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Wednesday, 30 October 1912

Senator READY - No. The position which they maintained, and which we as a Labour party maintain, was that our condition was not good.

Senator Vardon - Are not your prospects good now?

Senator READY - Our prospects are good, provided that we get decent administration, but the condition which our Liberal friends twelve months ago claimed was bad has not been altered one iota since they made that claim. Really their contention is illogical. We are in need, not only of Commonwealth assistance, but also of decent internal administration, and I admit, to a large extent, Senator Stewart's impeachment of it.

Senator Vardon - This Bill will not help the internal administration.

Senator READY - It will, inasmuch as I believe, with Senator Stewart, that within twelve months we shall have a Labour Government in Tasmania, who will be financially assisted by this grant, but even then we shall have to increase the present heavy taxation. We shall, however, tax the people who can well afford to pay, and not, as in the past, introduce an income tax with the lowest exemption to be found in Australia.

On what does the State's chief claim to consideration rest? More than anything else, it rests upon disturbed trade relations, and the Commission put their finger on the spot very pithily when they agreed to this paragraph in their report -

Tasmania's purchases from other States during the bookkeeping period were comparatively heavy, the Customs revenue thereby suffering. Whereas all other States from 1900 to 190S increased their purchases from the Commonwealth from the value of £27,424,000 to £38,444,000, or 43 per cent., Tasmanian purchases increased from £1,060,000 to £2,534,000, or 139 per cent. Whilst this increase of £1,474,000 took place, the other States increased their purchases from Tasmania by £677,000. If the difference be credited to Tasmania on a 20 per cent, basis for Customs purposes, the State's revenue would be increased by £159,400 per annum. Tasmania's total imports in 1900 were £9 14s. 6d. per head. In 1908 they were £18 ns. per head, an increase of 16s. 6d. Of that sum £7 10s. rod. fer capita represents the increase in Inter-State imports.

Tasmania has been the one State which has been conspicuous in its consumption of Australian-made goods; and that, put in as few words as possible, is the whole secret of the claim. Senator Stewart, and. I think, other honorable senators, referred to our factories. He stated that we had practically unlimited water-power. I admit that ; but I ask our critics, in this regard, to remember that, whereas we started Federation with comparatively unorganized manufactures, Victoria had a splendidly equipped and extensive system of factories, able to turn out goods equal to anything that we could import.

Senator Vardon - With your waterpower, you could run a factory more cheaply than could any other State in the Commonwealth.

Senator READY - I admit that, too. At the establishment of Federation, we had not only well-equipped factories, but factories which were paying much lower rates of wages than were paid in any other part of the Commonwealth. Under our Tariff, 23 per cent, of the total imports were on the free list ; whilst, under the Commonwealth Tariff, 52 per cent, were put on the free list.

Senator Stewart - And 15 per cent, was the average duty.

Senator READY - The revenue duties resulted in a great loss to Tasmania. Directly we federated, commercial travellers came across in hordes from Victoria and New South Wales looking for business. Victoria has always been noted for its splendid business men and well-equipped system of business organization. Well, these commercial travellers came to Tasmania and swamped our factories.

Senator Millen - Could they undersell you ?

Senator READY - Yes; because they were paying higher wages, and getting a very much higher standard of efficiency, once more exploding the old economic axiom, that low wages mean cheap goods. Tasmania had a wage-list which was 10, 20, and even 30 per cent, lower than that of Victoria, yet Victorian manufacturers sent goods to Tasmania, paid the freight, and undersold us. Why ? Because they had efficient and well-organized factories. They had machinery and men capable of turning out goods superior to anything in the Commonwealth at a lower price.

Senator Vardon - Not superior to anything in the Commonwealth.

Senator READY - Well, equal.

Senator Vardon - In furniture, we can knock them all into a cocked hat.

Senator READY - Yes; and so far as furniture is concerned, I am pleased to say that South Australia has to send to Tasmania for 1,000,000 super, feet of timber per annum for one firm alone. Regarding the factories in Tasmania : In 1901, there were 7,466 employes; in 1908, 8,727 employes; and in 1909, 9,322 employes. In Australia, the employes in factories numbered, in 1901, 204,317 .; in 1908, 257,526; and in 1909, 266,405.

Senator Stewart - You increased in a much lower ratio.

Senator READY - That is the point. The increase in employes in the other States was about 25. per cent., while in Tasmania it was 17 per cent. We found even worse than that. Victorian manufacturers dumped goods into Tasmania, and undersold our factories. They sent in their goods, and sold them at cost price until they had ruined our factories, and obtained the trade, when at once they reverted to the old standard and Tasmania still had to pay. That is one very vital matter which was dealt with at length by the Royal Commission. They proved beyond a doubt [hat dumping did take place, and was very detrimental to Tasmania's trade relations. On that ground alone, leaving out the £70,000 for leakage, we are entitled to all that the Commission recommended,

I believe that the Government would have been better advised had they proposed a grant of £900,000. I quite recognise that Governments do not always adopt the reports of Royal Commissions. I know of no case where the report of a Commonwealth Commission has been entirely adopted. The Tariff Commission made many recommendations, and how many were adopted? The Oversea Shipping Commission, the Navigation Commission, and the Postal Commission all made numerous recommendations, but in no case were they adopted, in toto. It is quite the rule that the recommendations of Royal Commissions are not fully given effect to.

Senator de Largie - The majority of them are shelved.

Senator READY - I am willing to admit that fact; but I say that, in view of the way in which Tasmania's finances have been dislocated by her entering into the Federation, the Government would have been well advised if they had asked Parliament to grant to that State the full amount recommended by the Royal Commission that investigated her claim. I am glad to have the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the amount proposed by the Government may be regarded as an instalment, and that, if a future Administration is disposed to grant Tasmania the balance of the £900,000 recommended by the Royal Commission, it will be admitted that we can put up a good claim for it. I believe, however, that this is the time to deal with the matter, and I hope that Senator O'Keefe's suggested amendment will be adopted, and the full £900,000 recommended by the Commission granted to the State from which I come.

Senator Stewarthas said that Tasmania could get along very well without this grant, but the more one investigates the figures, the more one is forced to the conclusion that she could not do so owing to her trade being swamped by the other States, and the disturbance in her trade relations with, the rest of the Commonwealth, to which I have already referred. I took the trouble to draw up a table, which will show what would be the position of Tasmania, assuming the same ratio of public expenditure that takes place in the other States. If we were to adopt Senator Stewart's recommendation and initiate a public works policy on lines similar to those of the other States-

Senator Stewart - I did not recommend that at all. I think that Tasmania has already gone too far in that direction.

Senator READY - I am glad to hear the honorable senator say so. I can give figures to show that, if we taxed ourselves in Tasmania to carry out a public works policy on the lines adopted in the other States, our State would at once become bankrupt. In 1908-9 the Tasmanian people paid in direct taxation £1 7s.per capita. There was 25 per cent. added for surtax, income, land, and ability tax, equal to 5s. 6d. per capita. If Tasmania is to remain solvent, she cannot continue the policy at present adopted for the construction of roads, bridges, and unproductive works from borrowed money. The facts show that the public men controlling the affairs of Tasmania in the past did not possess the statesmanship of a bullfrog. It is not right that we should continue to finance Tasmania on such lines. I find that even ex-Senator Dobson, who will scarcely be regarded by any one as a Democrat, in giv- ing evidence before the Commission, said -

Unless a generous subsidy is given to Tasmania we shall have to go on with the rotten system of borrowing money from England to build roads just outside the city to bring in the raspberries.

Senator Stewart - That is bad.

Senator READY - I admit that it is; but some of our friends on the other side, during the recent State election, went through Tasmania justifying the expendi ture of borrowed money upon the construction of non-productive works. Senator Stewart's criticism was searching, and we must admit that that policy will have to be altered, and a more honest system of finance introduced. If in Tasmania we are to pay for roads and bridges out of revenue, it will require an amount equal to 14s. 9d. per head of the population, and that money would have to be raised by taxation. That would bring the direct taxation of Tasmania up to £2 13s.8d per capita. If Tasmania spent thesame average amount as the other States on the important and vital matter of education, it would involve additional direct taxation to the extent of3s. 8d. per capita. If she subsidized hospitals and benevolent institutions as liberally as do the other States further taxation to the amount of1s. 4½d. per capita would be required for the purpose. If she spent as much proportionately as is spent in the other States on technical education, another 4d. per capita would be required. If Tasmania protected the people and property of the State to the same extent as is done in the other States, additional taxation to the extent of1s. 7d. per capia would be involved ; and, when all these things were done, direct taxation in Tasmania would then amount to £3 os. 8d. per capita, as against 16s.5d. for the rest of Australia.

I maintain that the finances of Tasmania must be established on a different basis, and she must, at the same time, be compensated for her losses through Federation. These losses are due to causes altogether apart from those which have made Tasmania the most backward amongst the States in the matter of internal administration. I was very pleased to hear my colleague from Tasmania - Senator Clemons - say that in the past honorable senators representing Tasmaniahave expressed a desire that something should be done for that State, and that many an honorable senator had recognised in past years Tasmania's claim to compensation. But, with all due respect to Senator Clemons, I point out that they did no more than express a desire ; and I repeat that the present Government is the first Government of the Commonwealth that has evinced a desire to do something tangible to assist Tasmania.

Senator McColl - They are the only Government who have had the money.

Senator Long - No; the only Government who have had the courage.

Senator READY - Senator Long has put the matter very nicely. The present Government are the only Government of the Commonwealth who have had the courage to make such a proposal. I believe that, if they did not hold possession of the Treasury benches, and Tasmania were not represented by so many Labour men as sit in the National Parliament to-day, we should not be discussing this Bill to-night. I believe that it is wholly due to the increased Labour representation sent to this Parliament by Tasmania that we are now discussing a proposal for special assistance to the State I represent. In justice to the Government I am supporting, I want that statement to be made public.

The Government have not gone so far as we desire, and I yet hope that Senator McGregor will prove amenable to reason and logic, and agree to grant to Tasmania the amount recommended by the Royal Commission. I frankly recognise the fact that the Government have grappled with the question with an earnest desire that long-delayed justice should at last be done to the Cinderella State of the Commonwealth. Our claim is a just one, and, although we are asking for assistance under section 96 of the Constitution, we make our claim without any loss of self-respect, because Tasmania is entitled to the grant recommended by the Royal Commission. Her people have been good Federalists, and good members of the Commonwealth. It is for that reason that they have been penalized, and, when the Government are attempting to help us out of our difficulties, I should be lacking in my duty as a representative of Tasmania if I did not frankly express appreciation of their action.

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