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Tuesday, 6 December 1927

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.27]. - I wish to inform Senator Payne that the explanation of the increase in the amount provided on account of municipal and other taxes at Australia House is that an exemption from certain taxation was granted by the British Government under the Imperial Defence Act and a rebate on account of overpayments in previous years was deducted from the 1926-27 assessment. In 1927-28 the normal rate will be paid. The increase in the vote for the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America is accounted for almost entirely by the faet that temporary assistance has had to be engaged and additional payments were rendered necessary in connexion with rent and lighting, because of the removal to better offices which took place during the financial year. The honorable senator referred also to the resignation of Sir Hugh Denison, and asked Avhether the question of the appointment of a successor had been considered. In view of the high speed at which, not only the Government, but also Parliament, has been moving in the last few weeks, he must appreciate the fact that there has not been time to consider this question. When the Government has a little breathing space it intends to look into the matter and consider any representations that Sir Hugh Denison may wish to make. A further statement will then be furnished to Parliament.

Senator Payne - When does his resignation take effect ?

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - I cannot say. I shall probably be able to make a statement when Parliament resumes after the Christmas vacation.

Senator Findley'sremarks concerning the Development and Migration Commission are merely a repetition of what he has said previously. He is not socking information. That is proved by the fact that he has raised exactly the same points that he raised last week, and to which replies were given. I remind honorable senators that the commission was not functioning during the whole of last financial year, as it did not come into existence until August, 1926. I also remind them that the Development and Migration Commission is not responsible for the expenditure in London. The London staff has been in existence for many years with the consent of Parliament. It was in existence before the commission was appointed. Senator Findley is well aware of the reason for the appointment of the commission, but I may refresh his memory if he has forgotten it. Some time ago arrangements were made by the British Government to raise a loan of £34,000,000 to assist development in Australia with a view to stimulating migration. Under that arrangement the Commonwealth Government and the British Government were to relieve the States of a certain proportion of the interest charges on the loans made to the States out of the £34,000,000. They were also to share certain other expenditure in connexion with land settlement schemes and the bringing of migrants to Australia for the benefit of the States. As a result of negotiations an agreement known as the Migration Agreement, was drawn up to which the British Government, the Commonwealth Government, and the State Governments concerned are parties. As the Commonwealth Parliament was to become financially responsible for certain charges under this agreement, the Commonwealth Government suggested to Parliament that a body competent to examine the proposals put forward by the States for expenditure in connexion with the scheme should be set up so that the Commonwealth might be assured that theState schemes were financially sound. Last week, when dealing with this subject, I drew attention to the fact that in connexion with the repatriation of our soldiers certain schemes of land settlement and other schemes were set goingin various States, and that, as a result, possibly of over-enthusiasm and certainly because of want of thorough prior examination, many of them proved to be costly failures. In Victoria, commissions of inquiry have demonstrated that some of the proposals were unsound. These proposals were recommended by the very authorities that Senator Findley says are now competent to deal with the matters that have been referred to the Development and Migration Commission. As a matter of fact, all of the schemes that have proved failures in Victoria or in any other State were first of all examined and recommended by State officials. AVe have the example of the Beer"burrum failure in Queensland, the dairying failures ' in Victoria, and -the dried-fruit failures on the river Murray. They were all schemes which had been examined by State officials, recommended to the State Governments, and adopted and set going by the State Governments with disastrous results to the settlers and to the States. The Commonwealth which advanced the money to the States to finance these schemes has had to write off £5,000,000 to cover some of the losses incurred, and the States still think that it is not sufficient. They are asking for more to be written off, which means that they are asking the Commonwealth to bear a larger share of the losses. "With these examples before us is it not wise that before we are committed to more schemes in connexion with migrants those schemes should be carefully examined to see if they are financially sound, and if there is any reasonable prospect of their success. The Development and Migration Commission has been specially appointed for this purpose. That is the prime reason for its existence; its prime duty is to examine these schemes. Already it has been functioning in conjunction with the States. It is not received by them with any hostility. On the contrary, it is received by them with the utmost friendliness. The State Governments welcome this opportunity to have a further examination of their .'proposals, the failure of any of which would mean so much to the taxpayers of the States. In every State there is the -utmost friendliness and harmony be tween the State authorities aud the Development and Migration Commission. On page 27 of the first annual report of the Development and Migration Commission, Senator Findley will find set out a number of schemes that have been submitted by Victoria. Those schemes involve the expenditure of £760,000 on public works and £833,000 on land settlement schemes. If Senator Findley had read the report of the commission he would not have asked so many questions about the work of the commission. Apparently he does not know what is happening in his own State and that the State Government is welcoming an examination by the Development and Migration Commission of the schemes it has submitted for a total expenditure of £1,594,000. This expenditure has been recommended by the commission. The commission has also examined schemes in Western Australia calling for an expenditure of £4,334,000. That expenditure has also been recommended by the commission. In South Australia schemes involving an expenditure of nearly £1,000,000 have been submitted and authorized. All this expenditure comes out of the £34,000,000 provided for in the Migration Agreement. In regard to that expenditure the Commonwealth has committed itself to a certain liability and therefore it is only right that it should have the power to examine any scheme submitted by the State and see if it is on sound lines.

Senator Findley - What about the increased vote.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - That is one explanation for the increase in the vote. If the schemes submitted by the States are to be examined, the commission must go to the States to examine them. The commission has been to Western Australia. It has collected data in respect of all the schemes. It has investigated the' dried fruits industry in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. Does any one object to that? When we think of the possibilities of the River Murray valley, and realize the enormous amount of dried fruits it can produce, is it not wise for us, before we put. a lot of people in that area to produce fruits, to make sure that there is a profitable market for them and that they will succeed? It may be found, as a result of investigation of the dried fruits industry that we are going beyond our capacity to dispose of dried fruits and that we may strike trouble and disaster if we are not careful in the steps we take to settle migrants in that portion of Australia. It is wise that we should investigate all these things before we commit ourselves too much. Then there is the Dawson Valley irrigation proposal of Queensland which will cost .millions of pounds. It is a gigantic scheme and the commission is just now commencing an inquiry into it. Does the Queensand Government object? On the contrary, Mr. McCormack, the Premier of Queensland, is giving the commission every assistance to enable it to probe the scheme thoroughly and make quite sure that it is a sound proposition and is likely to be a success. Senator Findley must not imagine that the £150,000, which is all that the Commonwealth is spending in administering the £34,000,000 scheme, is wholly spent on these inquiries. The commission is spending £45,000 in England in the organization that collects and selects migrants and makes arrangements to transfer them to Australia. I know that that expenditure arouses the ire of certain honorable members opposite who want to stop all the migration activities of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact that is one of the reasons why they select the Development and Migration Commission for so much opposition. But the great bulk of the people of Australia want British citizens to come to Australia, and a great deal of this expenditure is for the purpose of bringing them here. This money is spent for the purpose of letting the people of Great Britain know the capacity" of Australia to absorb migrants, and that we want them to come to our country. The increased expenditure is necessary in order that certain things in connexion with migration may be done. For instance, it is proposed to appoint permanent matrons to accompany girls who are coming out on vessels to take- up domestic service in Australia. Honorable senators who have travelled on vessels and seen large numbers of girls coming out here without their parents can understand how desirable it is to have competent women in charge of them. It is proposed to provide Australian agricultural instructors on British training farms. I have seen on these farms hundreds of young men of Great Britain, many of them miners' sons, who have no hope of getting employment in their own country. At the Brandon training farm I saw 400 or 500 of these sturdy young fellows who would make creditable citizens of Australia. They are the type of men we want here. They were being given a certain amount of elementary training in agriculture. For instance, they were being taught to handle and harness horses and do a little ploughing. Taking them from the mining centres without that training they would be absolutely useless on Australian farms. 7 saw a young fellow there who had bee only six weeks on the farm. He was little more than a youth, and he had never handled horses previously, but I saw him ploughing with a team of four horses and a double furrow plough in a way that would be a credit to any ploughman on an Australian farm. It is better that these young fellows should have that training so that when they come out here they may have a chance of succeeding in an agricultural life. Do honorable senators opposite object to that? Would they rather have these young fellows come into our cities? Is it not always the cry of honorable senators opposite that Ave are bringing out men who are not fitted for a rural life? This expenditure is wise and absolutely justifiable.

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

Senator NEEDHAM(Western Australia [9.42]. - Twice to-night the Leader of the Senate bas deliberately stated that the party to which I belong does not wantpeople of British stock to come to Australia. I cannot allow that statement to go unchallenged. The honorable senator is misrepresenting honorable senators of the Labour party. We have never made the statement, . or done anything to lead any one to believe that Ave, as a party, are opposed to people of the British stock coming here to help us to develop Australia. We welcome at all times people of British stock coming to Australia. Time and time again we have proved on tlie floor of the Senate that the present Government's migration policy is to give preference to men of foreign blood coming to Australia rather than people of British stock.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The honorable senator knows that that statement is quite untrue.

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