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Friday, 16 July 1915

Senator DE LARGIE ("Western Australia) . - Referring to the concluding remark of Senator Millen, I might question the reason given for the' refusal of the Imperial Government to start in England an establishment for the utilization of metal products. There is an abundance of coal there, which is the raw material most required for such an industry, and the conditions- are most favorable for the expansion of a very small industry into a very big one. It is stated that the reason why the Imperial authorities hesitate to encourage the establishment of such an industry in England is that it would be calculated to injure an important industry which Belgium has hitherto had, arid would, in the circumstances, be unfair to Belgium. If we were to view every matter from that stand-point, we should do nothing to increase our industries in the Commonwealth. If we decided that Australian industries must remain stagnant because the expansion might be injurious to an industry which, for the time being, is wiped out in Belgium, we should do nothing. It is suggested that we cannot afford to do anything in this matter because it might divert trade from Belgium.

Senator Guthrie - Yet we give permission for the export to America of the raw materials for this industry?

Senator DE LARGIE - It is true that we are living in extraordinary times; but, in view of the fact that the mercantile fleet of America is free, while those of other countries are tied up, we cannot wonder that there should be an increase of our exportations to the United States of America at the present time. At the present juncture, we can expect these fluctuations, because they are ordinary to the times in which we are living. We are anxious to do as much as we can in connexion with the present war, and while on this phase of the subject I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that .the permanent Secretary for the Department - the man who knows most about Defence affairs, as we understand them in Australia, the man under whose direction the Military Department is supposed to have grown; I refer to Colonel Pethebridge - was, shortly after the war broke out, appointed , to some position in an out-of-the-way place in Papua. To me, that seemed to be a most extraordinary appointment just when the war began, and when one would have thought that we required his- services very urgently indeed, because just then the Defence Department was being loaded with so much additional work arising out of the war. It seems extraordinary that at such a time his. services could have been dispensed with.

Senator Stewart - Why was he sent away 1

Senator DE LARGIE - That is a mystery, and a matter -I cannot understand. We know that we have in Papua a Lieutenant-Governor, in the person of Judge Murray, who, in my opinion, could very well have undertaken the duties for which Colonel Pethebridge was sent to Rabaul, namely, the taking over of the new territory. Instead of that, however, we find that the official head of the Defence Department was taken away from his duties, and sent to this out-of-the-way place in the tropics. It is all so extraordinary that I think we should have some explanation from the Minister. I understand that officer is at present in Melbourne, and I suggest that he be kept in this city, which is the headquarters of the Military Department, so that any officers who can be spared may be sent to the front, where their professional knowledge ought to be of some considerable service to the Empire. Now, referring to the matter mentioned by Senator Millen, namely, the need for. labour to gather the coming harvest, it seems to me that we could follow the course adopted in the Old

Country during the last harvest, and employ soldiers in the harvest fields. I understand that the same practice is to he followed in the coming harvest all over Europe, and that soldiers home for a spell will be employed in the harvest fields. When they return to the front they will be much improved by the change of occupation and better prepared for their work in the trenches.

Senator Stewart - They cannot come from the Dardanelles.

Senator Maughan - The honorable senator refers to men in the camps.

Senator DE LARGIE - Yes. I am referring to the men who may be in training at the military camps. We know that there is constant communication between the western front and the Old Country, troops moving to and fro all the time, and thus in England it is rather a simple matter to have them employed in the harvest fields when not urgently required at the front.

Senator Millen - I do not anticipate a shortage of labour here, provided we can organize it.

Senator DE LARGIE - That is quite true, and I suggest that the men who may be in training at the time could be employed in the harvest fields of Australia during that season. For many of them it will be work to which they are accustomed, and I am quite sure that by this means there will be no trouble in getting sufficient men to cope with the harvest. The difficulties surrounding the financial aspect of the war are so great that it is impossible for any man to say what will be the expenditure to be incurred by Australia in the near future. We are talking to-day of borrowing £20,000,000, or expending £40,000,000. A year ago, if we had talked of a similar- expenditure in Hundreds of thousands of pounds, we would probably have been 'surprised, but we are living in extraordinary times to which the ordinary rules of finance do not apply. The English national debt, as we know, was inflated tremendously during the Napoleonic wars, but, according to the figures made public by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Budget speech the other day, Great Britain proposes to spend more in one year over this war than she spent during the whole of the wars of Napoleon, indicating, as I said, that the expenditure to-day is absolutely without precedent. Therefore, we can look for a tremendous load of taxation in the future. We cannot go on expending unless we collect, and I think the Government should see to it that some means of taxation are evolved to bring in the necessary revenue.

Senator Millen - For the whole of the war expenditure?

Senator DE LARGIE - No ; not for the whole expenditure, for we shall never be able to do that, but we should provide by taxation for whatever is possible now.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - We can raise the interest on the extra war expenditure at any rate.

Senator DE LARGIE - Yes; I think we ought to be opening up new channels of revenue in order to meet the situation. We must set our house in order.

Senator Stewart - The community created values would pay the whole cost of the war.

Senator DE LARGIE - Without going into a discussion on that subject, I can say that, in many places, owing to the drought, there would be nothing to collect at all on account of the community created values. It is foolish to speak of unearned increments in land, when we know many- on the land are steeped in debt owing to droughts. However, it is time we set ourselves the task of finding the means of raising more money, which will be urgently required, and I am glad to know we shall now have an opportunity to discuss the Estimates.

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