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Wednesday, 12 October 1927

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) (Minister for Defence) [5.59]. - It was refreshing to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) and his followers object to borrowing.

Senator Needham - I did not object to borrowing except for non-productive works.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW -None of the money which has been borrowed in the last five years has been expended on non-productive works. I believe the honorable senator's chief desire was to score off the Government, not to make suggestions for the improvement of our financial position. If he is concerned regarding excessive borrowing in Australia, I suggest that he should use his influence to endeavour to curtail it in those States that have a Labour Government. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has shown that since 1922 the net debt of the Commonwealth has increased by £2,000,000. The dead-weight war debt was reduced by £36,000,000, and we borrowed approximately £38,000,000, which was invested in reproductive works. During that period also the population of Australia increased by 600,000 persons; consequently the net debt was reduced by £6 per head of population.

Senator Needham - The Minister's figures are wrong.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The net debt on 30th June, 1927, was £340,978,952. I have added an amount of £25,632,553, which is repayable in cash to the Treasury, making the total approximately £366,000,000. The £25,632,553 has been invested in War Service Homes and similar reproductive works. On the 30th June, 1922, the net debt was £364,000,000. Between 1922 and 1927 the population increased by 600,000 persons. Therefore, the reduction per head of population was approximately £6; and an unproductive debt of £36,000,000 was converted to a productive one. The £21,000,000 invested in the post office is returning not only the interest chargeable to it, but also a 30s. per cent. sinking fund. The sinking fund provided is quite sufficient to enable those assets which have a short life to be paid for before they become of no further use. It is an exceedingly creditable performance for the Government to have improved the financial position to such an extent.

Senator Needhamalso complained that the Government was borrowing for migration purposes. Every migrant who is brought to Australia is an asset to the country, because through him we increase our products and consequently our wealth. That is obvious. There is no reason why this item should not be charged to loan. Of the amount to be borrowed for migration purposes, a proportion will be repaid to the Treasury.

Senator Needham - A very small amount.

Senator SirWILLIAM GLASGOW - Some of it will be recovered from the British Government and some from the migrants themselves. Senator Needham should have made himself conversant with the facts, and not have made such rash statements.

Senator J B Hayes asked whether the post office pays interest on the money borrowed and also provides for a sinking fund. It does both.

Senator HerbertHays referred to the lack of detailed items in the schedule. The present procedure has been adopted because in the past when the various items were included money not expended on works for which provision was made could not. be utilized elsewhere. It is proposed to raise overseas the moneys to be appropriated by this bill.

Senator J.B. Hayes said that the price of the conversion loan now being floated was too high. I point out that it was fixed only after careful investigation by the Government in consultation with its experts. The price is such that the flotation of the loan is assured.

Senator Grantreferred to the interest bill of the Commonwealth, which he said is £1,000,000 a week. In order to reduce the amount paid by way of interest the Australian Loan Council was created. With only one authority negotiating the loans, the rate of interest is not likely to be so high as would be the case with the various States competing for the money. The Loan Council meets periodically, and after consultation with experts, determines the rate of interest which shall be offered for the loans to be raised.

Senator Needham - What happens if the money cannot be obtained at the rate of interest offered ?

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The rate offered is not decided upon until after the fullest investigation has been made.

Senator Reidreferred to the telephones in the country being a charge on the post office. An officer of the department is now in the United States of America studying automatic telephones with a view to their installation in country districts. If it can be done economically the department will instal automatic telephones in such districts.

Senator Carrollreferred to the cost of the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway being greatly in excess of the estimate. I point out that, in consequence of an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, that the States should build the railway for the amount of their estimate, the extra cost will not be a charge on the Commonwealth.

Senator Herbert Hays - Was that not to have been the position with regard to the River Murray waters scheme?

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.No. Senator Carroll also urged that more post office buildings should be erected in country districts of Western Australia. The policy of the department is to extend services rather than to build post offices.

The people in the country will he better served by an extension of the existing services than by the erection of post-office buildings. In England, even in towns of considerable size, the post office is frequently situated in a local store, with the storekeeper as postmaster. To erect post offices and residences in all the larger towns of Australia would cost an enormous sum of money, and prevent the extension of the services which the people require.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Where the revenue justifies it, are official post offices provided?

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Yes. The original estimate for the control of the Murray waters was £5,000,000. That estimate, however, was made before the war. Since then constructional costs and prices of material have increased considerably. Moreover, the capacity of the Hume dam has. been increased by 2,000,000 acre feet.

Senator Herbert Hays - I mentioned that.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The policy of the Government is to have all these works, if possible, clone by contract. It will then know what a work will cost, and how long it will take.

Reference has been made to the action of the department in not accepting the lowest tender for arms for telegraph poles. In such matters we can safely rely upon the officers of the department using the timber most suitable for the work. Senator Herbert Hays suggested that stringy bark was equal to jarrah for the purpose.

Senator Herbert Hays - They are both hardwoods.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.I feel sure that the departmental officers would not recommend the acceptance of a higher tender without good reasons.

Senator Sampson - It would be interesting to know the reasons for accepting the higher tender.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.I shall see the Minister and endeavour to obtain the report of his officers.

The £5,700 set down for civil aviation is to provide aerodromes, regular and emergency landing grounds, and various buildings on our air routes. Most of the amount will be spent on the projected air routebetween Perth and Adelaide.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.


Prime Minister's Department.

Proposed vote, £230,000.

SenatorNEEDHAM (Western Australia [6.24]. - In directing attention to the item £300,000 for advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees of assisted immigrants - including £70,000 provided under Loan Bill No. 1- I should like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the apology tendered to me a little while ago by Senator Reid in connexion with an incident that took place during my speech on the second reading of the bill, and when I was dealing with the Government's migration policy. I realize that the honorable senator did not mean what I thought he meant by hia interjection, to which I took exception at the time. During the past few days I have put a series of questions to the Ministry relating to the cost of the Government's migration policy, and I have ascertained that over a number of years £1,037,163 has been advanced on account of passage money, medical fees, &c., and that the repayments by migrants have totalled £206,900. We are now asked to provide another £300,000 for the same purpose. Up to the present I have not been informed how many migrants have been brought to Australia as a result of this expenditure, and how many have come out to each State. I am still waiting for that information. Senator Foll took up the challenge from this side of the Chamber on the subject of foreign migration. He stated that the majority of the foreigners referred to have come from Italy, one of our allies during the war. I remind Senator Foll that the presence of Italian migrants has been responsible for unemployment amongst Australian returned soldiers.

Senator Foll - That is not correct.

Senator Ogden - The latest figures show that unemployment is decreasing.

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