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Wednesday, 1 September 1937

Senator MARWICK - That is so, but a portion of it is to be regarded as a loan.

Senator Sir George Pearce - It is described as an advance.

Senator MARWICK - An advance which has to be adjusted two years hence. I hope that it will not be regarded as a loan. The position ofWestern Australia calls for the most earnest consideration. Only 3 per cent. of the total area of the State has been alienated, another 3 per cent. is in course of alienation, 33 per cent. is held under leasehold, and thebalance, 61 per cent., is unoccupied. I contend that the Commonwealth Government is, to some extent, responsible financially for the development of those unoccupied areas. National security demands that some form of assistance should be given to Western Australia. In this matter I wish to be perfectly fair. I acknowledge the assistance rendered by the Commonwealth to my State. During the last six years there have been special grants amounting, in the aggregate, to £3,300,000; special non-recurring grants totalling £200,000; road grants under the Federal Aid Roads Act, amounting to £2,731,446; assistance to primary industries by way of bounties and special relief, £4,460,000 ; and in addition, approximately £620,000 annually under the financial agreement. The Commonwealth has also helped the smaller States by way of social services, such as pensions, and maternity allowances on an Australia-wide basis. Last year the commission, realizing that a portion of Western Australia was experiencing a very serious drought, increased the grant by £136,000; but that amount is to be adjusted in 1939-40, when the figures for this financial year are under consideration. The Loan Council also realized that Western Australia was experiencing adverse seasonal conditions, and agreed very largely, I think, with the views expressed by the Leader of the Senate, and allowed Western Australia an additional £1,000,000 for this year. While fully appreciating the fact that, when a drought occurs the budgetary position of the State concerned suffers in consequence of reduced revenue, many of the residents in that State receive practically no returns at all. Instead of taking the increase of £136,000 into account two years hence, I suggest that it should be distributed amongst those unfortunate people who have experienced drought conditions for two consecutive years; the amount might either be allocated on an acreage basis or paid to those who have reaped less than three or four bushels an acre. Moreover, many pastoralists have lost80 per cent. of the flocks, the restoration of which will take years. It would be a gracious act on the part of the Government to expend the amount mentioned in rehabilitating distressed wheat-farmers and pastoralists who have suffered so severely. If that were done many men, women and children in the droughtstricken area would be able to receive some of the comforts of life of which they have been deprived during the last two years. The budgetary position of the Commonwealth would not be affected, and, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth Grants Commission realized the extreme conditions which exist in that area, I trust that my suggestion will be adopted. The loan of an extra £1,000,000 to Western Australia is merely a loan to unfortunate settlers in drought-stricken areas, and will only build up the dead-weight debt on already overburdened farms. I realize that that is a responsibility of the State.

Senator E B Johnston - Why should not the Commonwealth assist?

Senator MARWICK - The Commonwealth allows the State to use £300,000 of its loan moneys; but I am appealing for help in a different direction. In the drought-stricken area, many settlers are not clients of the Agricultural Bank, and therefore cannot obtain assistance. It would be a gift from the gods if they could receive some small allowance to enable them to renew the clothing of their children, which in many cases is completely worn out. Having been through the droughtstricken area on several occasions during the short period I have been a member of this chamber., I know the hardships which the settlers are experiencing, and I trust that some arrangement will be made so that the grant will not have to be repaid.

Senator Herbert Hays - What is the State doing?

Senator MARWICK - Those who ask what the State is doing to assist the settlers while it is receiving money from the Commonwealth should read the following tables on page 33 of the commission's report under the heading of " Economic position of the claimant States " : -


It will therefore be seen that the total of the rural, non-rural and factory production of Western Australia is higher than that of any other part of the Commonwealth, which proves conclusively that the Western Australian people are industrious. In 1934-35, Western Australia's total rural production per capita was 7 per cent.; non-rural production, chiefly mining, 268 per cent. ; all primary production, 56 per cent.; and the total of all production 13 per cent. above the average for the Commonwealth. It may be said that Western Australia should be in a fortunate position, but, as I have pointed out in this chamber on several occasions, many of the mines and factories in that State are controlled from the eastern States. On this point, the commission states -

Any judgment of the relative prosperity of Western Australia cannot be guided alone by these figures. They fail, for instance, to express the facts of external ownership of absentee of landlordism, so to speak. Many mines have been financed by " foreign " capital; many industries are controlled from other States; many trading concerns are branches of interstate firms. Community income is reduced by dividends paid to external shareholders in the same way as it is by interest on the public debt. There is no way of reckoning this deduction accurately. The " balance of payments " for Western Australia would be a fair guide if it could be ascertained.

As practically all the money borrowed to assist rural production is obtained from financial institutions in the eastern States the greater portion of the wealth pro duced and payments in the form of dividends is remitted to the eastern States. Moreover, the Western Australian people are obliged topurchase food and clothing from the eastern States to the value of £11,000,000. If more factories were owned in Western Australia, we would have sufficient fundsto establish additional secondary industries. In 1931-32, the net loan expenditure per head of population in Western Australia was £2 12s. 7d., and in 1935-36 it was £5 6s. 8d, whereas in 1931-32 the taxation per head of population was £3 6s. 4d., and in 1935-36 it was £6 3s. 5d. It will therefore be seen that the taxation imposed has been heavy. It is ridiculous for these fellows to spend five days in the State and then say that we do not suffer any disability under the tariff. Their report in that respect is a foolish and ill-considered statement.

I stated earlier that I would suggest the way in which future grants should be allocated. I realize the difficult position of the Western Australian Government, but I believe that when the new commission commences its work, it should realize that 61 per cent. of Western Australia needs population, and the best way in which to populate that area would be to authorize the payment of a developmental grant rather than a grant which is paid into Consolidated Revenue. When money once reaches a government, it will most likely be expended in a way that will attract the attention of a large number of electors. That is the general practice with most governments, and' I do not think that the Western Australian Administration is an exception. The conservation of water in country areas and the purchase of water pipes to provide adequate supplies of water in isolated areas is of the greatest importance. Senator Lynch made an excellent suggestion regarding assistance to the mining industry. In travelling through the mining areas of Western Australia, I was impressed by the fact that that State is suffering from the lack of good, practical miners. Many experienced miners in Western Australia are to-day receiving pensions because they are certified as unfit for underground work, yet they are the men with a knowledge of mining conditions in that State. The adoption of Senator Lynch's suggestion would cost the Government very little, and it might result in the production of many millions of pounds worth of gold. These miners have a practical knowledge of mining in those areas where gold is most likely to be discovered in payable quantities. It has been proved, as the result of boring operations, that considerable bodies of ore exist in Western Australia; but, unfortunately, owing to the many wild-cat schemes that have shaken the confidence of investors in the past, owners are finding it difficult to get the necessary capital to procure plant and machinery to operate mines which might have up to 100,000 tons of payable ore blocked out and ready to bring to the surface. Considerable difficulty exists. in securing the capital necessary to bring mines into profitable production.

I have just returned from a trip through the vast north-west of this country, and from the experiences gained during my travels I say that it should be part of the duty of each member of this Parliament at least once during his term of office to travel through the northwest of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and familiarize himself with the conditions in those distant parts of the Commonwealth. I would even say that every member of this Parliament, in order to gain firsthand knowledge of the country as a whole, should visit all of the States. From the information which I gathered during my visit to the north-west of Western Australia-, . I have come to certain conclusions which I hesitate to express in this chamber. It must be patent to anybody with a knowledge!.- of the conditions which operate in the farflung portions of Australia that something must be done very soon if we intend to retain that part of the continent for any length of time. Large areas in the north-west of Western Australia and the Northern Territory have enormous possibilities, and only finance is necessary for their development. I hope that, when future grants to the States are under consideration, the need for the development of this portion of the Commonwealth will not be overlooked.

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