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Tuesday, 5 September 1911

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is so; but does the honorable senator think that the owners of these lands would give them up were it not for the fact that a progressive land tax has been imposed upon them? That is what has had the effect of forcing them into the market in order to dispose of them.

Senator Millen - But hundreds of people are still in want of land.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is so; but as the honorable senator is doing a little quibbling I again remind him that, though the North Boobarowrie estate is now in the hands of a number of settlers, there were several hundred applicants for portions of it who could get no land. These estates are adjoining, and comprise splendid land. If my memory serves me aright, the North Boobarowrie estate was purchased by* Mr. Melrose and his partner, some years ago, for about £4 an acre, and recently it was sold to the Government for £6 2.s. 6d. an acre.

Senator Millen - Did the honorable senator never sell land for more than he gave for it?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I would ask Senator Millen where is the confiscation, and where is the robbery in such a case?

Senator Millen - To take two-fifths of the rental value of a property in taxation.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Should not the interests of the people be considered? Why should a hundred people be compelled to remain landless while one man is making thousands a year running sheep and growing wool on an estate, and excluding men, women, and children from the land? My reason for referring to the matter is to show how useful the Federal land tax has been. We required it also from a financial point of view. We need money for de fence, and the Government are going in for defence with a vengeance. Whilst Senator Pearce is at the helm I do not think the Conservatives will be able to complain of the expenditure on defence.

Senator Millen - Senator Pearce is not the only man who can spend money.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am aware that, on questions of defence, Senator Pearce always secures the approval of my honorable friends .opposite.

Senator Pearce - That is rather a doubtful compliment.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We have money for defence. I remind Senator Cameron that we now have money to buy bullets, and also to pay for old-age pensions. I have no intention to be personal, but it does not hurt men who have an income of many thousands a year if they have to pay ,£3,000 or £4,000 a year, as Mr. Maslin said he would have to do. That statement may have been a little overdrawn ; but even if it were not, he would still have many thousands of pounds to fall back upon, and as he will probably receive £6 per acre for 23,000 acres, which he received as a present from his father, he will be able to retire and live long and happily on the money he will have acquired; whilst the authorities at Jamestown, as stated in the petition to which I have referred, may anticipate that a much, larger population will be settled in their district. What. I have said with reference to South Australia applies with equal force to other States. Some are in a worse position in this respect than South Australia. The Labour party had a policy, and they have put their shoulders to the wheel. They promised the electors that they would do a certain thing, and as soon as they had the numbers they did it. I am proud of it, and it has been, and will be, a cause of great prosperity to the Commonwealth. Let me for a moment deal with the impression and effect our delegation must have had upon the British people, and the working classes of Great Britain in particular. As a party we have been blamed, in some quarters, for being opposed to immigration, but what has happened in connexion with New South Wales ? According to press reports, arrangements have been made for three or four vessels to leave England for New South Waleswith 2,400 immigrants.

Senator Millen - But not with the blessing of the Labour party.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I know that as a farm labourer following the plough in the Old Country I desired to obtain information about Australia, and I think the Federal Government can take credit for the fact that so many now are prepared to leave the Old Country for New South Wales and South Australia. The fact that men holding the positions which the members of the present Government held a few years ago should, with the confidence and trust of the people, occupy their present high positions must make a big impression on the minds of people in the Old Country, and satisfy them as to the country to which they should emigrate. I intend to say a little about the bank note issue. I am proud of the present financial position. I am glad to find that the Government are going in for a Federal banking system. I think it is quite time that was done. If the Conservatives had remained in power they would never have proposed anything of the kind. I wish to read to the Senate the information which is contained in the following statement -

In reply to your queries concerning the Australian Notes Act, I think that the following may assist you : -

1.   The date of the passing of the Australian

Notes Bill was September 16th, 1910.

2.   Notes were first issued bearing the Com monwealth superscription on November 7th, 1910.

3.   The Note tax came into operation on

July 1st, 1911, and all banks issuing notes without the Commonwealth superscription on or after that date were taxed 10 per cent, on the value of the notes issued.

4.   The amount of the notes issued at the present time is £9,275,969.

5.   The policy for the investment of the funds at the disposal of the Treasurer is limited in the Australian Notes Trust Act to investments in British consols, Government securities, and fixed deposits in banks.

6.   The total money so invested amounts to, approximately, £4,642,500, which leaves in the Treasury of the Commonwealth at present as a security against the note issue the amount of, approximately, £4,633,469.

T have ascertained that the amount of interest derived as the result of the Commonwealth note issue by lending money to New South Wales and other States is £162,000.

Senator Millen - The interest on what?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The interest on the money invested.

Senator Millen - Upon the gold invested ?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Advanced to several of the States.

Senator Millen - Where did the Government get that gold?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - From the banks. I forget the exact amount which New South Wales has borrowed from the Commonwealth, and upon which she is paying 3J per cent, interest. When we recognise that the Commonwealth note issue has been such a huge success, we cannot for a moment doubt the wisdom of establishing a Commonwealth bank of issue.

Senator McColl - Here is a great financial luminary !

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If that expression had not emanated from Senator McColl I should have thought he was not himself - that there was something the matter with him. But, seeing that it has been drawn from him, he is evidently in good health. Conservatism is to -the front, and I am upon right lines. Before concluding, I wish briefly to refer to the Bill which it is proposed to introduce to authorize the construction of a line of railway to Western Australia. I am strongly in favour of that undertaking.

Senator Vardon - Before the railway through the Northern Territory is constructed ?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am not going to quarrel about that. The Northern Territory railway will come byandby, and we are not going to fall out as to which line shall be constructed first unless we wish to squelch both projects.

Senator Vardon - A nice change of front.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There has been no change of front whatever on my part. During the first session I had the honour of being a member of this Parliament I supported the Bill authorizing a survey of the line to Western Australia, and, on that occasion, I stated that if the surveyor's report were a favorable one I would be prepared to advocate the construction of that line. The report is a favorable one, and I say that in the absence of such a railway we cannot have a proper Federation.

Senator Vardon - Will the line be reproductive ?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It will be byandby. At any rate, it is required for defence purposes alone. So far as South Australia is concerned, I have nothing of which to complain in regard to a railway through the Northern Territory. That Territory has been taken over by the Commonwealth, and will be developed by it.

I am not one of those who blame the Government for not developing it forthwith, and for not having a policy to which they are prepared to give effect immediately. I recognise that it is a big question. Of course. 1 have heard some persons say that they know all about the Northern Territory and could settle this vexed problem straight away. But my own opinion is that those who profess to know all about it really know least. I commend the cautious attitude which has been adopted by the Government, and I am confident .that the work of developing the Territory will be well done. I presume, too, that it is intended to push on with the erection of the Federal Capital. On this question I have always fought in the sauie ranks as the Leader of the Opposition. I have never vacillated. When the Labour party in the Senate with one exception voted against YassCanberra. I stood to my colours.

Senator Needham - That was the only mistake the honorable senator ever made.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It was not a mistake. I did the right thing. I claim to know more about land than any of my colleagues, because I have spent between fifty and sixty years upon the soil.

Senator Blakey - The Opposition nobbled the honorable senator when they called a certain place " Mount Russell."

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Opposition never tried to nobble me - not even Senator Walker, who is a very influential man.

Senator Rae - Did not he approach the honorable senator?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No, nor did anybody else.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator means that no other individual from this side of the Chamber approached him?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And no other man from either side.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - They did not require to tempt the honorable senator. He walked straight into the trap.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator himself was very nearly in it.

Senator Millen - The Age plucked him out.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He was very much afraid of the Age. I was not. He was afraid, too, of the Bulletin. But I was not like Senator McColl. who had the pluck on one occasion to vote the right way, but who, on the next occasion, backed down.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Why does the honorable senator limit Senator McColl's courage to one occasion?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Because it was such a remarkable exhibition. I have neither the time nor the inclination to deal with the Government policy, as a whole. We have before us the policy of the Labour party, as it was presented last session, with some steps in advance. I have every confidence in the Ministry. They have had a year's experience of office, and that year's work has been a credit to them. While the Prime Minister, and some of his colleagues, were in the Old Country, those who were left behind in the. Commonwealth - I refer to the Acting-Treasurer, Mr. Frazer, and to Senator Findley - acquitted themselves like men. They rose to the occasion, and manfully did their duty. I am, however, not quite satisfied with the treatment which the present Government, and past Governments, have meted out to the Post and Telegraph employes, particularly in South Australia. That treatment has been cruel. It has been tantamount to robbery.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Adelaide is not the whole Commonwealth.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If the same treatment had been accorded to South Australia as has been meted out to Victoria, the Post Kind Telegraph employes there would not have been robbed to half the extent that they have been.

Senator Needham - South Australia is not the Commonwealth.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am well aware of that. If time permitted, I could show very clearly how this Parliament has broken faith with the public servants to whom I refer. When the Constitution was being framed, I well remember that Mr. Deakin, and others high in authority, promised that their position would not be injured under that charter of government.

Senator Millen - The Constitution itself affirms that.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The framers of the Constitution specifically stated that the civil servants of South Australia who would be transferred to the Commonwealth were entitled to certain consideration. I can show the Leader of the Opposition that statement in print. Yet 1 may tell him that a few months ago the grievances of these men nearly resulted in a strike. The Postal Commission took evidence in regard to those grievances, and arrived at a certain decision which, however, the Government have chosen to ignore. I am sorry that Ministers have adopted that attitude. I hope that justice will be done to these civil servants. The Public Service Commissioner, who, I suppose, is a Scotchman, has acted harshly and despotically towards them. He has treated them in a manner worthy of the Czar of Russia by trampling their privileges underfoot. It was natural that, under such circumstances, the men should look to this Parliament, and to the present Government for redress of their grievances.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator must not shift the responsibility of Parliament on to the Commissioner.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I can assure the honorable senator that I have been interviewed by, and that I have interviewed, the men frequently.

Senator Millen - I am not questioning the honorable senator's statement. I can indorse it and others.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The only hope which the men had was that the recommendations of the Royal Commission would be indorsed, and that, if the Commissioner were allowed to retain office, his powers would be limited.

Senator Needham - It is not so much the Commissioner as the Act which created him that they complain of.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They complain of the Commissioner^ acting as an autocrat. That is one of the matters which T am not satisfied about, and I hope that it will yet be remedied.

Senator Henderson - The honorable senator cannot charge that to the Government. It was the Parliament and not the Government which made the Commissioner an autocrat.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator was a member of the Parliament which passed the measure.

Senator Millen - Who is responsible for things to-day in the Post Office but the Government?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Lately, when there was a great debate in South Australia over the referenda proposals, we heard of the evils in connexion with the Post Office and its bad management. I do not think that it would be of any use for me to occupy the floor any longer. I have expressed myself fairly and freely, and I shall be very sorry. indeed, as far as our people are concerned, if there is not a change made in reference to the Post and Telegraph administration. It has been pointed out from the Opposition side that the troubles in connexion with this Department are due to the present Administration, but we know that they date years back, simply because the Federal Parliament, instead of spending money and doing justice to the Civil Service, as it ought to have done, starved the Civil Service and handed the money back to the States. .

Senator Ready - It is a legacy from past Governments.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes. I have much pleasure in moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.

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