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Thursday, 15 July 1926


Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - Some misapprehension appears to exist regarding the functions of this commission. It seems to be assumed that its sole duty will be that of reporting upon schemes that are submitted by the States for participation in the expenditure of the £34,000,000. As a matter of fact, that will be merely incidental to its duties. It will have to handle the whole question of the selection of migrants, their passage to Australia, their absorption upon . arrival, and subsequent supervision. It will have to report not only upon schemes that are submitted by the Governments of the States, but also upon schemes that are advanced "by private enterprise or companies for the development of the resources of Australia. Already there await its consideration several propositions that are altogether dissociated from those that have been submitted by the States, but which, on their appearance at any rate, may have a very important effect upon the labour market in Australia by establishing and developing new industries. Let me give an illustration of what I mean by mentioning one scheme of which I have some knowledge. In one of the States there is a mineral deposit that possesses considerable value, but has never yet been worked in Australia. Tests have been made. It is known that quantities of the mineral are available, and there are companies which are prepared to develop it. So far, however, there is an absence of knowledge in Australia regarding the best methods for working, that mineral, and, in consequence, there is an inability to attract the necessary capital, because it is not known what risk will attach to the undertaking. The commission may be asked to report upon that matter. It might be proposed that the Government should assist the company by guaranteeing it the interest on the capital involved until the work is actually in hand.


Senator Needham - Could; not that advice be obtained -through the Migration Department ?


Senator PEARCE - That department consists of -public servants, who have not been selected because of any special capacity f or .dealing with that kind of problem, although it -is quite a /good staff, and compares favorably with .any other branch of the Public Service. Such .a matter must be investigated by highlytrained business men, possessing .considerable expert knowledge, that would enable them to judge whether .the venture was likely to succeed, and, if it did, what effect it would kay* on .Australia. If, as a result of investigation, action were taken by the Government and the industry were 'established, >a mineral that is now lynig idle and undeveloped would he the means .of providing a greater amount of employment, adding to 'the "wealth of the nation, and -establishing other industries. What time have members of the 'Government to inquire into -such a project5? It opens Tip a wide field for a -commission of this kind. Senator Lynch -argued that t/he 'Government had ignored Parliament in regard to the selection of members of the commission. Is it not reasonable to suppose that, as common-sense men, the members of the Government would look round for the best men who were available, and ascertain if -they were willing to accept these positions should they be offered to them? 'That is what has been done. In that regard if Parliament rejects the bill, there will be no legal obligation on either the Government .or .Parliament. 1 remind honorable senators that the projects which are awaiting investigation cannot "be proceeded with until the commission has been appointed. In taking the action it did, the guiding motive of the Government was to .save time. T think it will he .agreed that that was a wise action. There has been no ignoring of Parliament. .If this clause is struck out, the heart of .the HH will be removed. The Government considered the advisability of having .these projects investigated by parliamentary committees or departmental .officers, but it was felt that the task was so -big that the full time of capable men outside must he devoted to it. I assure Senator Lynch that extravagance will not be indulged in, and that the salaries and expenses of the commission ' and its ist-adf will be a mere bagatelle if their labours result in the development that we think is possible. The States have very many schemes awaiting our 'consideration. I venture to -assert that they will welcome independent inquiry. Nearly every -'State has lost thousands of pounds by 'adopting schemes for the -settlement of returned soldiers which were not properly investigated. Some men were put 'on 'unsuitable hand, others were not given sufficiently large -areas. 'On the river Murray returned soldiers were compelled -by the Government to grow doradillo grapes. When they encountered difficulties, they approached the Commonwealth Government, not the State (Government which was responsible for the decision that they must grow "those grapes. The Commonwealth Government had 'to introduce and pass legislation, and incur a considerable expenditure, to save them -from ruin and starvation. Is it not better to have schemes weighed and tested from every point of view before .they are embarked -upon? Although there may be some failures, we shall, at any rate;, have a better chance of success than we should have if we accepted ill-digested schemes. When money is cheap, there is always a danger that it will be wasted. This money will he cheap to the States for at least ten years, and,;on that "account, there will be .a greater temptation to neglect the exercise of due care .and caution than there would be if they had to bear the full responsibility immediately. I appeal te the >committee to retain the clause.

Senator FINDLEY(Victoria) [8&9%. - The more closely l examine the .bil'L, the stronger becomes my opposition to it. Clause 4 provides for the appointment of a commission of four members. There is no justification for the creation of such an expensive institution. As I said yesterday, it will be a super-parliament.. Accepting the statement of the Leader of the Senate the members ;of the commission will be -supermen. Each will be .selected because

It is as well for the committee to understand what they will be called upon to vote for at a later stage of our deliberations. Speaking of the commission, the Leader of the Senate has said - - The task of investigating all undertakings or schemes proposed by the States under the main migration agreement and the supplementary agreements entered into between the States and the Commonwealth will rest with the com- . mission. Under those agreements, it is contemplated .that the States will submit to the Commonwealth schemes for the 'development of Australia. These schemes are subject to approval by both the British and Commonwealth Governments.

I cannot recall any 'bill which provides for so much circumlocution. The various States have bodies which undertake certain works. In Victoria there is a Parliamentary Standing Committee which deals with all railway matters. .It visits the northern, the southern, the eastern, and the western portions of .this State. It makes exhaustive inquiries into proposals for railway .construction, and from .time to time submits recommendations to the State Parliament. The Parliament may or may not approve of those recommendations. Under ordinary circumstances, if. such approval were given, the work would be proceeded with. Under this scheme, however, if the Parliament of Victoria, acting upon the recommendation of the Railways (Standing Committee, approves ,of the construction of a certain railway, and desires to defray the expenditure out of this loan, the proposal will have to be investigated by the commission that is to be created under this bill. If the commission does not approve of it, it cannot be proceeded with under this scheme.


Senator H Hays - Why should it ?


Senator Pearce - The Commonwealth will be partly responsible.







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