12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon.W. Kinsgmill) took the chair at 3 p.m.,and read prayers.
asked the Minister representingthe Prime Minister, upon notice -
Isitthe intention of theGovernmentto reducethe interest charges to owners of warservicehomes on the samebasis as those to purchaser c: homesin the Federal Capital territory?
– -In the past, owners of war service homes have paid interest at 5 per cent., whilst purchasers of homes in the Federal Capital Territory have paid61/4 per cent. This latter figure included a charge of 15s. per cent. for the cost of administration. It is now proposed that interest on war service homes shall be reduced to 41/2 per cent.and interest on homes in the Federal Capital Territory to 5/4 per cent. In fixing the new rate for war service homes, allowance has been made for the fact that the Commonwealth Government is bearing the cost of administration.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice - 1.Is it not a fact that section 33 of the Financial Emergency Act,passed this session, provides for a reduction of the old-age and invalid pensions from a maximum of £52 per annum to £46 10s. per annum, equivalent to 121/2 per cent. reduction?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Notice of motion (by Senator Rae) withdrawn -
That in the opinion of the Senate, an inquiry should be held into the circumstances under which Mr. Mark B. Young, ex-Chief Inspector of the Commonwealth Bank, was retired from the service of the bank, the report of such inquiry to be presented to the Senate with such recommendations as may appear to be warranted.
Debate resumed from the 30th July (vide page 4780), on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.7]. - When moving the first reading of the bill, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) said that precedent existed for the passing of the Appropriation Bill at this early stage of the session. I place on record the dates upon which the Appropriation Bills Have boon assented to from 1910 onwards -
These are facts that should be known. I do not propose to discuss the subject further, seeing that since the matter was raised by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, certain negotiations have been entered into and a satisfactory decision reached.
On Friday last, the Leader of the Government in the Senate read a statement relating to the alleged attitude of the banks with respect to the reduction of interest rates. I hold no brief for the banks. I believe that they should share, with every one else, the sacrifices to be made. I think it rather unfair, however, thatwe should be treated to a dissertation from the Government on the attitude of the banks - based, apparently, on a letter which the Government has received from the representatives of the banking institutions, or from Sir Robert Gibson, the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, I am not sure which - and that when we ask that that letter should be made public, we should be informed that that letter is of a confidential nature. The Government has attacked the statement alleged to have been made by the banks, but the Senate and the public are in the dark as to what the letter which has been spoken of contains, or as to the statement which the banks actually made. I think it rather unfair that the Government should make any reference to a communication which it cannot for some reason - it may be a very good reason - make available,in order to justify its criticism of the banks. I have perused the report of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held at Melbourne from the 25th May to the 11th June, 1931. If honorable senators will refer to those portions of the report of the proceedings in which the subject of interest was discussed, they will find that they contain some statements which rather go to show that some of the Ministers, including one Federal Minister, attending that conference, thought that the banks were in some difficultiesin the matter. On page65 the report reads -
Mr. Theodore. We have not finalized anything regarding private debts and mortgages, nor regarding invisible loans and the matter of fixed deposits. We have asked Professors Copland and Shann to discuss with the representatives of the insurance companies the question of applyingthe 221/3 per cent. reduction to their class of security. There is a fixed money class of investment which we have not yet covered. I refer to the interest on fixed time deposits in the banks amounting to about ?200,000,000.
Mr. Moore. But are not the banks agreeing to reduce their interest?
Mr. Theodore. Yes, but that will apply only, in some cases in two or three years.
It appears that at that time the Treasurer himself thought that no immediate reduction in interest could be made by the banks. On page 81 the report proceeds -
Mr. Theodore. I move “ That the legal sub-committee be instructed to prepare legislation to providefor an arbitrary 221/2 per cent. reduction in the rates of interest on (a) fixed bank deposits; (b) loans of local government and other semi-governmental bodies “. The banks have undertaken to consider the question of the reduction of deposit interest rates and loan interest rates - that is, so far as such matters are under their control. But any decision as to that point cannot apply to the rates of interest on fixed time deposits until existing deposits have matured. Many of them have still three years to run. Out of a sum total of ?200,000,000 on fixed deposits with the banks the bulk has at least twelve months to run.In the general scheme of getting interest rates down it is true that, if we bring aboutthis reduction of the rates of interest on fixed deposits we shall bo giving anadvantage to the banks; but we are hoping thattheycan pass on the benefit to their clients torelieve the general industrial community of the existing burden of interest charges. The bankscannot pass on any benefit that they themselves do not first obtain.
That portion ofthe report also showsthat at that timethe Treasurer recognized the difficulty of the banks.The only other reference to the matter is on page 171, where details of the plan are set out. Paragraph d read - “ A reduction of bank and saving banks rates of interest on deposits and advances “. I suggest to the Government that we have not yet heard the case forthe banks,which I presume is contained in the letter which the Government has not made available. There is in the Treasurer’s statement at the conference a recognition of the fact that the banks would be in some difficulty ingiving effect to the decisions of the conference. As I have said, I hold no brief for the banks, which I think must be called upon to share in the general sacrifice ; but the method by which that sacrifice is made should be one in which some regard should be paid to the special circumstances which, in the view of the Treasurer, obtained.
I now wish to refer to the adverse trade balance which existed some time ago, which has frequently been complained of by members of the Government and their supporters in this chamber. In dealing with this subject, Ministers and their supporters have frequently referred, to use their own words, to the tremendous flood of imports in the years preceding and including the year 1929. They have suggested that that flood of imports was in some sense a calamity, and have claimed credit for the action of the Government for imposing embargoes and prohibitive duties to check the importation of goods. Before assuming that those importations were harmful to the country, we should ascertain what they consisted of, and their effect upon the country. I do not intend to quote the whole of the figures, but I shall mention the major lines. When the Commonwealth had an adverse trade balance the Government would have been justified in singling out luxuries and semi-luxuries for heavy customs taxation in order to check importation, and to obtain additional revenue. The following table, showing the importations of various articles in 1928-29 and the two succeeding years, contains matter for interesting comparisons : -
A careful analysis of that statement shows that a great proportion of the articles imported comprised plant for the development of our primary and secondary industries. They were tools of trade, things which our people who are engaged in primary and secondary industries required to extend their production, and create further wealth; they were not luxuries.
We come now to another class of items - those in the semi-luxury class; I refer to bicycles, and parts thereof, motor cycles, motor-car bodies, chassis, both unassembled and assembled, and parts thereof, the importations of which in 1929- 30 were valued at £7,607,082. The taxation paid through the customs on the plant required for our factories, and the machinery for our mines and farms, totalled £1,741,310 in the year before the higher duties were put on. That is a clear indication that that plant and those machines cannot be effectively manufactured in Australia. The result will be that the price of these things will be raised so high as to be prohibitive, with the result that industries will have to carry on with worn-out or antiquated machinery, which must be inefficient, and being ill-equipped, will be at a still further disadvantage as comparedwith those of other countries. The importation of these useful articles has done no injury to Australia. On the contrary, it has conferred a benefit on this country, because these things have increased production, and consequently our wealth, and in addition have provided employment for Australians far beyond that which could result from the imposition of prohibitive duties. They have provided employment in the factories, the farms, and the mines which they have equipped. It is a short-sighted policy which looks upon the importation of such thingsas a curse. Their importation provides capital in this country.
The increase of the exchange rate between Australia and the countries from which those goods were imported would eventually have checked importation. Another factor was the decline in prices overseas for our wheat, wool, minerals, arid other exportable products, thus lessening the purchasing power of the people. The imposition by this Government of prohibitive customs duties, and its absolute embargo on the importation of certain commodities in 1930-31, destroyed the customs revenue which had already been decreased by the two factors which I have mentioned, namely, the adverse exchange rate and the decreased purchasing power of our people. Then to make good the huge deficit in its accounts, the Government resorted to direct taxation on depleted incomes, which are the lifeblood of industry, thus further depressing local industry and increasing unemployment. Instead of stimulating industry, this Government, by its tariff and industrial policy, has made our position much worse, and the longer this is continued the more disastrous will the situation become.
A further analysis of these import figures will show that, with the exception of spirituous liquors, tobacco, motor cars, petrol, musical instruments and wireless sets, some of which may be described as luxury items upon which high duties might justifiably be imposed, they included many commodities, such as agricultural and mining machinery, which should not bo heavily taxed through the customs. The remedy for our present serious position which, as I have shown, has been made more difficult by the imposition of embargoes and prohibitive tariffs, is to revise the tariff in a downward direction, the objective to bc a lessening of the cost of production and the stimulation of industry.
The Loan Council, which meets in Melbourne this week, will be called upon to consider, among other things, the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales. The statement has been made in the press that Mr. Lang, the Premier of that State, has promised to rejoin the Loan Council conditionally upon the Council providing him with sufficient money to meet hia immediate and pressing needs. But is his guarantee of any value? What is there to prevent him from withdrawing from the Loan Council after he has secured the required financial assistance? It is customary, when one person is conducting financial negotiations with another person, to consider whether he is likely to honour his pledges. Can it be said that Mr. Lang has always done that? Only a few months ago, the Commonwealth and State Ministers, at a conference in Melbourne, agreed to effect necessary economies in governmental expenditure, and by the passage of certain legislation, to balance their budgets within a given period. Although Mr. Lang was a party to that plan, up to date he has taken no effective steps to implement it; on the contrary, his attitude has made the task much more difficult for the Commonwealth Government. In support of this view, I need refer only to his proposal to reduce the salaries of all public servants to a maximum of £500. If that is done, what will become of the income tax revenue which the Commonwealth Government expects to receive from all New South Wales salaries in excess of £500? Mr. Lung will have appropriated the lot, and will have deprived the Commonwealth Government of its share of the revenue from that source.
A good deal of delay has taken place in connexion with the arrangements for the conversion of the Commonwealth debt. The act has not yet been proclaimed, for what reason I am unable to state. The sooner it is proclaimed the better.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Unless action be taken quickly and effectively there will be not only hopeless confusion, but also a great deal of irritation and heartburning.
Recently a conference of Premiers was held to deal with the question of placing government finance on a proper footing. No one believes that the proposals which came out of that conference will effect the complete rehabilitation of Australia. That is only one step in the right direction. Assuming that the plan of that conference will result in the rehabilitation of government finance, and assist the rehabilitation of private finance, as I believe that it will if given a fair chance, and we have anything like a decent season, it must be accompanied by a scheme of economic rehabili- tation. It is obvious that if the prices of our primary products remain at their present level - and we have no guarantee that they will rise - we must rehabilitate ourselves economically, just as we are attempting to do financially.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.My honorable friend does not, in his most enthusiastic moments, flatter himself that that measure will rehabilitate anything.
Every problem was thoroughly explored before proposals for dealing with them were considered by the representatives of the different governments. Why should -not. similar action be taken in regard to economic rehabilitation? As a preliminary step, the whole matter might be threshed out by some of the best minds among the employers and employees in the primary and secondary industries, with a view to seeing in what way we may rehabilitate ourselves economically. I cannot see any prospect of an early recovery in wheat prices sufficient to make wheat-growing profitable under present conditions. With Russia in the background, the future looks rather bleak. Nor am I very hopeful in regard to wool and meat, although in those directions the prospect is not quite so bad. This year there has not been overproduction of either wool or moat, yet the prices of those products have not risen.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That was a hopeless effort, because both parties approached the subject as opponents; I have no time for either of them. So long as the spirit that pervaded that, conference obtains, we shall get nowhere. Surely, with 400,000 unemployed men in this country, the leaders of the labour unions realize that the position is desperate, and that we ought to endeavour, at any rate, to make some progress by means of such a conference. The employers, many with their factories closed altogether, and some with only half their establishments in operation, seeing their capital lying idle, would be only too pleased to confer on the matter with a view to mutual co-operation.
Australia has been trying to hop along on one leg, if I may use that expression. We have been trying to place the whole burden on the primary industries; but that cannot go on. Canada has no better resources than Australia, and yet, with more formidable competitors right alongside it, that dominion, with a lower tariff than ours, has managed to build up secondary industries which can not only compete in Canada against outside competitors, but also export 35 per cent, of their manufactured goods.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. Australia, on the other hand, has had about 35 years’ experience of high protection and bounties - I believe that we have spent between £10,000,000 and £12,000,000 in bounties - and yet our manufacturing industries, with no big competitors in their near neighbourhood, export only 4 per cent of our total exports. There must be something wrong. Some solution of the problem must be possible. What Canada can do, we should be able to do. It must be remembered that Canada has to send her manufactured goods into markets where she has to compete with the highlyefficient manufacturers of the United States of America and Europe. But we have certain markets in which we ought to be able to compete with other countries at an advantage.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE Before the late war we were able to sell manufactured goods in many of those markets. Our manufacturers of agricultural machinery were sending harvesters to the Argentine in competition with Canada and the United States of America, and were selling thew even so far afield as Algeria.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Perhaps so; but they were not paying nearly so much for their machinery then as they are now. I happen to know, too, that a certain quantity of iron goods and brassware made in Australia was being sold in Cape Colony and Java prior to the late war. We were then disposing of more boots outside Australia than we are to-day. There must be some reason for the altered position. With unemployed bootmakers, brassfounders, blacksmiths, fitters and engineers in this country, why do Ave simply sit down and say “ The tariff effectively protects our industries “.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.All that the Government has proposed, so far, is prohibitive duties and embargoes. Our Himalayan tariff has no equal in any part of the world. We are not selling so many manufactured goods to-day as we were in 1914, when the tariff was about 30 per cent, lower than to-day. Therefore, the solution to the problem is not to be found in a continuance of the present fiscal policy. I suggest letting the representatives to whom I have referred get together and see if they can discover a remedy. I am not prepared to say, offhand, that I know of one. If anybody had asked me before the recent conferences were held to deal with the financial position of Australia, to propound a solution of our financial difficulties in the course of a half-hour’s speech, T should not have been able to do so. Weeks of research and consultation on the part of the representatives of all the financial interests took place before that problem could bc thoroughly investigated. The various parliaments of Australia spent weeks in discussing and passing the necessary legislation to give effect to the plan of financial rehabilitation. Surely we ought to endeavour to find a remedy to this problem also. Let us call such a conference as I have suggested to ascertain why we cannot do as Canada does. If that dominion can export its manufactured goods, pay as high a wage as Australia gives, employ white labour, and sell its manufactured goods outside its tariff barrier, why cannot Australia do likewise?
Take textiles as another instance. I am not foolish enough to believe that we can manufacture in Australia all the wool that we produce here, but I do not see why we should not export many lines of manufactured woollen goods. It has been suggested recently that a trade in woollen goods could bo opened up with China. At first sight that might seem to he impossible, but I have been in both the north and south of China. Everybody knows that the climate in the north of China is rigorous. I have seen Manchurian Chinese wearing quilted gowns made almost wholly of cotton, and stuffed with some other material. These are clumsy garments and not nearly so effective in keeping out the cold as woollen clothing would be. I believe that if we manufactured the right class of goods and engaged in active propaganda for markets for the sale of them in the north of China we should be able to open up a big trade.
We should also be able to build up an export trade in boots. When I visited the United States of America for the purpose of attending the Conference on the Limitation of Armaments, I took a pair of boots into a shop to have some small repairs made. The assistant who served uie examined the boots and said, “May I ask where you bought these boots “ ? I replied, “ In Australia “. He said, “ We have not a pair of boots in this shop made of leather equal to that in these boots. It is really wonderfully good leather. I have been in this business for 35 years and I know good leather when I see it “. He went on to ash me whether we sold any boots outside of Australia. I said, “ Very few “. The attendant then asked me the price I paid for the boots in Australia, and when I told him, he said that it was approximately 20 per cent, less than boots of similar quality would cost in America. He also told me that America had a considerable export trade in boots. Why cannot Australia build up such a trade, seeing that she is making first-cLass leather, and her workmen are manufacturing first-class boots?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.This problem will certainly bring the country to disaster unless it is grappled with and overcome. Of what use is it for us to talk about putting more people on the land when our rural industries are already in difficulties ? What we need is the full time employment of the plants in our various factories, and a market for the goods produced in them. The local market is not sufficient to maintain our factories in full work. We must find markets elsewhere. The sooner we realize that we must develop trade in the markets of the world, the better it will be for us. What wo need is a real measure of cooperation between our business and commercial interests and the working people of this country. If we are ever to solve the problems which are facing us, we must find a means of preventing these different interests from spending their energies in fighting each other, and of helping them to co-operate for the common good.
There are other industries that could be developed in Australia. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the figures I quoted just now, showing our importations of fish of various kinds. Fish of all descriptions continues to come into Australia in spite of our high duties. We import smoked fish, tinned fish, and even fresh fish, although the waters of Australia teem with fish. Why is it that we will not take steps to utilize the resources with which Providence has blessed us ? Of course, we can understand that when a man with money to invest looks round and sees the comparative failure of our manufacturing industries he is not encouraged to invest his money in industries which have not been tried out. [Extension of time granted.”] A man may look about him and see that Brown has invested his capital in a boot factory, which is half its time idle, and he may say to himself, “If Brown cannot make a success of his investment in boot manufacturing, I should be foolish to invest my money in an industry which has not yet been pioneered “. If he were asked to invest in the fishing industry, he would be greatly disinclined to do so.
The time is rotten ripe for a comprehensive economic inquiry into these subjects.
The tariff method of developing manufacturing industries has been tried, and from the exporting standpoint, at any rate, has failed. In all seriousness, I suggest that the Government should call an economic conference of the right class of people - people who would not spend their time in fostering class hatred, but would bend all their energies to the problem of how to achieve that measure of co-operation in industry which Australia so greatly needs.
– I am very pleased that on this occasion it has been decided to devote more time to the consideration of the Appropriation Bill than h.h3 been the custom in the past. The bill is probably of greater importance than any other measure that comes before us. This year it consists of nearly 400 pages, all of which provide for the expenditure of public moneys. For that reason it should have our careful consideration.
According to the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, as shown in the budget papers, departmental expenditure will amount to £46,000,000, while the PostmasterGeneral’s Department entails an outlay of £12,000,000. It is claimed that the revenue from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department balances the expenditure, and it cannot be gainsaid that the department is well managed, yet when journeying through their electorates, honorable senators see numerous instances in which savings could be effected. There is, therefore, much to be said in favour of parliamentary representatives making recommendations, the result of their experience and observation, that should result in economies being effected.
This year we are asked to vote £1,087,000 for the maintenance of Commonwealth railways, while the estimated railway revenue is only £334,000, representing a loss of over three-quarters of a million pounds. I am a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, which recently inquired into the disabilities alleged to have been suffered by South Australia as a result of federation. Much information was supplied to that committee regarding both Commonwealth and State railways. It was made clear that a tremendous amount of overlapping exists, and that there is great need for uniformity, particularly of managerial control. Great sums of money are spent annually on the purchase of stores for the various systems. Surely that could be done more efficiently and economically by one than by several bodies. Mr. Gahan, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, submitted to the committee a very able report on the subject, which I commend to the consideration of the Government. Much benefit would result from legislative effect being given to many of its recommendations.
The next item is “ Territories of the Commonwealth “, for which we are asked to vote the sum of £922,000, the territories being expected to produce a revenue of £215,000, which discloses an estimated loss for the year’s operations of £707,000. For the coming year the Northern Territory alone will cost £161,680. I do not wish to go into the items in detail, hut I notice that £15,000 is provided for “ Destitutes - maintenance, passages, -and burials “. The amount set aside in a similar item last year was £5,000. The item “Police” will account for £18,763 this year. To date, our experiment with the Northern Territory has cost the Commonwealth Government over £12,000,000, for an area, it must be remembered, that has a white population of only 4,000. As we have been for over a quarter of a century in control of the Northern Territory, and our efforts have met with such poor results, I suggest that it is about time that we instituted a different system there. Why should we not hand over at least a portion of the area to a chartered company, similar to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company Limited ? That would free the Commonwealth of an incubus, and possibly bring about an era of prosperity in the Northern Territory. It would, of course, be necessary to free the area from the application of restrictive legislation, such as the Navigation Act and the Arbitration Court Act, at the same time ensuring that the workers received a fair deal. Nobody, even hy the widest stretch of imagination, could claim that our management of the Northern Territory has resulted in other than failure.
Next I come to the Federal Capital Territory, which we all know very well. The amounts are not segregated, and I am not able to determine how much we are losing in this instance. It is proposed to spend £2,050 on the Forestry Branch for maintenance of plantations and tree protection. That sum, no doubt, covers the pinus insignis experiment at Mount Stromlo, which will probably be of little commercial value, as if the timber is any good it is too far removed from markets to be payable.
– It will make good firewood later.
– That will probably be the case if we have a dry summer. The amount of £25,000 is set out for “Maintenance of parks and gardens and recreation reserves “. I want honorable senators to link up this item with the provision of £39,500 for “ Alleviation of distress “ in the Federal Capital Territory, for which £1,000 was provided last year, although £26,471 was eventually spent on it. Apparently, the Government believes that matters will be worse by 50 per cent, this year. In answer to a question recently asked by Senator Ogden, it was disclosed that gardeners in the Territory receive from £5 12s. to £7 a week. It is absolutely stupid for an administration to spend £25,000 in a small town like Canberra to pay such wages to gardeners for the maintenance of parks and gardens, when there are hundreds of destitute people in the same area for whom an additional £39,500 has to be found. I believe that those employed on the upkeep of gardens, &c, are paid Arbitration Court awards when engaged on relief work. How can we hope to rehabilitate the country if that sort of thing goes on ? If the practice is persisted in, we shall all be destitute before long. I believe that the greatest suffering to the people of this nation results from the operation of Arbitration Court awards, the Navigation Act, and our tariff. The first two should be abolished immediately. The Arbitration Act results in the price of every commodity being increased, and it has never given one man a job. On the contrary, it has put nearly half a million people out of work. The operation of the Navigation Act has raised freights on everything that the farmer wants to send to market. It is cheaper to freight timber from Norway to Melbourne than from Burnie to that city. It is time that we abolished this costly experimental legislation, and gave our people a chance to work. It is absurd that in a young country like this there should be 400,000 citizens out of work, largely because of the restrictive legislation passed by this Parliament. No person can employ another unless he complies with the provisions of a dozen regulations. The effect of all this has been to increase the cost of production. The price of everything the farmer buys or uses has been increased. Every time a man buys goods he helps to pay someone’s wages - the purchaser of a pair of boots helps to pay the wages of the shoemaker, and as Arbitration Court awards have increased those wages, the cost of living has been raised. The country would be much better off if it could be rid of the Arbitration Court, so that wages could be cut down, and the cost of living brought down with them. If that were brought about the workers would be just as well off and there would be infinitely more work available. If wages were reduced we need not spend so much money out of revenue on the relief of distress. But nothing oan be done in that direction until we take steps to rectify some of the damage done to trade by the restrictive legislation passed by this Parliament.
Provision is made in these Estimates for a grant of £1.000,000 to South Australia, but Tasmania is to get nothing extra. The Government of that State put up a splendid case for increased assistance, which was thoroughly investigated by the Public Accounts Committee, of which I happen to be a member. The committee recommended various grants under different headings, such as railways, agriculture, forestry and shipping, totalling about £120,000, and tho people of Tasmania naturally expected that that amount would be paid, but the Commonwealth Government asked the committee to go into the matter again. The first reference had been the disabilities of Tasmania. The second reference was the finances of Tasmania as affected by federation, and in coming to its decision the committee was asked to take into consideration the budgetary position of the other States and the Commonwealth as well as Tasmania. Upon the second reference the committee, with the exception of Mr. Guy and myself, decided that it could not recommend the granting of any further assistance to Tasmania. As a matter of fact, the claims of the State have never been fully considered by governments. At any rate, they have not been fully met. Commonwealth legislation has pressed more severely on Tasmania than on any other State. Owing to its geographical position it is entirely dependent on shipping for mainland markets for its produce, but the Navigation Act has so considerably increased the cost of conveying produce to the mainland, that Tasmania is suffering a disability not felt by any other State. Furthermore, it has been estimated by eminent economists that the
Commonwealth tariff costs the people of Tasmania 10s. per head. I think it costs them a great deal more, but even to the most casual- observer it must be apparent that the large cities of the Commonwealth - Sydney and Melbourne - have benefited by the operation of the tariff at the expense of the rest of the Commonwealth, particularly Tasmania. Not being a large manufacturing State, Tasmania is a customer for goods manufactured on the mainland, but there again the tariff affects the people of the State adversely, because it increases the price of practically everything that they have to buy or use. What I desire to say in connexion with the disabilities of Tasmania is set out in the minority report of the Public Accounts Committee, presented by Mr. Guy and myself, and as it is rather lengthy, I ask leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– I am afraid that the privilege of having documents and returns incorporated in Hansard is in danger of being abused, not so much in this chamber as in another place. The Standing Orders allot to an honorable senator taking part in this debate one hour in which to make his speech, but by getting leave to put into Hansard, without reading it, a report which it would take, perhaps, half an hour to read, he secures an advantage over others who do not take that course. This may be regarded as in a manner unfair. Consideration should also be given to the cost of printing. I ask honorable senators, therefore, to be as moderate as they can be, in their requests for the incorporation of documents in Hansard, and not to. have printed any passages which are not relevant to the points they wish to make. I ask Senator J. B. Hayes, if it can be done, to have inserted only the relevant parts of the document to which he has referred.
– The minority report is as follows: -
After an exhaustive investigation into the disabilities of Tasmania brought about by federal legislation and policy, including the operations of the tariff, the Navigation Act, the Arbitration Court, and the sugar embargo, the committee submitted a comprehensive report to Parliament designed to compensate Tasmania for the disabilities suffered by federal action. The recommendations oi the committee were specific and involved a monetary advantage to Tasmania of probably not less than £120,000 per annum in addition to the existing annual grant of £250,000. The committee’s reason for making specific recommendations was that it was felt that any additional financial assistance should bc applied, for the most part, to the development of the primary industries of the State. The conditions imposed on the expenditure of the additional sum recommended may be eliminated under Hie amended terms of reference, but we see no reason why the amount should not bc granted. The figures included in this report in relation to taxable capacity and severity of taxation amply demonstrate that, in comparison with other States, Tasmania, is in a very unfavorable position. It is clearly shown that the costs of government and social services in Tasmania are considerably less than the relative costs of the other States. The comparisons of loan expenditure on page 12 also show that care and moderation have been exercised in Tasmania, particularly during recent years. It should be stressed that the revenue of Tasmania is not stable, as a large proportion of its income is derived from lottery taxation. The present budgetary position of Tasmania has been made possible only by extremely careful expenditure. Any savings made in Tasmania by frugal administration should not be advanced as a reason for denying its claim because, the Federal Government U financially embarrassed. For the reason stated we find we arc quite unable to agree with the report of the majority of the committee. It is interesting here to recall that Sir Nicholas Lockyer, after very careful examination of the State’s affairs, recommended that the State be granted a loan of £1,000,000 free nf interest for ten years; a special grant of £300.000 for ten years; a sum of £50,000 a year for the purpose of afforestation; n sum of £500,000 In relieve the State of part of the capita! cost of the hydro-electric scheme; a sum of £20,000 a year for ten years for the purpose of assisting in prospecting and geological survey, tracks, 4c, as well as other benefits. These recommendations involved an annual benefit to Tasmania of, approximately, £500,000. Since Sir Nicholas Lockyer made his report the need for federal assistance has become more urge’nt, and we therefore confidently recommend that the present grant of £250,000 be increased by an amount equal to the recommendations unanimously agreed to and expressed in the report of this committee nf 7th August, 1930.
Tasmania’s claims have never been fully considered and mot: The Government of the State put up an unanswerable case for increased further assistance from the Commonwealth Government, and I hope that in the near future it will he granted.
– I wish in the brief time at my disposal this afternoon to place before the Senate the result of some years’ study of a sub ject of paramount importance to this country, and one of the principal causes of federation ; I refer to the defence of Australia. It is fitting that I should address myself to that subject to-day, because this is the 17th anniversary of the day when the British Empire took up the gauntlet thrown down by a driven people lusting for power and world dominance, and went to war with what was then the greatest land power in- the world. At the outset I asked myself whether this Government had a defence policy, and after giving careful consideration to the subject, I was forced to the conclusion that it has not. It has never had such a policy since it assumed office. The principal duty of the Commonwealth Government is to provide for the adequate defence of this country. Since 1919, defence matters have been kept well in the background of the public mind, and the reasons for that are not far to seek. One reason is war-weariness. After over four years of titanic struggle and turmoil, during which the people were called upon to suffer sacrifices and to make the most strenuous efforts to defend the Empire, it was only natural that they should be war-weary. Another reason for public apathy in respect of defence requirements is that si nco the war a hope has arisen in the minds of most right-thinking citizens that the various peace moves and conferences that have taken place will render armies and navies largely superfluous. But the main reason for our lack of a defence policy - and this is the most dangerous of all - is the increasing disinclination on the part of- the people to face anything that requires effort. Heaven forbid that I should decry the work of the League of Nations and the various peace and disarmament conferences that were demanded by public opinion, in fact, by civilization itself, at the end of the Great “War. But all rightthinking people will admit that the British Empire - I prefer that designation to the British Commonwealth of Nations - cannot- afford to place its whole reliance for national existence on international conferences. Australia is, and always has been, an outpost of the British Empire. In 1914, the Empire was attacked, hut this outpost was not directly affected, largely because of the existence of the Australian Fleet. It wan because of the presence iii these waters of the principal unit of that fleet that the Australian coast did not suffer bombardment. The vital question to be answered by all Australians before any defence policy can be properly appreciated is this: “Are we to continue to trust to isolation, to luck, to the British Navy, to paper agreements, or to the meetings of the League of Nations, as the sole basis upon which our right to live our lives in our own way is to stand? If our White Australia policy, and our right to determine who shall bc admitted into this Commonwealth be threatened by foreigners, are we, as a nation, prepared to fight to defend those principles? That question requires a definite answer. The
Strength of any nation is, in the last resort, the willingness of its manhood to use force to repel aggression. We have to ask ourselves whether, should Australia be threatened by invasion, the people as a whole will be prepared to face the privations, the dangers, the sorrows, the hardships and discomforts of armed resistance. After a careful and conscientious study of this problem, I am reluctantly compelled to conclude that, without compulsion, the- majority of the people of Australia would not be prepared to offer armed resistance to an invader. Much has been said about the spirit of Anzac. That spirit is not dead, but the Anzacs, compared with the rest of the community, are but few ‘ in number. They are gradually dying out. Yet a small section in this community is still imbued with the Anzac spirit. Nearly one-third of the citizens of Australia reside in Melbourne or Sydney to say nothing of the other capitals. What would happen if our citizens were gives the choice of living under a victorious foreign invader or of taking part in a three, four, five, or six years’ war campaign in the back country of Australia, with possibly death as their reward? I cannot visualise the huge mobs in the cities choosing other than the easy, selfish and craven way.
– The honorable senator under-estimates the Australians.
– Assuming that they would be willing to take up arms to defend their homes, could tb.ey> under existing conditions, do’ so? My reply ‘fl that, were they ever 80 willing, they could not. Before an army can take the field it must have (1) officers to train all ranks from tie highest to the lowest; (2) persons skilled in the making of arms, munitions and equipment; (8) training, and yet again training, and (4) the necessary arms, munitions, transport and equipment. Has Australia any or all of those essentials to-day? I wouldlike that question to be answered by the technical staff of the Defence Department, not by the civilian secretary, who receives a greater salary than the most highly-paid military expert in thu Commonwealth. I believe military experts would reply, (1) Australia has some officers, but not enough, and, as compulsory military training has been abolished, the numbers will become fewer as the years go by; (2) we can do a little in the production of arms, munitions and equipment, but not nearly enough; (3) training whs always inadequate, and is being e ti II further reduced, aud (4) tho country has not the necessary supplies of arms, munitions, transport and equipment. Such equipment as we have is hopelessly out. of date, and the arms are insufficient for a force such as we would require to put in the field to make an effective shewing. No one but an absolute fool believes that an array can bo enlisted and trained when the danger is at hand. Assertions to the contrary have been made from time to time, but they arise from either confused thought or crass’ ignorance. On this point we have convincing evidence in Australia’s experience during the Great War. In 1911 wc had sufficient officers and junior ranks to train the levies which were raised under the System of compulsory universal training, and Ky August, 1914, we had 60,000 men who had been trained for three years, to an extent which, although inadequate, was greater than any training that has been given since the war. Shortly after the outbreak of wai1 in August, 1914, Australia raised one division, plus ona brigade, totalling about 26,000 moil, principally from these .trained levies. Nevertheless that force was not fit ‘ to take the field before April, 1915, and then only after months of strenuous and intensive training in the Egyptian desert. The policy of the last Government was to provide a skeleton organization of five infantry divisions and two cavalry divisions, passing into reserve each year 1 5,000 men who had received three years’ training in the citizen forces. Under the system now in operation no trained men are being passed into reserve. That is a matter of vital importance. Even when we had compulsory military training in pre-war days, although Australia was able promptly to despatch overseas one division, complete with mounted troop3, artillery and other services, yet it took us two years to put into the field five infantry divisions, and two cavalry divisions, and even by July, 1916, that force could not be said to be of creditable efficiency. I speak with first-hand knowledge, because I was a member of the force. Under the most advantageous, high-pressure conditions of war time, Australia was two years in putting the Australian Imperial Force into the field in full strength. If this country should ever again have need of a defence force, will it be allowed two years in which to train it?
– The Defence Department has a better departmental head to-day.
– I think not. Under existing conditions Australia could not place any force in the field to repel an invader.
– In a few years there may be no forces “in the field “.
– I am amused by such remarks by amateur critics “who have read the hook of Commander Kenworthy, or some other imaginative work. As a soldier, I know that Australia could not, in its present unprepared state, place any force in the field to repel an invader. Do the electors of Australia realize that? If they do, and are content lazily to acquiesce in such deplorable helplessness, Australia is not worthy to be called a nation. I ask honorable senators to remember that in 1914 and 1915 the British Empire mobilized behind the British Navy, but more particularly behind the French Army, The poilus of France saved us. By their tenacity and doggedness they held the line from Switzerland to the English Channel for two long years with the exception of a small section occupied by the first British Expeditionary Force. Behind the protection that they afforded, the British Empire had time to mobilize and train its man-power. The poilus and the British Navy enabled Australia also to mobolize, equip, and train an expeditionary force. Should Australia be invaded in the future there may be no gallant ally to delay the enemy while we get ready to defend our homes, and if the present trend continues we may not have the protection of the British Navy either. Australia does not produce artillery, and it can make only a small quantity of gun ammunition; it cannot produce aeroplanes; and it cannot produce even rifles and small arms ammunition in sufficient quantities to be really useful. All its military equipment, except, possibly, uniforms, saddlery, and harness, must be obtained from overseas, and that source of supply will be available only if the British Navy keeps open the lines of communication. Malta is yet the nearest base for the docking of capital ships. Reduction of naval armaments is the order of the day, and sooner or later the British taxpayer may decline to provide a navy for the protection of outlying dominions which will not. help themselves, but prefer to “sponge on Dad “. Australia’s defence is dependent on supplies from abroad being brought to our shores under the escort of the British Navy. Is that a matter for national pride? I think not. The glorious tradition of the Australian Imperial Force may lull unthinking minds, but it does not deceive foreign military students. They know very well what can be accomplished by unarmed men against modern tanks, shells, and machine guns. It is indeed sad to reflect on Australia’s helpless condition. Since 1919, although the Australian public has been apathetic towards defence, the army of every other nation has increased its efficiency beyond recognition. Australia is probably alone in deliberately decreasing its military protection. To-day the Australian Military Forces are not so efficient as they were between the termination of the Boer “War and 1914. Arms have been transformed; mechanization is now the order of the day. When in England three years ago,
I waa privileged to see what was then being done at Aldershot and Dorchester in the matter of mechanization in order to save man power. On that occasion I saw self-propelled artillery, armoured cars, “ whippet “ two-men tanks and heavily armoured tanks, which could be driven at 30 miles an hour. Thus 100 men are now capable of doing what was beyond the capacity of thousands in 1914.
Quite a number of those who speak glibly about the possible invasion of Australia, assume that, if it did occur, it would take place in the Northern Territory, the Gulf country, Tasmania, or some other sparsely-occupied portion of our great coast-line. But why should an invading army occupy an out-of-the-way portion of Australia? An invading army would land, not in the Northern Territory or in the Gulf country, but on the wharfs of the capital cities, and within a few days after landing fast moving cars and tanks would seize all the important points in the country without very much trouble. Lot us study our present defence system. At present we have in actual commission, two 10,000-ton cruisers of the County class, each carrying S-in. guns. We have the aeroplane carrier Albatross. We have also some obsolete forts wide open to attack from the air, and no air force worthy of the name. We have no modern fighting or bombing planes. We have no modern military equipment, nor the means of manufacturing it. I recall an article published in the Sydney Bulletin ju3t after the abandonment of compulsory military training which asked, “ Why go through the formality of an invasion “, because to-day, leaving Great Britain out of account, an invasion of Australia would be a mere formality. I submit that, as a nation, we can only meekly accept our fate, or by a futile, ill-armed resistance create a conflict in which we should be absolutely butchered. The invader would hardly know that there had been a fight, but for the force opposing him “it would be a bloody shambles. To-day an efficient Australian defence force is non-existent. If that be true, we have, as a nation, sunk very low, indeed. We should be able to defend ourselves.
I now come to the suggestion made in this chamber some days ago, and supported by another honorable senator, that we should throw up the sponge, and say that we are such a poor and spineless crowd that we cannot defend ourselves on the sea; that we should scrap our navy, such as it is; and that the time has arrived when we must rely upon Great Britain, and pay her a subsidy.
– No honorable senator suggested that.
– That is the only inference that can be drawn from the remarks of two honorable senators, who suggested that we cannot do the job ourselves; that it is too big; that it means too much self-sacrifice and self-denial. We have to ask “ father “ to look after us. If we adopt that course, we shall be in a position similar to that of Rome long ago, when her citizens demanded bread and public games, and when she had todepend upon mercenaries for her defence. The fate of Rome will also be ours, and rightly so, if we disregard our obligations. A nation is not worthy of the name if it will not defend itself with its own citizens, instead of with the help of outsiders.
The cheap sneers thrown at the Royal Australian Navy in this chamber by one honorable senator could be made only as a result of crass ignorance of the facts. He does not know the training undertaken by the members of the Royal Australian Navy. He has not had any personal experience of that branch of our defence system. Our two cruisers, the Australia and the Canberra, could be ready to fight within 24 hours. In March of this year we had in the military camp at Mona Vale, Ross, as our guests several senior officers of the Royal Australian Navy, including the commander of the Australia, his gunnery officer, and his navigating officer. They stayed with us in camp for four days, and as a result of their visit several senior military officers were, through RearAdmiral Evans, invited to proceed to sea with the ships of the Royal Australian Navy to witness battle practice. It has been said by some that the only cruises undertaken by the vessels of the Australian Navy are to Melbourne during Cup week, and sometimes to Tasmania.
That is a cheap sneer. I can assure the Senate that the work of the vessels of the Royal Australian Navy is efficient, and that the efficiency of the personnel of the ships ranks very high indeed.
– No one questions that.
– On the cruise to which I have referred the shooting under, as near as possible, battle conditions, was excellent. If such results could be obtained by making only an occasional cruise to Melbourne during Cup week, _ the personnel of the Navy must consist of super men. For the money we spend we receive magnificent value. Have we reached such a position that this great Australian Commonwealth - this great self-governing dominion - has openly to rely upon the navy and army of the Motherland, if that long-suffering country will accept the trust, instead of upon ourselves? If that is our opinion as a nation we deserve to perish.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we can secure adequate naval protection under the present system ?
– I shall deal with that phase of the matter later. If honorable senators would read a little more, and not talk quite so much they might understand the position. Do the Australian people concur in the present Government’s defence policy? I hope they do not. The position to-day is ominous, and fraught with great danger. We all ought to agree that it is the duty, in fact, it is the privilege, of every citizen worthy of the name, to give part of his time to the service of his country, and to be prepared if necessary to manfully defend it.
In 1910 the great Labour party had recognized this, but since then it has lost its high ideals. If compulsory military training was too unpalatable a dose for the nation to swallow, can any other system of training calling for self-sacrifice and self-denial hope for public support? I do not know, but, if that be so, Australia has lost all right to regard herself as a self-respecting and self-reliant nation. She will have lost the last thread of covering to hide her nakedness; she can no longer escape from the envious and covetous eyes of other nations. Has the Government a defence policy? In the long run, do the people of Australia desire any defence system at all? If they do not, they should be honest and say so; say to thd world that this country is a rich, ripe plum awaiting the picker. If that is not the indifferent attitude of the people of Australia, they should insist upon a defence force which exists in fact, and not on paper, a force -which could fight to-morrow.
I am a great believer in the League of Nations. I have been a member of the League of Nations Union for some years. I do all the work I possibly can in my own small way in Tasmania to further the aims and objectives of the union. When I consider our present defence system, our idle boasts, the real menace that exists - our immigration, and our White Australia policies, and the emptiness of this vast country - I feel that we should not lean solely upon the League of Nations. If we do so, we many find that we are leaning upon a broken reed. I cannot imagine how a sympathetic hearing can be expected from that body when we take into consideration the distribution and the composition of the population of the world. If the white man does not bestir himself to colonize the territories over which he has hoisted his flag, but has neglected to put to proper use, others may fairly claim the right to do so. The white race cannot expect to hold valuable territories without putting them to their proper use. Some day a challenge will come; then, if we are forced to rely on the League of Nations, which, because of its composition cannot be entirely sympathetic with our views and aims, woe betide us! I submit that the first duty of any government, irrespective of party, -is to provide adequately for the country’s defence. It should have a defence policy which is a defence policy in fact, and not a sham.
A comparison of our defence expenditure in the years immediately preceding the war, and the vote for 1930-31, is illuminating. I omit in the comparison the war years, because things were not then normal. In 1910-11 we spent £3,006,026 on deefnce; in the following year our expenditure under that beading was £4,081,848; for 1912-13 it was £4,346,305. During the year which ended on the 30th June, 1914- about a month before the outbreak of war - we spent on defence £5,052,735. The vote for 1930- 31 was £3,748,950. In comparing the expenditure on defence we should not forget that, since the war, the defence vote has included expenditure which is not really a proper charge against the defence of the country. The upkeep of war graves, for instance, is now included in our defence expenditure, as are also the heavy exchange rates, which, in the case of the Defence Department alone, amount to over £30,000 a year. A comparison of our present expenditure on defence with that of the years preceding the war, and even making allowance for the reduced purchasing power of money, shows that our defence vote has been pared down considerably.
– Since the war we have had a new arm of defence - the Air Force. There is also the expenditure on civil aviation.
– Quite so. How have our permanent military forces been treated since the war? Not many men adopt a naval or a military career for material gain. For that reason the country’s treatment of those who have passed through the Royal Military College, at Duntroon, to the staff corps, is, to say the least, shabby. Men of that type deserve well of their country, because the career which they choose involves much self-denial. Instead of encouraging them, we have treated them shamefully. I have here an extract from an article supplied by a friend of mine, who wrote under the nom-de-plume “ Retrenched “, to the Sydney Morning Herald. With the indulgence of the Senate, I propose to read a portion of it -
No better indication of Labour’s attitude towards everything appertaining to the defence system of the Commonwealth could be imagined than the statement of the Minister for Defence that any work-rationing system must bc applied generally throughout the Permanent Military Forces. The trend of that attitude has long been obvious. What is not so obvious is the way in which politicians are seeking to undermine the service to such an extent, that if things go on as they arc, the Permanent Military Force will soon be but a memory.
In pre-war days the. Department of Defence was a military organization, with a civilian (the Minister) at its head. It consisted of soldiers, the large clerical staff inseparable from a more or less skeleton army being composed of men recruited from the ranks, promising non-commissioned officers and sergeantmajor instructors, with good records, being accepted on their passing a qualifying examination. This system was eminently satisfactory. It provided an avenue for promotion to the permanent units, and a sphere for the activities of warrant officers and others who had passed the age when instructional work could be regarded as suitable employment. The opening of the military college at Duntroon closed the door against the promotion of warrant officers to commissioned rank, other than that of quartermaster, though there were one or two exceptions to the rule, and, during the war period, it was found necessary to draw on other public services for the men necessary to carry on the enormous amount of work entailed by the organization of the Australian Imperial Force.
After the war a combined Federal Public Service was created, and into this were absorbed the military staff clerks. From the soldiers’ point of view, that was the beginning of the end, the majority of the posts in any way worth having being now held by public servants, whose rates of pay and conditions of service generally are infinitely superior to those of the soldiers under whom they are supposed to be working, the crowning effort in the “ civilianizing “ of the Permanent Forces being the appointment of a civilian secretary to the department, with a salary of £2,000 a year, which is £500 more than the emolument of the highest-paid soldier.
Even since the disbanding of the Australian Imperial Force there has been periodical army reductions. The services of soldiers have been dispensed with, but since the work had to be done somehow, the practice was, and is, to appoint public servants to the vacancies. Few, if any, of these nien have any interest, except pecuniary, in the subject of defence, the prevailing idea being that the surest road to the success of the individual is the interpretation of rules and regulations in such a way as may be calculated to please tho Treasury. This, however, does not mean any saving oi public funds, since the whole of the vote is spent, though without the obtaining of value, from the military point of view.
One Df the principal objections of the soldiers to the change, and changing order is that public servants, serving often in very junior capacities, interfere in purely military problems to the solution of which high technical knowledge is a sine qua wm, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that recommendations are frequently put forward without their having been submitted to those who, by the very nature of their calling, are best qualified to express an opinion. Other objections are that award regulations as to the hours of work and classification and rates of pay of the army of public servants must operate regardless of the requirements of the service, though the same in no way applies to the professional soldiers, who are now threatened with a workrationing scheme which, if carried into effect, will mean that they will have to stand off for weekly periods amounting to two months each year. No official statement to that effect lias yet appeared, but it is understood that it has been “ worked out “, and those best qualified to express an opinion have no hesitation in saying that it will materialize. It will not, however, apply to the Navy or to the Air Force.
It must not be supposed that soldiers, as a class, are blind to the need for rigid economy in every direction. What they do object to is the exercise of the pruning knife mainly along mie or two avenues, and what they suggest is that rationing should he applied with some regard for ratio.
– The honorable senator’s friend did not know what he was talking about.
– The facts which I have quoted show the piebald nature of our present defence system. Having been connected with the Defence Forces of Australia for over 33 years, both in pie-federation days, when defence matters were the concern of the States, and since the establishment of the. Commonwealth, I heartily endorse what my friend has written; it is true in every particular.
– If the honorable senator believes what his friend has written, he shows that he knows nothing about recommendations.
– I know the absurd position which arises when men who are neither soldiers nor civilians, but something between the two - neither fish nor flesh, nor even good red herring, as it were - are placed in charge of the defence forces of a country. Perhaps” one of the most ludicrous things in the whole wretched system is the attempt to establish a five-day working week in the Defence Department. The thing is preposterous, as any one can see for himself by visiting the Victoria Barracks on any Saturday.
During the debate it was suggested, by interjection, that the defence of Australia should be entrusted solely to the air force. I wonder if those who hold that view have ever attempted any reconnaissance work from the air. Apparently they have not. As one with personal experience as an observer from the air, I can 3peak of the many limitations of an air force. The air machines of to-day are vastly superior to those of 1918, notwithstanding the great strides made in the development of air machines during the four years of war, but even the magnificent fighting air machines of to-day are strictly limited in their usefulness. Any honorable senator desiring information on this subject would do well to obtain from the Parliamentary Library a book entitled Air Facts and Problems. Written by my friend, the late Lord Thompson, who was killed last year when the B.101 was lost in an appalling tragedy in France. The late Lord Thompson was closely associated with the air force during the war, and was Minister for Air in the Ramsay MacDonald Government at the time of his death. He could, therefore, speak with authority. There are days when an air force is .absolutely blind and, therefore, impotent. The improvement in our fighting air machines has been accompanied by a corresponding improvement in anti-aircraft weapons, so that an observer from the air must necessarily fly high when making reconnaissances. At 6,000 feet it is extraordinarily difficult for an observer to pick out troops, even when they arc on the move and in open country. I know that that is so, because I had to pass an examination in this particular class of duty, and I had to do several hours’ flying and bring back my reports. I deem it necessary to utter this warning, because some honorable senators think that if only we can maintain a sufficiently large air force, our defence will be secure. That contention is fallacious, because atmospheric conditions play an important part in the efficiency of an air force. I admit that when used as eyes for the fleet or the army, or for the purpose of obtaining information about enemy movements, an air force is indispensable; but, as I have shown, as a fighting unit it has it3 limitations. For many days on end during the war our air force was absolutely impotent, because of bad visibility. Sometimes, also, its efficiency was impaired through large numbers of planes being damaged and repair work being delayed for various reasons. The wastage of air force personnel on active service is appalling.
I think Senator Foll also suggested that a more economical and more satisfactory arrangement for sea defence would he to arrange with, the British Government for the maintenance of British war vessels in Australian waters. That is not a new proposal. Our first naval agreement with the Mother Country was in 1887, and the last in 1902. But before I deal with the historical aspect of our sca defences, I should like to emphasize an important consideration which, I fear, is overlooked by those who favour the subsidizing of British war vessels for Australian naval defence purposes. We claim to be a nation. We are proud of the fact that, as one member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, we have equal rights and privileges even with the people of the Mother Country. This being so, is not the suggestion that wo should look to Great Britain for our naval defence the very negation of nationhood? Since we are an island continent, and have had entrusted to us the safety of smaller islands to the north and the south, our first care should be to foster in our rising generation a love of the sea, so that, later, they may become part of our naval defence scheme. And as wo claim to be equal in all other respects with the other components of the British Empire, surely we should be prepared to bear an equal share of the burden of naval defence. Needless to say, we are not doing this. The naval estimates for Great Britain for 1931 show that the expense per head of population on naval defence in that year was £1 3s. Id., whereas in South Africa, which pays a subsidy to the British Government, the expense for 1930-31 was only 2½d. per head. New Zealand, which has an arrangement with the Mother Country, has two D class cruisers the Dunedin and the Diomedes She, in 1930-31, paid 6s. per head of population. The latest figures for Canada are for 1929, in which year naval defence cost the people of that dominion 8£d. per head. The Irish Free State, so far, has made no contribution at all, because, in accordance with the treaty between the Governments of Great Britain and Ireland, sea defence is undertaken byImperial forces; but the undertaking by Ireland of a share of her local defence is to be the subject of a conference between representatives of the two governments. In 1930-31, the expenditure in Australia on naval defence was 5s. 4$d. per head of population, and this year, according to the department’s estimates’, it will be about 4s. 7d. per head. Those who advocate the scrapping of the Royal Australian Navy in favour of a naval agreement with the British Government, argue that the arrangement will be less costly to the Commonwealth. If they study the figures for New Zealand, and compare what that dominion gets in return for its expense per head of population with what Australia is getting by maintaining its own navy, they must admit that, on the score of economy at all events, the suggested arrangement is not the best that could bc made. But apart from this consideration, the importance of which I do not seek to minimize, we should bear in mind the urgent need thai exists for the fostering of a healthy national spirit and the strengthening of our morale as a people. Although the Royal Australian Navy is young in years, it has a fine record - one of which we have every reason to be proud - and I submit that if we are to retain our self respect as a nation we must maintain our own navy, our own army, and our OWn air force on a thoroughly efficient basis. To those amateur critics who advocate the abandonment of the Royal Australian Navy, thus compelling the Commonwealth to rely for its sea protection on the British Navy, I say. that such an outrageous proposal is the very negation of Australian nationhood. I recommend for their study volume 9 of the Official History of Australia in the War 1914-18, by Professor A. W. Jose, but I remind them that although the work is an authentic record of Australian naval operations during the war, it does not contain certain information which if obtainable only at the British Admiralty, and which probably will not be released for years. Nevertheless, it deals fully and faithfully with the various achievements of the Royal Australian Navy, and is a most interesting contribution to the official history of the war.
The suggestion that Australia should undertake its own naval defence dates from the time of the Crimean war. But I do not intend to weary honorable senators with an historical lecture upon this, to me, all-absorbing subject. I shall, therefore, deal as briefly as possible with the outstanding features in the history of the development of our naval policy. The first effort by an Australian Government to provide for local naval defence was during the Crimean war in 1855, iii which year the New South Wales Government built the Spitfire, a wooden ketch of 65 tons, mounting one 32-pounder gun astern. The Government of Victoria, not to be outdone - presumably the same spirit of rivalry existed then as exists to-day - in the following year purchased the gunboat Victoria, a screw steamer of 580 tons,- mounting six 32-pounder guns. Nine years later the Victorian Government also bought the cut-down. two-decker battleship Nelson, which was converted to steam, and armed with 46 guns of small calibre. In 1871, Victoria purchased the Cerberus, a turret ship, which, at that time, was considered of the most modern type, her armament consisting of four 18-ton guns. But apart from these spasmodic efforts, the idea that the colonies should make provision for their own naval defence does not seem to have entered the mind of any one in Australia, or even of the authorities in Great Britain. A series of reports followed, the essential declaration of which was that offensive action at sea must be left entirely to the British Navy, but that locally-provided vessels would be manned by a locally-established naval brigade. That was the position up to 1901. In that year Great Britain had on her hands not only the Boer War, but also the Boxer Rebellion in China. The Australian States bad only recently federated, and it was decided to send from these shores a naval contingent that would co-operate in China with Admiral Seymour’s forces. The gunboat Protector, which originally belonged to South Australia, consequently proceeded to China. We were then working under a naval agreement with Great Britain, which had been entered into in 1887, under which she undertook to keep a squadron of a certain strength in Australian waters, we, on our part, to defray a small portion of the cost. The question of defence generally, and of naval defence more particularly, then arose ; in fact, that was one of the principal reasons which led the States to federate. An Imperial Conference was held in London in 1902, Australia being represented by the late Sir
Edmund Barton and the late Sir John Forrest, and New Zealand by the late Sir Richard Seddon. A series of long discussions was held, the outcome of which was that the British Admiralty bound itself to maintain a squadron of a defined strength in the Western Pacific, the cost of which was to be borne by Great Britain to the extent of one-half, Australia to the extent of five-twelfths, and New Zealand to the extent of onetwelfth; but it was definitely and clearly laid down that the Australian contribution should not in any event exceed £200,000 per annum. Three drill ships were to be maintained, and manned, as far as possible, by Australians and New Zealanders, the officers being drawn from the Royal Navy and the Royal Naval Reserve. But this new squadron, although the best that had ever been seen in our waters, did not appeal to the national aspirations of Australians, the principal reason being that it was not their own but belonged to Great Britain. It is unquestionable that at about this time the Austraiian people began to desire a navy of their own. Then in 1908 we received a visit from what was known as the American Great White Fleet. Probably the majority of honorable senators recall that visit. I remember it well, because it occurred in the year in which I returned to my native land from South Africa. That visit acted as a very direct stimulus to the feeling of the Australian people that they should have a navy of their own. Although many Englishmen feared, and some American journalists hoped, that it would induce Australia to look for sympathy and support to the United States of America in the future, nothing was further from the minds of the Australian people. The only moral that they drew from it was that they must have a fleet of their very own. It is most interesting to recall two utterances that were made by the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Deakin. In his speech of welcome he said -
But for the British Navy there would be no Australia. That does not mean that Australia should sit still under the shelter of the British Navy - those who say we should sit still are not worthy of the name of Briton. We can add to the squadron in these seas from our own blood and intelligence something that will launch us on the beginning of a naval career, and may in time create a force which shall rank among the defences of the Empire . . .
We live in hopes that from our own shores some day a fleet will go out not unworthy to be compared in quality, if not in numbers, with the magnificent fleet now in Australian waters. 1 consider that that summed up accurately the feeling of the day, that as we had embarked on nationhood we should carry the burdens which necessarily went with it, and haVe our own navy rather than pay some one else to provide one for us. In November of that year, Mr. Deakin left office, and was succeeded by Mr. Andrew Fisher at the head of a Labour Ministry. The newcomer quickly clarified the position, and on behalf of his party pronounced definitely in favour of an Australian fleet. Iu his policy speech he stated very clearly the relationship of the Australian Navy to the British Navy in the following points that he enumerated : -
The building of four ocean destroyers and sixteen “ River “ class destroyers, besides those already ordered, within three years. All these are to be built in Australia . . . This flotilla is to take over the responsibility of coastal defence, and will relieve the Admiralty of the cost of the present squadron. Further - mon1, if an Imperial fleet visits the Pacific, Australia will, in a comparatively short time, offer to furnish all the torpedo craft, scouts, and despatch-boats. The scheme further provides for . a vessel suitable for policing the Western Pacific Islands, and for assisting the High Commissioner, and contemplates the efficient defence, with guns and forts of the latest patterns, of all ports useful for naval bases, thus making Australia a great selfdefended naval base for the Empire in the pacific
The speech laid down clearly and definitely what would happen to an Australian Navy in time of war, in the following terms : -
In time of war or emergency, or upon a declaration by the senior naval officer representing the British Government that a condition of emergency exists, all the vessels of the Naval Force of the Commonwealth shall be placed by the Commonwealth Government under the orders of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. The method by which the vessels shall come under the orders of the senior naval officer would be by furnishing each commander of an Australian vessel with sealed orders, and instructions to the effect that, upon the declaration to him by the senior naval officer representing the British Government that a state of war or emergency exists, such sealed orders shall thereupon be opened; and in pursuance of their provisions he shall thereupon immediately place himself under the orders of the senior naval officer representing the British Government.
Therefore, in 1909 we had launched out on the establishment of an Australian Navy, to be manned by Australians and owned by Australia herself. Then, in March, 1911, Australia was visited by Admiral Henderson, who was invited to propound a scheme for the naval defence of the Commonwealth. But in the following year the whole outlook of Great Britain and of the Empire from a naval point of view changed, because in that year a new navy law was introduced in Germany. Lord Fisher saw the writing on the wall, and his reminiscences make interesting reading. It was decided to scrap all the obsolete vessels that were scattered throughout the world, and to concentrate the might of the British Navy in the North Sea. This has a big bearing on the point that I wish to make in regard to the Royal Australian Navy. When war broke out in 1914, we of all the powers, with the exception of Japan,’ which had ships in the Pacific, had the most up-to-date, fast, hard-hitting battle cruiser. It was due to the presence of that cruiser in Australian waters that Admiral von Spee was prevented from bombarding Australian ports with his China squadron of two cruisers carrying 8-inch guns. It was difficult to induce the British Admiralty to allow that vessel to come to Australia, because it argued that capital ships and battle cruisers should be concentrated where the menace was, and that there was no need for such a warship in Australian waters. It is interesting to read of the circumstances under which the Australia was brought here, and took her place as the flagship of the little squadron that we had at that time. Our only cruisers were the Sydney and the Melbourne. The Brisbane was then under construction, and the Encounter was lent to us by the British Navy until the Brisbane was ready for service. We also had the destroyers Parramatta, Yarra, and Warrego, and the submarines AE1 and AE2. The volume to which I have referred, outlines the situation in regard to the Pacific in 1914. It points out that the views of thoughtful and representative Australians, before the late war broke out, and before many people thought that there would bp war, were embodied in the following formula : -
That fleet should be based, as far as concerns construction, repairs, naval bases, &c. on the British Dominions in the Pacific.
The work of the Royal Australian Navy units during the late war is not realized by the people of Australia as a whole. Our vessels slipped away unostentatiously to do their work. There was certainly the spectacular encounter between the Sydney and the Emden; but, in the main, Australians hardly knew where their ships were, or what they were doing at that time. The excellence of their work was admitted in the reports of the various admirals under which they served in different parts of the world. I think those good results were inevitable, because a hard and long struggle had been necessary to convince the reluctant Admiralty that Australia could build and man a naval unit of her own. When the call came to our young navy, it was animated by a determination to show the Admiralty that Australian ships and men were really of some use. [Extension of dme granted.] The Australian Navy was unique at that time, for no other dominion had undertaken such a responsibility. It was a daring experiment, and the prestige of Australia depended on its success. In July of that fateful year, 1914, very few Australians, even those occupying official positions, knew that war was imminent; but, when it came, our men and ships were ready, and they took a worthy and splendid part in it. The full and true story of the growth of the Australian Navy will not be known for many years, because, for obvious reasons, much of it cannot be disclosed even today ; but our ships and men were admitted as equals into the greatest service that the seas have ever known.
Our navy was animated by the keenest desire to prove to the British authorities that the honour conferred upon it was fully deserved. When the war ended, it had fulfilled the purpose of its creation; it had saved Australia from raids and bombardments, and the other concomitants of war. It had been called upon to protect nearly every trade route, and almost every dominion, colony and protectorate within the Empire. It had seen Canadian, West Indian and East African ports. It had hunted down destroyers of Indian, Chinese and South African commerce over five of the great oceans of the world. It had shared in the defence of the Mediterranean, and had taken part in the long, vigilant watch of the North Sea, having kept at sea in all weathers. It had toiled under the eyes of the Empire’s best admirals in the very centre of the naval warfare. Our men were primarily Australian, and they were proud of it; they had taken their full share in Imperial tasks, and everywhere they had upheld the honour of the country which gave them birth and owned them. Every prophecy of their detractors had proved false, and every hope of their upholders had been justified and exceeded. Yet, to-day, even in this Parliament, are men so lacking iti imagination and understanding, and so utterly devoid of native patriotism, that they advocate that the Royal Australian Navy should be scrapped; that the national task so magnificently begun should be abandoned; that we are too mean and paltry, as a nation, even to attempt to defend ourselves. That is unthinkable. Our children will discover »and realize with pride, not so much what the Australian squadron did in the Great War, as what, it was - the symbol, alive, and ubiquitous, of its country’s energy, courage, versatility and nationhood.
Though times are hard, and the outlook is dark and forbidding, we must foster and cherish the Royal Australian Navy, and not allow it to perish through short-sighted parsimony, and craven-hearted spinelessness. Though numerically small, to-day it is efficient, and its units are prepared to fight, if need be, at 24-hours’ notice. It is, within its limitations as to size; an efficient instrument. A comparison of our naval unit of to-day with the unit that we had in these waters in 1914 will show thatourpresentunitismuch greaterastoitsrangeandspeedthan was dreamed of in 1914. Although the guns of our cruisers are only 8-in., they have a longer range and a harder hitting power than had the 12-in. guns of the old Australia. These things should he remembered. It is most unfortunate that the exchange contemplated between the Canberra and the Shropshire did not take place,becausethetrainingthatourpersonnel would have received in the Mediterannean with the British squadron would have been invaluable.
Those who suggest that we should reverttotheconditionswhichprevailed underthenavalagreementof1887, and the later agreement of 1902, and that we should bear a very small proportion of the cost of the squadron maintained out here by the Motherland, should hang their heads in shame. “When the war broke out, our navy was the merest baby; but it registered achievements and created traditions during the war years which we should hand down to posterity.
I desire to read to honorable senators alettersenttothePrimeMinister (Mr. Scullin) by the Navy League of South Australia, a copy of which, very appropriately, reached me this morning. It has a direct bearing upon my remarks. It reads as follows: -
The Right Honorable J. H. Scullin, P.C., M.H.R.,
Ihavethehonourtoadviseyouthatat a meeting of the committee of the Navy League (South Australian branch), held on the 22nd instant, it was unanimously resolved to direct your attention to the drastic retrenchment in His Majesty’s Royal Australian Navy, which has been announced by the Commonwealth Treasurer in his budget speech.
While the league is in complete accord with the decision of your Government to economize in public expenditure, it, nevertheless, views with serious apprehension the reduction of ships and personnel in our small navy, which must take place if the budget proposals are carried into effect.
My committee regards the preservation of citizens’ lives and property as a paramount and imperative duty resting on the Government, and both would be seriously imperilled if our first line of defence were reduced to impotence or rendered ineffective, a result which the budget proposals, if implemented. would assuredly achieve.
Heavy reductions have already taken place in this arm of defence, and the retrenchments now proposed would leaveuswith an attenuated and insignificant sea-going force utterly incompatible with our requirements as a nation, the safety of our people, and our overseas trade, without which we cannot exist.
It must not be forgotten that, consequent upon the tremendous reduction in strength of the British Navy (417 ships and 49,000 men) wecannolonger expect to receive theassistance in case of need which has been available hitherto. We might, therefore, become an easy prey to hostile marauding nations, some of whom, owing to our provocative exclusiveness, regard us with distrust and havecovetous eyes on our immense but sparsely populated territory.
My committee holds the view that important savings can be effected in the cost of naval administration - which last year amounted to £80,537 - that the defensive strength of the navy has already been reduced to a minimum, and that further reduction would not only engender a sense of insecurity amongst our people, but prove a positive sourceof danger to the nation.
We, therefore, respectfully but strongly protest against any proposal to reduce our seagoing force below its present limit.
I have the honour to be
It is comforting indeed to receive a letter of that description in these times. The apathy of the great majority of the citizens of this country in respect of the problems of the defence of Australia is deplorable; but that letter shows that even yet there are some public-spirited people who realize the responsibility which this country should discharge for itself. Some honorable senators seem to think that when we advocate the taking of reasonable steps for the naval defence of Australia we suggest that we should ourselves maintain a navy large enough to defend Australia. That is absurd, and has never really been suggested. In the event of war occurring our navy would become a part of the British Navy,as it did during the last war. During the war our ships were on every ocean, attached to various squadrons of the British Navy. The Australia, for instance, was the flagship of the second battle-cruiser squadron when she took her place in the North Sea. Our cruisers were to be found all over the world, but during the latter period of the war they were with the North Sea fleet. Our destroyers formed part of the Adriatic patrol, where they rendered wonderful service with other British destroyers and French and Italian vessels.
If I thought that the feeling that we should scrap our navy was general among my fellow Australians I should feel sad indeed ; but I do not think that. It seems to me that, with present-day problems pressing upon the people so heavily, they have not taken the time to sit down quietly and think out this problem. We have in our Australian Navy something that even millions of money could not buy. I refer to our glorious and imperishable traditions, which are equal to those of the British Navy, bearing in mind the comparatively short life of our navy. I again advise honorable senators to read carefully vol. 9 of the Official History of Australia in the War, which deals with the work of the Royal Australian Navy. If those who advocate that we should revert to the old regime would do so, they would admit that they came to a hasty and untenable decision upon insufficient data.
Silling suspended from 6.15 to S p.m.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [8.0]. - I desire to direct the attention of the Government to a very valuable and informative report that was made by Dr. I. M. Mackerras, Senior Entomologist, Blowfly Section, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, on the subject of the infestation of Queensland by the buffalo fly. As honorable senators know, Australia has from time to time been subjected to the ravages of pests, both plant and animal, the encroachment of which has been effectively challenged by the splendid work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The trouble to which the producers of Queensland were subjected because of the misdirected enterprise of some of our pioneers who introduced prickly pear for the purpose of cochineal-growing is well known. That pest quickly became established in its new environment, until it had infested almost 30,000,000 acres in Queensland. Our scientists worked incessantly on the problem of its eradication, and finally successfully invoked the aid of the Cactoblastis cactorum, a small grub less than an inch in length. Noogoora burr, another pest which troubled my State, has been held in check by the efforts of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, with the help of insects. Australia is also troubled with rabbits, which greatly reduce the carrying capacity of land. Another pest that has ravaged Queensland is the cattle tick, with which I am personally familiar, because I have had to deal with it on my own property. Cattle-owners solved that problem by dipping their stock.
A peculiar thing about the latest pest, the buffalo fly, is that it has invaded Queensland along practically the same route as that followed by the cattle tick. First of all the fly appeared in the Northern Territory, and then travelled south of the Gulf across to Queensland, and is now headed for the coast, whence it will proceed south. When the cattle tick first made its appearance, its presence and ill effects were evident, as the beasts affected suffered from tick fever. Cattlemen took prompt measures to deal with what was an obvious ailment. The ravages of the buffalo fly are not so apparent. The cattle simply lose condition, and consequently cattlemen in the Gulf country have not been so concerned about the new pest as they were about the tick. However, the buffalo fly is a most serious danger which, if not tackled promptly and effectually, will become a grave menace to the cattle industry, not only throughout Queensland, but as far south as Newcastle, in New South Wales.
I propose to read portions of the report made by Dr. Mackerras on the buffalo fly. First, he points to the necessity of taking urgent steps to check the pest, in these words -
On several earlier occasions, mid particularly in a memorandum to you of the 12th March, T strongly urged that any field work which might be undertaken by the Commonwealth mould be commenced as soon as the roads became passable, but added that it might be delayed until about the 9th May, pointing out. however, that “ the delay indicated would greatly increase the difficulties of the work . .’” This has been borne out by our experience, since cold winds during the latter part of our investigations have greatly reduced the numbers of the fly and rendered it extraordinarily difficult and laborious to map out the precise limits of its extension.
At page 5, under the heading, “ The infested area Dr. Mackerras continues -
In October, .1928, Smith and Clegg found buffalo flies at Snake Lagoon Yard, on Westmoreland. T. G. Campbell’s most easterly record was near Bushranger’s Hole, on Turnoff Lagoons, an extension of 58 miles in one year and eleven months. The survey just completed places the limit of infestation at Augustus Downs Head Station, on 24th May, 1931, a further extension of 96 miles in eight months. In addition, the fly has been discovered on Mornington Island, to reach which it must have travelled at least twenty miles over sea and uninhabited islands.
That indicates the progress that the buffalo fly is making in Queensland, in an easterly direction towards the coastOnce it reaches the coast, with its heavy rainfall and humid atmosphere, conditions entirely favorable to the fly, it must inevitably extend its ravages south. At page 7 the report reads -
With reference to the most important line of extension, that in an easterly direction, we can, fortunately, speak with considerable confidence. All the country may be considered suitable for the fly. On Armraynald it was quite numerous, but on Wernadinga it was very scanty indeed at the first examination made under precisely similar weather conditions and, indeed, increased somewhat subsequently, until checked by the second cold spell referred to above. Our examination of the western boundary of Inverleigh was made under ideal weather conditions, and a good deal of it in country in which one would expect the fly to thrive. It seems quite clear to me that we found the actual limits of invasion at. and close to, Wernadinga Head Station, and that when the first examination was made on the 12th and 13th May, it had only very recently reached that point.
The following summary of the investigations appears at page 11 : -
To summarize: The area of infestation indicated above, and on the map may be taken to represent with reasonable accuracy the present range of the buffalo fly in Queensland. It is possible that the extreme western edge of Neumayer Valley may be already occupied, and extensions may be expected to occur at any time southward to the level of Gregory Downs Head Station, possibly to Fiery Downs and Nardoo, and possibly eastward on Wernadinga towards the Inverleigh boundary.
Those words indicate that the fly is steadily making progress southward and eastward. Should it get within reasonable distance of the railway termini or on to the various stock routes, its progress will be facilitated. Dealing with the infestation of Mornington Island, Dr. Mackerras states -
The discovery of the buffalo fly on Mornington Island is so important in its bearing on this possibility of erecting and maintaining a buffer area, that it merits consideration in a separate section.
Tin’s island, which is used as a mission station, lies 19.5 miles at its nearest point from the mainland, with which it is connected by a chain of uninhabited islands. It carries about 250 ‘head of cattle. Accurate records are kept, and it is certain, from the information obtained from responsible and eminently reliable persons both on the island and at Burketown, that the hist stock to bc shipped across was a yearling bull from Burketown in April, 1929. No “strangers” and no wandering buffaloes have reached the island within the memory of Mr. Wilson, the superintendent, and any such would certainly be quickly noticed.
Buffalo flies first appeared either in December, 1930, or more probably early in January of the present year. By March, they were a serious pest, and remained so until the end of April, when they declined considerably, though they were still quite prevalent, and the cattle showed very evident lesions at the time of our visit on the 23rd May.
It is quite clear that the flies reached the island during the last wet season, and it is equally clear that they did so by flight. The absolutely minimum distance they could have travelled without the assistance of u host may be put down at twenty miles. Actually, the distance travelled was in all probability” much greater. The part of the mainland opposite the island is unoccupied, inhospitable country, and the nearest point where one would be likely to find cattle is on the lower part of CI iff dale Creek. This would mean a flight of 32 rather than 20 miles.
It is almost certain that a flight of such distance could not be undertaken without the aid of wind. The prevailing winds during the wet season are from the north and north-west, but occasional storms from the south-west occur, and these are usually very heavy, with strong winds. According to information received from Mr. Wilson, two such storms occurred during the past season, at a time when they might readily have been responsible for carrying the fly.
The fact that the fly only reached within striking distance of the island quite recently, and that only two favorable storms occurred last year, suggest a disquieting readiness to travel by wind, and the possibility that a single female may he sufficient to start an infestation greatly increases the danger of this method of distribution.
Those words are very disquieting. They make it evident that, even with the provision of a buffer area, it would be difficult to stop the progress of the buffalo fly, which differs from the cattle tick, in that it can travel considerable distances without necessarily having a host. The fact that the fly travels such a distance without a host indicates the difficulty o* the problem.
In regard tothe probable distribution in north-west Queensland, the following paragraph appears on page 13 of the report : -
It appears certain that unless drastic and particularly effective measures are taken these limits will be reached within the next twelve months.
That is after showing the distance they have travelled. If the same distance is travelled within the next twelve months the fly will reach quite close tothe trucking yards at Kajabbi, on the railway line which runs up in the direction of Burketown, and 100 miles south of that centre It is evident that once the fly reaches a trucking yard with cattle travelling to it from an infested area, the advance of the fly will be considerably aided. On the subject of the probable distribution in north-west Queensland the report also says -
To summarize,Lyperosia may be expected to extend southwards roughly to a line joining Colless Downs and Millungera. The high country of Cape York Peninsula may be expected to offer a definite impediment to its eastward progress, but, taking all factors into consideration and excluding transmission by rail, invasion of the cast coast of Queensland is likely to take place within the next four or five years.
That is a very serious statement by a man who has made a thorough investigation of the infested area and has a knowledge of the habits of the buffalo fly. If the fly reaches the coast of Queensland it will interfere tremendously with the development of country such as the Atherton Tableland, which is a prosperous dairying centre with great possibilities of expansion. It will travel down the coast through the cattle country of Townsville towards Brisbane, where there are various runs on which beef cattle are grown, and will enter the extensive dairying districts of the Burnett river, and Mary river; also Point Curtis. The possibilities of damage are enormous.
The next paragraph which I quote from this report is on page 17. It is as follows : -
The fact that it is not a serious pest in the Gulf country in general, nor is likely to become one, has naturally had a definite effect on the minds of local residents and caused them grossly to underrate its probable importance to the high rainfall areas of cast coastal Queensland and New South Wales, should it extend so far. Quite apart from its known effects in parts of North Australia,the Mornington Island incident should be sufficient answer to the frequently expressed opinion that a great deal of loss and inconvenience is being caused by restrictive measures for very little good.
Because of the dry conditions sometimes experienced in the neighbourhood of Burketown, the people who have cattle runs there rather underestimate the serious nature of the problem the buffalo fly is likely to be if it should reach the coast, and they may be influenced by their desire to get their store and fat cattle down to the meatworks or to the fattening runs on the highlands further south.
On page 15 of this report is the following : -
Measures that Maybe Taken to Limit dispersal.
With these facts before us, what steps can be taken to guard against the very imminent and serious danger of invasion of the east coast? It may be decided to let the fly go unrestricted, as has been suggested by many local residents, in which case occupation of the east coast will probably commence within the next four or five years, and once started will, undoubtedly, rapidly progress to completion. One would then be entirely dependent for relief on biological control, or, in closely-settled dairying districts, on mechanical control by means of sprays or traps. The former must be regarded as offering distinct possibilities, but no certainty, or even probability, of ultimate success: and the latter, however successful may be its application, must inevitably add materially to the cost of productionand, moreover, cannot be expected to give any relief to the beef industry.
It is seen from this paragraph that the possibility of dealing with the pest by biological control is by no means certain. Hitherto scientists have not been able to deal effectively with the blowfly, which is as seriousa pest in the sheep industry as the buffalo fly is in the cattle industry.
– What is the estimated loss caused by the buffalo fly?
– So far the loss in Queensland has not been serious, because the conditions in the infested area are not ideal for the progress of the fly, buton Mornington Island, where there is a high rainfall and the conditions are humid, such as they are on the coast of Queensland, it is a very serious menace.
– The blowfly has caused an annual loss of £4,000,000.
– Yes; but thet buffalo fly has only recently made its appearance. In bis summary and conclusion, Dr. Mackerras says -
Summary and Conclusion.
The problem is to protect Eastern Australia from invasion by the buffalo fly. The observations recorded in this report show how urgent that problem is becoming. Possible solutions are indicated, and their advantages and disadvantages listed. These solutions involve questions of cost, of administration, and of stock management as well as of insect biology. Some of these have been outlined above, but it is not the province of this report to attempt to assess their significance. The purely entomological decision is this: Nothing short of a buffer area offers any hope of stopping the progress of the fly, but even a buffer area of considerable widthoffers no certainty of doing so. The danger of dispersal by rail can be met either by a buffer area or by spraying stock at trucking, butthe complete success of either method cannot be guaranteed.
The concluding paragraph of the report is as follows: - 1 believe that this report presents all the essential facts, and I offer it in the hope that it will serve as a useful basis for discussion. In conclusion, I would urge that a decision should be reached as quickly as possible on what action, if any, should be taken. Less than five months remain for active work in the Gulf, and next wet season may see an even bigger advance than the last. The position is bad enough as it stands, and any delay will render it infinitely worse.
This problem affects the Commonwealth Government and, to a less degree, the Western Australian Government. There isin Western Australia a natural buffer area of about 300 miles of inhospitable country south of Broome, over which stock cannot travel. The Northern Territory, however, is suitable for the spread of the fly. Country which is also suitable for its advance is the area along the Gulf of Carpentaria and eastwards towards the coast of Queensland - except the very high mountain ranges. The great danger, however, will come when the fly reaches the coast of Queensland, because of the heavy rains and humid atmosphere prevailing in the early months of the year. I can well imagine the serious danger it would be to the beef cattle industry and the dairying industry right down the coast as far as Newcastle. Dr. Mackerras has presented us with a very excellent report; but it is useless for the Commonwealth Government to ask an officer to carry out an investigation and make a report if it does not co-operate with the Queensland Government in taking some action in the direction recommended in the report. No doubt the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be keen to tackle the problem.
– It is now engaged upon it.
-I am glad to hear that. But . 1 trust the Government will see that there is no further delay. The fly is already in the cattle country east of Burketown, and the further east it gets the more progress it is likely to make, because it will be getting intoan area where the conditions are favorable and the stocking of cattleruns is fairly heavy. It will then be almost impossible to stop it. I ask the Government to tackle the problem seriously, and see if is at all possible to check the further advance of the buffalo fly.
– The Senate is indebted to Senator Glasgow for having called attention to the very excellent report of Dr. Mackerras. It is a pity that public men in Australia do not take a greater interest in the publications issued from time to time by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. That, institution had to demonstrate conclusively the value of the work it is doing by the elimination of prickly pear by means of cactoblaslis before the public began to realize the importance of scientific investigations into such problems. I am afraid that unless more men like Senator Glasgow take some interest in the scientific investigation of pastoral and agricultural problems the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be subjected to the first cut made in governmental expenditure. I invite every honorable senator to visit the science block at Canberra. There are not very many honorable senators who even know that such an institution exists in Canberra.
– It has been suggested to the Government on several occasions that arrangements should be made for honorable senators to visit it.
– I have several times participated in parliamentary visits to the institution, and have never seen more than half a dozen honorable senators, and certainly fewer members of the House of Representatives over there.
– How long was the honorable senator in Canberra before he visited the science block?
– Within two days of my arrival at Canberra. I have a practical interest in science, I believe that science has never been allowed to play its proper part in the development of Australia. I sincerely hope that honorable senators will read the report of Dr. Mackerras.
– The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research represents the best value that we obtain from federal expenditure.
– I am pleased to hear that statement, because one cannot deafen one’s ears to the cry that has emanated from the Premiers Conference and other conferences about the Commonwealth Government interfering, needlessly, with State activities. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is one activity which is national in character, and I am pleased to discover that apparently there has been an awakening, at least on the part of some honorable senators, to the real value of this institution. I hope that all honorable senators will accept the advice given to them by Senator Glasgow to read Dr. Mackerras’s report on the buffalo fly, and that they, and also members of the House of Representatives, will visit the science block to see for themselves the progress made in investigating the noogoora burr. I assure Senator Glasgow that the Government is wide awake to the possibilities of further infestation and consequent loss to the pastoral industry of Australia.
– The Government did not expend all the vote for this item.
– We did, consistent with wise expenditure. Cabinet itself appointed a special sub-committee to collaborate with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Health Department, and the Home Affairs Department. That committee has also consulted the Queensland Government. Every effort is being made by the Federal Government, not only to minimize the effect of the noogoora burr, but also to bring about its elimination.
– The Queensland Government has not, up to the present, made any serious attempt to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government.
– I admit that the Commonwealth Government is not receiving the assistance that it is entitled to receive ; but now that a Queensland representative in the National Parliament has raised this subject, probably greater co-operation between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments will be obtained.
I come now to the worn-out attack of the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the Government’s tariff policy. I am always amused when the right honorable gentleman makes this attack. He seemed to court the interjection of Senator Lynch that the tariff policy had been responsible for building up the costs of production against the primary producer, and for preventing him from selling his goods in the overseas markets. I invite honorable senators to study the list of importations as I did on a previous occasion.
– What the honorable senator said then did not have much effect upon the Senate.
– The honorable senator cannot see anything beyond evaporated apples in Tasmania. The tariff policy of this Government is part and parcel of the Government’s proposals to rehabilitate this country.
– That policy accomplished little or nothing in that direction.
– I heard a speech today about defence, and it was said that we should have an Australian navy. Yet, apparently, we arc unable to manufacture our own requirements in cheese. In 1927-28, we imported £116,200 worth of cheese. I do not know that the community has suffered very much as a result of this Government’s tariff policy in reducing those imports to £34,462. In 1927-28 we imported meats valued at £564,950.
– What does the country from whom we import meatsbuy from us in exchange?
– This Government, consistent with its policy for the rehabilitation of Australia, reduced the imports of moats to £354,777. I could, if time permitted, give the Senate numerous other items of imports with respect to which reductions have been made. It i3 therefore futile for honorable senators opposite to accuse this Government of being capricious in respect of its tariff policy. Every increase of duty or embargo which has been imposed can be defended on the ground that it is part and parcel of the scientific plan of the Government to rehabilitate Australia.
– How can we rehabilitate Australia if we do not manufacture?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we cannot make blouses or skirts in Australia ?
– I am referring to articles that we cannot manufacture.
– Australia had arrived at the stage where it was easier to buy than to produce. Will the honorable senator answer this question: What made it possible for this Government, despite the heavy exchange, to reduce the value of the imports of apparel and attire from £6,500,000 to £4,641,000?
– The reduction was due to the fact that the people did not have the money with which to buy those articles.
– I welcome that interjection, because the Leader of the Oppositi on has suggested that had we lifted the tariff wall, goods would have been imported and purchased here, and thus kept many of our workers in employment. I am not concerned with either argument. I am content to challenge Senator Payne to mention one increase in the tariff which cannot be justified. .
– What heavy impost has been placed upon machinery?
– The embargo on agricultural machinery.
– To-day the Leader of the Opposition said that wheat cannot be grown in Australia because of the high production costs. Does Senator Johnston suggest for one moment that it is the high cost of machinery that is affecting primary production in Australia?
– It is a serious item.
– If the honorable senator will study the figures relating to the cost of machinery in freetrade New Zealand, he will find that the primary producer in Australia does not pay any more for agricultural machinery, despite our protection policy, than does the primary producer in New Zealand.
– The econo- mists who attended the Melbourne conference unanimously recommended a reduction of high customs duties, and instance^ machinery and instruments of production.
– I ask honorable senators to allow the debate to proceed without indulging in conversation.
– I invite Senator Johnston to compare the cost of agricultural machinery in Australia with that in New Zealand.
– And in Canada.
– For the moment, 1 am dealing with Nev/ Zealand. I doubt, even if we removed the tariff wall, whether agricultural machinery would become les3 costly in Australia. What honorable senators often overlook is the fact that the tariff is one of the bes forms of insurance. For instance, if we remove the tariff on steel rails, the Newcastle manufacturers would be driven out of existence, and if that occurred what price would we have to pay for steel rails ?
– Half price.
– Surely the honorable senator knows that the keen competition existing between the foreign and Australian manufacturers keeps down the prices. If we eliminate the competition of the Australian manufacturers, the insurance which the tariff at present affords to the Australian consumer will he removed. It is a recognized fact that exporting countries generally oat the pack and export the surplus. But Australia has for years, particularly in respect of its butter and sugar, eaten the surplus and exported the pack. Other countries exporting their surplus and eating the pack are able to sell abroad at a lower price than that at which they could profitably sell in their home markets. Dumping their surplus they must have regard to Australian competition, but if that competition be removed, not only th, primary producer, but the whole com- m unity will suffer, for the extinction of our own industries will certainly not be followed by a reduction of prices. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that the tariff policy was mainly responsible for the present unemployment. Senator Hoare pertinently asked, “ What about f reetrade England ?”, and the Leader of the Opposition fenced the question by saying that we have enough problems of our own without trying to solve those of England.
– Why has unemployment increased correspondingly with the increase in customs duties?
– Unemployment has increased during the last twelve months mainly because of the attitude of the Senate towards the financial proposals of the Government. If the Senate had permitted the Government to enact its financial policy employment might have been found for many men. Honorable senators have referred to the proposed fiduciary issue. Would not a sales tax on flour be fiduciary ? If we pay more for an article than the cost of its production, is not the difference between its real economic value and the price we pay fiduciary? It suits the Opposition to support a sales tax on flour, but a proposal by the Government to issue or create credits, or means of exchange, in order to put men in employment, is described as the fanatical scheme of some irresponsible layman.
– What would the Government have done with those credits?
– Amongst other things, the absorptive capacity of Queensland could have been increased by setting men to work at the ringbarking of trees.
– A fiduciary issue is not necessary for that.
– Under the £34,000,000 agreement, £750,000 was to have been spent in the honorable senator’s State for the opening up and development of land, but on account of the stringency of credit the money could not be made available.
– The money to be expended on that scheme was not fiduciary.
– Recently the “ Golden Eagle” nugget was exhibited in the King’s Hall; if against every £25 worth of gold in it, £100 worth of notes were issued, £75 worth would be fiduciary. Had £750,000 been available for expenditure in Queensland the productive and absorptive capacity of the State would have been increased, and Australia generally would have been better able to shoulder its burdens. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the fishing industry, which could be very profitably carried on in Australia if credits were available to finance it. Annually, £1,500,000 worth of fish is imported into Australia, which has the richest pelagic and deep-sea fisheries in the world. We are told that we cannot issue fiduciary notes, but we must continue to send our wool and wheat to other countries, and in return buy from them £1,500,000 worth of fish each year!
SenatorFoll. - Fiduciary notes are not necessary to catch fish.
– At the present time we are paying the fishermen with fiduciary notes. Is not every note in circulation in Australia to-day fiduciary ? I agree with the Sydney Bulletin that whether money be obtained by the issue of credits, notes, or cheques, the manner in which it is expended determines whether the issue is inflationary or otherwise. I do not agree with the issue of fiduciary notes to build railways, the North Shore bridge, or a £1,000,000 bank in Sydney; but I do advocate the issue of credits for the purpose of increasing productivity. Professor Richardson, of South Australia, said, on the occasion of the opening of the Darling Laboratory, that one extra pound of wool from each of the sheep in our present flocks, an extra 10 lb. of butter fat from each of our dairy cows, one bushel more of wheat from each acre now cultivated, would, at the prices then prevailing, represent an increase of the national income by £13,000,000 per annum.
– The issue of fiduciary notes would not increase production in the manner suggested by the honorable senator.
– The farmer who desires to buy superphosphate to increase his wheat production, the dairy farmer who wants to improve his herds and get the extra 10 lb. of butter fat from each cow, andthe pastoralist wanting to improve his sheep in order to get an extra lb. of wool in each fleece, cannot, under existing circumstances, get any credit from the banking institutions. The Senate opposed the Government’s policy by its rejection of the Central Reserve Bank Bill, and the Fiduciary Notes Bill.
– The caucus bas since abandoned the fiduciary note issue.
– It has not. But the Labour party is sensible. Recognizing that there is a hostile majority in the Senate, that the country has to be saved, and that Labour must save it, the party to which I belong realized the futility of persisting in legislation which would have been rejected in this chamber.
– Why did not the Government go to the country?
– The Government has recently returned from the country with a mandate to govern. Immediately after the last general election there was no great anxiety on the part of honorable gentlemen opposite for another appeal to the people. Probably there were fewer advocates of dissolution in this chamber than elsewhere.
– We did not know then how bad the Government was.
– Those honorable senators who profess to desire a general election are talking with their tongues in their cheeks.
– Give us an opportunity.
– I understood last week that there was a possibility of an election at an early date. We were told that the Appropriation Bill would be held up, Supply would be granted for a limited period, a political crisis would be created, and ah appeal to the people would be inevitable ; but the clouds have passed away, the get-together movement continues, the Appropriation Bill is to be passed, and everybody is happy. It is futile for honorable senators opposite to say that the Government is afraid of an election. This is not the time to talk of elections. The financial condition of the country is such as to require the cooperation of all parties, but when I am asked why the Government has not alleviated unemployment, the obvious answer is that the Opposition refused to allow the Go vernment to enact its financial proposals. The Opposition, on the other hand, is entitled to claim that such legislation would not have alleviated unemployment.
I agree with Senator J. B. Hayes that industrial arbitration is not operating as smoothly as it should.
– It never will.
– At the present time it is operating against the worker more than it should. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court fixed the basic wage on a basis of 313 days and then introduced a principle by which that wage should rise and fall in accordance with the fluctuations of the cost of living as determined by the Commonwealth Statistician. That arrangement, however, was based on the assumption that the 313 days would remain static. But through the sacrifices made by the workers in accepting rationing, the 313 days decreased to approximately 250 days. It is manifestly unfair to fix the normal and reasonable needs of the average worker by applying to 250 days a formul* that was based on 313 days. However, that is a problem with which the court will have to grapple.
– Why not try suspending arbitration for a time?
– Arbitration is approved by the people, and we should subordinate our individual opinions to the popular will. Moreover, arbitration is, I understand, the policy of the United Australian party and the Country party as well as the Labour party. However much we may differ upon other subjects, arbitration is one upon which we should be unanimous.
I now wish to refer to certain statements made by Senator Sampson in connexion with our defence system. In his flights of rhetoric the honorable senator referred to certain persons in this country as spineless. I give second place to no man in my loyalty to my country; but if I do not see eye to eye with Senator’ Sampson in matters of domestic policy he should not regard me and those with whom I am associated as spineless. I also deprecate the growing tendency of public men to attack members of the Public Service, who have no opportunity to defend themselves For 9 brief period
I had the honour to be directly associated, and since my return to the Ministry, indirectly associated with the Secretary of the Defence Department, whom Senator Sampson attacked. I regard the Secretary of the Defence Department as one of the most capable officers in the Public Service, and the Government which secured his services for the Defence Department was very fortunate, indeed. Wo member of the Public Servicehas been more loyal to his Minister, or more anxious to do his best, not only for the country, but also for his department, than the present Secretary to that department. I hope that, if any attacks are to be made in future, they will be upon persons who are able to defend themselves.
– In the temporary absence of Senator Sampson, I should like to say that he did not attack Mr. Shepherd.
– He referred to him in humiliating terms.
– He only said that he was receiving a higher salary than any military officer.
– Yes. He also said that he knew nothing concerning the department he is conducting. He also suggested that he was overpaid to perform work concerning which he knew nothing, or, in any case, that he was submitting recommendations to the Minister, upon which he acted, which were not in the best interests of the defence of Australia. That is not the practice adopted by that officer. Some of the recommendations to the Minister - as the Leader of the Oppo-, sition . (Senator Pearce), who was once the Minister for Defence, knows - come through certain channels to the secretary of the department. As a matter of fact, on some of the major issues the Secretary to the Defence Department has no power to make a recommendation to the Minister. Recommendations on major issues come through the Naval, Military, or Air Boards, and at some of the meetings where such recommendations are considered the secretary to the department is not even permitted to attend. Consequently, it is unfair to attack that officer on matters of military policy, and to blame him for making recommendations which result in criticisms of thenature I have mentioned.
I now come to the interjection which was the basis of Senator Sampson’s attack with respect to the naval defence. Must Australia, for sentimental reasons, maintain a navy when 400,000 men are out of work? We have asked the invalid and old-age pensioners and crippled and disabled returned soldiers to accept a reduction in their pensions.
– And even when those reductions have been made we shall be unable to balance our budget.
– That is so. A high naval authority said that our present navy is neither fish, fowl, flesh, nor good red herring. Notwithstanding that opinion, we are called upon to pay a higher premium - which, after all, is a mere insurance against invasion or a raid - than is demanded of any of the other dominions for a similar class of service. If we were able to- maintain an efficient Australian navy and army, and all those essentials of nationhood, I would not be very much concerned at the expense ; but when this Parliament and this Government has to decide between those thingswhich are essential and those which are more essential, I do not think any one can criticize Senator Foll for suggesting that this Parliament should look into the matter of our naval defence system. I do not think he intended to suggest that the Government should definitely decide to scrap the Australian. Navy.
– I did not suggest that.
– I did not assent to such a proposition. I suggested that our financial position is such that we should not send boys overseas, and keep them in training until they are seventeen or eighteen years of age, and then in the middle of their training bring them back to Australia and place them in the Observatory, or some other department, and at the same time allow the Naval or Military Board to request the Minister to send other cadets overseas for training. We should not attempt to lay down a battleship, the first cost of which involves the expenditure of £1,000,000, when we cannot find sufficient money to maintain the rates of old-age pensionsor full rates of wages. When we are starving the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and other forms of governmental activity, we are entitled to ask whether we should not close up our own insurance office and take out a premium in an old-established office. I have never suggested that we should throw the whole responsibility on to Great Britain; but when Senator Foll was speaking, I did, by interjection, acquiesce in his suggestion that we should consider whether it would not be cheaper, and at the same time guarantee more efficient protection, to take out an insurance policy in an insurance office already established.
– Why not spend on the Air Force portion of what we are saving on the Navy?
– For some years we have been “ pulling our own legs “ by believing that we possess facilities for defence which do not actually exist. There is not an aeroplane under the control of the Defence Department that_can remain in the air for more than two hours.
– That is wrong.
– It i3 a fact. Aeroplanes in the Defence Department after travelling direct from their base for only one hour have to commence the return journey.
– Does the Assistant Minister suggest that that is so in the case of the Wapiti ?
– That is absolute nonsense.
– I am guided by reports.
– A Defence Department machine flew from Adelaide to Melbourne; that distance could not be covered in two hours.
– I am speaking of battle planes used for war purposes. If an invading force landed at Darwin and, planes were despatched from their base in the south, they could not remain in the air for more than two hours.
– The Assistant Minister is speaking of the “ bulldogs “.
– I am guided by the reports with which I have been supplied.
– Most of our planes can remain in the air for more than two hours.
– I am speaking of those in the service - of battle planes.
– The fighting planes?
– I understand we have such an efficient air service that our fighting planes cannot remain in the air for more than two hours.
– The Assistant Minister does not know anything about it.
– Perhaps not; but 1 am basing my remarks on reports supplied to me with respect to the efficiency of the Air Force.
– Why does not the Government subsidize the Australian National Airways established by Air-Commodore Kingsford Smith?
– The honorable senator should not be surprised at the decision of the Government in that matter. A transcontinental railway was constructed at great cost between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta, but the preceding Government subsidized an east-west air service to the extent of £39,500 a year which enabled that service to compete with the railway. It is a wonder that that Government did not also construct a bituminous track, and thus have three means of transport between Western Australia and the Eastern States
– The most serious scandal was in connexion with Wackett’s Widgeon.
– That may be so. 1 do not wish Senator Sampson to be under the impression that I did more than support Senator Foil’s suggestion that attention should bc directed to the price we are paying for our Navy, and, in view of the financial position of Australia, to the urgent necessity of determining whether there is not a cheaper and more effective form of insurance. Beyond that, I make no further comment. While I agreed with all Senator Sampson said concerning sentiment and nationhood, I remind him that we have reached the stage at which we have to decide which is- the more essential of two essentials. To mc it is more essential to provide that the fighting forces necessary in time of war - the 400,000 who are now unemployed - shall be able to fight should the occasion arise. They would, be better equipped for fight- ing if they were better fed, clothed and housed than they are to-day. If Senator Sampson has the true interest of the defence of Australia at heart, he should concentrate upon providing employment for these men necessary to provide for the maintenance of an improved defence system. However efficient our Naval, Military, or Air Forces may be, battles cannot be won on empty stomachs. Battles may be won with the aid of inefficient equipment if that equipment is under the control of men with the spirit to win. But the spirit of our men will be broken if they are kept out of employment. I support the first reading of the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Foll) adjourned.
(Nos. 1 to 9), 1931.
Bills received from the House of Representatives and (on motions by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9), 1931.
Bills received from the House of Representatives and (on motions by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
The following bills were received from the House of Representatives: -
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 4) 1931.
South Australia Grant Bill 1931.
Western Australia Grant Bill 1931.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended and bills (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 30th July (vide page 4787), on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [9.37]. - I desire to direct attention to only one or two features of this measure. It seems strange that in our present difficult financial position, the Government should be making provision for an increase in expenditure from revenue. Last year the expenditure on works from revenue was in the neighbourhood of £200,000. This year it will be £829,000. One can well understand how shocked the indignant taxpayers will be on making this discovery; but when we look at the footnotes to the various items we find the explanation is that last year certain expenditure was from loan which this year is charged to revenue for the simple reason that we are unable to raise loan money. The other feature to which I call attention is the fact that £550,000, or roughly two-thirds, of the total estimated expenditure, is on account of the Postal Department. It is rather a sad commentary upon our financial position that we are unable to raise loan money for expenditure even on that department, which is conducted on the basis of being able to pay working expenses and provide for interest on loan expenditure and a sinking fund. I notice also that there is included in the bill provision for expenditure on behalf of the Department of Health, and I take this opportunity to suggest that, at a time when we are shortening sail financially, the Government might very well exercise economies in the Health Department. This would not mean that the necessary work would not be done, because Commonwealth expenditure on health, to a large extent, duplicates similar expenditure by State Governments. The amount involved is only small, but I suggest that the activities of the Commonwealth Health Department, and its co-ordination with State departments, might very well receive attention.
– Some time ago a committee was appointed to consider the overlapping of Commonwealth and State departments, and I have no doubt that it will review the activities of the various health departments. The health of the people is a matter that should receive the attention of all governments. Within the last year or two public opinion has been awakening to the need for wise expenditure upon health matters, and the better organization and co-ordination of departmental activities throughout the Commonwealth. If it is possible to achieve greater efficiency for a lesser expenditure,
I assume that we shall have a recommendation to that effect from the committee, and I can assure the honorable senator that it will receive every attention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Glauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [9.45]. - The Assistant Minister (Senator Daly) referred earlier in scathing terms to the equipment of the Air Force, and said that its aeroplanes could remain in the air for only two hours. I thought at the time that the honorable gentleman spoke without a knowledge of the subject, because, before I handed over the administration of the Defence Department the Air Force was equipped with Wapiti machines, which are useful for reconnaisance or for light day-bombing work, and are capable of travelling at a speed of 145 miles an hour. On one occasion a Wapiti machine was flown from Adelaide to Melbourne, without a stop, in 2£ hours.
– It must have done more than 145 miles an hour.
– It had a following westerly wind, and did 1G5 miles an hour. On another occasion a Wapiti machine took Professor Mattingham to Central Australia. A machine that could remain in the air for only two hours would not be capable of that. The honorable senator may have had in his mind the Bulldog fighters. They had not arrived in Australia when I left the department, but the money was available for their purchase. A machine of that type is not expected to remain in the air for more than a couple of hours.
– What is the good of such a machine for the defence of Australia?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW The great strength of the fighter lies in its ability to attain a considerable altitude in the shortest possible space of time. It has not a big petrol tank, but it rises higher and quicker than the other aircraft, and thus is in a more advantageous position for attack than they.
– If the aerodrome was at Canberra, and an attack was made on Melbourne, how would you get to Melbourne ?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The honorable senator is speaking of something of which he has no knowledge. An offensive is not launched from one aerodrome only.
– I know that.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Very well, then. The aerodromes are located close to the spot that, is expected to be attacked.
– Take the case of Canberra ; it is 60 miles from the sea.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Nobody is likely to bother about Canberra. Your aerodromes would be located at the likeliest points of attack. A heavy aeroplane cannot climb quickly ; therefore, the Air Force must have other aircraft that fulfil this special purpose.
Senator FOLL (Queensland [9.52].- I regret that the Government has decided to reduce considerably this year the expenditure upon the Air Force. It is one branch of the Defence Department that should be fostered in every possible form. I regret, also, that in pursuance of its retrenchment policy the Government has practically abolished the liaison which formerly maintained in London close contact between Great Britain and Australia. As I have pointed out on other occasions, the progress that is being made in the development of aircraft among British manufacturers is almost phenomenal. This industry has reached such a high state of efficiency in Great Britain that practically every continental country which has embarked on a policy of air force development is using British engines. Only recently the Belgian Government placed with British aircraft manufacturers a large order for several new squadrons of planes. The Dornier X machine which recently crossed the Atlantic was the largest flying ship that had ever ‘been in the air, and it was completely equipped with British Rolls Royce engines.
I am at a loss to understand some points in the policy of the Air Board, in relation to its communications with Great Britain. When the airship R101 was about: to fly to India the late LieutenantCommander Palstra was at Southampton undergoing a course of navigation instruction, at a cost to this country of something like £3 3s. a day. That course was interrupted by the Air Board in Australia, so that he might participate in the proposed flight. Unfortunately, he perished with other brave men in the terrible disaster that overtook that airship. The course which he was undergoing, if completed, would have been of infinite value to Australia. That officer was selected to take part in the flight of the R101 despite the fact that other officers in England were available, and desired to undertake it. The action of the Air Board gave rise to a great deal of comment in official circles at the time. There seems to be a certain degree of irritation between members of the board and certain outside officers.
For many years a flying officer in England was the chief stores officer of the Royal Australian Air Force. He had an office in the Air Ministry in Whitehall, and his duties consisted mainly of ordering the supplies required overseas not only for the Royal Australian Air Force, but also, if necessary, on account of civil aviation. He has saved, I suppose, between £30,000 and £35,000 per annum by the introduction of new methods of packing and cure in placing orders for Australian requirements. But when the Government adopted the policy of retrenchment it was so short-sighted that it repatriated this officer to Australia, and he is now outside the service, although he is still under 50 years of age. He has been replaced by another man with considerably less experience.
– Squadron Leader Marsden has not been recalled.
– I am referring to Flight-Lieutenant C. J. Harman. He had the entree to practically every aircraft factory in Great Britain.
I notice that the sum of £9,550 is provided for civil aviation. I am of the opinion that civil aviation will not be on a satisfactory footing until it is placed where it rightly belongs, and that is under the Department of Markets and Transport. Although there is some contact between civil and military aviation, the type of training, the machines used, and the methods adopted, are entirely different.
– There ought to be close co-operation in regard to aerodromes.
– There could still be close co-operation. I hope that an undue amount will not be spent upon aircraft supplies at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The officer in charge of that particular branch is naturally anxious to make another attempt to build aeroplanes in Australia, notwithstanding the disastrous results that followed his previous efforts, and the disproportionate amount that was expended on them.
– He will not be able to go very far with the amount that has been provided.
– This matter is causing a good deal of concern in the department itself. I hope that the Government’s activities at Cockatoo Island Dockyard will bc confined to the present work of reboring engines, overhauling planes, and general repairs. So far as Air Force supplies are concerned, I think that the time is overdue when a representative of the Australian Air Force or the Civil Aviation Department should go overseas to make a full investigation of the latest methods adopted in aircraft construction. I believe that over £150,000 is voted annually by the British Government for experimental purposes alone, and, when allowance is made for the scientific work done in the laboratories of private manufacturers, it is safe to say that about £1,000,000 is spent every year in experimental work for the purpose of increasing the efficiency of aircraft. Machines specially constructed for the purpose of intercepting enemy planes are now capable of rising to a height of four miles in nine minutes.
– Squadron Leader Marsden is still in London as liaison officer of the Air Force, and it is not intended to bring him back to Australia at this stage. A close liaison exists between the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Air Force, there being a number of Australian officers undergoing training abroad at the present time. In the opinion of the
Government, Squadron Leader Marsden is quite capable of undertakingthe work of ordering stores and equipment required bythe Royal Australian Air Force. Flight-Lieutenant Palstra was selected as the most suitable officer available for the special duty entrusted to him on the airship R101. Orders for stores for the Royal Australian Air Force are incorporated with those for the Royal Air Force, and thus we are receiving the benefit of the most favorable prices offering.
– I wish to know whether the item of £125,000 for the River Murray waters scheme has been expended or whether it is projected expenditure, and what is the amount intended to cover? There is another extraordinary item of £36,000 for the construction of a vessel for lighthouse purposes. I was under the impression that we already had a surplus of vessels of that type. “When revenue is difficult to obtain, I hope that this item does not mean another Cockatoo Island job, having regard to the cost of the ships previously built there.
– The item of £125,000 referred to by Senator McLachlan is the amount to which the Commonwealth Government’s quota of £176,400 of the River Murray Commission’s estimates of £705,600 has been reduced. The programme, for which £705,600 was estimated to be required, is as follows: -
– Is any work to be done on the HumeWeir itself?
– Yes. For general construction in New SouthWales £81,000 will be required. It is intended to raise the level so that the reservoir will have a capacity of 1,250,000 acre feet. These works are being charged to loan account because none of the governments concerned, except the Commonwealth Government, has revenue funds from which this cost can be met. The governments of the three contracting States - New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia - recently requested the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to approach the Loan Council with a view to raising £380,000 to carry on the work for twelve months; but the total amount required to raise the weir sufficiently to impound 1,250,000 acre feet, and to pay for land resumption, and for road and railway deviations, is £705,600.
– Does the item of £125,000 represent the Commonwealth Government’s share of the cost of raising the weir?
– Yes. It was intended originally that the £705,600 should bo subscribed this year; but the States concerned found that it would be impossible to raise the money, and they decided to reduce the expenditure for this year to £380,000.
– One of the States concerned will not pay anything.
– It has not done so up to the present time; but the other States are in almost the same position.
In reply to the question raised concerning the construction of a lighthouse vessel, I may mention that the new steamer is required to replace the Kyogle in the Western Australian service. The work was approved by Parliament last year, and approximately £84,000 has already beenexpended. The contract price is £120,000, and the vessel will be completed in September next atthe Cockatoo Island Dockyard.The Kyoyle is now practically at the end of its economic life. ,
– Although this schedule provides for the expenditure of £829,000 from revenue against £.130,000 last year, it appears to be acceptable to the majority of the Senate. At any rate, so far it has not been criticized by any honorable senator, and it seems to me that it should be criticized, and that the policy of the Government in this respect should be most carefully examined. How can we expect, to provide £700,000 more out of revenue this year than we found last year for new works, buildings, &c. ? We are at our wits’ end to know how to make ends meet. The reservoir of both public and private funds has steadily become more depleted, and yet the Government sees fit to propose that this huge amount of money for new works shall be provided out of revenue.
– Is it not better to spend money out of revenue for these purposes than to borrow it?
– It certainly is not better to tax the people out of existence in order to construct public works which will last for generations. It is always justifiable to construct permanent works out of loan funds.
– The Government would still have to tax the people even if it borrowed money.
– The honorable senator must know very well that if we had had to rely upon money from revenue for the construction of our public works, we would have very few public works in Australia to-day. No country in the world constructs its public works out of revenue.
– Well, they should do so.
– The honorable senator can know very little about finance to make such a statement.
– It is the borrowing of money that has got us into our present difficulties.
– I wish to refer to three or four items in the schedule. The first is the item of £125,000 proposed to be voted for expenditure under the River Murray Waters Act. Senator McLachlan also referred to this subject. Previously expenditure under this measure has been provided out of loan moneys. The Government will not be able to find this money from revenue unless it imposes an absolutely crushing burden of taxation upon the people, many of whom are already so heavily taxed that they cannot lift up their heads. The Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley) has just told us that the States which are co-operating with the Commonwealth in the carrying out of the River Murray works have intimated that they cannot find their share of the expenditure out of revenue, and that they intend to approach the Loan Council for authority to borrow it. If it. is proper for the State Governments to do this, surely there could be nothing improperin the Commonwealth Government doing it. The carrying out of this work from loan money is entirely justifiable.
Another item in respect of which I should like an explanation from the Minister is, “ Construction of vessel for lighthouse purposes, £36,000”. This vessel is partly constructed. It was originally intended that it should be constructed entirely out of loan money. How can the people be expected to provide money for this work out of revenue seeing that their incomes have been so seriously depleted? The fall in the income of the people must make it increasingly difficult for the Government to obtain money from revenue. If we had an overflowing Treasury, something might be said in favour of providing the money for this work out of revenue. But in spite of the exceptionally heavy and cruel taxation imposed upon the people last year the Government is very short of money. If additional taxation is imposed this year the reservoir of private wealth will he drained dry. I believe that the position next year will be worse than it was last year.
It is proposed to vote £550,000 out :>f revenue for expenditure by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Nothing was provided out of revenue for this purpose last year. No details are given of this proposed expenditure.
– We are asked to give the Government a blank cheque.
– I remind the committee that during the last year or two Parliament has authorized the expenditure of a .very large sum of money in increasing the facilities for the handling of postal business at one of our principal post offices. It was expected that the business of this particular post office would increase, and it was on this plea that the expenditure of £140,000 or £150,000 was agreed to. We now learn that so far from there being an increase there has been a decrease in the revenue of the department through that particular post office. The Government saw fit to mako it more difficult for the people to do business with the post office, for it increased the charges for various services rendered by the department, and now it is seeking to increase taxation in order to make up for the diminished revenue received from this source. It will only be possible to provide the £550,000 proposed to be voted to this department by heaping additional taxation on the people, and they are already taxed more heavily than any other people in the British dominions, so far as I can gather from my reading.
– Would not the Government have to impose taxation even if it borrowed money?
– Of course it would; but it is a different thing to impose taxation to provide interest than to provide the full cost of capital works which will doubtless last two or three generations. It is surely reasonable to ask that the cost of the works should be spread over at least fifteen or twenty years. That could be done by providing adequate sinking funds. Clearly the Commonwealth cannot find the revenues to pay for these works in one year. Even if the Government succeeds in raising additional revenue this year, it will be only by imposing extremely severe taxation on the people.
I should also like an explanation of the items which appear under the heading “ Federal Capital Territory “ as follows : - “ Miscellaneous works and services, £21,000”, under the control of the Department of Home Affairs, and “ Miscellaneous works and services, £54,000 ‘’ under the control of the Department of Works.
– That is not very much to spend on the little village.
– It is a great deal to spend on it from revenue. So far as I can see, the Government has very little possibility of raising this money.
– Then it cannot be spent.
– Apparently the Government desires to extract every possible penny from the people of Australia by means of additional taxation. If it pursues this policy, our position will become worse instead of better. I protest against the expenditure of £700,000 more out of revenue on new works and buildings than was spent last year, and I ask the Government for a detailed explanation of the i tems to which I have directed attention.
– Regarding the item in the Postmaster-General’s Department, about which Senator Payne seeks information, there are commitments amounting to £71,620, £40,000 of which represent payments for goods that have been ordered from overseas. The amount of £20,000, expenditure on buildings, is for the completion of works now in progress.
Of the £54,000 allocated to the Department of Home Affairs for miscellaneous works and services,” under the control of the Works Department, £10,430 is required to meet liabilities carried over from the last financial year in respect of works in hand, as follows : -
The balance is for these additional new works -
The balance is made up as follows: -
Regarding the reference made by Senator Plain to raising money by loan to cover the Commonwealth obligation in connexion with the construction of the Hume Reservoir, I may mention that at a meeting of Ministers representing the Commonwealth and the States concerned, it was decided that the Loan Council should be approached with a view to obtaining this money. The Commonwealth Government had already made provision out of revenue for the amount of £120,000. its share of the £500,000 originally agreed upon.
– The Commonwealth Government did not make provision for that amount out of revenue. It simply estimated that that sum would be required.
– It estimated that that would be the amount required out of revenue for this commitment.
– There are only two points upon which I have anxiety in connexion with these appropriations. The first is dealt with at page 4 of the bill, and reads “ construction of drill halls, mobilization stores, ordnance stores, rifle ranges, fortifications, barracks and other accommodation and engineering works . . . £534 “. There are seven different types of work which, I presume, will be spread over six States. For that imposing task, a little over £500 is set aside. What sort of a financial genius is the Government going to select to take on the job of doling out that money ? It would be akin to an economic miracle if he achieved success.
Next, I come to page 12, where £55,175 is provided for “Federal Capital Territory “. That isa rather large amount. I do not wish to see Canberra other than well catered for, but I think that; when compared with the £534 to which I have already referred, that amount is disproportionate. It appears to me to be a poor attempt at holding the scales of justice evenly between the outback parts and the Federal Capital, and bears out the old adage, “ the nearer the throne the greater the favour “. I, and no doubt other honorable senators, have seen work carried out at Canberra that could well have been left undone for the present, at all events. I have seen good hard roads torn up, apparently only to employ labour, roads that would have served the purpose well had the money devoted to their reconstruction been diverted to outback centres where they have no roads at all.
In this schedule is an item of £19,153 as an instalment towards the purchase of a small-arms ammunition factory at Footscray, Melbourne. If this matter is only in its initial stages, would it not be wise to pause before going any further? The doctrine repeatedly preached by military strategists is that all such works should be kept as far from the reach of the enemy as possible. If they are close to the sea they are a better target for those who have designs on the country than they are if they are located inland. In this connexion there is no reason why a policy which was once popular, but, apparently, has fallen into disfavour, should not be revived and works of this character located at Canberra. The Federal Capital Territory belongs to the Commonwealth as a whole, but hitherto it has been used as the seat of government in the administrative sense only. If works such aa those at Footscray were established in tho Territory they would enhance the value of our own property, and by that means help the Government at no distant dale to turn a huge liability into an asset. In a secondary, but none the less important sense, they would also help the Government to reduce the rents of the people who are renting houses from it, and, incidentally, would help those who are buying premises at a price which is far above their real value. The policy of establishing these works in big centres of population, which like huge vacuum pumps are pulling everything towards themselves, should cease.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [10.34]. - My recollection is that great pressure was brought to bear on the late Government to agree to raise the height of the Hume dam so that more water could be impounded ; but as no one could tell exactly what use was to be made of the water, the Government appointed a committee to inquire whether it was economically sound to increase the amount of water to be impounded, and to say what industries could be extended as a result. The committee consisted of a representative of the Development and Migration Commission and a member of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It was empowered to report upon the crops that could be profitably raised and marketed in the area to be irrigated. For instance, dried fruits can be easily produced in the Murray River Valley, but already there is difficulty in disposing of the output. More rice could be grown in Australia, but the Australian market for rice has already been captured. The committee had not furnished its report when the Government went out of office, and I should like to know whether the provision on these Estimates is to increase the height of the dam, because if the committee has not presented its report, or has not recommended the impounding of a greater area of water, I am inclined to oppose the item. It has been suggested to me that there is a political flavour about this expenditure because the Hume Weir happens to be in the electorate represented by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney). I do not know whether that is so or not, but I know that Ministers representing the States have always been keen in pushing on with expenditure in connexion with the works whether it was justified or not. I well remember one lock which the State Ministers had agreed to construct, but not one of them could demonstrate that it could serve any useful service. The late Government declined to go on with it. If it can be shown that profitable use can be made of the additional water, it might be a good proposition to increase the height of the weir when money is plentiful, but it is a work that could well stand over. The decision of the late Government was to go on with sufficient work to make the weir safe, and to defer the question of increasing its height until times improved. I should like the Minister to say whether this item makes provision for carrying out work which was held up pending the full economic inquiry to which I have referred.
– The original proposal was to build a weir to impound 2,000,000 acre feet, but a committee recommended that it should be constructed to impound only 1,250,000 acre-feet.
– But there were two committees - one dealing with the question of the height of the dam, and the other with the utilization of the waters. The former had reported when the late Government was in office, but the latter had not.
– I am not cOl versant with the findings of the commit tee to which Senator Pearce has made reference, but I understand that the River Murray Commission is acting in conformity with its report. I could understand the Leader of the Opposition raising this point at the time the Hume Weir was about to be constructed. It was then that consideration should have been given to the question of the utilization of these waters for the growing of marketable products. I remember that the British Economic Mission which came to Australia in its report accused all the Australian governments concerned in the Murray River works of carelessness in not co-operating with one another, and in not making certain before embarking upon these works that a market would be available for the products grown as a result of the impounding of the Murray waters.
– There is a market for anything so long as the price is reasonable.
– Victoria has asked that the wall of the weir be raised by an additional eight feet so as to to impound more water. That, of course, would involve additional cost in respect of land resumption. The extra cost of building the wall of the dam up to the 500,000 acre feet mark would be £705,600. The higher the water rises the greater will be the cost of land resumption. Victoria is asking for the impounding of more water for irrigation purposes. So far as New South Wales is concerned the construction of irrigation channels has not yet been commenced. We are at present employing on these works some 800 hands, and, of course, if the works are closed down these men will be thrown out of employment. Even the closing down of the works would entail some expenditure, such as for maintenance. I understand that one of the locks on the river Murray is already partly constructed, and, therefore, it would be difficult at this stage to cease work on tha’t project.
– That difficulty would apply to the lock that is partly constructed, but not to the Hume Weir.
-It applies to the dam, because the wall on the Victorian side has to be completed. In New South Wales, on the other side of the river, the wall could, I suppose, remain at its present height. In any case, the plant would have to be kept in repair, and a caretaker employed on the job.
– Many caretakers could be employed for this money.
– No purpose would be served by closing down the works. We must at least keep a skeleton staff on the job until the financial position permits the work to be proceeded with.
– Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that 800 men represent a “ skeleton “ staff ?
– If these works are closed down many men will be thrown out of employment. That applies also to the Federal Capital Territory. Senator Lynch referred to the tearing up of roads in Canberra, but I ask him not to forget that there are 400 men out of work in the Federal Capital City, and some form of employment must be found for them. I admit that re-afforestation is a more productive work than the construction of roads, but certain roads must be kept in repair.
– I prefer men to work than to receive the dole.
– If we close down the works on the Hume Weir 800 men will be put on the dole. They are at present rationed and earning not much more than the dole, and they are giving some return for it. The same thing applies in Canberra. The men who are working on the roads here for two or three days in the week are not receiving much more than the dole.
Senator Lynch also referred to the item, “ Construction of drill halls, mobilization stores, ordnance stores, rifle ranges, fortifications, barracks and other accommodation and engineering works - £534”. The wording of this item remains the same from year to year. Owing to the present financial stringency, no moneys are available for new military buildings, but so soon as the finances permit, urgent new services under the many classes of works, as set out in the item, will be proceeded with. The whole nt the provision of £534 represents the amount due to the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales, in respect of the alteration of signals and the provision of a cross-over in the railway yard, in connexion with the LiverpoolHoldsworthy railway, due to the electrification of tho main line. Senator Lynch also referred to the acquisition of the small arms ammunition factory, Footscray. Until the 31st December, 1926, that factory was rented at £20,000 from the Colonial Ammunition Company Limited.
As a result of negotiations between the Commonwealth and that company the Commonwealth, as from the 1st January, 1927, acquired the property as a going concern at a price of £150,000, plus 5 per cent, interest on the balance for the time being outstanding, the principal and interest being payable by 40 quarterly instalments of £4,788 3s., the first instalment falling duc on the 31st March, 1927, the final being due on the 31st December, 1936. The total cost will be £191,526. To the 30th June, 1931, £86,187 had been paid, leaving n balance of £105,339 still to bo met. The provision of £19,153 in 1931-32 is to cover the four quarterly instalments of £4,788 3s., each t- be mot during the current financial /ear. I think that that explanation covers the points raised by Senator Lynch.
– Senator Foll advocated the transfer of the civil aviation branch from the Department of Defence to the Department of Transport. [ hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) will not come to a hasty decision on this matter. Close cooperation between the civil aviation branch an”3 the Defence Department is essential if we are to avoid waste and duplication. One of the most important functions of the branch is the selection, planning, and improvement of landing, grounds and aerodromes, and there must he close cooperation between it and the Defence Department if the landing grounds are to be developed in such a way that they will be useful for military purposes in time of war.
– I assure the honorable senator that there will be no change of policy within the next few weeks.
– I have no fixed ideas on the subject, but the proposed change should not be made without a thorough investigation. Weshould adopt the proposal only if civil aviation will benefit thereby. The civil aviation branch does invaluable work by assisting aero clubs in the training of pilots whose services would be of the utmost use should Australia ever be involved in another war. The greatest handicap experienced by this branch is not the system of control, but the starvation of civil aviation services generally.
I am sure that only lack of money accounts for the department’s inability at the present time to subsidize the excellent air services established by Air-Commodore Kingsford Smith and Flight-Lieu tenant Ulm, but which arc unfortunately being closed because government assistance is not forthcoming. Any money which may be available to the Government could be better expended in assisting the civil aviation branch to carry on its work under the existing methods rather than in establishing a new department or transferring these activities to the control of another Minister.
I protest against the manner in which the Estimates for the Federal Capital Territory are presented. In the Estimates for all other departments information is given as to the works upon which the proposed votes are to be expended, but. in the proposed vote for this territory the only information given is that £500 is for the purchase of machinery for the Government Printing Office, £8,000 for the reconstruction of the Can.berraGoulburn road, and £21,100, £8,000, £54,000, and £7,000 for miscellaneous works and services under the control of the departments for Home Affairs, Works, and Health, respectively. No details are furnished. I want to know the nature of the miscellaneous works and services. We are simply told . that £90,500 is wanted for works in Canberra, and on the general Estimates we are asked to vote another £270,000 for the Federal Capital services. The Minister has furnished some information, and I thank him for his courtesy, but full particulars should appear in print so that we may have an opportunity to learn for what we are voting this money. We should not he asked to sign another cheque for £90,000 for Canberra where so much money has been wasted already. I understood the Minister to say that £4,000 was for additions to hotels and cafes. Three of the government hotels in the city are empty; yet, according to a return furnished to me a few months ago, the Government is leasing offices at huge rentals from private persons. Nowhere else would such an unbusiness-like policy be permitted to continue for two months, let alone years. The empty hotels could be converted for use as offices, and with very much greater advantage to the staffs that now occupy scattered shops at Civic Centre. I hope that before the proposed expense is incurred the Ministry will inquire whether empty government buildings cannot be used for some of the purposes for which private property is now leased.
– Where would wc get the money to furnish the hotels as offices.
– Where will the Government get the money that it is now asking Parliament to vote? In any case, the furniture now used in the rented offices could be transferred to the hotels.
An amount of £14,500 is provided for forestry. Throughout my public life I have urged that more attention should be given to afforestation. In all the States more money should be expended on the conservation of forests and tree planting, but owing to the straitened financial circumstances of the nation, we cannot at this time afford to spend large sums on reafforestation, from which no return may be expected for at least twenty years. I protest against the proposed expenditure of £90,500 on new works and buildings at Canberra; the whole city is an example of monumental waste. It yields no return on its cost, and will always be a parasite on the rest of Australia. It is like a vampire, draining the life-blood from the outer parts of the Commonwealth. At a time of financial stringency, further expense in this place is not warranted.
– The information which the Minister courteously supplied to me included an item of £1,000 for the Manuka reserve. How could I justify to my constituents voting to authorize £1,000 to be extracted from the pockets of the people throughout Australia for expenditure on a recreation reserve in Canberra? This is not the time to tax the people for works that are not utilitarian and reproductive.
Provision is also made for the expenditure of £11,500 on surfacing roads in Canberra, which, in my opinion, are better than those in any other part of Australia. It is unreasonable to expect the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, particu-larly during the present financial stringency, to provide such a large amount for this purpose. In walking from the railway station to the Hotel Kurrajong this morning I noticed the awful extravagance involved in constructing two magnificent parallel roads, where one would serve the purpose, in order to provide one-way traffic. I cannot understand why it ever should have been considered necessary to provide one-way traffic in a city with such a small population. The road system of Canberra is a glaring example of extravagance, and why £i 1,500 should be required to surface what are already good roads is beyond my comprehension.
An amount of £4,500 is also set aside for additions and alterations to hotels and cafes. Senator E. B. Johnston referred to the fact that several of the hotels are now empty, and the one in which I reside has only one half of its accommodation occupied. Why is it necessary to expend this amount?
– Perhaps the fireplace at the Hotel Kurrajong cost £4,500.
– Surely that was not the cost.
– The amount includes the cost of alterations to Gorman House, where certain re-conditioning has been undertaken.
– I am surprised that re-conditioning of a building erected only a few years ago is necessary.
The sum of £14,500 is to be provided out of revenue to meet the requirements of the Forestry branch. Although appropriations in the past for this purpose may have been justified, the present is an inopportune time to spend such a large amount out of revenue.
– Ninety per cent, of that will be spent in wages.
– Surely it is not suggested that the services of a large percentage of the men who assisted in erecting this city are to be retained when all the work which is likely to be undertaken for some years has already been completed.
.- Will the Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley) supply the committee with some information with respect to the money to be spent on preparing landing grounds for aeroplanes? Attention has frequently been directed to tho fact that the landing ground at Darwin is inadequate, particularly for planes travelling from Australia to Great Britain, and which necessarily must carry heavy loads when taking off. Has provision been made for enlarging that landing ground?
I should also like some information with’ respect to the expenditure of £600 on letter boxes for Canberra. The Postal Department has recently notified the residents in the capital cities, whose houses are beyond a certain specified distance from the footpath, that they must erect letter boxes at their own expense. As the people of Australia have been compelled to incur this expense, and it now appears to be the policy of the Government to meet the cost, I should like to know if they are entitled to a refund? Are the residents of Canberra to be supplied with letter boxes at the department’s expense as compensation for living here?
Provision has also been made to meet certain expenditure of the Health Department in Canberra. Is the hog farm in the Capital Territory in any way associated with this expenditure. The Canberra Times this morning contained some startling information suggesting a scandal associated with pig-raising, the price of pork and the cartage of garbage from the Canberra hotels. Is there any truth in the suggestion in that paper that the Public Accounts Committee, which consists of nine or ten members and a secretary, is to be asked to inquire into the working of a hog farm in the Federal Capital Territory? It is ridiculous that an important committee like the Public Accounts Committee should investigate so small a matter, and incur ‘heavy expenditure in the printing of evidence. I hope that we shall hear no more of it.
I consider that the Forestry Department at Canberra is an absolute waste of money, and a duplication of activities already carried out by the States. I agree that some tree-planting in the Federal Capital Territory is necessary. It is a pity that Australia generally has not gone in for reafforestation to a greater extent; but we have in the States all the facilities we need for the training of students in forestry.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should repudiate pur contracts with the present students?
– No ; but I regard the school as an unnecessary duplication. Queensland has its own Forestry Department, in which forestry cadets may be trained.
– The State Department does not provide for the training of cadets.
– I believe the honorable senator is misinformed on the subject. I have recently been in correspondence with Mr. Swain regarding a lad who wishes to join the department as a cadet.
– The honorable senator is probably aware of the advice given by the department in connexion with the importation of Oregon.
– The Labour party was responsible for the duty on oregon.
– The move originated in Queensland.
.- The sum of £19,153 is set down as an instalment of the cost of acquiring the Small Arms Ammunition Factory at Footscray. It would appear that a departure is being made from the rule that any proposal involving an expenditure of £25,000 or over on public works shall be referred to the Public Works Committee. The Government might have made a very good bargain ; but why was the matter not referred to the committee?
– The property was purchased in 1926.
– In that case you are not at fault. Seeing that the freight charges would not be great it would appear that the Federal Capital Territory is a suitable place for the establishment of a small arms ammunition fac tory. The transfer of the factory would tend to add. to the value of the Government’s assets in the Territory, and probably lead to a reduction in the cost of building, and a lowering of rents, which are far too high. In the expenditure of public moneys in such directions the claims of the Federal Capital Territory should not be overlooked.
.- The sum of £90,500 isset down for expenditure in the Federal Capital Territory. Last year, under these estimates, only £35,325 was spent.
– The rest was spent out of loan.
– Of the amount provided from loan, £150,000 was for housing. As the housing scheme previously in operation has been suspended, it appears unnecessary to provide so large a sum this year. I therefore move -
That the figures “90,500,” in the item “Federal Capital Territory, £90,500” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “30,000.”
– How would the honorable senator spend the £30,000 that would be left?
– If I had the items before me, I could tell the Minister. The bill does not show them, and I have not a sufficiently retentive memory to recall all the items he has read. There is no justification for increasing by over £55,000 the expenditure in the Federal Capital Territory last year.
– In view of the request for a grant toWestern Australia, I cannot understand what motive has actuated the honorable senator in moving his amendment. A portion of the money is required to provide work in Canberra. This evening we received from another place a measure providing for a substantial grant to “Western Australia. It, therefore, ill-becomes the honorable senator, as one of the senators representing that State, to protest against this proposed expenditure on Canberra. I admit that a great deal of expenditure has been incurred on the capital city, which belongs to the nation, and it should be our pride to make it as attractive as possible to visitors.
-Why is the Minister stone-walling the bill?
– Proposals for expenditure on essential works in Canberra should be sacrosanct forthe reason that it is the heart of the nation. The Commonwealth Parliament decided to establish the seat of government here, and also to got out of the hands of the landlords. Itresolved that the people of Australia should own their capital city, just as it is the ambition of every right-thinking person to possess a home of his own.
Although Canberra is not in a convenient location, since it has been established, I stand four-square for all that it means to
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I must ask the Minister to confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the amendment.
– I am endeavouring to do that, Mr. Chairman. I hope that the amendment will not be supported.
– I think that the answer to Senator Johnston’s objection was supplied by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). If honorable senators will turn to page 12, they will find a footnote which explains that last year’s expenditure on the Federal Capital Territory, amounting to £263,000, plus £35,000, was charged to the loan fund. This sum included £150,000 for expenditure in 1927-26 from a special loan provided by the Commonwealth Bank for housing. Therefore, this Government has, in fact, reduced the expenditure on Canberra. I believe that Senator Johnston’s objection would disappear if he would scrutinize the schedule closely, thus satisfying his mind thatthe whole of the expenditure this year will be from revenue account, and that a considerable reduction is proposed.
– I cannot understand the reason for this amendment. Senator Daly has correctly explained the position.
Senator Johnston referred to miscellaneous expenditure. 1 point out to him that it is an impossibility to show in detail in these Estimates the different items of miscellaneous expenditure. The total amount provided for the Federal Capital Territory this year is £90,500, compared with an expenditure last year of £113,077, a reduction of £22,577. Last year a certain amount of loan money was spent, but during the current year it is proposed that the whole of the expenditure shall be out of revenue.
Information has been sought with respect to the proposed health expenditure of £7,000. That is made up of £4,000 forthe abattoirs and £3,000 on account of services for the Canberra Hospital.
asked whether the Accounts Committee would investigate the position in connexion with the hog farm. That committee has the right to make any inquiries it considers necessary into any expenditure, but I do not believe that there is any prospect of its undertaking an investigation of this sort. It is just as earnestly resolved as is the Government to save expense, and I feel sure that it will play the game in this matter.
asked for details of the postal expenditure. In New South Wales itis proposed to spend £188,000 on engineering works and £17,272 on sites and buildings, making a total of £205,272.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).That matter can be dealt with later; the committee must first dispose of the amendment.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 11 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 11.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 August 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310804_senate_12_131/>.