10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
-Is the right honorable the Leader of the Senate yet in a position to lay on the table the papers and correspondence relating to the J ervis Bay incident?
– I regret that the papers are not yet available.
The following paper was presented: -
League of Nations - Economic Consultative Committee,First Session, Geneva, 1928 - Report of the Australian Representative.
Automatic Telephone Exchanges : Cairns: CityWest, Melbourne: and South Melbourne.
Senator REID presented reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to -
Value of Preferential Tariff
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers.- -
Rentals Pais bv Commission Employees - Reservations for Denominational Colleges - Kerbing and Guttering: Regulations and Ordinance.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I am not in a position at present to supply the information desired. The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for Home and Territories has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. It is not clear whether the honorable senator refers to residential colleges in connexion with the university or to public schools. No sites have yet been specifically reserved for residential colleges connected with the proposed university, but there would be no difficulty in doing so as ample sites are available. The matter will be considered in conjunction with the general development of the university project. A public school for girls has already been erected by the Church of England authorities and a site has been allotted to the same authorities for the purpose of a boys’ grammar school, the erection of which has been commenced. Any similar applications which may be submitted by other authorities will receive favorable consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for Home and Territories has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In the event of any tenant proceeding to litigation and thereby establishing that the ordinance and/or regulations are ultra wires, will the Governments-
– The Minister for Home and Territories has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. The Attorney-General did not personally see the notes which were handed to Senator Pearce by an officer of his,departrnent. The Attorney-General has not given a written opinion on the matter under discussion, and it is not the practice to express legal or other opinion in reply to questions. In view, however, of the special circumstances the AttorneyGeneral has informed me that his view is as follows : -
Motions (by SenatorFoll) agreed to -
That leave of absence for three weeks be granted to Senator Andrew, on account of ill health.
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senators Sir William Glasgow, Carroll, McLachlan, Payne, Sampson, and Thompson, on account of absence from the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That for the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the notice paper except questions and formal motions.
The following bills were read a third time -
New Guinea Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 3.
In committee (Recommittal).
Clause 3 - (2.) The Federal Capital Commission may in the name and on behalf of the Commonwealth grant to the Commissioner the right to the exclusive use of any other lands (being Crown lands) which are situated in the Territory, and which the Commissioner certifies in writing are required for the purposes of the railway.
– I move -
That sub-clause 2 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof - “ 2. The Federal Capital Commission may grant to the Commissioner the right to the exclusive use of any other lands vested in the Commission which the Commissioner certifies to be required for the purposes of the railway. “
This is merely a drafting amendment. The clause already provides that the Federal Capital Commission may, in the name and on behalf of the Commonwealth, grant to the Commissioner certain rights in land in the Federal Capital Territory, being Crown lands. As, however, the Seat of Government Administration Act provides for the vesting of land in the Federal Capital Commission, and as most of the land in the Territory has been vested in the Commission, the clause, as drafted, is not quite accurate. It is proposed to amend the clause to provide that the Commission may grant the rights specified over landsvested in the Commission.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
[3.18]. - I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspeuded as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
It is my intention to move the first and also the second reading of the bill, at which stage the debate, if honorable senators so desire, may be adjourned. The suspension of the Standing Orders will save a day in dealing with the formal stages of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Peabce) read a first time.
[3.20]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have no wish that the debate on the second reading of this measure shall be adjourned; on the contrary, if honorable senators are prepared to proceed with the discussion to-day, I shall be very pleased. The bill provides for granting financial assistance to Tasmania to the extent of £220,000. As honorable senators arc aware, the Commonwealth has granted financial assistance to Tasmania for a number of years because the financial position of that State has been such as to justify it in looking to us for assistance, and because, also, of our recognition of the fact that federation has imposed certain financial disabilities ‘ upon the island State.
About two years ago the Tasmanian Government applied for a further grant and the Commonwealth Government decided to have a special investigation into the financial position of the State. The first inquiry was made by Sir Nicholas Lockyer, and this was followed by an investigation by the Development and Migration Commission. These inquiries showed that the burden of taxation upon Tasmania was very high, and that the capacity of the Tasmanian people to pay taxation was not high. They also revealed that losses were occurring in certain specific avenues, and that it was possible by a reconstruction of Tasmania’s internal policy to overcome some of those losses. These two authorities found that Tasmania was faced with difficulties arising from heavy losses incurred on the railways, large expenditure on roads and bridges, initial losses connected with the Hydro-Electric Works, and a general decline in production and population. The losses on Tasmania’s railway system have recently been the subject of further investigation by a transport committee appointed by the Development and Migration Commission. The State Government was consulted as to its personnel. An attempt was made to obtain a committee of experts who could study the whole question of transport including railways, roads and bridges and the facilities available at Tasmanian ports and harbours. This committee has carried its inquiries almost to completion and is about to present its report.
In connexion with its expenditure on roads and bridges, the position of Tasmania is rather different from that of any of the other States. She has, per head of population, the most complete roads system of any State. These roads have been constructed largely out of loan moneys and there is consequently a heavy charge upon the taxpayers of that State who have to find- the interest on the money so expended. In recent years owing to its straitened financial position the Tasmanian Government has not been able to find the requisite amount of money for road maintenance. That particular phase of the question is receiving the consideration of the transport committee with the object of ascertaining whether there is not occasion for an even greater discrimination in the case of Tasmania with respect to the Federal Aid Roads’ Grant than is provided for in the present act. Tasmania is unlike some of the other States which require more roads; what she requires is to be able to maintain the splendid system of roads that she already possesses. The initial losses on the hydro-electric works have passed away and that department is now showing a profit.
Coming to the decline in production and population, I may say that perhaps the least spectacular but most useful service which the Development and
Migration Commission and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have rendered to Australia is the expert assistance it has given the State in ascertaining the causes of the falling off in production. It is a singular anomaly that while the production per acre of most of the main crops of the mainland States has been increasing during recent years, the production per acre of most of the main crops in Tasmania has been decreasing. That also it attributable to the fact that the financial position of Tasmania made it imperative that a policy of reduced expenditure should be brought in. In the carrying out of economies the staff of the Agricultural Department was reduced to such an extent that the expert technical and scientific assistance, which has done so much to assist production and increase the yield per acre in the mainland States, has not been available to Tasmania with the inevitable result that its production has decreased. On the advice of the two bodies I have mentioned the Tasmanian Government has since incurred expenditure in re-staffing the Agricultural Department with expert scientific officers whose assistance is now being made available to the farmers of that State. The system of agricultural bureaux which has done so much in disseminating scientific knowledge amongst the farmers throughout the rest of Australia has been rehabilitated there. It has been taken up with great enthusiasm by the farmers of Tasmania and is to-day doing very valuable work.
In consequence of these inquiries the Commonwealth Government continued the existing grant of £68,000 and made a further grant of £310,000 or £378,000 in all for two years, on the understanding that the whole question would be reconsidered at the end of that time. That two years’ period was fixed upon because it was felt that the inquiries by the two Commonwealth authorities to which I have referred would then have reached such a stage that the Government would be able to ascertain the effect of their recommendations in rehabilitating Tasmanian production and so increasing her ability to meet her own requirements through her own taxation. The period covered by the grant of £378,000 expired on the 30th
June last and the position of Tasmania has, as promised, been further examined. As the result of Commonwealth assistance the State Government has been able to show surpluses instead of deficits. In 1926-27, Tasmania had a surplus of £185,000 and in 1927-28, a surplus of approximately £95,000. The position of the citizens has also improved, largely as a result of a substantial reduction in taxation. One of the main grounds advanced by Tasmania some two years ago for special assistance was that heavy taxation would otherwise be inevitable. It was claimed that the continuance of abnormal taxation imperilled the maintenance of production, and also the maintenance of revenue which the taxation was designed to secure. It was further claimed that heavy taxation was one of the causes of loss of population by migration. To ease this serious position Tasmania asked that the assistance to be provided by the Commonwealth should include a sum of £130,000 to enable Tasmania to grant taxation relief. Examination shows that, as the result of Commonwealth assistance, Tasmania reduced her taxation by approximately £140,000 in 1926-27. The taxation figures for 1927-28 are not available, but a further reduction, estimated at £S0,000, was made. The chief reason for this reduction was the relief of approximately £70,000, which Tasmania obtained from sinking fund charges under the terms of the financial agreement. It will be seen, therefore, that the total reductions in taxation amount to £220,000, or slightly more than £1 per head of population. That is a recurring annual benefit.
Unfortunately, the position of the railways shows no improvement; losses of over £250,000 a year are being incurred. Examination has shown that the main cause of Tasmania’s present difficulties is that of internal transport. Arising from railways and roads the State revenue account is bearing a burden of nearly £500,000 a year.
– Is the position of Tasmania’s railways worse than that of the railways in the other State?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I think there are worse instances of hope less railway propositions in Tasmania than there are in any of the other States.
The Commonwealth has, therefore, suggested the advisability of having the whole position of internal transport in Tasmania specially investigated by experts, and has offered to co-operate with Tasmania in arranging such investigation. This suggestion has been concurred in by the Government of Tasmania, and preliminary action has already been taken in the matter.
The benefit of this independent inquiry to Tasmania is that, had an examination been made by a committee appointed by the State Government for the time being in office, there would have been the possibility of a charge that the element of party politics had been allowed to creep in. There can, however, be no question as to the impartiality of the Commonwealth in this matter, or of the body which has been appointed to undertake the investigation. Assistance was given in order that Tasmania might reduce her losses without inflicting any injury on the State. Whatever the result of the investigation, no political party will be able to gain an advantage over another party.
There has also been a careful examination of the finances of Tasmania in order to arrive at the amount of assistance which it would be reasonable to grant.
This examination has shown that a substantial saving should be made by Tasmania this year as a result of the application of sinking funds to the cancellation of public debt, as contemplated by the financial agreement.
About £1,100,000 of Tasmania’s sinking fund is represented by Commonwealth securities. Arrangements are being made for these securities to be handed over to the Commonwealth, and an equivalent amount of the debt due by Tasmania to the Commonwealth cancelled. It is anticipated that this transaction will result in a saving of over £60,000 to the revenue account of Tasmania this year. A further saving, estimated at about £13,000, can be made by applying the balance of Tasmania’s sinking fund in cancellation of debt. A saving of £53,000 will also be made by Tasmania this year in the provision for railway depreciation. This saving was agreed to by the Commissioner for Rail; ways and the Under-Treasurer of Tasmania after fully examining the position. The ex-Premier of Tasmania (Mr. Lyons) also agreed that £7,000 extra revenue could be raised by removing certain taxation anomalies.
It is also necessary to have some regard to the surplus for 1927-28. The examination, to which I have referred, took place before the close of last financial year, and the whole position was discussed by the Treasurer and myself with the exPremier of Tasmania and his Treasury officials. Mr. Lyons agreed that it would be reasonable to deduct £40,000 on account of the estimated surplus for 1927-28. As already stated, the actual surplus was £95,000; but the Government did not propose to make any further reduction beyond the sum of £40,000. Against these deductions, allowance must be made for the further expenditure necessary to carry out the remedial suggestions of the Development and Migration Commission. The budget of 1927-28 already carried a charge of approximately £18,000 as the result of these suggestions. This expenditure will be repeated this year and an additional sum of approximately £12,000 will be required to give effect to further suggestions. The suggestions referred to are mainly directed towards* improving agriculture.
The position may be briefly summarized as follows: -
After considering all the facts, the Government has decided that a grant of £220,000 is reasonable, and that this amount should enable Tasmania to carry on without increasing taxation. The bill, therefore, provides for a grant of £220,000.
It has been suggested that by reducing the grant we are penalizing Tasmania for her virtue in keeping her expenditure so low that at the end of the last financial year her Treasurer was able to announce a surplus. My reply is that, as in the case of a private citizen no Government or. State is entitled to claim credit for the display of honour or virtue. Honour and virtue are expected of all, and it is the duty of every Government to conduct its affairs as economically and carefully as possible. Moreover, it is not the duty of the Commonwealth Government to tax the citizens of Australia in order to provide a surplus in the revenues of any one State. The ground of Tasmania’s application was that, without it, burdensome taxation would have to be imposed if the State was to pay its way. It is admitted on all sides that the grant made to Tasmania has enabled that State so to reduce taxation that its citizens are not now taxed so heavily as are the citizens of some of the other States. It would be manifestly unfair for the taxpayers in the rest of Australia, who in some of the States are paying heavier taxes than are the people of Tasmania, to be called upon to provide funds to enable the people of that State to obtain still further reductions in taxation. The best assistance which can be given to any State is assistance that will enable it to pay its way without any further outside help. That position was put plainly by the Prime Minister in his first speech on this question. Mr. Bruce then said that the assistance which the Commonwealth would give would be of two kinds, first, assistance to enable Tasmania to reduce taxation so as to check the drift of population and to enable its industries- to expand, and, secondly, such technical assistance aa the Commonwealth could render through the Development and Migration Commission and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to enable Tasmania to increase her production and thus to increase the ability of its people to pay taxes. Upon those considerations the grant to Tasmania was based. I ask the Senate in considering this matter not to lose sight of the sound principles underlying the grant. A grant based on these principles is unchallengable - on any other basis it would be a charitable dole - and can be accepted by any State without loss of self respect. It is indeed a form of assistance which a State is entitled to receive from the Commonwealth if the condition of its finances warrant it.
– This is one of the very few measures which have been introduced by the Government on which I find myself in agreement with the right honorable the Leader of the Senate. In order to show the goodwill of the Opposition towards both Tasmania and the Commonwealth Government I have not asked for the adjournment of the debate. I desire to assist the Government to hasten to its doom. We are asked to appropriate the sum of £220,000 as a grant to Tasmania for the financial year 1928-29. That sum, according to the Leader of the Senate, is the amount by which taxation in Tasmania was reduced during the financial year just ended. No honorable senator can cavil at Tasmania receiving a grant from the Commonwealth to compensate that State for its geographical and other handicaps, if that grant is made only on the condition that the State Government first places its own financial house in order. During recent years Tasmania has honestly endeavoured to fulfil the promise made when first it sought financial assistance from the Commonwealth. While not endeavouring to make political capital out of Tasmania’s disabilities, I think that all honorable senators will agree that the ex-Premier of that State (Mr. Lyons) and his Government did excellent work in the direction of placing Tasmania’s finances on a sound basis. I am confident also that the present occupants of the Treasury bench in Tasmania will endeavour ‘to effect a solution of that State’s financial problems. We all realize the serious handicap under which that State labours, through its isolation from the remaining States of the federation. Senator Gardiner yesterday suggested as a way out of the difficulty that the people of Tasmania should be given an opportunity to vote on the question of whether or not it should withdraw from the union; but the Standing Orders did not permit him to elaborate his plan. I believe that the honorable senator was not serious, also that Tasmania and the other States of the Commonwealth have no desire that there should be any secession. The true spirit of federation is to encourage cooperation, and not to breed antagonism, and if any of the unfavorably situated States labour under financial difficulties it is only right that the Parliament of the Commonwealth should come to their assistance, provided always that the States concerned try to help themselves.
– I hope that the honorable senator will adopt that line of thought when the claims of South Australia come before this Parliament for consideration.
– I have been a member of this Senate for a number of years and it has always been my endeavour to view such problems from a broad Australia stand-point. I shall not alter that attitude if I have the honour to be returned for another term of office. If I am a member of the Senate when South Australia is beset by financial stress, and its claims come before this chamber for consideration - provided that South Australia can put up as sound a case for assistance as has Tasmania - I assure Senator Robinson that its application will receive fair treatment. The sum to be granted to Tasmania is in no way excessive. I understand that that State anticipates a deficit of £30,000 for the current year, and I think that, without being in any way unfair to the taxpayers of Australia, this Parliament could have been a little more liberal and made the grant £250,000. That would have given Tasmania a better chance to right its affairs, and regain a sound financial position..
I support the bill, and I hope that Tasmania, by the proper development of its resources, and careful attention to its finances, will have no need to come again to this Parliament for another grant.
Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania! [3.50]. - The matter of financial assistance to Tasmania has engaged the attention of a number of Commonwealth Parliaments. Eighteen years ago a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the disabilities suffered by Tasmania as a result of federation, the chief disability, of course, being its deprivation of customs revenue. That commission recommended that the Commonwealth Government should grant to Tasmania an amount of £900,000, the payments to be spread over a period of ten years. Since then further investigations have been made into the financial embarrassment of Tasmania, and bills have been introduced from time to time making provision for assistance to that State. Those inquiries have proved beyond dispute that Tasmania is in need of substantial financial assistance, as its position of isolation, and the lack of adequate interstate transport communication, subject it to disabilities that are unknown to the other States of Australia. I am confident that if satisfactory shipping services were established between the - mainland and Tasmania, the position of that State would be stabilized, and its finances placed on such a sound basis that it would enjoy, in very large measure, the prosperity that is common to the other States of the Commonwealth. That brings me, quite naturally, to the hardships placed upon Tasmania by the operation of the coastal sections of the Navigation Act, about which the people of Tasmania hold very emphatic opinions.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! The honor- able senator is not in order in introducing the operation of the Navigation Act into this debate.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President ; I was dealin With the subject of coastal transport, which is closely interwoven with the financial position of that State, and I thought that I was quite in order. At the request of the Commonwealth Government, Sir Nicholas Lockyer investigated the position of Tasmania, and the people of that State expected, as a result, that a grant would be made by the Commonwealth Parliament to Tasmania for a definite number of years. Unfortunately, this Parliament determined that the grant should bc reviewed yearly. After the last payment of £90,000, the final instalment of the grant of £900,000,. was made, the grants to Tasmania, with the exception of those for the years 1926-1927, have been reviewed yearly. That,’ places the State Treasurer in an unenviable position of uncertainty when preparing his Estimates. “Western Australia has been much more favorably placed, as the Commonwealth grant to that State was fixed for a five-year period. I appreciate the fact that the Estimates of Mr. Lyons promised a surplus. It is also quite true that in March last the State Treasurer anticipated a surplus of £40,000, and that at the end of the financial year he found himself in the fortunate position of having a surplus of £90,000. But it is necessary to remember that the estimated expenditure for this year has been substantially higher than was anticipated. That has entirely changed the position of affairs that was submitted to the Commonwealth Treasurer.
Regarding the scheme for the reorganization of the Tasmanian Agricultural Department, which was recommended by the Development and Migration Commission, honorable senators should bear in mind that when the special grant of £370,000 was under consideration it was distinctly understood that additional expenditure incurred in carrying out the recommendations made by the Development and Migration Commission or the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research would be a charge against the Commonwealth. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate and the Prime Minister in another place intimated that in addition to providing a special grant to Tasmania for two years, the Government would make available to the State the services of the Development and Migration Commission as well as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. to help the State Government in connexion with its agricultural and developmental problems. It was never contemplated that any expenditure incurred in that connexion would be a charge against the special grant.
– How much was the additional charge last year?
– It was £18,000. Although the sum of £12,000 is set aside this year, I am informed by those who should be in a position to know, that the expenditure will be approximately £40,000. Everyone appreciates what the Government has done and what it is attempting to do in the reorganization of the Agricultural Department in Tasmania. I am sure, also, that the State will profit from the investigations that are being made by those two bodies. Although Tasmania is the smallest State in the Commonwealth the per capita expenditure on roads and railways, as well as for the development of water power for industrial purposes is higher than in any other State, and certainly those public works may be regarded as a valuable asset to the Commonwealth as a whole. If the figures presented by the Minister this afternoon were analysed and if it were possible to make a comparison of the position in March last and the position to-day, I am sure that the Government would reach a very different conclusion as to the amount of the special grant to be set aside for Tasmania. I realize, of course, that it is useless to attempt to alter the Government’s proposal , that we must accept the position as we find it and be satisfied with an assurance ‘that the State’s expenditure on roads and railways will be reviewed by the Government with a view to relieving the State of some portion of the interest burden. This is the greatest difficulty which the State Treasurer has to overcome. The loss on railway working is really responsible for the deficit in Tasmanian finances. If that problem can be solved satisfactorily the position of Tasmania will be materially improved. I- protest strongly against the disallowance by the Government of the £50,000 set aside by the Tasmanian Railways Commissioner for depreciation. I believe that the Government is under the impression that similar provision is not made by Railways Commissioners in other States. That is not correct. Tu at least two other States, provision is made for payment to a special fund for depreciation, and I am assured that the Railways Commissioner in Tasmania intends to adhere to this practice.
I regret that the amount of the grant has been reduced. An additional £30,000 would have enabled the State Treasurer to balance the ledger. The Leader of the Senate has argued that it is no special virtue for any State Government to exercise economy. I agree with him, but [ do not admit that economy should be carried to the extent of preventing ordinary developmental works from being undertaken. I feel sure that the’ fullest consideration has not been given by the Commonwealth Government to the estimated -expenditure on the Federal scheme of road construction in Tasmania. As the Leader of the Senate must know the functions of State Ministries are continually increasing. The activities of every State are continually expanding, and expenses on administration are increasing in a corresponding ratio. Outside tribunals have been constituted to fix the rates of pay for State public servants and employees of private firms. To the extent that this power is exercised, the State Government has lost control of its financial policy. It cannot be argued that there has been laxity in administration or that the Government of Tasmania has not safeguarded the interest of its taxpayers. Actually the position in that State will bear favorable comparison with any other State in this respect. I repeat that I regret very much that the amount asked for has not been granted, but I am pleased to know that it is the Government’s intention to consider favorably any representations that may be made with regard to the interest charge on expenditure upon roads and railways.
– When I was speaking on this subject last week I said I did not know how the figures had been made up, but believed that they had been considered at a conference of Treasurers. If that statement, has given rise to the impression that I thought an agreement had .been reached between the Treasurers concerned, I should like to correct it, because I have been told since that at least some of the items were not agreed to by either the Treasurers or their officers. What I had in mind was the basis of calculation and the way in which the figures were compiled.
Honorable senators will recollect that two years ago, we dealt with a proposal to make grants to Tasmania and Western Australia owing to the disabilities which those States suffered from federation. At that time Parliament agreed to give Tasmania a grant of £378,000 for two years, and Western Australia a grant of £450,000 for five years.
– The grant of £450,000 was for one year only.
– How much was to be paid for the five years ?
– The amount for the balance of the period was to be £300,000.
– I am pleased that the honorable senator has corrected me because I tried to get accurate figures. However, whatever the amount may be the fact remains that the grant is payable to Western Australia for five years, and that is the point to which I wish to refer. I have no desire to play off one State against another, but I must refer to Western Australia in order to emphasize the position in Tasmania. I listened very attentively to the right honorable the Leader of the Senate when he was introducing this bill, and having also read the speech delivered by the Treasurer in another place I have come to the conclusion that the Government seems to have regarded a payment of £378,000 to Tasmania as a fair one, because of the disabilities suffered by the State, but that certain reductions have been made under various agreements and conferences which have brought down the grant to £220,000. I propose to show that this reduced amount is not a generous payment and that some of the deductions are questionable. The first deduction I take is the £60,000 which it is claimed Tasmania will save by reason of the new sinking fund arrangement. Tasmania has a sinking fund of £1,100,000, but it is now claimed that under the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, which inaugurates a new sinking fund arrangement to which the Commonwealth will contribute, the State oan apply this £1,100,000 to the reduction of its indebtedness and thus avoid an annual payment of £60,000 in interest. That may sound very reasonable, but Western Australia also has a sinking fund which amounts to £9,000,000, and if the same rule had been applied to that State it would have wiped out their grant altogether - if the £9,000,000 had been used for the reduction of that State’s indebtedness, it would have brought about an annual saving of £450,000, reckoning interest, at 5 per cent., which would have been more than the amount of the Commonwealth’s grant to that State. But Western Australia will now be £450,000 a year better off, and will still retain its federal grant, while the Commonwealth Government has debited Tasmania with the £60,000 which it will save annually through the utilization of its sinking fund for the reduction of its indebtedness. Western Australia suffers no such deduction. ,In this connexion it is only fair to say that all the States will save money by the new financial agreement relating to the State debts. It would be useless to have a financial agreement if no such saving were to be brought about, but Tasmania will derive no advantage from it, whereas Western Australia will be better off to the extent of £450,000 a year. In this regard, therefore, the proposed grant to Tasmania is not as generous as it might reasonably have been expected to be. There is another sinking fund which the Commonwealth Government has discovered in Tasmania. Unlike some other States, Tasmania has a system, authorized by the Local Government Act, of lending money to municipalities. The law requires the municipalities to wipe out their indebtedness to the State by regular contributions to a sinking fund which is controlled by the State sinking fund trustees, and the State Government is obliged to pay interest on the amount held in the fund. If this is not done the indebtedness of the municipalities would not be extinguished. Even if the Commonwealth Government deducts the £13,000, which is the annual payment of the State Government towards this particular sinking fund, the State Treasurer will still have to keep faith with the municipalities and budget for the amount. I have made inquiries and have been told that the local governing bodies derive no advantage from the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, and in consequence the statutory requirements of this sinking fund for the extinction of municipal indebtedness will still continue. Thus, the State Treasurer will be obliged to provide this £13,000 a year and this amount, together with the £60,000 to which I have already referred, make a sum of £73,000 in respect of which a deduction has been made in the grant by the Commonwealth to the State. This is a deduction* which is, to say the least of it, arguable, and which in my opinion should not be made.
Senator Herbert Hays has referred to another deduction amounting to £53,000 which represents the sum annually set aside by the State Government for depreciation on its railway rolling-stock. A railway is a business concern and must be run in such a way that the ledger will balance. At least that has been our object in Tasmania, although in many instances we have not succeeded in achieving it. I do not think that any one has ever heard of a business concern that does not set something aside each year for depreciation of plant. How can we keep our rolling-stock up to standard unless we set something aside to keep our plant up to date? Engines become obsolete, trucks wear out and carriages become dilapidated and out of date. Without a depreciation fund how can we renew plant that becomes obsolete? If we were to dip into tho State sinking fund every time we wanted a new engine or a new truck we should never get out of debt. A sinking fund is a fund into which small payments are made periodically in order to extinguish a debt over a long period of years. A depreciation fund is quite a different matter. Its purpose is to keep plant, rolling-stock and so forth up to a standard of efficiency, and the better managed or more conservative a business concern is the larger is its depreciation fluid. But because some States have no depreciation funds in connexion with their railways the Commonwealth Government declares that Tasmania ought not to set aside £53,000 a year for a railway depreciation fund, and consequently it has reduced the grant to the State by that amount. If nothing is allowed for depreciation of plant our railways will run down and the rolling-stock will get out of order; everything will go wrong. I am surprised that the Commonwealth Government should suggest to the Tasmanian Government that in order to relieve the Commonwealth of the necessity of finding £53,000 this year, Tasmania should not follow the example of every well conducted business and set aside an amount for depreciation of its railways rolling-stock. Senator Herbert Hays has already told honorable senators that the Tasmanian Commissioner of Railways says that he must have this £53,000 and I believe that the State Treasurer is budgeting this year to provide not the whole of this amount, but a fair proportion of it so that the Commissioner may make some semblance of keeping up his railways on a proper business footing. 1 cannot think that the Commonwealth Government has considered this matter as fully as it might have done. Otherwise it would not have asked the State Government to cease paying this annual contribution to a depreciation fund which is so necessary to keep our railways in proper working order. The next point to which I wish to refer is Tasmania’s last year’s surplus of £40,000.
– The State’s surplus last year was £95,000.
– The anticipated surplus was £40,000. The Leader of the Senate knows that the additional £55,000 on a turnover of £3,000,000 does not represent more than per cent. No Treasurer has ever been able to budget within per cent, of his receipts and expenditure. I believe that every Treasurer does his best to make an honest forecast of the following year’s revenue and expenditure, but sometimes his forecast is a few pounds over and sometimes it is a few pounds under. Even the Commonwealth Treasurer in his last forecast was astray to the extent of £2,600,000. It is almost impossible to budget correctly. What private business man could say within a few pounds what his revenue and expenditure would be for the forthcoming year? If the Tasmanian Government was lucky enough to get more revenue than it anticipated it was a fortunate stroke for the State.
– The additional revenue was largely due to death duties.
– Yes, it came largely from that source. But the fact that, the State Treasurer received £55,000 more than he anticipated is held up against the State, and it is claimed that it is useless to take notice of the State’s budgets because the revenue is always a little more than is anticipated. The position in Tasmania is not as hopeful as it was last year. Production has certainly been large but on the other hand prices have been extremely low. Fruit, oats and potatoes are returning very little to the producers, and this will find its reflection in the income tax returns. I trust that I am wrong, but I do not anticipate any surplus in the Tasmanian treasury this year. We ought not to be guided by last year’s figures. We ought not to deduct £40,000 this year because there was an anticipated surplus of £40,000 last year. What we should take into consideration is what the State Treasurer forecasts to get next. year. If that is done in the case of Tasmania it will easily be shown that no £40,000 surplus is anticipated for the present year.
When the Development and Migration Commission went over to Tasmania no one welcomed it more than I did. I attended its first meeting and all its most, important meetings. The commission in an endeavour to place the State Agricultural Department and the producers of Tasmania on a sounder footing laid down a scheme which will cost from £25,000 to £30,000 a year more than was the cost of running the Agricultural Department previously. I do not know that it was actually said, and if I am pinned down I cannot indicate any one who said it, but it was absolutely understood by Tasmanian farmers that the Commonwealth Government was going to finance this new scheme. I heard the question asked a dozen times, “ Where is the money coming from ?” and the answer always given was “ From the Commonwealth, through the Development and Migration Commission.” Now we find that we are not to get a copper of the money. I said last week in this chamber that the Commonwealth Government was finding £12,000 of this money. I was fully under the impression that it was doing so. Not having had the correct figures supplied to me I had to glean the information from somewhere. I find, however, that the Commonwealth in this grant is making no provision for the increased expenditure of the Tasmanian Agricultural Department. There is a sum of £11,600, which the Leader of the Senate referred to in round numbers as £12,000, which has been added to the grant, and the Commonwealth Treasurer says that this amount is for agriculture. I, find that £5,000 of it is to be devoted to mining and £5,000 to forestry. These are new directions for expenditure, and no doubt it is highly desirable that mining and forestry should be developed and that the money should be provided out of this grant, but the farmers are getting nothing out of the grant. I contend, therefore, that the deductions from the grant are arguable, and that the Commonwealth Government could certainly have been more generous to Tasmania.
I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Senate say that a transport committee was now at work in Tasmania. Because the State is an island, transport difficulties, both internal and external, are our greatest disability. We have been obliged to make roads where other States have been able to do without them. Up to 1916 Tasmania had spent as much loan money on roads and bridges as was spent in the same direction in all the other States put together. That seems almost unbelievable; nevertheless it. is true. I had the figures taken out for that year. We had at that time 7,000 or 8,000 miles of metalled roads. We could not develop the island without metalled roads. Every acre of land sold imposed on the State an obligation by implication to make a metalled roadway. When large areas of new country in the mainland States are opened up it is unnecessary to construct metal roads as in most cases owing to the dry nature of the country a five-chain track serves the purpose for many years. But in Tasmania the position is totally different; the boggy nature of the soil necessitates the construction of metal roads. Up to the present from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 has been spent for this purpose, the interest on which the Tasmanian taxpayers have .to carry in the form of a dead-weight debt. A similar amount has also been spent on railway construction on which the people of Tasmania have, so far as is practicable, to pay the interest. I was pleased to hear the Minister (Senator Sir George Pearce”) say that the Government will take this aspect of the matter into consideration, and if this is done I believe that if we can only get through this financial year, the grant to Tasmania will, in the future, be much more substantial than that now proposed. The Tasmanian people are not pleading for a dole, but are advancing a legitimate claim. I do not want the people in the mainland States to say that we are discontented, and are anxious to withdraw from the federation. I want to hear people say that they are glad to be members of the federation, and not that they would be glad to get out of it. This can be achieved by giving us not only a fair but a generous deal. The Commonwealth Parliament is largely responsible for the position which is confronting Tasmania to-day, because much of its legislation, although it may be of benefit to a majority of the States, presses with extreme severity on Tasmania. There are some who will say that our protective policy is largely responsible for the unbounded prosperity which is usually prevalent in Melbourne and Sydney, and also for the rapid increase in population in New South Wales and Victoria. But the high protective tariff at present in operation, and the Navigation Act, which have been approved by the Commonwealth Parliament, have operated with undue severity upon Tasmania. Although measures such as I have mentioned have been passed in the belief that they would benefit the whole of the people, I do not think there is an honorable senator who believes that any legislation by this Parliament should be allowed to press with undue weight upon one section of the people. The Tasmanian taxpayers wish to operate in conjunction with those of the mainland, but the only way in which they can function effectively as members of the partnership is by the Commonwealth Government dealing fairly and generously with them.
– I have been very much interested in certain phases of this debate. In the first place it is somewhat easier for me to -support this measure since the representatives of Tasmania are doing so, although I do not know whether it is a case for sorrow or rejoicing, seeing that the measure provides for a reduction in the amount previously paid. From the general point of view, Tasmania ought to be rather proud that her circumstances have so much improved, as stated by the Minister (Senator Sir George Pearce), that a reduction is to be made- without imposing any great hardship upon the Tasmanian people. There are, however, some phases of the debate which have given me a good deal of food for thought. For instance it has been stated that certain costs incurred by the Development and Migration Commission are to be deducted from the grant. I should like to know to what extent that is being done.
– No reduction is being made for the services rendered by the commission. They have been given free of cost to the State; but in consequence of recommendations by the commission for the reorganization of the Department of Agriculture certain experts have been appointed to that department, and their salaries, of course, have to be paid by the State.
– That cuts away the ground upon which I was about to tread. I was beginning to have some suspicion concerning the virtues of the Development and Migration Commission of which I, as a representative of Western Australia, have a very high opinion, because in Western Australia, as in Tasmania, that commission has rendered very valuable service. As Senator J. B. Hayes will remmeber, I had an opportunity, a little over twelve months ago, of seeing a good deal of Tasmania. A newcomer to a country usually knows more concerning its possibilities than one who has lived in it for many years, and with that impetuosity characteristic of a newcomer I formed the opinion that the principal difficulty of the Tasmanian people was in their means of external communication. I believe that a good deal could be done to overcome the present difficulty by removing those irksome restrictions which Tasmania, in common with other States and countries, is experiencing. If that were done the necessity for a special grant would disappear altogether.
– Then for heaven’s sake let us remove them.
– Let us remove them for the sake of Australia, because when one State suffers, other States must also suffer. If the recommendations of the Development and Migration Commission are adopted, even at the cost indicated by Senator J. B. Hayes, a good deal will be done to enable Tasmania to dispense with financial assistance from the Commonwealth. Tasmania’s products are peculiar in that they consist largely of perishable commodities which have to be sold on a fluctuating interstate market. A great deal can be done if the recommendations of the Development and Migration Commission are carried out in the direction of changing the nature of production. I noticed, for instance, that dairying plays a” very small part in the agricultural life of Tasmania. Although the sheep, to my mind, were distinctly good, it was apparent even to a layman, that the dairy herds were not of high grade. With the exception of one or two places in Tasmania, the dairy cattle would not be favorably commented upon in other parts of the Commonwealth. I feel sure that if the recommendations of the Commission concerning the breeding and nutrition of dairy cattle are carried out, Tasmania will be on a sounder basis in the matter of production than she is at present.
– But that is a slow business.
– It is a slow process in any State, and that being so the sooner a start is made the better it will be for Tasmania. Perhaps I am somewhat presumptuous in making this suggestion, but I feel sure that those intimately concerned will forgive me because I am only backing up the opinion already expressed by experts in the service of the Development and Migration Commission. At all events, I feel that the principal trouble- in Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia is due to the restrictions imposed in the matter of sea transport. If these are removed we shall be in a better position to deal with the natural difficulties with which we are surrounded.
– That would give us a chance.
– Exactly. In the circumstances nothing remains for me but to support the bill, and to express the hope that it will not be long -before Tasmania and Western Australia will be able to carry on without a special grant.
– I cannot allow this measure to pass without saying a few words from the viewpoint of Queensland. Although Queensland has not received financial assistance such as it is proposed to grant to Tasmania under this bill, our industries have received assistance from the Government in the form of bounties. When I was a member of the Senate some years ago, Parliament passed a measure providing for the payment of a bounty on meat exported, because of the slump in the outside market. Other Australian industries have also received assistance in that form.
– Queensland has had its fair share.
– It is entitled to some consideration. I do not wish to get away from the subject matter of the bill, but I think honorable senators will agree with me that some States receive greater consideration than others. For instance, the post office in Brisbane is hopelessly out of date, whilst the postal buildings in Melbourne and Sydney are magnificent structures.
– They were in existence before federation.
– Yes, but there are other Commonwealth buildings upon which public money has been spent of which there is no counterpart in Queensland. It is time that the Brisbane post office was rebuilt or remodelled so as to provide facilities similar to those available in Melbourne and Sydney. As a representative of
Queensland, I submit that we must have some sympathy with Tasmania and also with Western Australia in matters of this kind. Whilst Tasmania’s principal difficulties are due to inadequate transport facilities, it seems to me that with an increase in the manufacturing industries the financial position of that State would improve. The manufacturing industries of New South Wales and Victoria have developed ; but the removal of customs barriers under federation has not helped Western Australia, Queensland or Tasmania.
– The sugar industry has progressed since the inception of federation.
– The sugar industry is of benefit to the whole of Australia.
– And of particular benefit to Queensland.
– Does Senator Thomas wish the sugar cane industry to be developed by Kanaka labour? Will he say he is against a White Australia? As Queensland has had to pay for its place in the federation, I have some sympathy with Tasmania and Western Australia. Until recent years Tasmania was governed by successive conservative governments. I do not wish to emphasize that point too much in view of the attitude adopted by my leader towards this measure, but it cannot be gainsaid that the administration of Tasmania prior to the Labour party assuming the reins of office, lacked that measure of success which honorable senators opposite boast is associated with Tory administration. Not many years ago the control of Tasmania’s finances was handed over to a Labour Government to be placed on a proper footing. In her time of need, Tasmania called upon Labour to save the country. While I do not object to another State receiving financial assistance from the Commonwealth, when necessary, I consider that greater consideration should have been given to Queensland’s industries. It is true that the sugar industry of Queensland has been assisted; but there were special reasons for consideration being given to that industry. In their relations with the manufacturing
States the primary producing States aru in the same position that confronts Australia in her relations with the Mother Country. Just aB Australia,, being Britain’s best market, is entitled to consideration from Britain, so the primary producing States of Australia are entitled to consideration by the manufacturing States. Like Tasmania and other outlying States with small populations, Queensland cannot compete successfully in its manufactures with New South Wales and Victoria, because the latter States have the benefits of larger or mass production. While urging that the Government of Tasmania, and, indeed, all the Governments of Australia, should exercise the most rigid economy in administration, I feel that Tasmania is deserving of assistance. I shall, therefore, support the bill.
– I scarcely like to break in on the harmony of such a pleasant gathering, and probably some honorable senators will consider that my remarks this afternoon are entirely uncalled for. It was my privilege to be a member of a party which, when that clause in the Constitution providing for assistance for Tasmania for ten years was under consideration, determined once and for all to settle the financial troubles of that State. A royal commission was appointed to ascertain the exact position of Tasmania’s finances. When that information had been obtained, a proposal was brought before Parliament to terminate the grants to Tasmania. In those days when we had no war debt to face there was a surplus almost every year, so that experiments in various directions could have been made without serious loss. The Government of the day decided to grant to Tasmania a sum of about £900,000 in annual instalments, which were to diminish each year so that at the end of ten years, when the payments ceased, Tasmania would not feel the loss. Thenceforth Tasmania was to shift for herself. I do not know what happened at the end of the first ten years, but I do know that the Commonwealth Government has been making grants to Tasmania ever since. I shall not discuss the merits or demerits of Tasmania’s claim for assistance, except to say that the position of that State is not more serious than that of the larger States. Queensland has over 6,000 miles of railway to maintain, and Kew South Wales nearly as much. Owing to the increased cost of running those railways, due largely to the legislation passed by this Parliament, heavy annual losses are incurred. Tasmania has no such huge liability.
– Tasmania’s per capita liability is just as great.
– Some of the smaller States have already felt the financial burden, but the larger States are not exempt from similar difficulties. Where is this policy of crippling the wealth-producing States to assist the other States to end? I speak as a representative of New South Wales, which State . has to find practically onehalf of the taxation of the Commonwealth. That means that onehalf of the gifts to the other States is paid by the people of New South Wales. Reluctant as I am to oppose my leader on this occasion - I am not disobeying the dictates of caucus because I am not allowed into the caucus meetings of the Labour party, and can, therefore, speak with perfect. freedom without imperilling the position of the Labour party at the next election - I feel that I must do so. As the untrammelled representative of New South Wales, I enter my protest against money being given away when the financial position of the State I assist in representing, and, indeed, of the Commonwealth as a whole, should receive the serious attention of this Parliament. In 1911 or 1912 the Fisher Government decided to settle for all time Tasmania’s financial problem. The gift then made to Tasmania was granted only after the fullest inquiry. If the decision to assist Tasmania had been arrived at after the dissolution of Parliament had been announced, my voice would have been raised in protest then as strongly as it is raised now. Having announced an appeal to the people, the Government now proposes to make a gift to one State. Only one term can properly be applied to such an act; it is no other than open bribery and corruption. I do not say that honorable senators are being bribed.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! I understood the honorable senator to say that the Government is guilty of bribery and corruption. If he made the remark, I ask him to withdraw iti
– I do not think that any other construction can be placed upon my remark.
– Then I ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– In order to conform to the rules of the Senate, and to put myself in order, I shall withdraw the statement to which you, Sir, have taken exception. During the election campaign following the announcement that a gift of about £900,000 would be made to Tasmania, I remember seeing a picture depicting a representative of the Labour party carrying a brief bag on which were the words “I bring you £900,000.” I vouch for neither the truth of the story nor the simplicity of the Tasmanians, but I was told that each successive meeting of that candidate became larger because it had been announced that the £900,000 would be distributed among the electors. What happened at that time was a mere circumstance compared with the present proposal. When the Government came to the conclusion that an urgent appeal to the country was necessary, Parliament should not have been called upon to deal with any legislation that was not absolutely necessary. With that legislation disposed of, the doors of Parliament should then have been closed. Perhaps I am old fashioned in my views, but 1 maintain that had the Government introduced no further legislation than was necessary to meet the expenses of government until the new Parliament was elected, it would have followed the right course. To introduce legislation of this kind on the eve of an election in order to placate the electors of a small but rich State - I am not permitted to describe in other terms the Governments’ act, much as I desire to do so - is wrong. I do” not say that Tasmania has no financial difficulties - since the war we have all had to face these problems - nor do I say that, on the merits of the case, Tasmania is not entitled to consideration, but to bring this measure forward at this juncture is equivalent to saying to the people of Tasmania “Here is a sop.” It is absolutely degrading and discreditable to Parliament, and I enter my protest against it. I warn this Government not to believe that the restrictions imposed on trade by these gifts of the rich States to the seemingly poor can go on for all time. Yesterday I made a suggestion that Tasmania should consider secession. I realized that I was not in order and shall not now pursue the subject, but if excessive pressure is placed on the taxpayers of the wealthy States of the Commonwealth in order to find money to bolster up other States, the time will come when those wealthy States will refuse to pay more than their just share. I do not think that that spirit has yet reached any intensity, but I know that the leading business men of Australia are alarmed at the drift of our finances. I notice that the Treasurer of New South “Wales is so concerned about the financial position of his State that he proposes to reduce the amount of statutory exemption from £300 to £250, in order to relieve the strain on those with big incomes and make the lower strata bear a larger proportion of the cost of government. A friend of mine remarked that it reminded him of the man who, on a cold night, cut a piece off the top of his blanket and sewed it on to the bottom in order to keep his feet warm. New South Wales, Queensland, and the other States of Australia, are in a most serious financial position, and it is neither fair nor wise to hand out such gifts as this. It is a grave mistake on the part of the Government to introduce this legislation after the dissolution of Parliament has been announced. The time is inopportune, and condemns the action. What would be said if the Country party, after plucking up courage, secured office, and on the eve of a general election granted a few million pounds to each State and a few pounds to each individual in Australia? No doubt the- grants would be gratefully received, but the action would be condemned by all as being unsound and improper. So we should condemn this grant. The time at which it is proposed makes it impossible for conscientious representatives to support it, and I record my protest against the bill.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [5.4]. - I am surprised at the extravagant language used by Senator Gardiner. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that Tasmania received a distinct promise from the Commonwealth Government that, whilst the grant was originally given for two years, the position would be reviewed before the expiry of that period, and, if necessary, the grant would be continued. This bill is merely a redemption of that promise. It is ridiculous to assert that the Government is introducing a bill in order to obtain an electioneering advantage. Actually, the Government is reducing the grant, and is laying itself open to censure on that account. In the circumstances I consider that Senator Gardiner spoke most inadvisedly.
I shall deal briefly with the remarks of Senators Herbert Hays, and J. B. Hayes, who appear to be under a misapprehension. Senator J. B. Hayes urged that every business should have a depreciation fund. I quite agree with him in that, provided that the business can afford it. Unfortunately, many businesses can not. The biggest activity in which the Commonwealth Government is engaged, the post office, has never been able to afford a depreciation fund. It certainly has a sinking fund, but Senator J. B. Hayes differentiated between a sinking fund and a depreciation fund. Queensland, with its great State railway system, has been unable to afford a depreciation fund, yet Senator J. B. Hayes would have the taxpayers of Queensland contribute towards the establishment of a depreciation fund for the Tasmanian railways ! Neither the State of Tasmania, nor any other State, has a right to ask the taxpayers of the rest of the Commonwealth to provide something for that State, which its own taxpayers are not able to provide. We must not think that the’ Commonwealth Government has the purse of Fortunatus, out of which it can contribute largesse to States which cannot help themselves. It must be remembered that we are the caretakers of the money of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. It is unfair to ask this Government to provide a depreciation fund for a State railway when the taxpayers of that State cannot afford to provide such a fund. If Tasmania feels that it ought to have a depreciation fund for its railways there is nothing to prevent it being established, but it would be most unfair to include in this grant an amount for that purpose, contributed by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth as a whole.
There is another point which I desire to elucidate. Senator J. B. Hayes contrasted the grants made to Western Australia and Tasmania, pointing out. that the one was for five years, and the other for only two years. The grant to Western Australia was based upon entirely different grounds from those on which the grant was made to Tasmania. In the first place a principle common to both States was involved, that they suffered certain disabilities as a result of federation; but, in addition, there was a second consideration governing the grant to Western Australia, namely, that that State, in area, is the biggest in the Commonwealth, and the second smallest as regards population, so that its task of development and cost of government are much greater than similar charges on other States. Those factors are unlikely to change for some years, whereas it is possible that Tasmania’s disabilities may disappear within a few years. That is why the differentiation was made. As Senator Kingsmill said, there is nothing that Tasmania can hope for more than that the time will come speedily when that State will be in no further need of Commonwealth assistance. Senator J. B. Hayes referred to the Western Australian sinking fund of £9,000,000, but he omitted to mention its accrued deficit of approximately £7,000,000. If the one receives attention, the other must also be taken into consideration.
Regarding the recommendations of the Development and Migration Commission as to the reorganization of the Agricultural Department of Tasmania, it was never understood that the payment of experts appointed to carry out that work should be a charge upon the Commonwealth Government.
– The words “ The cost of the Development and .Migration Commission “ were used. What does that mean ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The whole of those costs have been found by the Commonwealth Government. The salaries of Dr. Findley and the scientists sent across by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were all met by the Commonwealth Government. But if the costs of maintenance were borne by this Government it would mean that some of the costs of that reorganization would be borne by Tasmania, while others would fall on this Government. Obviously that would be unsound. I remind honorable senators that the cost to Tasmania of carrying out these recommendations was taken into consideration when providing this grant.
– I do not think so, and that is my main objection.
– - I assure the honorable senator that the extra costs to Tasmania in that regard were considered. When the first experts were appointed this Government went into the matter of how much additional expenditure Tasmania was capable of bearing. At that time that State had a surplus of about £20,000, which indicated that it could find the salaries of those officers. That that could be done was shown by the fact that during the year when that State did find those salaries it finished up with a surplus of £95,000. All that was taken into consideration when fixing the amount of the grant, as it was desirable that Tasmania might be in a position to balance its ledger, without having to re-impose additional taxation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended and bill (on motion by Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE’) read a first time.
[5.16]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a machinery measure introduced to remedy certain defects in the Land Tax Assessment Act. The first amendment relates to the exemption from taxationof showgrounds. It. has been the practice of the department to allow exemptions from taxation of showgrounds provided they are not carried on for the purpose of profit. In nearly every case a showground is used, not only for the purpose of an agricultural show, but also as a sports ground. Nearly every society obtains a little revenue from grounds used for this purpose. It was not intended that the use of such grounds for sports purposes should be a bar to exemption. I understand that in some of the States the grant of a ground for show purposes contains a provision that the society shall make it available for use as a sports ground. As honorable senators know, most showgrounds are occasionally used for other purposes, and it is proposed by the bill to amend the act so as to authorize the continuance of the present practice of exempting all showgrounds from taxation, even if the societies controlling them obtain some revenue from their use for such purposed.
The second amendment relates to the Land Valuation Board. This board consists of three persons, who usually come from different States, and the object of the amendment is to prevent the time of the board from being wasted through the failure of the taxpayer to appear at the time fixed for the hearing of his objection. The amendment provides that if the taxpayer fails to appear personally or by representative and fails -to submit a reasonable excuse for his nonattendance, the board may determine the objection against him.
Clause 4 of the bill is intended to prevent taxpayers from delaying indefinitely the payment of disputed tax. In 1927 a section was inserted in the act providing that where tax has been paid and an objection or appeal has been lodged, the tax paid must be refunded if the matter is not finally determined within six months after the payment of the tax. It has been found, however, that some persons are attempting to abuse this provision. After payment of tax they lodge objections or appeals and then endeavour to delay the determination of the matter until the expiration of the period of six months when they are entitled to receive a refund of the tax paid. After they have received this refund it is obviously in their interest to postpone the final settlement of the matter as long as possible. These cases cause trouble and expense to the Taxation Department, and it is proposed to amend the law to prevent the abuse of this provision relating to refunds by extending the period of six months in cases where the taxpayer causes delay by failing to furnish information requested by the Commissioner, and the amendment will also provide that the appeal may be struck out in cases where the taxpayer has caused unnecessary delay by failing to set down the appeal for hearing. Where an order of this kind is made, the appellant may also be compelled to pay the costs in connexion with the Commissioner’s application to have the appeal struck out.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
[5.20], - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In June last Loan Act No. 1 was passed to meet expenditure on works and other services chargeable to the Loan Fund during the first quarter of the current financial year. When that measure was being considered, the Treasurer promised that the full programme for 1928-29 would be submitted for the approval of Parliament after the adjournment. The total of the programme for loan works and services submitted with the budget for 1928-29 is £9,024,375. Last year the programme of Commonwealth works submitted with the budget was £9,000,000, and the actual expenditure was £7,780,157. The amount of £7,780,157 just quoted represents the actual expenditure last year, before deducting a repayment of £163,216 on account of the sale of the Commonwealth ships. The net loan expenditure for last year was, therefore, £7,616,941. The estimated expenditure for 1928-29 compares with the actual expenditure last year as follows: -
The increase of £1,047,417 in war and repatriation expenditure is mainly due to the altered practice referred to in the budget speech, under which all widows of soldiers will be entitled to a pension of £2 2s. per week. To recoup the Federal Capital Commission for expenditure incurred by it in connexion with the construction of Parliament House, £638,500 is provided. The loans to be raised for the Commission will be reduced accordingly. No provision is made in the bill for loans to be raised for the States for development and migration under the migration agreement, as authority has already been given by Parliament under another act for this service. The total amount included in this Loan Bill is £10,422,025. The total loan expenditure for the year is made up as follows : -
The amount of £3,000,000 provided for loans for the Federal Capital Commission is mainly to cover advances made to the Commission pending the raising of a loan. These advances amounted to £2,942,060 at the 30th June. The provision for loans to the North Australia Commission is required to meet an estimated expenditure of £100,000 for the current year, and advances previously made. Clause 2 gives authority to the Treasurer to borrow moneys not exceeding, in the whole, the amount of £10,700,000. This amount is arrived at by adding to the amount provided in the bill, namely, £10,422,025, the sum of £277,975, which represents the estimated cost of raising loan moneys to. cover the amount of expenditure authorized by the bill.
– There are two phases of this Loan Bill to which I propose to direct attention. If honorable senators will turn to the Department of the Prime Minister, they will observe that we are asked to provide £300,000 for advances of passage money, landing money and medical fees of assisted immigrants. On many occasions during the last year or two, I have protested against this expenditure of Commonwealth money on migration, only, to be assured by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate that migration is a matter entirely for the States, and further that the Commonwealth Government is not responsible for the bringing of a single person to these shores. Nevertheless, recent loan bills have contained provision for this purpose, so that if the Government is not directly responsible, certainly it is responsible indirectly for the introduction of migrants. I remind honorable senators that the Government has closed down expenditure on important public works on the score of economy to the extent of approximately £1,200.000. Hundreds of men have been thrown om of work in the various departments for this reason. The ballasting of the transAustralian railway line has been stopped and men have been dismissed from the
Postal Department because money has not been made available for certain ne.cessary expenditure. It seems anomalous therefore that, whilst thousands of Australians are out of work, the Government should .be making provision in this Loan Bill for £300,000 to assist persons to come to this country to swell the ranks of our unemployed. Goodness knows the rank are full enough already. The policy of holding up public works such as the ballasting of the transAustralian railway, and dismissal of men from other services, is not wise economy, especially if the works curtailed are essential to the successful carrying on of public services. The ballasting of the trans-Australian railway will have to be done sooner or later in the interests of public safety. It is not economy to dismiss men from postal construction works which have to be undertaken sooner or later and which cannot return interest on capital cost until they are in actual operation. It is not right for the Govern ment to bring people to our shores, either directly or indirectly, while at the same time it is dismissing Australian workers. A word of warning is due at the present time that, while we have such a volume of unemployment in our midst, nothing should be done to intensify the position by bringing other people here. We are not alone in this contention. Similar objection to the Government’s migration policy has recently been taken by some of its own supporters. I have no desire to deprecate Australia in the eyes of the world, but migrants tell us that alluring pictures are drawn in the Old Country as to their prospects on arrival here, despite the fact that never has unemployment been worse in Australia than it is to-day. In every State there are armies of men out of work, and it is wrong for the Government to spend money in bringing people here to swell the ranks of the unemployed. It is quite possible that the right honorable the Leader of the Senate will repeat the statement that he has often made, that the Commonwealth Government does not bring people to Australia. That may be so, but the Commonwealth Government is spending money on the payment of passage money, landing money and medical fees for assisted migrants, and it is my intention in committee to move for the deletion of this particular portion of the vote under the control of the PrimeMinister, as an indication of the opposition of the Labour party to a continuance of the insane migration policy now beingpursued. The Labour party is not opposed to immigration but it is opposed to the indiscriminate policy of immigration that has been carried on for sometime, and thinks it ought to be stopped.
In the schedule to the bill I find an item of £43,000 towards the cost of machinery and plant for the manufacture of munitions not now produced in Australia. In my opinion Australia should be self contained in regard to munitionsof war. It has been proved beyond doubt, that with perhaps one exception, Australia has the wherewithal to be self contained in this respect; but while I realize that it is necessary that munitions should be manufactured in Australia, I donot think it right that loan money should be spent in this direction. Why cannot we . follow the example of the Fisher Government and provide for the whole cost of defence out of revenue? It has been said frequently by ministerialists that the richer portion of she community benefited most by the war. Yet we find the present Government reducing the taxation on the richer portion of the community and at the same time borrowing money to carry on and perfect our defence scheme.
– Our new cruisers and our seaplane carrier have been built out of revenue.
– If that is so, why is there need to borrow £43,000 for the manufacture of plant to turn out munitions ?
– Because there is a limit to our revenue.
– The example set by the Fisher Government should be continued and the burden of the cost of the defence of Australia should be allowed to rest on the shoulders of those best able to bear it, those who benefited most by the recent war.
[5.40]. - Senator Needham’s bitter hostility to immigration is becoming almost an obsession with him. It is very fortunate for the honorable senator that the first Federal Parliament did not hold the view he holds in regard to immigration, because if it had come to the conclusion to which he has come, that every immigrant is a curse to the country, possibly Australia would not have had the benefit of the honorable senator’s services.
– I paid my ownfare out to Australia.
– Am I to gather from the honorable senator’s interjection that he believes in a property franchise in respect to migration, and that the man’ who pays his own fare out is not objectionable, while the man who has not sufficient money to pay his fare out is objectionable? Does the Labour party preach a class war in respect of migrants? “Will it welcome with open arms the wealthy migrant and view with suspicion and hostility the poor migrant who cannot pay his own fare?
– We have not said that.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I am reminded that honorable senators opposite are not altogether consistent in this regard, because the southern European to whom they take strong exception and who is not acceptable to them, pays his own passage to Australia. The fact is that honorable senators opposite do not want migrants at all.
– Not at the present time, when we have an army of unemployed in Australia.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Not at any time since 1916, when the Labour party became constituted as it is to-day, have I heard it say a good word for immigration. Senator Needham has spoken of men who have been put off because of the slackening off of postal construction works. A considerable portion of the item in the schedule to the Loan Bill to which the honorable senator takes exception, is to be devoted to the payment of the passage money of domestic servants. Will it help the men put off from public works to find jobs if these domestic servants do not come to Australia? Does the honorable senator suggest that the men put off from the post office will take domestic service? I have not heard of it being done. Some of us are a little sceptical about the existence of these “ armies of unemployed.” The other day the New South Wales Government issued 1,600 notices telling the “ army of unemployed “ in its State that there were jobs waiting for them, and only 125 turned up to get the work offering. The only conclusion one can draw is that the rest of the “ army “ .preferred to remain unemployed.
– And most of those who turned up made excuses that they did not want the work offering.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Senator Needham always shuts his eyes to the system under which this money is spent. First of all the immigrants for whom the money is made available must be nominated by a State Government or a private individual in a State. If the State Government nominates a migrant, it undertakes to find him a job, so that he is not coming out to Australia to join the army of unemployed.
– A State Government cannot find work for a migrant when so many of its own people are unemployed.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The State Governments can find work for domestic servants. Even in South Australia domestic servants can still obtain employment, and South Australia is not nominating anybody to-day other than domestic servants. I can assure honorable senators that all the migrants assisted by this vote are nominated by State Governments or by private individuals, and when the migrants are nominated by private individuals, the State migration authorities are asked whether they will endorse the nominations. Before the Commonwealth Government finds the balance of the fare for the passage money of a migrant nominated by a private individual it has the guarantee of the State migration authorities that they are satisfied that the nominator will find the migrant a job or help him to become absorbed in our population.
– Do they supply a signed” guarantee ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. Do honorable senators opposite object to migrants coming to Australia under those conditions? In these circumstances, am I extravagant in saying that the members of the Labour party are totally opposed to immigration ? If there is one man unemployed, they object to girls who are guaranteed work coming to Australia. They also object to. Little Brothers coming to the Commonwealth while there is a navvy or a horse-driver unemployed.
– How many Little Brothers have committed suicide?
– Not any. The honorable senator is referring to some boys who came to South Australia under a State scheme that has now been superseded by the Big Brother movement, which has extended to that State. That movement is acknowledged by every one who has investigated it to be one of the best migration schemes ever adopted in Australia. In nearly every case these boys have made good.
– Their idea is to become land-owners.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes; but that would be another objection of honorable senators opposite, because land-owners become members of what they term the capitalistic class.
I wish now to deal briefly with the question of defence expenditure. The cost of the cruisers, submarines, and seaplane carrier has not been charged to the loan expenditure, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) ; but is being” met by a special appropriation from consolidated revenue. Munition supplies involve capital expenditure on machinery and plant, and the cost is rightly chargeable to loan funds; but the cost of manufacturing munitions is charged to revenue. The machines are bought out of loan funds; but contributions are made to a sinking fund out of which the cost of the machines is, met during the life of the asset. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Fisher Government did not meet its defence expenditure out of loan moneys. I was a member of that Government, and I submit that if the same happy conditions prevailed to-day as did then, this Government would also meet its defence expenditure out of revenue. The Fisher Government did not have to raise £29,000,000 as interest on war loans. That Government had surpluses, and was able to hand money back to the States. In these circumstances it is useless for the Leader of the Opposition to make such a comparison.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Immigration. Advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees of assisted immigrants, £225,000.
– I move -
That the figures, £225,000, be left out.
The Minister (Senator Pearce) did not attempt to justify the expenditure of loan money in bringing migrants to Australia, because he knows that the cost so incurred should not be chargeable to loan funds. His colleague in the Ministry has on previous occasions attempted to justify the policy which this Government has adopted. It is idle for the Minister to say that only domestic servants and Little Brothers are coming to Australia under its migration scheme.
– I did not say that.
– He knows that men are migrating to Australia.
– Only those nominated by the State authorities or by individuals.
– The Minister did not justify his assertion that since 1916 the Labour party has not had a good word for migration. I remind the right honorable gentleman that our ideas on this subject are the same as those which he shared with us prior to that year. We have not altered our policy since the- time the right honorable gentleman was a member of the Labour party. We maintain that it is the duty of the Government to provide employment for our own people before it brings migrants from overseas. The Minister has also attempted to scout the idea that there is no unemployment in Australia, and quoted a statement which appeared in the Sydney press the other day to the effect that a large number of men in New South Wales declined to accept employment when it was offered to them. He omitted, however, to quote the paragraph which appeared the following day to the effect that there were 4,000 men in Sydney willing and anxious to get work. The right honorable gentleman has overlooked the fact that according to the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician for the second quarter of this year the number of unemployed in Australia was estimated at 180,000.
– Who supplied the Statistician -with those figures?
– The Commonwealth Statistician would be sure that the source of his information was reliable.
– He says in a preceding paragraph that it is not reliable.
– -The figures I have submitted are authoritative. I submit my amendment, and trust it will have the support of a majority of the committee.
Question - That the figures proposed to be loft out be left out - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland-
Honorary Minister) [6.3]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to increase the duty on films, under the general tariff, from11/2d. to13/4d. per foot, in order to’ provide the necessary revenue to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Motion Picture Industry.
The additional revenue collected as a result of the increase’ in duty from11/2d. to13/4d. per foot will provide sufficient funds to enable increased administrative costs to be met, and at the same time, leave an amount available to give effect to the recommendations of the commission with regard to the encouragement of film production in Australia.
Based on the importation figures, it has been estimated that the proposed1/4d. per foot increase in duty will yield £22,000 per annum. As against this, registration fees to the extent of about £3,600 per annum have been abolished. Fees to the members of the Censorship Board and the Appeal Board, together with increased salary to the Chief Censor, are estimated to absorb about £2,000 per annum. The rental of the new premises secured in Sydney will mean an additional charge of approximately £800 per annum, after making allowance for the saving effected by closing the Melbourne censorship office. There will be a further expenditure of, say, £400 for an additional operator, and, say, £200 for contingencies. These increased charges, together with the loss of revenue resulting from the abolition of the film registration fees, will account for £7,000 per annum. The net amount of increased revenue will, therefore, approximate £15,000. The Film Commission recommended, inter alia, that in order to encourage the production of films in Australia, awards of merit should be made annually. The amounts suggested were -(1) For films, first, £5,000; second, £2,500; third, £1,500. (2) For best film scenario written in Australia by a resident Australian citizen, £500. (3) For best film scenario containing Australian sentiment, £500. These suggested amounts total £10,000 per annum, whereas a sum of approximately £15,000 per annum will be available, which if judiciously expended annually along the lines recommended by the royal commission, should give a decided impetus to the production of pictures in Australia. If action is taken by the States to refer to the Commonwealth the power to legislate on matters affecting the motion picture industry. other administrative machinery will need to be constituted, the cost of which will be a set-offagainst any sum available after the proposed awards have been provided for.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham.) adjourned.
, - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill to provide for the amendment of item 291 by inserting the words Sequoia sempervirens after the word “ Redwood “ wherever occurring. Honorable senators may remember that when the tariff schedule was before the Senate recently, a duty of 6s. British, 7s, 6d. intermediate, and 8s. 6d. general, was imposed upon redwood, the intention being that the rates should apply only to American redwood. That interpretation was also placed upon the schedule by the department, but it was challenged in a South Australian court. In giving his verdict, the judge said that as there was a doubt whether the rate applied to redwood other than from America, the appellant was entitled to the benefit of the doubt. That decision has resulted in other redwood, particularly Baltic redwood, entering this country at a lower rate than Parliament intended. Undoubtedly, the intention of Parliament was that such redwood should come under an item in the tariff the rates for which are 12s. British, 14s. intermediate, and 15s. general. The decision of the court has had a serious effect on the timber industry of Australia. A number of mills which had increased their plant in order to provide for the increased output which they believed would result from the imposition of the higher duties, were seriously affected by the large importations of Baltic redwood. Seeing that the Senate believed that the higher duties would operate, I appeal to honorable senators to rectify the position by agreeing to the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 6.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 September 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280912_senate_10_119/>.