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Thursday, 1 July 1915

Mr JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) . - I can only say, in reply to the right honorable the Prime Minister, that he will at all times receive the assistance which he has just now sought from members of the Opposition.

Mr Higgs - But you will give it in such a curious way.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - There you are again ! The honorable member is only saying over again what his Leader said the other night, that we never gave the Government any assistance except in a nagging way. Whether we nag or not, this assistance is sought, and I hope it will always be freely rendered. I want now to congratulate my honorable friends over there on the unanimous cheer that went up just now when the possible limitation of the note issue was mentioned, and when they were warned by their own Prime Minister of the dangers of an unlimited note issue. May I suggest that the war has done one good thing ? It has heaved overboard that old-time notion, of the invulnerability of a note issue, which honorable members opposite preached assiduously over the length and breadth of this country. A little practical application of the principle has knocked all that nonsense out of their heads, and I congratulate them sincerely on their financial conversion, at any rate.

Now, I want to say a word of congratulation concerning the magnificent revenue which has been derived from Customs and Excise during this war year. Is this not the best of all tributes to the might and invulnerability of the British Navy, which has kept our seaways open for us, with the result that our trade has been unmolested from the beginning until the end of the year ? I remember, when this war broke out, that the officials of the Treasury wore an aspect of gloom for some days, and they were talking of having no revenue, if the war lasted, by the end of the year. Thanks, however, to the way in which Jellicoe has kept the seas open, there has been no diminution in our Customs revenue, which means that our acti- vities have flowed on, as usual, our commerce has been borne over the sea without let or hindrance, it has reached its market at the other side of the world, and in return we received those things which we need for our own use. For this we ought to be profoundly thankful as we close the financial year. To my mind, that is the outstanding feature of the financial statement which has been made by the Prime Minister. There is just on© other matter upon which I would like the attention of the Prime Minister for a moment. As I follow his figures here, I take it that the result of the year's financing - I mean the ordinary financing, and eliminating the war altogether - is that we have spent, roughly, £1,500,000 more than we received.

Mr Fisher - No; let me get at the facts. There is a balance of £300,000 odd to be accounted for.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - We left you- £1,222,000.

Mr Fisher - But you have to take £300,000 odd off that. '

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am going to add £650,000 in Treasury-bills.

Mr Fisher - You will see another cross entry of £650,000- a debit and credit.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Yes; I see the Prime Minister is quite right. It is £1,222,000 less £347,000. The debit for the year, therefore, i3, roughly, £900,000.

Mr Fisher - We have £700,000 outstanding on account of land taxation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - But that is outstanding from fresh taxation to the extent of about £3,000,000 that has been imposed. Leaving out the war expenditure altogether, the statement shows that the Government have imposed fresh taxation to the extent of considerably over £2,000,000; and during the year the expenditure exceeded the revenue by nearly £1,000,000 sterling. That is to say, the Government have over £2,000,000 extra taxation-

Mr Fisher - Not £2,000,000.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am talking about what you have added to the burden of taxation. I do not care what your yield is.

Mr Fisher - Well, so long as you say that, it will be all right.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Have T said anything else? The fact remains that, notwithstanding that the Government put on over £2,000,000 in the way of taxa- tion, they have not been able to finance the year from income by about £900,000.

Mr Fisher - Because we did not collect on the £2,000,000.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - You collected some of it.

Mr Jensen - You have been asking u3 to give these poor farmers time, have you not?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Altogether, we can congratulate ourselves, notwithstanding this criticism which I am making. I am trying to get at the facts, for this reason. We ought to remember that in war time all special expenditure arising out of the war should be met generously and without question. But that only lays upon us a greater obligation to see that our ordinary administrative expenditure is kept to the lowest possible point The more we can save reasonably and consistently with efficiency on the ordinary administration, the more we shall have to spend for special war administration. Those two things are being kept separately, as they ought to be. They show here that there is a very steady increase in the cost of ordinary administration, leaving out the war altogether.' They show, too, that, notwithstanding the additional taxation which the Government have imposed during the year, they have gone to the bacl on the year's financing to the tune of nearly a million sterling. All this needs careful financing, so that we may not go further to the rear. In the meantime, our income has kept up; it i3 better than we anticipated at the beginning of the year, and the intrusion of the war has not materially altered the revenue from Customs duties and other sources. All that is a magnificent tribute to our defensive resources, looking at the Empire as a whole. I cannot sit down without making mention, also, of the way in which our own defence preparation, particularly in' respect to the Australian Navy, has helped to keep the seas open during this terrible year. T want to make another remark about the Small Arms Factory. I have read the new proposal of the Government, and I want to say that I do not object to them duplicating the plant, but I do hope that my right honorable friend will not rely on the duplicated plant for much relief during this war time.

Mr Fisher - I have already said that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The right honorable gentleman spoke of six mouths in which to get the machinery. One does not forget that we were to have the original machinery making guns in twelve months. But it is not making guns up to the contract in five years.

Mr Fisher - We are shaking them up.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I know that; and the Government will have to do .a lot more shaking up before the duplication will be of any service in this war.

Mr Fleming - Is it to be obtained from the same firm as supplied the other plant 1

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Yes. I am afraid that the months will lengthen out in connexion with the duplication, if not to the same extent as the original duration, yet to a very considerable time beyond what I hope will be the termination of the war. At any rate, I trust that the Government will not make that an excuse for staying their hand in any way concerning the full utilization of the means already at their disposal in the Factory.

Mr Fisher - You can rely on that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I would rather see the Government now, if I had my way, devote this money, and some more, to working three shifts a day with the plant they already have.

Mr Fisher - We will do that if they say that they can do it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - It will be of no use to, duplicate the plant if it is to be idle for one or two shifts out of the twenty-four hours.

Mr Fisher - The Minister told you that the present manager says that he is not now in a position to do it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I do not care what he says.

Mr Fisher - He says that to us officially.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I know that, but while the manager says that, there are in Australia other experts who say quite the contrary.

Mr Jensen - We have sent an expert there to see.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Not only are there in Australia experts who say quite the contrary, but the opinion of a practical working engineer there is, I think, in this matter, as valuable as that of any expert. I would just as soon take the opinion of the man who is associated with the machinery every day, arid knows what it can do, as the opinion of any one else. He knows what he can do, and he has told the Government that they ought to have had two shifts long ago. The point I got up to stress is that the Government ought not to rely on the duplicated plant for any relief during the war. They will be building on an insecure foundation if they do. Let them lose not a minute in their preparation for running the Factory all the twenty-four hours, with all the trained experience and ability that is already in Australia, and is placed freely and unreservedly at their disposal.

Mr Fisher - We have sent a man there with the fullest power to act.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I hope that lie will get a move on; that is all. We have a plant here, and the Government's own chairman says in his report that it can supply, and ought to supply, 20,000 rifles per annum on the basis of an eight hours' shift. I do not see any reason why, in these stressful days, the Factory should not very soon work up to an output for three shifts of 50,000 rifles per annum. There is hope in that direction. There is not very much immediate hope here.

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