Stanley Melbourne Bruce was born 15 April, 1883 and died 25 August, 1967. He was Prime Minister of Australia 9 February, 1923 to 22 October, 1929. He was the Leader of the Nationalist Party. Bruce represented the electorate of Flinders, Vic 1919 to 1929 and 1931 to 1933.
Elections contested1925, 1928, and 1929
Tonight it is again my duty to announce to the country on behalf of the Government the policy which we propose to carry out should the people continue their confidence in us, by again returning us to power.
Nearly six years ago the Government came into office as a result of a working arrangement between the Nationalist and Country Parties. This arrangement has continued ever since and as a result of the co-operation and loyal support accorded to the Government by the members of both parties it has been possible to carry out a constructive and continuous policy which has been of great benefit to the country. In making the policy speech three years ago, I stated that in view of the importance of the issues that faced the nation the utmost candour and honesty were demanded from our political leaders. Anyone who endeavoured to mislead the people in order to obtain a political or party advantage would be recreant to the great responsibilities of his position, and would be justly condemned as one who had failed in a great and sacred trust.
I would repeat now what I then said, and in placing before you the policy of the Government I propose to tell you in clear and unmistakable language what the Government believes to be the position of Australia today; what are the problems which face us, and the course which we must pursue if they are to be solved.
Over six years ago I became a Minister of the Crown, and ever since then I have devoted myself exclusively to the study of the great issues that face this nation.
Is it too much to ask every individual citizen to devote one hour of his or her time to reading and weighing what I have to say?
I would also ask the people to read the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and with a due regard to the past actions of both parties, form their own opinion between the policies submitted in an impartial spirit free from all prejudice. If all our citizens will do this, recognising their responsibilities in exercising the franchise which they are privileged to enjoy, our ideal of an educated democracy determining who shall be entrusted with the reins of government will be realised.
Australia's national ideals
There are four fundamental principles upon which the whole of our national life is based. They embody ideals for which the overwhelming majority of the people have long declared and still stand. It is essential that any Party which asks to be entrusted with the destinies of the nation should set out in unmistakable language exactly its position with regard to these great issues. They are the following:-
- Loyalty to the throne, and the maintenance of the British Empire.
- The defence of Australia in co-operation with the rest of the British Empire, and particularly with the British Navy, while making the maximum effort, in accordance with our financial resources and man-power, for our own defence.
- The maintenance of the White Australia policy.
- The continuance of our constitutional form of government; the supremacy of Parliament; and the observance of the laws of the land.
I propose to declare the attitude of the Government and the Parties supporting the Government, with regard to each of these principles and to contrast it with the attitude of our opponents.
Australia and the Empire
The Government stands steadfastly for loyalty to the throne. We believe in the British Empire, and will do all in our power to maintain and strengthen the ties which bind its different parts together. This belief is based not merely on grounds of sentiment and race, but also on considerations of practical interest. The British Empire is today the greatest force in the world for peace, and is the mainstay of the League of Nations. It has led the way in disarmament; it has honoured all its international obligations; it has originated or been the first to support every suggestion for the arbitrament of reason as opposed to force in international affairs. Through the voice which Australia has in the councils of the nations, as one of the great self-governing Dominions of the Empire, we are enabled to play an active part in the promotion of the world's peace. Until that ideal is realised, however, Australia's greatest source of safety and security is her partnership in a strong and united British Empire.
We realise further that defence has long ceased to be solely a matter of opposing armed forces. The issues of the last Great War were decided largely by the mobilisation of economic resources. Here again we are dependent upon the maintenance of the unity of the British Empire.
From every point of view, Australia's interest and safety are wrapped up with the strength and unity of the Empire. The Government stands wholeheartedly for the promotion of that principle as a fundamental axiom of its policy.
Our opponents, however, speak with differing and uncertain voices on this question. Some denounce the Empire, and openly advocate a policy which would lead to its dissolution and the consequent destruction of Australia as a white democracy. I refuse to believe that they represent the opinion of the workers of Australia. I do assert, however, that while such sinister influences are at work the rank and file of the political Labour Party should demand that those who lead them should definitely affirm their faith in the Empire, and should refuse to allow the vital policy of a great party to be dictated by a few extremists, who are foreign in sentiment the overwhelming majority of the people of Australia.
The next great question is that of the Defence of Australia.
The Government stands for the ideals of the League of Nations, and has used its influence towards bringing about disarmament and the establishment of world's peace. It gave its enthusiastic support to the Pact for the Outlawry of War, and is an original signatory to that historic document.
While subscribing to these ideals, the Government realises that world peace is not yet secured, and that the time has not arrived when nations can cease, nor Governments neglect, to make provision for their own reasonable safety and security. The Government, therefore, stands for the provision of adequate defence for Australia. Its policy is based upon co-operation with the rest of the Empire in a manner compatible with our resources in finance and manpower.
In 1924, we inaugurated a five years' programme of defence. This programme included the addition to our existing forces of two modern 10,000 ton cruisers, two ocean-going submarines, and a sea-plane carrier; and the provision of the nucleus for five infantry and two cavalry divisions with the necessary munitions. Air co-operation both for our sea and land forces was also provided. The whole of this programme, which was the maximum permitted by our financial resources, will be completed during the present year.
The Government will submit to the new Parliament defence proposals covering a further period. The programme now being completed was primarily based upon naval defence. In the new programme the Government proposes to proceed to a more intensive development of the air arm of our defence. With this end in view, we recently invited Air-Marshal Sir John Salmond to visit Australia and to advise us with regard to this question. Sir John Salmond's report has now been received, and was recently published for the information of the people. The Government proposes in the new programme to carry out so far as the financial position will permit, the developments recommended by Sir John Salmond for the first three years.
The speeches and actions of those who oppose us show that they are not prepared to make any effective provision for the defence of Australia.
Repeatedly the political Labour Party has opposed the votes for Defence when submitted to Parliament. At the last election public opinion forced them to include in their policy something with regard to defence. This they did by submitting fantastic suggestions for air defence and submarines. In the campaign we showed how unreal these proposals were and the report of Sir John Salmond has further demonstrated their utter futility. Apparently they would leave Australia without any adequate defence, and in the humiliating position of being entirely dependent upon Britain and the British Navy for the protection of our overseas trade. No self-respecting nation should accept such a position. We are bound to share alike the privileges and responsibilities of nationhood.
The Labour Party of pre-war days stood staunchly for the defence of Australia. It claimed that it initiated the Australian Navy, and placed upon the Statute Book provisions for the compulsory training of the young manhood of Australia for the defence of their own country. Unfortunately these ideals of which the Labour Party used to be proud have been destroyed by the ruthless expulsion of all who dared to oppose the extremist section.
The provision of defence for the safety and security of the nation is a primary duty of government, and the people of Australia should hesitate long before they entrust their destinies to men who forget or who deliberately repudiate these fundamental obligations.
The next great question is that of the White Australia policy. The Government stands uncompromisingly for the White Australia policy. The overwhelming majority of the people recognise that this policy is the basis of our national life, and would be prepared to make any sacrifices to ensure its maintenance.
Until recently no serious challenge was offered by any section in Australia to this policy.
During recent months, however, the actions of certain extremists in the Labour movement have given cause for grave alarm, not only to the general mass of the people, but to every right-thinking member of the Labour Party.
The Executive of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, which claims to speak for every industrial organisation with the exception of the Australian Workers' Union, has been captured by un-Australian extremists. Under their guidance, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions has affiliated with the Pan Pacific Trade Union Secretariat. This Secretariat has declared that one of the main tasks confronting it and its affiliated sections is to combat 'discriminatory immigration laws in some countries, chiefly in Australasia and America'. This declaration is made in the Pan Pacific Worker of May 1, 1928, the official organ issued by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, from the Trades Hall, Sydney, New South Wales.
If this objective were realised, the death knell of the White Australia policy would be sounded. The Labor Party of pre-war days, realising how closely the interests of the workers were identified with this question, stood resolutely for the White Australia policy. Today the great majority of those who have been supporting the Labour Party in politics stand equally firmly for this great principle. Yet, so craven are the leaders of political labour, that they dare not unequivocally denounce those extremists in their own ranks, who by insidious means are undermining Australia's great national ideal, and substituting for it a policy framed in Asia. It behoves the people of Australia, and particularly the workers, to pause and think deeply before they entrust the government of the nation to the hands of men who have allowed themselves to be dominated by a few extremists, who are avowedly un-Australian in aspiration, sentiment, and outlook.
The next question to which the Government directs attention is the maintenance of our form of constitutional government, the authority of Parliament, and the observance of the law.
In Australia we have established a system of constitutional government, based on true democracy, where all citizens are equal before the law. The supreme authority has been entrusted to a Parliament of representatives elected by the whole of the people. This right to make their own laws is the highest privilege of citizenship. It is one for which our fathers fought, and which we here will not lightly surrender. Yet there are men in our midst who would substitute for our existing constitutional institutions systems drawn from other countries, particularly Russia, under which self-appointed Soviets would take the place of our free institution of Parliament. Defiance of our laws is deliberately fostered by these extremists with the object of undermining our existing free institutions, and preparing the way for the fantastic idea of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. To the people of Australia I say on behalf of the Government that we will fight these insidious efforts to undermine our social, political, and industrial systems.
We will use every power we possess to maintain the Constitution, the authority of the Parliament, and to ensure the fullest observance of the law.
On these fundamental principles that I have put before you the people of Australia are entitled to demand an unequivocal statement as to where the parties which today seek their suffrages, stand. They should refuse to entrust the destinies of the nation to those who are not prepared to make their attitude clear beyond any possibility of misunderstanding.
The Great objectives
Having dealt with these great fundamental principles, upon which the whole of our national life is based, it is next essential that we should consider what course should be pursued to ensure the progress and prosperity of Australia, and the material well-being of our people. No policy in this regard can be suited to our circumstances unless it is nation-wide in its scope, and broad-visioned in its conception.
In carrying out such a policy there are four great objectives towards which all our efforts will be directed.
These may be stated as follows:—
- The development of our resources, the increase of our population, and the preservation of its 98 per cent. British character.
- The maintenance and improvement of our standard of living.
- The assurance of opportunities of employment to all our citizens under fair and decent conditions, and the elimination of unemployment.
- The provision of enlightened and progressive social legislation to help the aged, infirm, sick, and less fortunate of our citizens.
The question for the electors to decide is which political party is most likely to make definite progress towards the achievement of these objectives. They cannot be brought about by the waving of a legislative wand.
Only by co-operation between Governments and all sections of the people and by a wise, sound and progressive policy can they be realised.
I propose to place before you in the simplest language at my command the policy the Government has been pursuing, the point of accomplishment which it has reached, and what still remains to be done to attain the objectives we have set before ourselves.
Our urgent needs-development and migration
Australia is a continent as great in extent as the United States of America. We have just over 6,000,000 people; in the United States approximately 120,000,000 have found a home. In the world's present economic position it is inevitable that other nations will cast covetous eyes towards Australia—the greatest undeveloped white man's country. If the ideal of world peace is not realised, we may be called upon to defend this great heritage. To ensure our safety and security under such circumstances it is essential that we should have the necessary man power and financial resources. If the ideal of world peace is accomplished, and a new standard of international relations is set up, we must be prepared to justify, in the eyes of the world, the retention by the Australian people of this great land. This we can only do by developing it, and bringing to the utilisation of civilisation its great resources.
The Government has, ever since it assumed office, striven to bring the people of Australia to a realisation of these facts.
The whole of the Government's policy has been based upon the principle of increasing our population of British people as rapidly as our absorption power would permit, while maintaining the standards of living which we have built up.
Our opponents have never had the courage to tell the people the true facts. They have attempted to mislead them into believing that we can retain this great continent for the benefit of a handful of people, and have consistently opposed every policy that was designed to solve our problem of population. In doing this they have been recreant to a duty they owe to the nation, and have played upon the prejudices and ignorance of the people. While playing this unworthy part they have also shown themselves lacking in vision as to the possibilities of their country. Their attitude towards this question is comparable with that of those workers who in the early days of machinery opposed its introduction into the manufacturing industries. Just as machinery has raised the status and standards of living of the workers, so would an expanding population in our young country increase our production, and wealth, to the benefit of all the people.
While we recognise the need for increased population and its value, the Government is opposed to unrestricted migration into Australia.
Migration should be conditioned by our circumstances, but our circumstances can be improved and migration stimulated by the wise development of our resources, the expansion of our primary and secondary industries, and the improvement of our efficiency. Towards these objectives the Government has worked consistently ever since it came into power, and it will continue to do so as long as it enjoys the confidence of the people.
Developmental schemes inaugurated
The effective method by which our resources can be fully utilised is by the carrying out of wise developmental schemes. The test of such schemes is whether they will create new opportunities for the production of wealth, new avenues of employment, and will give a direct or indirect return sufficient to meet the interest on the amount expended. Co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States is essential in order to give effect to this policy, because the greater part of the land and resources of Australia are under the control of the individual
Under the Migration Agreement between the British Commonwealth and State Governments, moneys are made available to the States for developmental schemes that will increase Australia's absorption power of new people, at an interest rate over a period of ten years of approximately 1½ per cent. This enables developmental schemes to be carried to the stage at which they become reproductive without throwing a greatly increased burden for interest on the people of the States.
In order to ensure that all the schemes so financed are ecomically sound and will increase Australia's absorption power of new people, the Development and Migration Commission has been created, to examine and report upon them. As a result of the work of the Commission, State Committees have been established to formulate plans for the orderly development of their individual resources. The objective of the Commonwealth and the States is to formulate plans of development extending over a period of from five to ten years. Thus for the first time in our history we have a properly organised plan of development, in which the Commonwealth and the States will be co-operating. It will enable our financial arrangements to be made over a period of years, and will assist in the solution of the problem of unemployment by permitting our labour requirements to be calculated in advance. In the past many schemes have been undertaken by governments without full consideration of the economic results. Politics have dominated the situation, and the people been burdened by non-productive ventures. In future, these loan moneys will be expended on approved schemes of a developmental and reproductive character.
Co-operation with Britain
In this policy Great Britain is co-operating with the Commonwealth and the States. The amount of money available is £34,000,000. When the success of the initial schemes has been demonstrated, and it has been shown that the basis upon which we are proceeding with our national development is sound, it should be possible to increase this £34,000,000 to any amount that Australia may require for further economically sound schemes. I am also confident, so vitally interested is Britain in this question, that with regard to any such further amounts it will be possible to make even more advantageous arrangements in the future from the point of view of Australia's interest than those under the present agreement. One example of the many projects which are at present receiving the attention of the Development and Migration Commission is that in Western Australia, where consideration is being given to proposals formulated by the Government of that State under which an area of approximately 8,000,000 acres will be made available for selection. The minimum number of farms proposed is 3,500, and it is estimated that, when fully developed, they will produce annually a minimum of 12,000,000 bushels of wheat, and carry over 1,000,000 sheep.
This constitutes only one of many constructive schemes that are being put forward by the States. These developmental schemes will provide immediate employment and increase the production of our primary industries.
The protective tariff
It is also essential that we should expand our secondary industries. The history of the older countries of the world, and particularly of Great Britain, has shown how fatal it is to concentrate solely upon the development of either primary or secondary industries.
In Australia we are determined to have a well-balanced development with primary and secondary industries developing together.
Our expanding secondary industries provide a home market-which is the best of all markets—for our primary products. In order to promote the development of both our primary and secondary industries, we have adopted a policy of protection to which the overwhelming majority of the people of Australia subscribe. In the interests of the people we will continue that policy in order in the first place to safeguard the industries which we have established, in which millions of pounds have been invested, and upon which tens of thousands of our citizens are dependent for employment, and in order in the second place to provide for the progressive establishment of new industries.
In giving effect to this policy, many problems have to be considered, owing to the increased competition of highly organised industries abroad, the growth of the export of our surplus production for sale in the markets of the world, and the expansion of the secondary industries which have been established in Australia.
One of the outstanding economic facts of the modern world is that nearly all civilised countries are adopting a policy of securing the home market for their own industries, and of selling the surplus abroad at the best prices that it will bring.
In many cases it is possible to dump the surplus at prices which bear no relation whatever to the cost of production, the industry being so organised that any return above the cost of freight and marketing is profit. This practice is adopted in the case of both primary and secondary industries. The countries which receive the dumped goods may, for the time being, obtain the benefit of low prices, but this advantage is gained at the cost possibly of ruining their own industries, and of leaving the community open to indefinite exploitation in the future. The interests of the people as a whole demand that industries should be protected against attacks of this character, and the Government will utilise the powers conferred upon it under the Australian Industries Preservation Act to protect our local industries against unfair competition of this description.
In connection with the problems which arise consequent upon the expansion of our exporting industries, and the increase in our secondary industries, the Government had been giving close consideration to the question of the application of the tariff policy in the future, so as to ensure that any action taken will be for the real and permanent benefit of the people as a whole.
Consideration of this question cannot be complete in the absence of reliable and reasonably full economic information. Such information is not available at the present time, and it is accordingly not possible to apply modern economic methods towards the solution of the problems which arise. It is, therefore, proposed to extend the scope of the Statistical Department's activities, in order to collect the necessary statistics and data, and also to establish a section of Economic Research in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to dissect and analyse the information obtained.
The Government will then be enabled to determine in any particular case whether any action is desirable, and, if so, whether by means of the imposition of tariff duties, the granting of a bounty, or by other methods.
The Government also proposes, upon the expiration of the term of office of the present members of the Tariff Board, to reorganise the functions of the Board, to relieve it of many of the comparatively unimportant matters which today occupy a great deal of its time, and to enable it to concentrate upon the fundamental economic questions which concern the expansion of our existing industries, and the establishment of new industries.
The Navigation Act
Closely linked up with the question of the protectionist policy of Australia is the question of the protection afforded to the shipping industry by the Coastal Clauses of the Navigation Act.
This question has been the subject of enquiries by the Royal Commission on Navigation, and also by the Public Accounts Committee of the Federal Parliament. The evidence collected by these enquiries shows that, while these provisions have given to the Australian Mercantile Marine an effective monopoly of the Australian coastal trade, the shipping facilities on the coast have decreased, notwithstanding a great increase in our population and trade. It is also shown that these decreased facilities, combined with high fares and freights, have operated to the detriment of Australian industries as a whole.
The Government feels that this condition of things cannot be allowed to continue. The Coastal Clauses have failed to achieve the objects for which they were introduced. But the Government does not consider that it follows that all endeavours to establish an Australian Mercantile Marine should be abandoned. It is, however, imperative that new methods should be adopted.
The Government, therefore, proposes that the Coastal Clauses of the Navigation Act should be repealed and that in lieu thereof protection should be given through tariff provisions to vessels complying with Australian standards of wages and living conditions.
The imposition of duties in this regard would follow the general lines of our tariff policy.
The Government, therefore, proposes to refer to the Tariff Board for enquiry and report the question as to the rate of duty that should be imposed on passengers and cargo carried by British or foreign shipping which may engage in the coastal trade. The Government believes that if a rate of duty were imposed on passengers and cargo carried in competition with Australian shipping around our coast sufficient to give protection to our shipping industry, we would secure fair competition, which should result in a more efficient service, and in reduced fares and freights. From the revenue that would be received from such duties, subsidies could be paid to Australian shipping for services to the less developed portions of Australia. This, whilst assisting the Australian shipping industry, would also serve to assist the development of the outlying or backward portions of the Commonwealth.
Decreased costs of production
It is not sufficient, however, to devise plans for the expansion of the nation's industries. We must ensure that our increased production can be marketed on a basis that will ensure a reasonable return to the producer.
The two markets which are available to us are the home market, and the market overseas. In both markets the greatest consideration is that we should reduce our costs of production. If we can do this in the home market the cost of living will be reduced, the purchasing power of wages increased, and our standards of living advanced. If we can do it in the overseas market, our competitive power against other nations will be improved, and the return to our producers increased. The problem to which we have to address our minds is, how can this reduction in the cost of production be brought about?
On one side we have the extremist who holds that only by reducing wages, and thus lowering our standards of living, can we develop this great country. On the other side is the extremist who preaches the doctrine of the class war, and maintains that only by the destruction of our present economic system, with the consequent dislocation and suffering, can progress be achieved.
The Government subscribes to neither of these views. It does not believe that the lowering of wages and of our standards of living would improve our economic position.
The greatest necessities of Australia today are industrial peace, a new spirit in industry, continuity of employment, individual effort and hard work, and ever improving efficiency.
These things the Government has worked to bring about ever since it has been in office. It will continue to endeavour to achieve them if the people again trust their destinies to it.
By these means the problems of Australia will be better solved than by class hatred and wild schemes of economic revolution which have brought disaster to other countries.
The first and most important step to be taken is to bring about a better understanding between employer and employed, and a recognition of their common interests and their mutual dependence one upon the other. With that realisation will come a new spirit in industry which will lead to a reduction in the cost of production, and a lower cost of living. The purchasing power of wages will then be increased, and the standards of living of the workers advanced.
Continuity in employment is essential if these results are to be obtained. In order to ensure that there would be that continuity, and the cessation of disastrous strikes and lockouts, with their consequent suffering and loss, the system of compulsory arbitration has been established in Australia. That system is designed to prevent stoppages of industry by providing that disputes when they arise shall be determined by an impartial tribunal, whose awards shall have the force of law, and be observed by both sides.
Compulsory arbitration was enthusiastically supported by the Labour Party of pre-war days, but where does the Labour Party of today stand?
The Government during the last three years has consistently stood for the maintenance of the authority of the Arbitration Court, and has insisted that its awards should be obeyed.
Where either side has defied the Court, and has refused to obey its awards, the Government has refused to interfere with the Court and has taken action under the law to ensure that those who were defying the Court would be punished.
Because the Government has refused to intervene in disputes where the Court was being defied, and has taken action to punish those who were refusing to obey the law, we have been accused of provocative action. These accusations have been made by the extremists and so-called leaders of Labour to-day. I am convinced, however, that the great majority of the working men of this country—and particularly the wives of the working men—support the Government in the action it has taken. The desire of the average worker is to be allowed to earn his livelihood under fair and decent conditions, to secure a wage that is sufficient to support himself and those who are dependent upon him, to have equality of opportunity to improve his position according to his capacity, and to make some provision for the misfortunes of old age, infirmity and sickness.
A conference between the representatives of the employers and those employed in industry is shortly to be held. The Government greatly welcomes this conference and trusts that success will crown its efforts. If, as a result of its deliberations, recommendations are submitted for the alteration of the law in connection with the regulation of industry, and the settlement of industrial disputes, the Government will give the fullest and most sympathetic consideration to such suggestions. The Government stands definitely for peace in industry, and continuity of employment, and for the highest wages and best conditions to the workers that industry can provide. The Government is prepared to consider any alternative to our present industrial laws which will enable these ends to be more satisfactorily achieved. Better relations in industry will save the country millions of pounds, but we can in addition do a great deal in the direction of greater efficiency.
To accomplish this the active assistance of every individual citizen is necessary. The employer has an obligation to the nation and to those he employs to provide the best possible organisation, and system of finance, and to utilise the most modern machinery and methods of production. The worker has an equal obligation to play his part by giving of his best and ensuring a fair return for the wages which he is paid. By these means we can take a great step forward towards efficiency in individual industries, with a consequent reduction in the cost of production. We can also do much by co-operative effort between industries.
Application of science to industry
Owing to economic pressure since the war there has been a concentration of effort in most countries to devise means whereby greater efficiency could be brought about. Two methods by which great success has been achieved are what are known as Standardisation, and Simplification of Practice. In Australia, with the encouragement and financial assistance of the Commonwealth Government, the Australian Standards Association, and the Association of Simplified Practice have recently been established. Already work of the most valuable character, carried out almost entirely by voluntary effort, has been done by these bodies.
To show how greatly our efficiency might be improved, and our costs of production reduced by methods of this character, I give the following typical examples of what has already been accomplished.
Thirty-seven departmental specifications for Portland Cement, the manufacture of which is one of Australia's greatest secondary industries, have been reduced to one standard specification, now accepted by almost all the large purchasing authorities.
Thirty-six departmental specifications for brass water tap fittings have also been reduced to one standard specification, enabling manufacturers to effect large savings on patterns, stocks, and general overhead expenses. It has also enabled them to adopt the methods of mass production used by their competitors overseas.
These two examples will indicate the scope of the work which might be carried out for the benefit of the Australian people, and our national efficiency. The Government proposes to give every encouragement to an extension of this work, and will render every assistance in its power to co-ordinate the efforts that are being made, and to ensure that effect will be given to the conclusion reached.
Financial agreement with States
In addition to the effort of the individual and the co-operative effort of industries to promote efficiency and reduce the cost of production, the Commonwealth and the State Governments can by co-operation contribute greatly to this end.
The first method of co-operative action between the Commonwealth and the State Governments to which I would refer is in relation to finance. Under the Financial Agreement which was recently entered into between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States, and approved and ratified by the Parliaments, the questions of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States and Australia's existing debt and future borrowings were dealt with. An arrangement was arrived at which was mutually acceptable for the settlement of the difficult question of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and State—a question which has defied the efforts of Australian statesmen both prior to and since Federation, and which has been a constant source of irritation, preventing that harmonious working between the Governments of Australia which is essential to our progress and prosperity.
Under the provisions for the settlement of the financial relations, large additional payments are made to the States which will lighten the burden of the taxpayers in the individual States and thus relieve industry and stimulate development.
Under the Agreement a consolidation of the debts of Australia, both Commonwealth and State, is effected, and a mobilisation of the public credit of Australia in regard to future borrowings is brought about. Provision is also made for the redemption by adequate sinking funds of both the present and future debt.
The effect of the Agreement has been to bring about a great enhancement of our national credit, and it will strengthen our position in all future borrowing operations.
Owing to the lack of co-ordination in Australia's public borrowings, our national credit has never reached the position at which it should have stood. Actually it has not been as high as that of our sister Dominions of South Africa and New Zealand, although Australia's resources are incomparably greater than those of either of these countries. For the year 1925-26 the Treasury officials calculate that, if our credit had stood as high as that of South Africa and New Zealand, we would have received a million pounds more for the payment of the same amount of interest. As in the future Australia will have to borrow large sums for the development of her latent resources, the improvement in our credit, which has been brought about as a result of the Financial Agreement, will mean a great saving in interest with a lightening of the burden of taxation that has to be levied upon the people.
The Agreement is now actually in operation for a temporary period and is working most satisfactorily.
The Commonwealth and State debts now total £1,100,000,000. It is essential that any plan for dealing with them effectively should be of a permanent character. This is at present impossible under the Constitution, and the Government therefore seeks an amendment of the Constitution to enable the question of State debts to be adequately dealt with. The rights of the States are properly safeguarded under the Referendum proposal by limiting the power of the Commonwealth to the carrying out of agreements unanimously approved by the Commonwealth and the States.
All parties agree that this constitutional alteration is desirable and that the electors should approve it.
The approval of the Referendum by the people does not involve the acceptance of the Financial Agreement itself, but will merely give the Commonwealth a general power to make agreements with the States in regard to public debts and borrowing. The Referendum should, therefore, be supported by the electors, whether they favour the particular plan set out in the Financial Agreement or not.
The next example of Commonwealth and State co-operation towards an improvement of our efficiency and the reduction in our costs of production to which I desire to refer is the application of science to industry.
Increasingly since the War, the nations of the world have been calling science to their aid to solve their problems of promoting industry and finding employment for their people.
In Australia the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been formed, and co-operation has been brought about between the Commonwealth and the States, the Universities, commerce, and industry. The Council is directing its efforts towards the solution of many of Australia's great problems of production and in particular, work is being done on plant and animal diseases and pests, animal nutrition, soil analysis, and forest products. Already great results have been achieved, but when we remember the tremendous losses that Australia suffers from such causes as, for example, the blowfly on sheep, it will be realised how greatly science could contribute to Australia's progress and prosperity if a way could be found to obviate these losses.
An example of the services which science can render to industry and the nation which will bring home its possibilities to all our people is what has been accomplished with regard to prickly pear. It has been calculated that in Australia this imported pest has already infested 60,000,000 acres and was increasing at the rate of a million acres annually. By the efforts of the State Organisations, aided by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the ravages of the prickly pear have already been checked, and it is confidently anticipated that eventually it will be entirely eliminated. This one example is sufficient to show the value of the work which science can do.
The Government has provided over the past three years an amount of £500,000 for research work in its application to industry. In addition, an endowment of £100,000 has been provided and is being used to train our own Australian research workers. The Government proposes to continue the policy of providing financial assistance to science and the work which it is carrying on in relation to industry, and believes that in this way one of the greatest contributions towards our national efficiency and reduction in our costs of production can be brought about.
The next field of Commonwealth and State co-operation about which I desire to say a few words is the Federal Aid Roads Policy.
In a country of the extent of Australia, transport is all important. With the coming of motor traction it was necessary for Australia to provide an adequate road system. This is being progressively done by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth finding out of revenue an amount of £2,000,000 a year to assist the States in the provision of an efficient road transport system.
Since this policy was initiated there has been a tremendous advance in road construction in every State, which has been of inestimable benefit to the motor user generally and more particularly to the settler in our sparsely populated country districts.
During the past three years, more roads and better roads have been constructed than at any other period of our history.
The provision of road transport under modern conditions is essential for our national efficiency. By the co-operative action which has been taken by the Commonwealth and the States in this direction our system of transport has been improved and our costs of production reduced.
Co-operation with States
While much has been done by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, much still remains to be accomplished. The Government proposes to invite the States to a conference to consider certain other questions with regard to which it believes co-operation would be of national advantage.
The particular subjects which the Commonwealth proposes to submit for consideration are—
- Social Legislation
- Development of our power resources
The question of transport is one of vital importance to a country of the extent of Australia. It is essential, if we are to achieve true efficiency, that we should have a properly co-ordinated, cheap and efficient transport system, both for our export trade, upon which Australia depends very largely for its prosperity, and for our internal trade.
The vital links in the transport system are railways, roads, rivers, and ports and harbours. The transport systems of Australia have grown without any co-ordinated plan, as each State controls its own railways, roads, rivers, ports and harbours. The Government believes that in co-operation with the States it would be possible to evolve a co-ordinated plan for Australia, which would obviate a great deal of economic waste, and would enable the cost of transport of our produce to be materially reduced.
At this conference the Government will again submit for consideration the question of the unification of the gauge of our different railway systems. In face of Australia's financial position, it is quite impossible to carry out the general unification of the gauges recommended by the Royal Commission in 1921. As a result of the 1923 Conference with the States, the construction of the line from Kyogle to Brisbane, linking Sydney and Brisbane on a uniform gauge, was undertaken under an Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland. The Government believes that the time has now arrived when a further step forward might be taken in the solution of this great problem by the commencement of further sections of this work, which would give an immediate return for the money expended.
A system of co-operation is also desirable with regard to certain phases of social legislation.
In pursuance of its undertaking, announced at the last elections, to deal with the question of National Insurance, the Government has evolved a definite scheme of insurance against sickness, accident, permanent invalidity, old age and death.
In arriving at a possible solution of this problem, the Government had the benefit of the report of the Royal Commission on National Insurance, and in addition consulted representatives of Life Assurance Societies, Friendly Societies and the medical profession. With the combined experience thus obtained, and with the assistance of a Committee of Actuaries possessing the highest qualifications, a scheme of insurance was formulated on a sound financial basis, providing a wide range of liberal benefits.
The benefits, which are nine in number, comprise sickness allowance with a maximum of £1/7/6 per week, disablement allowance to cover permanent invalidity, widow's allowance, superannuation allowance, wife's superannuation allowance, and widow's superannuation allowance of per week each. An allowance of 5/- per week is provided for dependent children and orphans, and a marriage allowance of one sixth of her total contributions will be paid to a female employee on her marriage.
The whole of these benefits are provided at a cost of 1/- per week to each male employee and 6d. per week to each female employee. The employer pays a like amount, and the Commonwealth will bear the whole cost of all the superannuation benefits.
The scheme of National Insurance, which will be administered by the existing organisations of Insurance Companies and Friendly Societies, with a central control, was embodied in a Bill which was recently submitted to Parliament. The object of this action was to give ample time for the study, by those interested, of the proposed provisions.
In all the States there is provision for Workmen's Compensation, and in different States there are other measures dealing with some of the matters dealt with under the National Insurance Bill. The Commonwealth proposes to invite the States to discuss this whole question with a view to arriving at a co-ordinated system which will eliminate duplication, overlapping and unnecessary cost. The position which the Government desires to bring about is to secure equal benefits for every individual in the Commonwealth, irrespective of the State of residence.
The question of unemployment has been receiving the serious consideration of the Government.
In my last Policy Speech I anticipated that the Royal Commission on National Insurance would recommend the institution of a general scheme of insurance against unemployment, and would indicate a practicable basis upon which such a scheme could be established. The report of the Commission when received, however, showed that as a result of their investigations they had found it impossible to prepare such a scheme, owing to the absence of reliable statistics and data. They also found it impossible to make an accurate estimate of the cost of such a scheme. In addition, they pointed out that the administration of any scheme of unemployment insurance was impracticable until Employment Bureaux were established throughout Australia.
The Government considered, however, that the question should be further explored, and instructed the Development and Migration Commission to investigate the subject of unemployment generally. The report of the Development and Migration Commission confirmed the views of the Royal Commission as to the absence of necessary data, and as to the necessity for effective and extensive organisation before any general scheme for dealing with unemployment could be put into operation. It also showed that much of the existing unemployment could be obviated by co-operative action between the Commonwealth, the States, and public bodies, in connection with the planning and carrying out of public works.
These two reports show that, in dealing with the problem of unemployment, the primary necessity is not the provision of a system of National Insurance against unemployment, but that steps should be taken to obviate the unemployment which arises from lack of organisation of the labour market.
The Development and Migration Commission recommended that a Conference should be held between the Commonwealth and the States to consider the detailed recommendations made for the purpose of minimising unemployment. I have communicated with the various State Governments bringing this report under their notice, and suggesting that such a Conference be held. Some of the States have already replied indicating that they are prepared to attend such a Conference, and the Government hopes that at an early date the Conference will be held, and that as a result practical steps will be taken towards a reduction of the loss and suffering due to unemployment.
The best and most useful service that can be rendered to the unemployed worker is to find him a job. The object of the Conference with the States is to endeavour to bring this about by a better organisation of public employment by utilising the agencies under the control of the Governments. The next step is the establishment of a network of Employment Bureaux which can organise the distribution of labour for all classes of employment. It is reasonably clear that this function can best be performed by the States, which have a more direct relation to industry by reason of their wider industrial powers and which also have control of lands, mines and railways. Any system of Unemployment Insurance to provide for the residuum of unemployed must be administered in close conjunction with the Employment Bureaux, and it is the view of this Government that this is a function which can most effectively be undertaken by the States.
The question of the provision of cheap and ample supplies of power, the Government also considers, should be discussed between the Commonwealth and the States. The provision of such a supply of power is, under modern conditions, essential if a nation is to achieve true efficiency. In Australia we have many sources of electrical power, but at the present time those sources are being developed by individual States according to no defined and co-ordinated plan.
I have referred to the difficult problems we have to face in connection with the unification of our differing railway gauges. Had this matter been seen with vision in the past, millions of pounds of expenditure which will have to be undertaken could have been avoided. We are drifting towards the same confusion with regard to the provision of power in Australia, and it is essential that some action should be taken in order to prevent a repetition of such a disastrous waste. To sum up, our view is that the functions of Government, Federal and State, ought to be used to try to give direction and leadership to our industrial and economic life. Our policy is not to interfere with, but to co-operate with the Governments of the States; not to establish Governmental enterprise, but to encourage and assist private enterprise in every legitimate way; not to build up a Government bureaucracy, but to assist and encourage the citizens of this Commonwealth to help themselves in their task of peopling and developing this country.
The basis of all the co-operation between the State and Commonwealth to which I have referred in finance, in development, in the application of science to industry, in roads, and transport generally, in social legislation, and the co-ordination of power, is to promote the national efficiency of Australia and to reduce our costs of production.
The next problem is that of markets for our products.
High quality, regularity of standard and continuity of supplies are essential.
The Commonwealth has control over external trade and has taken steps to ensure that only products of high quality and reliable standards are exported. With regard to continuity of supplies, this involves better organisation, better methods of production and a more orderly system of marketing.
The Government is prepared to assist the organised producers in co-operative effort for the more orderly marketing of their products.
It has already granted statutory powers to Export Boards established by producers for the marketing of their export surpluses and has co-operated with the States to permit of collective action being taken by producers in the organised disposal of their products throughout Australia. The Government is prepared to continue this policy, and will render assistance of this character to co-operative efforts of the producers organised on a voluntary basis. With increased efficiency in production and in marketing many of the difficulties with which we are today faced in connection with markets will disappear.
We have to recognise, however, that no expansion in the home market consequent upon an increase in our population will fully meet our requirements. The surplus of our expanding production will have to be disposed of overseas. Our best external market is the British market. Ever since the Goverment came into office it has used every endeavour in its power to obtain for Australia a preference in Empire markets.
As a result of the efforts of the Government increased preferences with regard to canned and dried fruit, wine, sugar and other products have been obtained. We will endeavour to obtain an extension of these preferences.
The Government is firmly convinced that an expansion in the reciprocal trade between Britain and Australia would be of great advantage to both countries, and would assist in the solution of the problems with which both are confronted. We believe that the basis upon which this should be broughtabout is by an agreement extending over a period of years under which consistently with our settled fiscal policy preferential treatment would be granted by each country to agreed classes of goods. In such an arrangement provisions could be embodied for British co-operation in the expansion of Australian manufacturing industries to meet the requirements of the Australian market in exchange for free or preferential entry for a period of years into Australia of British manufactured goods of a character which during such period Australia will not be in a position to produce for herself. At the present time there is in Australia a delegation of distinguished British business men with whom the Government proposes to discuss this whole question. The Government believes that the time is ripe for some arrangement of this character. The stumbling block in the past has been British public opinion, but during the last five years a great change of feeling has taken place in Britain as a result of economic pressure. The possibilities of Empire development and of reciprocal arrangements for the promotion of inter-Imperial trade are now more generally recognised.
At the last Imperial Conference the problem of the constitutional relations between the different parts of the Empire were dealt with and placed upon a basis which was mutually acceptable. The Government believes that at the next Imperial Conference economic relations will be the paramount question, and that, as a result of the deliberations that will then take place, it will be possible to deal with this matter in a way that will be of advantage to the Empire as a whole and will materially accelerate the development of Australia's resources and assist her progress and prosperity.
I have now dealt with the four great fundamental questions upon which the whole of our national life is based, and have also set out, as clearly as I am able, the way in which the Government believes Australia's material problems can be solved, and progress and prosperity assured to our people.
I reiterate again that those things which we desire to see achieved cannot be brought about merely by governmental action or by Acts of Parliament.
They can only be accomplished by every citizen realising his or her individual responsibility and obligations and by our unitedly setting our hands to the task of improving our national efficiency.
There are many other questions with which I should deal, indicating the policy and activities of the Government. It is impossible for me to deal with all these questions, but within the limits of the time at my disposal I propose to touch on some of the more important of them.
Revision of Constitution
There is a general consensus of opinion that the Federal Constitution, which was deemed adequate in 1900, is now due for revision.
An endeavour was made by the Government to obtain the assent of the people to an amendment which was designed to alter the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate upon the subject of industrial relations. This endeavour, though supported by the Opposition, failed, and it became apparent that any general revision of the Constitution must be prefaced by the fullest enquiry and that ample time should be allowed to the people to consider the important questions which would be involved. These conditions have been satisfied in the case of the proposed amendment relating to the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. As to other matters the Government hopes soon to receive the report of the Royal Commission which has been enquiring into the working of the Constitution.
After considering the report of the Commission the Government will submit to Parliament such proposals for amending the Constitution as it thinks proper. The position is already clear as to some of these matters as, for example, aviation and broadcasting; as to others, the proposals of the Government will be prepared after consideration of the Report and after communication with the States.
Finance is a question of outstanding importance to Australia, and it is imperative that I should give a short summary of the Government's record in connection with this important matter.
The attention of the Government has been consistently directed to the control of expenditure so that, whilst providing necessary public services, the burden on the taxpayer should be as light as possible.
Out of a Budget of £63,597,000, £34,487,000 is required for War and Repatriation services and the defence of the Commonwealth. The interest on our War Debt is an inescapable burden. War Pensions and Repatriation are obligations we owe to our soldiers, and effective defence is essential for the safety of the Commonwealth.
Statutory payments which are provided for by special Acts account for £13,466,000, of which no less than £10,000,000 is required for Invalid and Old-age Pensions. Payments to the States absorb £11,000,000 and Departmental administration is now costing £3,114,000.
Although this expenditure has grown during the life of this Government owing to the increase in population and expanding business, yet the cost has been reduced from 10/7d. per head of the population in 1921-22 to 9/10d. per head of the present population.
The finances have been so firmly controlled that, notwithstanding an increase of £4,620,000 in the cost of Invalid and Old-age Pensions, and an increase of £4,000,000 in the payments to the States, the Government has been able to provide substantial reductions in Taxation and Postal Charges.
Income taxation reached its peak in 1921-22 when the rates were more than 70 per cent, above the original rate of 1914-15. As a result of successive reductions, the rate is now only 8 per cent, above the original level.
Land taxation has been reduced successively by 20 per cent. and 10 per cent. respectively. Entertainments tax has been substantially reduced; Customs Duties have been reduced by £830,000, and Post Office charges have been lessened by more than £1,000,000 per annum.
The dead weight war debt has been reduced by the large sum of £40,000,000. New Loans amounting to £48,000,000 have been necessary for the continuous development of the Commonwealth, of which £24,000,000 was required for the expansion of the Post Office, and the balance is also represented by substantial assets. Notwithstanding this increase in the reproductive debt, the debt per head of population is now £6 less than it was in 1921-22.
Special grants have been made to Western Australia and Tasmania and at the present time a Royal Commission is sitting for the purpose of enquiring into the claims of South Australia for financial assistance from the Commonwealth. The Government recognises the obligation of the Commonwealth to grant financial assistance to the States where the circumstances warrant such action. This policy will not be affected by the financial agreement which has now been entered into between the Commonwealth and the States.
The Government has relieved the community of a serious burden by its successful sale of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. This has brought about a saving to the taxpayer of over £500,000 a year, while actual improvements will be made in overseas services as a result of the terms of the sale. It is proposed to lease the Cockatoo Island Dockyard upon terms which, while protecting the naval requirements of the Commonwealth, will make the facilities of the Dock fully available for all other classes of work.
As I have already indicated, the question of transport and communications are of paramount importance to this country.
The rapid development of aviation, to which Australian airmen have singularly contributed, has provided a new method of transport particularly suited to the circumstances of this vast continent. In no other country are the advantages of air travel so obvious, or flying conditions throughout the year so perfect. The services already inaugurated have been operated with complete success, and that maintained between Perth and Derby is probably the most successful commercial air service in the world.
Throughout Australia there has been a gratifying development in this form of transport. In 1921-22 there was but one aerial mail service which connected Geraldton and Derby, W.A., a distance of 1,200 miles. At the present time air mail and passenger services are operating successfully and regularly over routes aggregating 3,500 miles.
The Government recently made an additional grant of £200,000 for the further development of civil aviation and this will be expended principally in the preparation of additional aerial highways, and their subsequent operation by the most modern aircraft obtainable.
Arrangements have been completed for the establishment of regular services between Perth and Adelaide, Charleville and Brisbane, Camooweal and Daly Waters, Derby and Wyndham. Further services are contemplated between Melbourne and Hobart, and between Sydney and Brisbane. The new routes will involve the addition of some 4,000 miles of organised airways, and these—linked with the existing services already in operation—will result in the virtual encirclement by air of the whole of the Commonwealth.
In addition to the steps taken above, the Government has decided as a result of the recommendations of the Empire Airship Mission to co-operate in the establishment of Imperial Airship Communications. As a first step an area of land is to be acquired in the vicinity of Perth for the erection of a mooring tower, with the necessary equipment for an airship base, and local meteorological investigations will be carried out in order to facilitate the proposed demonstration airship flight to Australia in 1930.
Post office development and wireless
An extensive programme of development of telegraphic, telephonic and postal communications has been carried out. During the past six years the expenditure upon new works for the Post Office has been £24,343,000. During the first twenty-one years of Federation the total expenditure on new works was only approximately £14,075,000.
This policy has resulted in great benefit to the people of Australia, and particularly to the settlers in the outback country.
Despite this great expenditure the revenue received has been sufficient to meet all interest charges, and to provide a sinking fund to redeem the loans in the lifetime of the assets created.
The Government proposes to continue this progressive policy in connection with the Post Office. The Beam Wireless Service with the United Kingdom has been successfuly inaugurated. A conference was recently held in England, at which the Commonwealth was represented, to deal with the important question of co-ordinating the Empire Cable and Wireless Services. As a result of the deliberations of the Conference, a scheme has been recommended for the merging of interests by which the maximum benefit of both services will be maintained. The Government has also laid down a policy to deal with wireless broadcasting in Australia by which a wider and better service will be given to the public.
New developments which are in contemplation are the establishment of long distance communication by telephone with West Australia, and the provision of telephonic wireless communication with Tasmania and Great Britain. It is proposed to install automatic telephone exchanges in rural areas, so that continuous communication will be available in the outback parts.
The Government's proposal to establish a housing scheme to supplement the activities of the States has been carried into effect and has been embodied in the laws of the Commonwealth.
The home-building schemes of the States are designed to assist persons of very limited means, but there is a large section of the community whose earnings place them outside the scope of the States' schemes, and yet their financial position is not sufficiently strong to enable them to acquire homes without some aid. The Commonwealth housing scheme enables the States to liberalise their schemes in this and other directions.
The advances to enable persons to acquire their own homes will be made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank to house-building authorities established under Commonwealth or State laws, and these authorities will in turn deal direct with the person who is seeking to acquire his own home. The scheme administered by an authority must enable it to advance 90 per cent. of the valuation of the property, with a maximum advance of £1,800, and no person must be excluded from the benefits who is in receipt of an income not exceeding £12 per week. A certain proportion of the funds of the Commonwealth Savings Bank may be applied in making advances for housing, and authority is given to the Treasury to borrow such an amount on behalf of the Commonwealth Savings Bank that, with other funds available, there will be a total sum of £20,000,000 to finance the scheme.
The laws of the States will require amendment to give their house-building authorities the power to comply with the conditions of the Commonwealth scheme.
Already the Federal Capital Commission is operating under the scheme. The States of New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia have agreed to introduce the necessary legislation at the earliest possible moment to enable their house-building authorities to operate under the Commonwealth scheme, and negotiations are still proceeding with the States of Victoria and Tasmania.
The subject of Child Endowment was, as I promised in my last policy speech, considered at a Conference between the Commonwealth and State Governments. The Commonwealth Government concurred with five of the six States in the conclusion which was reached that further investigation of the subject was required before any action could be contemplated. This investigation is now proceeding and a report is expected at an early date.
Developing the North
The development of North and Central Australia is a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. It is a difficult problem, especially at a time when finance is restricted and cost of development is high.
One of the main requirements of these Territories is cheap and efficient transport. This involves railway and road construction, wireless communication and water supply, and progress along these lines has been made. The railway line from Port Augusta is being constructed to Alice Springs in the centre of the Continent, whilst the railway from Port Darwin is being extended southwards towards Daly Waters.
Much of the country in the North of Australia lends itself to motor transport for a considerable portion of the year, and the Government believes that the investigations that are being made under the auspices of the Development Commission as to cheap and effective motor fuel for heavy tractors and the utilisation of the six-wheel tractor will lead to important results in solving the transport problem of the North.
Reports received by the Government indicate that there is a reasonable prospect of the extension of sheep raising in large areas of the North, but this industry requires strong financial backing to develop.
The Government is of opinion that the problem of the development of North Australia cannot be solved solely by governmental action, and governmental finance.
It is prepared to consider favourably any proposal by which private enterprise can be induced to enter the field. The Government would be prepared to make concessions and consider reasonable financial assistance to any well-conceived scheme of land settlement and development in North and Central Australia, particularly, with a view to sheep raising in those areas.
Considerable sums of money have been spent in providing water on stock routes, in extending road communication and in giving wireless communication, and an oil fuel depot for the purpose of cheapening motor fuel has been established in the North. The Government intends to continue the policy of extending these aids to settlement and development.
Since the last election the Parliament has been removed from Melbourne to Canberra and the work of transferring the central administration of the various Departments is proceeding satisfactorily. A change in the method of control of the Territory by which those resident in the Territory will have a representative on the Commission has been made.
The Administrations of Papua and the Mandated Territory are proceeding with the difficult task of the development of those areas, and as in the past, these Administrations continue to pay great regard to the welfare of the native races under their control.
It is proposed to grant to the residents of the Territory of New Guinea representation on the local governing body.
This question has been receiving the closest attention from the Government. A new situation has arisen in recent years through an increased flow of European aliens to Australia, mainly through the restrictions imposed upon entry into the United States under the American Quota Law.
The Government is determined to maintain the present 98 per cent. proportion of British population in the Commonwealth, and has taken steps to reduce and regulate alien immigration.
A numerical limit has been fixed in the case of certain nationalities. Greeks, Jugo-Slavs, and Albanians are restricted to an average of 50 a month, and Poles, Czechoslovaks and Estonians to 25 per month.
In the case of Italians, migration is restricted to close relatives, such as parents, children and wives of Italians already resident in Australia, and by arrangement with the Italian Government the number will not exceed 3,000 per year.
The effect of the Government's action is indicated by the figures for the eight months ended 31st August, 1928, which show that the excess of arrivals of the following classes was considerably less than for the corresponding period last year:-
Although with the natural increase in our own population and the migration of Britishers there is no danger of lowering the present standard of the British born population, a close watch is being kept by the Government over the whole situation, and if necessary it will take further action.
The Government is honouring the pledges made to men who fought in the Great War.
The administration of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act has been liberalised, and many new claims are being accepted with the result that, notwithstanding the remarriage of widows, deaths of pensioners, and adolescence of children, the annual war pension bill is still increasing.
The Government has decided to create a War Pensions Appeal Board, and with this in view action has been taken to obtain full information, both from the viewpoint of administration and from that of the soldiers, as to the method of appeals adopted in other parts of the Empire, so that the Appeal Board, when created, will be one designed to serve the best interests of the soldier and his dependants.
The Government is continuing to provide homes for the returned soldiers through the agency of the War Service Homes Commission. The scheme is working with the utmost smoothness; 33,319 homes have now been provided under the scheme and 940 additional homes are under construction. The expenditure involved has amounted to £26,076,000. 0f the instalments due only .87 are in arrears, and this bears testimony alike to the efficiency of the administration and to the manner in which returned soldiers are standing up to their obligations.
During the last Parliament it was found that the maximum advance of £800 was insufficient to enable returned soldiers to provide suitable accommodation for their increasing families. The War Service Homes Act was amended so as to permit of an increased advance of £150 in such cases, and at present the amount of £950 can be obtained by way of loan.
A primary consideration of any Government must be the health of the people.
The Government views with satisfaction the progress that has been made in health matters during its tenure of office.
A distinct 'Health Sense' has been created throughout the Commonwealth.
Now for the first time something approaching a coherent national health policy has been made possible by the creation of a Federal Health Council, where representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments meet in official relationship. This Council was formed on the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Health.
The Government has directly subsidised research into cancer, hydatids, snake venom, infantile paralysis, and other health problems. This policy will be continued.
The Government proposes to establish a Division of Maternal Hygiene to study all phases of this problem in association with the State Governments. It intends also to subsidise the establishment of Tuberculosis clinics by the States.
The Commonwealth has provided the necessary finance for the establishment of a School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Sydney University for the more effective development of public health work and for research into problems of tropical hygiene in Australia and the Pacific.
In view of the alarming increase in cancer throughout the civilised world, and particularly in Australia, and the reports received as to the efficacy of radium treatment, the Government last year purchased at a cost of £100,000 radium sufficient to establish modern treatment centres throughout the Commonwealth and thus bring this means of treatment within the reach of practically all sufferers from this dread disease. The work of establishing these centres is now in progress.
The meetings of the Empire Forestry Conference in Australia have been most valuable in educating and directing public opinion on this important question.
My Government has recognised in a practical way its duty to further a wise Forestry policy in Australia. In this regard it has sought and obtained the full co-operation of the States. The Forestry School at Canberra is doing valuable work in training foresters who will afterwards be available for the State Departments thus providing a scientifically trained staff that is so necessary for wise administration of this important function. It is gratifying to note that the Empire Conference endorsed this line of action.
Life assurance is really a form of investment, and the law should protect the policy holder against fraud and also so far as possible against financial instability of the company in which he is insured. Experience in recent years has shown that legislation of this character is necessary. It is proposed to submit a bill dealing with this subject to the new Parliament. The Federal Act will supersede the Acts of the various States which deal with life assurance, thereby attaining uniformity throughout the Commonwealth in the law on this subject. It is proposed that all companies carrying on life and industrial assurance business shall be required to register in accordance with the new measure.
The Government has had under consideration the question of establishing a uniform law for divorce and matrimonial causes.
A comprehensive and complete scheme for this purpose would involve the establishment of Commonwealth Courts and offices at considerable expense which is not at present justified. The most urgent needs of the present position would be met if the Courts of each State, which at present can only grant a divorce where the parties are domiciled in that State, were given jurisdiction based on domicile anywhere in Australia.
It is, therefore, proposed to introduce a measure which will not affect the existing jurisdiction of the State Courts, but will vest in the Supreme Court of each State an additional Federal jurisdiction to grant a divorce upon the grounds specified in the law of that State, but based on an Australian domicile. Adequate safeguards will be provided against persons resident in one State resorting to another for the mere purpose of divorce.
This measure, it is believed, will remove the real hardships which at present exist.
The time at my disposal tonight has not permitted me to deal with all the manifold activities of the Government during the past three years.
The results of our policy, however, can be seen in expanding factories, new farms, new roads and railways. The wealth of the country has increased, the prosperity of the individual citizen has advanced. Greater benefits have been conferred upon the sick, the aged, and the infirm. Taxation has been decreased, and the dead-weight debt of the Commonwealth has been reduced. We have enhanced the credit and prestige of our country at home and abroad.
All these things have been achieved because our administration has been efficient and impartial, and we have carried out a policy of sound legislation for all classes, with special privileges to none.
But, great though our achievements have been in the past, I venture to suggest that the policies we have already initiated, and those which I have outlined tonight, will further advance the general welfare of Australia and the prosperity of its individual citizens. Great developmental schemes have been launched, the full fruits of which will be reaped within the next few years in increasing employment and in migration attracted by the resultant prosperity.
Let us look to the future with confidence in ourselves, and our country.
Sane and safe Government, combined with sound progressive policies, can carry us along the road to great prosperity. Today Australia is being challenged by extremists who are seeking to disrupt the Empire; who are fomenting trouble in trade and industry, and are working insidiously to overthrow our national institutions. With these men there can be no compromise.
We throw down the gage of battle, determined to keep the Empire united, Australia white, the Law supreme, and our policies and institutions pure.
In the name of Australia I appeal to you to help me in the task.