committee of the Methodist Church declared - _
The influx of foreigners, many of whom had ideals and standards lower than our own, was viewed with concern.
A week or two ago the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League, at its interstate conference in Brisbane, unanimously condemned the influx of Southern Europeans. It declared that it was preventing Australians from procuring employment, and adding to the number of unemployed. I have shown that the matter is of vital concern, and is seriously agitating the public mind. Italians will work for lower wages than Australians, and in some cases they are prepared to give their services in return for their food.
– Do they not observe our industrial awards?
– Many of them do not. I have quoted one instance of an Italian being paid about . 50 per cent. less than union rates, and it is not an isolated case. While I have no desire to reflect upon other nationals, we have ample evidence that the calibre of the Italians now coming to Australia is not high. In their mode of life they do not set a good example to others. The Government contends that the influx can in no way affect the preponderance of British in the community. I shall quote figures showing the excess of arrivals over departures, and the excess of foreign over British immigrants -
Those figures indicate definitely that there is a large influx of Southern Europeans, particularly Italians. Since 1924 the average annual influx of Italians has been over 4,000, and Southern Europeans have numbered 6,000. Those 6,000 Southern Europeans have taken the place of 6,000 Australians.
– Not necessarily.
– They have, because in New South Wales and Victoria more than 6,000 Australian citizens are clamouring for work. The foreigners have obtained work that Australians should be doing. The following figures give an indication how the percentage of Southern Europeans has increased, while the percentage of British migrants has decreased -
In 1925 the migrants from Southern Europe represented 20 per cent., and the British migrants 76 per cent. In 1926 the Southern Europeans dropped to 8 per cent., while the number of British migrants increased to 87 per cent. In that year, there was an increase of 3,600 in the number of immigrants. In 1927, however, the percentage of Southrn Europeans has in creased to. 20 per cent., and the number of British migrants has dropped te 73 per cent., showing that the preponderance of Britishers is not being maintained, because although the number of migrants has increased the percentage from Britain decreased. The Government declines to check the influx of Southern Europeans. “It is suggested that, if it did, delicate international complications might arise. Why should we bother about that phase of the matter? Italy is not troubling itself about it. Mussolini is busy taxing bachelors. Not long ago he said that Italy could not feed her own people, and she must either spread or explode. Is Australia to sit quietly by, whilst Italy dumps the residue of its population on these shores to the detriment of our own people? I realize that if all Australians were in employment, there might be some justification for the admittance of Italian migrants; but under present conditions they should be excluded. No ground exists for the fear of international complications. Signor Nitti has said thai Italy must choose between its own people and coloured races. Are we to bi dictated to by Italy as to what we shall do in this regard? I have an extract from the Western Australian Worker, which states that, when giving evidence in a law suit in Melbourne, Senator “Pearce had said -
If the people of the Northern Territory do not appreciate their opportuities, I will introduce a colony. of Italians to work the place.
– That is typical of that newspaper.
– It is a very reliable journal. The Minister has an opportunity to refute the statement if he so. desires. One would be inclined to think that the steady influx of Italians is not haphazard. I do not say that it is intentional; hut at least it reveals indifference on the part of the Government. I have here a letter from the secretary .of the Labour party in Western Australia, dated 12th November, 1927, which reads -
A short time ago I forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Department a request that something should be done to reduce the influx of Southern Europeans into Australia, and among other tilings that were mentioned I supplied him with a copy of a sworn declaration, which reads as follows: - “ I was at work on my block of land digging potatoes, when a man came up and asked me if I wanted any clearing done. He said he was a Bulgarian living at Amphion, his name sounding something like Derick. He said he had had fifteen of his countrymen sent to him to place in positions, and as he was not in a position to keep them all himself he was seeking work for them. None of them could speak English, and they were all without means. He offered to let me have two or three of them on the same terms that he had already placed two of them on Morgan’s farm in this district, namely, three weeks work without pay, only their food; after that 10s. per week and keep. No conditions were to be made as to hours to be worked or living conditions that were to be provided. I declined the offer. “ (Signed) Wm. Watson, Timber Worker.”
In reply thereto I received a communication from the Prime Minister’s Department, copy of which you will find attached. In addition, Mr. Bruce asked the State Government if it would allow the Criminal Investigation Department of this State to make inquiries concerning the statements contained in the sworn declaration. This was acceded to, the result being that an officer of the Criminal Investi-gabion Department in this State submitted a report on the matter, which is appended hereto.
I am sending this for your information, as it will probably be of use in other parts of Australia as well as here.
A letter received from the secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department hears out the statement that the Government is afraid of causing delicate international complications if it interferes in this matter.
– What was the report of the officer of the criminal investigation branch?
– It bears out the statement contained in the sworn declaration. There is no doubt that the increase in the number of Southern Europeans entering Australia is having a detrimental effect on Australians so far as employment is concerned. The Government should impose further restrictions on their entry; indeed, it should entirely prohibit them from entering this country. When two bodies such as the Migration Committee of the Methodist Church of Australasia and the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League point out the danger of an influx of Southern Europeans, it is time for the Government to realize that the people of Australia regard this matter seriously. I hope that the Minister will indicate the Government’s willingness to reduce the number of Southern Europeans who may enter this country.
[3.35].- The honorable senator evidently thinks that if he continues to bring this matter forward from time to time he will succeed in creating the impression throughout the country that the Government is in favour of the unrestricted immigration of Italians and other Southern Europeans. Nothing could be further from the fact. The Government is not in any way encouraging the immigration of aliens to Australia. On the contrary, it has not only strictly regulated such immigration, but also discouraged it. In connexion with the migration of aliens, checks are in operation, which do not apply to British migrants. Every alien migrant is required to hold a landing permit showing that provision has been made for his employment and maintenance. Otherwise he must possess at least £ 40 on landing. Unless he is thus equipped, and, moreover, is guaranteed by some one of good reputation residing in Australia, he cannot land. Those checks were imposed by the Government when it realized that the inflow of Southern Europeans was likely to increase. With the imposition of those restrictions there was an immediate falling off in the number of Southern European migrants, and a corresponding increase in the number of British migrants. Taking the years 1924-25, 1925-26, and 1926-27, the migrants who entered Australia were respectively: British. 32,765, 33t297, and 39,831; Italian, 6,414. 2,046, and 4,902; other Southern Eupropeans, 3,591, 574, and 2,697; other Europeans, 1,916, 1,847, and 2,858. For the three years menmentioned the total migrants from all sources were respectively 44,686, 37,764, and 50,288. It will be observed that Italians comprise the majority of the non-British European migrants. The Italian Government, with its highly organized immigration department in Italy, and its efficient Consular service in Australia, has exercised great care in ensuring that only desirable migrants are permitted to proceed to Australia, and that those who come here have a reasonable prospect of obtaining useful employmentIn most cases, Italian migrants have been nominated by relatives or friends who undertook to look after them on arrival, and consequently without any assistance from the Government they have been absorbed. A new regulation recently introduced by the Italian Government took effect from the 1st September, 1927. Probably that is why the honorable senator has thought it wise to raise the matter at this stage. That new regulation will have a marked effect in reducing Italian migration, because it provides that Italians shall not be permitted to migrate to Australia unless they are nominated by very close relatives or have been engaged under definite contracts of employment. I point out that in connexion with contract migrants under engagement to perform manual labour, it is necessary for the terms of the contract to be approved by the Minister for Home and Territories. The Contract Immigrants Act further requires that in cases where it is proposed to introduce foreign contract migrants the Minister must be satisfied that there is difficulty in securing workers of equal skill and ability in Australia. This requirement would practically debar the introduction of foreign farm workers or unskilled labourers under contract. Next to Italians, Greeks and Jugo-Slavs comprise the majority of southern Europeans, but it has been arranged with the British Consular authorities to limit the number of visas granted to these classes to within 100 a month for each class. It was observed recently that an excess of visas had been granted to Greeks, but the matter was brought to the notice of the British Consular authorities, who have arranged to watch the position closely in the future. Maltese are British subjects whose migration to Australia is most carefully regulated by the authorities in Malta: As only 331 Maltese arrived during the nine months ended the 30th October, 1927, it will be seen that their numbers are well below the rate of 100 a month.With regard to alien, immigration generally, it must be remembered that Australia is a country of vast unpeopled areas. It is as large as the United States of America, but with only one-twentieth of the population of that Republic. The Commonwealth would not, therefore, be justified at this stage in practically closing the door against foreign migration. To attempt to do so would be to raise delicate international questions, unless it could be clearly shown that the country could not absorb these migrants.
– That is an old gag-
– As a result of what I saw and heard at the recent meeting of the League of Nations, let me say in all seriousness to all parties, that if there is one question that we in Australia should be careful to keep out of the arena of international discussion, it is that of immigration. We in Australia regard immigration as a domestic question, but the people of soma other countries do not so regard it. A number of other countries have a direct interest in this question, and we must be careful that any action which we take will not cause them to join in a movement against our attitude in declaring it to be a purely domestic question. As long as we can maintain our position that immigration is a domestic question we are on safe ground; but assoon as public opinion throughout the world supports the contrary view we shall be on exceedingly unsafe ground. Therefore, let us not by any foolish attempt to score party points or to make party political capital of the question - allow it to assume an importance which is not warranted by the facts. If we do we shall some day pay a price that will be a very dear one for a petty political gain by one political party over another. It has already been pointed out that the population of Australia is approximately 98 per cent. British. That is due to the fact that, in addition to the net increase by British migration, there is a natural increase of 80,000 a year. Statistical records show that 98 per cent. of the children born in Australia in the last few years, were born of British parents. If the present proportion of alien migration continues or even slightly increases during the next few years, the dilution of our population at the end of that period will be less than 2 per cent. The actual dilution since the census on the 4th April, 1921, to the 30th July, 1927, has been only . 18 per cent. In the light of these figures what is the use of attempting to make it appear that non-British European migration is a serious threat to Australia? I assure the Senate and the country that the Government is, and has been, closely watching this question and has taken the necessary action when the need arose. But the best that we can do to maintain or even increase the preponderance of British born and British people in our country is to increase British migration. What have our friends opposite to say to that?
– They will not have it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.While they protest against non-British European migration, do they answer in the affirmative the question - Should British migrants come into this country.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.They are almost as strenuous in their opposition to British migration as they are to their opposition to foreign migration, and they base their opposition on the allegation that immigration means unemployment. Here again the facts are against them. In 1924-25, the total immigration to Australia was 44,686. In that year, according to the figures furnished by the Trades Hall, unemployment was 9.4 per cent. of the population. In 1926-27 the immigration was 49,977. The unemployment during that period, according to the figures supplied by the Trades Hall, was only 6.8 per cent. Thus with an increase of immigration amounting to 5,000 there was yet a diminution of 3 per cent, in the unemployment figures. When we are talking of unemployment we ought not to exaggerate the position. We must recognize the fact that we have in Australia genuine, honest, decent workers who, for the time being, are unemployed, and every honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber sympathizes with such men as much as do honorable senators opposite. But when we find that attempts are being made, apparently for political purposes, to use the unemployed - attempts by humbugs associated with them - is it not better for this country that we should strip these humbugs mercilessly, from these people and show what they really are. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th inst. contained the following : -
There was a demonstration by the unemployed at the Premier’s office, Sydney. Force was used, and one or two persons forced themselves into the building. One man named Laidlaw, one of the leaders of the procession, who was interviewed by Mr. Hay (Under-Secretary to the Premier’s Department), said that women and children were starving, and that they insisted upon the Government taking action. Mr. Hay very properly asked the man to give him the names and addresses of women and children he knew were starving, and said he would personally see that relief was given at once. Laidlaw then said that his wife and three children were starving. Mr. Hay asked him for the address of his wife and children. He replied that they were staying with his wife’s father and mother. On being further pressed for the address he replied that they had no address; but merely called at the post office for letters. When Mr. Hay pointed out that it was impossible to grant them relief unless their address was given for the purpose of investigating the truth of the statement, Laidlaw still stated that they had no fixed address. Mr. Hay found it impossible to get any particulars from him.
Mr. Bavin said that he had inquiries made with regard to Laidlaw, and found that he was very actively connected with the unemployed. He was residing at a hall in Campbellstreet, with about fifteen or twenty, other unemployed. The shelter was controlled by Mr. Spillman, a well-known leader of the unemployed. Laidlaw was a Scotch migrant, and arrived here about the beginning of 1925. He was a miner and worked at the Minmi colliery, and later with the Main Roads Board, Blandford, for two months. Although the work was not finished, he left- it of his own accord.
The other leader, said Mr. Bavin, was a man named Millar, who interviewed him at Parliament House last week. Millar was well known to the State Labour Exchange as a leader of the unemployed. In 1916 he was sent by the exchange to work for Messrs. G-. and C. Hoskins, at Lithgow, and. in a report received by the department, the employer stated that Millar left the district without paying his board. The Vale of Clwydd colliery reported that he had also been employed by them, and that his record was not satisfactory. On 28th May, 1921, he was given a ticket to go to employment at Maroubra; but it was found later that he sold the ticket for 6/ to J. Neddwell. On 28th April, 1921, he was found guilty of riotous conduct in a mob of unemployed in the streets surrounding the Premier’s office, and was fined £3 or a month. In the same year he was sent to employment with the Railway Commissioners at Lidcombe; but left the employment. In May, 1923, he was sent to the Public Works Department, Burwood, and left within a fortnight. He refused to go to employment in 1923, demanding tram fare. In 1926 his landlady called at the department and stated that Millar had left her owing a considerable amount for board’ and lodging. In September last he was sent to employment at Maroubra, and left the work on strike. He was now registered with the Labour Exchange.
One of the women, Mrs. Betsy Mathias, was a well-known Socialist. She was not registered on the Labour Exchange. Three years ago she was convicted of conducting a “ sly grog shop “ in Wilmot-street. She was last working at the Technical College as a domestic, but only worked three days.
Those are the people put forward in New South Wales to speak on behalf of the unemployed. Of course they are not fair samples of the unemployed of Australia. The great majority of those who are out of work would not be seen in the same street with them. Nevertheless, it is they who protest that they are unemployed and have made all the noise about unemployment. It is true that there is a certain amount of unemployment in Australia. According to some figures supplied by the Trades Hall in Victoria, the great majority of persons who are unemployed in that State at the present time are building trade employees. We know that there are many genuine unemployed in New South Wales, but any one who has read the recent political history of that State, can easily understand the reason for it. It is due to the improvident, lavish, and reckless expenditure of public money on various undertakings in different electorates with the object of sending men there to win the election. But now the day of retribution has come. There is not enough money in the public exchequer to . continue these wild schemes that were started before the election, as electioneering dodges. As a consequence public works commenced in this way have come to an end, and the unfortunate victims of political chicanery have been deprived of employment. Is the country or are the industries of the country to be blamed for that? The people to be blamed for it are the politicians who brought about this condition of affairs, and those politicians are the political comrades of honorable senators opposite. If our friends opposite feel sympathy with the unemployed of New South Wales and any antagonism towards the conditions that have brought it about, their maledictions and their criticisms should be directed, not against the Commonwealth Government, but to the late Labour Government of New South Wales, led by Mr. Lang. I want now to refer to another case quoted by Senator Needham, and I do so in order to show that an attempt has been made to make up a case against the Government. Senator Needham referred to a declaration made in Western Australia regarding Southern Europeans taking work at less than the usual wage. That declaration was sent to the Home and Territories Department, and, after inquiries had been made, a reply was sent to the Premier of Western Australia. The reply is as follows : -
With reference to your letter of the 23rd September, No. 690/24, relative to the influx of Southern Europeans into your State, I desire to point out that, although it would appear from the statutory declaration made by Mr. William Watson on the 7th July, 1927, a copy of which was forwarded with your previous letter of the 2nd August, that he was referring to aliens who had arrived recently in the Commonwealth, the result of the inquiries made by the police authorities shows that the men he particularly referred to, as well as most of the others mentioned in the police report, arrived here during 1924. As you are aware, a large number of destitute aliens arrived in Australia about that time, many being misled by shipping agents as to the conditions of employment in this country: but this Government took prompt steps to counteract the misleading propaganda by communicating with the Governments concerned, and by requesting British Consular authorities to warn all intending migrants as to the restricted opportunities for foreigners to obtain employment in Australia,’ particularly if they were unable to speak English or if they had no friends or relatives to assist them until they could establish themselves in suitable employment. All shipping companies affected were also fully advised and cautioned, In addition, the Minister for Home and Territories introduced the regulation referred to in the police report under which all alien migrants arriving after the 1st July, 1925, must be in possession of at least £40 landing money or hold landing permits issued as a result of their maintenance, or employment having been guaranteed by relatives or friends residing in Australia. If any cases should come under notice where newly arrived alien migrants are found to be securing employment under the conditions referred to in the police report forwarded with your letter, it will be appreciated if particulars can be furnished to this Government so that further investigation may he made.
No particulars have yet been furnished, and I venture to say that none will be. The letter continues -
It may be stated, in conclusion, that the British passport control officer at Athens was recently requested to exercise special care in regard to granting visas for Australia to Greek migrants. The new Italian Government emigration law, under which it has been decided to restrict the issue of Italian passports to intending emigrants who are nominated by close relatives, or who are under definite contracts of employment, is also expected to reduce very considerably the number of Italian migrants coming to Australia.
What further decision does the honorable senator expect the . Government to make? Does he advocate the putting up of the notice, “ No Europeans are allowed to enter Australia?”
– We do not advocate that; but we should be honest and say that at the present time there are 40,000 unemployed persons in Australia.
– Does the honorable senator include in that 40,000 Mr. Laidlaw and Mr. Miller; and does he say that until they and gentlemen of their type are willing towork, no Europeans should be allowed to land in Australia? Honorable senators opposite, by their interjections, show that a stupid economic idea they hold. They consider that every migrant who secures employment here dispossesses another man on the job on which he is employed.
That is a fallacious reasoning. If a bootmaker should be employed, and a carpenter should migrate to Australia and get work here, would he .put that bootmaker out of employment? On the contrary, would he not be the means of providing more employment for that bootmaker? Whilst there may be unemployed in some occupations at certain times, there may be a shortage of workers in other occupations at those very times. The evil of unemployment cannot be cured by putting a fence round Australia and preventing outsiders from coming in. The cure lies in increasing production and lessening its cost. Until honorable senators apply themselves to that problem, I can assure them that they will merely be beating the air by indulging in dissertations such as those to which Ave have listened to-day. We should encourage rather than place barriers in the way of British migrants. It would be a welcome change of policy if the Labour party were to come out and say definitely that it favoured the introduction of British migrants to Australia. Its present attitude appears to be, “ No migrants, either British or of any other nationality.”
– The Lender of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has claimed that the Government has not encouraged Southern Europeans to come to Australia. If it has offered discouragement, the results have been very poor, because they are coming here in droves. I am reminded of a story which was related to me last week, but for the accuracy of which I cannot vouch. A man went to a job and said to the foreman - “ I speeka da Engleesh ; I catcha da cray; I eata da oyst; I eats da steak; I pusha da shov.” The foreman said to him, “You are not a dago; why do you talk like that ?” He replied, “ I am a digger ; but I have to talk like that in order to get a job.” There is an element of truth in that story. The right honorable senator endeavoured to prove that unemployment figures were low when migration figures were high. He neglected to refer to the influence of the seasons. In a good season there may be few unemployed even though thousands of migrants come to Australia ; and on the other hand, during a bad season there may be a large number of unemployed and scarcely any migrants. The Minister went out of his way to refer to some person in New South Wales who leads an unemployed army. What has that to do with this question? It is an insult to the 40,000 honest working men who are unemployed, and whose families are in need of sustenance, to couple them with such an individual, who, in all probability, is not worthy to be called an Australian, even if he is one. I remind the right honorable senator that he and the other members of the Government owe their success at the last elections to men of that character. The British seamen’s strike carried’ them to victory. But for that circumstance, a Labour administration would now be in power. The Minister also claimed that it was necessary foi’ Southern Europeans to have £40 in their possession when they arrived in Australia. He knows very well that that sum is regarded as a small fortune in Italy, and that any man who possessed it would not think of coming to Australia. It is also reasonable to suppose that those who had £40 upon arrival would not be looking for bread immediately afterwards. We have been asked to consider the “international complications that are likely to arise. Recently I quoted a statement by Mussolini to the effect that he wished to increase the population of Italy from 40,000,000 to 90,000,000 people. That disposes of the contention that there is a danger of international complications. If, as is contended, migration relieved unemployment, those nations which have a population totalling hundreds of millions would be a paradise. But the contrary is the case. Where there is the greatest population there is the largest number of unemployed. Until recently. Australia, in regard to employment, was the Best country in which to live. That result was brought about by beneficient legislation and good seasons. The present year is a bad one in every State except Western Australia: consequently there is a big army of unemployed. If Senator Pearce’s arguments were sound, there would be fewer unemployed under a National than under a Labour Government. That, however, is not the case. There has been a National
Government in this Parliament for very many years, but the toiling masses have not had their conditions improved. The Bavin Government has not been in office in New South Wales more than a few weeks, but the army of unemployed in that State has already grown. Last week 200 men were dismissed by the Tramways Board, and hundreds of men have lost the employment which they held in the railways. National governments wish to have a standing army of unemployed, because it conduces to servility among the workers. When we initiated the White Australia policy, we had no fear of causing international complications. Why, then, should that bogy be trotted out with respect to the migration of Southern Europeans? Large numbers of men are unemployed in England, and they would be only too pleased to come to Australia if they thought that the conditions here were better. A nation that is making progress has no need to advertise its advantages. I have said several times in this Senate that if we cannot obtain Britishers in sufficient numbers we should seek Scandinavians, who are used to agriculture and country life generally, and make good, hard-working citizen*. The Southern European has a standard that is not comparable to ours. He does not make a good citizen, because he leaves Australia as soon as he has made a sufficient amount to make him comfortable in his own country. As a class they are not welcomed by the business man, because they do not spend very much. I am opposed to the migration of Southern Europeans because it will have a tendency to break down the high standard of living that has been established in Australia.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– This motion deserves the serious consideration of honorable senators. It is a protest, not against Italians ;is such, but against the introduction of large, numbers of Southern Europeans at a time when unemployment is acute in the various States of the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Senate declared that in the discussion of this delicate international question, we should proceed with measured steps lest complications arise. He said it was true that migration was regarded by the League of Nations as a domestic matter, but that if other countries took a different stand in regard to it they might make the position awkward for Australia. I do not accept that view. If we endorse it what will become of our White Australia policy, to which the people of this country are pledged ? For many years now we have been absolutely excluding people from certain countries. We do this by means of a test which it is impossible for them to pass, and in respect of which we have the approval of the Imperial authorities. In this way we shut out migrants from countries with teeming millions of people. If there was anything in the point raised by Senator Pearce, and if those countries came together for common action, we should not be able to maintain our White Australia policy. But the facts are the other way. We have declared our policy and we are enforcing it.
– Does the honorable senator believe that we could enforce it without the protection of the British navy ?
– We have enforced it ever since the inception of federation. Senator Thomas, I believe, has always been a warm supporter of that policy.
– Without the protection of the British navy we could not enforce.it for 24 hours.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. Even if what he has said were correct, would that be a reason why we should cease to protest against the introduction of unduly large numbers of people from any country, unless Australia is_ in a position to absorb them?
– The honorable senator believes in keeping them all out of Australia?
– I do not. That is not the policy of the Labour party. “A fellow feeling makes one wondrous kind.” I endeavour always to put myself in the position of the other fellow. Would honorable senators care to be without employment and without a shilling with which to provide the necessaries of life?
– It is not because of migration that any person is in that position.
– The migration policy of the Government is a contributing factor. If people continue to come to Australia from other countries at a time like the present, when there arevast numbers of unemployment in every State, is it not true that they will interfere seriously with the employment of our own people? The Leader of the Senate has told us that, as the result of representations made by the Commonwealth Government, the Italian authorities are now exercising strict oversight of migrants from that country to Australia, the object being to ensure that those who come here shall have a reasonable prospect of being absorbed in useful employment. I believe that statement is correct. I understand that the new regulations governing the migration of Italians provide that all intending migrants must be nominated by close relatives in Australia, or else have a definite promise of employment when they reach these shores. The Minister also told us that under our migration law, no persons can enter Australia under contract except with the approval of the Minister. It is obvious, from what we see around us, that numbers of Italians coming to Australia are assured of definite employment. It is remarkable that foreigners, many of whom are unable to speak the English language, and the majority of whom are totally unacquainted with Australian conditions can be placed in employment immediately after their arrival.
– They come out to friends, who employ them.
– In what industry are they employed?
– On land which has been taken up by their countrymen.
– The honorable senator is wrong. There are large numbers of Italians on the land in different parts of Australia, but not many of them employ their own countrymen.
– Who employs them?
– People who are not patriotic enough to give Australian or British migrants a fair chance. They appear to prefer Italians. That is why so many Southern European migrants are so quickly absorbed. Not long ago, when I was in a country district of Victoria, I heard the tramping of many feet, as though a small army of men was on the march. As they came nearer I found that they were a band of Italians, in charge of one of their countrymen, who was instructing them in certain duties and telling them how to take care of themselves. All those men, so I was informed, were in full employment, although at the time I knew for certain that there were good Australian workmen, in every way suited for that class of work, without employment.
– What was the nature of that employment?
– It was on a watershed area in Victoria. For many years that class of work has been done by Australian and British migrants. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am not finding fault with the employment of Italians. I and other members of the Labour party take the stand, however, that our first duty is to our own people. We say that the Government should take some action to prevent the present heavy influx of Southern Europeans into this country. In this way the Government could do something to improve the lot of Australians who are out of work. The Leader of the Senate said just now that the way to ensure progress and prosperity was to increase production and population. I have heard that hackneyed expression over and over again. Shortly after the war the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) urged Australia to adopt as its slogan - “Produce, produce, produce.” The people followed his advice, and production was increased enormously, but the markets of the world were unable to absorb our exportable products at profitable prices.
– If the honorable senator’s line of reasoning is sound Victoria should have a glorious timethis year, because wheat production in that State will be 20,000,000 bushels less than last year!
– The right honorable the Minister knows very well that there are other reasons governing prosperity that should be taken into account. The present depression throughout Australia is world-wide. It is due largely to financial stringency. The prosperity of Australia depends not so much upon increased production as upon the stabilization of credit in Europe.
– I thought it depended upon the high tariff.
– When that credit is re-established there will be a profitable world market for our exportable surplus products. The Leader of the Senate knows that our present unsatisfactory position is largely due to the chaotic state of finance in Europe, and that until conditions improve we shall not find a ready market for our products. I do not accuse the Government of being anxious to see an increasing flow of Southern Europeans to Australia to the detriment of our own people ; but I think it should take some steps to check it, for some time at least because from the point of view of employment, Australia is undoubtedly in a bad way. We often have unemployment in the winter months, but never have we experienced it to such a.n extent in the spring and summer as we have this year. In all the capitals there are hungry men. And a hungry man is an angry man. These mcn are angry not because they bear any ill feeling towards Italians or other Southern Europeans, but because the Government will not provide employment for them.
– Why does not the Hogan Government get busy on their behalf?
– The Victorian Government has done, and is doing, much to relieve the situation, and so have other State governments; but it is not satisfactory from their point of view when the Commonwealth Government encourages the influx of migrants in great numbers, thus adding to the unemployment. It should assist to provide work.
– How are the unemployed carpenters to get work unless there is a demand for more houses ?
– Hundreds of houses are for sale or to let in Melbourne, and hundreds of men in the building trade are out of employment.
– Then more people are needed to occupy those houses.
– At the present time increased immigration would mean greater unemployment and men out of work for any time are not in a position to pay rent much less purchase houses. What class are we lacking to-day?
– The class required to fill the empty houses.
– They would be filled quickly enough if employment were provided so that the people could find the money with which to purchase or rent them. If the Minister will tell me where the unemployed can find work, I can provide tenants for the empty houses.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- The arguments of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat rather favour the Government. He said that the problem of unemployment is not peculiar to Australia. I know of no country that is not now suffering from that evil. Even the United States, with its population of 120,000,000, and its wonderful industrial organization, has millions of unemployed. Its population has increased to such an extent that it is now confronted with the problem of finding room for its people, and European nations are in a similar difficulty. Only in the Argentine and in Australia is to be found land suitable for the settlement of migrants. Is it to be imagined that the crowded European populations will be prepared to submit to a policy of exclusion on the part of Australia? The history of the rise and fall of civilized nations shows that when a country becomes overpopulated, its surplus people pour into other countries and sweep away all opposition. Senator Findley has truly said that a hungry man is an angry man. That remark applies equally to nations, and millions of people in Europe are both hungry and angry. Visitors to Australia from Great. Britain, on returning to the Old Country; say that they disagree with the policy of the Labour party, selfish and shortsighted as it is, of trying to shut out their fellow Britishers.
– Who shuts them out?
– The honorable senator and his party say that immigrants should be prevented from entering Australia. Can the honorable senator mention one Labour conference, or one Labour leader, that has ever openly favoured immigration even of Britishers? When the Imperial Parliamentary Delegation visited us, and held conferences with -members of Parliament throughout Australia, heart to heart talks were indulged in, and they went away unanimous in the conviction that the Labour party opposed immigration.
– That was a false impression.
– Not at all. Honorable senators on the Government side, and thinking people generally, are of the same opinion. Surely we are not all such fools as to be unable to understand the psychology of the Opposition. Never has it extended an open and hearty invitation to our fellow Britishers to make their homes in this country. I have as much sympathy as honorable senators opposite have with the workers. Nobody regrets more than I do that unemployment is prevalent in Australia to-day. While it is not peculiar to this country, it is unusual to have so much unemployment as exists at the present period of the year. Seasonal unemployment is expected; but, owing to drought in Queensland and partial drought in New South Wales, industries are not as prosperous as we should like them to be. The harvest outlook is disappointing, and it is difficult to raise money for local enterprises. After a few months, conditions may improve, and, with more money flowing, employment should increase. We should approach the subject with an open mind. It is not a party matter. True representatives of the people would not indulge in the gallery talk that comes from the Opposition benches. Is it the desire of the Leader of the Opposition to help migration, or is he merely appealing to the gallery, and filling up Hansard with statements that he cannot bear out?
– The honorable senator knows that that is unfair.
– Employers have no desire to see workmen out of employment. Their chief object’ is to keep their factories in full swing ; yet the statement has been made that the party supporting the Government likes to see chronic unemployment. What nonsense! The capitalist likes his capital to be fully used. He wants his machinery running full time, because it pays him. And it pays the people of Australia Ss well. Senator Findley talked loudly about the White Australia policy, and the ideals of those who established it. The maintenance of that policy is only possible by the exclusion of Asiatics, and Senator Findley knows - if he does not, he should know - that only by the power of the British Navy and the British Government is Australia able to give effect to that policy. It was adopted because no Asiatic nation except Japan was in a position to oppose it, and as the British Navy happened to be stronger than the Japanese fleet, it could be put in operation. J apan was not anxious to send its surplus population to Korea and Manchuria. It would have preferred Australia ; but the British Navy stood in the way. We also exclude Hindoos - British subjects - and they are forced to remain in India, because Great Britain backs us up in our White Australia policy. The Italians and Greeks, to whom great exception has been taken, travel by steamer direct from Italy to Australia and pay full fares. How can we call this a free country if we shut our doors to those nationals who do not suit us? I think that the Government has done good work in inducing the Italian authorities to regulate the flow of their emigrants, each of whom not only pays the full fare, but also arrives in Australia with. £40 in his pocket. I understand that the’ Leader of the Opposition referred to something said by me about Italians in North Queensland.
– I mentioned that the honorable senator had said that an Italian in North Queensland was as good as an Australian.
– Assuming for the sake of argument that I said that, can the honorable senator prove that I was wrong ?
– The Australian is a better worker.
– It is not uncommon for statements to be twisted for political purposes. What I said was that inquiry in Northern Queensland among various people, including union organizers, members of the Australian Workers’ Union, police magistrates, policemen, employers, and cane-growers, revealed that the general opinion was that the Italians were good citizens and good workers. I also said that, as evidence of their industry, numbers of them had earned sufficient to buy out Australian farmers. I made it clear that I did not speak from my personal experience. I am prepared to repeat that statement in Queensland ; in fact, I have done so, when addressing Queensland workers. A person who deliberately shuts his eyes to facts is a fool. I invite honorable, members of the Opposition to visit North Queensland during the winter recess, and investigate this matter for themselves. They say a great deal about the Italians, but, for the most part, they speak from hearsay. The climate of North Queensland is excellent in the winter-time, the country is the best in Australia ; and honorable members would not only obtain valuable information, but would also benefit in health by undertaking the trip I have mentioned.
– We want no parochialism here.
– It is because honorable senators are so parochial that they sometimes talk the nonsense they do.
I now desire to refer to the existing unemployment. In all the States the drift to the cities continues.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I regret that time will not allow me to deal with this subject as I should like to do. For the last six or seven months I have been studying the problems of immigration and over-population in the various countries of the world. I have been amazed to hear honorable senators go so far as to say that Australia, a continent with a population of 2.03 persons to the square mile, is over-populated, and that over-population has resulted in unemployment.
– That statement has not been made by honorable senators on this side.
– Honorable senators opposite apparently wish to revert to the time when Adam delved and Eve spun. In their opinion Australia with a population of only two persons, would be an ideal place. Unemployment in Australia is due, not to overpopulation, but to defective organization - to a lack of definite balance between different industries. Honorable senators opposite have inferred that Italian’s are not good enough for a White Australia.
– No one said that.
– A White Australia is a great ideal; but the sooner we set about maintaining that ideal by filling our empty spaces with white people the better. Only for a few years will the matter rest in our hands. History makes that plain. What has happened in the past to other nations and other countries will happen in our case if we do not take time by the forelock. The inference that Italians are not good enough for a While Australia, has caused resentment and hatred among the highly cultured people of Italy. They resent the suggestion that they are not white. I remember well reading translations from some of the leading Italian newspapers on the general feeling throughout that country when it became known that Australia objected to Italian migrants. Italy’s services in the groat war were of the utmost importance to the Allies. I was living in Paris at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, and I remember when Baron Sonnino and his delegation left Paris in high dudgeon and returned to Rome. One of the reasons was that Italy, a country so over-populated that she cannot feed her people, to whose people birth control is repugnant on religious and other grounds, a country which stuck to her pact throughout the war, with the result that she lost ten men for every man Australia lost, a country without any overseas colonial possessions, was, notwithstanding her sacrifices, given no colonial mandate, whereas Australia, with more territory than she knew how to manage, was given mandates. Can honorable senators wonder that throughout Italy there was a feeling of resentment and disillusionment? The pressure in Italy caused by over-population is very great. Although one of her sous discovered the great continent of America, the United States of America, by its quota system, has practically closed that outlet for Italy’s surplus population. Italians to the number of from 200,000 to 300,000 necessarily leave Italy every year. For my part I should like to see them in Australia, because my experience is that the Italian is a good man. Of course; there are some Italians who are” “rotters “ and undesirable, but there are some of that class even among Australians. It must be galling to a country which has produced some of the greatest scientists, artists, orators and inventors that the world has ever known, to have Australia, a young and raw offshoot of Britain, assuming a racial superiority. That resentment of a few years ago has died down, and for that I am glad. Australia wants all the goodwill she can get from other white races. The day of trial may yet come when our White Australia policy will be seriously challenged. Without the goodwill of other white nations, we may then well say, “ God help Australia.” About two years ago a correspondent of one of the leading Italian newspapers was sent to Australia to inquire into the position, status and treatment of Italians who had settled in Australia. His views were given in the Corriere delta Sera, of 10th July, 1925. in the following terms -
Hie Italian invasion, the favourite cry, is the most common of the catchwords that one hears repeatedly in its daily polemics directed against Italian immigration. A metaphor of journalists overburdened with imagination? Not at all. You are confounded. Why all this bitter feeling against the Italians? I will explain: In order to keep Australia white. Keep Australia white is the true catchword of this crusade. In fact we are not white, we are olive. Olive-skinned influx, the invasion of the olive skins is how a large Melbourne evening paper refers to the announcement of an inquiry by the Queensland Government into Italian immigration in the northern districts. And at another congress of Australian women, a well-known speaker, after exhorting Australian housewives not to purchase fruit of Italian vendors, laments that after so much done to preserve Australia white against the menace of the Asiatic, “ olive “ immigrants continue to establish themselves in the country. We are so degraded a race that the Australian women are exhorted not to marry our immigrants. “ Brave comrades, our blood sullies, soils, adulterates their Australian blood. Pollute, polluted are the concise and brutal expressionsemployed.” This theory of the superiority of the north to the south has gone too far. Afterall, some of these beggars from South Europe created Rome, the Papacy, the Renaissance, and some other trifles. They do not know it ! They do not know anything. They have ideas of Italy that make one despair of the future of humanity. Do you know what was the number of Italian immigrants disembarked during the entire year of 1924 to cause such a bother? It was 4,286. They are astonished when one tells them that. in 1923 we sent, for example, 93,000 emigrants to the Argentine, and 183,000 to France. And it is for these 4,280, for this infinitesimal percentage of Italians - healthy, model workmen who come to offer strong arms and willing hearts - that commissions are set up, congresses are agitated, newspapers are perturbed, and it for this . . . that the doors are shut in our faces with foul words, as upon another yellow peril - “ the olive peril “ - shut against the ally of yesterday, the friend of to-day, the third great European power - Italy. This defamation must come to an end, and to stop it there is but one means - to speak through clenched teeth. All the protests of our consuls, all the efforts which the Federal Government does not fail to put forth to restrain this ill-advised language amount to nothing. Only the reacting force of our public opinion can ‘bestow a sense of responsibility on those sections of the press and of Australian politicians who have lost it. These things must not be said.”
I do not wonder at the resentment that article caused throughout Italy - the arrogant assumption that the highly civilized people of Italy, a country to which we owe so much, is inferior to the people of Australia. It shows where blind ignorance and prejudice can lead one. If Australia does not carry a population of 20,000,000 people within the next fifteen or twenty years those of us here then will not be able to hold it. Italy’s problem is that great numbers of her people must migrate. She has no colonies. The Italians are a great colonizing race, but colonies have been denied to them. Italy’s problem is ‘ an economic one that can and must be solved. Otherwise there is bound to be trouble. We must, therefore, look upon Italy with goodwill, sympathy and friendship. In 1925, Senator Cippico, a Fascist senator, addressing an international conference in the United States of America, summed up the position of Italy in the following words: -
It is not enough that foreign countries should re-open their doors as a gracious favour to Italian labour. Pre-war Italians might be satisfied to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for foreign taskmasters, but post-war Italians will not be so satisfied. One of the worst errors of the Paris Peace Treaty was that no provision was made for giving Italy more colonial territories, Italy who has the largest and most laborious emigrant population of any country in the world, and the smallest colonial dominions. Either colonial territories should be given to Italy, where her sons can settle down under the Italian flag and increase the production of the world for the benefit of the whole world - and not of Italy alone - or Italian emigrants in foreign and thinly-populated countries must be grouped together and remain Italian citizens. The advantages of securing Italian labour are so great that the country which receives it should be prepared to make generous concessions. If neither of these measures is taken, and the doors of foreign countries remain closed to Italian labour and industrial products, a very serious and even critical situation may arise, affecting not Italy alone, but the whole world. A nation boasting so ancient a civilization, cannot renounce its right to live, cannot now turn back and accept a condition of economic and political dependence. It would mean national suicide; and nations which, like Italy, have developed prosperous industries, are ready to sacrifice anything, even life itself, before they will consent to Suicide.
It has been maintained that the flow of Italians into Australia has caused unemployment. I propose to show that this is not so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Plain). - Order! The honorable Senator’s time has expired.
– I support Senator Needham’s motion, because, while we have a large percentage of unemployment in the cities of Australia, Southern Europeans are still coming here. I give the lie direct to the Statement of an honorable senator opposite that the Opposition does not wish to have any migration to Australia, whether ,-t be of people of the British race or Southern Europeans. It is not part of the policy of the Labour party to oppose migration. Personally, I welcome the migration of our own kith and kin. If those who are in charge of the administration of the affairs of Australia are anxious to maintain the White Australia policy they ought to see that 90 per cent, of our migrants are British.
– Does the honorable senator think that the migration of Italians is against the White Australia policy?
– Yes, because it forces a lot of our own people out of employment. I shall show later that many Southern European migrants are willing to accept employment for less thai* the ruling rates of pay. Senator Sampson has laid great stress on the services rendered by Italy as’ an ally of Great Britain during the war. Does he forget that Japan, another ally, also rendered great service during the war by! convoying Australian troops to the front? Does he contend that, because an ally of Great Britain rendered a service to Australia during the war, her people should be permitted to come into Australia and accept employment at rates of pay much below the ruling rates? I stand for the maintenance of a White Australia and for the policy of Australia for the Australians; but, as most Australians have sprung from the British race, I maintain that it behoves us to encourage the migration of people of that race. When you meet some Italians, a few weeks after they have landed, making a meal off a potato and a saveloy, it does not say too much for the efficacy of the regulation requiring them to have £40 in cash on landing. I doubt very much whether many of them have that amount of cash with them on their arrival. In every city of Australia there are committees of influential Italians and Greeks who nominate their compatriots as migrants. It is their duty to find employment for the new arrivals ; but if the latter cannot secure employment at the ruling rates qf pay they are willing to accept 10s. a week, or they will even work for weeks for nothing and then take 10s. a week. No Australian would accept employment under those conditions. Without wishing to cast any reflection on the Italian race and their mode of living in their own country, I think I am safe in saying that they do not conform to Australian Standards of living even on arriving in Australia. Senator Pearce has told us that those responsible on the other side of the world for sending Southern Italians to Australia send only desirable migrants. It is difficult to select none but desirables from thousands of persons on the other side of the world anxious to migrate and that some
Italians who are not wholly desirable as citizens have come to Australia is proved by the following headlines I have extracted from leading Australian journals : -
Sent Home. - Two Italians going. Criminal lunatic. (Sim, 1st October, 1928.)
Italian Quarrel. - Man shot. (Advertiser, oth August, 1927.)
Italian to be Tried on Stabbing Charge. - Wife and son victims. (Herald, 30th May, 1927.)
Italian’s Defence in Stabbing Charge. - “Me no understand.” (Herald, 30th August, 1927.)
That was the case where an Italian stabbed a policeman.
Undesirables Among Foreign Migrants. - Many knife and gunmen. (Herald, 27th May, 1927.)
There has been a big influx of Italians on the Western Australian gold-fields, and the new arrivals seem to get employment despite the fact that hundreds of Australian ‘ miners are out of work. It has been proved that shipping companies on the other side of the world, in order to induce Italians to come to Australia, have issued glaring advertisements informing would-be migrants that they can secure work here at no less than £2 a day. While the Labour party is not opposed to migration, I think the time has come for a halt in the stream of migrants so as to allow the major portion of our unemployed to get work. We know that in most of our big cities the f factories close down for a few weeks over Christmas, just at a time when their employees need a few extra shillings to carry them over the festive season. Unemployment thus created is not the fault of Jack Lang. Phil Collier, or Ned Hogan. But the fact remains that while Australians are forced out of employment the flow of migrants continues. I readily recognize that if a contract has been entered into with the British Government to accept 2,000 British migrants a month it must be honored ; but the trouble is that we cannot provide employment for these migrants when they land. Many people who come here from Great Britain, presumably to go on the land, never i-each the farming centres, while many of those who do reach the agricultural areas soon find that farming is not the class of work to which they are accustomed, and they proceed to the cities, where they compete with those already there for the jobs offering. The Melbourne Herald, on the 20th June last, in an article based upon an interview with the man in charge of an Italian employment agency in Peel-street, West Melbourne, published the following: -
Nearly all the Italians in Victoria, he says, are at present in work. There are some of the men working for a lot less than the living wage. Their aim in the first place, isto get work where they are paid the maximum wages. If that is not available, they will! work for less. If the worst comes to the worst, they will work for their keep until something better turns up. They do not go into the ethics of the thing. They are frankly not concerned with the fact that they may be lowering the standard that Australian workmen have been at such pains to raise. They regard it as a bigger crime to be unemployed.
If migrants, Italians or otherwise, come here prepared to offer their services under the conditions mentioned in that article, it shows that there is something wrong. I suppose that some employers are willing to employ these people if by doing so they can show a bigger profit at the end of the week. If their command of the English language is not sufficient to enable them to appreciate what they are undertaking, they ought to be put on the right track by their English-speaking brethren. Instead of having £40 when they arrive in Australia, many have less than 40s. That is proved by the fact that unless they are absorbed immediately, they are quickly reduced to a condition of starvation. As soon as they commence work they pay in to a fund a certain sum every week to defray the cost df their fare to Australia. Those who are in control of that fund are thus enabled to assist the migration of other Southern Europeans. Thousands of diggers who fought in the great war have neither work to which they may go, nor a bed upon which they may lie. I should be ashamed to express the view that an Italian was equal to, if riot better than, an Australian. I am, first and last, an Australian. If we are unable to induce Britishers to migrate to Australia, we should- at least prevent the influx of Southern Europeans.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
.- It is greatly to be regretted that honorable senators opposite have entirely overlooked the fact that when Australia, by virtue of the part that it played in the great war. was elevated to the status of a nation, it had to accept a nation’s responsibilities, and if we do anything which may be in the nature of an insult to any other nation, we shall have to pay dearly for it. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Leader of the Senate (Sir George Pearce) and Senator Sampson, for the note of warning they have sounded. We have been told that immigration is undesirable because of the existence of unemployment ; and it has been suggested that the introduction of even desirable migrants will accentuate the problem. Honorable senators opposite will not admit that there are two outstanding causes of unemployment, one of which is that a man who is prepared to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is often not permitted to do so. A Hobart concern, which had been idle for many years, was recently placed upon a sound financial basis and gave employment to a large number of men; yet it was deliberately close’d down by the action of the unions. I refer to the Catamaran coal mine. Within the last week or two the Hobart unions have also declared black the product of the Electrolytic Zinc Works. The Waterside Workers’ Union issued the ultimatum that its members alone should handle the product of that company on its private wharfs.
– What is wrong with that?
– That dispute has extended to other States. The position is intolerable. The company installed electrical appliances for the handling of cargoes. The men of their own staff whom they employed at this work were paid the standard rate of wage for waterside workers. Members of the Waterside Workers’ Union would have to be brought five miles to attend the loading and unloading, and even then they would not have been capable of handling the machinery; whereas the men engaged by the company were trained to do so. This decision may mean that thousands of men, not only in Tasmania, but also in the other States, will be thrown- out of em ployment. I believe the main reason for the existance of unemployment at the present time is that, during the last 15 or 17 years, the legislation of Australia, has prevented growing lads from learning a useful trade. Now, literally thousands of young men arc to be found in the ranks of the unemployed. A restriction was placed on boy labour to enable those who were engaged in the particular trade to obtain a monopoly and thus be in a position to demand any wage. They are now feeling the reaction, because they are unable to have their own lads trained. I believe that over 50 per cent, of those who are unemployed to-day are young men who are not skilled in any particular trade. I do not believe for a moment that migration is the cause of, or is likely to accentuate, unemployment. I wish to quote from a report which was furnished by the Commissary-General of Emigration to the Italian Prime Minister on the 23rd September, 1926. In it he said -
It is evident, however,- that Italian emigration in large numbers cannot be thought of at present, both because of the opposition it might engender in the wealthy classes, and because of the necessity of an accurate selection of emigrants with the prospect of depriving our own fields of elements precious to the development of our agriculture. It is evident that the Italian authorities must proceed with the utmost caution to avoid, on the one hand, limiting the liberty of their citizens to go where they like, and on the other, the creating of a “ situation which would ultimately react unfavorably on our national economy. Add to this, as already stated, the necessity of not .provoking sentiments of open hostility on the part of Australia if “ undesirables “ are sent out through lack of careful selection.
We have heard a great deal with respect to the type of man who comes to Australia from Italy. The report on that pointmade by this gentleman, after very - areful investigation in Australia, is interesting. This is what he said -
None would land without either a relative or a friend to go to who had been in Australia at least two years, and in the cases of 70 individuals, up to twenty. The majority of these relatives or friends were farmers, others were of various trades, hotel or fruitshop keepers.
Further on he said -
It is worthy of note that not one-fifth of these emigrants was bound for the great Australian Capitals, while the great majority was going into the interior. One half or a little more were peasants by trade and a good number more, although they were not, were not going to increase the population of the towns.
As a result of personal observation, I believe that the majority of the Italians who have arrived here within the last few years have not added to the population of the cities, but have become land workers. We should welcome migrants of that type, provided that their character is unimpeachable. There is not the slightest doubt that the concentration of such a large proportion of the population in our cities and towns has an important bearing on the unemployed problem. I trust that, as a result of this debate, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) and those who are associated with him will recognize to the fullest extent the responsibility which we owe to every nation in the world and the necessity for refraining from doing what might be regarded as a hostile act. I am an Australian and am as proud as any man is of Australia, but I deplore the fact” that our development has been so slow. I realize the necessity that exists for increasing the population as speedily as possible. We should welcome, not discourage, those who are prepared to come here from overseas a.nd help to open up the country.
– Should we legislate for Australia, or for Italy or some other part of the world?
– We must legislate in such a way that Australia will continue to be safe. I do not contend that any nation should be given a preference over Australia. But we cannot any longer afford to follow a “ dog in the manger “ policy. We owe a duty to not only our own people, but also the rest of the world.
– The honorable senator is afraid of offending some other nation.
– Not at all. I shall conclude by expressing the hope that the facts which I have mentioned will not be lost sight of by my honorable friends on the Opposition benches.
– The problems of migration and unemployment are closely interwoven. Senator Payne has stated his beliefs as to the reason for unemployment. Naturally h6 had in mind the small island of Tasmania. The conditions which he described as existing there do not exist in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, or Western Australia. In- those States considerable numbers of men are unable to find employment. Senator Sampson informed us this afternoon that the annual exodus from Italy to South America for many years averaged, between 200,000 and 300,000 people, until the ‘ governments of the various American countries cried a halt. Now Senator Sampson wishes that outflowing tide of emigrants from Italy to be diverted to Australia. He says he would welcome Italian migrants. If they came here in such large numbers I should like to see them settle in Tasmania. There are at least 1,500,000 people out of work in Great Britain. To stave off a revolution the British aristocracy have agreed to pay exceedingly heavy taxation in order to provide almost the equivalent of a living wage for those people. Senator Payne knows only too well that the real cause of unemployment in Great Britain, as elsewhere, is that the people cannot get access to the land. England, with its 700 people to the square mile, is the most densely populated country in Europe, and yet the land there is in the hands of fewer than 1,000,000 people. The rest of the population in England have to pay to those land owners rent in some form every week, or every month, for the right to live in that country. The same conditions obtain in all the British Dominions. The land is held by a limited number, who levy toll upon the rest of the people. The Duke of Westminster as a mighty landlord compels the citizens of London to pay him about £1,000,000 a year for the privilege of living in that city. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and his colleagues in the Cabinet are fully aware of the real cause of unemployment, and yet they take no steps to remedy’ the position. What happened in South Australia recently? Following a change of Government 2,000 railway employees were dismissed. This was the act of a Nationalist government. Is it likely, in view of the prevailing distress due to unemployment there, that, the South Australian representatives in this chamber would agree to the influx of large numbers of workers from other countries to that State? I do not know what is the position of Tasmania; but I know that there is a drift of young men from the island State to the mainland, because the conditions are so much better over here than in Tasmania. There, too the land is held by a limited number, to whom the rest of - the population have to pay rent for the right to live and work on it. New South Wales now has the inestimable blessing of a Nationalist Government, but up to the present that government has done nothing to deal with the unemployed problem. As a matter of fact, no government in New South Wales has attempted to do that in what I consider is the only proper way. -The laws of that State, like the laws of all the other States, make it almost impossible for native-born Australians to secure farming or pastoral lands. In a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald there appeared a statement that thousands of people had made application for a limited number of blocks of land that had been thrown open for selection. Their one desire was to get away from the unemployed difficulties of Sydney, and to employ themselves profitably on land of their own. As only a limited number of blocks was available, thousands of people were doomed to disappointment. In the early history of South Australia, migrants from the mother country secured employment with land-owners, and as land then was only about 10s. an acre, they did not remain long in employment. Instead, they went on the land themselves. To ensure a steadier market for labour, the land-owners conceived the idea that if the price of land were increased not so many people would be in a position to take up land for themselves. Accordingly that plan was adopted, and with .the desired result. That, indeed, has been the policy in all the States throughout their history. The arguments which we have heard from honorable senators supporting the Government as to the cause of unemployment in Australia are so much piffle.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! The honorable senator is not in order in describing as “piffle” arguments used by other honorable senators. I nsk him to withdraw that remark.
– If it is objectionable, Mr. President, I shall’ withdraw it. It seemed to convey just what I thought. Honorable senators opposite cannot ignore the facts. Senator Payne complained of the increasing population in., the large cities of the Commonwealth, and suggested that that was the cause of unemployment.
– It is to a great extent.
– That is not so. ‘ To-day one-half of the work of Victoria, is done in Melbourne. The same may be said of Sydney. This is an age of massproduction. It is cheaper to manufacture commodities in the cities where labour is highly organized, than iri country districts. The primary producer benefits by this arrangement, because it would not be possible to manufacture farm machinery and implements more cheaply in small centres than it is in the larger cities of the Commonwealth. The mechanic in the city is just as necessary for the development of this country as is the man working on the outskirts of civilization.
– That is true, but we do not want to encourage overcrowding in the cities.
– Anyone who studies the trend of modern development must realize that what is happening in Australia is happening all over the world. London has nearly 8,000,000 people. That is due to the service it renders toGreat Britain, to other parts of the Empire, and to the rest of the world.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– The fifteen minutes allowed me is not- sufficient to enable me toreply to all the statements of honorable senators opposite, but I shall deal with a few of them. Let me assure Senator Sampson and others that I had, and still have, no intention of reflecting upon the Italian people as a race. I endeavoured to point to the economic situation brought about in Australia by the influx of Southern Europeans, and its effect upon the Australian labour market. My party has never been afraid to express its opinion regarding the immigration problem. We are prepared to throw open our doors to our brothers from overseas, as soon as we have put our own house in order. The figures I quoted this afternoon prove beyond doubt that the preponderance of British arrivals has been reduced in the past few years, owing to the large number of migrants from Southern Europe. The Leader of the Senate stressed the fact that the subject of migration is a domestic one. I admit that, and because of that fact I contend that it is our own concern. “We can and we have already determined that matter for ourselves. Our representatives protested at the Assembly of the League of Nations that the admission of immigrants into Australia was purely our own concern. Therefore we take full responsibility for our attitude in that matter, so far as Japan is concerned. 1. remind Senator Sampson that Japan was just as great an ally of the British Empire in the recent war as Italy was, and rendered as much assistance as did Italy; but still wo say that the people of J apan must not enter Australia. Japan does not resent our attitude. The Leader of the Senate, in a somewhat cynical tone, referred to a. few individuals in New South Wales, whom, he claimed, were not genuinely unemployed, but he made no attempt to refute my figures. He said that unemployment in that State was a result not of the influx of Southern Europeans, but of the regime of the Lang Government. I invite him to consider the position. Victoria during its history has only had a Labour Government for about ten months. When Labour assumed office this year Victoria had the greatest number of unemployed that it had had for years. Since Mr. Hogan has been Premierof the State he has considerably reduced the ranks of the workl ess. Let me again emphasize the serious influx of Southern Europeans. Although the number of British immigrants has increased by 6,000 since 1925, the proportion of British as opposed to foreign migrants has de creased from 76 per cent. to 73 per cent. Somebody has said that unemployment is not peculiar to Australia. I believe that ; but it is more than strange - it is a tragedy - that so many men are out of work in this country. Although unemployment may be rampant in other parts of the world, is Australia comparable with other countries so far as its natural resources and its ability to provide work is concerned ? Something is seriously wrong with the system under which we are governed. My right honorable friend remarked that Mr. Lang was guilty of reckless expenditure. Let me remind him that this Government has in its team a gentleman who, as Treasurer, has beaten Australian records for extravagance and recklessness. Another word as to the way in which the influx of foreigners has accentuated unemployment. It was reported in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 22nd November, that eight Australia citizens employed at a Broken Hill mine had been dismissed, and eight Italians had been put in their places. I do not think that that is an isolated case.
– Why were they dismissed ?
– The paragraph so far as I am aware, did not state the reason.
SenatorFoll. - Yes it did. I read the reason.
– It must have been an extraordinary one.
Senatorfoll.- It was.
– In drawing attention to the subject of unemployment I had no desire to embarrass the Government, or prevent it from proceeding with its business. I hope that it will now adopt drastic measures to prevent the undue influx of Southern Europeans which directly interferes with the employment of Australians. Having made my protest I ask permission to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions arc as follow : -
2 and 3. The contract stipulates the provision upon each mail ship of a specified amount of insulated space for the carriage of perishable produce. The subsidy quoted includes both services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1.No.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
What provision has been made for suitable hospital accommodation for the women living alongside the Trans-Australian Railway?
– A medical scheme, subsidized by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, provides medical attention and medicine free of charge to the men, women and children along the line, and free hospital accommodation, as necessary, at Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, including special provision for women in such hospital’s or any approved maternity home.
Debate resumed from 3rd November (vide page 914) on motion by Senator McLachlan. -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to give greater protection to life and property in defence areas, or in areas which may in the future be proclaimed as defence areas. Firearms are dangerous weapons, and we should do all in our power to regulate their use in order to minimize risk to life and property. To that provision in the bill no honorable senator will offer any objection. I desire, however, to draw attention to one aspect of it which appears to be somewhat drastic. I refer to sub-clause 4 of proposed section 89a, which provides that a person who commits an offence may be apprehended by “ any “ member of the Defence Force. Among the persons employed by the Defence Department are young men and women of, say, eighteen years of age. Will they have the power to arrest offenders? In committee the Minister may be able to explain the reason for the wording used. Apart from that objection, I see nothing in the bill -to which exception can be taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Discharging firearms on or over Commonwealth land).
– Will the Minister be good enough to explain the necessity for the wording of sub-section 4 of proposed section 89a? It seems rather drastic to provide that any person employed in the Department of Defence may apprehend an offender and detain him in custody.
– The object of the sub-clause is to make provision for outlying districts, where no member of the police force is stationed, but where usually a person employed by the Department of Defence is in charge of the property of the department. It would rarely occur that a person under 21 years of age would be called upon to apprehend an offender.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 6.8 to 8 p.m.
.- I move -
That immediate steps be taken by the Government to establish, equip, and operate a transmitting station at Canberra to secure the broadcasting of senators’ speeches.
We are fortunate in that we are living in a wonderful age. Invention after invention of the most astounding character follow with remarkable rapidity, and of all those in recent years wireless occupies the premier position. To my mind wireless ought to be fully utilized wherever possible. Some of us can remember seeing our first locomotive, but our astonishment at that wonderful invention has long since ceased. Everyone knows now that the locomotive for railway traction is being replaced by electrically driven trains, and that within a limited number of years it may be entirely superseded. The telegraph is still a mystery to some people. I remember reading many years ago of the invention of the telephone by Dr.
Bell. It was first exhibited, I think, at the Philadelphia exhibition as a toy, but since then it has come into universal use We all know how the old windjammer has given place to the steamer, and thatcoal as a fuel is gradually giving place to oil. The dreams of JulesVerne in his Ten Thousand Leagues under the Sea have been more than realized by recent inventions. The submarine is quite common to-day; flying boats, motor cars, and other subsidiary inventions are also commonplace. It is but a few years since wireless was first,” mentioned. For most of its wonderful achievements we are indebted to scientists? still living. To-day almost every schoolboy feels competent to make a receiving set, and wireless is coming more and more into use. There are new developments which may have a very farreaching effect. We are told by experts that by means of a recent invention it is possible to see the person who is speaking at the end of a wire many miles away and even the person who is speaking at a distance where there are no wires employed to transmit the waves of sound. Moving pictures have been so well developed that persons may not only see, but hear a speaker at some distance, and indeed the speech, so heard can be recorded, placed in a box, and carried from place to place. I do not know that television has yet been so developed that it is possible for those at a distance, who wish to listen tospeeches of honorable senators here to see them actually speaking, but it would be highly desirable if it could be done. There are many good reasons why honorable senators should agree to my motion, I have often listened with great interest to speeches delivered by members of Parliament in another place, in the House of Commons and in the Senate. It is remarkable how careful legislators are to see that every statement they make is strictly in accordance with facts. Those who take the trouble to examine the speeches delivered by Ministers or honorable senators must be amazed at the facts and figures they have taken the trouble to collate and place on record. If mistakes are made by them, there are others who are always willing to put them right. The result is that any one who attempts to speak ina legislative chamber takes good care to see that all his facts and figures are strictly accurate. We have a most efficient staff of Parliamentary reporters who avoid the split infinitives and other idiosyncrasies of some honorable senators. They make a wonderfully correct record of our speeches, but very rarely do those speeches find their, way into the press of the Commonwealth. To all intents and purposes the only publicity they get - except on very rare occasions - is in the pages of Hansard, which I do not suppose has a circulation of more than 15,000 or 20,000. The press has a distinct purpose in view in refusing to give due publicity to the speeches of members of Parliament. Honorable senators are elected by very large bodies of electors. I suppose that the votes recorded in New South Wales for a senator elected to this chamber number 600,000. That very fact entitles an honorable senator to express public opinion. The press, however, never fails to minimize, belittle, or sneer at the opinions expressed by legislators, Federal and State. It arrogates to itself the right to manufacture and disseminate public opinion. Speeches delivered here very often remain unnoticed in the daily press. To a brilliant speech delivered the other day in another place - a speech which occupied about one and a half hours to deliver - one leading Melbourne newspaper devoted four lines, and .another six lines. I suppose the honorable gentleman who delivered that speech was lucky to get even that amount of space. The treatment to which legislators are subjected by the daily press of the Commonwealth is not fair; but, as I have already said, it is because the press arrogates to itself the right to manufacture and to disseminate public opinion. A very deplorable result of this is to be seen in the attitude of some legislators who, for want of thought, follow the lead given to them by the daily press and treat with contempt the Hansard in which their speeches are recorded. I think it is a great mistake. It tends to lower the prestige of members of Parliament. It ought to be the aim of those whom the people have honored by electing them to -this Parliament to see that their positions are safeguarded at all times from attacks of the kind to which I have alluded. Tuc question that suggests itself is, what action can be taken to give due publicity to the speeches of members of Parliament? Every adult citizen of Australia is expected to know what takes place in Parliament, and be acquainted with every act that is passed. Ignorance of the law is not accepted as an excuse if he should commit a breach of it. Consequently all steps should be taken that will give him n greater opportunity to ascertain what is being done. Hansard does not furnish a sufficient degree of publicity. Some members may distribute copies of the speeches which they deliver, but that is a limited publicity. A newspaper that has a circulation of 200,000 copies affords a wealth of publicity that n”. man in public life can ignore. It has been the boast of newspapers in the past that they have been able to make and. unmake ministries. I look to wireless to get us out of the difficulty iti which we now find ourselves. I do not know of any parliament in which the speeches of members are broadcast; but it is undeniable that the speeches which were made by Mr. Amery during his tour of Australia were relayed throughout the continent and were highly appreciated. Listeners-ill thus had an opportunity of hearing what otherwise might have been withheld from them. The time is opportune for the Senate to consider the advisability of equipping and operating a broadcasting station at the Seat of Government, so that the speeches of honorable senators may he placed upon the air, and be heard with pleasure by thousands of people.
– The honorable senator would probably bc nearer the mark if he limited the number to hundreds.
– That state of mind is, unfortunately, typical of some members of parliament. It is a -mistaken view. In. London one would experience considerable difficulty in obtaining admission to the House of Commons. The galleries of the New South Wales Parliament are filled every evening, and those conditions obtain also in Victoria. Doubtless, that will be the experience in -this Parliament in the future. The public desires to know what is being done . Before many years have elapsed, loud speakers will be installed at various centres throughout the Commonwealth, and any person who desires to do so will be able to listen in to our proceedings. Mr. Malone, the officer in charge of broadcasting,has informed me that the number of licences issued in the various States is as follows -
It will be readily admitted that the es tablishment of relay stations at different centres would enable upwards of a million people to hear what their senators are saying, and the manner in which their speeches are delivered. It has even been suggested that motion picture theatres should set apart a quarter of an hour every evening to enable their patrons to listen in to the proceedings of the Federal Parliament. Very great care is now exercised by members of parliament to ensure the accuracy of their statements. If their speeches were being listened to by thousands of persons throughout the Commonwealth, they would be even more careful of their facts, and endeavour to improve the quality of their speeches. At the present time the speeches that are made in this and another place are practically lost, on account of the press arrogating to itself the right to mould public opinion. I doubt whether wireless has yet progressed sufficiently to allow of two sets of speeches being transmitted simultaneously from the one station. My concern, however, is to have a station erected at Canberra as soon as possible, in order that the speeches of honorable senators may be placed before the electors. 1. do not know whether the Senate would desire to monopolize the station. The electors might display a preference for speeches by the Prime Minister and members of another place. That, however, is a detail. One evening could be devotedto the speeches of honorable senators, and another to those of honorable members of the other chamber.
– What would happen if all the State Parliaments had the speeches of their members broadcast?
– It would be necessary to have a special wave-length for Canberra, so that it would not conflict with the wave-lengths of other stations. Some years ago the Sydney Trades Hall authorities established a wireless station at the Trades Hall, which is now in direct communication with listeners-in throughout that State. If it is considered desirable to broadcast the speeches from the Sydney Trades Hall, how much more desirable is it that speeches, delivered in the national Parliament should be put on the air for listeners-in who wish to hear the views of their representatives on any particular subject? There is no reason why this proposal should not receive favourable consideration at the hands of the Senate. Recently I wrote to Mr. Fisk, the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, asking him if he would be good enough to furnish me with an approximate estimate of the cost of a station that would transmit effectively by day and by night the speeches of honorable senators as far as Brisbane, Adelaide and Launceston, also an approximate estimate of the cost of a station to transmit as far as Perth. Mr.Fisk is, I suppose, the foremost authority on wireless in Australia, so that any statement made by him may be regarded as authentic. He replied to my communication in the following terms, under date 23rd instant, the letter reaching me to-day : -
My Dear Senator,. -
I received this morning your letter of the 22nd inst., and am very gratified to learn of your personal interest in the great science of wireless communication. There is no doubt that the fullest possible development of wireless in all its phases will be beneficial to Australia, and that all proper steps should be taken to continually build up the wireless services of Australia and to develop the wireless industry under Australian control. If a broadcasting station were erected at Canberra, it could be made acentre for transmitting to all parts of Australia and to other countries all important happenings at the new centre of the Federal Government. It could alsobe used with suitable land line connexions for relaying locally selected programmes from Sydney and Melbourne. The approximate cost of erecting and equipping a modern5-kilowatt broadcasting station at Canberra would be £12,000 plus land and buildings. The land required would be not more than two or three acres, and a suitable building ought tobe erectedat Canberra for about £2,000. Thefigure I give would provide for a thoroughly up-to-date station, capable ofbeing heard at night in most parts of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. In order tobroadcastday or night as far as Perth, using the ordinary broadcasting wave-lengths in the neighbourhood of400 metres, it would be necessary to havea station of at least 50 kilowatts, which would cost at least £60,000. During recent years, however, we have done a, great amount of experimenting in Australia with ultra short wave transmission and reception, and we have now suceeded in adapting ultra short wave sets for broadcasting purposes, and as you are no doubt aware, we have successfully broadcast Sydney programmes andand them relayed in England, although at present, this can only be doneat favorable times and for a limited period in any 24 hours. Our experiments, however, have shown that a 5-kilowatt ultra short wave transmitter, such as we now employ for various purposes at Sydney and Melbourne, would give fairly- good daylight results in most parts of Australia. A 5- kilowatt transmitter of this type could be erected at Canberra for approximately £.12,000, and it would be possible for listeners having suitable receiving sets to hear that station in Perth. Veryfew listeners, however, have such receiving sets, and they are not yet commercially on the market. If such an ultra short wave transmitter were installed at Canberra, it would be best to make arrangements to have special receiving equipment at the principal local broadcasting station in the various States, including Western Australia, so that the Canberra transmission could be picked up at those receiving centres and automatically relayed through the local broadcasting stations on the ordinary broadcasting wave-length for the benefit of all listeners. An ultra short wave station of the type suggested would also be useful for transmitting programmes from Canberra to other stations for local relay . The two stations suggested above could be accommodated in one building, and operated by one technical organization. The cost of operating would vary according to the number of hours of transmission. Including technical salaries and wages, depreciation, interest, power, and maintenance,I should say the cost would vary between £2,000 and£10,000 per annum. I trust the above will be of assistance toyou.
My proposal therefore is that we should concentrate on . the erection of a modern 5-kilowatt broadcasting station. the cost of which Mr. Fisk estimates at £12,000, plus La nd and buildings.It is true that a station of this size would not transmit speeches as far as Perth, and I am not sure that I would be prepared to recommend an expenditure of £60,000 to achieve- that object, although naturally I should like to see Perth included, and would not strongly object to the additional expenditure required. I understand, however, that it would be possible to relay speeches from Adelaide to Perth at a small additional cost, though that would not he so satisfactory as direct transmission from the central station. Our requirements at the outset, at all events, would be met by the erection of the modern 5-kilowatt station. I have stated what appears to me to be the main reasons why we should adopt this scheme. It is the most modern method of transmitting information. Shortly after the outbreak of war, in 1915, our means of communication by wireless were of the most primitive character. Since then remarkable developments have taken place. We should have taken action earlier to broadcast the speeches of members of the Federal Parliament. It is important, that the opinions of honorable senators should be widely known throughout the Commonwealth. I believe that, if the Senate adopts this proposal, the daily press of Australia will give much more prominence to the doings of the national Parliament than has been given during the last few years. I hope that the motion will receive the unanimous support of the Senate. If members of another place desire also to have their speeches broadcast, I feel sure that honorable senators will not object. Naturally, the general public will want to hear the views of members of another place occasionally. In my opinion it is most unfair thatthe doings of the national Parliament should be smothered by the brief reports that appear in the daily press. The tin hares receive more notice from some of the newspapers than is given to the proceedings of the national Parliament.
If the cost amounted to £12,000, or even £20,000, it would not be a serious item. No less than 250,000 receiving sets are inuse, and I believe that the people would welcome an opportunity for obtaining firsthand information concerning the doings of this chamber.
– Three hours of our time were occupied this afternoon in the consideration of the subject of immigration. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) moved the adjournment of the
Senate to discuss the influx of Italian immigrants, and now we have the DeputyLeader (Senator Grant) suggesting that the speeches of honorable senators should be broadcast throughout Australia by means of the invention of an Italian, Signor Marconi. It is a curious change of front on the part of Labour senators. Senator Grant would have us believe that, if only the addresses delivered on both sides of the chamber were made to ring from, one end of Australia to the other by means of wireless telegraphy, the people would be enthralled, and we should become almost immortal. When the Constitution was drawn up, this branch of the legislature, it was anticipated, would be the highest legislative body in the Commonwealth. It was said that the greatest ‘political mind3 in Australia would aspire to become senators. Here we were to tackle the great problems that could be effectively dealt with only in a chamber that gave equal representation to all the States, and whose members were elected on the most liberal franchise known. I think that the universal opinion is that this chamber has not acted up to the high ideals of the founders of federation. It is said that to a certain extent it merely reflects the opinion of the other branch of the legislature, and therefore has not justified its existence. Many remarkable proposals have been submitted for our consideration in the past, but I know of no more remarkable motion than that now before us. Is Senator Grant sincere regarding it, or has he some ulterior motive? Since he is a Scotchman, I suppose I cannot accuse him of being a humourist. Eoi- some time the platform of his party has provided for the abolition of the Senate, and if, by a series of underhand attacks, that party could create popular prejudice against this chamber, it might be easier for it to carry out that part of its programme. Is the object of the motion, therefore, to ridicule the Senate by suggesting that when the other chamber is dealing with matters of vital importance to Australia, this section of the Parliament has nothing to do except consider whether the speeches of honorable senators should be broadcast? It is our solemn duty to do our utmost to uphold the high traditions of the Senate, and, therefore, I intend to oppose the motion. Let us consider what would be the effect upon the people if our speeches were inflicted upon them over the air every night. Have we no pity for the unfortunate electors? Certainly, they do not receive the consideration that they deserve from this and other legislative bodies; but the carrying of the present proposal would amount to an outrage upon their feelings. Perhaps Senator Grant remembers that there are a number of Labour leagues throughout New South Wales. I do not know one member of those leagues who, either on a fair or a wet night, would be inclined to leave his home to listen to a speech by Senator Grant, or indeed any other honorable senator. The people generally are not interested in the doings of this Parliament to the extent of desiring to hear individual addresses. Our decisions as registered in the legislation we enact are of interest to them, as are possibly the speeches by recognized leaders who deal with great national issues from new viewpoints. Senator Grant nas taKen an opportunity to attack the press generally, because the great daily newspapers of Australia do not publish verbatim reports of his speeches. Some other means of acquainting the people with his words of wisdom must be found. If the honorable senator’s suggestion were put into operation, and the speeches delivered in this Senate broadcast, we should, in order to be consistent, go a step further and compel the people of Australia to listen to those speeches. Already we have compulsory enrolment and compulsory voting. Why not have, as well, compulsory listening-in to parliamentary speeches ? I could adduce one or two reasons why the motion should be agreed to. It has been contended in some quarters that the composers of songs and other musical productions are not getting an adequate return from the works they have created. The Performing Rights Association has been formed, we are told, to ensure that they will receive that return. If we could not only compel the people to listen to the speeches delivered in this chamber, but also require them r.o pay a fee for that privilege - the revenue derived therefrom to be divided among those who made the speeches - the scheme would have its attractions. Senator Grant, because of the great number of lengthy speeches he delivers from time to time on various subjects, would receive, as his proportion of the fees, such an addition to his income that when next he faced the inf uriated electors of New South Wales he would be in a position to snap his fingers at them. But even that reason is not sufficient to cause me to vote for his motion. There is, however, one further reason which might be advanced in support of it, and which might well engage the earnest attention of the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch. For some time that body has been seeking a means of combating the prickly pear, which in portions of Australia has become a pest. If the poison gas from this chamber could be conveyed to the areas affected by prickly pear it might confer a benefit on Australia! If that experiment proved successful, attention could then be devoted to the rabbit pest. Senator Grant said that a medium-powered broadcasting station would necessitate an expenditure of about £12,000. To enable the speeches made in this chamber to be heard throughout the world £60,000 would probably be required. That seems a large sum of money, but if its expenditure would eradicate the prickly pear and rabbit pests, the money would be well spent. Nevertheless, much as I should like to support the motion, I am ofthe opinion that the disadvantages associated with it far outweigh the advantages. I ask the Senate not to agree to the motion, not only for the sake of the unfortunate people of Australia, but in the interests of Senator Grant himself. I shudder to think what would happen to him if the electors were forced to listen to his many speeches in this Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir William Glasgow) adjourned.
alterationofplanof lay-out of Canberra.
.- I move-
As one who has taken a keen interest in the establishment of the Federal Capital, I make a practice of studying the regulations and ordinances - and they are many - which deal either directly or indirectly with the City of Canberra. That, I confess is a tedious and difficult task. Some time ago I endeavored to induce the Ministry to agree to consolidate the various ordinances which have been passed from time to time, but without success. Probably not one member of this Senate has the slightest idea of the number of ordinances and regulations which have been passed, to say nothing of their nature and contents. No one is in a position to say what is the area of the city, because its boundaries are varied from time to time practically at the whim of the Federal Capital Commission or the Minister. Many years of strenuous work elapsed before the decision to establish the Federal Capital in its present magnificent setting was made; and even then the decision was arrived at by a narrow majority. The establishment of a Federal Capital has always been opposed by what is, fortunately, a diminishing number of members in this Parliament. When it was decided to establish a city in the place selected, the Government of the day wisely decided to invite applications throughout the world for the best lay-out of that city. It was recognized then that if the city were not properly designed, heavy expenditure might he incurred in later years in remedying mistakes. It was desired that there should be no repetition of the experience of Sydney, where the authorities have been faced with heavy expenditure in remodelling portions of the city because it was not properly planned in the first instance. Cities like Adelaide and Melbourne, which developed according to well thought-out plans prepared by surveyors, have many advantages over cities which, like Sydney, grew up along the bullock tracks of the early days. In response to the call for designs, a number of schemes came before the judges who were appointed to select the best design. Having considered them all carefully, the judges finally awarded the first prize to the design of Mr. WalterBurley Griffin, of Chicago. Notwithstanding the merits of his design, the opposition to it was so great that at one time it was set aside and a departmental plan substituted. Fortunately, however, public opinion was sufficiently strong to force theauthorities to adhere to Mr. Griffin’s plan, which had fairly won the first prize in the world competition. I view any alteration of that plan with suspicion, althoughI admit that in every instance that suspicion may not be well founded. However, I want to be certain that the opposition which once was sufficiently strong to set aside Mr. Griffin’s plan is not still operating against the lay-out of the city along the lines suggested by its author. In the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No.98 a notice of a proposed alteration of the lay-out of the City of Canberra, appears. From time to time similar notices have appeared in that publication. There appear to be about 40 departures from the original plan. The Gazette contains a plan of the proposed alteration,on which the particulars are given in what I believe is known as diamond type. The type is so small that it has a. face not more than one-sixteenth of an inch long; the lettering is very fine. The plan itself is only 12 inches long by 9 inches wide. It is quite impossible for any one to ascertain exactly from this what alterations are intended. We ought to have the fullest explanation of what is intended. I notice a proposed alteration at the south-east corner of the city which seems to mo to involve going round a semi-circle instead of in a straight line. The operation seems to be repeated seven or eight times. It may be necessary; I do not know that it is not; but I think we ought to know why it is to be done. We ought to have a larger plan before us. It seems to me to be a good idea to abandon the rectangular method of laying out cities as applied to Melbourne and Adelaide; but . I. am at a loss to understand why, when we have a straight street going t hrough a circle, it should be split up, and portion of the traffic should be compelled to go round a semi-circle. That idea seems to be carried out in a number of places. I suppose there are about 40 alterations shown on the plan. We ought to have an explanation from the Minister of the effect they will have on the Griffin design. I do not know that many people take- a keen interest in the matter; but I am one of those who do, because I realize that once a city is firmly planted it takes an enormous amount of energy, money, and time to effect any alterations. At one time Sydney was laid out by some farseeing wide-visioned man, with all the streets 100 feet wide; but some narrowminded people came along afterwards and said, “ This place will never be a city requiring streets of this width.” And they cut them down to 50 feet and 60 feet, with the result that hundreds of thousands of pounds have had to be expended to widen them to cope with the traffic increase of Sydney.I should like the Minister to assure me that the Griffin plan will not be seriously interfered with, and that there is no other way of doing what the commission proposes. My purpose in bringing forward the motion was to see what effect the proposed alterations were likely to have on the original plan, as laid out by Mr. Griffin.
[ 9.19].- Provision was made in section. 4 of the Seat of Government Administration Act, 1924-26, under which the Federal Capital Commission was appointed for the publication, as soon as practicable after the passing of the act, of a plan of the layout of the City of Canberra, and its environs. It is also provided in that measure that the Minister may, at any time, by writing under his hand, modify or vary the plan so published, but that no such modification or variation shall be made until after the expiration of thirty days after notice of such intention. The act further requires that a copy of the instrument making the modification shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament, and that any modification or variation shall cease to have effect after a resolution to that effect; is passed by either House of Parliament. A plan of the city was accordingly gazetted and became the basic plan in accordance with the act. This was, of course, the general plan of the City of
Canberra prepared by Mr. V. B. Griffin, with such minor modifications as had been approved up to that time. The modifications now proposed were indicated in the plan published in the Commonwealth Gazelle No. US of the 29th October, 1927, and reference to them will indicate that the alterations do not interfere with any basic principle of the layout as originally approved. They are merely subdivisional changes rendered necessary by a closer study of the .ground, and of the constructional economies, which were not possible at the time the plan was originally gazetted. It must be realized, that ‘ the plan of Canberra prepared by Mr. Griffin is merely a sketch plan of a city, and that in working out the details on the ground it is inevitable that minor alterations must be made from time to time. Mr. Griffin made numerous modifications in. the plan himself during the period in which he was in charge of its development, and other variations were made on the recommendation of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee. These were of the same minor character and can be justified in detail from practical considerations. Since the appointment of the Federal. Capital Commission and the formal gazettal of the plan, there has been very considerable development, as a result of which it has been indicated that further minor modifications are necessary in the public interest. None of these, however, affect any vital principle of Mr. Griffin’s plan; they are merely practical improvements of the kind that must be made in course of execution. For example, the alterations proposed in the northern part of Canberra Avenue subdivision provide for the setting apart, of open spaces in the front of allotments, whereas under the existing plan such spaces would be at the rear of allotments. This is a detailed improvement, which also permits of a. more economic arrangement! of the drainage. In the same area it is proposed to omit an oval-shaped road, of little importance, to obviate the destruction of an outstanding clump of native trees; and the” removal of a minor road in the same area avoids the necessity to locate buildings in the bed of a watercourse. In the North Ainslie area it was found that in one subdivision the roads previously gazetted were insufficient for subdivisional purposes. Additional minor roads have been inserted. These aru principally compiled from Mr. Griffin’s original plan, and this procedure has been followed wherever possible. The principal alteration is the diminution of the diagrammatic plan of the University area. Even here the proposed alterations do not affect any essential principle of the Griffin design. The University will be approximately in the same area, but a study of the ground renders certain local re-arrangements desirable. The Griffin plan shows a number of buildings located throughout the University area on sloping country which would involve very costly construction to no apparent advantage. As a matter of fact, to erect buildings in strict accordance with the diagrammatic layout shown on the plan could not be justified. Moreover, one of the roads is badly located along the course of a creek. The modifications proposed will enable the commission to finish off the services in connexion with a considerable number of houses and the Canberra Hospital, most of which have been built for many years and upon which many thousands of pounds have already been spent. The present hospital and other buildings would otherwise have to be demolished, and they should serve their present purpose for a long time, without, prejudice to the ultimate location of the hospital on the site indicated in Mr. Griffin’s plan, if desired. Some misapprehension has arisen from the fact that in the revised plan, as recently gazetted, a proposed alternative route for the city railway is shown. This is not one of the alterations made on the plan, but was inserted for information only when the plan was drawn. It should be stated, in regard to the railway, that the commission has .made preliminary investigations with the object of ascertaining whether it would be advisable to recommend an alternative route for the city railway, but it has not yet made any report to the Government on the subject, and the matter may be regarded as still in the inquiry stage. Although a trial survey of a route has been made, this was for the purpose only of assisting the investigation mentioned. The alternative route to which the commission has been giving consideration kas not been approved by the Government, or even submitted to the Government, as prescribed, as a proposed alteration to the city plan. It will be seen, therefore, that there is no reason why the Senate should approve of this motion to disallow the proposed alterations to the plan. By so doing they would place difficulties in the way of justifiable development, and prevent the carrying out of necessary minor local improvements effecting economy, convenient access, and other practical matters of detail which were not worked out in the plan originally gazetted.
Question resolved in the negative.
Connexion With New South Wales Railway System
Debate resumed from 17th November (nida page 1540) on motion by Senator
That, in the opinion of this Semite, the Federal Government should enter into negotiations with the Governments of New South Wales and South Australia to link up the East-West railway with the ?few South Wales railway system via Broken Hill or Hay.
– As it is not the desire of the mover of the motion that it should be proceeded with to-night. I propose te reserve my remarks for another occasion. I ask leave to resume my speech at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1.3th October (vide page 496) on motion by Senator
That the Senate is of opinion that the provisions of the existing ordinance requiring the consent of the Federal Capital Commission to any Si,i)-lease of land or part thereof in the Federal Territory (city area), after the erection of the buildings thereon, should be repealed.
It was stated that the old leases of the civic centre were called in in order to give effect to a proposal that the arcade should be annexed to the leases so as to compel lessees to keep it in repair. This is not correct. The arcade was already a portion of the land covered by the leases that were called in. so that the responsibility to repair was already there. The reason for calling in the leases was to effect certain improvements in the interests of the lessees themselves by making alterations to the building design’ to give deeper shops and make certain architectural improvements. This could not be done except by common consent of all the lessees and this was obtained and new leases issued embodying the improvements. No alteration was made in the law, as suggested, except a minor amendment to provide that all the lessees’ rights should be preserved, and, although they received additional land, that no extra payments or higher rental would be required. The matter was taken up at the instance of the lessees and was not originated by the commission. The honorable senator stated that by mutual consent the whole of the leases at the civic centre are now subject to the ordinance which provides that a portion of the shop or building shall not be sublet without the consent of the commission. He is confused between two matters. The provisions regarding sub-letting had nothing whatever to do with the calling in of the leases at the civic centre, but were actually in force some considerable time before that was done. Reference was made to the inconvenience of obtaining consent to sub-leases and to the delay in giving a decision. With the exception of the honorable senator’s complaint, ‘ no complaints have been received by the Federal Capital Commission in regard to this matter, although many sub-leases have been dealt with. The honorable senator also stated that the ordinance is in force and apparently the commission does not know how to interpret it. Earlier in his speech he accused the commission of havdeli berately called in the leases at the civic centre for the purpose of issuing new ones subject to restrictions concerning sub-letting. His remarks in this regard were not consistent. He stated that there are no restrictions regarding subletting upon the lessees of dwelling houses, and that houses may be sub-let without the consent of the commission. This is not correct, as the clause con cerning consent to sub-letting applies to dwelling houses as well as to commercial premises. He implied also that the consent of the commission has been unreasonably withheld. I am assured that in no case has that been so. Reference was made also to the case of. a man who had been almost ruined by being unable to sub-let. In that case no proper application for a sub-lease was made to the commission beyond certain indefinite inquiries. At the time the commission had recived complaints from the shopkeepers to the effect that they were being charged excessive rentals by “ middlemen “ sublessees, but the Commission made no inquiries into the matter of rentals. All applications for consent to sub-lease have been approved, but in one instance consent was given subject to a certain condition that had nothing whatever to do with the question of fair rentals, but was concerned with the application of a requirement implied by the zoning system in regard to rear access to buildings. Another reference was to a lessee who was asked whether he intended to occupy the whole of the property for his business, and when he replied that he would not need the whole of it and that in the meantime he proposed to sub-let a portion of the building he was told he could not do so. I am advised that the commission has no knowledge of the matter as stated and that neither the commissioners nor their staff have made any such statement as is implied. The commission quite realizes that in some instances shopkeepers will not require the whole of their premises, and, pending expansion of business, will desire to sub-let a portion. To all such applications consent has been given.
The honorable senator contended that the ordinance of which he complained was passed because it was intended to permit an alteration in the building requirement of leases where residences oh the first floor were not. needed and it was desired to use the rooms for offices. There is a misunderstanding here, as no alteration in the purposes for which a building should be used was made at all. The provisions in regard to offices and residences were the same in each case, and, as already explained, the alterations in the law had nothing to do with the amendment of the building design in the leases at the civic centre. The honorable senator referred to the commission having been forced to disregard the ordinance which would prevent householders in Blandfordia letting rooms to lodgers. The law contains nothing to prevent a family taking in a boarder.’ On the contrary, the commission was hoping that some residents would decide to do so and thus relieve the strain on the hotels and hoarding houses.
It will be seen that there is considerable confusion in the mind of the honorable senator regarding the operation of the law to which he takes exception, and I shall now endeavour to make the matter clear by a brief statement of the position. The City Area Leases Ordinance, 1924-26, which governs the leasing of land in the city area in the Territory for the Seat of Government originally contained no provision for sub-letting portions of a lease, but provided that the leased land should be held in each case as one undivided parcel. The object of this was to prevent unauthorized subdivision of lands and consequent modification of the approved sub-divisions. Later, when buildings came to be erected, it was essential to make provision by which portion of commercial premises could be sub-let as offices, as in many instances the original lessees did not desire to use the whole of the premises. The law was consequently amended to provide that the Federal Capital Commission might consent to the sub-lease of any portion or portions of a building apart from the rest of the building, and also that the commission might give or withhold its consent, or consent subject to any condition it might think fit. This is the present law on the subject. The Federal Capital Commission upon its appointment found itself confronted with unprecedented conditions in matters affecting the tenure of land in the city. A specific plan of layout had been adopted, involving a scheme of zoning or allocation of areas for definite purposes, and. in addition, the whole of the land was held on the leasehold principle. The commission accordingly set itself to administer the existing law, which - up to the present - has continued to bc the policy of the Government, and, at the same time, it proceeded to make a close study of the effect of the unusual conditions concerning land tenure and other relevant features, including the incidence of the provisions restricting sub-leasing, The commission felt that reliable opinions on these matters could be formed only as a result, of observation over a. reasonable period. As a result of an experience of nearly three years the commission has recommended, and the Government has now approved, that the existing provision of the law relating to sub-leasing be amended to remove the necessity for consent being given for the creation and disposal of sub-leases after the erection of buildings. The drafting of the amended legislation involved in the Government’s decision is now being carried out, and it is proposed that an ordinance shall shortly be passed to bring it into force. This will remove the objections raised by the honorable senator, and lessees will no longer be required to obtain the consent of the commission. Sub-leases, however, will still remain subject to the general laws of the Territory and to any municipal regulations which affect the sub-division of buildings or health conditions, or similar matters.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 502) on motion by Senator Elliott -
That, in view of. the great difficulties, financial and otherwise, being experienced by persons desirous of owning their own homes in Canberra, the Senate is of opinion that such persons should be permitted, if they so desire, to obtain the freehold of their residences, and that the Government be requested to bring down a bill to permit of the sale of residential sites to bona fide residents.
[9.44]. - In speaking to this motion, Senator Elliott made reference to the cir cumstances surrounding the passing of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, which contains the provision preventing the disposal of estates in freehold in the Territory. The section which lays down the policy of leasehold is section 9, and it was stated by the honorable senator that sections 1 to 10 were passed without debate. He hinted that the matter was surreptitiously dealt with at the time by the Government. lt would appear that the honorable . senator’s reading of Hansard on this matter was of a cursory character, as I find, on referring to this record, that the bill was re-committed at the instance of- a member of the Opposition in order that this clause might be inserted, and the Government’s intentions in the matter were clearly stated by the Acting Prime Minister. The fact that no opposition was raised to this section in either House indicated that it was not regarded as objectionable. The principle has been accepted, moreover, by successive Governments, and the present Government sees no reason to propose an amendment of the law. On the other hand there is a strong argument for not altering tho present policy. In criticizing the provision imposing leasehold tenure, the honorable senator made a number of statements which, I think, should be referred to. In the first place, the honorable senator implied that the leasehold system is unfair, and that the Government says in effect, “Heads I win and tails you lose; if there is a rise iti values I will take it all; if there is a slump you must carry the baby.” He also referred to land costing £4 per acre being afterwards doled out in minute portions at an excessive ground rent. I fail to see how this allegation of unfairness can be sustained. The lessee does not pay the capital sum, but only ft per cent, on the unimproved capital value of the land. He is tints left with more capital to spend on his building, and the ground rent of 5 per cent, is lower than that at which he could obtain money from any source at the present time. Any reappraisement of rental at the end of twenty years may be queried, and provision is made for appeal to an independent board. The cost per acre was for land unimproved, whilst the present rental values are for land with all services provided, and values of land in towns of similar size are equally high, even though they arc very much behind Canberra so far as services go. In criticizing the objection that the expenditure incurred in the Territory is contributing towards the increased value of the land, the honorable senator contended that values have been inflated owing to a few blocks only having been put up. I do not agree that there lias been any inflation of values, and, moreover, there has been no deliberate policy of creating an artificial shortage by putting up a few blocks only with the object of raising values. At present a considerable number of the shops and offices at the civic centre, although completed or nearly completed, are not yet let. The commission is carefully watching the position, and will offer additional sites as soon as there is any indication of a demand. Moreover, many of the residential sites already leased have not yet been built upon. The honorable senator referred also to the difficulties of people with small capital purchasing a home of their own. The leasehold principle at Canberra helps them very considerably to own their own homes, as they are not required to pay out a large sum for the capital value of the land. They can obtain the ownership of a house on the lease, and the period of the lease of the land is nearly double the economic life of the house. A great point was made by Senator Elliott in regard to the possible case of the widow and children of a public servant being penalized in the event of the rent falling into arrears, as the property would revert to the commission. The honorable senator quoted an extreme case. The widow would have the right to dispose of the leasehold and improvements by sale. It is likely that a widow with a. freehold estate in such circumstances would have to sell or mortgage the property, and she would certainly receive less consideration from an ordinary commercial institution than from a governmental authority such as the commission. The honorable senator also alleged that the whole of the framework of the law regarding land tenure went by the board when this act was passed - that the tenant had parted with his birthright >and had become a slave, a leaseholder being unable to leave his home unless he sacrificed all that he had put into it. This is extraordinary language.
Although not general in Australia, the leasehold system operates in other countries - particularly in Great Britain. A considerable part of London itself is held on the leasehold system. The inhabitants there do not regard themselves as being slaves who have parted with their birthright, Morevoer, a leaseholder in Canberra may sell his leasehold, transfer, mortgage, or let it if he desires, provided he has erected a house upon it. Reference was made by the honorable senator to the fact that the Commonwealth Bank and other banks would give assistance only on terms of overdraft and at call. This statement is hardly correct. The Commonwealth Bank has adopted a special scheme for assistance to public servants under which it will advance up to 70 per cent, of the value of a building, at 5£ per cent, per annum, repayments in instalments to be spread over a period of 35 years. The bank has also agreed to make advances to private individuals for residences and for commercial purposes up to 60 per cent, of its valuation, but these are on usual terms of overdraft.
Senator Elliott also spoke of what he described as the practice of putting up at auction three blocks where ten were wanted, and stated that by this means the commission obtained more than a rack rent. The inaccuracy of this statement has already been pointed out. Many of the residential sites sold at the first, sale of leases have not yet been built upon, and there is a difficulty in transferring them. The demand has not, therefore, been as great as might be inferred from the honorable senator’s remarks. The values of land at Canberra are not high by comparison with those in neighbouring towns of New South Wales, and it must always be remembered that Canberra is the capital city of the Common wealth. The honorable senator stated further that development was being forced on artificial lines; that it was of no use to go out on to the Duntroon road, as a person would not be allowed to establish any kind of business there. Apparently he was referring to the zoning principles of the city. Obviously the adoption of a definite plan for a city, involving a zoning system, as is advocated by all modern authorities upon town planning, both for practical and aesthetic reasons, must necessitate restrictions on the actions of those actuated by purely commercial motives. These restrictions, however, are imposed in the public interest. Businesses must be established only in the proper zone set apart. Much of the unsightliness existing in many of our towns has been caused by failure to adopt a proper zoning system. Another statement made by Senator Elliott was that one of the leases brought £5,000 at the auction sale. That, of course, was not a residential lease, and, in. any case, the price was an unusual one. If the suggestion to allow a portion of the capital obtained from the sale of freeholds to accumulate were adopted, there would be considerable difficulty in financing at the present time. The cost of development and maintenance of the city and its services, and of the Territory, is by no means met by the rentals which represent the interest on the capita] value of the land. The rates will be at least as heavy as in other cities, a and even these will not cover the cost of administration of the Territory. If freeholds were sold the whole of the interest return on the capital would be required in the same way as the whole of the revenue derived under the leasehold system is now needed, to go towards the heavy annual expenditure involved in the maintenance of. services, payment of interest, cost of general administration, sinking fund on. loans, and other annual . charges. Leaving the particular points raised by the honorable senator, the position may now be briefly summarized. Parliament determined upon a leasehold land policy prior to taking over the Territory from the State of New South Wales on the 1st January, 1911, so that the Crown would obtain benefit from the increased value of the land as a result of the development of the capital city and the surrounding Territory, as an offset to the very considerable expenditure involved in the construction of the new city and its services. Another important consideration is that Canberra is a national city, and is being built according to a definite plan. This plan involves the setting up of zones for governmental, residential, commercial, and civic purposes ; and Australia has a right to expect that this national city will be so designed and maintained as to make it worthy of the nation. This involves the imposition of reasonable control in the public interest, which, in turn, can be more effectively obtained under the leasehold rather than under the freehold system. Older cities, including Washington, which is a parallel case, have been required to spend millions of pounds to correct faults in development which have been due largely to the difficulty of control involved in a freehold system. As a result of over fifteen years’ experience of the operation of the leasehold principle in the Territory in regard to country lands, and of nearly three years’ experienceso far as city lands are concerned, it has not been demonstrated that any difficulties have arisen which would justify a review of the system of land tenure. The city leases have been disposed of principally at auction, and it is provided that rentals are on the basis of 5 per cent. per annum of the price realized at auction, or on the upset price should a sale of the lease occur after the auction. The advantage of this system has frequently been commented upon in view of the fact that persons desirous of engaging in settlement, either residential or commercial, are not required to find the capital value which would be involved in the purchase of a freehold. This has already given material assistance to residents, who also benefit by the low rental vaue of 5 per cent., which is less than the interest rate they would be required to pay on money obtained in the ordinary way. An endeavour has been made to render the leases of land safely negotiable under conditions which approximate as closely as possible to those obtaining in respect of freehold tenure in other places. A ‘titles office has been established. All dealings in land may be registered and an authoritative certificate under the Torrens system obtained concerning all incidence of ownership in respect of such leaseholds. I fail to see that any advantage would result, therefore, from a change by which residential sites would be sold on a freehold basis. On the contrary, considerable confusion would be caused if the two different systems were in Operation.
– I desire to say a few words in opposition to the motion. It is dis appointing that even one member of this chamber is prepared to revert to the freehold system of land tenure in the federal Capital Territory. I hope that Senator Elliott stands alone in that respect. The decision of Parliament concerning land tenure in the Territory is set out in section 9 of the Seat of Government Administration Act of 1910, in the following terms : -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold, except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this act.
I feel certain that this provision was not inserted in the Constitution, itself because the framers of that instrument were convinced that the people were so strongly in favour of it that it was unnecessary to set it down in block and white It was realized that a leasehold policy would make the Federal Territory, and particularly the capital itself, a most profitable Government investment. In reply to a question that 1 asked recently, I was informed that the total rents now received by the Federal Capital Commission from lands in the Territory amounted to approximately £500,000 per annum. Senator Elliott would like to reverse the land policy and institute a system of freehold. The Treasurer told us not long ago that, notwithstanding the adoption of a freehold system of land tenure throughout the Commonwealth, 48 per cent. of the people were unable to secure homes of their own. Senator Elliott would prefer to see them living in houses belonging to others and paying high’ rents to the owners. He has made some of the most absurd statements ever uttered in this chamber. He has been most unfortunate in his remarks about Canberra. When he tried to obtain the lease of a particular city area, he found that somebody else had secured it, and he was forced to pay a bonus of £1,100 to the original lessee for a block with, I think, an 80-foot frontage. His remarks about the system of laud tenure at Yallourn and Wonthaggi were beside the point. He contended that £100 should be set aside with respect to each block allotted, so that in 100 years the’’ sum of £40,000,000,000 would have accumulated, and with that money, he said, the whole of Canberra could be repurchased., I cannot understand his proposal, and T am glad to know that the Minister docs not approve of it. For many years England was the home of freehold, and it has proved a complete failure there. A book entitled The Land and the Landless, by George Cadbury junr. and Tom Bryan, M.A., shows that, in 1883, 37,13:1,50s acres, comprising England and Wales, were held by 973,011 persons. Therefore, the millions of England have no land of their own. That is an infamous condition, and one that Senator Elliott would like to see reproduced in the Commonwealth. Wherever the freehold principle has been applied, it has cither drive, the people off the land, or forced them to pay heavy rents to the land-owners. The founders of Canberra did not contemplate that, land speculators would carry on their nefarious operations here, lt was believed that the increment in value would belong to the people. We are told that an Englishman’s home is his castle; but a more mischievous statement was never made.. Englishmen are allowed to remain in that country only if they pay their rent regularly. I hope that this reactionary mid mischevious proposal will be defeated.
Question resolved in the negative.
Senate adjourned at 10.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 November 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19271124_senate_10_117/>.