Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 23 June 1904

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) --The question of increased population and immigration has been demanding the attention of most of our public men of late. One fact which appears to be lost sight of to a considerable extent is that we have an enormous- number of people in our midst who are almost continuously unemployed. We have a very great many people among us who are used to our conditions of life and our methods of farming and manufacture, and who are yet unable to get work, in their different callings- In the circumstances, I look upon it as a mere waste of time .for us to be holding out inducements to people of other nations to come here from the old world until we can give them some definite information that they will get employment when they arrive here. In emigrating to the United States and Canada they can be certain of employment when they get to those countries. We have, therefore, first to consider our unemployed problem. As soon as that is solved satisfactorily, the necessity of advertising in the old world the conditions of life in Australia will be done away with to a very great extent. As soon .as we are able to prove that we can keep our own people employed, and that there is a wide field of employment offering to people in the old world who may be induced to come here, we shall have no difficulty in attracting population. Speaking with some little experience of the conditions which' prevail in Australia, I say there are two factors underlying our trouble to-day. These are involved in (he question of closer settlement upon our land, and the condition of our manufacturing industry. Until the powers that be give up talking about immigration, come down to business, and deal with the land problem in Australia, we shall not have much material development of the staple products of our soil. The comparison is frequently made between the prosperous condition of New Zealand, and the condition of things in Australia, although we are not far removed' from each other. What is the cause of the marvellous development in New Zealand in recent years? It is due simply to the fact that the people of Colony have moved on from the pastoral to the agricultural stage of settlement, and that concurrently with that development they have given attention to the manufacturing industries. This Parliament had it in its power to do something for the welfare of the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth, and of the mechanical and industrial population of Australia. What do we do? Whenever we require anything we borrow money, and send to some other nation to manufacture what we require for us. When our agricultural population require land we allow intending settlers to go to land monopolists, and the conditions under which they can secure, land are such as leave them in a position to .pay nothing but starvation wages. That is the position. I represent a farming district. I have a considerable acquaintance with those engaged in agricultural pursuits, and I know that in the northern districts of Victoria today it is absolutely impossible for men of even moderate means to obtain land. Some honorable members will no doubt tell me that there is .a number of estates being cut up by private owners, but the terms and conditions which those private owners offer are such that it is impossible for those requiring land to take advantage of them. '

Sir John Forrest - Let them go West.

Mr KENNEDY - To do what? Men from my district went West long before the breaking out of. the Western Australian gold-fields, with a view to getting land. What happened to them?

Sir John Forrest - I do not know.

Mr KENNEDY - They went over a considerable portion of the settled districts of Western Australia, and they came back, with sandy blight strongly developed.

Sir John Forrest - They were not of the right sort. . _ Mr. KENNEDY. - They were of the right sort. They had sufficient enterprise to go from here to Western Australia in the first place.

Sir John Forrest - Why go back fifteen years for a case?

Mr KENNEDY - I suppose that Western Australia existed fifteen years ago.

Sir John Forrest - But the honorable member need not go back fifteen years for a case to tell us about.

Mr KENNEDY - There has been very little alteration in climatic and other conditions in Western Australia in fifteen years. The probabilities, indeed, are that competition for land in Western Australia was not quite so keen fifteen years ago as it is today. Yet, of the number of young men who went to the West ten or fifteen years ago, how many of them have turned their attention to agricultural pursuits?

Mr Fowler - Thousands of them.

Mr KENNEDY - If thousands of persons have turned their attention to agricultural pursuits in Western Australia within the last ten or fifteen years, it is extraordinary that the agricultural products of the State have not increased in a much larger proportion than is actually the case.

Mr Fowler - They are increasing.

Mr KENNEDY - They are, but there has not been the increase of agricultural production in Western Australia which should have resulted if there had been such a large increase in the number of persons engaged in agriculture as the honorable member for Perth has suggested. It is but a waste of time to be talking about immigration, and . about advertising in the old world the conditions of Australia. Let us do something tangible. Let us give greater opportunities for land settlement, and for the development of manufacturing industries. Let us endeavour to do something that will bring about permanent and stable development. We have an example before us in New Zealand. We have been told that many causes assisted to bring about the results which have been there achieved. But the great factor in the development which has occurred in New Zealand during the last fifteen years is, I venture to say, the land policy which has been adopted in that colony. There has been in New Zealand an enormous increase in staple products. Some people say that the climatic conditions of New Zealand are favorable. Those conditions .applied to that colony to the same extent twenty or thirty years ago; but until the New Zealand people turned their attention to a policy of closer settlement they made none of the progress which they have since made. It is in that direction that we must look in Australia.

Mr Spence - Put on a land tax.

Mr KENNEDY - A land tax will not solve the problem, by any means.

Mr Spence - It will help to do so. It is the key to it.

An Honorable Member. - Try protection.

Mr KENNEDY - If we do we may do something for the agricultural industry. I am not afraid, when the opportunity arises, to advocate a policy of protection ; but it would be a waste of time to refer to that subject now.

Mr Spence - It is time we had a turn of it.

Mr KENNEDY - It is time we had a little common sense. People speak of a land tax as though it were a panacea for all the ills to which the country is heir. I am prepared to admit that in some circumstances a land tax is advisable; but to say that a land tax will solve the whole question of land settlement and agricultural development is to argue without a knowledge of the facts of the case. What has the land tax in New South Wales done towards the cutting-up of large estates ? We have a land tax of a hybrid character in Victoria, and a graduated land tax, coupled with an absentee tax, in South Australia ; but what have those measures done in either State for the settlement of the land ? They have not had the effect in bringing about closer settlement which some people expected they would have. It is our land policy which is responsible for the results which we see to-day.

Mr Spence - The land tax has enabled persons to purchase from the holders of big estates more cheaply than they could otherwise have done.

Mr KENNEDY - It has in some cases enabled men to get land at its proper value ; but the imposition of a land tax has not, per se, increased settlement, and given encouragement to agricultural development. Until we turn our attention to these two basic principles, which so largely govern our social and economic conditions, we cannot deal with the true cause of our trouble. Land legislation is, of course, within the province of the Parliaments of the States. Considerable attention has been directed to the matter in Victoria of recent years, though very little has been done. Fiscal legislation is under the control of this Parliament, but the present is not a time when it would be of advantage to discuss the subject. The welfare of the Common wealth,, however, depends very largely upon the increasing of our population, and the diversifying of our fields of employment.. Until we turn our serious attention to attracting a larger num ber of wage earners here, and to providing opportunities for their profitable employment, we shall make no material advance.

Suggest corrections