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Thursday, 6 May 1915

Senator BUZACOTT (Western Australia) . - The motion that the Ministerial statement be printed has already received a good deal of attention from honorable senators, and, therefore, if we had had any important business to go on with, I would not have taken up further time in adding to the debate. But as there is no important business to hand, I will, for a few moments, briefly refer to some of the most important points that have been raised. I congratulate the Government on the statement brought forward, and more particularly do I congratulate the Minister of Defence upon the very able manner in which he has administered his Department during the strenuous times through which we have recently been passing. In a huge Department like that of Defence mistakes are inevitable. I do not care who the individual may be who has to administer a Department of this importance, he will make mistakes. If the present Minister makes a mistake he is always prepared to learn by that mistake, and to rectify any error as soon as possible. So long as he is prepared to do that, we know perfectly well that we could not have anybody better fitted to preside over the Department and more able to administer its affairs than the present Minister of Defence. That brings me to the question of the Expeditionary Forces. We all regret that so many casualties have occurred in the fighting line during the last few days. The heartfelt" sympathy, not only of every member of this Parliament, but of every patriotic citizen of Australia, goes out to the relatives of those who have fallen in the field of battle. They have at least the satisfaction of knowing that their father, their son, or their brother have fallen in the defence of their homeland, and have left behind a name that will be remembered for many years to come. When we take into consideration the fact that these men are fighting the battles of Australia, we can only regret that there are members of this Parliament to-day - and I am glad to see Senator Bakhap is present - prepared to make the statement that these men should be paid at the paltry rate of ls. 2d. per day.

Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator ought to differentiate. I say we should have conscription, and pay the conscripts ls. 2d. per day.

Senator BUZACOTT - What would be the difference between those who would have to go as conscripts and those who now volunteer, if they are prepared to fight the battles of the Empire. Whether they are volunteers or conscripts, I think they should receive fair and reasonable pay. The honorable senator is apparently not prepared to stand by the statement he made in the Senate during this debate. As one of the members of this Parliament, I wish to dissociate myself from any policy of that kind. Senator Shannon, in addressing the Senate on Thursday night, expressed the opinion that this would be the last great war that would occur during the next hundred years. I hope members of this Parliament will not be lulled into any sense of false security' by statements of that kind. I do not for one moment believe that this will be the last great war that will take place during the next hundred years. And if we permit ourselves to be 'lulled into this sense of false security, other nations will prepare, and before we know it Australia will become the possession of some foreign Power. I believe that it is our bounden duty, even after this war is over, to make every effort to keep up the strength of our Australian Navy. Whatever the opinions of other honorable senators may be with regard to the Navy, I hold the opinion that it will, and must be, our first line of defence at all times, and that it would be far better for us to spend a few million pounds in building and maintaining a Navy in a condition that will enable us to prevent any army from invading Australia than it would be to have to spend millions afterwards in compelling an invading army to leave our shores. I hope the policy of this party will always be to not only keep the Navy at its full strength, but also to see that the principal ports throughout the Commonwealth are so fortified that we shall be able to prevent an invasion at any time. Senator Millen, in speaking to this motion, referred to the fact that, so far, we have not contributed one penny to the cost of the war. I believe that is a fact - that the taxpayers of Australia have not, up to now, been asked to pay a single penny towards the cost of the Expeditionary who are fighting for us in other parts of the world. It is desirable that we should take this question into consideration. Are we acting wisely in not imposing additional taxation now, in case we may not obtain the indemnity which some honorable senators consider we are certain to get? I do not think that there is at the present moment any single person, - -any patriot, at any rate - who would refuse to pay his fair share towards the maintenance and equipment of the Forces who are fighting for our national existence, and also for the sacred cause of civilization. And it is, I think, an opportune time for the Government to come forward and impose an income tax on all incomes over £300 a year.

Senator Ready - Why have the exemption so low as that?

Senator BUZACOTT - I think the majority of those people in receipt of £300 a year, seeing that this would be a war tax, would be quite prepared to pay some share of their income towards the cost of maintaining our Army and Navy. But I think it would be unjust to impose a tax on incomes below £300. I regard £300 per year as a living wage. Nothing under that is a living wage. Unfortunately, we have hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia to-day who are receiving considerably less than onehalf of £300 per year. We do not want to touch them.

Senator Ready - The honorable senator would graduate the tax ?

Senator BUZACOTT - Undoubtedly ; graduate it from £300 upwards. By that means we should probably raise sufficient to pay for the cost of the war, and, if any indemnity is subsequently paid to us, the sum raised by means of the income tax could be used to develop the primary industries of our country in such a manner as would assist to attract the population that it is undoubtedly necessary we should endeavour to get to Australia as early as possible. In connexion with defence there is also the question of the strategic railway. The suggestion that has been put before us in this regard is well worthy of our consideration. I do not propose to commit myself for or against that railway until I get further particulars, but I agree with the honorable senators from South Australia that one of the first railways to be built should be the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. As a Parliament we are under a moral obligation to construct that railway, and, as Senator Newland has said, we should not look upon the Northern Territory agreement as a mere scrap of paper. I hope, therefore, that Parliament will have an early opportunity of passing a Bill for the construction of that line. If honorable senators will take the trouble to read the reports concerning the Northern Territory, they will find that in the Macdonnell Ranges we have a great and important mining area. Arltunga is an extensive field of lowgrade ore which would be opened up and developed with railway facilities, and would probably give employment to thousands of men. We are all agreed that one of the necessities for Australia is population, and it should be our duty to give consideration to those proposals which are best calculated to induce people t-y settle in the interior. By the construction of this railway we would be able to give employment to thousands of men in the Macdonnell Ranges, and there is every prospect that they would establish their families there, because, apart from its importance as a mining area, Senators Newland, Shannon, and O'Loghlin have pointed out "that it is the finest climate in Australia, it contains a considerable area of good agricultural land, and a large part of it is really good pastoral country. Another subject that is engaging a good deal of attention at the present time is the question of the land tenure. I say unhesitatingly that I donot think that it will make the slightest difference what the land tenure is if the Federal Parliament will only do its duty, and take the whole of the unearned increment from the freeholder. After all, the unearned increment does not belong to the man who takes up land and then goes to live in some other country, allowing other people who fulfil their residential qualifications to give the land its increased value. If we took the whole of the unearned increment, what would be the difference, so far as the man on the land is concerned, between a leasehold and a freehold tenure ?

Senator Bakhap - You recognise the fact, I hope, that the leasehold system does not seem to be popular so far as inducing settlement is concerned.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Neither does the other system.

Senator BUZACOTT - It would make no difference if the Government took the unearned increment. When the Northern Territory blocks were thrown open on the leasehold system, I believe there was a larger number of applicants than there were blocks available, showing that the leasehold system was popular, and if the Government had pushed on with the survey to meet the requirements of the people, there would probably have been a considerable settlement under that system. Before passing away from the question of railways, I want to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that, although we are making more progress at present in the construction of the trans-Australian railway, that work could be still further expedited. I regret that the Honorary Minister is not present at the moment, because I wish him to take notice of my remarks in connexion with this matter. I asked for information, but, unfortunately, have not been able to get it, and I think the Minister should ascertain why it takes such a long time to get replies from Kalgoorlie. If I want it, I write and get it within a fortnight without any trouble; but if the Government want information from departmental heads it appears they cannot get it within three weeks. Surely there must be something radically wrong with the administration of the Department, and the sooner it is attended to the better. From information I have received I understand that the Traffic Department on the western section of that railway is interfering with the operations of the Construction Branch. The position is better understood when we realize that for the three months ending 28th February the amount received from public traffic on that end of the line was only £461, although fifty men are employed there in that branch.

Senator de Largie - It looks very much like a farce to have a Traffic Branch for such a small amount of traffic.

Senator BUZACOTT - It stands to reason that the Construction Branch, knowing all the requirements at the head, must be in a better position to determine the traffic requirements than a Traffic Branch ; and, seeing that there is such a small amount of traffic, it appears to me advisable that the Government should do away with the Traffic Branch altogether, and allow the Construction Branch to take control of the work done by the Traffic Branch, for the time being, at all events. Passing from that subject, I now come to the question of the Tariff. As a party we are pledged to the new Protection. I have never been a great believer in the old Protection, for my experience and my reading of history of other countries has led me to believe that the old Protection is a means for building up trusts and combines, and that, unless we have all the powers that we asked for in the referenda iu 1911 and 1913, a highly Protective policy in Australia would have the same effect as in America, and instead of benefiting the people of this country would lead to the creation of trusts and combines. Therefore, when the Tariff is before us, I intend to support the Protective policy, so long as I am satisfied that people in Australia will derive some benefit from it, and that the workers employed in the different industries will receive a fair and reasonable wage for the labour which they give towards the production of the article protected.

Senator Needham - When the Tariff was under discussion formerly the employers promised that, and then they opposed the new Protection.

Senator BUZACOTT - Well, we will judge them on their acts and get some idea what they have been paying in the past.

Senator Bakhap - Are there not tribunals right throughout Australia to deal with wages matters?

Senator Findley - They are Courts, which are very costly.

Senator BUZACOTT - I would ask the honorable senator to consider the awards given by the State tribunals, see how they have been accepted by employers and employes, and compare them with the awards given by the Federal Arbitration Court, and the way they have been accepted by employers and employes. If honorable senators will go into this question, I am satisfied that they will admit that we should give the Federal Parliament the power to deal with industrial matters throughout the Commonwealth, not only in the (interests of the employes, but in the interests of the taxpayers, and as a means of keeping the wheels of industry continually turning.

Honorable senators interjecting,

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