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Thursday, 22 April 1915

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - The statement presented to the Senate by the Minister of Defence is, on the whole, very satisfactory. It is particularly pleasant to know that, although at the outbreak of the war the British Empire was in a state of great unpreparedness, nevertheless during the intervening period of eight months it has not been dilatory in making every possible preparation. We cannot but admire the manly speeches delivered by the leaders of the British Government, both to the workmen and to the nation generally. We must also admire, I think, the spirit which animates the workmen there in deciding to devote their best efforts in the workshops to turning out all the munitions required. That is where, ultimately, war preparations are going to tell. The efforts being put forth by British workers should, in my opinion, receive the highest possible commendation. Generally speaking, the Ministerial statement is, as I said, very satisfactory. But there are a few points which I think ought to have received more attention at the hands of our Ministry. For instance, in the daily press the other day we were told that the Canadian Government - they have no more facilities at their disposal than our own Government have, if as many - are making provision whereby Canadian soldiers at the front will be able to take part in the coming elections. Many of the Australian troops have not. so far, got beyond Egypt, and there should be no difficulty about enabling any of our electors in that country to take part in a byelection, such as the one proceeding in Dalley. We are told that already 43,000 men have left these shores for the front. Most of the men, I presume, are on Egyptian soil. There should be no trouble inmaking provision for men who are not actually at the front to take part in the present by-election. Without wishing to make an invidious comparison, I have no hesitation in saying that by far the greater number of these men will be Labour supporters, and that, unless some action is taken, we shall be robbed of a considerable number of votes owing to the fact that the matter has been overlooked by the electoral authorities.

Senator Russell - If you can give us a practicable proposition we will consider it.

Senator GRANT - Why not send the names of the candidates to absent electors of Dalley, and let them exercise their suffrage? There is no insurmountable difficulty in the way if there is a desire to carry out the idea.

Senator Pearce - How many Dalley electors are there?

Senator GRANT - If there are 43,000 men in Egypt, that number must include nearly 1,000 Dalley electors. That is a very substantial number of men to be deprived of the right to exercise the franchise.

Senator Pearce - Does Dalley contain one-fortieth of the electors in the Commonwealth ?

Senator GRANT - It contains oneseventyfifth, and they are very enthusiastic voters. I estimate that, approximately, there are 1,000 electors of Dalley in Egypt at the present time, and I think that the Government ought to have taken the necessary steps to see that those men shall not be practically disfranchised at any time. I am not prepared to admit that there are very many Australians in Egypt who are not old enough to have the suffrage. I think that most of our troops there are over twenty-one years of age, and, therefore, they ought to be enrolled. I am pleased to see that the Government have adopted as their unchanging policy the idea of equipping, training, and sending to the front as many men as are prepared to go and fight for Australia: That is one phase of the situation which has my entire approval. Only the Minister of Defence and his immediate advisers can have an idea of the immense efforts which have been put forth by the Department, more especially to equip the men. We heard hysterical utterances some time ago from the Leader of the Opposition here, and elsewhere, that we should send forth 100,000 or 200,000 men, but the Government, to my mind, have done all that they could reasonably be expected to have done. More men are being equipped and trained every day, and no matter how long the war may last, I feel confident that the present Government will be quite equal to any emergency that may arise, and that Australians generally will respond as well as we could expect them to do. I am also pleased to observe that considerable encouragement is being given to the formation of rifle clubs. I do not quite agree with the idea of conscription. If every man had to be conscripted and trained, I would not object so much; but, unfortunately in this matter, as in every matter, we find that a large number of men, on one pretence or another - on account of either age or avocation - are not fit subjects to fight for their country. If conscription should come about, I for one would not favour the exemption of any male elector ; absolutely every man should be required to go and fight. But, so long as men are prepared to volunteer, I am opposed to the idea of conscription. In the history of the British Empire it has not yet been deemed necessary to impose the duty upon the population, and, so long as the present spirit holds good, it will not, in my opinion, become necessary. What we require is a more efficient means of training the men who are available; not to be so very rigid with those who are prepared to enlist, and to see that every possible effort is made to promptly equip them. Emphatically do I say that we are not doing justice to ourselves when we do not insist upon every factory at our disposal working three shifts a day and turning out all the ammunition and arms it can. If I had my way, I would see that that was done without the least possible delay. I do not know what is being done in British Dominions elsewhere, but I presume that nothing is being left undone to insure the utmost possible amount of ammunition and arms being sent forth every day. I desire to refer to the estimated receipts from the Federal land tax. I find that it is expected to yield something like £2,700,000 this year.

I am pleased to notice that it is intended to get a very large amount of revenue from the Customs and Excise duties. It must be very pleasant to ardent Protectionists to realize that

T921 - a foreign-made goods are expected to come into Australia this year and to produce a revenue of £14,261,000.

Senator Russell - Do you mean that Protectionists like to see foreign goods coming in ?

Senator GRANT - I do mean to say that Protectionists like to see foreign-made goods coming in.

Senator Russell - Nonsense 1

Senator GRANT - I can put no other interpretation upon the facts. I think it was to-day that I heard an honorable senator in the chamber state that they fully intend that, for an indefinite number of years, large quantities of foreign - made goods shall be imported into Australia.

Senator Russell - We cannot help it.

Senator GRANT - That is, and has been all along, the policy of the Protectionist party. Occasionally we are supplied with figures on this question, and they prove conclusively that, no matter what may be said to the contrary, it is the aim of the so-called Protectionist party to insist upon the importation of foreignmade goods. They maintain that policy in order that the land-owners may be protected from taxation. During a recent visit to a part of Tasmania, I was astonished to find that no man from the mainland is allowed to make a home there unless he pays to some local land-owner a licence amounting to £150, or, perhaps, £200. I was very surprised to find that in the small township of Burnie, in the north, no man is allowed to settle unless he pays to the Van Diemen's Land Company, or to some other land-owner there, a. sum equal to £200. I was informed that, owing to the ineffectiveness of the land taxation in operation, both State and Federal, it was absolutely impossible, unless a person was prepared to pay that price, to secure a home site at Burnie.

Senator Ready - Your informant was not too well informed. The Van Diemen's Land Company is selling its land now, largely because of the land tax.

Senator GRANT - I' was informed by the secretary of the Typographical Union at Burnie - a man who is very anxious to make a home for himself, and whose word I am prepared to take - that he cannot secure a home site there for less than £150. Furthermore, he asserted that if persons could secure land there, the building trade would be immensely advantaged; that fifty -new houses would be built as soon as possible after the land was secured.

Senator Ready - The position is, that before the Federal land tax was imposed, a man could not buy a site at all; but now the company is offering sites for sale.

Senator GRANT - The company is offering a very limited number, and at a very high price. The land tax in Tasmania is not sufficiently high to compel the company to disgorge its land, and no one knows that better than does the honorable senator.

Senator Ready - The company will pay nearly £10,000 this year under the Federal land tax.

Senator GRANT - No doubt the company is doing so; and it will pay the tax willingly, because it is not heavy enough. The mere fact that the company is paying the land tax would be an indication to most persons that it is still holding on to the land. I cannot understand why a man like Senator Ready cannot see that self-evident truth.

Senator Ready - This is the first year in which the company will pay that amount. Under the previous land tax, it paid £7,000 , but this year the amount will be increased to £10,000. We hope that it will cause the company to sell the land more quickly.

Senator GRANT - We hope that it will, but our hopes are in vain. It is expected that the Government will get this year £2,700,000 from the operation of the land tax. The conditions in Tasmania are typical of what prevails to-day throughout the Commonwealth. It is typical of the conditions in New South Wales, notwithstanding all the rosy pictures drawn to amuse, edify, and attract immigrants from the Old Country. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 23rd March of this year the following statement appears : -

MOREE, Monday. - The local court-house was crowded when the ballot was taken for the Benarba 4,000-acre block, for which there were C40 applications. The Land Board disallowed 65 applications, 'admitting 584. The successful applicant was D. W. Moore, of Guyra, the next in order being G. Munro, A. G. S. Smith, E. Cummin, and W. Gredi. The Land Board today confirmed the block to Moore.

The incidence of the Federal land tax has not been sufficiently heavy in New South Wales to compel the owners of large estates to dispose of them, as is shown by the fact that 584 eligible applicants made application for one block.

Senator Gardiner - Winning a block is a better prize than winning a Tattersalls sweep.

Senator GRANT - I should think it was, and the odds against winning are not nearly so heavy. A man has to put up a deposit, but that is returned if the application is unsuccessful. I refer to that matter to indicate once more that the tax is not as effective as some of us would like to see it. In support of my other statement that even the Tariff now in operation is ineffective, I quote from the

Agethe following incontrovertible statement: -

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