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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - When addressing the Committee, Senator Findley said that extraordinary affirmations had been made during the course of this debate. He well might make that statement, seeing that he proceeded at once to add to those affirmations. I venture to say that nothing half so extraordinary has been addressed to the Committee as one of his own statements. After finding fault with Senator Givens for moving this amendment, he went on to say that he found equal fault with other honorable senators for not having submitted a similar amendment last year. But what was the position then, and what is it now? During the past twelve months a good deal of money has been expended upon the Federal Capital. It was reasonable to assume that, as the Federal Territory was developed, the Government would bring Commonwealth enterprises into that Territory. Yet we find that their policy is to put those enterprises anywhere but in Federal Territory. Senator Findley referred to the site of the Small Arms Factory, at Lithgow, and affirmed that no protest was entered against its adoption. Does he not know that that site was selected before the transfer of the Federal Territory took place? That is a complete answer to his statement, and the same reply is applicable to one or two other sites chosen for factories in Victoria.

I have not the slightest word to say against the suitability of the site at Geelong. I believe it is entirely fitted for the enterprise which it is proposed to establish there. Consequently, my vote must not be regarded as in any way questioning its suitability. But it is reasonable to suppose that Mr. Smail never considered the matter of policy at all. As the manager of these mills, he probably asked himself where he could start them with the best chance of making them a commercial success.

Senator Pearce - He was instructed that it was the policy of the Government to establish them in the Federal Territory if they could be made a success there.

Senator MILLEN - So far, I have not met Mr. Smail, but I suppose that he is a human being like ourselves. Consequently, he is subject to those conscious, or unconscious, influences which affect us all. Coming here as a commercial man, and knowing that the management of this factory would fall into his hands, he naturally desired to start it under conditions which would enable him to show the best possible results at the earliest date. We also wish to see it a success, but we recognise that we have to make the Federal Territory a paying concern also. That is a point of view which, I venture to say, Mr. Smail did not consider, and which he was not competent to consider in the same way as are honorable senators.

Senator Pearce - He was instructed to consider it.

Senator MILLEN - I quite accept the Minister's statement. But is it reasonable to suppose that Mr. Smail was competent to nicely balance the two opposing advantages? The consideration which would appeal to him most strongly was how he could make these mills a commercial success at the earliest possible date. On the other hand, we have to recollect that we have taken over a Federal Territory with the intention of carrying on certain works there. We have to face a very considerable financial outlay, and the only way in which we can make the enterprise justify itself is by putting imp it every expenditure of public money that we can, realizing that every pound that we spend there, and every additional inhabitant that we attract, will impart an increased value to its lands. Suppose that the establishment of these Woollen Mills in the Federal Territory did involve a loss at the outset. What is the position? Is it intended to make the factory at Geelong a permanent one?

Senator Pearce - Yes.

Senator MILLEN - Some of the other factories which have been started in Victoria are only of a temporary character, and where temporary factories are established outside the Federal Territory, in order to institute a fair comparison, we have to consider what will be the cost of placing them upon a permanent basis.

Before stating finally the chief difficulty with which we are confronted, let me refer to one or two of the arguments that have been advanced by the supporters of the Government proposal. Senator Blakey stressed the point that Geelong possesses a technical college, that a section of its population is skilled in this particular industry, and that it is close to a wool market. If these are arguments why we should " not establish woollen mills in Federal Territory, and if practical effect had been given to them in the earlier history of this country, there would have been no Geelong today. The pioneers would have said, " There is no technical college here now, there is no industry which has a population trained to its needs, and, therefore, we will not start a factory."

Senator Pearce - Geelong only occupied the same position in that respect as other places.

Senator MILLEN - There is one spot where the industry was started first of all. It is a peculiar thing that the pioneers generally make mistakes. I do not attach any importance to the fact that the Federal Terrritory is to-day labouring under certain disabilities. But if that circumstance is. to restrain us from starting Commonwealth enterprises there, we shall never establish a single factory within its borders. Do those who rely upon that argument intend to keep these enterprises out of the Territory for ever? If the Government had been desirous of giving effect to the resolution which the Senate adopted last year, they would have said, " Even if we lose a little upon our initial venture, in order to secure a start within the Federal Territory we will establish these Woollen Mills there, knowing, as we do, that every enterprise so established' will make it less difficult for other enterprises to succeed there." I approach this question from the stand-point of the enhanced land values which may be created by our own expenditure in Federal Territory. Senator

Givens has suggested that if these Woollen Mills were started there they would attract a population of 10,000. Let- honorable senators, reflect upon the value of lands in towns which have a population of 10,000. Orange and Bathurst, I suppose, boast a slightly larger population, which numbers, perhaps, 10,000 or 12,000. 'I ask honorable senators to reflect upon the values which attach to business sites there. Yet, according to Senator Givens, those values would represent the result of establishing only one factory within the Federal Territory. One factory employing 10,000 souls would give us land values approximating to such as are found in a place like Bathurst to-day. If we can, by establishing one or two Government enterprises in the. Federal Territory, create those values, we at once provide a fund from which we can build most of the city, and a good many of the public buildings as well. It is solely from that point of view that I approach this matter. If it were merely a question of removing the woollen factory from Geelong to Botany, near Sydney, I should be against it. But it is a matter of hard-headed business to try to spend our own money where we can get the increment of value which will result from the expenditure. If we were discussing this as an abstract proposition, every one would say at once that-our own Territory was the proper place in which to spend our money. But we must consider the practical difficulties of the situation. I have already said that Government money, as far as possible; ought to be spent on Government property. But I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that, at the present time, for reasons which I think constitute a charge of negligence or indifference against the Government, it is quite obvious that the Federal Territory is not fully developed as we should like it to be, and is not, perhaps, sufficiently developed to entitle us to establish a factory there now. That is a. fact which we have to recognise.

The statement made by the Minister, matters pointed out by Mr. Smail, and other matters which occur to our minds instinctively suggest that the Territory is illequipped at present for the establishment of factories there. But who is to blame for that? Not this Parliament. The Government have to accept the responsibility. Ministers have been two years in office, and have never approached this House asking for a grant for the development of the Federal Territory that has been refused. Nevertheless, they have failed to take the matter up in earnest, and in a practical way. We certainly had a right to hope that they would have proceeded with the development of the Territory at a more rapid rate. But' can we say that it is a fair, right, and justifiable thing to start the factory at the Federal Territory at the present moment?

Senator Givens - If we start works at the same time as we start the factory, we shall have them all finished together.

Senator MILLEN - I recognise that if we do decide to start the factory there now, it will mean some delay as compared with starting at Geelong ; how much delay will depend entirely on the intentions of the Government in regard to public works at YassCanberra. If the Government merely mean to proceed at their own snail's pace, it would certainly tie up the factory for two or three years. But it is possible so to speed up work as to make the Territory fit for the factory within a few months.

Senator Fraser - I should not like to have to do it.

Senator MILLEN - My honorable friend would, I am sure, like, as I should, to take over that Territory upon the terms upon which the Commonwea1th Government has it. In twenty-four hours, with his good and powerful aid, in this city, I have not the slightest doubt that I could form a syndicate which would undertake to create the city for the Commonwealth, and give it all the" public buildings it required, if allowed to take the unearned increment for the short space of 100 years. That is the position. The Federal Capital business can be made the best business undertaking that has ever been entered upon by any Govern"ment in Australia.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is quite a champion of the unearned increment now.

Senator MILLEN - When there is a chance of championing the unearned incre- ment, its so-called champion runs away from it, and tries to give an unearned increment to the private land-holders at Geelong. I believe that we ought to spend every possible pound in the Territory, but, nevertheless, I recognise that it is useless to affirm that we should establish the Woollen Factory there unless the Government intends to proceed with the building of the city at a more rapid rate than it shows any inclination to do at the present moment. Only £68,000 was spent last year, and I presume that no more will be spent this year. If the Government are going to stand idle, it is useless to place Commonwealth factories there. That is the crux of the position. If the Government only intend to spend such a small amount each year for a number of years, it will be a long time before we can safely start factories, and our aspirations in that direction must be indefinitely postponed. But, on the other hand, if the Government determine seriously and earnestly to take in hand the building of the city, and will postpone the erection of the Woollen Factory for a few months, we can make the Capital fit for the undertaking then. What are the Government going to do? The answer is to be found in this Bill. I think that it is not the intention of the Government, if they can help it, to proceed vigorously with the building of the city ; and if they have made up their mind not to push ahead with the work, we must wait and endure the evil results of their action. I shall vote for Senator Givens' amendment, not because I think that the factory can be established at Yass-Canberra at the present time, but as a protest against the lack of earnestness shown by the Government in making preparations to place this and other Government enterprises within the Federal Territory.

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