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Thursday, 15 July 1926


Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I must thank honorable senators for their very friendly criticism of the bill. It has been exhaustively discussed, but I do not propose to touch on more than two or three of the points that have been raised. Senator Needham drew attention to the fact that the migration agreement was not ratified bythe Commonwealth Parliament. I point out to the honorable senator that the document is an agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the United Kingdom. In due course, Parliament will be asked to provide sums of money, on the loan estimates, to enable the Commonwealth Government to give effect to it. That will really be the ratification of the agreement. The honorable senator also referred to the number of foreign migrants who had come to Australia in recent years. His figures did not go far enough, so I propose to put the matter right. Foreign migrants in 1924 totalled 8,317, and in 1925, only 6,637. Having regard to our population of 6,000,000, these figures are insignificant, and no one can reasonably magnify them into a menace.


Senator J B Hayes - There has been a decrease.


Senator PEARCE - Yes. It has been stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) and others, that' only unemployed persons in Great Britain are being brought to Australia. They overlook the figures which I have previously quoted showing that of those brought here only 15 per cent, were unemployed when they left Great Britain. The Leader of the Opposition also quoted from an article in the Daily Guardian, which made it appear that a large number of migrants arriving in Australia had been returned to Great Britain because they were mentally defective. Taking the whole of those returned for that reason and others, they represent only 2 per 1,000 of the migrants who have come to Australia. I would remind honorable senators that it is very difficult in many cases to detect mental deficiency by a medical inspection. During the war period we found, in connexion with enlistments for the Australian Imperial Force that although physical defects were easily noticeable, it was necessary to keep a person under observation for some days in order to discover any mental deficiency, and that it was impossible to do so by means of a medical examination lasting only half an hour. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth has been severely criticized on the ground that some of its regulations are considered to be too severe. Senator McLachlan said that the agreement was based mainly on land settlement. 1 propose presently to quote a few extracts in order to show that he is under a misapprehension. This misconception on "the part of the honorable senator and others is based on clause 1 of the agreement. Senator McLachlan said -

Apparently under the migration agreement all the efforts of the commission are to be directed to the immigration of men-folk. Although there is ample room in Australia for more domestics to help our women-folk, there apparently is no provision to deal with that aspect of the question. I should like to know if all the duties in connexion 'with immigration are to be given to the commissioners t

The answer to that is that it is provided in the bill that the commission shall assume control of the migration staff, which means that, in addition to its work on the developmental side, it will control the whole of the migration activities on behalf of the Commonwealth. The commission will, therefore, be controlling all classes and sexes, whether they be land settlers, domestic servants, boy farm trainees, or others. The question whether migrants will be adult males or females, boys or girls, domestics or other classes of workers will rest very largely with the States. It will be for the States to determine what class of immigrants they require. Senator McLachlan stated further -

I am particularly concerned with the fact that there seems to be no provision for parliamentary control .over the money to be expended under this scheme. We are certainly incurring a great risk in handing over to commissioners the control of such a large sum of money. The liabilities of the Government will, I hope, be fully explained by the Minister.

Expenditure on behalf of the Commonwealth, I would point out, must be authorized by the Commonwealth Parliament, and in view of that I suggest that the parliamentary control which the honorable senator desires is sufficiently ensured. The total liability of the Commonwealth Government is clear when the main agreement is read ir. conjunction with the subsidiary agreements entered into between the Government and the Governments of the States.

For the information of honorable senators I desire to submit further particulars in order that the position may be clearly understood. Under the main agreement between the British and Commonwealth Governments, which was concluded on 'the 8th April, 1925, it was provided by clause 4 that -

The Commonwealth Government undertakes to raise all necessary loans required by the State Governments in connexion with the agreed undertakings, and to issue the proceeds of such loans to the State Governments as required at a rate of interest not exceeding £2 per centum per annum for the first five years, and £2 10s. per centum per annum for the succeeding five years.

Under the subsidiary agreements concluded by the Commonwealth with all the Governments of the States, except New South Wales, it is provided by clause 7 that-

Subject to this agreement, the State Government shall, in respect of the moneys issued to the State Government in pursuance of this agreement, pay to the Commonwealth Government interest : -

(a)   for the first five years, at" the rate of 1 per centum per annum;

(b)   for the succeeding five years, at onethird the rate payable by the Commonwealth Government in respect of the loan from which the moneys are, or are deemed to have been, issued; and

(c)   thereafter, at the rate payable by the Commonwealth Government in respect of the loan from which the moneys are, or are deemed to have been, issued.

Assuming that loans for the purpose of the agreement are raised on a 5 per cent. basis, and further, assuming that the whole amount of £34,000,000 is taken up by the Governments of the States, the liability of the Governments concerned in respect of interest contributions will be as follows: -

 

At the expiration of the ten-year period over which the agreements operate, the States become responsible for the loan moneys issued to them, and if the whole £34,000,000 is then outstanding, the interest liability thereafter is- the responsibility of the States. As regards the interest contribution payable by the British Government, lump sum payments at the rate of £130,000 for every £750,000 of . loan money issued to the States are made to the Commonwealth, representing the present value, actuarially computed, of the British Government's contributions of half the interest for the first five years and one-third of the interest for the second five years. The reason for this provision in the agreement is that the act under which the British Government is authorized to contribute will cease to operate after 1937, and it would not be possible for half-yearly or yearly payments to be made for the full ten years in respect of loans issued after1927. The computation is based on a 5 per cent. interest rate, but provisionis made for the lump sum payment to be raised or lowered to meet any variation from 5 per cent.

A good deal of confusion has arisen in regard to the commission, and the agreement. The agreement does not provide for the appointment of the commission. That is provided for in the bill itself ; but the introduction of this measure together with the appointment of a commission is a recognition by the Government that land settlement is not the only question to be considered, and that migration does not wholly depend upon land settlement. Senator Chapman suggested that, not only the annual report, but all subsidiary reports made by the commission to the Minister should be made available to Parliament. Provision is made in the bill for the general report of the commission to be tabled in Parliament, as is done with the reports of the Tariff Board and the Federal Capital Commission. Although there is a statutory obligation upon the Federal Capital Commission to submit its general reports to Parliament, it was always my custom when Minister for Home and Territories, and it will also be the policy of my successor, to table any other reports of general interest. I desire, however, to remind Senator Chapman that some of the reports submitted by this commission may bo of a confidential character. For instance, there may be : some relating to the establishment of new industries and containing information which should not be disclosed to possible competitors with those who have supplied it to the commission. There may be reports portions or perhaps the whole of which may be confidential, and which should not be tabled. I agree with Senator Barwell that the co-operation of the churches and the Young Men's Christian Association has been of great value, and should be encouraged in the future. The desirability of this co-operation is so obvious that I am sure the commission will do everything possible to cultivate it. There has been some criticism of the clauses in the agreement dealing with land settlement - particularly, I think, on the part of Senator Barwell - as indicating that the Commonwealth Government wanted to tie up this question with that of land settlement. The provision in the agreement to which, reference has been made was inserted at the special request of the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland, made at the Conference of Premiers convened by the Prime Minister in February, 19.25. Senator Findley was rather jocular at my expense when I said that the eyes of the world were on Australia in connexion with the question of immigration. I suggest that Senator Findley should confer with Dr. Evatt, of New South Wales, and his co-delegate when they. return from the International Labour Conference recently held in Great Britain. He should obtain their impressions of what they heard there. After hearing the speeches delivered at that conference I think they received a rude shock. They came to the conclusion that although some people here are under the impression that we are hidden away and forgotten, the eyes of the world, and even the Labour world, are on Australia, and that other nations are not satisfied with our immigration policy. I suggest not only that Senator Findley and his colleagues should interview these gentlemen on their return, but that they should confer also with the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Charlton) and ascertain the opinions he formed as a. representative of Australia at the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva. It is true that the question of immigration was not formally discussed there, but there were informal discussions from which he was able to learn the viewpoint of some of the other nations, of which he was not aware when he left Australia. Senator Findley sought also to be rather jocular at my expense when I referred to the pos- 'sible dangers of allowing Australia to remain as sparsely populated as it is. In order to show that I am not without some powers of observation I remind the honorable senator that I saw dangers ahead in 1911, when I was a member of the Labour Government to which he referred. I attended an Imperial Conference in that year and heard Sir Edward Grey lay1 down what was then the foreign policy of the Empire. He told us then what was the position in Europe. When I and my colleagues, Mr. Andrew Fisher and the late Hon. E. L. Batchelor, returned to Australia we informed the Labour Cabinet that, in our opinion, there would be war within three years, and we induced the Labour party at that time to vote £750,000 for the purpose of obtaining munitions of war, because we believed there would be a European war within three years. We obtained the last of the war material requisitioned just in time to enable the Australian Imperial Force to be thoroughly equipped for the field. I was not far out on that occasion. Senator Findley also seems to ' think that there is a possibility of conflict arising between the commission and the Victorian Bailways Standing Committee and Closer Settlement Board. There is no reason why there should be 'any conflict between the different authorities. As the State Governments consider it necessary that scheme should be reported upon by their Railways Standing Committees or Closer Settlement Boards, is it unreasonable that the Commonwealth Government should also have a commission to report to it, seeing that for the first ten-year period, at any rate, we shall be finding as much as, if not a little more than, the States will have to find? I do not see anything unreasonable in that. We have as much right as the States to have these schemes reported on. Senator Findley referred to the Otway Forest scheme. Quite a number of schemes, including the Otway Forest scheme, have recently been put up to th-3 Commonwealth Government by the States of Victoria, South. Australia, and Western Australia. I invite honorable senators, especially Senator Thomas, to look through them, and to say if a minister, even with the assistance of his department, could pass an adequate judgment upon them. The reference of these schemes to the Commonwealth must be taken as evidence of the earnestness of the States; otherwise the whole thing would be a farce. And why should they be referred to us if they are not to be adequately examined? How could a Commonwealth minister pass judgment, for instance, on a drainage project for the south-west of Western Australia? What would he know about it? Could he even get proper advice in. his own department upon such a project? .If these schemes are to be adequately reported on, there must be a commission capable of giving advice upon them. Senator Lynch seems to think that the agreement provides that, out of every 10,000 immigrants brought into Australia, 3,750 must necessarily be settled on the land. That is not so. The figures 3,750 relate to families. The agreement provides -

5.   The Secretary of State undertakes to make payment to or to the account of the Commonwealth Government during the currency of the Empire Settlement Act (12-13, Geo. V. Cap. 13) and within the limitations thereof, of contributions in the proportion of £130,000 for every principal sum of £750,000 certified in manner to be agreed to have been expended from time to time in Australia on agreed undertakings under this agreement provided that: -

(ii)   for every principal sum of £75 issued to a State Government in accordance with this agreement and subject to the terms and conditions thereof one assisted migrant shall within ten years after the date of this agreement sail direct from the United Kingdom to the State concerned and be received into and satisfactorily settled in that State -

It does not say that they must be settled " on the land "- and within ten years after the date of this agreement there shall have been included in every 10,000 assisted migrants received into and satisfactorily settled in the State concerned -

Again it does not say that they must be settled " on the land " - such a number of assisted migrant families 'without capital as consists in the aggregate of 3,750 persons, provided always that in assessing the total number of migrants settled in respect to the total amount issued to a State Government under this agreement regard shall be had to the provisions of clause 6 with respect to undertakings under clause 1 (k) and the proportion provided for above shall in so far as is necessarybe modified accordingly.

There is no condition that these 3,750 persons must be settled on the land.


Senator Lynch - The 3,750 may be men, women, and children iu families?


Senator PEARCE - Yes.


Senator Lynch - Is it not intended to apply the £1,000 referred to in the agreement to every person settled on the land?


Senator PEARCE - Yes ; but that does not mean that 3,750 persons out of every 10,000 must actually be settled on the land.


Senator Lynch - Does it mean that a family of five settling on the land will be entitled to £5,000 ?


Senator PEARCE - Ho. Another point that has caused Senator Lynch some apprehension is the fact that the contribution of the British Government is on account of nominated as well as selected migrants. In this connexion it is interesting to note that, of the present migration, no less than 60 per cent, consists of nominated migrants. Senator Lynch has suggested that the Public Works Committee of this Parliament could investigate the various schemes submitted by the States. I doubt if the Public Works Committee would have the time to do so. The investigation of such matters would need the appointment of a number of additional, members to the Public Works Committee. Senator Lynch, who has been, a member of our Public Works Committee, knows the work that it has to do. I am sure he must recognize that it would be impossible for the members of that committee to carry out these investigations in addition to the work they already have to do, and at the same time fulfil their duties as members of Parliament. Honorable senators opposite have spoken of the great volume of immigration that took place between 1910 and 1913, when Labour held office in the Commonwealth. They claim that the policy put into force by Labour was sufficient to induce* immigrants to come to Australia. As a matter of fact, in most of the States during that period there were Liberal Governments in office. It is a mistake to think that there was no assisted immigration at that time. From 1910 to 191*3, the. steamer fare from the United Kingdom to Australia was £14, and of this amount the State Governments paid £8, so that the immigrant had to find only £6. From 1921 to 1926, the steamer fare has been £33, of which amount, the British and Commonwealth Governments have provided £22, leaving £11 to be- paid by the immigrant, as against £6 paid by the man who arrived in the period from 1910 to 1913. Senator Thomas will get cold comfort from a glance at the figures relating to our imports and exports. He suggested that we should buy more goods from Great Britain, and that it would be an advantage for Australia if its imports exceeded its exports. As a matter of fact, during the last eleven months our imports have exceeded our exports by £2,000,000, and the Treasurer estimates to raise £40^000,000 through the Customs House thi* year. That does not seem' to indicate that Australia has ceased to import, or that there is any present danger of goods- not coming into this- country. Apart from, this- scheme altogether, honorable senators opposite seem to lose sight of the fact that Australia can offer more than any other country in the world to an immigrant. It can offer the best climate in the world, a continent free of racial troubles - those who have been outside Australia know what that means - equal political power to all citizens, a maternity allowance fop, his children, free education, plenty of technical schools, agricultural and State banks that will assist the settler on the land, State regulation of industry, protection to the wageearner by shops and factories acts* wages boards^ arbitration tribunals, and workers' and seamen's compensation acts. And when he reaches old age, it will pay him a pension superior to any that is paid elsewhere; From the point of view of the wage-earner, is there any place outside Australia that can offer so much to an' immigrant? Australia offers him a fairer deal and a better chance than any other country on the face of the earth.


Senator Ogden - In those circumstances, why do we need an expensive commission.?


Senator PEARCE - We do all that is needed to bring the immigrant here, but we have also to see that there is employment waiting for him when he arrives. It will be the duty of the- commission to assist in the development of: industries and finds out means by which, we can increase the employment available for those who come here. Senator Sampson has told us that the Tasmanians Government has expressed its gratification at the offer of the Commonwealth Government to place at the disposal, of the State the services of this commission and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to investigate its potentialities and utilize its resources. Every State has resources that are lying dormant,, but we must have skilled and able men to discover how they can best be utilized. We can do that only by research and by. bringing forward schemes, not for government, but for private enterprise to carry out. We need a stocktaking, of our resources, and we need to make them known. There is no government department in Australia that can give to the British capitalist, who is anxious to invest his money in Australia, all the information he must have before starting an industry here. How many government departments could tell a British paint manufacturer where in Australia the clays and ochres he needs can be obtained, the quantities available, and the probable cost of production?


Senator Ogden - It does not require the appointment of an expensive commission to supply that information.


Senator PEARCE - No; but it needs some one to direct the energies of existing departments;. In- every State department there is probably a mass of information, which, if it were brought together and made available, would.be of extreme value, but much of which is most likely hidden away in musty pigeon-holes, forgotten and not utilized. The proposed commission will be an active agent in the utilization of such material.

Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put.. The- Senate divided-

 

 

 

 

 

Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a 'second time.. In committee:. Clauses' 1 and 2 agreed to. Clause 3> -

In this act,, unless the contrary appears - " the principal Migration Agreement " means the agreement dated the. eighth day of April one thousand nine hundred' and twenty-live made between the Secretary of State for the Colonies audi the Government of. the Commonwealth of Australia in relation to the migration of suitable persons from the United Kingdom to Australia, and includes any amendments to that agreement which are agreed' to between the' parties, thereto.







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