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Wednesday, 19 June 1912

1.   You have been called together to con sider matters of great importance to the welfare of the people.

2.   The prospects of the continuance of the prosperity of the Commonwealth have been greatly strengthened by the recent bounteous and widespread rains.

3.   The revenue from Customs and Excise, Land Value Taxation, and Post and Telegraphs has exceeded the Budget estimate.

4.   In accordance with a resolution of the last Imperial Conference a Royal Commission has been appointed to inquire into and report upon the natural resources and improvement of trade of the Empire. A representative for the Commonwealth has been appointed, and is now in London. The first meeting of the Commission has been held.

5.   The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has been appointed and is now actively engaged upon his duties.

6.   The Australian Notes Act is work ing satisfactorily. The value of notes in circulation at the end of last month was £9,512,151, against which£4,305,215 was held in gold at the Treasury, the balance being invested in accordance with the Act.

7.   Provision will be made on the Esti mates for payment to the State of Tasmania, under clause 96 of the Constitution, of the first instalment towards a grant of£500,000.

8.   It . is hoped that an early opportunity will present itself for settling the question of the consolidation of State Debts.

9.   Although there has been a very marked increase in the volume of oversea immigration, to which the Land Tax and general policy of My Advisers has largely contributed, they are unable to regard the rate of natural increase of population in the Commonwealth with other than the deepest concern. The birth rate, for a young country, is too low; the death rate, though comparing most favorably with older countries, is too high. Last year nearly 9,000 children died under the age of one year - very many of these from preventible causes. My Advisers, considering its men and women to be the greatest asset of the nation, after most careful consideration, have decided to lay before you a proposal for a Maternity Grant to the mothers of children born in the Commonwealth.

10.   Royal Commissions to inquire into and report upon the conditions existing in the Sugar, Fruit, and Pearling Industries have been appointed, and are now engaged in pursuing their inquiries.

11.   Proceedings under the Australian Industries Preservation Act were instituted against certain persons engaged in the production and shipping of coal, and, after protracted hearing, a decision was given in favour of the Government, and penalties imposed upon all the defendants. Notice of appeal has been given.

12.   It is the intention of My Advisers again to ask you and the people to approve such alteration of the Constitution as will enable the Parliament to legislate effectively with regard to corporations, trusts, combinations, and monopolies, in relation to trade, manufacture, or production, and to extend its powers in regard to industrial matters and navigation. Measures to this end will be submitted to you.

13.   The question of constituting the Inter-State Commission provided for by the Constitution is receiving the serious attention of My Advisers.

14.   An excellent site has been obtained in London, upon which it is proposed to erect offices for the Commonwealth.

15.   Many problems connected with the development of the Northern Territory have engaged the attention of the Government. An Administrator and a Judge have been appointed; the heads of the various branches of the Government have been selected, and the work of preparation for the reception of settlers is being proceeded with.

16.   It is intended to place before you proposals for a permanent survey preliminary to the extension of the existing railway to the Katherine River, and for the establishment of a fund from which Advances to Settlers may be made.

17.   Efforts are being made to place the products of Australia more fully before the extensive markets of the Continent of Europe.

18.   During the year the construction of the Torpedo Boat Destroyer Warrego at Sydney has been completed and the vessel is now in commission.

19.   An agreement has been arrived at with the Government of New South Wales to surrender certain lands at Jervis Bay, to be part of the Federal Territory. The construction of the buildings for the Naval College thereon has been commenced.

20.   In order that Australian officers may be made available at the earliest opportunity it has been decided to obtain a lease of Osborne House, Geelong, and arrangements will be made to enter twenty-four cadets there in February, 19 13.

21.   As a result of negotiations an arrangement has been arrived at by which' the second class cruiser Encounter of the Australian Squadron is to be loaned to the Commonwealth Government.

22.   The Commonwealth Government has agreed to a request of the Admiralty that the Squadron might be reduced by the return of the Challenger, and two P class cruisers. Your approval of this reduction of the Squadron will be asked.

23.   The scheme of Universal Military Training is being carried out, and this year some 20,000 senior cadets will pass into the Citizen Forces.

24.   You will be asked to agree to certain amendments of the Defence Act.

25.   The Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, New South Wales, has been taken over from the contractors, and is now at work. The Cordite, Clothing, and Harness Factories are in full working order, and giving satisfactory results.

26.   It is proposed to proceed with and pass into law the Navigation Bill as a measure of the gravest urgency and importance.

27.   My Advisers have taken steps to insure that Government inspection and certificates under the Commerce Act may be looked upon with confidence abroad.

28.   An officer has been engaged for some months on inspection of Lighthouses, and has reported that parts of our coast line are insufficiently lighted. Instructions have been issued to proceed immediately with the more urgent works. The kindred question of the completion of the survey of our coastal waters is also receiving special attention.

29.   The Director of Quarantine was instructed to visit and report upon the quarantine systems of other countries. His report is now to hand, and is under consideration.

30.   A Bill to amend the Bounties Act will be introduced.

31.   My Advisers have accepted the recommendation of the Railway Conference, that the standard gauge of 4 feet 8½ inches should be adopted for the Commonwealth railways. They are deeply impressed with the importance, for commercial and defence purposes, of the establishment of a uniform gauge throughout Australia.

32.   The statutory requirements have been complied with by the State of Western Australia for the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway, and it is hoped that the negotiations with the State of South Australia will soon be satisfactorily completed, when the construction of the line will be immediately proceeded with.

33.   Competitive designs for the planning of the Federal Capital City have been received and adjudicated on, and the adoption of a design is now receiving consideration. Steps are being taken to acquire the privately-owned lands. It is proposed to proceed with the initial works without delay.

34.   Owing to the fluctuation of population, an electoral redistribution of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia has been found necessary. The requisite steps have been taken to give effect to the Representation Act.

35.   Bills to amend the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, Royal Commissions Act, Public Service Act, Judiciary Act, Post and Telegraph Act, Trade Marks Act, Quarantine Act, and Customs Act will be submitted for your consideration.

36.   You will be asked to consider Bills relating to Bankruptcy, Banking, Copyright, Parliamentary Witnesses, and Transferred Properties.

37.   The development of an adequate Wireless Telegraph Scheme has received the close attention of My Advisers. Stations have been opened at Melbourne and Hobart, and a number of others are now in course of erection. Further stations will be proceeded with immediately.

38.   My Advisers, being anxious to cheapen cable communication with the Old World, are still urging the laying of a State-owned Atlantic Cable. They are also co-operating with the other parties to the Pacific Cable Agreement in introducing deferred and other cheaper forms of cablegrams.

39.   I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties, in the earnest hope that under Divine guidance your deliberations may further the welfare of the people of Australia. .

His Excellency the GovernorGeneral having retired,

The President took the chair at 2.50 p.m., and read prayers.

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