12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Is it a fact that the report of the select committee on the Central Reserve Bank Bill was only circulated yesterday, and that, as stated by Senator Rae, honorable senators have not had full opportunity to study it? Is he aware of the great importance of the measure and of the undesirability of having it hurriedly dealt with? Will the Government consider the advisability of postponing further consideration of the bill till the reassembling of Parliament next year?
SenatorBARNES. - The Government proposes to push on with the Central Reserve Bank Bill and have it passed if possible.
– In view of the fact that the Senate has almost unanimously resolved that substantial help should be given to the wheat-growers of Australia, I shouldlike to know what action the Government proposes to take?
– I am expecting a statement to be made during the day on the matter referred to by the honorable senator. Senator Daly’s absence from the chamber at the moment is due to the fact that he is now in consultation with the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons).
” B “-CLASSRADIO STATIONS.
– I should like to know if any further information has been secured by the Government in regard to the objections which have been offered to the regulations affecting “ B “-class radio stations, and, if not, whether the Assistant Minister will read an article appearing in the Canberra Times this morning relating to the matter?
– I shall read the article.
– Can the Assistant Minister explain why the estimated cost of constructing the Canberra Baths is being exceeded by £500?
– The detailed estimates show that the work is being done under the estimate.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
What annual revenue is expected tobe received from the public baths, when completed, at Canberra ?
– As indicated in the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, there is little likelihood, in the early stages, that the revenue received will cover interest and maintenance charges, but with the growth of population and increased patronage of the pool, this matter may be expected to adjust itself.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
– The answers are -
Decision of Privy Council
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Attendance at International Labour Conference - Inquiry into Administration of Australia House.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Captain Conway’s Appointment
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether local production of carbide is sufficient to provide for the total requirements of the Commonwealth ?
– The plant in Australia is understood to be capable of producing more than the whole of the Australian requirements of carbide.
Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Prices - Tariffs
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government does not consider that any good purpose would be served by the appointment of a commission on the lines suggested.
French Dutieson Wheat and Butter - Flour Tax
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
Senator DALY (through Senator Barnes). - The representations have been brought under the noticeof the Government, and proposals to deal with the matter will probably be announced to-day.
Anomalies - Productsof Municipal Quarries
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Is it the intention ofthe Government to take steps during the present sitting to honour the pledge of the Commissioner of Taxation of the loth September last, that no time would he lost in altering the position created In’ anomalies and difficulties arising under the Sales Tax Act?
– The Government is not aware of any such pledge given by the Commissioner of Taxation. Information is now being collected by the Commissioner of Taxation in connexion with the subject in order that it may be considered fully u pon the return to Australia of the Prime Minister. No present action is proposed other than that dealt with in the bills now before the Senate.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator DALY (through Senator Barnes). - The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following questions, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2 -
– I move -
That regulation 9 of the City Area Leases Regulations, made on 20th October, 1930, under the Seat of Government (Administration) Ordinance, 1930, and the City Area Leases Ordinance, 1924-29 of the Territory for the Seat of Government be disallowed.
Regulation 9 of the City Area Leases Regulations reads -
After regulation 8 of the City Area Leases Regulations the following regulation is “inserted : - “ 9. Any lessee who commits a breach of any covenant contained in his lease, which is to the following effect, namely: -
That he will use the leased land only for a certain purpose specified in the lease;
That he will not, without the previous approval in writing of the Minister, erect any building on the leased land, or make any structural alterations in any building erected on the leased land ; or
That he will permit any person or persons authorized in writing by the Minister in that behalf to enter (upon production of such authority) upon the leased land at all reasonable times and in any reasonable manner and inspect the land and buildings, erections and improvements thereon, shall, if the covenant is one in respect of which no action for breach can be taken under the lease, be liable, upon conviction, to a penalty not exceeding Five pounds, or, where the breach is a continuing breach, to a penalty not exceeding Five pounds for every day during which the breach continues.”.
I have carefully studied this regulation, and although I have had a legal training, I find myself incapable of giving it a definite meaning. It is not fair to place on a tenant, who has no such training, the responsibility of interpreting such a regulation. If there has been a breach of a covenant of a lease, surely action of some kind can be taken to enforce it. Otherwise the lease is a mere juggling of words. A covenant is an agreement under seal, and obviously the court should enforce it in the usual way, either by granting an injunction or giving damages, or something of that nature. Apparently, that is not intended, because the regulation includes the words, “ If the covenant is one in respect of which no action for breach can be taken under the lease.” I cannot conceive of such a situation arising. If there is a covenant, obviously, there must be a remedy for any breach thereof. Some court would have to give a meaning to it.
– Is not the regulation merely the addition of another covenant to those already entered into?
– The only way of enforcing an obligation under a covenant is to bring an action of some kind. I do not see how a covenant can be an enforceable agreement that is of any value at all, unless it can be the subject of an action. And, in that case, the remedy is entirely a civil action. To give this regulation any meaning a civil proceeding would have to be converted into a criminal action, the lessee prosecuted and if convicted, punished by a fine. Each tenant in the city area of the Territory for the Seat of Government has entered into an agreement which is binding on him for 99 years. It is impossible for him to obtain financial assistance from any banking institution or trustee company ; unless he can finance himself, he is practically at a dead end. What is his position if, in addition to that disability, a provision is to be inserted in his lease to which no one can give any definite meaning? He cannot surrender his lease until its full period has elapsed without losing all he has expended on the property. In the past Parliament has been careful to preserve the rights of people with whom it has entered into contracts. When dealing with legislation it has always avoided doing anything which might invalidate contracts entered into by a previous government with companies or individuals. In this amendment additional obligations are being imposed on lessees. If this practice is permitted where will it stop? Certainly, such a state of affairs was never contemplated by any lessee who accepted a lease at any of the sales which have been held.
There is a further objection to this procedure. If the regulation be not disallowed by the Senate, the interpretation of these regulations, which at present is the function of a High Court judge, will be cast upon a police magistrate, who may not have had the necessary legal training to enable him to arrive at a just decision.
In my experience a title to land is a matter which is always reserved to the higher courts.
– Is forfeiture of the lease the penalty for a breach of other covenants ?
– A breach of covenant of a lease may result in an action for damages or for an injunction; it depends on the court. Should the controlling authority attempt to forfeit the lease the court may restrain it from doing so. Apparently, that is the stumbling block. The Government is afraid to take action to forfeit a lease for fear that the High Court would say, “No, this is not a breach of a covenant which justifies the forfeiture of the lease.” It is going to cast the responsibility on an unfortunate police magistrate, who is to be asked to fine the man £5 or £5 a day if he has erected a building or structure of some kind and so is continuing to offend from day to day. The decision of the police magistrate may have substantial effects as, if he decided that there has been a breach of covenant, the authorities may forfeit the man’s lease, although it may have upon it a building worth thousands of pounds.
– What is the object ?
– Heaven only knows. It is for this Senate to ascertain the object.
– There must be some specific case with which the authorities had to deal.
– I have endeavoured to gather from the department what it is aiming at, but have been unable to obtain a definite reason. There is another objection to this procedure. I have never heard of a breach of an agreement being treated as a criminal offence. I can quite imagine what an outcry there would be from supporters of the Government if, say, the Victorian Parliament passed legislation that permitted the launching of a criminal action against a tenant for a breach of covenant. Why should there be a reversal of the usual treatment in the Federal Capital Territory, simply because the Government happens to be the landlord? In the States the tendency has been to protect the rights of the tenant. Despite any provision contained in his lease, a lessee, for example, may remove the fixtures connected with his business, which he may have erected in the buildings or on the leasehold. Moreover, if the lease provides that a tenant cannot assign his lease without the written consent of his landlord, it is implied by statute that that consent cannot be unreasonably or arbitrarily withheld.
– That does not apply to this ‘case. The class of breach is limited to the provisions of paragraphs a, b and c.
– I am merely citing that incidentally, to demonstrate how State legislation lightens the obligations of the tenant, as against those of the landlord. Here, the unfortunate tenant is to be treated as a criminal if he departs from a covenant of his lease. I protest against what is actually a breach of faith on the part of the Government with the unfortunate people who have been decoyed into buying leases in the Federal Capital Territory and erecting buildings on them.
– I do not know whether Senator H. E. Elliott expects the Government to allow any person who has entered into an agreement with it to repudiate his obligations. His remarks convey to me some such suggestion. The power to make these regulations is given in paragraph g of section 22 (1) of the City Area Leases Ordinance 1924-1929. This paragraph was specifically inserted in the section by Ordinance No. 5 of 1926, which was made by the Bruce-Page Government. In the lease document there are certain conditions which the lessee covenants to observe. In respect of some of these conditions no penalties are inflicted for non-observance. Unless penalties are inflicted, the conditions are useless.
It is presumed that a lessee is willing to observe the conditions of his lease, and, as a matter of fact, he undertakesto observe them. The infliction of penalties will, therefore, not affect any lessee who complies with his undertaking to observe the conditions. The lease provides that for major breaches the lease shall be determined. It is considered that the infliction of a small fine for minor breaches is much more reasonable than determining the lease. Paragraph a of regulation 9 corresponds with paragraph f of the lease document. Paragraph b of regulation 9 corresponds with paragraph e of the lease document. Paragraph c of regulation 9 - the power to enter, is conferred by regulation 4.
The objects of the regulations made under the City Areas Leases Ordinance 1924-1929 on the 20th October, 1930, by the Minister for Home Affairs are -
It seems to me that the regulations are warranted, and eminently reasonable and fair. The necessity for their existence is obvious. All laws have to be administered by some authority, and I am confident that neither these regulations nor the supervising authority seek to harass lease-holders in the Federal Capital Territory.
Debate (on motion by Senator Daly) adjourned.
Order of the day called on for the resumption of the debate from the 10th December (vide page 1217), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLachlan) adjourned.
Resumption of Debate.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I am not sure, Mr. President, if this motion is open to discussion.
– Yes. Certain motions which have come before the Senate are not open to debate. Standing Order 431 reads: -
The following motions are not open to debate, shall be moved without argument or opinion offered, and shall be forthwith put by the President from the Chair, and the vote taken : -
Reference is made to Standing Orders Nos. 72, 74, 189, 281, 379, 421, 429 and 440. These Standing Orders also refer to motions which must be put without debate, but apparently they do not apply to the motion now before the Chair, namely, the time to be fixed for the resumption of the debate. Accordingly, this motion must be treated as an ordinary motion which may be debated. I remind honorable senators, however, that in the discussion on it, they must confine themselves to the time to be fixed for the resumption of the debate, and must not refer to the merits or demerits of the Central Reserve Bank Bill.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.45]. - I move -
That the words “ a later hour of the day “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the first Thursday after the Senate re-assembles in 1931”.
I am loth to interfere with the placing of business by the Government but I think that, on this occasion, my amendment is warranted, because its purpose is to afford the Senate an opportunity to give to the bill that consideration which its importance demands. When the bill came before the Senate some months ago, this chamber considered it ofsuch consequence as to refer it to a select committee. That committee went to considerable trouble to obtain evidence and data relating to central banking in other countries, and its report was only made available to honorable senators yesterday. We have been sitting long hours dealing with a mass of technical legislation such as income tax bills and other measures, so that we have not had time to consider the report. It is unreasonable to expect the Senate to deal with a measure of such importance at this late stage in the session. Only last night the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) intimated that it was the intention of the Government to close Parliament to-morrow night. That leaves us only two days for the consideration of a number of important measures, including the one now before us. Haste in the passing of legislation is at all times to be deprecated. It is particularly undesirable in the consideration of a bill relating to central banking. “We should not be justified in passing this measure in the short space of time now remaining before the Senate rises. The report mentions certain alleged fundamental defects in the hill. These should be thoroughly examined before the Senate passes it. Surely the Leader of the Senate recognizes that we are justified in taking time to thoroughly consider the report of the select committee to discover whether its objections to some of the provisions in the bill can be sustained. I asked a question on this subject to-day, in order to give the Government an opportunity to fix a date for the resumption of the debate after the re-assembly of Parliament next year, and the answer given was that the Government intended to put the measure through. In view of these facts, I ask the Senate to carry my amendment. The action of the Government to-day leaves no other course open to me. If the debate is resumed at a later hour of the day with the object of passing the bill before the Senate rises, we shall not have time to study the report and give adequate consideration to the many technical provisions in the bill.
– I appeal to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) not to press his amendment. The Government is anxious to pass this measure. It had a full discussion in another place, and has been before the Senate for the last three months.
– The report has not.
– That is not the fault of the Government.
– We received it only yesterday.
– I ask honorable senators to allow Senator Dunn to speak without interruption.
– All that I desire to do is to appeal earnestly to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) to allow the debate on the bill to proceed. There is in the minds of Ministers considerable doubt as to whether the measure is not to be slowly strangled as a result of something that has been decided by the caucuses of Country and Nationalist parties during the last few days.
– I do not think that this question should be considered in any party spirit. Having secured the adjournment of the debate yesterday, I spent whatever time was at my disposal during the night and this morning in examining the report of the honorable senators who have so efficiently carried out their duties as a select committee, and I realized what an amazing amount of time was actually required, not only to read the committee’s report, but also to thoroughly digest the criticism and points made by various eminent witnesses who were called to give evidence. There is no occasion for the Government to exhibit any feeling in regard to the matter. There is in existence overseas - I believe it is already in print in London - a momentous report referred to by Senator Colebatch yesterday. It deals with matters relating to the credit of central reserve banks and the restoration of the economic and financial position of the world generally. Furthermore, there is now sitting in New York a conference of leading bankers of the world upon the currency question - a matter with which central banking is closely allied. A certain section of the unthinking may imagine that a central reserve bank is something that can be dealt with by a wave of the hand, but I am at a great disability in speaking on this bill, or in dealing with it as it should be dealt with without the assistance of the conclusions to which these eminent men overseas have’ come. I feel that the Government should not pursue its policy of hostility to inquiry which has been so manifest throughout the whole of the discussion on this bill. It was hostile to the reference of the matter to a select committee. It showed its hostility by withdrawing ministerial senators from the personnel of the committee, and in refusing to the committee facilities which on every decent ground should have been afforded to it to enable it to make its inquiry, and again at the last moment in not facilitating the securing of further evidence which the committee desired, and which it had to obtain under rather difficult circumstances. The Government will get the bill all right. Whether the Government desires it ©r not, Parliament must re-assemble shortly after the new year, and it is only fair to honorable senators to allow them to co-ordinate their facts and their thoughts on the matter. I speak feelingly on the subject, having already devoted so much time to it since the adjournment last night. I ‘am quite convinced that I have not had sufficient opportunity to deal with the matter as it should be dealt with, although I was in the fortunate position of having been supplied with a rough proof of the committee’s report earlier than yesterday.
.- The Senate would stultify itself if it endeavoured to proceed immediately to the discussion of the report of the Select Committee on the Central Reserve Bank Bill. When it referred the bill to a select committee it was exercising its peculiar function as a house of ‘review. Having before it a technical and complex subject in regard to which expert evidence and information were required, it thought it wise to appoint a select committee as its agent to obtain that evidence and that information. The information has now been obtained, not only for the benefit of honorable senators and Parliament generally, but also so that it may be circulated widely among the people, and so that the public may be duly educated and informed upon this intricate and technical subject. We have had the report presented to us - without undue delay, I may’ add, on the part of the select committee - and honorable senators have admitted, in the course of debate, that they have not had an opportunity to peruse it, to say nothing of making a careful examination of the recommendations or the evidence contained in it. If, owing to the pressure of time, honorable senators are laboring under that difficulty, how much more does that disability affect the. community generally ? The report has been circulated in Canberra, but it is sought for in various parts of the Commonwealth, and I venture to say that there are cities of Australia which have not yet received copies of it. If we are to function as a house of review we should look at this matter carefully, impartially and judicially. We cannot possibly do so in the closing hours of a session. Although Senator Daly has told us that it is proposed to rise for the Christmas adjournment to-morrow, we have fourteen measures already on the business paper for our consideration, and if Dame Rumour is Correct there are two more important bills yet to be received. To endeavour to deal with a matter of this importance in the closing hours of a session, without ‘being given a reasonable opportunity for the consideration which the amendment seeks to give, would bring contumely and contempt upon the Senate as part of the legislative machinery of the Commonwealth. Delay for the purpose of fair consideration is abundantly justified. To do otherwise would be to ‘bring disrespect upon the chamber. If honorable senators endeavoured to rush this matter through without proper consideration, they would bring deserved criticism upon their shoulders. I support the amendment.
, - I admire the ingenious arguments put forward by Senator Lawson for further delay. He says that this chamber should function as a house of review. Frequently it has, without very much review, rejected measures of even more immediate importance than the one now under consideration. My reading of the Constitution is that the Senate is a chamber for the protection of State rights. That, however, is by the way. Prom the beginning the Opposition has shown every desire to delay the Central Reserve Bank Bill without having the courage to kill it straight out as, no doubt, it would like to do. For some occult reason, it prefers to play the cat and mouse game - delaying it, bringing it forward, pushing it back, and then tempting it forward again so as to swallow it. Honorable senators must have been aware of the lengthy debate that took place on this bill in another place, where it originated.* Its provisions were debated by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber when it first came to us for our acceptance, and yesterday Senator Colebatch set out at great length not only the salient points in favour of the bill, but also the criticism directed against it as a result of the findings of the select committee. It is idle, therefore, to suppose that honorable senators are not fairly well acquainted with all that can be said for and against this legislation. I admit that honorable senators can keep on repeating each other’s arguments; but the salientpoints for and against the measure have already been , advanced. If honorable senators dislike the bill, why do they not reject it entirely? I protest against this policy of continuous delay. According to Senator McLachlan, some weighty document, prepared somewhere overseas, has not yet reached Australia. I do not know of what value it is likely to be. The probability is thai never in our lifetimes shall we read or hear the last word to be said on finance. Possibly by the time we have digested the work to which Senator McLachlan has referred, there will be some other weighty books or documents emanating from some other source, and we shall have to wait until the Greek Kalends before we hear the last word on finance, gold reserves, or other topics associated with high finance. . .The honorable senator’s appeal is simply another device to shelve the hi1!, instead of dealing with it in the light of what honorable senators already profess to know about finance. I protest against this policy of continuous delay when I know that the real design is to slaughter the measure.
– This debate supplies still another illustration of how the point of view always indicates the attitude. A coster’s son once said to his father in London, “ You are. a mighty big man in our kitchen, hut you are a small man in St. Paul’s Cathedral.” Senator Rae is evidently influenced by the measure of importance he attaches to the Central Reserve Bank Bill. I do not need to remind him that much more important measures have been passed through this Parliament that did not take days, or weeks, or months, but took years to pass.
– Take the Navigation Act, for instance.
– That was one I had in mind to mention. The need to place the seamen on our coast on a proper and civilized footing-
– I must ask the honorable senator not to deal with the merits of other measures.
– Surely the time devoted to their “ consideration is inci-dental to this debate?
– Yes; but their merits or demerits have nothing to do with the question now before the Chair.
– It took the Navigation Bill seven years to pass. A select committee had been appointed in precisely the same manner as the select committee on the Central Reserve Bank. Bill, and after it had inquired into theprovisions of the Navigation Bill, and’ furnished its report, Parliament took, seven years to mature its opinion beforefinally passing the measure. Senator Rae has refrained from commenting upon the) delay which has occurred in discussing the fourteen amending tariff schedules which have been submitted to Parliament during the last twelve months. Although many of the duties imposed under those schedules have placed an intolerable burden upon certain sections of the community, particularly the primary pro.ducers, we have not had an opportunity to discuss them.
When the select committee was about to present . its report, it was within the competency .of the Government, of which Senator Rae is a supporter, to adjourn the Senate until the following day instead of for over a week, and thereby facilitate the consideration of the bill. If the discussion of the bill is urgent now it should have been urgent, then. I understand that the committee’s report was ready and could have been presented on the day following the adjournment, which, I believe, was a Thursday; but the Senate did not meetagain for ten days. On that occasion’ there was no protest from Senator Rae.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment before the Senate.
– I shall endeavour to do so. I have not had time to digest the report submitted by the committee, and until I have done so I do not intend to express an opinion on a subject of such fundamental importance to the wellbeing of the country as the proper control of our currency and our general financial system. Why should we be asked to arrive at an immediate decision? If we did we would not be upholding the dignity and importance of the Senate, or doing justice to those who sent us here. Is the Senate expected to pass this important measure by to-morrow?
– The Senate can continue its’ sittings next week if necessary.
– As far as I am concerned, it will do nothing of the kind; I intend to join the train to-morrow. It takes me at least five days to reach my home, while other honorable senators can jump into a train and be home in a few hours. If they were placed in the position that I and other honorable senators representing the more distant States are in, they would fiddle a different tune. It is not fair to ask honorable senators to rush through such an important subject with an ill-informed mind. I see no other course but to vote for the amendment. If it is agreed to, honorable senators will be able to study the report and arrive at a decision which will reflect credit upon their judgment. Those who advocate the disposal of this measure within a day or two do not possess good judgment or any sense of fair play. I do not intend to take that course; but to study the report clause by clause. If I were entitled to refer to the report in detail I should say that there are certain portions of it which, in my opinion, are contradictory.
– The honorable senator knows that he is not entitled to refer to the report in detail.
– As I have said, I intend to support the amendment, because I require time to consider the report on a subject which so vitally affects the well-being of this country.
– I trust that the Senate will proceed immediately with the consideration of this bill, which I regard as one of the most important that has ever been placed before the Senate. I have studied the report, and I can see nothing in it which, in my opinion, may not be acceptable to the Government. The Government has not had an opportunity to consider the recommendations of the committee; but I do not see why the Senate should not proceed to discuss the bill, and return it to another place with amendments based on the recommendations of the select committee. I would be reluctant to say that honorable senators opposite are wilfully delaying the passage of the bill to prevent the Government giving effect to its policy; but it would appear from their action that that is their desire. Senator Lynch said that we are to some extent responsible for the delay, because no opposition was offered to an adjournment of the Senate for over a week. I understand that that course was followed because the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) had stated that the report was not then available.
– The report was available at the time.
– If that is so, I am sure that honorable senators on this side of the chamber were misled in the matter.
– The Senate adjourned on the 27th and the report was to be available on the 28th.
– If I had known that the report would be available on the day following the adjournment, I should not have supported the adjournment’ for a week.
– The matter which the honorable senator is discussing hasvery little to do with the amendment before the Senate.
– I shall endeavour to confine my remarks to the amendment ; but if other honorable senators are permitted to discuss subjects which may be regarded as irrelevant I feel that I should make my position clear.
– The honorable senator has already done so.
– As this is probably the most important measure which the Government has presented to the Senate, we should not lose any time in discussing it. I have uo desire to prevent honorable senators from reaching their homes for the Christmas season, but the whole policy of the Government is closely inter-related with the proposals embodied in the Central Reserve Bank Bill. If effect cannot be given to that policy, some may not have any-Christmas dinner at all. I oppose the. amendment.
– I trust that the Senate will agree to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). I am anxious to assist in the establishment of a central reserve bank in Australia on the best possible lines. I, too, have not had an opportunity to study the report of the select committee, but I hope to do so when the present sittings of the Senate terminate. Senator Dooley has indicated that in his opinion there is very little in the report that would not be acceptable to the Government. In the concluding days of the present sittings, it is impossible for Ministers to give a report of such importance the consideration which is absolutely necessary before they can make up their minds upon the issue involved. Surely from the view-point of the Government, as well as that of honorable senators, it is desirable that sufficient consideration should be given to the report of the committee, which I believe has given its most earnest attention to the subject. If the consideration of the measure is postponed over the Christmas vacation the Government should have no difficulty in determining whether it agrees or disagrees with the recommendations of the committee. No one can deny the tremendous importance of the subject, which if hastily considered may result in action being taken which may be most detrimental to the country. A . great responsibility rests upon every member of the Senate, and upon the members of the Government to see that a false step is not taken. In the circumstances it seems only common sense to postpone the consideration of the bill until the sittings of the Senate are resumed next year. If that were done, the Government would have time to make up its mind on the issues raised in the committee’s report, and I venture to say the passage of the bill, and the establishment of a central reserve bank on sound lines, would be facilitated.
– I favour the establishment of a central reserve bank in Australia, and realize the importance of the bill which has been introduced for its creation. The’ very importance of this matter is a reason why we should inform our minds, from the best evidence obtainable in the world, before we hastily decide one way or the other. I have read a portion of the voluminous report of the select committee, which only reached us yesterday. So far as I have gone with my reading, the report appears to be a capable and carefully prepared document; but I have not yet had time even to complete the reading of it, let alone to digest the evidence. Moreover, it has been shown that very shortly further information, containing the opinions of the leading economists and financiers of the world, will be made available to us. Therefore, in the interests of the people of Australia, we should not proceed hastily, and rus this measure through before the Christmas adjournment. It is because I desire to give the subject the most careful consideration, in the interests of the electors, that I shall support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce).
– I hope that the Senate will support the Government’s proposal and reject the amendment. Those honorable senators who have spoken have admitted the value of a central reserve bank, and the important part it could play in the national life of this country. The Government is most desirous of proceeding immediately with its banking policy. I freely confess that until the Central Reserve Bank Bill and consequential amendments to our banking ‘ legislation “have been placed on the statute-book the Government will be hamstrung. This bill has been before us for a considerable time. It is useless for the Opposition to say that the Government adjourned the Senate over the day on which “the select committee should have presented its report. Just as the Opposition is prepared to meet the convenience of the Government, so is the Government prepared to reciprocate.
Honorable senators knew well that although the report might have been tabled on the Thursday, it would not have been dealt with that day. When I made a statement regarding the legislation with which the Government desired the Senate to deal before it rose for the Christmas adjournment, I had in mind particularly the CentralReserve Bank Bill. I submit that the Government is entitled to have its banking legislation dealt with before we adjourn. I admit that it is my duty, as Leader of the Senate, to meet the convenience of honorable senators by fixing the date for the commencement of the vacation early enough to enable them to reach their homes for Christmas; but it is wrong for honorable senators opposite to say that the Government allowed only two days for the discussion of this important measure. Honorable senators know that only -a few days ago I was informed in rather’ -forcible language that if the Senate satbeyond to-morrow there was a grave danger of its being counted out forwantofa quorum. In view of the Government’s minority in this chamber, I had to pay heed to those remarks. We, on thisside, are prepared to sit the whole of next week. In doing so, we should make no very great personal sacrifice, because we could all reach our homes within a couple of days. Seeing that Opposition members practically refused to sit beyond to-morrow, they should not attempt to throw the blame on the Government for not sitting later. The Government is desirous that the Senate should remain sitting until its legislative programme has been disposed of. The Central Reserve Bank Bill is one of the items of that legislation which it hoped would be disposed of before Christmas. I still hope that honorable senators will agree to postpone the consideration of this measure until a later hour to-day. If they are not agreeable to do that, I am prepared to meet their convenience by moving, later, that the debate be adjourned until to-morrow. I repeat that the Government is particularly desirous of having this measure passed, because it regards the establishment of a central reserve bank as an important step towards the fulfilment of its financial policy.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Sir George Pearce’s) amendment) - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Debate resumed from the 10th December (vide page 1220), on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the bill be now road a second time. .
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West ern Australia) [4.34]. - I do not propose to oppose this bill, for I understand that its passing will not authorize any alteration in the present representation of the various States in the House of Representatives, nor will it prevent a redistribution within a State if that is thought necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
There are nine of these bills, and they all remedy technical defects in the Sales Tax Assessments Acts, which embody novel legislation. The nature of the amendments, which do not relate to the matter of principle, can, I think, bestbe explained in committee. Shortly stated, the objects of the several amending Sales Tax Assessment Bills, are -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [4.40]. - Through the courtesy of the Minister I was enabled to peruse his notes on this measure, and I have also examined this and the other eight sales tax bills. As a result, I find myself in general sympathy with the action that the Government is taking. It is only fair to point out to my colleagues, Senators Glasgow and Payne, that under this amending legislation it will be impossible for a tailor, by selling madetoorder suits, to evade payment of the sales tax.
– Did he not previously pay on the cloth that he used?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.He did, and under this amendment he will also pay on the cost of labour involved in making the suit. It is said that there are two things which are both certain and unpopular - taxation and death. If our governments have to continue to increase our taxation much further it will be debatable which of the two is the more unpleasant. I offer no objection to the measure.
– I have just received a copy of the bill, and I find it difficult to gather what it is all about. Some most extraordinary situations have arisen under the operation of the principal act. I asked a question to-day with regard to one of them, where a municipal council operating a quarry for the sole purpose of obtaining metal from it for use in the formation or maintenance of roads in its municipal district, had been assessed for sales tax on the produce of the quarry-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that honorable senators cannot enter into a general discussion on sales tax legislation when dealing with a bill which is, by its title, limited to the amendment of specific sections of the principal act.
– I uphold the point of order raised by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) as I did last night. The parent act is not subject to general discussion on a bill which deals only with sections 3 and 17, sub-section 1 of section 18 and paragraph d of section 20 of that act.
– Clause 3 of the bill deals with the definition of “ manuf acturer “ and it appears to bear on the subject raised by me. Apparently the council to which I have referred is being treated as a manufacturer of goods for its own use, for I can see no other way in which the tax could operate. It therefore seems to me that the bill has a bearing on the matter mentioned by me.
– If the honorable senator desires to disagree with my ruling he will have to do so at once, and in writing.
– I do not wish formally to disagree with your ruling, sir, but it seems to me that I am being prevented from discussing a contemplated amendment which is within the scope of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– I ask the Minister in charge of the bill to defer consideration of this clause with a view to amending the definition of “manufacturer”, so that it will not be held to include a council under the circumstances to which I have referred. I am sure that when the principal act was drafted it was not contemplated for a moment that, where no sales tax applied to a transaction, a fictitious sale would be created in the manner that I have described. When a council quarries its own material for use on its roads there is no sale, but the taxation Commissioner is demanding payment of a sales tax on such activities, as was admitted in the answer to my question on the subject. Surely that is an improper application of the provisions of the measure. The Minister said that the matter was receiving consideration. I appeal to him to deal with it now or so to amend the definition that it will not in future apply to cases such as I have cited.
– I cannot consent to the postponement of this clause. There are thousands of cases in which no actual sales are made in the ordinary sense of the term, but which come under the operation of the sales tax legislation. A manufacturer making an engine for use in his own plant would have to pay tax on it, which is on all fours with the transaction referred to by Senator H. E. Elliott.
– I understand that the Minister promised that the Government would consider any anomalies when it introduces legislation to amend the Sales Tax Act, on the return of the Prime Minister to Australia. I am prepared to accept that assurance.
. - This is the question that I asked this afternoon -
The reply of the Minister was - “ This question is already receiving consideration “. Now is the time to deal with the matter. That is why I ask that the clause be postponed.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) agreed to-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Sales tax).
– I should like an explanation from the Minister as to the meaning of this clause. What will be its effect on the provisions in section 3 of the principal act?
– Its purpose is to ensure that the tax shall apply, as intended, to all sales taking place on, or after, the 1st of August, 1930.
– I am not satisfied with the Minister’s explanation. Are we to understand that the tax will be retrospective ?
– It is a precautionary measure to give effect to the intention of Parliament that all goods in existence at the time of the passing of the act, whether manufactured before or after the commencement of the act, shall be liable to the tax.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Exemptions).
.- Will the Minister explain the meaning of the amendments in this clause?
– They are intended to rectify certain anomalies in section 6 d. due to an oversight.
– I should like the Minister to explain particularly the meaning of paragraph c which omits paragraph d of section 6.
– The honorable senator will remember that these sales tax measures were dealt with in the dying hours of the last portion of this session. Each of the original sales tax assessment bills, as introduced into Parliament last session, contained a provision corresponding to the provision which it is now proposed to excise. During the passage of the bills, it was decided to replace each of these provisions, including what is now section 6 d of Act No. 3, by an amendment of clause 73 of Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 1). Amendments were prepared for that purpose and, except in the case of Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 3), were duly passed. The omission in the case of this bill was an inadvertent consequence of the extremely rapid passage of the bills during the closing moments of the session by the committee of the Senate. The provision in paragraph d of section 6 is unnecessary. Moreover, it has been found to be detrimental to the revenue.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
(Nos. 4a to 8a).
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bills passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) agreed to-
That the bill be now read a. second time.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- We have been called upon to deal with quite a number of these bills each of which is almost a replica of the others. This duplication of legislation seems to me to be a waste of time and expense, and it is not too early to urge a consolidation of these bills. As the matter now stands it is difficult to follow various ramifications of our sales taxation. If honorable senators had been able to secure copies of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts it is possible that injustice might have been avoided in many instances. I hope that the Government will accept my suggestion so that when we meet next year, we shall have an opportunity to deal with a comprehensive Sales Tax Bill.
– There is a legal difficulty in the way of having a comprehensive Sales Tax Act. This matter gave the Government the greatest concern, and the opinion of the most eminent counsel in Australia was taken when it was found that it was absolutely essential to legislate in this way. I assure the honorable senator that a legal difficulty prevents the Government from giving effect to what would otherwise be an admirable suggestion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have been in conference with Senator McLachlan with reference to a rather contentious amendment which he desires to move to this bill. I have also been in consultation with the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) and the taxation officials in order to prevent the necessity to report progress when the committee stage is reached. These deliberations have not been concluded, but I am hopeful that a solution will be found that will enable us to give some measure of relief to the particular class of persons concerning whom Senator McLachlan has made representations. In these circumstances, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage. Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Northern Australia Act 1926 was enacted with a view to the inauguration of a developmental policy in which, it was hoped, the co-operation of Queensland and Western Australia would be obtained. A commission with specific powers in regard to railways, roads, telegraphic and telephonic communication, water supplies and ports and harbours, was created. Western Australia and Queensland have stood ‘aloof, and there is no indication that either of these States is inclined to participate in any scheme which would, in effect, be the creation of a northern State embracing the Northern Territory and the northern portions of Queensland and Western Australia. The activities of the commission have, therefore, of necessity, been confined to the territory, and consist mainly of preliminary surveys in connexion with roads and railways.
It is known to all that we have not the means to commence the construction of these works or even the means to continue such preparatory investigations, and, because of lack of funds, the commission cannot function. It is apparent, therefore, that the commission must be abolished and the cost of its maintenance saved. The necessity which compels us to defer the exploitation of the highly fertile areas which exist in the territory is regretted ; but that undertaking must await more prosperous times. It is estimated that the abolition of the commission will result in a saving of at least £8,000 per annum in administrative costs. If this sum can still be allocated to the territory, it will be spent in the development of the pastoral industry, the most pressing needs being the provision of wells, bores and dips. In view of the prevalence of buffalo fly and tick, increased dip facilities would be of great benefit.
Consequent upon the abolition of the commission it is proposed to restore the scheme of administration similar to that in operation prior to 1926. There will be an administrator at Darwin and a deputy administrator at Alice Springs. These officers will have the assistance of an advisory council as the Government Residents of North Australia and Central Australia now have. The new scheme provides for one council instead of two, and the members of the council will be elective. Under the present system, two members are appointed by the Minister and two are elected by the residents in the particular territory. An innovation is the power given to the council to make ordinances - which is a pronounced advancement toward self-government in matters of local concern. It will be observed that the power is safeguarded in such a way as to prevent any abuse of power. The railways in the territory will bethe responsibility of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and other public works such as roads, telegraph aud telephone lines, water, boring, &c, will be allocated to the Works Department. Under the Northern Australia Act the Northern Territory was divided into the Territories of Central Australia and North . Australia, and duplication of legislation resulted. These objectionable features will vanish on the repeal of the Northern Australia Act, which is provided for in clause 3 of the bill.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.2S]. - This is another instalment of what might be termed the North Australia tragedy. As a former Minister for Home Affairs, I had experience in administering the Northern Territory under the very system to which the Government now proposes to revert. In moving the second reading of the bill, the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) spoke of dispensing with duplication, but this clearly provides for a reversion to the old system of duplication. The honorable gentleman said that it would lead to savings, but the only saving will be in the cost of the -commission itself. The Government is reverting to .a system nf administration which has already been demonstrated to be the most costly and inefficient in Australia. Four or five departments, which will be located in Canberra, are to administer the whole of the affairs of the territory with which, for the. most part, they have no local knowledge,- and of which they know very little. Some of the’ things that occurred under the system which was dispensed with by the Government, of which I was a member, would have been farcical if they were, not so tragic. Necessary work in the Northern Territory was undertaken by different departments. One section of the Department of Home Affairs dealt with land matters. If a river crossing were proposed, the Lands Department had to be satisfied that it was necessary. In such a case, an inspector of the Lands Department would visit the territory, and report. On his return, an inspector representing the Works Department would proceed to’ the locality to determine the nature of the work to be undertaken. I invite honorable senators to consider what this travelling means. The Northern Territory cannot be reached by train, arid in visiting many portions of it camel and horse teams have to be used. Weeks are sometimes occupied in reaching the district where a work is to be carried out. After a works inspector had visited the territory, he would return to Melbourne and report as to what should be done, and if approval were given to the scheme, would prepare his plans. Then others would have to be sent out to put in the crossing. Duplication of that kind was always going on* under the system to which the Government now proposes to revert.
When occupying the position of Minister for Home Affairs, I realized the difficulty of administering a territory which I had never seen, and which is not comparable with any other part of Australia. I, therefore, decided to visit the Northern Territory. I did not make my headquarters at Darwin and form my conclusions regarding the country, as so many others have done, on what I saw there. I travelled through the greater part of the hinterland, and eventually entered the lower portion of Queensland. I had. previously been to Oodnadatta, which is not in the Northern Territory, but from that point one gains some idea of the conditions of the southern areas. After making a thorough investigation into the whole of the circumstances, I realised that if the Government was to grapple with what was indeed a serious problem, the administrative work would have to be done on the spot. I recognized that the territory was so vast - a point that is not appreciated by many - that some form of local administration was essential.
There are actually four- separate districts - north, south, east, and west - each of which has its distinct problems, that require to be dealt with separately. The first extends for 200 miles south of Darwin, and is not comparable with any other portion of the Northern Territory. It is in the tropics; but it is not tropical in the sense that Java is tropical. It has not the fertile soil of Java, and! production cannot be undertaken in that portion as it can in Java or, say, in Cairns, although some river patches are very fertile. There is a tremendous rainfall of up to 60 inches a year, which falls in from four to six months, and in thi.?. area, with the exception of the country along the river banks, the ground during the dry season is absolutely dry, and is baked almost like a brick. In Java, of course, rain falls throughout the year, and consequently the soil does not become baked. Tropical agriculture is an impossibility in much of the country for 200 miles south of Darwin, with the exception of a few favoured places along the rivers.
Another district, which is really the central portion of the Northern Territory, although it is riot in the centre of Australia, comprises the eastern and western provinces. The eastern district embraces the Barkly Tableland, “and comprises magnificent cattle country, and possibly is capable of carrying sheep. That has to be demonstrated.
– That has been successfully demonstrated.
– f. mean that it has yet to be demonstrated that it can carry sheep profitably. The evidence seems to show that it can. Although it may be arguable whether sheep-farming can , be profitably carried on in the Barkly Tableland, it is undoubtedly splendid cattle country. The line of development of that district is not from Darwin or Adelaide, but Queensland, or possibly Borooloola, a port in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
– Or Port Augusta.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No ; that would be impossible. The propinquity of the Victoria River district to Wyndham, in Western Australia, means that its interests are with Wyndham, not Darwin. The district is cut off from Darwin by a number of big rivers. It would cost millions of pounds to connect that district with Darwin by rail. In my opinion, the idea of developing the Victoria River district from Port Augusta, Queensland or Darwin, is stupid in the extreme. That country can be developed only through Wyndham or along the Victoria River. These three distinct districts should be developed according to their geographical requirements.
We come now to Central Australia - the district lying immediately north and south of the Macdonnell ranges.
That the geographical outlet for that district is Port Augusta, not Darwin, has been demonstrated in the last year. As a result of the extension of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, cattle and sheep development is progressing in Central Australia as never before. Last year £90,000 was paid in freight on cattle on that line, notwithstanding that there are two breaks of gauge before reaching Adelaide, and that the seasonal conditions were not favorable. A profitable trade in cattle has been possible in Central Australia for the first time, owing to the construction of that line.
The Government’s proposal is that these four districts shall be administered from Canberra by officers, many of whom have not seen them. The late Government appointed a commission and gave it certain powers. It is true that that commission has not been able to do much in the way of developing the territory; but that is not its fault. Obviously, a territory cannot be developed without money; and since the appointment of the commission, the money market has been so adverse that the funds necessary to open up the country have not been available. The scheme which the late Government inaugurated has consequently not been so successful as was anticipated; but I repeat that the fault does not lie with the commission. Now the commission is to be abolished because it has not developed the country to the extent that was expected. The Government claims that its abolition will mean a saving of the salaries and travelling expenses of the members of the commission, amounting to £8,000 a year. Speaking from my experience as a Minister, I venture to predict that, under the Government’s proposal, the travelling expenses of the administration will exceed £8,000; and there will be Jess efficient administration. The members of the commission are on the spot. If they decide that a crossing over a river shall be made, they send out a gang of men to pave it. They do not first send out inspector after inspector to make examinations. The direct system has proved satisfactory.
This bill has a peculiar history. It was introduced to abolish the. commission, repeal the North Australia Act, and do away with the advisory council in North and Central Australia. But Mr. Nelson, the honorable member for the Northern Territory in another place, came on the scene and gave the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) such an uncomfortable time that the Government decided to reinstate departmental management from Canberra and to appoint an advisory council for the whole territory. Do honorable senators know that if they vote for this bill, they will vote for the establishment of an advisory council of four members - one from each of four districts? The advisory council is to meet not merely once or twicea year; it will meet as often as its members themselves decide. It is true that they are not to be paid any salaries for their services; but they will be allowed travelling expenses. I shall give the Senate an indication of the expense connected with travelling in that country. I went through the Northern Territory in a Ford motor car. Before the trip could be undertaken, camel teams had to be sent out with supplies of petrol. When I got back I inquired the cost of the petrol used on the trip, and found that, although petrol generally was much cheaper then than it is now, as much as 12s. a gallon was paid for it. I point these things out in order that honorable senators may vote with their eyes open. If they vote for the bill, they will vote to administer the territory from Canberra, with the assistance of an advisory council empowered only to make recommendations. That council will meet not less than twice yearly, but probably much more frequently. I leave it to honorable senators to imagine what their travelling expenses will be. The bill provides that the Administrator shall summon a meeting of the advisory council whenever he is requested by two members to do so. The council will be elected on an adult suffrage. Do honorable senators imagine that any pastoralist say, at Alice Springs, who is endeavouring to make a living by rearing cattle, will take three months off from his station duties in order to attend a meeting of the advisory council at Darwin ? I ask them to reflect on the constitution of the advisory council. The only persons who will be elected to it will be men seeking jobs; they will make a living by drawing travelling expenses while travelling to and from meetings. No one else could afford to accept a seat on the council. I repeat that, with the establishment of an advisory council, the travelling expenses of its members will more than eat up the £8,000 per annum which the present commission is costing, and, in addition, there will be less efficiency. Yet that is what the bill provides.
Apparently, a number of government supporters enjoyed the trouncing that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) gave the Minister. The advisory council proposed in the bill is the outcome of Mr. Nelson’s criticism.
– The Opposition in another place applauded Mr. Nelson.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.An Opposition generally does applaud when a Minister is having a bad time.
– Of what advantage will it be to Mr. Nelson to have an advisory council ?
– Perhaps none; except that four of his constituents will have good jobs for the rest of their lives. I urge the Senate not to pass this measure.
– It would be a good thing if this Parliament held a session in the Northern Territory.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is a very sensible suggestion. A session of Parliament in the Northern Territory would do both Parliament and the territory a great deal of good. While I was Minister for Home and Territories, I endeavoured to work along the lines I have indicated. I tried to bring about co-operation between Western Australia and Queensland in the development of the northern portion of the continent. I advocated that, at least, a uniform’ policy should be followed. Geographically, that portion of the continent is one district. There is only an artificial line between Queensland and the Barkly Tableland, and between Western Australia and the Victoria River Downs. We are continuing a farce by having separate governments to control this area. At present there is no community of action, no cooperation at all. I also endeavoured to interest British capital in the development of the territory. Some members of Parliament claim that development in the territory has been retarded because the land is hold in large areas. There is still plenty of land available there at rentals which are the cheapest in the world. Although land can be obtained there on long leases at easy terms, the third report of the North Australia Commission shows how little demand there is for it. An amendment of the law some time ago gave the Government the right to resume land in the event of a demand for it arising. The Northern Territory can be developed only by the expenditure of considerable sums of money; it is useless for men with small capital to attempt to develop it. For that reason we must encourage British capital.
– Vestey’s did not get a great deal of encouragement.
– [ could tell a story about Vestey’s. In my opinion, that company has stood in the way of the development of North Australia. I hold no brief for it. When I was in England in 1928, a group of British capitalists was intensely interested in the development of the north-western portion of Western Australia and the Victoria River district in the Northern Territory. 1 know that Mr. Collier, when Premier of Western Australia, was prepared to make very substantial concessions to them in order to induce them to go in for cattle-raising on a big scale there, [n this connexion, the late Government made ‘ certain inquiries, the result of which,’ up to a stage that those inquiries proceeded, I make a present to the Government. This was the scheme: There is in the neighbourhood of Wyndham, country that could be used for fattening purposes, but, as you go back, the country, while suitable for breeding, is not suited for fattening. The market in Britain to-day is for young cattle - what is known as “baby” beef. The plan was to encourage a substantial amount of British capital to the territory, give the investors liberal’ concessions in the form of big areas of country practically at a peppercorn rental; use the hinterland for breeding, bring the cattle in while still young, and fatten them on the coastal land. A. Mr. Wise, who was made available by the Queensland Government, and who was so highly thought of that he was afterwards engaged by the Western Australian Government, furnished a very valuable report on the subject, which is now on the files of the Department of Home Affairs. It clearly shows the practicability of such a scheme. It recommended that there should be a line of fast steamers travelling from Wyndham direct to Great Britain, which would carry, not frozen but chilled beef. Such a project would enable the Wyndham meat works to be made a success, and even necessitate their extension. Mr. Wise pointed out that those activities, the fattening of young stock, the development of the pig industry, and the export of frozen pork, would bring about closer settlement, and what is now, from a defence point of view, Australia’s Achilles’ heel, would have a satisfactory population whose prosperity might lead to the development of Australia’s agricultural industry.
I know that Mr. Collier, who was then the Labour Premier of Western Australia, was tremendously impressed with the scheme. Later,. Lord Luke, representing Bovril Limited, came to Australia and examined the possibilities of the project, and he also was favorably impressed. I hope that the Government will not let it drop, whether this measure is put into effect or not.
– Apparently, the people of whom the right honorable senator speaks have let the matter drop. Why did they not go on with it ?
– I do not think that they have let it drop. Financial conditions have not been very favorable in Great Britain lately and British investors are probably endeavouring to straighten matters out before turning their attention elsewhere. I spoke to Lord Luke when he was here, and I am confident that he has not let the subject drop. He was so impressed that he set agents to work investigating the proposal. Although these are times of financial stringency, I believe that that is the most favorable way in which to develop Northern Australia.
– More especially- in view of the experiments undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research in connexion with chilled, beef. .’
– Exactly. I believe that the North Australia Commission could play a very valuable part in the development of that area. If the scheme were put into operation, it would need to be administered by some capable local authority. I cannot see how it could be done satisfactorily by an administrator. The Government, with which I was associated, had a wide experience of administrators, some of whom were very good ‘ men. But an administrator is tied down in Darwin and cannot traverse the territory and appreciate its needs. Anybody who has been through the territory knows that Darwin is no more like the real North Australia than are Sydney and Melbourne like the hinterland of their respective States. A person may travel over 200 miles south from Darwin and, if he thinks he has then seen the north, he is merely deceiving himself. He has not. The real Northern Territory does not begin until one gets to the Katherine river. I remind honorable senators that climate is not determined solely by latitude. It is governed to a great extent by altitude. It is contended that the tropics are unsuitable for the white man. Personally, I should not like to live in the stretch of country which runs 200 miles south of Darwin, although some live there and thrive. But I have no hesitation in saying that the country from Katherine to Alice Springs, for over nine months of the year, is without peer in the world as regards climate. The air is positively, bracing. T met men who had lived there for 30 and 40 years, healthy, strong, hard-bitten specimens. Many families have been reared there and are healthy and physically hard. From a health point of view that country is admirably suited for the white man. But it has never had a chance. When it was under the administration of South Australia its development was hampered because of lack of capital, and it has had little chance under federal administration. In the early stages of its existence the Commonwealth was engrossed in developing a federal scheme of legislation, its post office, defence and Public Service. Just before the war some Ministers turned their attention to the Northern Territory, but the result was merely a series of semi-socialistic experiments that’ could not end in other than disaster. Badly advised, and situated in the wrong localities, they brought about a tremendous waste of money, so that to-day, they are a sort of damnosa haereditas. When I was Minister for Home and Territories, every time that I mentioned the Northern Territory I was asked, even by some of my ministerial colleagues, “ What about the Batchelor farm?” “ What about this ?” and “What about that?” Some frightful mistakes were made in trying to develop the 200 miles south of Darwin as one would develop South Australia or Victoria. One of the gentlemen sent to the territory as Director of Agriculture was previously a New South Wales farmer, and he tried to do things in his new capacity that he would have done in the agricultural districts of New South Wales. All that sort of thing wasted a lot of money. The obvious need of the territory is the development of the production of cattle and sheep, and, possibly, of its mineral wealth.
– It also produce? good horses.
– 1 include horse-raising. If the Government concentrated along these lines, agriculture would follow naturally in the more settler] areas. I believe that the Department of Home Affairs has learned that lesson, and that it will not repeat the mistakes of the past in that regard. The personnel of the North Australia Commission was very wisely chosen. Mr. Horsburgh had an extensive experience in Queensland in a managerial capacity, particularly in connexion with the mining industry. He is highly respected, has considerable force’ of character, and is well-known for his capacity to get the best possible out of the men under his control. Mr. Horsburgh is the chairman of the commission. Mr. Hobler is one of the best railway engineers that the Commonwealth Railway Department ever had. He was, as an employee of the Queensland Government, in charge of the railways that were built so successfully into the interior of Queensland. He knows the territory well. Mr. Easton, the third member of the commission, was previously in the Queensland Lands Department, and has had much experience in the pastoral development of North and North-western Australia. All three are hard-headed, practical men whose energies have been devoted to the solution of problems similar to those which face the Northern Territory. In my Ministerial capacity, I conferred with these men, and I have never met a trio so devoid of office frills. Not one is a man of extravagant ideas. They do work themselves that other departmental heads would want a secretary and a typewriter to do. They are used to out-back life. Yet the Government proposes to dispense with the services of these men who are doing the job on the spot, and to hand over the administration of that vast territory, which is bigger than some of our States, to the Department of Home Affairs, which is located at Canberra. I have the highest respect for the officers of the Department of Home Affairs. They are as capable as any officers in any other government department in Australia. But they are no more fitted to administer that territory and assist its development than they are of pioneering aviation to the moon. It is not their job; they were not selected or trained for it.
I am so keenly interested in the development of North Australia that I am perhaps encroaching unduly on the time of honorable senators. I urge that this is not a party question. I read the speech that was made in another place by Mr. Nelson, who probably knows the territory better than any other man in the Commonwealth Parliament. He spoke of the work of the commission in the highest terms, and opposed this bill. Mr. Nelson certainly hasa bee in his bonnet as to the advisory council, a scheme which, I think, is not worth a snap of the fingers. I think we should first encourage the people to that area; and they will go to the territory only when it is possible for them to live comfortably and thrive there. The inhabitants already have a voice in the administration of the territory, as there are two advisory councils in the localities in which they are actually living. The proposed advisory council will be right out of their ken. What does the man living at Alice Springs know or care of Darwin? He knows no more about it than he doesof Canberra - and that is precious little. The Government proposes to make the seat of the Administrator at Darwin, and that of his deputy at Alice Springs. Under the present scheme, the Administrator for Central Australia resided there. It is really merely a change of name. I cannot see that the proposed elective council will be as valuable as the one that now exists. Mr. Nelson complained that he was not asked for an opinion. I believe that if he were asked he would say, “Let the present conditions continue”. And that is my advice to the Senate and to the Government. I do not think that the Government will save £8,000 by the new plan. Bather, I believe it will lose that amount and more in pursuing it.
– What effect has the opening of the railway to Alice Springs had on the development of the territory?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.A very important one.
– It has collected £90,000 in freights alone since it was opened.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I refer Senator Rae to the third annual report of the Northern Territory Commission, which sets out the quantity of live stock carried over the line during the past year. Its purpose is particularly to carry cattle. I met a man in a comparatively small way, for his holding is only about 100 square miles - a small cattle station in those parts - who told me that at the time he had on his run fat cattle which, if he could get them to the Adelaide market as they were then, would be. worth from £15 to £18 a head. Instead, he had to drove them to the head of the line, which was then Oodnadatta, have them railed over the narrow gauge railway to Terowie, on which they were bumped about for two days, and then transferred to the broad gauge railway en route to Adelaide. During the journey they were starved and without water, except when being transhipped, so that when they reached Adelaide, instead of being “ fats “, they were “ stores.” He got £3 a head for them, but the man who bought them sent them out to the sewerage farm at Isling- ion, and, a few weeks later, sold them as fat cattle. This man tells me that, even with the break of gauge, he can travel his stock 200 miles to Alice Springs and bring them down by rail to Adelaide, where they realize as much as £18 a head, whereas, in former years, he could not expect to get more than £3 a head for them. That is what the railway means to those people in Central Australia. Mr. Nelson, the honorable member for the Northern Territory in another place, the other day mentioned that one man had lately taken up a big tract of country near Alice Springs, on which he was spending £20,000, and was giving employment to fifteen men, who formerly were among the unemployed in Adelaide. This developmental work is going on in the Alice Springs district, even under unfavorable seasonal conditions, simply because the railway facilities make it possible for the station-owners to develop their properties and market their stock.
I know that, if I vote against this bill, my action will be misconstrued. It will be assumed that .1 opposed it simply because it was brought forward by this Government. I can, however, assure the Leader of the Senate that I have not approached any honorable senator on this side with the request to vote against the measure; but personally I feel that I cannot support it, because I believe it is a tragic mistake. It will not effect, any saving whatever. On the contrary, it will be a step backwards in our scheme for the development of the Northern Territory. I think it quite possible that conditions may improve, possibly in a year or so, when we may have money to spend on developmental works on the lines indicated in the commission’s reports. I remind the Senate that the commission does not talk about the need for expenditure of millions of pounds. On the contrary, the modesty of its proposals is almost pathetic. It refers, for instance, to the possibility of developing tropical agriculture on the rivers, and I find that tlie magnificent sum of £2,000 is set apart for that purpose in an area of country 200 miles from north to south and between 400 and 500 miles from east to west. The commission points out that, even under the unfavorable conditions experienced in recent years, 45 people aro doing very well at growing peanuts, and it is gratifying to know that Northern Territory peanuts are bringing the highest prices in the Australian market. Some of these settlers have been drawn from the ranks of the unemployed. Instead of being content to remain on the dole, they took up land on the Adelaide River and, I understand, are making a good living. It seems to me that there is a good prospect of further developing this industry; but its possibilities are not to be compared with the prospects of the cattle industry. According to the commission’s report, the number of cattle and sheep in North Australia on the 31st December, 192S. was 676,428 and 354 respectively, while the number of cattle in Central Austral in at the same date was 92,223 and sheep 7,281. Referring to the value of the railway facilities to cattle-owners, the com-‘ mission makes this comment -
As an indication of the value of reasonable transport it is pointed out that between the 5th August, 1029, when the railway extension from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs was opened for public traffic, and the 24th October, 1929, 0,718 fat cattle were railed from Alice Springs to the Adelaide markets, and sold at an average of about £16 10s. per head.
The commission adds that, so far as North Australia is concerned, the number of live stock marketed within the territory is negligible, due to lack of population. The sales oversea, in the Philippine Islands, during the year totalled 6,808. In another portion of its report the commission states that the freight paid on the transport of cattle since the line to Alice Springs was opened totalled £90,000, and that this year it was anticipated that the revenue would be approximately £100,000. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision, and I suggest that the bill, be withdrawn. If it is pressed to a division I feel that I must vote against it, but I assure the Leader of the Senate that I am not actuated by any party spirit. I am opposed to the bill simply because I regard the proposal as a waste of money.
– I was interested in the speech delivered by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), because no man in Australian public life has given such close attention as he has to the development of the Northern Territory. I was glad to note, also, that he approached the discussion of this bill in a. non-party spirit. With most of his statements I am in cordial agreement, and I can speak from many years of experience of the territory. I regard this bill as a retrograde step. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The Northern Territory, as we all know, has had a very chequered career. Repeated attempts at development have been attendedby failure, but the proposition is by no means hopeless. Some people have been successful, and I have no doubt that, as time goes on, that immense area, much of it fertile, healthy country, will be profitably occupied. The absence of transport facilities is one of the stumbling blocks to its successful development, and because of its isolated position, its problems are so often overlooked by the administration. The Leader of the Opposition was quite right when he said that this huge area could be divided into four separate sections. I have had a long experience of the territory, and I have an intimate knowledge of that portion of it which is known as the Barkly Tableland in which is to be found the best land in the Northern Territory. My father pioneered that country 50 years ago. He took sheep, cattle and horses from the south-eastern district of South Australia right through the continent, and also travelled sheep from Bourke, in New South Wales, to the Rankine and Herbert rivers on the Barkly Tableland. The pioneers had to face extraordinary hardships and expend a large amount of capital, and his was an uphill fight for 30 or 40 years. Eventually he made a success of the venture ; but legislation with regard to wages, and the difficulties of transport, finally forced us to abandon sheep, and we disposed of 60,000 merinos and devoted our attention to cattle and horses.” While the people on the land in the territory - and I regard them as the real people - always worked magnificently, I cannot say the same of the residents of Darwin, which now is to be the administrative centre. It is no more a part of the real Northern Territory than Canberra can be considered as being in any way connected with Manitoba, in Canada.
Private business taking precedence after 8 p.m.,
That Orders of the Day, Bounty on Gold Production; Export of Manufactured Goods; and Beam Wireless Penny-a-Word Messages be postponed.
– I have already referred to the tragic neglect of the Northern Territory, because of its remoteness, and have described this measure as a retrograde step, because, in my opinion, the territory is best served by a commission of the type provided by the previous Government. There have been many failures in connexion with the development of North Australia, but there have also been many successes. The early pioneers of the territory proved the existence of vast areas of land suitable for breeding cattle, horses and sheep, the latter particularly on the Barkly Tableland close to the Queensland border. My own people were at a very early stage associated with the development of the Barkly Tableland and although I was very young when I went up there, I know all about the country. Of the first 14,000 ewes moved by my people from the northwest of Victoria only 1,000 reached their destination.
– Would that be affected by having an advisory council or a commission ?
– I propose to show how important a part transport plays in the development of the Northern Territory. Senator Pearce has already pointed out that there are so many variations in climate, soil, and outlet for whatever is produced, that the Northern Territory could almost be divided into four States. The men most fitted to give useful information to assist in the administration of the territory are those who live there, and have some knowledge of its development. One of the greatest drawbacks to early attempts at pastoral settlement was the lack of transport, not necessarily railways. As an indication of the difficulties of pioneer pastoralists, one day in a heat wave near Boulia, I lost 6,000 ewes I had bought at Longreach. Had there been rail transport, they would have got through to the tableland without loss. During the real drought of 1902, when there was a big shortage of beef and mutton in the Southern States, there were thousands of fat bullocks and merino wethers on the Barkly Tableland that could not be transported to any market. A large amount of capital, pluck and determination are required by those who pioneer the territory. They need to have large areas and security of tenure, and, above all, stout hearts. They suffer great hardships, and ray admiration goes out to them. Very few of those who blazed the trail in the early days of Australian pastoral development have made any money. In the territory people had to pay £100 a ton for flour, and £50 a ton to transport fencing wire and all goods to the Barkly Tableland. Under certain conditions, that tableland country is eminently suitable for sheep, but after spending £100,000 on the necessary buildings, fences, bores and wind mills over a period of 30 years, we had to give up sheepraising, because of the ever increasing cost of wages and transport charges. When we first took up that country, the journey from the south occupied from five to six months. Later on, we could travel by rail to Brisbane and thence by boat to Burketown, then by horse or buggy to the tableland - a journey which took from five to six weeks. Now it takes two or three days to make the trip by air. The air will be the future medium of transport in Australia for mails and people.
It is quite an erroneous idea that the vast area of the Northern Territory can be properly administered from Darwin or Canberra. Both places, are quite out of touch with the real Northern Territory. It is an area that can only be developed by men with special knowledge.
– Is the honorable senator satisfied with the existing system?
– It is the best that has been devised during the 40 years I have been associated with the Northern Territory; but the commission has been hampered by the lack of funds. As I have already said, it is a case of “ out of sight out of mind “. Insufficient money has been allocated to provide bores and facilities to enable the pioneers to get their stock to market. It has been said that it is problematical whether sheep can be successfully raised in the territory, but if proper facilities were afforded and costs of transport and production reduced, I am sure the Barkly Tableland could be developed to carry many millions of sheep, but not under the present labour and market conditions. On one occasion, wool from that part of Australia topped the London market. Merino wool of a particularly fine quality is grown there; also very fine fat cattle and magnificent horses. I have never seen better horses than are bred on that rolling limestone country of the Barkly Tableland. The tableland has a magnificent climate, and, with water, fruit and vegetables grow to perfection. The natural grasses, the Flinders and the Mitchell, and varieties of creeping vines are full of nutriment; they are very fattening.
The Government seems to lay stress on an anticipated saving of £8,000 by abolishing the commission ; but I venture to say that not a penny will be saved if an advisory council is elected on adult suffrage. It is not proposed, I understand, to pay the members of the advisory council salaries, but travelling expenses are to be allowed. If the councillors do any work those travelling expenses will be considerable; if they do not meet to do any work they will be useless. My main objection, however, is that I do not think the right type of men will be chosen on an adult suffrage basis. I do not think that practical men who have had experience in developing large inland areas will be chosen. Union secretaries would be quite useless - in fact worse than useless. As Senator Pearce has pointed out, Darwin is not the territory.
– It is not typical of the territory.
– That is so.
– Would the honorable senator favour a removal of the capital, say, to Alice Springs?
– Although Alice Springs is in Central Australia, I think that it would be better to make it the capital of the Northern Territory, because the people living there, or close by, would know something of the industries of the northern part of Australia. The principal industry is that of breeding cattle. It is a wonderful cattle country. Cattle breed prolifically and fatten readily. It is also good country for breeding horses, and, as I have already said, provided the cost of transport and production can be reduced, sheep can be successfully raised on the Barkly Tableland, but there is absolutely no inducement for anybody to develop a sheep station - a costly undertaking anywhere in Australia to-day.
Look at the tragedy of Vestey’s at Darwin! Vestey’s spent £1,000,000 on the erection of meat works. To-day, because of industrial troubles,’ those works are lying idle, and rotting. Although the hours of work were short, and the wages very high, the men would not get on with the job. There was strike after strike. I think that Darwin is about the worst centre that could be chosen for the administration of the territory. It certainly makes a good back door to the Commonwealth for aviators, but that is about the end of its usefulness. Frightful blunders have been made by administrators who have not been practical men. It was useless to send men to the territory who knew only about botanic gardens in Sydney and Melbourne, but nothing about the development of huge areas in their pioneering stages. That is work that only the practical, hard-working, brave pioneer can undertake successfully. I have already said that very few of our pioneer -pastoralists have weathered the storm. The history of the development of all the States is that very few of the original pioneers have overcome the great difficulties and hardships they had to encounter.
Senator Pearce has had a very practical knowledge of the administration of the Northern Territory. No man in this Parliament -knows more about the territory than he does. He has visited .nearly every portion of it. During his regime practical assistance was given to cattle and other stock-owners by the putting clown of bores to provide water along stock routes. Over the vast area of the Northern Territory there is an almost unlimited supply’ of sub-artesian water.
Artesian water has not been found, though we bored to a depth of 2,000 feet; but at depths ranging from 200 to 300 feet an unlimited supply of subartesian water can be obtained. At first this water was raised by pumping engines, and later pumped by windmills 24 feet in diameter into surface storage tanks. Iron storage tanks were first used, but when it was found that they were too expensive, arid that their holding capacity was insufficient, enormous surface excavations of an area of about ten times that of this chamber and of shallow depth were constructed. The administration of the Northern Territory should be in the hands of practical men similar to the real pioneers who have done so much to develop the back country, and not of loafers such as are to be found in large numbers in Darwin. I believe that there is a larger proportion of loafers in Darwin than in any other part of Australia. I am afraid it will be impossible to satisfactorily administer the Northern Territory from Canberra, where the officials will be ignorant of and quite out of touch with the requirements of that part of Australia. The persons elected to the proposed advisory council will not be of the right type to .in any way assist its development. For the reasons given, I shall vote against the second reading of the bill.
– This measure constitutes a further effort on the part of the federal authority to tinker with .the Northern Territory. Honorable senators are aware that about fourteen years ago the Federal Government assumed control of the Northern Territory, which, at that time, was administered by the South Australian Government with the assistance of. an administrator. When the Federal Government assumed control, it thought that the administration of the territory could be improved by appointing an advisory council to assist the administrator. That officer, with the assistance of the council, satisfactorily carried on up to a certain point ; but a time arrived when a change was made as outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). The Northern Territory was then divided into certain sections, in each, of which a local authority was given power to control its own affairs. The present proposal involves undoing all the work that has been done, and reverting to the position which obtained fourteen years ago. As this is to be the fourth change in the system of administration, is it not time we asked ourselves if we do not know our own mind? The population of the Northern Territory, which has never been large in comparison with its immense area, is rapidly diminishing, but that is not due to lack of government. There have been three changes, and a fourth is now proposed. If anything is helping to kill the place it is the constant changes in the form of administration, which it would appear are made merely for the sake of making a change. Forty-four years ago, I was engaged in gold-mining at Croydon in Queensland, a few hundred miles from the Northern Territory border; the men with whom 1 was then associated were not in the least concerned with the form of government. All we were interested in was the necessity to get on with our job. Every man in the locality would have been delighted with the’ prospect of having his mine floated in the south because there would have been a possibility of introducing capital to assist its development. At that time employees and employers worked harmoniously together and there was a general desire to develop the country. Later a new generation arose, conditions changed and the Vestey’s meat works, to which Senator Guthrie referred, were established, when a period of persecution commenced. A form of government then existed in the Northern Territory, but what authority had it over those men whose actions finally resulted in smashing the concern and turning a million pounds worth of buildings and plant into a heap of scrap iron. In walking through Vestey’s buildings my heart ached to think that such a splendid undertaking, which meant so much to the prosperity of the Commonwealth and particularly to the men in the interior, had been ruined. The form of Government then in existence was not responsible for that destruction. It. was the action of wild, lawless men who actually took possession of the Northern Territory, and who instituted their own form of control, /is the result of which those fine works, which cost, over £1,000,000, are to-day idle and rusting. Does the Government think that a reversion to a system of administration which was in force fourteen years ago, and which was a failure, is likely to lead to progress and make that country blossom like the rose? What is wanted is a re-modelling of our ideas and that employers and employees should work amicably together. We should endeavour to encourage the investment of money in tropical Australia, and not regard the person possessing capital and who wishes to employ it for developmental purposes, as a kind of social enemy bent upon the destruction of the workers. Why do not those who have charge of minor affairs, which are after all of major importance, create a sound and friendly relationship between the two elements? They should take a leaf from the book of the Federation of Labour in the United States of America, where capital and labour work in complete co-operation to produce as much as possible, and when the maximum point of production is reached, set about a division of the returns upon an equitable basis. In Australia the first desire appears to be to destroy. They ought to be proud of their handiwork. If a better relationship existed between capital and labour so that capital would be invested in the Northern Territory its prospects would immediately commence to improve. The form of government in existence does not make the slightest difference. What is needed is a different spirit. Better relations could exist, as was the case with the miners of Croydon, without the sacrifice of one’s independence. We need a change of heart.
While the Commonwealth is playing with this vast territory, and particularly the tropical and subtropical portions, which are capable of carrying very many settlers, the eyes of the world are upon us. A glance at the map will show that Darwin is only slightly north of Timbuctoo and corresponds with a large area of country in Africa between the 15th and 30th parallels, from which sprang those nations which brought the Roman empire to its knees. We should get down to a proper recognition of what is needed. It will not be long before the League of Nations will be asking what 6,000,000 of people are doing with this country. 1 oppose the bill because I do not believe in tinkering and making changes merely “for the sake of it. Even though the retention of the commission may necessitate the expenditure of £7,000 or £8,000 annually, a skeleton organization should remain, so that when prosperity returns its work can be carried on. Years ago an army of men was sent out to survey the territory. The data then collected is still available, and has since been added to. We should preserve the skeleton organization and endeavour to get back to the spirit which obtained in Australia 40 years ago, when there were better men in the territory than many who are there to-day. As the Government’s proposals, if adopted, will not be of the slightest benefit, and will be the means of undoing much good work that already has been done, I oppose the bill.
. -I am afraid that if every honorable senator strays from the path to the extent that Senators Guthrie and Lynch have done, the Minister in charge of this bill will not recognize it. The Government’s purpose is clear. It desires to effect a saving in the administrative costs of the Northern Territory. It knows, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) and other honorable senators who have spoken know, that it is difficult to attract capital to develop the territory. Until capital can be attracted, the Government has no desire to keep this expensive North Australia Commission functioning as though we had hundreds of thousands of pounds to spend. By abolishing the commission, a saving of £8,000 per annum can be effected.
– That is not a great deal when we consider the huge territory concerned.
– It is remarkable that Senator Guthrie should now attempt to brush aside £8,000 as though it were but a drop in the ocean, whereas a short time ago, when it was claimed that a number of economies suggested by him were of infinitesimal value from the point of view of economy, the honorable senator said, “ Lots of littles make a lot.” The Opposition cannot have it both ways. Its members say that, instead of taxing the people, the Government should reduce expenditure; but when the Government introduces a measure to effect a saving they oppose it.
– I am doubtful whether there will be any reduction of expenditure as the result of this bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition is unable to say more than that he is doubtful whether expenditure will be reduced. Has the Opposition in this chamber descended to the extent that it will reject the financial proposals of the Government merely because it doubts whether expenditure will be reduced?
– I speak from experience.
– If the right honorable gentleman wants the Senate toreject this proposal, he ought to be able to show that the £8,000 cannot be saved.
– I tried to do so.
– How much will the advisory council cost?
– There will be a direct saving of £8,000 a year as compared with the present administration. The figures on which that estimate has been based have been gone into by persons other than the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Blakeley). In carrying out its economy campaign, the Government has sought the advice of its officers, and it has been advised that, although the continuation of the North Australia Commission might be justified were it possible to attract capital to develop the Northern Territory, its continuance now is like maintaining a ten-minutes bus service in Canberra when there are no passengers for them to carry. The Government is advised that a saving can be made in administration costs in the Northern Territory, and introduces a measure to effect that saving, and to its consternation it meets with opposition.
– The Minister has not yet said what the advisory council will cost.
– The Government is confident that what might be termed its make-shift proposal will save the taxpayers of Australia £8,000 per annum.
– And the money will be spent somewhere else.
– I candidly admit that the £8,000 might be used to meet the increased demand for old-age pensions, a demand which has increased hy £630,000 per annum. That, however, is not the point. The Government has been told that it must reduce expenditure; but when it introduces a proposal to that end, Senator -Lynch says, “Leave the commission there ; it may be of use some day.” If the taxpayers of .Australia are to be asked to pay’ an additional £8,000 per annum by way of taxation merely to keep in existence a body which may be useful some day, then the Senate, not the Government, must accept the responsibility for asking them to do so.
– What is the estimated cost of the advisory council, which will be drawn from all parts of the territory ?
– I shall obtain the details.
– There is no limit to the amount that might be expended.
– Money for the purpose will have to be appropriated by Parliament.
– The Minister in’ another place did not say what the saving would be ; he merely said that the North Australia Commission was costing £8,000 a year.
– I shall obtain detailed figures before the Assistant Minister replies. I ask the Senate to consider this measure from the point of view put forward by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) when he said that it is difficult to attract capital to the Northern” Territory.
– What is the need for an advisory council?
– It is’ the cheapest form of government. Under the. Government’s proposal, the railways in the territory will be controlled by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. . That will mean a reduction of overhead expenditure. The control of roads, telegraphs, telephones and water supplies will be transferred to the Works Department, the officers of which, owing to the depression, are not overworked.
– What will the advisory council do?
– It will advise the Government regarding developmental works.
– But there is no development taking place.
– That is because there is no money for the purpose. Does not Senator McLachlan realize the vast potentialities of the territory? I should not be greatly concerned if the Senate decided that, until capital can be attracted to the territory and conditions again become normal, there should be no advisory council. The Ministry must recognize the existence of the Senate. Some time ago, when it promulgated an ordinance relating to the Darwin Town Council, the Leader of the Opposition moved for its disallowance. Finally he withdrew his objection on my undertaking that within twelve months some form of elected government for the Northern Territory would be introduced. What is the Government to do? It is doing its best to meet the elastic principles of certain members of the Opposition.
– The honorable senator is incorrect in his remarks about the Darwin Town Council.
– If I have misinterpreted the right honorable gentleman’s action, I regret it. But I have a recollection of his speaking in support of the disallowance of an ordinance.
– What are the contemplated powers of the advisory council under clause 21?
– Until Parliament makes other provision, the advisory council may make ordinances.
– Would it be empowered to alter the lands ordinances?
– I should say so. But I remind the honorable senator that an ordinance is inoperative until it has been approved by the Governor-General. Under clause 3, the ordinance would have to come before Cabinet, and if approved it would have to be gazetted, after which it would lie on the table of both Houses of Parliament for 30 days and would be open to disallowance. The council might have power to alter the land laws; but whatever it did would have to be submitted to Parliament. Its powers would not exceed those of the North Australia Commission. With the establishment of the advisory council the Government would probably delegate some of its powers to that body. The Government is not so much concerned with the appointment of an advisory council as with the fact that the commission is doing nothing. Just as Parliament may destroy the commission and save £8,000 a year, so Parliament can re-establish it, or adopt some other form of government if it feels disposed to do so. But until that time arrives, I urge that, however much honorable senators may associate the Government with extravagance, it is their duty to encourage every attempt it makes to effect a legitimate saving in expenditure.
– I join with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) in the desire to save everything possible, particularly having regard to his statement that there is at present no opportunity to engage in any developmental work in the territory. Having been associated with some people who hope to develop the Barkly Tableland, I appreciate to the full the reasons given by the honorable senator. But I cannot follow his reasoning with regard to setting up the proposed advisory council. If he came forward with a proposal to abolish the commission at present operating in the territory, and to substitute another for it, I should be with him, notwithstanding that it would be contrary to the policy of the previous Government. Instead, the Government introduced in another place a bill that would practically have accomplished what I have indicated, and then added to it all this cumbersome machinery at the plea of the honorable member representing the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). That is done at a time when the Government admits that there is no developmental work in the territory. What is the object of setting up this complicated machine, that will operate only with the greatest possible difficulty? People in the Federal Parliament seem to lose sight of the vast distances that will have to be travelled by these councillors in order to attend council meetings.
Replying to Senator Greene, I draw the honorable senator’s attention to proposed new section 4l, which defines the powers of the council apart from the making of ordinances, which will probably not be effective, as, even if they are “ OK’d “ by the Department of Home Affairs, they will be censored by this
Parliament. The proposed sub-section reads -
The council shall advise the Administrator in respect of any matter arising at any meeting of the council or submitted by the Administrator to such meetings.
Those are very onerous duties, indeed, and they are the only definite duties that the council has to perform, because the next provision reads -
The council may report upon -
the necessity for undertakingany public work in the territory or concerning the continuance of any public work already undertaken: and
upon the rates charged for fares or freights in respect of the carriage of passengers or goods upon any railway within the territory. (3.) Any report made under this section shall be transmitted to the Administrator who shall forthwith forward it to the Minister. (4.) In any case any members of the council may require that the grounds of advice or opinion which he gives upon any questionbe recorded at length.
That is the gesture of economy that the Minister would have us believe the Government is making with regard to the administration of the Northern Territory! I shall accept the repeal of the previous act; but I am not going to accept something that is mere “ eyewash,” something that is purely political strategy; something . which, on the face of it, bears the evidence of absolute unreality. This advisory council is worth nothing, and it will do nothing. The Minister has stated that the reason for the repeal of existing legislation is that there is nothing for the present commission to operate on. I suggest that, at such a time as this, the Minister should withdraw the clause providing for this advisory council that can accomplish nothing; that must incur tremendous travelling expenses, meet at least twice in any one year, and can do nothing when it assembles. It is mere idle nonsense to suggest that this body will perform any practical function. Let us cast it out. I am not opposed to the rest of the measure. If the Government says that, as a matter of high policy, it can effect a saving by getting rid of a commission, let it do so by all means, particularly as there is nothing for such a body to operate on.
I do not think that this is a time to make a speech upon the Northern Territory, although it seems to me to Iia ve been very unhappily and unfortunately managed, with no regard for the requirements of the vast area which is contained within its four corners. The Minister put it rather strongly that the Opposition is opposing the endeavour of the Government to economize. I am not only prepared to approve all the economy that the Government asked for originally in this matter; in addition, I propose that the honorable senator should effect a further saving by eliminating this useless body which the Government desires to bring into being.
– I propose to vote for the second reading of this bill. I am very much in accord with Senator McLachlan with regard to the advisory council, which, I think, would be utterly useless. Et might even be very mischievous, and i venture to suggest that if there is one mau who would be pleased if the provision for the council were struck out it is the Minister who has to control the territory.
I want to give credit to Senator Pearce, who was the Minister primarily responsible for the system of government at present in existence in the territory, for setting to work, as I believe no other man has done for quite a long time, to try to tackle the problem of the .Northern Territory. The right honorable senator designed its existing system of government, to a very great extent in close cooperation with people who had interests in the territory, and, although they did not altogether see eye to eye with him in the form of administration that he set up, they knew that his action was governed by a desire to help the Government and to develop the territory. Unfortunately for the honorable senator and Australia, at the time when this administration was set up the nation was entering upon a period of financial stringency. The commission was handicapped from the outset.
A good deal has been said in the course of this debate about the alleged impossibility of attracting capital to the Northern Territory at present. I do not think that it is impossible. I know that there is an excellent possibility of attracting capital there, but it can be done only if the Government is prepared to do that which the capitalist requires; give him what he regards aa suitable security for the money that he proposes to invest, and an opportunity to get some of it back. No one is going to put money into the territory after the hideous failures of the past unless he has some assurance that he has a reasonable chance of eventually coming out on top. Men will not put money into the Northern Territory unless they have necessary encouragement. There is only one way in which to afford that encouragement, and that is by giving them security of tenure for a sufficient time to enable them adequately to develop the country which they take up. Anybody who has had any experience in the interior of Australia, knows perfectly well that there is only one way in which it is possible to make the best use of country of this nature, and that is by gradually and steadily making provision for water conservation and facilities for stocking it, and fencing it. To do that one. must have a long lease, without the possibility of resumption. I believe that one of the reasons which have thwarted every effort to develop the Northern Territory is that we have tried to move too rapidly. We have given leases for, perhaps, 30 years, with resumption conditions, which mean that the country will gradually be taken from the original lessees. The Northern Territory will never be developed by that means. I do not believe that the leases should be for less than 40 years. The areas must be big and the rentals satisfactorily low. The Government may say, “We are not prepared to give such a lease, or to give security of tenure for the whole of the lease.” The capitalist replies. “Very well, I do not want it.” That is the end of the story. Nothing is done. And so things go on year after year, decade after decade, and we get no further with the development of the territory.
The greater part of the Northern Territory is in very much the same position as was Australia in the early days, and we have to treat it in exactly the same way as Australia was dealt with at that time. If that is done, we shall have no difficulty in encouraging capital to it even now.
Ihavehad a close association with the territory for a number of years in the capacity of chairman of the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association, whose members are intimately associated with the development of that area. I have not had practical experience in the territory myself, but all with whom I am associated say precisely the same thing: that the Government must make the country available on long lease, with security of tenure for the whole period. Only on those conditions will the area be developed. The process willbe slow, but it willbe certain.The granting of the leases must, of course, be accompanied by strict improvement and stocking conditions. If that is done, when we are all gone and those who follow us see the result of our work, it might be possible for them to contemplate dealing with some portions of the Northern Territory, at all events, along lines similar to those which have been followed in the development of Queensland, New South “Wales and elsewhere.
I cannot see the use at the moment of keeping this commission in the territory, however good may be the personnel. These gentlemen are simply twiddling their thumbs, as there is nothing for them to do. Consequently, it is better, for the time being at all events, to revert to the old system, which I admit has its drawbacks. As for this advisory council, I do not propose to vote for it when we go into committee.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [9.0]. - I feel that I have acquired a considerable amount of information concerning the Northern Territory, through listening to honorable senators who have preceded me. Because of their personal knowledge of that portion of Australia, I should hesitate to criticize the views expressed by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) or Senator Guthrie, but it seems to me to besignificant - and I think this justifies the remarks which I am about to make - that under our bicameral system of legislation, one House knows nothing about what the other House is doing until after it has done it. I suggest that all the wisdom and knowledge concerning the Northern Territory does not reside in members of this chamber. This bill has come to us from another place, where it was subjected to a good deal of criticism from members who are as well acquainted with conditions in the Northern Territory as is any honorable senator who has contributed to this debate.
– Nearly all who have any knowledge of the territory opposed the bill in another place.
– I am not sure that the Leader of the Opposition is righton that point. Mr. Nelson, who represents the Northern Territory, is, I understand, enamoured of the idea of having an advisory council to assist the administrator.
– But he was the fiercest critic of the bill up to that stage.
SenatorRAE. - I suppose he succeeded in having amendments made because of his criticism of the bill in its original form. I am inclined to think that honorable senators opposite, who profess a desire to help the Government, prefer to reject its measures especially if, as in the present instance, their action has no dangerous portent so far as their membership of this chamber is concerned. I think a good deal may be said in favour of the appointment of an advisory council. It is true that that body will not have very much revenue to work upon; but, as I see the position, the alternative to that practical proposal is the abandonment of the territory. We could not expect the administrator, resident in Darwin, to be conversant with the requirements of the people in the outback country. What, therefore, is more likely to assist him than suggestions from an advisory council consisting of men representative of each of the four divisions? Since the administrator could not be expected to roam all over the territory to make himself acquainted with the needs of the people, the advisory council should be in a position to give him useful information. The fact that the Northern Territory is to be divided into four sections will prevent the people in Darwin or, for that matter, the people representing any section of the territory, from monopolizing the representation on the council. The fact that the proposal will mean a saving in administration should commend it to honorable senators.
The present expenditure am’ounts to £13,000 per annum. This new scheme will effect a net saving of over £8,000. I agree with Senator Lynch, that mere forms of government cannot, of themselves, accomplish much. But since we must either abandon the territory altogether or have some form of administration, obviously there is a choice between the various forms of government that might be devised, especially as we have arrived at the stage when, according to Senator Greene, capital may be attracted to the territory. Consequently, this skeleton form of government, which will give the people living in the territory an opportunity to voice their grievances and state their most urgent needs, should be supported by honorable senators opposite. “What better’ method could be adopted than to have an advisory council to inform the administrator of the pressing needs of the settlers? I cannot help thinking that this discussion has been conducted in a quibbling and carping spirit by the Opposition. They belittle every attempt that has been made by this Government to economize, and they have condemned this particular proposal because it is not perfect.
– We shall not be able to cut down governmental expenditure unless they allow us to do so.
– It appears to me that while, in the abstract, the Government is being criticized day after day for not effecting economies, every specific proposal to that end is always derided and opposed, and sometimes rejected altogether, by honorable senators opposite who are. in a majority in this chamber.
– I assure the honorable senator, who has just resumed his seat (Senator Rae), that I am not going to oppose attempts by this Government to effect economies in administration. I am, however, convinced that this proposal will not save one penny. The appointment of an elective advisory council for the Northern Territory will not be a success. Senator Rae said just now that the council would give the residents of the Northern Territory’’ an-‘ “opportunity to voice their grievances. It appears to me that what is urgently wanted in this country is , the development of the spirit which will discourage the airing of grievances. It is a mistake to provide facilities for the voicing of complaints. It would be far -better if we had more of the spirit of the early pioneers who were so busy about their own affairs that they had no time to conjure up grievances. The people -should be left alone. They should be encouraged to work out their own salvation. We should not offer special facilities , to the people of the Northern Territory or anywhere else to come forward with complaints. What will be the use :of this petti-fogging advisory council? According to Senator Rae its chief function will be to hear grievances from the people. The residents of the Northern Territory and Genual Australia have their representative in another place to ventilate their grievances and right well he does it.
– The honorable senator is exaggerating what I said.
– The proposal for an advisory council is, in my opinion, an absolutely stupid one. It is merely one more sop to a few people in the territory who have been the disturbing element there for many years. Instead of assisting the administration, they have always done what they could to hamper it. The leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) has admitted that, since there is no money to spend, no. developmental works can be put in hand. Consequently, there is nothing for the administrator to do. The sensible course to adopt would be to vest the police with powers entrusted to district officers in the mandated territory so that they could attend to the grievances of the people. The proposal to appoint an ^advisory council is all moonshine. It is stupid.
– The honorable senator mis not behaving very gracefully, when he accuses other honorable senators of stupidity.
– I used that term for want of a better, Mr. President. The idea of an advisory council is sheer humbug and nonsense. -
– I am aware that, in using that expression, J was out of order so I withdraw it. I feel strongly about this interference with the administration by certain sections of the people, and I could wish that we had more evidence to-day of the early pioneering spirit in Australia. If people are left alone by the administration, they will make good. They are the best judges of the methods to be adopted for the development of the country which they occupy. Although 1 believe there is no need for the bill, I shall vote for the second reading, but in committee will vote against t ho provisions for the appointment of an advisory council
– It seems to me that the discussion on this bill can be confined to two points: whether we should accept the policy laid down by the Government in the bill, which, we are assured by those who have investigated the position, will result in the saving of about £8,000 a year, and secondly whether the proposed reduction of expenditure may not impair the development of the Northern Territory. I do not profess to have the knowledge of that part of Australia which is possessed by some honorable senators who have spoken; but I have been in the territory, and have conversed with people who live in Central Australia. Many of thom are fairly frequent visitors to South Australia, and I have had opportunities to meet them from time to time. They are th’e real men described by Senator Guthrie. They are ‘ not, inhabitants of Darwin or the coastal belt. They are men who have gone into the far-flung regions of the interior in an endeavour to develop for the Australian nation and the white races. I know that there is a desire on their part that the present system of control - that of having commissioners appointed by the Government at Canberra, and in the choice of 3 whom they have no voice - should be changed as it is not in the best interests of the territory. Senator Lynch is very concerned about what has happened to Vestey’s Labour troubles have been blamed by the honorable senator. Others have said that this great industry closed down because Vestey’s, having extensive interests in the Argentine, could supply their contracts in Great Britain and other places to much greater advantage by keeping open their Argentine works.
– Then they must have been very short-sighted to have spent £1,000,000 in Darwin.
– When they spent their money at Darwin, conditions were entirely different from what they are to-day, and they cannot be blamed if they can supply their contracts more economically by having one, instead of two, sources of supply, particularly as the Darwin proposition was always a very doubtful one. No one knows better than Senator McLachlan that most of the territory’s cattle are required to supply the needs of South Australia.
– One station alone could keep South Australia supplied with cattle for a year.
– I venture to say that no honorable senator opposite knows the meat requirements of the Adelaide market.
– How many bullocks are required a year for that market?
– We import about 30,000 head for the metropolitan market alone.
– I ask honorable senators to cease this line of argument, which appears to lead to nothing but disorder in the Senate, and has very -little to do with the bill.
– This bill should be passed, and an advisory council set up, if only in the interests of the pioneers to whom Senator Herbert Hays says he takes off his hat. The proposal is to sub-divide the territory into four electoral districts, and the people in each district will have the right to elect a representative on the advisory council. The duties of this body will be to advise the Government on all matters of importance appertaining to the welfare and development of the territory, and in that respect it will form a link between the government of the day and the pioneers - ‘the real men for whom Senator Guthrie is so solicitous. “It is true, as . Senator Pearce has claimed, that the council will have power to make ordinances; but those ordinances can, he vetoed first by the government of the day through its executive power, and, secondly, by Parliament through its legislative power.’ In the final analysis, therefore, the advisory council will merely be acting in an advisory capacity. It has been said that it will prove to be as expensive as the present commission. It may meet four rimes a year, but it must not meet less th an twice a year.
– Any two members may request a meeting at any time.
– By regulation the Minister will see that meetings will not be held capriciously, and that only reasonable travelling expenses are paid.
– What can the council do?
– It will be capable of advising on any matter connected with the people or the development of the territory, on land settlement and land administration, the opening up of stock routes and the provision of water along those routes. In a word, it will ad vise on all questions necessary to be considered in the development of this vast territory, which is under the control of the Commonwealth Government.
– Much of the work which the honorable senator has mentioned could be best done by surveyors.
– Would the honorable senator have men with no knowledge of the requirements of the Northern Territory sent up from the south with their theodolites and chains, and told to put down a series of bores in a certain direction, or would he rather seek the advice of men who have spent years in the north? In my opinion, it is only by taking advantage of the advice of the men for whom honorable senators profess to be solicitous, and by giving them an opportunity to present it to this Parliament, so that members of this Parliament may be influenced by it, that we can hope to bring about a successful development of the north. These men are doing the real work of development. I know some of them who have stuck it out for twenty years, and are still without adequate reward. For the greater part of the year they live with the saddle for their pillow, and God’s great canopy as their roof. An advisory council, as proposed by the board, would bring such as these into touch with the Government, and enable them to make articulate what they desire the Government to do for them.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS (South Australia) [9.25] . - The discussion to-night reminds me of discussions that took place in another Parliament House a good many years ago, when the interests of the residents of the Northern Territory were supposed to be fairly well looked after by all members of Parliament. I am referring to the days before the Northern Territory had a representative of its own in this Parliament. Every member thought that he could speak effectively for the territory. For my own part, I thought that I had some slight personal interest in that part of Australia, because I had visited it four times in twenty years. One thing that struck me more forcibly than anything else upon my visits, was that on each occasion I found that a new system of control had been set up. The people of the territory were most emphatic in their condemnation of the experimental methods of administration that were being tried on them. At one time administration would be in the hands of government officials; at another time a commission would be entrusted with the control of the affairs of the territory. Both systems were equally condemned by the people of the territory, but in that regard, so far as fault-finding is concerned, the’ most excellent fault-finding people on the face of the earth are to be found at Darwin.
– That seems to be the only thing that a lot of them are good for.
SenatorSir JOHN NEWLANDS.They do not seem to need any assistance in airing their grievances. I have not been to the territory since the present commission has been in control, but I know the commissioners personally, and I believe that they are very capable men. This bill now proposes to abolish their position. Why is it that the Commonwealth Government is always trying out experiments on semi-developed country or on handfuls of people? Darwin is an unfortunate choice for such experiments. Its people have no sympathy with their fellow residents of the territory. They are townsfolk and not country folk. To get an idea of the terri tory, one needs to imagine New South
Wales with about 30 or 40 white men in it taking any interest in public affairs, and the rest of the population a mixture of Chinese, Afghans, coolies, South Sea Islanders and people of other nonEuropean races. Persons resident in Darwin are incapable, of satisfactorily administering the Northern Territory.
– They will not be responsible for the appointment of the four councillors.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS.Perhaps, ,…… Some of the residents of Darwin have, at times adopted most unusual tactics, and in one instance, when dissatisfied with the action of those in authority, forced them to leave the territory. On another occasion, when industrial trouble was brewing, the Government resident informed some men that if a c’ertain truck was moved he would train a machine gun which he had in his garden upon them and if they persisted would order it to be fired. The firm action taken on that occasion had a verymarked effect upon the men, who did not then dare to disobey his orders. As a member of the Public Works Committee, I travelled extensively through the Northern Territory in connexion with the construction of the north-south railway. Some of the men from whom evidence was taken were station-owners, and I vividly recall the primitive conditions under which a settler, his wife and two daughters were living in the vicinity of -Alice Springs. The only structure they possessed to protect them from the weather consisted of a hut with sides of bark and a roof of boughs. Last year I had the pleasure of meeting that man in Adelaide, and he informed me that he had brought down by rail 200 head of bullocks, which he had sold in the Adelaide market at a satisfactory price. It is men of that type, many of whom are 200 miles from a neighbour, that the Government should endeavour to assist. Under the policy adopted by the previous Government, a genuine attempt was being made to improve their conditions, and if more money had been available, additional facilities would have been provided to encourage further settlement. Those in authority should be in close touch with the people and not hundreds of miles away, as will be the case under this proposal. I realize the necessity, for economy;’ but the Government’s proposal, in this instance, will not effect any saving; it will, I contend, seriously retard the development of the Northern Territory. In the interests of the people of the Northern Territory, whom we should endeavour to assist, I shall oppose the bill.
– It is only natural that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), who was a member of the government which appointed the North Australia Commission, should oppose this measure. In fact, the commission can be regarded as his baby which he feels it his duty to protect. The present form of control in the Northern Territory has been in operation for six years, but has proved so costly and ineffective that the Government considers that a change should be made. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that under the old system it was necessary for an inspector of the. Lands Department to travel from Melbourne to the territory when a crossing was required, and that he was followed by an inspector from the Works Department, and later by workmen to undertake’ the job. That is exactly what is happening to-day. Although it is proposed to dispense with the North Australia Commission, which is costing practically £8,000 a year, that sum will be expended in sinking wells and bores and constructing cattle dips along the stock routes for the benefit of those engaged in the pastoral industry.
– Has any guarantee been given that the money will be spent in that way?
– I gave the Senate that assurance when moving the second reading of the bill. Honorable senators opposite contend that the Northern Territory cannot be developed by an administrator ; but they should remember that he will have the assistance of an advisory council consisting of four elected councillors, representative of four districts, each of whom will have a close knowledge of the requirements of the portion he represents. Such a system should be more effective than the present. As the elected members of the advisory council will possess the necessary local knowledge they will be able to advise the administrator, who will be in constant touch with the Minister, and he will eventually decide what action shall be taken. Senator Greene said that there did not appear to be any need to retain the commission if money was not available for developmental work. It is useless to spend money on a costly commission when more effective administration can be obtained at less cost, and the savings used in development.
– What will the advisory council cost?
– The members of the advisory council will be paid reasonable travelling expenses. They will meet at least twice a year, probably oftener.
– In addition, there will be the cost of the election.
– That will not amount to a great sum, as the number of electors is small. The advisory council will consist of four councillors and the Administrator, as against three commissioners and two advisory councils as at present. The total salary and expenses of the present administration amount to about £13,000 per annum. Some of the officers of the commission will probably be transferred to the Works Department, making the saving about £8,000 a year. In 1929-30 the salaries and travelling expenses of the three commissioners, a secretary, and a clerk, amounted to £8,000. Local councillors will understand the needs of the district better than any other person could possibly do. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in another place, whom the Leader of the Opposition said knew more about the Northern Territory that any other member of Parliament, says that this measure is infinitely better than any measure for the control of the territory which has preceded it. What stronger argument in support of the bill could be advanced? In view of that commendation from an accepted authority, why should persons with no knowledge of the territory urge that the bill should be rejected? I hope that his advice will be followed, and that the bill will have a speedy passage through the Senate.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section three of the Principal Act is amended by inserting before the definition of “the Territory”, the following definitions: - “ ‘ the Council ‘ means the Advisory Council constituted under ‘this Act; “.
– This clause contains a definition of “ the council.” As a test vote on the desirability or otherwise of establishing an advisory council will probably take place on clause 5,I suggest that it be postponed.
– This is merely a machinery clause; what is wrong with it?
– Thereis nothing wrong with it. If the Minister so desires, the clause could be passed now and, if necessary, recommitted later. I suggest, however, that the present is as appropriate a time as any for the Senate to decide whether or not there shall be an advisory council. As the Minister appears to be unwilling to postpone the clause, I move -
Thatthe words “ ‘ the council ‘ means the advisory council constituted under this Act “ be left out.
If the amendment is agreed to I take it that the Minister will accept it as an intimation to make consequential amendments. That would save recommitting the bill.
– What is the purpose of omitting this definition?
– The object is to have a test vote to determine whether or not there shall be an advisory council.
– If this amendment is carried, it will destroy the effect of the vote which was recorded by honorable senators opposite on the second reading. Theneed for an advisory council is plainly demonstrated.
– I donot know whether Senator Barnes was otherwise engaged at the time, but after his leader spoke a number of honorable senators on this side stated that they were willing to give the Government an opportunity to effect every economy that it desired in the form of reducing government bodies in the territory, but were of the opinion that the advisory council was merely “ eye wash “ and of no consequence, and would vote against it when the committee stage was reached.
– I hope that honorable senators will regard this bill in its proper perspective. I asked the Senate to pass the second reading of the measure, as it was one of the economy efforts of the Government. It is impossible to have true economy unless there is some degree of efficiency. Honorable senators have agreed to the repeal of the present act, which provided for two advisory councils. I submit that it is necessary to have an advisory council of some sort. If there is to be a test on this issue, and the Opposition wants to make certain that the amount to be saved by their agreeing to the second reading is effected, I suggest that it be later in connexion with the administration and expenditure of the advisory council.
– Did not the Government abolish the present councils because they were considered unnecessary ?
– The Government set out to effect an economy of £8,000 per annum. Unless a body inspired with the patriotic sentiments that govern district councils and other similar elective bodies is appointed in this instance, that saving will not be effected. This council will not involve the expenditure of large sums of money.
– That is problematical.
– The honorable senator knows that such a body cannot spend money unless the appropriation is agreed to by Parliament.
– Ministers can give governors in council authority to approve expenditure. The easiest way to prevent further expenditure in this regard is by not appointing the council.
– They would have to justify the action. I appeal to the Senate to allow the appointment of an advisory council. If honorable senators desire to curtail expenditure in connexion with the council that can be done at a later stage of the bill. It is a deliberate smack in the face to the Government to knock out the provision for the advisory council.
Opposition Senators. - No.
– I do not say that offensively. The Government, wisely or unwisely, desires to set up some form of advisory council.
– It was only an afterthought.
– It may be an afterthought on the part of the Opposition that there should not be an advisory council.
– The appointment of a council was not the Government’s thought at all.
– The Government accepted, in another place, a certain scheme by which it can give representation to the people, and at the same time save the taxpayers £8,000 per annum.
– Why limit the saving to £8,000. Why not save £9,000?
– If the Government could effect a saving of £8,000 in connexion with every project, it would be unnecessary to impose additional taxation. I believe the Government is doing remarkably well inproposing to save that amount in this case, and honorable senators should not quarrel over its action. In the circumstances there should be no objection to the appointment of an advisory council, and to giving the Government an opportunity to consult and use that council. I am not so much concerned as to how Parliament limits that body in its expenditure, but I strongly urge that the Senate should not eliminate the provision for it.
– The powers of the council would disappear altogether if further restricted.
– That is one of the troubles to which a Minister who has a minority has to submit. One section of the majority claim that the council has no power, while another says that its powers are so wide that it should be cut out altogether, in order to save another £1,000 a year. I recognize the position in which I am placed. I have, as it were, to beg my bread from the Opposition. There is no doubt that honorable senators are most generous in giving me what I want, and on this occasion I urge them not to reject the appointment of an advisory council.
– On this occasion the Opposition is giving the Minister more than he wants.
– No, it would be saving £8,000 to the taxpayers of Australia, and giving to the people of the Northern Territory a certain form of representation.
– The Honorary Minister (Senator Barnes) said a little while ago that the £8,000 will not be saved, as it will be expended in developing the territory.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that, if the Government could profitably spend £8,000 in the territory, that would not be a saving to the taxpayers of the community? The honorable senator knows that it is not a question of the money that we borrow, hut of the way in which we spend it. I have listened to many a lecture by Senator Colebatch on that point. I entirely agree with Senator McLachlan that if it. is the. intention of the Senate not to countenance the appointment of a council of any kind, it would be better to decide the issue immediately and not further waste the time ofthe Opposition or of the Government.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [10.13]. - I trust that honorable senators will not reject the proposal to elect an advisory council. Senator Herbert Hays said that my remarks were worse than stupid.
– I didnot say that. I referred to the bill.
SenatorRAE. The honorable senator said something that meant precisely what I have indicated. He particularly directed himself to an exposition of the opportunities that such a council would have to ventilate the grievances of extremists Some people have stigmatized the people of Darwin as being almost “ untouchables “. They are entitled to that opinion. This bill concerns the inhabitants of Darwin only indirectly. It particularly concerns the settlers of the Northern Territory, and provides thai that area shall be divided into four electorates, each of which shall elect one member to the advisory council. It is but fair that these pioneers, who have been referred to as the real men of the community, should have an opportunity to state their pressing needs to someone who can voice them to a council which can pass them on to the Government.
-Is there any evidence that the settlers want such a council as this?
SenatorRAE. - I spoke to Mr. Nelson, who represents the Northern Territory in another place, and he said that, while the proposal was not perfect, it was a great advance on anything previously formulated for the administration of the territory. If that is his view, we should accept it.
– He is not the only authority.
– The Leader of the Opposition said, a little while ago, that the honorable member for the Northern Territory was the best authority in this Parliament upon the conditions in that part of Australia. What more undemocratic proposal could be made than that these hardy pioneers should be deprived of . the only direct means they are ever likely to have to state their most pressing needs or grievances?
– They have their federal member in another place.
SenatorRAE. - If he were to travel only once a year through his electoral division, he would spend the whole of the allowance which he receives.
– He knows the country and the people.
– It is impossible for any man to be fully conversant with the needs of the people scattered over such a vast area. The members of an advisory council would havefirst-hand and an intimate knowledge of all that was happening in their respective areas. Consequently they would be able to give the Administrator sound advice, based on local knowledge. The alternative is to make the Administrator a despot within the ambit of his power, because he will have noopportunity to come directly in contact with the people and become acquainted with their needs. If this proposal is defeated, the Senate will be doing an injustice to those settlers whom Senator Lynch so eloquently described as the real men in the Northern Territory. I agree that they deserve all the assistance which we can give to them.
NEW BUSINESS AFTER 10.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended until the 18th December instant for the purpose of enabling new business to be taken after half-past ten o’clock at night.
– I understood that the usual procedure was to give notice of a motion to suspend Standing Order No. 68, or to obtain leave of the Senate.
– It is not necessary to obtain leave. There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and there being no dissentient voice, I declare the motion carried.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
– The Government is very mindful of the welfare of the 3,000 odd persons in the Northern Territory. I have not noticed the same solicitude for fellow Australians in northern parts of Queensland and the north-west of Western Australia, although they are living under conditions exactly similar in most respects to those in the Northern Territory. They have to be content with what representation the federal member in another place can give them. It should be noted, also, that, although the population of the Northern Territory is steadily dwindling, the people there have a federal representative in this Parliament.
– He has no vote.
– But he has a voice, and a very good one, too. Every grievance voiced by the people of the Northern Territory sounds like a fog-horn in this Parliament. On the whole, I think that, since they have a federal member and an administrator, they are very well served. Why should they have, in addition, an advisory council?
– They pay no federal income tax, either.
– Another advantage. The town council at Darwin used to do some funny things. The people in York Peninsula and in the north-west of Western Australia are not so well looked after, although they numberbetween 30,000 and 40,000. We are told that the Government’s proposal will effect a saving of £8,000. If the four men to be selected from each of the proposed divisions of the Northern Territory meet as an advisory council four times a year, how much will the council cost? It seems to me that we should subtract the cost of this proposed council from the estimated saving of £8,000 which, we are told, will be made by abolishing the North Australia Commission. Actually we are entirely in the dark as to the amount of expenditure that will be incurred. Up to the present, the Government has been very indefinite on the point. The Minister is not prepared to say what will be the cost of this advisory body. If we had some assurance on the point, we should know what to do.
– The amount is not all to be spent on the advisory council. Of the present expenditure of £13,000, there will be a saving of £8,000, leaving £5,000 to be spent on administration.
– Is that the estimated expenditure on the advisory council ?
– No, on the whole administration.
.- I told the Minister on the second reading that I would assist him in saving £8,000, but that I was opposed to the establishment of an advisory council. We are now informed that it will cost £5,000. I promise to assist the Government to further economize by saving that amount.
. - At present there are three commissioners and eight members of an advisory council, whose travelling expenses are paid. Last year the cost of administration was £13,000. If this bill ispassed without alteration, the cost of administration will not exceed £5,000. The advisory council will be reduced to four. The money saved will be used to provide wells and dips to enable the people of the territory to carry on the cattle industry. Before the bill was amended in another place, the Governmentproposed to establish an advisory council by an ordinance, and in estimating the saving to be effected by altering the method of administration, consideration was given to the cost of having an advisory council. The administrator, will live in Darwin, and he cannot be expected to be familiar with the requirements of the whole of the territory. The members of the advisory council chosen from different parts of the territory will, therefore, be able to advise him upon the requirements of the districts they represent. It seems such a sane proposal that I cannot conceive of objection being raised to it. When Senator Lynch compared the people of Darwin and their advisory council with the people of Cape York, or the north-west of Western Australia, who have to rely on making theirrequirements known through a member of Parliament, he forgot to mention that the latter have local governing bodies to advise their representativesin this Parliament. It is not an easy matter for the member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) to keep in touch with his electorate when he spends somuch time in the south, unless he is advised by some one on the spot.
The proposed advisory council, in addition to advising the administrator, will also be in a position to advise the member for the Northern Territory.
– The citizens of the Northern Territory will form themselves into committeesif they are left alone.
– Possibly, but so far they have not done it. The Government is anxious to provide them with some means by which they can keep their representative and the administration well informed as to local requirements. In this respect the Government is merely doing what other governments have done. I give every credit to Senator Pearce for his administration of the territory. He was an enthusiast and was not afraid to spend a few pounds, because he knew that the resources of the territory justified expenditure in their development. The present administration is just as anxious to follow his example, and I hope that honorable senators will give us the opportunity to put this experiment into operation.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator McLachlan’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Debate resumed from page 1298.
– I subscribe to the view expressed by honorable senators opposite that a consideration of income tax measures is always approached with a certain amount of regret. In expressing my regret at the necessity for the introduction of this bill, I remind honorable senators that they cannot expect the Government to grant much relief by way of amendments. 1 have had several conferences to-day with the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) and Senator McLachlanon a vital matter of principle, and am pleased to say that a compromise has been reached which should insure the speedy passage of the measure, which provides for the following additional income taxation : - (1.) An amendment of the increase made last session in the rate of tax on income from personal exertion. The increase then made amounted to 10 per cent. of the rates applicable to assessments for the previous financial year 1929-30, and it applied where the total taxable income of the taxpayer exceeded £500. This bill proposes that the 10 per cent. increase then imposed shall be increased to 15 per cent. The effect of the proposal will therefore be that where any person has a taxable income of more than £500, the rate of tax on his income from personal exertion in the assessment for the current financial year 1930-31 will be 15 per cent. higher than it would have been if the rates for the preceding financial year 1929-30 had continued in force. This provision is contained in clause 2 of the bill. (2.) An additional tax on all taxable income from property of 7 per cent. of that taxable income, that is, an additional tax of1s. 6d. in the £1 on all taxable income from property. During the last session of Parliament, the rate of tax applicable to income from property in assessments for the last financial year, 1929-30, was increased by 15 per cent. where the total taxable income exceeds £500 for the purposes of assessments for the current financial year. That increase remains in force, and the tax of1s. 6d. in the £1 provided for by this clause will be additional. The further tax proposed by this clause will apply to all income from interest, dividends, rents and royalties’, whether derived by a company or by an individual, and whether derived from property or from personal exertion within the meaning of the definitions in the Assessment Act. It will also apply to any income derived by any person in the course of carrying on a business, if that income is of such a class that it would be income from property in the hands of any person who was not in business. This may be exemplified in the case of income derived by way of interest. It is not intended to disturb the existing definitions of “ income from personal exertion “ and “income from property “ for the purposes of the assessment of tax imposed by any provisions other than those proposed by this clause. These provisions are contained in clause 3 of the bill which inserts new section 7a in the principal act.
Sub-section 2 of the new section provides for the elimination of double taxation as between companies and shareholders. In other words, if income from property is subject to the super tax in the hands of a company, the super tax will not again be chargeable on that income in the hands of any other person, whether that person has a direct shareholding interest in that company, or has an indirect interest in that company through the medium of one or more holding companies. As shareholders are thus exempt from super tax on dividends paid out of property income on whicha company pays the super tax, it is necessary to provide that they shall not be entitled to a rebate of the super tax paid by the company. Otherwise the imposition of the super tax would be nullified. A provision to prevent this rebate is contained in sub-section 3 of the proposed section 7a.
As the proposed super tax is at a fixed rate per £1 on certain classes of income, and as it is intended that the tax shall apply to the actual income derived from those sources during the financial year preceding that for which the tax is payable, it is necessary to exclude the operation of the averaging provisions of the
Assessment Act. Those provisions are capable of application only where -
Sub-section 4 of proposed section 7a will have the effect of excluding the operation of the averaging provisions.
The Government has agreed to accept an amendment of the bill by Senator McLachlan, which will exempt shareholders of any company from super tax on any income distributed to them by that company during the financial year, 1929-30, out of income derived by that company in any prior financial year in the form of dividends. The principal object of the amendment is to place trading companies which distribute their profits through the medium of a holding company in the same position as trading companies which distribute their profits directly to their individual shareholders. The existence of a holding company, which may be a mere channel through which a trading company distributes its profits to the persons interested, has, in many cases, the effect of making the profits of two years - in the form of dividends to the holding company and the shareholders of the holding company - subject to the super tax in the first year to which the super tax applies, namely, 1930-31. Such a position does not arise where there is no holding company, that is, where the individuals interested are direct shareholders of the trading company. In the latter case the super tax for 1930-31 would be charged only on dividends received by the shareholders in 1929-30 out of the profits of the previous year.
As the bill stands, therefore, persons whose interests in a trading company are held through the medium of a holding company are at a distinct disadvantage in the first year of the super tax, as compared with individuals with direct share interests in the trading company. That this anomalous disadvantage exists to a serious extent has been demonstrated by reference to a number of actual cases. The amendment which the Government proposes to accept will effectively remove the anomaly; but I stress the point that its removal may result in a loss of taxation of anything up to £100,000. The Government has set outto get a certain amount of taxation by means of this proposal, and I appeal to honorable senators to view the measure in that light. If the Senate makes a request which will have the effect of relieving a certain class of taxpayer from the payment of taxes, the Government will be forced to shift the burden to the shoulders of other taxpayers. Every possibility has been explored with a view to making the revenue equal the expenditure. I hope that the Senate will not press the Government for any further exemptions, but will pass the hill in its present form, with the exception that I give an undertaking that, in committee, I shall accept the amendment foreshadowed by Senator McLachlan.
– The second reading of this hill furnishes an opportunity to draw attention to the claims of a company which has exhibited a generous spirit towards those who have had dealings with it. I refer to the Midland Railway Company of Western Australia, which sells land and collects a certain percentage of the purchase money from the purchaser, leaving the balance tobe repaid over an extended period up to fifteen years, with interest at the rate of 4 per cent. On behalf of that company I appeal to the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition has previously referred to this company, and showed how severely it has been dealt with at the hands of the Federal and State income tax authorities. This company charges its clients 4 per cent. on the outstanding balance of the purchase money, which is sometimes 90 per cent. of the value of the land. Although nominally the rate of interest charged by the company is 4 per cent., in practice it works out at £3 13s. per cent. This further additional tax of7½ per cent. would bring down the rate of interest to about £3 8s. per cent. Out of that amount the company will have to pay a further State tax, which will reduce its interest earnings to about 3 per cent. on the outstanding balance payable on the land. Some years ago, when the Government of Western Australia was in financial difficulties, it persuaded this company to construct a railway about 300 miles long. In the early stages of its existence, the company became financially embarrassed. Nevertheless, it carried out its contract, and obtained a grant- of land in payment for building the railway. As the years slipped by the company’s relations with its clients were almost the same as those of a government or a local -governing authority. I bought a piece of land from the company, but I have long since transferred by responsibility to other agencies. I know, however, that it has 500 contracts running, and that both in respect of the construction of the. railway and its dealings with the land,, it has been losing money for years. ; .Indeed, it has been unable to meet* its ‘interest commitments. Lately, how.ever, owing. to careful management, conditions have improved, with the result that those who bought land from the company-have benefited. Those of us who Bought’ land from that company were placed’.- for years at a disadvantage as compared ‘ with the lot of Crown tenants nearby. - For instance, we had to find our own water. If we applied to the State Water Board for assistance, we were told that that body existed, but not . for us. The Government would not construct roads for us, and, consequently, we had to cut our own tracks. The Agricultural Bank was established in the time of Sir John Forrest, but it would not assist the Midland settler. Consistently other State instrumentalities refused them assistance. Notwithstanding that withholding of assistance by the State, almost as soon as I had bought my land, even before a camp had been pitched, I received a demand from the Taxation Department for payment of land tax. Crown tenants in the same district were exempt from taxation for periods up to five years. The only attention the Midland settler got from the State was a series of demands for the payment’ of taxes. I have said before, arid I now repeat, that the company has treated its clients’ fairly, even indulgently. “ It treated leniently every man who was’ a’’ trier. Land which the company’ sold for 4s. an acre soon went up to 10s. or 12s. ah acre, notwithstanding that a reserve was placed on it.. Considering the proximity of the land to the railways, the land sold by the company was a- cheap as relatively situated Crown land, while the quality was better. In respect of the unpaid balance of the purchase price of the land, the company is hard hit by this bill. I want to relieve the company of the burden of the tax of ls. 6d. in the £1. If the screw is put on by both Federal and State Governments settlers who purchased land from the company will not be able to approach it for assistance as in the past. It will be unable to assist them. If the Government presses for this tax it will not really be pressing the company, but the men who go to the company for the concessions which others nearly always succeeded in getting from the State. The company has always treated its clients fairly; it has charged them a low rate of interest and assisted them in other ways. Something should now be clone to show the company that the Government appreciates its live and let live policy. I appeal to the Government on its behalf. In committee, I propose to move an amendment to exempt this class of taxpayer from the tax of ls. 6d. in the £1.
Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) [11.11). - The introduction of’ this bill provides an opportunity to discuss the heavy imposts upon those who derive incomes from property. Honorable senators will remember that the Minister in charge of the bill stated that there is- to be a 15 per cent, increase in the rate of tax on incomes of £500 and over derived from personal exertion. There is also to be an additional tax of ls. 6d. in the £1 on all income from property. If honorable senators will refer to the schedule exhibited yesterday, they will see that a person with a net income of £350 from property now pays only £1 in taxes. Under the proposal in this bill the same person will be called upon to pay £21 12s., or an increase of over 2,000 per cent. 1 do not think that the Minister responsible for framing this legislation realizes how cruel it is. A person with an income of £500, derived from personal exertion, .pays the same tax as last year, plus an increase of 15 per cent. A man with an income .of £150 less from property, instead of paying about £3 10s. as he would under the personal exertion provision, will be called upon to pay £21 12s., because his income is derived from property. At present, a person with an income of £500 from property pays £5 17s. 8d. income tax.Under this bill he will pay £45 19s. 5d., an increase of over 700 per cent. Seeing that these increases represent a standard increase of 15 per cent, with an enormous addition of1s. 6d. in the £1, in the case of income from property the Minister should realize the unfairness of the proposal. I consider that every honorable senator should take the opportunity to protest against this excessive taxation of a very deserving class who have only small incomes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
After section seven of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “7a. - (1.) In addition to any tax (including additional tax, super-tax and further tax) payable under the preceding provisions of this Act, there shall be payable upon the taxable income derived by any person -
by way of interest, dividends, rents or royalties, whether derived from personal exertion or from property : and
in the course of carrying on a business, where the income is of such a class that, if derived otherwise than in the course of carrying on a business, it would be income from property, a further tax of seven and one-half per centum of the amount of that taxable income.
– I have already demonstrated the iniquity of the additional imposition of 7½ per cent. on these people, and I should not be doing my duty if I did not make an attempt to have the rate reduced. I am aware that the Government needs money, but it does not appear to me to be right to victimize the section of the community for which I have been fighting during the discussion of this hill. In an endeavour to grant them some relief, I move -
That the House ofRepresentatives be requested to amend sub-section 1, proposed new section 7a, by leaving out the words “ seven and one-half “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ five “.
I think that the Minister might well acceptthat request for submission to anotherplace.
– Whilst my colleagues in the Ministry, and I would be only too pleased if such a request could beaccepted, it is impossible, in the circumstances, for that to be done. This bill is part and parcel of the Government’s financial proposals, and the taxation percentages have been reduced to the absolute minimum. It is no use my holding out false hopes to the Senate. I hope that the Senate will not embarrass the Government by pressing the request.
– The Minister in charge of the bill has already explained that the request that I shall proffer was ultimately accepted by the Government after a very arduous battle with the Treasurer. It seems to me that it is a very simple act of justice. I move -
That the House ofRepresentatives be requested to amend proposed new section 7a by inserting the following new sub-section : - 2a. This section shall not applytoincome which is assessable for the financial year beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty under the provisions of sub-paragraph (i) or (ii) of paragraph (b) of section 16 of the Income Tax Act 1922- 1930 if that income is distributed out of income which was assessable income of a company under those provisions for any prior financial year.
Request agreed to.
.- I move-
That the House of Representativesbe requested to amend proposed new section 7a by inserting therein the following sub-section : - 2aa. This section shall not apply to interest at a rate not exceeding 4 per centum per annum on unpaid purchase money under a contract for the sale of land acquired by the purchaser exclusively for the purposes of cultivation.
I ask the Senate to look favorably on my proposal to give relief to those people who sell parcels of land and charge the exceptionally moderate rate of interest of 4 per cent. on the unpaid balance of the purchase money. As I have already pointed out the proposed impost would further reduce that rate to an effective one of practically 3 per cent. If those people are asked to bear that burden, they will do so; but it will be no use their clients approaching them for concessions. Obviously they could not be granted, and so both parties to the contract will be penalized. I submit that the Government should differentiate in its treatment of such companies as the one to which I have referred, as compared with that of other concerns which submit people to grinding rates of interest. By doing so it would encourage those who are engaged in a most praiseworthy effort - that of endeavouring to place land under cultivation. I realize that the Government must raise money; but that should not be done by placing further burdens on people of such value to the country.
– I regret that I am unable to meet Senator Lynch’s wishes in this matter. It should be obvious to the Senate thatthe only effective way in which this request could be dealt with would he specifically to name the company concerned in the bill. Honorable senators know that income tax has to be paid by the person who deposits his money in the savings banks and collects interest upon it at a very moderate rate.
– Such people will be excluded from the terms of this proposal.
– I am confident that Senator Lynch would not suggest that the burden should press heavier on the widow or old-age pensioner who, having saved a few hundred pounds, deposits it in a savings bank and collects interest at the rate of 4 per cent. upon it.
– This company will have a return of only 3 per cent.
– The principle is the same. The honorable senator will realize that, if the Government set out to try to relieve individual cases, itwould have a very big task, indeed. The Acting Treasurer, myself, and the Treasury officials went exhaustively into this request, and following is the memorandum from the Treasury upon it: -
Although it would not do much harm to exempt the Midland Company from the super tax on interest on unpaid purchase money, it would practically be necessary to exempt that company by name in order to prevent the exemption being exploited generally. If the amendment were accepted it would, no doubt, tend to induce vendors of country land to sell for higher prices at lower rates of interest in order to escape the incidence of the super tax. To exempt the Midland Company by name would be a departure from the accepted precepts of taxation legislation.
The honorable senator seeks to place the Government between two fires.It must either depart from the accepted precepts of taxation legislation and specifically exempt this company, or open the door to possible abuses of the incidence by which it hopes to raise the taxation.
– And bring upon itself great administrative difficulties unless it named the companies.
– I am obliged to Senator McLachlan. There would be great difficulty of administration unless the companies were , specifically named. I do not think that honorable senators opposite, some of whom have had experience in a ministerial capacity, would claim that it would be consistent with the Government’s policy of taxation to exempt specifically companies of the description referred to. Whilst I have every sympathy with the company, I regret that I am unable to accept the suggestion of Senator Lynch by agreeing to his request.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator O’Halloran.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Clause agreed to subject to a request.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with a request.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended and report adopted.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
By an amendment of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act made in 1929, two classes of bodies known respectively as the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunals were created. The first decides appeals from the Repatriation Commission by ex-soldiers as to whether or not the ex-soldier is suffering from a war disability; the second hears and decides appeals against the rate of pension granted by the commission. If an ex-soldier applies for a pension, the commission may hold that he suffers from a war disability, but one so negligible that, in the opinion of the commission, he is not entitled to a pension. In such a case, the ex-soldier is out of court. He cannot appeal to the Entitlement Tribunal because the commission has conceded everything that that tribunal could grant him, and since he has not been given a pension, he is not entitled to appeal to the Assessment Tribunal on the ground of the inadequacy of his pension. On the other hand, it may be that an ex-soldier applies to the commission, and on his application being refused goes to the Entitlement Tribunal. If that tribunal decides that he has a war disability, the matter goes back to the commission for determination of the pension. If the commission decides that the injury is so negligible that he cannot be granted a pension, the original position is arrived at and the ex-soldier cannot reach the Assessment Appeal Tribunal. The effect of the proposed amendment is that in both these cases the ex-soldier will be able to bring his case before the Assessment Appeal Tribunal. The justice of this proposal is so patent that it is unnecessary to labour the point, and I feel sure that the measure will meet with the cordial endorsement of every member of this chamber. 1 am sure that all honorable senators desire to afford every facility to ex-soldiers to exhaust every means to bring their claims before the proper authority. I receive many communications from various organizations that are interested in the welfare of returned soldiers. I send these on to the commission with every confidence, but sometimes I am grievously disappointed at the result. I would go a long way to give the boys a chance to secure some compensation for what they are suffering as the result of war service. I commend the bill to the consideration of honorable senators.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [11.43]. - The purpose of the bill is to enable returned soldiers who are prevented from getting a hearing to bring their appeals before the proper tribunal. Many young men upon their return to Australia after the war, although suffering disabilities, did not submit claims to the commission. Consequently, they have been prevented from appealing to the Assessment Tribunal. This proposed amendment to the act will afford them the necessary facilities to present their claims. I feel sure that honorable senators will give the bill their most sympathetic consideration.
– I congratulate the Government on having introduced this bill. It rights a matter which returned soldiers have been endeavouring to have adjusted. If a man goes before the commission from the Entitlement Board, and the commission may consider his disability to be negligible, he will get no pension, and cannot go on to the Assessment Board, although the Entitlement Board may have said that he is entitled to a pension because of a war disability.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendmentor debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 11.51 p.m. to 12.55 a.m.
Friday, 12 December 1930
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
At this early hour of the morning I do not propose to attempt to emphasize the necessity of this measure, or to justify it on any ground of principle, other than that, in supporting the payment of a bounty on the production of gold, I shall adopt the able arguments advanced in this chamber by Senator Lynch and Senator McLachlan in the debate on motions on the subject which they have submitted to this chamber. I submit that the Government is justified, not only in bringing forward a bill to provide assistance to the gold-mining industry, but also in adopting the form of assistance provided in the bill. The Government realizes the importance of stimulating this industry, which can add considerably to the value of our national wealth and alleviate unemployment. Briefly, the bill provides for -
Perhaps I should explain that an ounce fine is equivalent to 24 carat and a standard ounce is equivalent to 22 carat, the values respectively being £4 4s. 11.45d. and £3 17s. 10.5d. Under this bill the Commonwealth Government will not be under any liability until the average production for three years ending 31st December, 1930- approximately 486,000 oz. - has been exceeded. Therein lies the incentive to increase production. The extended term of ten years has been selected in order to give stability to the industry, and to encourage capital investment. If a shorter period were stipulated the economic attraction would not be present. Mining companies will have to install large quantities of expensive machinery, and if a shorter period than ten years were fixed their opportunities for a return on capital investment would be obliterated. Honorable senators may disagree with the Government’s proposals on certain minor points; but they can be more conveniently discussed in committee.
– When I recall the immense value which the gold-mining industry has been to Australia, I do not feel disposed to go to the extent of opposing the bill; but it seems to me that certain of its aspects cut right across the grain of economics. This is particularly so when we realize the financial stringency which the Commonwealth is now experiencing. I recognize that the intention of the Government and of honorable senators, and certain members of another place, who have submitted a similar proposal is to stimulate the production of gold in Australia. It cannot be denied that an increase in the production of gold at this period would be of great benefit to Australia, and provided the increase was sufficiently large it would materially assist in removing some of our present financial difficulties. But in studying the subject from the standpoint of the necessity to stimulate production, we must realize that we may be adopting a policy which may lead us into difficulty, as it is possible that the Commonwealth may be unable to maintain payments for ten years, as provided in this measure. I have no objection whatever to lending some aid to the gold-mining industry; but it appears to me that the period provided in the bill is too long. The Minister (Senator Daly) said that that period had been stipulated in order to protect mining companies which might invest considerable capital to extend their plants, in an endeavour to increase production.
– The honorable senator supported the bounty on cotton for a similar period.
– Yes. We can contemplate with some degree ofcertainty the possible development of the cotton in- dustry, because we know what area of country is more or less suitable for its production. We can also estimate, to some extent, the world’s demand for that commodity, what production is likely to be, and the possibilities of its profitable marketing. But in the matter of gold the position is entirely different. I am not one of those who believe that further rich discoveries of gold will not be made.
– They will come again.
– Yes. In prospecting for gold, the surface of this country has yet only been scratched. It is only reasonable to assume that other rich gold deposits will be discovered. What would be the position if, as a result of this ‘ measure, another Kalgoorlie or another Golden Mile were discovered? Iu that case the production of gold in Australia, instead of being increased only slightly as is contemplated in this measure, would be increased enormously, o and the country would be committed to the payment of the bounty for a period of ten years. In the circumstances which I have suggested, the government of the day would be unable to withdraw the bounty, for its withdrawal would be regarded as a breach of faith with tlie people who had put their money into the gold-mining industry. Those who had invested capital from which they were getting poor returns would feel that they were entitled to a continuance of the bounty, while those in the happy position of receiving good returns for comparatively low expenditure would still claim the bounty.
– It has taken five years to bring one gold-mine in Western Australia into production.
– 1 am aware of that. If this proposal were limited to the payment of a bounty on gold produced from low-grade ores, I should not object to a period of ten years. But it covers a wider field than that, and, therefore, I consider that ten years is too long. Five years is a sufficiently lengthy period for us to contemplate under this measure. The granting of a bounty for that period would produce all the results that would b» likely to accrue from a period of ten years,), and,, the country would not be committed to the same extent, [f the period were made five years, it would be possible to review the situation at the expiration of that term. We should then be able to see whether the bounty was economically sound, and could decide whether it should be retained, modified, or discontinued. Without desiring to oppose the measure, I feel that the Senate would be wise to reduce the period during which the bounty shall be payable to five years. If that were done..,the bill would be more acceptable to me.
Senator THOMPSON (Queensland j [1.8 a.m.]. - I shall not detain the Senate long in explaining my attitude on this question. It will be within the remembrance of honorable senators that on the previous occasions when this matter has been discussed, I have opposed a gold bounty on the whole of the gold production of the country. But the proposition before us, and the times in which we live, are different, and, therefore, I have modified my views. The present proposal differs from those which preceded it, inasmuch as it will encourage new gold production, reduce unemployment, and improve the unfavorable exchange position. Thus it will assist us in our present unsatisfactory financial state. As has been said, the granting of a gold bounty will encourage the introduction of new capital into Australia Both the late Government and that now in office has favoured the granting of bounties- in other directions, and I do not see why the same principle should not be applied to the production of gold. There is the disadvantage which I have stressed on previous occasions that gold is a wasting asset; every ounce of the metal which is taken from the earth makes the mine or deposit so much poorer. Against that disadvantage we may set the stabilized value of gold and compare it with the varying values of primary industries ‘whose production we have been subsidizing, and there are also the new mines that will be opened up. The proposal is of great importance to Australia, and of special importance to Queensland, of which State I am one of the representatives in the Senate. In order to indicate the interest taken in the subject of the gold bounty, I propose to read three or four telegrams, which show the possibilities of the industry in Queensland. The first telegram is from the chairman of directors of the Billy Hughes Gold Company, and reads -
Gold bounty bill would be means re-opening this company’s mines at Normanby, via Bowen.
The second telegram is from the Minnie Moxham gold mme. It states -
This mine barely paying working expenses present price gold. Passing bill will give the impetus gold-mining this district.
The Palmer River Gold Company has telegraphed as follows: -
Gold bounty bill means my company can work large dredging and hydraulic sluicing areas present doubtful payable. Already installed one dredger cost £40,000. Starting soon rain falls. Estimated return least 100 ounces week.
A number of companies operating in Queensland have sent the following telegram -
Gold bonus will be a strong incentive to rehabilitate gold-mining which is absolutely essential to recover Australia’s prosperity. Furthermore, some of companies below named are at present negotiating for overseas capital in large way to develop gold mines in north and thereby open up large areas at present unoccupied.
That telegram is signed by the Palmer Development Company Limited, the Peninsula Gold Exploration Syndicate, the Mulgrave Gold-fields, and the Mother Lode Gold Mines Limited. I am not personally acquainted with these companies, but I propose to refer also to a mine with which I have had an almost lifetime connexion- that at Mount Morgan. As I am no longer connected with it, I can speak the more freely. 1 am assured on the best authority that the effect of passing this bill would be to increase the number of men employed in the mine from 30 to between 300 and 400. Those men will be employed in the treatment of 670,000 tons of ore averaging from 5 to 7 dwt. of gold to the ton. At the lower estimate of 5 dwt. that represents 175,000 ounces of fine gold, the value being about £700,000. I am assured that that production will be the almost immediate consequence of the assistance which the passing of this bill wilh render to that company. There is a prospect that the granting of a bounty will assist in developing the large gold resources which are known to exist in the Mount Morgan mine, viz., as the 3,000,000 tons of copper-gold ore, .valued at from £16,000,000 to £77,000,000. Foi some time negotiations have been proceeding with the United States of America in relation to a better system of treating this low-grade ore than in the past. Encouraging reports have been received as to the possibility of dealing with this immense body of ore. The recovery of this mass of wealth would be spread over a period of probably eight to ten years. Hitherto, it has not been possible to produce the gold at a profit, but now there is a chance of that being done. The’ passing of this bill will enable the 670,000 tons of ore, which I have mentioned, to be utilized to the benefit of the nation. Like Senator Duncan, I fear that the period for which the bounty is to operate is too long. Another Mount Morgan, another Golden Mile, or another Charters Towers might be found. In such a case the bounty would be a millstone round the neck of any government in office.
– We should be glad to pay the bounty.
– No government would be able to pay £1 an ounce on such large quantities of gold. There would likely be no exchange advantage then as there is now ; I “hope that there would be no serious financial trouble.
– If we opened up some good mines, we should not have such heavy exchange rates.
– That is so. Possibly some modification of the proposal is desirable in the direction of reducing the period for which it will operate. Apart from that latent doubt in my mind, I have a great deal of pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I warn the Senate that it is taking a very dangerous step in supporting this project. I am amazed to see the changed attitude on the part “>f the Opposition in regard to what is, after all, a measure of inflation, just as much as an increase of the note issue through the medium of the Commonwealth Bank. There are mines, just as there are wheat lands, of varying degrees of richness. If a bonus of £1 ^ an ounce is given to resuscitate Mount Morgan and the Golden Mile, we shall next receive requests from the .Cue and the Great Fingal, and similar mines for a further 10s. or fi an ounce in order that they may be i . revived. The result will be a load of debt heavier than that accumulated from the war, without any tangible asset for the money that has been squandered. If present conditions are left alone, particularly the tendency that is manifesting itself to cut down the cost of . production, we shall have our mines working shortly on an economic basis. The proposed bonus would prevent that indefinitely. It is with the greatest misgiving that I anticipate a majority in this chamber in favour of the measure.
– I hope that I shall be pardoned for saying a word ou an occasion like the present. For over twelve years this project has been before Parliament, and it is about to be settled to-night. Men like myself have experienced trouble in the past in convincing members of this Parliament that what we ask in this respect is just. Apparently, there are still some who cannot be convinced. However, I am confident that at last justice to this neglected industry will prevail.
– Where is the money to come from?
– That question was not asked when benefits were about to be conferred upon other industries. I am glad that this Parliament is ridding itself of the stigma that has so long attached to it, of being a kind of geographical fiscalist. In previous years only those industries which were located in certain favoured parts of the Commonwealth had the right to come forward to seek special government patronage. Now the stigma is to be wiped out, and the Government has proved itself capable of rising above geographical considerations. There are some, like Senator H. E. Elliott, who is an ophthalmic fiscalist suffering from a kind of political astigmatism, who refuse to recognize the reasonable claims of any industries other than those situated within the environs of Melbourne. That is not the correct attitude for a member of this Parliament to adopt. Past governments have showered benefits upon Melbourne industries, and now, when the gold-mining industry seeks assistance for the first time, representatives of centres which have been so lavishly treated in the past raise a wail of protest. Again and again, in this Parliament, I have helped the industries of Victoria and New South Wales ;o Sourish. So I ask for this bonus without making any apology for my action. 1 am glad that the supporters of the goldmining industry do not knock at the door of the Government in vain. I congratulate this Government with all the fervour of which I am capable. I have an all too painful recollection of having knocked repeatedly at the door of past Governments which I supported, and of being sent away empty-handed, the excuse being that the proposal was economically unsound. Of course, when ti person does not want to do a thing it is the easiest thing in the world to invent a plausible excuse. I am confident that great good will result from the granting of this bonus. It will allow us to set right industrially the foundation of our gold-mining industry, and the superstructure can follow with every promise of stability.
I hope that the fears expressed by Senator Duncan will be realized, and that the time will come when the burden of paying this bounty is so serious that it will cause the Treasurer of the day anxiety. That will not be a fell day for Australia, but a rattling fine prosperous day for the country. I believe that if the present average of 486,000 ounces can be improved upon so that it reaches even 1,400,000 ounces, leaving £1,000,000 to he paid in bonuses by the Treasurer, it will give such a fillip to industry, generally, that prosperity will come again to Australia.
– And the Government will have to impose an extra land tax to pay the bonus.
– That is a sample of the political ignorance of that ophthalmic fiscalist, Senator H. E. Elliott, who cannot look beyond the smoking factories of Melbourne. That is what we have had to put up with year after year. But the time has arrived when we shall bear it no longer. Those engaged in the goldmining industry have always been generous-hearted, and ready to help the other industries, although they received nothing in return. They are engaged in one of the most arduous and perilous occupations in the country. Senator H. E. Elliott has never been down a mine in his life, as have 5,000 of his fellow citizens in “Western Australia. It is on behalf of those splendid men that I make this humble appeal. The honorable senator may laugh. He comes from a State that has been coddled beyond measure by every other State in Australia.
– Do not forget that Victoria pioneered the gold-mining industry.
– I am sorry that a bill such as this, the first of its kind before our Parliament, has not been more generously treated by, some. It should have been received with. that spirit of generosity which the gold-mining industry has always extended to the other industries of the country. Dante said of his magnum opus, “ That book has made .me lean for years “, and the gold-mining industry, when regarding the other opulent industries of the country, might well say, “ Those’ industries have made me lean for years “. Some people claim that it is a languishing industry. It is nothing of the kind. Its revival is at hand, and I look forward to the day when the untrodden paths of the unexplored areas of Australia will reveal their hidden treasures as the result of the encouragement that will be given by means of this measure. This bill is a belated act of justice. The industry has waited over-long for the assistance which, at long last, is to be given to it. I congratulate the Government again upon its statesmanlike act and I hope that, as a result of the passing of this measure, the gold-mining industry will enter upon a new era of prosperity which will be reflected in all other fields of activity throughout the Commonwealth.
– I wish also to congratulate the Government’ upon having introduced this measure. It is a belated act of justice to one of the greatest of Australian industries, and I believe that it will do more than anything else to solve our ‘present financial difficulties. For the last 25 or 30 years the gold-mining industry, more than’ any other industrial activity, has borne the burden of increasingtariffs imposed by successive go vernments. The relief now to be given will, therefore, be the more welcome. It may be of interest to honorable senators to know that, since the discovery of gold in Australia, this country has produced no less than £625,000,000 worth of the precious metal to date. Victoria has been responsible for production to the amount of £303,000,000, Western Australia has produced £160,000,000, Queensland £85,000,000, New South Wales £63,000,000, Tasmania £8,000,000, the Northern Territory £2,000,000 and South Australia £1,500,000. Unfortunately the industry has been declining since 1919. In that year the production was over 1,000,000 ounces, valued at over £5,000,000, and the industry gave employment to over 12,000 persons. Last year the production was at its lowest point since the discovery of gold in the ‘fifties, the quantity mined being 427,159 ounces of fine gold, valued at £1,814,000, and only 6,095 men were employed in the industry. In 1901 it gave employment to 70,942 men, but 27 years later only 6,250 men were working in that occupation. The figures show that in the period mentioned 64,000 men were thrown out of employment owing to the decline in the industry.
The Government’s proposal comes at a very opportune time in view of the widespread unemployment throughout the Commonwealth.
– Would it not be better to lift the burdens on the industry ?
– That would be the best method to bring about a revival. For’ the last ten years at least the representatives in this Parliament from Western Australia, and also from the other smaller States, have been endeavouring to ease the tariff burdens on primary industries, but without success, and it is to be regretted that the additional burdens imposed on mining by this Government during the last twelve months have been exceedingly heavy. Since it is not willing to relieve the industry by lowering the tariff duties on commodities used in the industry, the Government is doing the right thing by submitting this’ proposal for- k< bounty on gold production. ‘ I have Ti on ‘“the authority of the Eight Honorable L. S. Amery, formerly Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and for the Colonies, that Great Britain requires our gold, perhaps more urgently than any other form of production, not even excepting wool. In an address before members of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, in London in April, 1927, Mr. Amery said -
The problem of gold discoveries had a great interest for us. It was not only the areas in which the precious metal was found which derived the benefit of a general development, but, as had been shown again and again in history, its discovery had had the most wonderful indirect results. The great gold and silver treasures which had been poured into Europe from Asia and from the New World in the sixteenth century bad given a tremendous impetus to the whole industrial, mercantile, and scientific development of Europe. Every one well knew how, in the middle of the last century, when Great Britain was already at the head of the nations in industry, the great Californian and Australian gold discoveries, irrigating the world with new money, bad given a tremendous impetus to industrial development, of which Great Britain had been able to take the major share. Similarly, it had been the gold discoveries in the Rand which bad conteracted that long sagging depression in trade which had set in after the demonetisation of silver in the last quarter of the last century. Was it not possible that groat new discoveries of gold might have a great stimulating effect in bringing about the recovery of the world after the depression which bad followed the Great War? From Britain’s point of view, we had a particular interest in this question. We happened to be under an obligation to pay to the United States of America a great lump of gold. Our debt to America was always talked about in terms of money; but, as a matter of fact, what we were under an obligation to pay to the United States of America was so much weight of gold - 92(i,000,000. sovereigns; in other words, 0,700 tons of gold, which represented a cube of gold about twenty-three feet each. way. We had to pay for that annually 280 tons ‘ of gold, or one ingot measuring eight feet each way would just settle that debt annually. If a mine could be found to produce that, the problem would be solved. Perhaps it would not bo’ in quite so crude a fashion that we should settle our debt, but if one might illustrate the importance of the gold-mining industry to this country (Great Britain) it lay in the following: Our debt was a debt which had got to be paid in weight of gold. We should, in fact, have to pay for it in work - in British goods and services spent in acquiring gold which we had to pay to the United States. From that point of view, it was of vital importance that, measured in terms of goods and services, gold should be cheap, and anything which contributed to the increase pf the supply of the world’s gold above the’ calls upon it for use, cheapened gold, and therefore lightened the burden which we had to bear. If any one present could find an effective way, with the help of radium, of turning lead into gold, he would have very completely solved the problem of our American debts. In any case, he thought he could say, without fear of contradiction, that the problem of our American debt was much more a problem for the prospector and the mining engineer than it was for the financier.
I feel sure that the payment of a bounty will do more than anything else to stimulate prospecting. The prospector and the gold-seeker put Australia on the map in the early ‘fifties, and it is just as likely that they will lift Australia out of its present financial difficulties. We have unlimited virgin gold country in all the States, and particularly in Western Australia, where there are immense deposits of low-grade ore in mining properties which have been only partially developed, owing to the high cost of production. Many of these mines have produced large quantities of gold, and I am sure that, under more favorable conditions, hundreds of them will again be worked and give good returns. In Western Australia alone there are over 4,000 abandoned leases registered in the Mines Department, which supplies applicants with lists of abandoned mines that are officially considered to be worthy of attention at the hands of prospectors and investors. There is a large belt of auriferous country unparalleled in size and promise extending right from Phillip? River, on the south coast, through Norseman, Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, the Murchison, Pilbarra and up to the Kimberlies. In that area alone there are over 2,000 miles of auriferous country hundreds of miles wide that is well worthy of attention.
– Why is it not worked ?
– It is noi being worked because of the high costs of production, which have increased from 19s. per ton in the pre-war period to 38s. per ton. With an adequate bounty on production I believe that the gold-mining industry, in my State at all events, will return to its pristine vigor. The goldfields markets, it should be noted, are the most profitable of all for perishable products. Kalgoorlie and the Golden Mile, nearly 400 miles distant from Perth, at one time had a population of over 40,000 people, and the companies there gave employment to 15,000 or 16,000 men in mines that were working three shifts a day. “When the industry declined a considerable number of these men settled on the land in the coastal areas and the wheat belt, where their energies have been devoted to production. Western Australia and the Commonwealth owe a great deal to those early prospectors who took their lives in their hands and opened up new gold-mining areas.
As to the period during which the bounty will be payable, I hope that the Senate will not adopt the suggestion made by Senator Duncan for its reduction. All those bodies associated with the movement for the payment of a bounty have asked that it should bo continued for a period of ten years, otherwise it will not have the effect desired, namely the opening up of huge bodies of low-grade ores in which, it is believed, there will be a large investment of British capital. The Wiluna Company may be cited as a typical illustration of a property that will be assisted by this proposal. That mine, in years gone by, produced £500,000 worth of gold from the first 100 feet of workings. The lode, which is about 60 feet wide, has been worked from the surface like an open quarry. I have a personal knowledge of that property. The present company, in five years, has spent about £1,000,000 in development and the erection of a most up-to-date raining .plant, and it is reported that gold to the value of several million pounds is in sight. The company has introduced a new flotation process for the extraction of the gold, and I am certain that, if the Senate passes this bill, we can expect other companies, including South African investors, to become interested in low-grade propositions in various parts of Western Australia. It will be seen that the mine-owners’ only chance of getting anything out of this bounty, which is to be granted on increased production, is to have a good many new mines working together. In view of the gradual decline in gold returns - last year’s output was our lowest - it will require a lot of mines to increase production to render this bill of some value to any single mine.
– Why is the honorable senator stone-walling, the’ bill?
– I am merely saying a few words in support of a policy I advocated throughout my election campaign and in congratulation of the Government upon bringing in this bill; but when I find honorable senators suggesting that the bounty should bs granted for a shorter period than ten years, I want to point, out that one company which has spent £1,000,000 on its property over a period of five years has so far not yet. reached the production stage.
– That company has already had special assistance from the Commonwealth Government.
– It has merely had a guarantee which will cost the Commonwealth nothing. Furthermore, the Western Australian Government has spent £500,000 in connecting the company’s mine with the State railway system.
That Government is merely carrying out the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Western Australian Disabilities. Mr. Higgs, the chairman of the commission, and an ex- ‘Treasurer of the Commonwealth, recommended that during ten years and thereafter until Parliament otherwise decided, a bounty of 10s. per ounce should be paid on all new gold produced within the Commonwealth. The delegation which waited on the Prime Minister on the subject asked for a bounty of £1 per ounce. The Government has offered £1 an ounce on increased production. The bonus should have been payable at the rate of £1 per oz. on all gold produced. I am sorry that it has not made the bounty one that will assist mines on their present production; but I am glad it has introduced this legislation, and I congratulate it on accepting the principle of paying a bounty on gold production.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [1.50 a.m.]. - As one who has always opposed what is known as the accepted Australian policy of developing industries by means of bounties and high protection, I do not feel disposed to give a silent vote. At tho outset, I may say that if any honorable senator who is opposed to ; the bill can show rae any other means by which even a measure of partial justice can be done to the gold-mining industry, my vote will be cast against this proposal. I do not. regard it as a bounty. It is merely tardy and very partial restitution of what has been taken away from the gold-mining industry year after year for the last quarter of a century.
– Not by the wheatgrowers.
– Surely we can have some sense of proportion. Surely we do not want to be thinking of wheat all the time. I trust that before this season concludes some measure willbe placed before us which will give some relief to the wheat-growers. I am prepared to say that the wheat industry and the mining industry are the two industries above all which have been hampered and burdened by the protection policy of Australia.
– Also the wool industry.
– Economists who have studied the matter very closely declare that the primary industries which have to bear the cost of tariff protection and bounties to other industries, a cost which they cannot pass on, are taxed to the extent of 9 per cent. of the value of their total output. But. obviously, the percentage does not rest evenly at 9 per cent. among all the primary producing interests, and these economists declare that it rests most heavily on those whose production costs are chiefly made up of labour. For that reason, mining and wheat-growing suffer more heavily from this policy than wool-growing and cattle grazing. I admit that wool-growing and cattle grazing are too heavily penalized, but the burden reaches its maximum on mining and wheat-growing in which labour forms the largest percentage in the cost of production.
– And it applies to gold-mining more than to any other form of mining.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Quite so. An estimate made some two and a half years ago was that the increased cost imposed upon mining, particularly gold-mining, and upon wheatgrowing, as the result of the Australian tariff policy, was no less than 14 per cent. of the total value of their output. The figure has since been increased by further tariffs. On the 9 per cent. basis alone, since federation, the Western Australian gold-mines have been penalized to the extent of over £10,000,000 sterling to support the tariff policy of Australia. A few moments ago, Senator H. E. Elliott asked what Victorian industry was “ bonused “. I challenge him to tell me of one secondary industry in. Victoria that is not bonused. Every Kalgoorlie mine, which has had to erect machinery, has had to pay a greatly exaggerated price for it in order that factories in and about Melbourne may carry on and pay to their employees wages greatly in excess of those the Kalgoorlie miner is able to earn. The cost to Western Australia, to-day, of the sugar bounty, is quite £500,000 a year. If we double our gold production in Western Australia, which is quite unlikely, we shall get about £400,000 a year in bounty. It will not return to us the annual excess cost which we have to pay for our sugar in order that men may be employed on the sugar fields of Queensland at wages approximately double those which are earned in the Kalgoorlie mines. Then there is the iron and steel products bounty under which the average wage paid to the worker in the manufacture of galvanized iron is £6 5s. a week, which is certainly 50per cent. over the average wage paid to the Kalgoorlie miner who has to find the money for the payment of the bounty on galvanized iron.
– That is in the steel works. The honorable senator has not considered the wages paid in the supply of the raw materials used in the manufacture of steel.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The fact is that on the ground that the makers of galvanized iron have to pay their men £6 5s. a week, they have to be paid a bounty by, among others, the mineowners and farmers whose employees have to take a wage considerably below that figure.
Twelve months ago, when a bill was before the Senate to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, I submitted an amendment that the gold mined after the passing of the bill should not be purchased except at’ its full value in the world’s market. What support did Western Australian’ senators get for that proposal ? None from Queensland senators, who were taking a sugar bounty, and were afterwards to get a cotton bounty, and none from New South Wales senators who supported a bounty on galvanized iron. The only support for our proposal was received from Senator H. E. Elliott and Senator Lawson. What has been the result? For a long time after the exchange was arbitrarily pegged at £6 10s. we were receiving for our gold a premium of £5 15s. per £100, and the outside exchange was then something up to £9.
– But the other primary producers were in the same position.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Today, when the exchange is arbitrarily fixed at £9, gold is taken from the miner, and he is allowed £7 15s. per £100 for it, whereas the seller of meat is getting as much as £14 exchange for his meat.
– He is getting nothing of the sort.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Within the last few days, as much as £14 has been paid for exchange, and a meat operator got it.
– The shipping company takes its share.
– I do not know who takes it or gets it, but the meat purchaser got the advantage of that exchange rate. If the gold-miner were free to sell his gold, and get the full rate of the exchange, he could to-day get nearly £5 per £100 more than he is allowed to get.
– Are not all primary producers in the same position?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.No. Gold is the only primary product that the Government has seized. I admit at once that the policy of pegging the exchange has prejudiced all primary producers, but in the case of gold, not only is the exchange pegged, but the gold is seized and compelled to go through a particular channel, whereas, in the case of other primary products, although the individual may be in the same plight as the gold-miner, the trade in those products is not compelled to be at a disadvantage through the pegging of the exchange.
-The gold producer cannot do what the meat purchaser did.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.No. On this one matter of exchange alone, the gold producer has been prejudiced to a far greater extent during the last few years than he is likely to be recompensed by this gold bounty. If any honorable senator can show me how injustices of that kind can be removed, I shall be found with those opposing the measure. At the same time, if bounties are to be granted to other industries, I cannot see anything that specially offends economic principles in granting a bounty on the production of gold. It has been laid down by the best of authorities that if bounties are to be granted or prohibitive duties imposed for the protection of industry, they should be afforded only to those that can approach reasonably near the cost of production in other countries. That was the conclusion arrived at by the Australian Economic Committee. Notwithstanding this the Government is paying a bounty on sugar, cotton, galvanized iron and other commodities that have not a dog’s chance of competing with similar commodities produced in other countries. We have been told that it is utterly uneconomic to pay a bounty on gold, although it is known that, with very little assistance, we shall be able to produce it at a rate comparable with that of other countries. In the case of galvanized iron the bounty paid is equivalent to £350 a year per man employed, while in this case, even if the bounty were paid upon the actual gold produced, it would be equivalent to about only £70 per man per year. Since a bounty is to be paid only on the excess of production over the average of the last three years, it is highly improbable that the amount per man per year will exceed £20. While I agree with those who say that the payment of bounties is entirely uneconomic and should be abolished, I cannot agree with those who contend that a bounty should be paid on other commodities and gold excluded. Senator E. B. Johnston referred to the need for goldin Great Britain. But that is only half the case ; its need the world over will be demonstrated during the next ten years. Yesterday I quoted a short extract from the interim report of the Gold Delegation of the Financial Committee to the League of Nations. I now wish to quote the following paragraph from the same authority : -
The present production of gold in the world amounts to about 400.000,000 dollars per annum, and is likely to rise slightly above that figure during the next three or four years. On the other hand, both the official or semiofficial estimates of probable production in the course of the next ten years, and the unofficial estimates received by us from Mr. Joseph Kitchin, a recognized authority on precious metal statistics, suggest that a decline is to be expected thereafter.
Following upon a further decline in gold production, we are likely to be faced with additional economic difficulties. Whatever we may think we may dismiss from our minds any fear of a large production of gold in Australia causing us any embarrassment. If any honorable senator can show me any other means by which even partial justice can be done to an industry that has been bled white by the burdens placed upon it in consequence of the protection afforded to other industries, I shall vote against the bill, but, if that cannot be done, I shall support it.
– I have waited so long for a measure of this description that I should be failing in my duty if I did not congratulate the Government upon its introduction. The only fault I have to find with the bill is the title, which reads : “ To provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of gold . . . “ In my opinion this is not a bounty, but only compensation for damages suffered.
– That is included in the words “ and for other purposes “, which the honorable senator did not quote.
– Although I do not wish to detain the Senate at this early hour in the morning, I desire to express my pleasure at the introduction of this measure, and at the generous support which it is receiving, particularly from those honorable senators representing States that are not likely to receive the. -benefit which Western Australia anticipates. I am also glad to notice that a larger number of honorable senators appear to be anxious to support Western Australian interests. I am sure, the Western Australian people will appreciate this small measure of assistance and the manner in which it has been received by the Senate. I support the bill.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [2.7 a.m.]. - At the outset 1 should like- to refer to a statement by Senator Lynch that this is the first instance in which a government has given assistance to the gold-mining industry. I do not think that the honorable senator intended to mislead the Senate, but he, apparently, overlooked the fact that the late Government relieved those engaged in the gold-mining industry of the necessity to pay income tax on their profits. On the recommendation of the Disabilities Commission, that Government also made a financial grant to that State on the understanding that the industries which had suffered as a result of federal policy would benefit,- and the gold-mining industry received £180,000 as a first contribution. I admit quite freely that for a number of ‘years the gold-mining industry has experienced great difficulties, not only as a result of our fiscal policy, but in consequence of the fact that since the war world prices of various commodities have increased considerably, thus adding to the cost of production, while the price of gold has remained stationary. But, as wholesale prices are falling, the cost of production will necessarily decrease, and, even without a bounty, the gold-mining industry should again come into its own. As the costs of production are decreasing the payment of this bounty does not appear to be necessary.
– Would the honorable senator apply the same argument to the sugar industry?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.If the disabilities imposed on the sugar industry since the inception of federation were removed-
– Is the honorable senator referring to the White Australia policy ?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Yes. The sugar industry is compensated to some extent for the disabilities it suffers under our White Australia policy; but, while the present conditions are imposed, the industry must be protected. We cannot maintain a high standard of living in Australia, and, at the same time, produce a commodity in competition with other countries employing the cheapest labour in the world. For many years, when the gold-mining industry was profitable and able to pay very high wages, the pastoral and other industries could not afford to pay one-half of the wages ruling in the mining industry. As I mentioned earlier, for some years the prices of our main products were high, and, as a consequence, the cost of producing them rose. On the other hand, the price of gold has remained stationary, but its cost of production rose in sympathy with the increase in the cost of producing other commodities, with the result that the industry has been in a depressed condition. Now, however, since commodity prices have fallen, the cost of production should fall, and there should be a correspondi ng fall in the cost of producing gold. That being so, I feel that it will again become a prosperous industry withoutthe assistance of a bounty. For the reasons stated, I do not consider the payment of a bounty necessary, and I, therefore, intend to oppose the bill.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [2.13 a.m.]. - I am in favour of the measure, and, as I understand that a majority of honorable senators will support it, I shall content myself by saying that I shall also do so.
– I do not propose to record a silent vote on this measure. It is interesting to note that no honorable senator has endeavoured to defend the bill on economic grounds. All the sophistry in the world cannot conceal the fact that those seeking a gold bonus are asking the general taxpayer to support an industry that cannot support itself. A bounty on gold was declined by the previous Administration, and was also emphatically rejected by the Present Prime Minister. Political considerations have, however, triumphed over those objections. Senator Colebatch asked what was the alternative to a goldbounty. The alternative is to remove the restrictions which have been hampering the industryfor a number of years. We should remove the heavy duties on mining machinery. Preposterous award rates for miners have also had their ill effects. All of us have sinned at some time or other with regard to embargoes and bounties. Dog does not eat dog. I shall not, therefore, stand up in a self-righteous manner and condemn those who support this bill. But I am glad that no honorable senator has tried to defend the bill on economic grounds, because it cannot be done. Those hundreds of thousands of tons of gold-bearing ore of which the supporters of this bounty speak so freely might better be left under the surface if the winning of gold costs more than the gold is worth. I oppose the bill.
– As one who has taken an interest in the subject from another stand-point, I feel that even at this late hour I should say a few words. Gold is different from any other commodity which has been assisted by the granting of bounties. It is a commodity against which no country erects a tariff barrier: it is a commodity, moreover, which will enable us to discharge our liabilities overseas. I have heard a great deal about the uneconomic character of a gold bounty, but I have yet to find a man who can say how, apart from gold, we are going to meet our commitments overseas in view of the low prices prevailing for our two chief primary products, wheat and wool.
– Will a bounty on gold lead to immense production ?
– It will lead to the stabilization of our sinking funds in respect of our overseas obligations, without which this country will pay through the nose when the time comes to convert loans. It is because I take a serious view of the present economic position and of our overseas indebtedness that I have wholeheartedly advocated the granting of assistance to the gold-mining industry. This bill is not all that could be desired, but it is a step in the right direction. With Senator Colebatch, I believe that an increased production of gold is a world necessity. I am concerned, first, with maintaining Australia’s good name, and, secondly, with assisting the Mother Country to meet her obligations to her friends across the water. Mr. H.
– Are not enormous quantities of gold locked up in the United States of America?
– How that gold will be brought to this country I do not know, unless there is some international arrangement. I welcome the measure, because I feel that it will put Australia in a stronger economic position with regard to her overseas liabilities than she is in to-day.
– There are many aspects of this subject, one of the most important being the further employment which the granting of a gold bounty will provide. In. these serious times we are justified in supporting almost any measure which will provide work for the unemployed. I am concerned, however, to know where the money to provide the bounty is coming from. Will it come from the producers of wool, wheat, and meat, who are already experiencing a difficult time? Bounties have been granted to stimulate production in various industries, although there is no world shortage of the commodities produced. In the case of gold there is, however, a world shortage. The granting of this bounty should increase Australia’s gold production, and provide an incentive for companies to re-open mines which have been abandoned as unprofitable. There is every indication that fresh capital will be forthcoming to assist in a search for further gold. That capital will provide employment for many men now seeking work. I am glad that Western Australia will benefit from the granting of this bounty. Western Australia, which produces six-sevenths of Australia’s gold, has suffered a good deal, because of federation, so that the grant ing of a bounty on gold is something in the nature of a quid pro quo. In all the States large sums of money are being expended on works which are not truly reproductive, in order to provide work for the unemployed. This bounty will provide employment of a profitable nature for men now in receipt of the dole. Queensland should benefit largely from this legislation. There are numerous mines in that State, especially in the north and north-west which have had to go out of production because of the high cost of winning the gold. Statistics show that the yield of gold in Queensland has declined during the last year. The yield for the ten months ended the 31st October, 1930, was 4,755 fine ounces, valued at £20,197, compared with 5,70S fine ounces valued at £24,246 in the corresponding period of 1929. The decreased production was 953 fine ounces valued at £4,049. There were no dividends declared during the ten months ended the 31st December, 1930, and none during the corresponding ten months of 1929. Those figures are indicative of the unremunerative condition of the gold industry. I should like an assurance that, if this bounty is granted, it will not be absorbed in the payment of extra wages to miners. If that occurs we shall revert to our present position, and the money will be wasted, as it has been in connexion with other bounties which have been absorbed by demands for higher rates of pay.
– Can the honorable senator name one of those industries?
– I think the galvanized iron industry is one. A guarantee was given to carry on for twelve months under certain conditions; but within ten months the industry found it impossible to comply with those conditions. However, that is by the way. I have outlined the reason why I shall support the bill.
– I intend to vote for the bill, for many reasons, one being that it has become the custom in Australia to assist all other industries with the exception of our two greatest - wool and wheat. The wool industry is by far the most important in Australia, both as regards the wealth it produces and the employment that it affords. At the present time, the crying need in Australia is to find work for our people, of whom over 20 per cent. are out of employment. This bounty will assist in that direction. As a result of the stimulation that will be given by this bonus, a great many now unemployed will develop old mining fields, and endeavour to locate new ones. The project will not cost the country any great amount of money, because, very wisely and fairly, the Government will pay the bounty only on the excess above the average production for the last three years. I agree with Senator Colebatch and others that the gold industry has suffered by our high protection policy, perhaps even more than the wheat and wool industries. Also, gold is suffering more than any other commodity through the pegging of the exchange.
A great deal has been said about Western Australia by honorable senators who represent the State. As a humble Victorian, I point out that in gold production, as in everything else, my State has led the way. Statistics prove that Victoria is responsible for just on half the total of the gold produced in the Commonwealth. And the gold-mines of that State are by no means worked out. There is room for development, and the granting of this bonus might result in the re-opening of such mines as the New Langi Logan at Ararat, as well as others. There is a vast area of goldbearing country which could not be worked in the immediate past, because the cost of production was just too high for the price which the commodity brought. Economists and geologists have Assured me that, if production costs could be substantially brought down, sufficient mineral wealth could be extracted in the Commonwealth to pay our national debt. I consider that the project put forward by this Government is worthy of support; but our main trouble is that production costs are too high.
– There is only one aspect of the matter that I desire to deal with before the bill goes into committee, and that is the suggestion that the payment of the bounty should be for five instead of ten years. I remind the Senate that this particular proposal was a compromise between thegold-mining industry and the. Government, and the terms of the bill are clearly the terms of the compromise. Instead of giving a bonus upon the total production of gold, the Government compromised with the industry, and agreed to pay a bonus based upon a certain production of gold, known as the excess production. In good faith the Government agreed with the contention of the industry that, if it were to be resuscitated it was necessary to inaugurate a working plan of at least ten years. I urge honorable senators not to press the Government to cut that term down when we go into committee on the bill. Such an action would practically amount to a repudiation of the terms of the agreement arrived at between the gold-mining industry and the Government, which resulted in the drafting of this bill.
Question. - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– I desire to draw the attention of the Senate to an omission in the drafting of the measure. After the discussion which occurred in another place the Government feels that there should be a definition of the word “mine.” which appears repeatedly throughout the bill. I, therefore, move -
That after the definition “ licensed gold buyer” the following definition be inserted: - “ Mine “ includes any place, pit, shaft, drive, level or other excavation, bore, drift, gutter, lead, vein, lode, or reef wherein or whereby any operation for, or in connexion with, mining purposes is carried on.
That definition has been drawn up by the Crown Law officers, and coincides with the definition that appears in the mining acts of the Commonwealth.
– Will that cover alluvial finds on the surface beds of creeks ?
– I am instructed by the crown law authorities to say that it will.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18- (6.) if-
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [2.48 a.m.]. - I move -
That sub-clause 6 be left out.
This sub-clause gives the Minister power to appoint an authority or authorities to determine conditions of employment and rates of wages for labour employed in the production of gold. It is entirely unnecessary because wages for all the labour employed in the industry are determined by Commonwealth or State tri bunals. I do not intend to argue the point at length. I am aware that the Minister will say that similar provision appears in other legislation for the payment of bounties on production, but I have opposed them. He may also argue that it contains an agreement made between the gold-producers and the Government; but he has already amended the agreement without any intimation to us that it is acceptable to the gold-producers.
-The only argument which I consider it necessary to advance is to impress upon the committee that the provision to which the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) is objecting was approved by the Senate in the Cotton Bounty and the Flax and Linseed Bounty Acts.
– It is not in the Wine Bounty Act.
– That is because it was overlooked. When we debated this issue in the discussion on other similar bills I was able to convince Senators Cooper, Cox, Crawford, Herbert Hays, Millen, Greene, Thompson and Sampson of the wisdom of incorporating it in our bounty legislation.
– By threatening to drop the bill.
– Is it in the Iron and Steel Bounty Act ?
– The Iron and Steel Bounty Act was passed by the previous administration, but this Government reenacted it. If we amended this clause it would not be accepted by another place, and if the Senate then insisted upon its amendment, the Government would probably have to drop the bill. Those engaged in the mining industry are entitled to expect to be treated in the same way as are employees in other industries assisted by means of bounty legislation. The Leader of the Opposition will not deny that every man regards himself as being well-treated or ill-treated according to the manner in which his fellow man is treated. I ask the committee not to hold up Government business by amending the bill and sending it to anotherplace. The inclusion of this provision w ill not make any difference to the mining industry.
– All employees are working under awards of the Commonwealth or State.
– Exactly. Ifwe reject sub-clause 6 another place will send it back to us, and I feel sure that the Senate would not then insist upon its amendment. The wiser course is to allow the clause to pass in its present form.
.- With the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) I do not like this provision, but I cannot conceive that it will ever be necessary for the Minister to appoint an authority or authorities to determine the conditions of employment or rates of wages for labour in the industry, because already Federal or State awards are operating. Therefore, I do not propose to hold up the bill by voting for the amendment.
Question - That the sub-clause proposed to be left out, be left out (Senator Sir George Pearce’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Central Australia - Report by the Government Resident on the Administration of the Territory for the year ended 30th June, 1930.
Norfolk Island - Report for the year ended 30th June, 1930.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn til) this day at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring once more under the notice of Ministers, the case of Mr. Mark B. Young, who was a leading official in the Commonwealth Bank, and seven years ago was virtually disrated and discharged without any charge being laid against him. Ever since, he has been seeking to get an independent inquiry. Mr. Young writes -
I have, it seems, no legal cause of action, but I am unshakably of the opinion thatI have a strong moral and equitable claim upon the Commonwealth for compensation for wrong that I have suffered in consequence of improper deprivation of employment, brought about by the unjust exercise of autocratic powers - temporarily held, and soon thereafter to be withdrawn - by an official of the bank.
He then goes on to say that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) on the 9th of October, 1924, said-
I say that if there is truth in the statement which Mr. Young makes, there is justification for inquiry. I have been impressed by hie statement, for the reason that I have known Mr. Young for over twenty years. I have known him personally and as the managerof a bank with which I. did business for something like ten years. If among many men I know I were seeking men of honour and integrity, I should select Mark Young as one of them. If my impression of him is wrong. I have been greatly deceived in him. In banking circles, I have heard him spoken of in the highest terms, and in my experience of him I have found him upright and honorable … I demand, in the name of justice, that Mr. Young should be given a chance to prove the statements he is prepared to make … In fairness to this man, an inquiry must now be given. . . . There never was a more reasonable claim put before Parliament.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) on the same occasion, said -
Facts which raised a probable presumption of the truth of the charges which Mr. Young has made have been brought under my notice.
The facts were in the nature of enmity shown by some in high places who intrigued to get him out of his position. He was not, as I stated, the other night, Chief Inspector for New South “Wales, he was Chief Inspector for the whole of Australia. Mr. Maxwell went on to say -
Mr. Young has absolute and implicit faith in the merits of his case . . . One would have thought that Mr. Kell would be pleased to attend but the conclusion I have reached from his refusal is that he is aware of the case which Mr. Young has to make against him, and knows that he cannot meet it . . .
He was asked to attend before the Prime Minister. Speaking of the bank, Mr. Maxwell went on to say -
When specific charges are made in regard to its efficient management, it ia essential that independent investigation should be made, say, by a commission or some similar independent tribunal which should report to (the Prime
Minister….. I trust .that in the interests not only of Mr. Young, but also the bank, the Prime Minister will grant the inquiry.
Hero is what Mr. Brennan said–
I submit the view that despite what the Prime Minister has said the honorable member for Perth and tho honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) have made out a good case for inquiry … I suggest that it is unbecoming for the Government to attempt to coerce this aggrieved ex-officer of the bank to go before a tribunal, which he has again and again argued as unsuited to hear and decide upon the subject-matter of his complaints.
Mr. Whitsitt, the then member for Darwin, speaking in connexion with the registers of loan moneys concerning war loans, which had got into a state of muddle, said -
The officer responsible for that register was evidently unable to keep his books properly, and must have been negligent in the performance of his duty. He and not the inspector should have been suspended or disrated.
Mr. Young comments
Mr. Whitsitt was referring to the condition of the war loon registers at the various capitals, and it may surprise the Government
to learn that while I remedied the loose and scandalous condition that prevailed, the officer who, as I can prove, should have prevented such a dangerous and reprehensible state of affairs existing, is still in the service and promoted to high office.
Mr. Scullin, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Fenton all expressed similar sentiments. Mr. Scullin demanded an inquiry and said that no case with a superior claim had ever been placed before Parliament. It is unthinkable that members of the present Ministry, who expressed those- sentiments when in Opposition, would go back on them now that they are in power. Mr. Young thinks that he has the right to an independent inquiry. He is not satisfied to go before a board composed of those who showed at the outset that they were more or less prejudiced against him and some of whom are supposed to have taken an active part in getting him shifted. In the circumstances, therefore, it is imperative, if right is ever to be done in this case, that it should bo done without any further delay. I ask Senator Daly to consider that Mr. Young is getting up in years. He has been for seven years trying to get justice. He has never ceased urging his claim to an independent inquiry. The files no doubt will show that a tremendous amount of correspondence has passed between him and Sir Robert Gibson and the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). Justice delayed is justice denied, according to a very old British axiom, and it is inconceivable that, after seven years of effort on Mr. Young’s part to secure justice, those who believed that his case merited inquiry, should not promise to have an inquiry at the earliest possible date.
I shall be glad if the Minister will state the intention of the Government with respect to this matter.
.- On the 17th July, I submitted the following questions to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral : -
Only a few of the questions were answered, and then in a most evasive and unsatisfactory manner, although, I believe, that the company was able to satisfactorily answer all of them if it so desired. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General again bring them under the notice of the company in an endeavour to obtain definite replies?
– I am not unacquainted with the case of Mr. Young, which has been brought under my notice by Senator Rae. I assure the honorable senator that the Government will do whatever possible to secure an inquiry; but the difficulty is that the Government has no control over the Commonwealth Bank. I shall, however, bring the honorable senator’s protest under the notice of the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), who may decide to bring it before the board.
I am sure that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General will endeavour to obtain the information desired by Senator Hoare.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.19 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 December 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19301211_senate_12_127/>.