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Friday, 2 December 1927

Senator PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) - The honorable senator referred to them as illustrations of extravagance on the part of the commission. It so happens that, both are Commonwealth officers, and their salaries would continue even if they were not engaged on this work. I shall state their work, so that honorable senators may judge whether the results are likely to repay the Commonwealth. With a view to assisting the State of Tasmania .the Government decided not' only to make a money grant, but also to place at the disposal of the State the resources of the Commonwealth in the way of expert advice. The Government of Tasmania has expressed appreciation of that offer, and has availed itself freely of it. One of the matters that has been discussed by the Development and Migration Commission and the Tasmanian Government is the development of forestry. The State had no experts who could advise it regarding that development, and asked the commission to procure the services of such a man. In relation to forestry the commission acts on the advice of Mr. LanePoole, the Commonwealth expert in all forestry matters. He recommended that the Federal Capital Commission should be asked to lend to the State of Tasmania its chief forester, who is a very competent man. He is the " highly paid officer " who has been engaged on that particular work in Tasmania. Neither Senator Findley nor any body else can take exception to that when they know the facts. A highly paid customs officer has also been engaged on work in connexion with the commission.

Senator Findley - I was merely asking for the information.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - Senator Andrew referred to work done by certain voluntary bodies in connexion with migration. It has been customary to subsidize bodies such- as the Salvation Army, the New Settlers League and the Big Brother movement for the work they do in looking after immigrants; but for some years these grants have been made in a somewhat haphazard fashion. No doubt representations were made to the Minister and grants that were thought to be adequate were given, but nobody had ever reviewed the position to see whether the Commonwealth was getting value for the money it expended in this direction, and whether the persons actually doing the work were getting the money made available. A customs officer was sent to the various States to make the necessary investigations, and his report having been received, it is now proposed to review the payments and see if it is necessary to re-allocate the grant. The Commonwealth will probably receive good value for the expenditure involved in that inquiry.

Certain criticism has been levelled at the Development and Migration Commission, because it has not immediately produced concrete results. I ask honorable senators to remember the purpose for which it was appointed. Under the £34,000,000 agreement with the British Government, the States are able to borrow through the Commonwealth, and are proposing various schemes of development upon which the money so borrowed may be spent. It is the business of the Commonwealth, in the interests of Australia, and of the British Government, to see that the schemes thus submitted are financially sound. It is the task of the Development and Migration Commission to visit the various States, not as a critic or superior judge, but as a friend and helper of the State governments, to bring its expert judgment to bear upon those schemes, and offer friendly suggestions helpful to the States. Let honorable senators recall some of the scandals and failures experienced in connexion with soldier settlement - the losses for example sustained by the soldier settlers on the Murray, who were compelled by one State government to plant Doradillo grapes, and the failure of others to make good at Beerburrum, in Queensland. I believe that the soldiers have had to be assisted to leave their unsuitable land and commence operations else: where. We had also the example of areas selected for dairying in Victoria, which inquiry showed were not sufficient to support settlers. Mistakes of that kind had been made through overenthusiasm, and a lack of careful and critical analysis of the schemes from their inception. This precaution will be exercised by the Development and Migration Commission. How can it show practical results when a great deal of its success depends on negative results? Much of its work consists in preventing the inauguration of schemes that are financially unsound. It would be unwise for it to rush into the press and tell the States that certain work should not be proceeded with. That would quickly end its usefulness and prevent the State governments from co-operating with it. The work of the commission does not lend itself to big headlines in the press.

Various statementshave been made about defence, but I shall not reply to them now. When the bill is in committee the Minister for Defence (Senator Glasgow) intends to deal with defence matters.

Senator Kingsmill asked questions in regard to the territories of the Commonwealth, and the intentions of the Government in regard to their development. In the mandated territory of New Guinea thereis no form of local government except the local advisory council. The territory is legislated for by this Parliament. Papua has a limited form of local government. But in regard to both territories a definite scheme of development is proceeding. It will be remembered that bounties have been given and preferential tariffs passed for the encouragement of tropical production in those territories.

Senators J. B. Hayes and Graham referred to the tariff. There will be plenty of opportunity to debate the tariff later, and I do not propose to enter that seductive field to-day. I can assure Senator Andrew that the Government appreciates the work of the Salvation Army and the Big Brothers in the interests of migration.

In regard to the Canadian treaty, I think that Canada will be glad to take advantage of our reciprocal tariff, because it has the " big end of the stick." Negotiations are now taking place in regard to butter, with which I hope we shall have greater success than has been achieved in the past.

I shall make a brief reference to Senator Graham's remarks concerning the gold-mining industry. The report of the committee of experts appointed by the Development and Migration Commission to inquire into the industry, has been placed on the table in the library, and I hope that honorable senators will read it. It reveals the fact that, although the richer portions of the mines in Western Australia are worked out, the low-grade ores could be profitably mined under economical and co-ordinated management. When the very rich ores were being taken out it was possible for the Kalgoorlie field to support six mining administrations and pay dividends to six separate companies, but it is now advised by the most expert mining men in the Commonwealth that there should be an amalgamation of those mines.

Senator Needham - That suggestion was made before the commission was appointed.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.The Development and Migration Commission has pointed out that in this way a large sum could be saved in administration and overhead charges. If economy were exercised by the various companies amalgamating, particularly in the supply of power for the treatment of the ore, some of the mines that are now unpayable, it is thought, could be profitably worked. The Government does not wish to pay a gold bounty for inefficiency, and the object of the report of this committee of experts is to bring about increased efficiency. The Commonwealth Government has made a grant to the State of Western Australia for two years following, and a certain portion of the money was intended to assist the goldmining industry. The State Government has earmarked it for that purpose, and it is available as soon as the companies do something on the lines of amalgamation. The Development and Migration Commission has made progress reports on the industry and it is now preparing its general report which will deal with the industry generally.

Senator Findley - To what use are buildings formerly occupied by departments now put?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.That is really a question for the committee stage. Every building has either been given up to the landlord or is being used by other Commonwealth departments. In some of the States we receive rent for premises, and for others we pay rent. For instance, we receive rent for drill halls that are not now in use. We have buildings which are used both as railway stations and post offices. In some cases they were transferredproperties, but the State is still using a portion of them for which it pays rent to the Commonwealth. In other cases where they are not transferred properties, we are paying rent to a State. That explains what appears on the surface to be an anomaly.

Senator Findley - That is what I desired to know.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first time.

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