Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 6 September 1911

The PRESIDENT - Order. The honorable senator must withdraw that remark.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Well, I will say that the honorable senator's statement is incorrect ; if he says that I made a vulgar statement, I deny it.

Senator VARDON - I repeat that the honorable senator simply indulged in vulgar personal abuse of myself.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I ask, Mr. President, that you will compel Senator Vardon to withdraw, the expression that I made vulgar remarks.

Senator Millen - The President has called upon Senator Russell to withdraw a remark which he made, and he has not done so. He ought to obey the Chair before asking for its protection.

The PRESIDENT - I understood that Senator W. Russell did obey the Chair by substituting the remark that Senator Vardon's remark was incorrect.

Senator VARDON - I will proceed.

The PRESIDENT - A statement has been made by Senator Vardon to which another honorable senator takes exception. I think the honorable senator should withdraw it.

Senator VARDON - I ask whether what I have said is out of order?

The PRESIDENT - I cannot rule that the word "vulgar" is out of order. I simply point out that it is objected to by another honorable senator, and ask Senator Vardon, in courtesy, to withdraw it.

Senator VARDON - I am quite willing to modify the term which I used, though I can find no other word that expresses my feeling so well. I do not intend to reply in any way to that personal abuse to which I have referred.

Senator DE LARGIE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator started it, all the same.

Senator VARDON - I beg pardon; I never abused anybody.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In Fremantle the honorable senator did.

Senator VARDON - The honorable ' senator seems to me to have a mind that is constitutionally foul, and his abuse of myself was simply intended to divert attention from the results of the referenda.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is not correct, and the honorable senator knows it. If he had not abused Mr. Fisher, I should not have said a word

Senator VARDON - There is a creature that lives in the sea and belongs to the calamary family or order. The peculiarity of this thing is that when it is hard pressed it emits a filthy dark fluid, under 'cover of which it is usually able to scuttle away. The popular name for the creature is " squid." All that I need say is that, while I do not intend to reply to Senator W. Russell's abuse, I shall always remember him as Calamary Russell, or, if he prefers the popular name, he can call himself Squid Russell. Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral's Speech to the Imperial Conference. I have not yet had an opportunity of reading the proceedings of that Conference, but, as far as' I am able to judge from the newspaper reports, its results were, generally speaking, of a negative character. I cannot understand the want of backbone shown by our own representatives with regard to the Declaration of London. I cannot understand why, although they went to London with a motion to oppose the Declaration, they eventually gave way and assented to it - gave way, too, in face of the opposition of nearly all the Naval authorities, and in face of resolutions by chambers of commerce pointing out the danger to our own trade. We, I suppose, shall have now to take the risks arising from the Declaration. Reference is made in the Speech to the working of the progressive land tax. It is said -

The progressive tax on land values is having a satisfactory effect on land settlement, and is attracting a desirable class of immigrants.

The wonderful thing is that this should have been accomplished in so short a time. Almost immediately after the tax was imposed we are led to believe that it has had a desirable effect in attracting immigrants. I am under the impression that the good seasons we have had during the last six or seven years have had something to do with the advancement of the price of land and the throwing of areas open for settlement. The advance in price has simply made it more profitable to cultivate than to feed sheep upon the land.

Senator Ready - Good wages contribute to higher prices.

Senator VARDON - Only one instance was given to us as to the effect of the land tax. That was quoted by Senator W'. Russell, who said that, on. Mr. Maslin's estate in South Australia, the land tax took two-fifths of the value of the property. The effect was that the owner could not afford to keep the estate for pastoral purposes, and was willing to cut it up and allow it to be sold for agricultural purposes.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And it was said that the estate would carry one hundred people.

Senator VARDON - I am very glad to know that it would. But what man with small capital is able to go and' buy land at between £fi and £j an acre and work it? What is a small man to do with land bought at that value?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He could live in luxury on the money he would get from it.

Senator VARDON - How is he to get the money to purchase it? It is here that the small man finds the difficulty. He must get cheaper land. Lands are being opened up by nearly every State. A most extraordinary statement was made to-night by the Minister of Defence - that the imposition of the land tax had actually resulted in opening up large estates, and in inducing further settlement.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - So it has.

Senator VARDON - I hold in my hand a pamphlet, issued by the South Australian Government in August, 1908. It was published by authority of the Hon.. L. O'Loughlin, M.P. and Commissioner of Crown Lands. I do not think this was part of a Labour platform or the policy of the Labour Government, nor was this Commissioner of Crown Lands a member of a Labour Government.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Was he not a member of the Price Government?

Senator VARDON - He was not a member of a Labour Government. He issued this pamphlet, and, at page 9, he says with regard to lands -

Government land may be obtained on perpetual lease or an agreement to purchase. In the former case the rental will vary from £d. to 4s. per acre. If taken on purchase, the price will be from 2s. 6d. to about £8 per acre, which can be paid in sixty half-yearly payments with a low rate of interest added. In either case the maximum to be held by one person is not to exceed £5,0000 worth.

Miscellaneous leases of twenty-one years' tenure may be taken up of sites for shops, &c, and in a few cases, for grazing and cultivation, the rental to be fixed.

Land for grazing may be taken, capable of carrying 5,000 sheep, at a low rental, and in dry areas 10,000 sheep.

Pastoral areas in outside country can be had for twenty-one or forty-two years at rentals of from is. 6d. to £1 per square mile.

Then' he deals with re-purchased lands, and he says -

Large estates in farming districts are purchased by the Government, subdivided, and offered in suitably sized blocks for profitable occupancy. The price at which farmers can get blocks of these lands varies according to quality, but must be sufficient to recoup the Government the cost of purchase.

Re-purchased lands must be taken on agreement to purchase ^2,000 worth unimproved value, improved blocks and grazing land up to j£4>o°° worth. The purchase money must be paid in seventy half-yearly instalments. The first ten payments will be of interest only, which will be at 4 per cent, on the purchase money. Purchase may be completed by paying the balance of the purchase money after holding the land nine years.

Then he refers to lands about to be thrown open, and he says -

Lands will soon be available for selection in Port Lincoln district, 147,000 acres ; east of Murray Bridge, 111,000 acres; east of River Murray, 120,000 acres; Kangaroo Island, 352,000 acres. Land east of River Murray, 415,000 acres, and at Hynam, near Naracoorte, south-east, 38,600 acres, will be available about November next.

This was issued in 1908, before any progressive land tax was imposed, and before the present Government came into power. I could give, if honorable senators needed them, particulars from Western Australia and other States to show that these things were going on before the imposition of any progressive land tax, and before the present Federal Government came into power. It is all very well to talk about this tax and the effect it has had, and to say that it is not an excessive tax. But I hold that if we tax the economic value out of a man's land, we rob him of that land. What is the effect of the tax on the owners of factories and warehouses in large centres of population? Are their lands burst up and subdivided ? The effect in those cases is simply to increase the cost of production, send up the cost of the goods a man makes for sale, and put the burden of that extra cost on to the consumer. There is no getting away from that. I notice, in paragraph 12 of the Governor-General's Speech, a reference to the question of Protection. To my mind, it is a very unsatisfactory paragraph. It says -

The effect of the Tariff upon Australian industries is being carefully watched by my Ad visers, with a view to revision wherever the information obtained by them shows this to be necessary. 1 have never posed here as a high Protectionist, but I admit that, as a Commonwealth, we have adopted a policy of Protection. I am quite sure that that policy will not be changed for a good many years, or until there is a change in public opinion demanding it, which I think is a long way off. But as a system of Protection has been .adopted, I think we have a right to see that the Tariff bears equally on all industries.

Senator Rae - How can we do it ?

Senator VARDON - I see no difficulty in the way of doing it. To refuse to rectify all anomalies because certain propositions have been rejected is very unfair to manufacturers, and also to the public.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - How does that apply to the hustings speeches of honorable senators on the question of the new Protection ?

Senator VARDON - As I understand it. the new Protection proposal is that this Parliament is to have the right, not only to impose a duty, but to fix the wages in any particular industry, and the price of the goods to the consumer.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What is wrong about that ?

Senator VARDON - We have a right to impose protective duties for the establishment of Australian industries, and to provide work for our people. The question of wages is being legislated for in nearly every State of the Commonwealth.

Senator Rae - Admitting that, what regulates the price to the consumers?

Senator VARDON - The cost of production regulates the price to the consumer. If the honorable senator is going to take it upon himself to fix duties and wages, and also the price to the consumer, he is going to undertake a very big task. More than that, I say it is an economic impossibility. The cost of production must at all times regulate the price to the consumer. It is the consumer who must pay at all times. I admit that the question of wages is important, but I say that to-day efforts are being made in every State to see that the workman gets a fair return for his labour.

Senator Rae - Does not the Tariff affect the cost of production?

Senator VARDON - Of course it does. If a duty is imposed upon raw material it must affect the cost of the production of the finished article made from that material. But the consumer has to pay the duty and the higher wages" whatever they may be. The burden must be upon the consumer and it is impossible to put it on any one else. J think experience has proved that the Tariff is in need of revision. We ought to undertake to make it complete and just to all parties concerned. The Government have no right to put a paragraph of this character into the Governor-General's Speech, and say simply out of a spirit of petty spite, " Because you have not carried certain proposals which we laid before you we shall leave the Tariff as it is, or touch it very gingerly." The revision of the Tariff ought to be taken up. Where there are anomalies, and the Tariff bears hardly upon certain people, relief should be afforded, and we should not shirk the task because some people are displeased with the result of the submission of certain proposals to the public.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If honorable senators promised the ' electors that they would take a certain course, what would the honorable senator have them do?

Senator VARDON - I am speaking of what ought to be done in a spirit of justice. If honorable senators choose to make pledges which they ought not to make. I have nothing to do with that. There is a reference in the Speech to the Western Australian railway in paragraph 15, and in paragraph 17 a further reference to the Northern Territory.

Senator St Ledger - I beg to call attention to the state of the Senate. - [Quorum formed.']

Senator VARDON - I have no objection to the construction of the Western Australian railway.

Senator de Largie - How generous the honorable senator is.

Senator VARDON - I usually am generous ; I wish the honorable senator were so. I believe that the proposed gauge of 4 ft. in. is the right gauge on which to build the railway, but I do not see any reference to a railway so far as the Northern Territory is concerned. I see no mention of any policy for the administration of that Territory. I do see, however, by reports coming in every day that it is in a state of chaos, and dissatisfaction exists in regard to pretty well everything connected with it. If the Northern Territory is to be properly administered and developed a railway from south to north is as necessary as a railway from east to west.

If the railway is to be one to develop the resources of the Territory it must be constructed right through the centre of it. If the Government had said that they intended to extend the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line for another 200 miles, and carry it to the MacDonnell Ranges at once, the 'deficit on the line that now appears so large would bc very considerably reduced, because it would be carried into profitable country. There would be more traffic for the line,, and it would become more nearly reproductive than it is at the present time. As a matter of justice to South Australia and to the Northern Territory itself the Government should have stated distinctly their policy with regard to the Territory, how they intended to develop it, whether they intended to construct the railway, how soon, and by what route. Unless this is done I do not see how we can hope satisfactorily to develop the Territory. I trust that when we are considering the question of railways we shall demand, not only that the railway to Western Australia, but that the line to Port Darwin also shall be constructed within a reasonable time. I noticed a reference, not in the Governor-General's Speech, but in the Supply Bill we passed last night, to the matter of advertising the resources of the Commonwealth. There was in the Supply Bill an item of £5,000 put down for the purpose of advertising the Commonwealth, but nothing to show how the advertising is to be carried on, or what shape it is to take. Certainly Australia had a very poor show in London. There were no soldiers representing the Commonwealth in the Coronation procession.

Senator Rae - Are they a reproductive asset ?

Senator VARDON - I am not sure that they would not have been a reproductive asset. Notwithstanding all the apologies of the Minister of Defence just now, I think it was a crying shame that Australia was not represented in any way at the Coronation.

Senator Rae - Rats !

Senator VARDON - It was not represented by a soldier or by any demonstration in the streets.

Senator McGregor - Was not the honorable senator there?

Senator VARDON - Yes, but I could not be all over the place at once. Of course, wherever I went, people admired me, and thought that I was a fine specimen of an Australian, but I could not be everywhere. -

Senator Ready - I hope that they did not think that the members of this party were like the honorable senator.

Senator VARDON - T am not sure that the honorable senator himself would have made a very grand demonstration, so far as Australia is concerned, if he had happened to be there. I regret that there is not a Commonwealth soldier with a Coronation medal on his breast. I am sorry, too, that the cadets who went from New South Wales were treated so shabbily. Not being recognised in any way, it was very difficult even for them to get a Coronation medal. So far as advertising Australia is concerned, the States were altogether behindhand. I do not blame the Commonwealth altogether for that position. The AgentGeneral for South Australia told me that he did all he possibly could to urge his Government to make some show at the Crystal Palace, but he was refused an opportunity. That, I think, was a great pity, lt was exactly the same with regard to the Crystal Palace and the White City. At the Crystal Palace I saw a notice with an index pointing to Wild Australia. I expected to find an advertisement for the Commonwealth, but instead of that I found some dummy figures of Ned Kelly and his bushranging gang. I went afterwards to the White City. There I saw an advertisement for Australia, and when I went to see what it- was like I saw three fellows on old screws galloping round, and was told that inside there was a performance going on. I went in to see what it was, and found that it was a representation of the Ned Kelly gang, and the most screamingly funny thing in the way of bushranging which one could imagine, Is that the kind of thing which we want to advertise? Is a thing which happened a quarter of a century ago always to be held up in London as an advertisement for Australia ?

Senator Rae - Who is responsible for that?

Senator VARDON - I suppose that the authorities in London are responsible. We ought to take some step to counteract this silly rubbish. We should let the people know that bushranging has long ago passed and is gone, and we ought to be doing a great deal more. There was a sum of £5,000 appropriated for advertising Australia. I want to know how it is to be spent, and what sort of advertisement we are to get. I went down to the great Agricultural Show at Norwich, and there I saw a model of a house which is put up for settlers in Canada, and a booth chock full of literature, with a small platform outside, from which, every half hour, a man descanted on the advantages of Canada. We have nothing of that sort going on. If our country is as good as I believe it to be, it is worth advertising. From London I returned in the company of a high civil servant of New South Wales who had been to Canada. He told me that, as regards settlement, Canada did not compare with Australia. Another gentleman who had spent some months in Canada, and who had been in Australia, told me that, as regards natural advantages, the former could not compare in any way with the latter. The only advantage which Canada has is that it is a good deal nearer to the Old Country. A man can go to Canada in a week, and, if he does not like it, he can return for £5. The proposal to buy a site in London for Commonwealth offices is, I think, a very good one, and an admirable site has been selected. If the Commonwealth offices are established in that locality, and surrounded by the State offices, it will concentrate attention on Australia, and no longer will a person in need of information have to go from the West End to the East End, and from the Strand to other places. On the contrary, he will go to one spot, and there get information about any State, and also information from the Commonwealth office itself. I hope that the proposal to buy this site will be accepted. I believe that it will be a good investment in every, way, and certainly to the advantage of Australia, for the site is a splendid one. 1 want to make a few remarks about the military regulations. I find that with regard to certain officers there has been a reduction of the age of retirement, "but no notice of this vital change seems to have been given to any of the officers. Moreover, it was made retrospective, and not prospective. In South Australia there is one officer who has, I think, been very hardly dealt by. He asked for leave which he was entitled to on account of the services he had rendered. He got this leave on 10th December. His retiring age, as he understood it when he went away, was sixty-two years. When he was in England, in March, he received a cable telling him that the regulation had been altered, arid that the retiring age for his class had been reduced to fifty-eight years. If this alteration was contemplated before he went on leave he ought to have been informed accordingly. His leave ought, I think, to have been refused. In that case he might have gone on to the end of his term and got the full leave which he was entitled to at the end of his service. Instead of that, he was allowed to engage return passages for himself and his wife, which meant a very considerable loss to him, before he received any intimation of the change, and he is to get no recompense. This is a hard case. I think that if this regulation had to be made, it should have been made to apply to officers joining the service in the future, and not to men already in the service. Tt seems to me that a very grave injustice is done to a man who has rendered services to the Commonwealth to the best of his ability. I hope that if representations of this character are made to the Minister of Defence, he will give them careful consideration, and see that injustices of this kind are not perpetrated. If officers are to be treated in that way, it will 'bring the Commonwealth into disgrace. It is not acting fairly to the men who have been called upon to do service for us. Reference has been made to the cadets and to the drills which they are called upon to undergo. I understood, when the Defence Bill was being discussed here, that the Junior Cadets were simply to be put through athletic exercises and plain drill, and that no rifle, not even of a miniature character, would be put into their hands; but I understand that they are drilling with a small rifle, and that a great many of the parents object to it, and I think rightly object. I do not think there is any necessity to give the Junior Cadets anything more than athletic drill and the ordinary marching drill. They ought not to be called upon to bear arms of any kind until they get into the Senior Cadets. I hope that, for the sake of a great many parents who object to what is being done, the Department will drop this practice of making little boys carry miniature rifles, and go back to the original idea. There is one other matter I wish to refer to, and that is the question of transferred properties. According to a paragraph in this Speech, it seems as if this question were coming to a head.I think that the States have a right to claim from us interest in respect of the transferred properties, at any rate for last year and this year. I hope that there will be a satisfactory settlement arrived at, so as to bring the Commonwealth into proper relationship with the States. I think it is high time that the question of consolidating the State debts was undertaken, because, as was hinted here yesterday, if the Commonwealth intends to construct railways, it cannot do so out of revenue. I believe that the money for that purpose will have to be borrowed. It would be ten thousand pities to put a seventh borrower from Australia on the money market. It would be much better to consolidate the State debts, and then simply have one borrower so far as Australia is concerned.

Senator Mcgregor - Will the States agree to that?

Senator VARDON - I do not know. We cannot tell what the States will do until we test them. I think it would be certainly the best policy to adopt, because we should have one central authority for the purpose of dealing with these loans in time to come. I have no more to say in regard to the Speech, except to echo the last part of it, that the session may result in the passing of useful legislation for the benefit of the Commonwealth.

Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.

Suggest corrections