Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 6 December 1927

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to some figures which to me are more or less staggering. Parliament appointed a Development and Migration Commission, which, according to the Government, was to bring about a wonderful change in Australia. As the result of its operations, we were told there would be little or no unemployment, industries which were already in operation would be assisted, and newindustries established. Those who supported the appointment of that commission had not the slightest idea that experts would be appointed in different States, that organizations would be established abroad, and that a staff of about 180 would be gathered together. Under the agreement between the Commonwealth and Great Britain, the Commonwealth guarantees the States a share of the £34,000,000 advanced by the British Government to aid overseas settlement, at a lower rate of interest than money can be borrowed in ordinary circumstances.

Senator Sir George Pearce - How does the honorable senator know there are180 employees?

Senator FINDLEY - That is the information contained in the return submitted to the Senate on the motion of Senator Ogden. The number I have mentioned includes experts in Australia and the staff operating overseas. I said the other day that although the money was obtained at a low rate of interest and was probably considered by some to be cheap money, it would in the end be very dear money. The huge expenditure, which has so far been incurred by the commission will doubtless increase. The vote for the Development and Migration Commission last year was £90,650, and we are asked to appropriate this year the sum of £143,000, an increase of £52,350. The vote last year was exceeded by nearly £9,000. How is it proposed to expend the amount that is now sought ? On account of " Australian organization - salaries, excepting salaries of Commissioners, administrative and other expenses, including office requisites, travelling expenses, publicity material and freight to London on exhibits," we appropriated last year the sum of £29,125, and the amount expended was £3S,124. It is now proposed to make available in that direction the sum of £45,000. The vote last year for subsidies to voluntary organizations for the aftercare of migrants was £9,025. That amount was not expended; yet it is proposed to appropriate under that heading this year the sum of £12,500. If the, expenditure of this commission continues to soar year after year the taxpayers will begin to wonder where it is going to stop. I rose merely for the purpose of obtaining from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) an explanation of the reasons for the large increase in the vote for the present year. Personally I consider that the commission has not justified its existence. If it has placed at its disposal an additional £52,350 without a protest being voiced by any honorable senator, the expenditure will probably be on a much larger scale than hitherto. The fullest information in regard to its activities should be furnished. It is a highly paid body. The chairman receives a salary of £5,000 a year, which is greater than that paid to any public servant, no matter how high or responsible may be the position he holds. The other members of the commission also are in receipt of high salaries. It appears to me that the expenditure is in a sense measured by the princely nature of the salary which the chairman receives. What work has the commission done since it was brought into existence. It cannot be said that it has established one industry. that it has strengthened those that« were already established or that it has stimulated production in any part of Australia.

Senator Payne - Oh, yes, it has.

Senator FINDLEY - Then I am not aware of it. The work on which it has been engaged has been occupying the attention of experts in the various States for a number of years. It is true that different schemes have been submitted to it. They are not new schemes; on tlie contrary, they have previously been inquired into and reported upon by State authorities. The commission has the power to reject any propositions that are made by those authorities, but up to date 1 do not think it has done so. It does not make exhaustive inquiries into any industry. In my opinion it ought not to be allowed to trespass upon the domain of established bodies, particularly the Tariff Board. The duties of that board are understood by members of the committee. It makes exhaustive inquiries into both primary and secondary industries, and presents reports to Parliament. Both the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) and the Government are largely influenced by its recommendations. Therefore, this commission has little or nothing to do with established industries. It is supposed to inquire into the areas that are set apart for the settlement of migrants on the land. From time to time the State authorities have made areas available for that purpose and have put forward proposals which have received the endorsement of their respective governments. In a speech which he delivered recently upon closer settlement schemes in the different States, Senator Pearce mentioned soldier settlements, some of which, he said, had turned out failures. That is perfectly true. Does he consider that this commission can turn those failures into successful ventures? Why were they failures ? In many cases too high a price was paid for the land.

In the Red Cliffs area, in Victoria, there is to-day and has been for some little time what is almost wholly a soldier settlement for the production of dried -fruits. When that land was taken up, the oversea price of dried fruits was a fairly good one, and it continued so for some time. On that basis the price which was paid for the land was not too high and the men who took it up would no doubt have done fairly well had not the bottom fallen out of the market.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator's time has expired.

Suggest corrections