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Wednesday, 14 July 1926

Senator PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) - The State Governments could carry out works that had not been approved by the commission, but they would have to find the money.

Senator FINDLEY - We hear a great deal about the need for cooperation and co-ordination. The commission will not be more competent to advise as to developmental schemes than are existing State organizations. Let us examine the position in Victoria. In this State there is a Closer Settlement Board, with authority to purchase estates and subdivide them for closer settlement purposes. It also retains the grazing and agistment fees, controls a training school for married migrants at Lara, and places single migrants on approved farms where they may gain experience. Migrants belonging to the industrial- classes are handled by a migration bureau, which also is controlled by the Closer Settlement Board. Its operations are confined to dry farming areas. What are known as " wet " farmers are transferred to the Water Commission. Is it proposed, under this scheme, to interfere with the functions of the Victorian Closer Settlement Board, and must all proposals made by that body, if they involve the expenditure of any portion of this loan money, go before the commission for approval? Apparently that is the position. Apparently, also, the commission will have authority to approve or disapprove of schemes recommended by the Victorian Closer Settlement Board. This strengthens my assertion that the Migration Commission will, in a sense, be a superparliament, a body superior even to a State Parliament. The Victorian Water Commission, as I have stated, controls all settlement schemes within irrigation areas, and it exercises the same functions as the Closer Settlement Board. Will the Migration Commission be set up in authority over the Water Commission in regard to the settlement of migrants on irrigable land, if the Victorian Govern ment proposes to participate in this loan money? Then, again, there is in Victoria another body known as the Country Roads Board, which is concerned chiefly in the construction of roads calculated to benefit settlers and settlement. It determines which roads shall be built for developmental purposes and which shall be regarded as main roads or State highways. Again, according to the Leader of the Senate, if the Victorian .Government proposes to utilize for road construction any portion of the loan money available under this agreement, all such schemes must be reviewed by the commission; and if that body disapproves of any such proposal the Commonwealth Government will only take it up upon a resolution of both Houses, or the State may proceed with the work and provide the money itself. We are told, further, that it will be the function of the Migration Commission to encourage the establishment of new industries, .as well as to assist existing industries. Does not the Tariff Board carry out that kind of work ? Senator Reid. - No.

Senator FINDLEY - Of course, the Tariff Board is charged with that responsibility. Its members pay visits of inspection to existing industries.

Senator Reid - The board does not concern itself with the establishment of new industries.

Senator FINDLEY - Members of the Tariff Board, I repeat, pay visits of inspection to established industries, take evidence from interested persons, and from time to time advise as to the possibility of bringing new industries into existence. Senator Reid, must be aware that some time ago a proposal was made, to establish a company for the manufacture of newsprint in Tasmania. Experts visited other countries to test the suitability of Australian woods for the making of paper pulp. They proved in: disputably that newsprint could be manufactured on a commercial basis in Australia, but representatives - of certain, newspapers, including the protectionist press in Australia, appeared before the Tariff Board and gave unfavorable evidence with regard to the establishment of that industry. The Government offered a bounty, which, in the opinion of the persons interested, was not sufficient. Representatives of the company,' so we have been informed, have since' secured 'the necessary capital in London, so that before long the industry should be started in Australia. This is my answer to Senator Reid's statement that the Tariff Board does not concern itself with the establishment of new industries. There is no need to appoint this Migration Commission, the members of which will be paid princely salaries, to advise British manufacturers about the possibilities of establishing new industries in Australia. British manufacturers are already well represented in this country by their agents or agencies, and they are well informed as to the situation. If there is any doubt about the accuracy of this statement, I invite honorable, senators to peruse Ilansard of the 24th June, 1926. On that day the Leader of the Senate, replying to a statement made by Senator Barwell, gave a return covering two and a half pages of Hansard, containing the names of British firms already established in Australia. It would appear, therefore, that the Australian field is well known to British manufacturers, and that the new commission will not be able to help any more than the tariff has assisted those who feel that their market has been affected. By high tariff duties we have opened the way to manufacturers who wish to establish themselves in Australia. There are some people who entertain the idea that Australia's progress has been slow. As a matter of fact, visitors from other lands are amazed at the wonderful progress made in Australia since responsible government was given to its people. I was pleased the other day when I read a statement made at a dinner given to Australians at the Hotel Cecil in London, that our increase of population and revenue in 137 years had exceeded that of Canada over a similar period, and that of the United States in 160 years. Sir Joseph Cook said that Australia. had established a record in this respect. Some persons have a hazy idea that population is synonymous with prosperity. If that were the case those countries which have the largest populations would he the most prosperous and progressive. As a matter of fact, the countries in which there is a great density of population present the greatest disparity in the division of the wealth of the people. A few persons have all that they desire, whilst millions live in wretchedness, and a large number in absolute misery and degradation. Others hold the belief that the safety of a nation is dependent upon the number of its people. If that were true the nations which have the biggest populations would be free from aggression. Numbers do not guarantee safety to a nation, or freedom from aggression. I sincerely trust that we are becoming free from international complications. I detest war, and I do not like the defence view-point being constantly trotted out, and alarms being sounded regarding Australia's security. I wish that people would be more Christian, and that they would preach the gospel of "Peace on earth, goodwill towards men."

Senator PEARCE - Both at home and abroad.

Senator FINDLEY - Yes, both at home aud abroad. If there are wars in the future they will, in my opinion, be decided, not as were those in the years that are gone, but largely by the use of aircraft and submarines, and they will be decided in a few days or in a week. Now I wish to answer those who say that the Labour party is opposed to any and every form of migration. In all seriousness, I say that the Labour party has assisted the population of Australia more substantially than has any other party since the establishment of federation. Some persons may doubt that statement. If any honorable senator opposite has such a doubt, let him listen to the following statement that was made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) in his second-reading speech : -

During the three years ending the 31st December, 1913, 124,000 assisted migrants were introduced into the Commonwealth. The annual average for the three years was over 11,000, the record year being 1912, when 46,712 migrants were introduced and satisfactorily settled.

What government was in power during that period? It was a Labour Government, of which Senator Pearce was a member. Those migrants came to Australia, not merely because there was a Labour Government in power, hut hecause the imposition of the land tax by the Labour Government had the effect of breaking up many big estates which for years had remained in a virgin state, and those lands became available for settlement. It is an economic truism that when one person is satisfactorily settled upon the land work is provided for two others.

Senator Carroll - How many big estates were broken up as a result of the federal land tax?

Senator FINDLEY - Dozens of big estates in Victoria were broken up, because those who owned them believed - erroneously, of course - that the tax would ruin them. I know men who disposed of their estates after the tax became operative, because they were under the impression that it would make their land unprofitable. . That would have been the result if they had allowed the land to remain in a virgin state. Some persons bought land from the original owners, and, realizing the possibilities that lay ahead, subdivided it, and made large profits. On some of those estates which previously carried a few sheep and cattle, there are now well established farmers.

Senator Ogden - The collections from the land tax axe as great to-day as they were when it was first imposed.

Senator FINDLEY - A greater amount is now collected, because there has been a marked appreciation in land values. The imposition of that tax not only led to the settlement of people on the land, but was also the means of work being provided for skilled artisans in different parts of Australia. The industrial activity in the capital cities is largely the result of that tax. Prior to its imposition, there were many small buildings in some of the most valuable portions of the city. Every week some of these buildings are being demolished, and mighty edifices arc being erected upon the land on which they stood. It would appear that some governments have made preparations to carry the scheme into effect before Parliament has had an opportunity to express an opinion upon it. The writer of an article in the Warrnambool Standard, of the 1st of May, said -

Victoria has made an admirable proposal for participating in the £34,000,000 migration agreement between Great Britain and the Commonwealth. The plan, which has been approved by the State Cabinet, by Mr. Bankes Amery, who represents the British Ministry in connexion with the migration agreement, and by the Director of Migration (Mr. Hurley), provides for the settlement of 1,000 men in the Beech Forest district at a total cost of £1,000,000. It is proposed to settle migrants on areas which had been abandoned principally on account of the absence of good roads and the difficulty of clearing the land. Under the agreement, money may be borrowed at nominal interest for the purpose of constructing developmental works, and the Ministry considers that if the blocks are subdivided into farms of from 50 to 100 acres, and the settlers provided with reasonable facilities, they should be able to make good.

It is proposed to spend £1,000 on the settlement of each migrant. In addition to the land, he will find on arrival a furnished house and the necessary fencing. These items will absorb about £600, and it is suggested that the remaining £400 should be advanced to each settler at the rate of 14s. 4d. a day for nine months for each of three years, in payment for work done in State forests within a reasonable distance of his home. The remaining three months of each year could be spent by the settler in improving his property and acquiring a knowledge of farming, for which purpose instructors would be provided by the State. The land will be suitable for dairying, potatogrowing, pig-raising, and poultry farming. Most of the land has been partly cleared.

Senator Pearce - What is the name of the writer ?

Senator FINDLEY - He writes under the nam de plume of " Democrat." The heading to the article is " National Notes." The writer is apparently well informed, and doubtless is the paid publicity agent of the National party.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is assuming a lot.

Senator FINDLEY - I assume that the writer would not make those statements unless he was pretty well primed.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator assumes that the Otway Forest scheme has been approved by the Commonwealth Government.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not. I have not said so. My contention is that before this bill has even been considered by the Commonwealth Parliament, a portion of the scheme, which affects Victoria, is according to the writer of this article, well in hand.

Senator Pearce - What does the honorable senator mean by " well in hand " ? Does he mean that it has been approved ?

Senator FINDLEY - It has, apparently, been approved by the State Government.

Senator Pearce - But not by the Commonwealth Government?

Senator FINDLEY - I did not say that it had been approved by the Commonwealth Government. As a matter of fact, that Government does not intend to consider any scheme. Senator Pearce himself told the Senate that the Commonwealth Government would not do so.

Senator PEARCE - What I said was that these schemes would be referred to the commission.

Senator FINDLEY - Exactly ; but that means that they will be considered by the commission, and not by Cabinet. In fact, Senator Pearce said that Cabinet's time would be so occupied in dealing with other matters that it would not have the opportunity to give serious consideration to these schemes or proposals, and that, therefore, they would be sent on to the commission.

Senator Pearce - And the commission will report to Cabinet.

Senator FINDLEY - I admit that I read the speech of the right honorable gentleman hurriedly; but my impression is that he told us that if the commission turns down any proposal submitted by a State Government the Commonwealth Government ,vill, not take it up.

Senator Pearce - The Commonwealth has the power to take it up.

Senator FINDLEY - I know that it has; but the right honorable gentleman said that it would not do so, and" that any scheme condemned by the commission would be taken up by the .Commonwealth only on the passing of a resolution by both Houses of this Parliament.

Senator Pearce - I have not come to a conclusion in regard to any scheme which I have not seen. I have not seen the one referred to by the honorable senator.

Senator FINDLEY - The right honorable senator must have come to a determination on this scheme. I have endeavoured to show that the work which this new commission will be called upon to do is already being done efficiently in Victoria, and, no doubt, with equal efficiency and in a businesslike way by bodies already in existence in the other States.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator claim that the Otway Forest scheme is a good one?

Senator FINDLEY - I do not know enough about it to express an opinion.

Many years ago, before a railway was built to the Beech Forest, men went down there and put all their earnings and energies into the development of an area, which to-day is more or less overrun with bracken and rabbits. According to the writer of this article, it can be made an excellent place for the settlement of immigrants if good roads and other means of communication are provided. But my objection to this arrangement with the British Government is that under it those who have lived in Australia for a period not exceeding five years will be on the same footing as the oldest Australian inhabitant. It does not matter how long a person has lived in the Commonwealth, or what his experience may be, he will have no greater claim for consideration in regard to land settlement than the man who was assisted to come here a month or two ago. Although those who felled the mighty giants of the Beech Forest devoted the best years of their life to an honest and almost superhuman effort to make good, they had to abandon their holdings, and new arrivals are now to be put on the same plane as them, or, indeed, on a better plane, for they are to be assisted in various directions. New arrivals are to receive the same consideration as any one of the 6,000,000 of our population.

Senator Pearce - Would the honorable senator give them votes ?

Senator FINDLEY - Of course I would, when they had complied with the residential qualification as provided in the Constitution, and in the Electoral ActBut my first duty is to Australians. I would first bring about the settlement of the Australian born on the land, and provide work for them. There are some people who cannot look at things except, through Imperial spectacles; they are worried because there is an army of unemployed in the- Old Country, and they are anxious to assist the Imperial Government because it is faced with difficulties. But we have an army of unemployed in Australia. It may not be as big this year as it was last year, but a few days ago it made its voice heard, and its presence felt, as a deputation- to the Lord Mayor, asking for work. If any honorable senator has . any doubt on the matter let him go to the Trades Hall, Melbourne, where there is a register of' the members of the unions who are out of work. He will find that at present there is a considerable army of skilled tradesmen out of work in the metropolitan area, and at the same time a considerable number of men are out of work throughout the State of Victoria. Under the agreement with the British Government we guarantee to find employment for 450,000 people. What work can the Commonwealth Government offer them? It might guarantee some work at the Federal Capital, but I venture to say that if advertisements were inserted in the newspapers calling for artisans for the Federal Capital, stipulating the payment of Australian rates of wages and the observance of Australian conditions of labour, there would be no difficulty in getting a sufficient supply of workers there. We must remember that in May next most of the big works at the Federal Capital will be completed. To-day there are about 3,000 workmen employed in the territory, but I am disposed to believe that there will not be a fourth of that number employed after the main buildings have been completed.

Senator Reid - Nonsense.

Senator FINDLEY - Of course, ]f 3,000 workmen will be employed in the Federal territory for some years to come, there will be something doing there, but I do not imagine that anything like that number will be required. The probability is that many of the workmen now engaged at Canberra will be added to the unemployed after this year. The Leader of the Senate says that the Commonwealth has no land. It has six times more land than the State of Victoria, What does it propose to do with it? Not long ago it passed a bill under which a commission was to be clothed with most extensive powers for the development and peopling of that lonesome region known as the Northern Territory. It was to submit to Parliament a policy so embracing and comprehensive that it would provide work for a considerable number of people, and at the same time perhaps open the gates of opportunity for land settlement in the Northern Territory. But the Government has done nothing as yet; it has not even appointed the commission. When that commission does come into existence, is it to be shorn of its powers by the commission which is to be appointed under the Development and Migration Bill?

Senator PEARCE - No.

Senator FINDLEY - Will there be duplication or overlapping if

Senator PEARCE - No.

Senator FINDLEY - I hope that in his reply Senator Pearce will answer the points I am raising. In introducing this bill he said that the commission to be created under it would have power to initiate a policy for the Northern Territory. Thus it would appear that it wlil have the same power as the Northern Australian commission.

Senator PEARCE - This is all very interesting, but I did not happen to say what the honorable senator attributes to me.

Senator FINDLEY - I understood the right honorable senator to say that the new commission would have the power to initiate a policy for the Northern Territory. I shall find the quotation directly. I have no faith in this proposition. Narrowed down, it is a onesided agreement, to the advantage of the Imperial Government. Works, such as railways and roads, land settlement, and the development of industries that will be undertaken as the result of the loan, would have been undertaken in any circumstances.

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