Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 15 July 1920

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! I must ask the honorable member for Cook to refrain from repeatedly interjecting.

Mr J H Catts - I have the official figures, which prove that there are 1 6.000 returned soldiers in New South Wales with qualification certificates who cannot get upon the land.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - There is no truth in that statement whatever.

Mr SPEAKER - I must again ask the honorable member for Cook to cease his interjections.

Mr GREGORY - I do not give any credence to the honorable member's statement, because of what I learned whilst I was representing the Government of Western Australia at a Conference which was held about a fortnight ago. A grievance I have against the Government is their failure to arrange for a uniform system of taxation which would effect an enormous saving in administration and to the public. Moreover, I want taxation of incomes on the basis of a five years average, which will be much more equitable than our present system.

Another matter which ought to be dealt with by this Parliament is the Defence policy of the Government. Enormous sums are being expended at the present time for the housing of war material that is coming from the Old Country, and certain large works are being held, in abeyance. Upon page 91 of the report of the Economies Commission, it is pointed out that if we allow matters connected with naval, military, and air-craft work to remain in abeyance for the next three years, a saving of £5,250,000 can be effected. That is a very large item. We ought, as speedily, as possible, to arrive at a determination as to what the future policy of the Commonwealth is going to be in regard to military matters. We should not incur any further expenditure until that policy has been actually determined. Recently, I drew attention to the proposed expenditure of £80,000 on Arsenal Research Department buildings at Maribyrnong, which, I understand, when completed, will involve an expenditure of approximately £700,000. If the project is commenced, additions will have to be made, and authority should not be given for the work to be undertaken until this House is in possession of the whole of the details.

Honorable members have been waiting for some time to hear some pronouncement concerning our future Defence policy. Now the war is over and conditions are becoming normal, surely it is time to call a halt in the matter of Defence expenditure, particularly in view of the present international outlook and the apparent absence of immediate danger. After making certain necessary provision, I would be inclined to favour a go-slow policy in matters of Defence. I am not in possession of all the facts, and I do not know what scheme the Government intend placing before us ; but I think it is their duty to submit their Defence policy before we are called upon to deal with the Estimates.

I wish to refer, very briefly, to a matter which I know will be of considerable interest to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman). I do not think the time is opportune to seriously consider the expenditure of a large sum in connexion with the establishment of a Federal Capital.

Mr Austin Chapman - Does the honorable member think that is a proper statement to be made by an impartial chairman of the Public Works Committee, to which body some suggest the question should be submitted?

Mr GREGORY - I amprepared to deal with that question in the same way as I am dealing with the breakofgauge problem, and to admit that, although it may be essential for the Government to carry out the work at some future date, the pre sent time is inopportune to incur such expenditure, particularly when we have such grave financial obligations to meet. In connexion with Defence, a uniform gauge, and the building of the Federal Capital, it is time to go slow in an endeavour to meet our obligations. I do not want the time to come when we will be forced to consider repudiation and proclaim the country bankrupt. It is not my intention to delay the House any longer at this juncture, as I have already made my position clear in Tegard to this matter. In vot ing, as I intend to, against the motion, I am not necessarily expressing my confidence in the present Administration. I wish the Government to know that, if any further embargoes are placed upon the export of our primary products, they are not likely to have my support. The only exception would be in the event of a shortage of wheat in Australia, in which case the Government would be justified in refusing to sanction exports until our own people were supplied. It would have to be understood, however, that in the event of such a contingency arising, the wheat-growers would receive the world's parity for their produce. Any action taken by the Government to prevent producers obtaining the world's parity for their produce will have my strongest opposition, irrespective of consequences.

I desire also to emphasize the necessity for returning to constitutional government, instead of adhering to the practice whereby Ministers of the Crown have been able to dictate the policy of the country without consulting Parliament.

Recently we had the astounding suggestion that the Government should utilize £10,000,000 of the profits derived from the producers' wool. If money is required it should be raised in a constitutional manner, and if it is not forthcoming voluntarily compulsion should be adopted. It is not fair that any one section of the community should be made to subscribe a large sum to our loans; everybody should contribute a fair proportion. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has not submitted a strong case in moving his motion, and on this occasion it is my intention to support the Government.

Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.

Suggest corrections